Friday, October 30, 2015

Just Enough Syrup

WORLD SYSTEMS

It was Butte. Or Billings. Or both. The interstate was closed. Or was he on a train that was delayed, or maybe a bus? Or maybe too many good Richard Hugo poems? His mind slogged like a queenless chessboard, a queenless colony, and if hearses were U-Hauls, redwing blackbirds would ride sheep.

The writer’s reputation preceded him (of course, the opposite is also true). “It only took a plagiarized text from the underside of the washing machine lid for them to drop the curtain of invisible ink upon my oeuvre like the end of act one of Der Meistersinger, and suddenly they’re sending me back to Seattle with dropcloths and a stool kit? Oh, the darksome snakes! Oh, the mental shorepound!”

A quire of foolscap, love become blunt light, buys the next round.  The Dutch marabout as seen on TV. sells his last gris-gris. Mooi, dank je wel, and with superhuman strength in one motion propels his wheelchair backwards and out onto the street.  A cry goes up and his groove suite give chase, back in the hunt, caparisoned in cardboard box helmets with cutouts for eyes. The writer settles his tab and joins the agitated scrum, to him it’s like the running of the bulls.

What’s that?  You never cared for his writing? Isn’t that kind of like saying you never cared for a juicy porterhouse steak with garlic mashed potatoes? I’m sure some folks would agree, but a whole lot more would think you're crazy! His writing is just that: meat and potatoes.  Honest, basic, full of taste, and satisfying.


FIVE KIDS

Two brothers, their two sisters, plus a girl cousin. The oldest brother and the oldest sister and the cousin each held a puppy. Free puppies. Free puppies. Free puppies.


BLISS POINT

A turbid fog, grown larger than the wings it flew in on, roiling slowly. Nneka and I spliced inside on the sofa, evolving from numeric to alpha, she reading Chester Himes, me staring at the sledge hammer and the power washer, birthday presents from her, resting in front of the fireplace window like pets who had a busy day. If lieder were horses, Schubert would have taken the bus. To Butte.  Or Billings. Nneka’s toes are like eyelashes against my soles.


I LOVED MY SANDWICH

“I thought the food was probably going to be ‘just ok’ however when my Breakfast Croissant was delivered, I was pleasantly surprised. It was perfectly warmed slightly crunchy on the outside and the ham was generous as was the provolone and tomato which blended together into yummy bites. I loved my sandwich. My husband chose the waffles and he gave me a bite - they were warm and had just enough syrup, whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The guys had the Breakfast Bagel and the Breakfast Sandwich and the pitaya bowl. These are picky eaters and they all commented several times how much they enjoyed their food.”

Yeah? Then here, love this---and I emptied a hundred rounds into them---her, her husband, and the guys, back and forth, right and left like I was hosing down a driveway. DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA DAKKAA. Go ahead and Yelp your assess off now.





Wednesday, October 28, 2015

#1 Most Realistic

IF YOU AIN’T USED TO THIS KIND OF THING

You ain’t.


BOB DYLAN FOR TUBULAR STEAKHOUSE

“The feeling stays with you.”
Right?
Right?


I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS

But I’ve heard of it.


FOR A NATION TO BE GREAT

Its food must be awesome.


HELP YOURSELF TO AMERICA

Is coming your pancakes.


BALD EAGLES

Le gusta a comer espagety.


AND DO YOU HAVE

Flavored cream cheese?


TALKING TO MYSELF?

No, I’m addressing Congress.


STEAK AND LOBSTER

Cash back.


BEFORE THE FLAG SALUTE

And everything.


NO MANNAZE

No ma’am.


RANKING MEMBERS

Dancing in their nighties.


THE FUCK DO I KNOW

Shit.


A QUICK LOOK AT TRAFFIC

Crisp bacon.
Savory sausage.


AL-QAEDA?

Or Al-Qaeda-linked.


AND THEN MAKE A LEFT

And get back on the freeway.
Get off the freeway.
Get back on the freeway.


THE BEST LINKS

Take you where you don’t expect to be taken.


DRIVE-THRU

Woman in the passenger seat
Being choked by the driver.
A gorgeous-looking couple.


EVERYONE OPERATES DIFFERENTLY

Families.


I’VE BEEN WANTING TO ASK YOU

I was thinking yesterday.
Do you remember Yvette Mimieux?



www.randystark.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reading In The Mobile Era

Links to, and brief comments on, three works I’ve enjoyed recently, each read on a mobile device.


(click here)
This novel of great humanity is set in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970’s. It explores the tensions and entanglements between and among the homestead (“the flies, the smells, the fields and the rags, …stomachs which were seldom full, …dirt and disease…”) and black people and white people (here as represented by missionaries and convents).

Colonialism, post-colonialism, feminism, patriarchy, racism---there are many themes and subtexts in the book, but I was preeminently taken by the depiction of the relationship between the novel’s narrator (Tambu)  and her cousin (Nyasha), both young teenage girls, both born in the homestead but being “recruited” by the West, by the white culture. Nyasha has spent time at school in London, both girls are students at the missionary school in their home country, and there is much in the book about them navigating the two cultures. But Tambu and Nyasha are also teenagers, fresh and smart, full of life, and the author is right on the money in capturing the “lucid irreverence” of their behaviors, in front of their families, in front of their schoolmates, in front of each other---some of it laugh out loud funny. The relationship between the girls is so sweetly rendered, that when at one point they realize their lives are taking different paths and they are saying good bye to each other---man I was almost crying like a baby.   

(click here)

Reading in the Mobile Era, by Mark West and Han Ei Chew

Obviously if Nervous Conditions were written today, it would be a different book in many ways, one being the cousins would probably be using mobile devices to communicate and to read. This report, released by UNESCO in 2014, examines the use of mobile devices, and the increase in reading as a result.  The study (a free pdf download of 7.77 mb) was conducted in the countries of Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The leap from preindustrial to digital economies in developing cultures is much written about. This report is focused on reading, and shows that reading increases as texts are made widely available via mobile devices. The conclusions are optimistic


(click here)
If Nervous Conditions represents the past, and the UNESCO report the present, this novel is the future. Situated between realistic and science fiction, and a literary descendent of Frankenstein, there are also other genres at work and play---horror, humor, metafiction, mystery, thriller et al.

It isn’t a pretty picture of humankind, and the author’s viewpoint is almost consistently a downer, but that attitude is offset by an expansive, gargantuan and Wikipedic level of erudition combined with a circus of literary antics and stunts. At 638 pages the book is a beast, but very compelling.

Here’s one of the cute, more humorous passages from the novel to conclude this post. The narrator is a young man who has fallen hard for a gorgeous woman named Lorelei who is way out of his league. Nonetheless, they have gone together to a fast food restaurant. He’s loco in love and she is 

“…radiant in a light blue hoodie, white V-neck, and jeans. Lorelei was the kind of girl that could pull off wearing a Kevlar vest while reading Wordsworth. What a first-date story this would make for the grandkids. Her, impenetrable and romantic; me, lost and longing. Her slender fingers plucked up another fry, with a grace that concert pianists would covet. She slid it through the viscous surface of her shake, like the mother of Achilles baptizing her baby in liquid Lethe. Then a subtle twist of the fingers as she pulled it free, the milkshake reaching up after it, trying to hold tight, to fill in the emptiness her fry had drilled out, until finally gravity overtook it, and the chocolate stalagmite let go, dropped back into itself, a brief peak of nostalgia, until its tip tilted downward and wept its way back into uniform smoothness, all evidence erased and forgotten…Lorelei held the fry in her mouth, like a lollipop almost, and tilted her head to the side with bemused sympathy…”

I can say with pretty reasonable confidence that you’ll be happy with any of the three works mentioned above.


www.randystark.com


Thursday, October 22, 2015

THE WORLD IS TOO BIG TO FAIL: What ONE Expert IS NOW Saying

THIS

Is absolutely something.


OF OUR GENERATION

For lunch.


I THINK WHAT I’LL JUST DO IS

I’ll kind of dive right in.


WHAT?

Oh.


STAND BACK

This will take a little doing.


THAT ONE’S DEAD

Which I have another one.
So.


UMMHMM 

I can hear something.


NOW OBVIOUSLY

These experiments are dangerous.


THE THING ABOUT THAT IS

You need to know how.


YOU’RE WHAT?

Oh.


YOU KNOW

I don’t know.


THE NUMBERS ARE STAGGERING

Yeah oh absolutely.
Absolutely.


MOST FOLKS NOWADAYS FIGURE

The world is too big to fail.


WELL I THINK IT MAY BE

And we may have solved that problem.


SO YOU KNOW

I think yeah.


TWO HUNDRED

One sixty maybe.
But that’s maybe.


THE ENGINEERS WILL TAKE A LOOK AT IT

And they’ll uh.


THE THING WITH GOD

Doors close.
Doors open.


ANOTHER THING THEY’RE DOING

Even though it’s physically impossible.


I DON’T KNOW EITHER BUT WHO CARES

They’re all good. 


WHOA HO HO HO HO

Heh heh heh heh.
Oh ho ho.


I HAVE ATOMIC ENERGY

And I was raised by geese.


LET ME TAKE THIS

Real quick.



Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Come Out and Play in the Rain for a Minute

4:07

We none of us.
6 a.m.?


STINK BUG CIRCUS

Not thinks alike.
But, you know.


PRIVACY IS A PRIVILEGE

Not a right. 


REMEMBER WHEN WE TALKED

About karma?


I THINK

I don’t know what it is.


NO IT’S JUST

She.


WELL YEAH

But I mean.


SO OK LET’S

Now who.


OH

It won’t.
It won’t.
Uh.


I DON’T KNOW

Where it.
Why?


WELL I JUST I

Oh.


I WAS HOPING

Yeah.


MORE THAN JUST

You know.


WELL HE’S

He’s, no.
You’re right.



www.randystark.com




Friday, October 16, 2015

Perceived Umbrella

FACE

No mouf.


LIFE

Debtors’ prison.


IT WAS MANY BIRDS

Flossing.


TANKER CARS

Rolling tarantulas.


PALM GROVE

Fourteen giraffes.
Green cockades.


BEER GARDEN

Oooorgg thoom orgh ptooom


THE BRAIN

Do not bleach.
Do not iron.
Do not dry clean.
Do not tumble dry.


ROAD WORK

Next billion miles.


DROUGHT

Eating our own data.


SMASHING PUMPKINS

Marilyn Manson and who?


HEAVEN

Cash for my gold.


SUBATOMIC PARTICLES

Some jump.
Some fall.
Some get pushed.


CHOPPER

Can’t see the motherfucker.
Oh there it is.


NOSTALGIA VS. MEMORIES

Memories is the good cholesterol.


PERCEIVED UMBRELLA

Save the date.



www.randystark.com

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Starting You A Circus?

Attention Shoppers:  Ten days into the Golden Quarter a new book release from me, just 99 cent.

William Faulkner, his short novel Spotted Horses: early on one character says to another “Starting you a circus?” It is a hilarious story (with some heart-rending and fervent pathos).  I thought I knew Faulkner, but I didn’t know he could be funny.

Robin Coste Lewis.  You have to do some research to find her work, but recently she released this book and it is up for some awards.  She’s good (and she’s in Los Angeles!).

And for the third time in the past few months I quote and concur with Joe Keppler’s recent statement: “Philosophy, history, and art at the present moment seem to me alive with beautiful surprises.”


www.randystark.com





Friday, October 2, 2015

LOL: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970 was awarded to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature".

Solzhenitsyn is, as Adam Mars-Jones puts it in The Guardian:  “a writer with few equals for his industry, capacious memory and the passion of his convictions.” 

But he’s also cynical and funnier then hell.  To demonstrate, I will set aside all the magnificent research and literary virtues and virtuosity comprising the novel August 1914 (set in Russia, the beginning battles of World War I between the armies of Russia and Germany, and premonitions of the Russian Revolution of 1917) and extrapolate a critique of large organizations. 

This won’t come as news to anyone who has worked in large bureaucracies or organizations, either at headquarters or in the field (knowing in your hearts that what’s going on back at headquarters is total bullshit).  But there is no little satisfaction in having a Nobel prizewinner pointing it out.

Solzhenitsyn shows organizational relationships, the tension between headquarters and the field, and the bureaucratic “cultures” that demand conformity to authority, where “‘look both ways’ [is] the rule for all on the hierarchical ladder.” and the power of rumor is treacherous. 

Here’s an example:  Solzhenitsyn describes an upper echelon type as a “colorless, indecisive, but painstaking major general [who] had never been on active service. He had served for many years in one staff job after another, more often than not ‘on special duties,’ and had been a general for eight years.”
 
Who among us, with bureaucratic time served at whatever level, hasn’t seen these “special duties” desk jockeys, with little or nothing to do of any consequence, trying to fill out their work days by making regulations for situations they’ve never experienced or jobs they’ve never performed? People, who as Solzhenitsyn continues to describe, “valued above all else undeviating observance of regulations and punctuality in collecting and dispatching directives, instructions, and reports.”

This behavior, of course, results in pervasive CYA actions, and  Solzhenitsyn is all over it: “Provided he acted in accordance with regulations, directives, and instructions a man could suffer any setback or defeat, retreat, be smashed, flee in disorder—and no one would blame him for it. Nor need he rack his brains trying to find reasons for his defeat. But woe betide him if he departed from instructions, used his own head, took some bold initiative—he might not even be forgiven his victories, and should he suffer a defeat he would be chewed up and spat out.”

Take for example the person who “had suffered only two real disasters in his military career: failure on one occasion to produce a piece of paper when it was asked for and an unfortunate misunderstanding with an influential person.”

OMG!  Failure to produce a piece of paper!  Pissing off a higher-up!  Two of the biggest sins in all bureaucracies. 

These executive suite minefields result in a leadership style which, according to Solzhenitsyn, is “distinguished by aversion to any sort of methodical work, absence of any sense of duty, fear of responsibility, and total inability to value time and use it to the full. Hence the sluggishness…the inclination to act mechanically…”

Distinguished.  The sarcasm isn’t just dripping, it is flowing.  And the sluggishness breeds incompetence, which in too many bureaucracies and large organizations, is perversely rewarded.

For example, Solzhenitsyn writes about one recently promoted person on an upward trajectory, a newly appointed Chief of the General Staff:  “He had held that position only four months, and the main effort so far required of him had been to prevent the war from failing to break out. That done, he had intended to remain aloof from subsequent menacing developments...How could he bring himself to refuse what was undoubtedly a great advance in his career?

More sarcasm:  to prevent the war from failing to break out.  And for that dubious accomplishment, a promotion. Indeed, how could the individual’s ego permit any other conclusion?

This nuttiness at headquarters then translates to the battlefield, the escapades and fails of the armies involved.  Solzhenitsyn describes leaders devising obtuse plans “to pin down the Germans (who were not there to be pinned) on the coast, so as to prevent them from reaching the Vistula (which was not what they were trying to do).”

“Friendly fire” usually epitomizes the ultimate in military (organizational) incompetence, and Solzhenitsyn doubles down in his description of such incidents, in one case adding:  “Again, no one was alarmed: Russian troops often opened fire on their own side.”

Of course it’s not just the Russians.  The dysfunctional memes are everywhere.  Solzhenitsyn describes German army attacks that “ended in absurd failure, with nothing working out as expected. More than once…wheeling squadrons were mistaken by [their] own infantry for Russian cavalry, fired upon, and scattered. [German] artillery opened fire on [German] infantry.”

Outcomes?  Solzhenitsyn wraps it up with this piece of analysis:  “So then, on 28 August, everything necessary had been done on the Russian side to ensure the enemy’s triumph and his revenge…”

Again, he’s writing specifically about armies, but it applies to large organizations and bureaucracies everywhere.  Everywhere.  I don’t care if you are in a buttoned up vertical highrise or the disruptive campus fun houses of high tech, human nature is what it is.  “Bad people always support each other—that is their great strength,” Solzhenitsyn writes. There are few exceptions.