Archive for March, 2010

Peace? Out!

My best friend in Colorado is a classic gun-totin’, Nader-votin’ type who took me to a gun show today. I thought he was looking to entertain me, but he later basically admitted that his plan was to be entertained by introducing a “liberal” friend into a hostile environment. In other words, to drag me to the place where I would be most likely to get my ass beat, or at least where certain Bon Jovi lyrics were most likely to become personally relevant to me. Which hurts. Not the thought that he might thus imperil me, but that evidently he considers me a liberal. Ethos or no, I think even being called a nihilist would be better than that.

Anyway, it turned out well in the end, because the show was fantastic in every possible way. It’s interesting to note that you are required to check your guns when you enter but they don’t check ID’s, which points to one of the most salient differences between a bar and a warehouse full of deadly weapons: six-year-olds are only allowed in the latter. Then after going inside… Maybe I do spend too much time surrounded by leftists. It’s not just that I’ve probably never been in a room with that many people that wouldn’t have a minute for Greenpeace. I guess I knew that there really were that many heavily armed maniacs running around buying up anti-personnel automatic weapons, but it’s like termites: you know there are tons of them around, but since you almost never seen them all together before you don’t feel uncomfortable about it.

I wasn’t really in the buying spirit, though I did quite like the bumper sticker that read “Michael Jackson does to little boys what Obama is doing to America,” and a book I found on making and properly wearing an aluminium foil hat, including what to do in the event of a CBF (catastrophic beanie failure) emergency, possibly as a result of “psychotronically controlled birds” stealing it off your head. My friend was feeling a little dissatisfied with the scope rifle he owns, so I found him a booth that barters guns for Stinger missiles, but he didn’t bite. I also sort of wanted to rent the cannon that one of five decent-looking girls in the building was offering, but on the other hand I might have just been suffering from the fact that spending a couple of hours in a crowd that my friend well described as surprisingly Renaissance Fair-esque is functionally equivalent to wearing beer goggles.

I must say that almost everyone there that we met was rather soft-spoken and polite. A fair number of them seemed to enjoy making jokes about hanging liberals from trees and so forth, but to be fair I imagine they would have acted differently if they believed there was any danger that there might actually be any there. Nevertheless, with all the Lugers and AK’s on display, I feel like it casts a little bit of doubt on one’s claim to be a super-patriot and defender of American liberty if one is parading around with the armaments of Nazi Germany.

One hundred years of boring shit

I was reading a conversation about poetry in translation in which the critic Adam Kirsch makes the following assertion:

“It sometimes felt to me that twentieth-century poetry gravitates toward two poles, which might be called, in honor of those poets, the Romance and the Slavic. The Romance poet tends to be romantic (appropriately enough), expansive, egoistic, at times bombastic; the Slavic poet tends to be ironic, understated, compassionate, at times prosaic. This is a broad brush, of course, and there are lots of exceptions—Montale would be Slavic in my scheme, and Mayakovsky Romance. But still, think of Apollinaire, Breton, Lorca, Vallejo, versus Akhmatova, Zbigniew Herbert, Vasko Popa, Adam Zagajewski. Now that I make the list, an overlapping distinction occurs to me: the former tended to be Communists, the latter anti-Communists.”

I think there is something in the Communist/anti-Communist distinction, but I don’t buy the implication that the great Russian writers of the 20th century didn’t write in the florid, puerile romantic style of Neruda or García Marquez just because their culture lacked the passion of Latin America. There were plenty of bombastic writers in the Soviet Union who wrote abject paeons to Communist dictators: they were the Socialist Realists bought and paid for by the State, like Maxim Gorky and Mikhail Sholokhov. Many of them had real talent and they are not exactly forgotten today, but they are not viewed as the the great writers of their times, probably because the experience of actually living under the dictatorship that those writers sold themselves to helped readers in their native land see through their infantile dogmatism and hypocritical opportunism. Had the Spanish reading public had a similar experience my guess is that the literary canon of Latin America would look somewhat different, let’s put it that way. It’s not just a question of political views, because those are a symptom, not the cause: the preening superficiality that leads one to become an ideological hack for the Communist Party is also what makes reading One Hundred Years of Solitude or anything by Eduardo Galeano so freaking tedious. Of course by the same token, that is what probably ensures they will always be more popular in 10th grade English classes than Francisco de Quevedo or Juan Ramón Jiménez.

the half-light of poetic inexactitude

Last week I performed stand-up for the first time. Afterward, one of my friends asked me how I felt. I said, “Well, it burns when I pee. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the comedy, but it might have something to do with being in the bar.” Thank God I’ve never seen anyone expose themselves there, because I’m sure I would have had pinkeye the next day. It’s a little scary getting out to that outpost on East Colfax too. I’m aware that Denver doesn’t have any really bad neighborhoods, but the basic aesthetic of its downtown and surrounding neighborhoods is a wedding cake floating in a pile of crap, and it makes me slightly nervous to think that a lot of the people I pass on the approach either by car or foot are aborted abortions.

I don’t know why I joke about abortion so much, since apparently I’m the only person in America that doesn’t really care about this issue, except as an example of how the political parties exploit peripheral issues in order to pretend like there are real differences between them. For example, On TV yesterday one of the Republican candidates for senate in Colorado claimed she would be able to balance the federal budget by, among other things, defunding Planned Parenthood. Crossing off Planned Parenthood should definitely be good for several hundred billion dollars, especially since as everyone knows unwanted illegitimate children are in no way a drain on society.

Obviously this whole abortion debate nonsense isn’t going to go away, even when masquerading as a budget issue, nor desist from annoying and distracting the whole country, so I propose a new compromise: hunting season for fetuses. Limit abortion doctors to three months of the year when they could bait their hooks and go fishing up their patients’ rivers to their heart’s content. Since spring is supposed to be the time of year when the heart swells, that would probably be the time to have it, especially since it would be set in artful counterpoint to the other hunting season in the fall. The Division of Fish and Wildlife could even post the dates for both together. Something like: “Game-hunting season: Sept. 1-Nov. 9. Fetus-hunting season: from the day when daffodils first begin to bloom to the day when the cherry blossoms fall.”

Not that I am one of the hysterics that thinks America is about to be overrun by religious fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, but I know who is hoping that Islamists prevail: the manufacturers of tents. Because then they will finally be able to get into the lucrative business of women’s fashion. I picture Coleman unveiling the fall collection of kerosene lamps and evening wear. And if there are any girls out there hesitant about throwing a sheet with eye-holes punched in it over their heads and wearing that for the rest of their lives, the marketing people can always try to persuade them by telling them that every day will be like Halloween.