Saturday, August 30, 2014
(illustration based on a songbook cover by K. Kotani, 1930. Deco Japan exhibit, Seattle Asian Museum)
“TEN QUALIFICATIONS FOR BEING A MOGA” (MODERN GIRL)
- Strength, the "enemy" of conventional femininity
- Conspicuous consumption of Western food and drink
- Devotion to jazz records, dancing, and smoking Golden Bat cigarettes from a metal cigarette holder
- Knowledge of the types of Western liquor and a willingness to flirt to get them for free
- Devotion to fashion from Paris and Hollywood as seen in foreign fashion magazines
- Devotion to cinema
- Real or feigned interest in dancehalls as a way to show off one's ostensible decadence to mobo (modern boys)
- Strolling inthe Ginza every Saturday and Sunday night
- Pawning things to get money to buy new clothes for each season
- Offering one's lips to any man who is useful, even if he is bald or ugly, but keeping one's chastity because "infringement of chastity" lawsuits are out of style
–by the leading illustrator Takabatake Kashō for the magazine Fujin sekai (1929)
Posted by mw at 9:46 PM
"I was my face, I was ugliness—though sometimes unbearable, this singularity of meaning also offered a possible point of escape. It became the launching pad from which to lift off, the one immediately recognizable place to point to when asked what was wrong with my life. Everything led to it, everything receded from it—my face as personal vanishing point."
Posted by mw at 11:39 AM
Friday, August 29, 2014
All over. I was scared all the time; when the fear came, grew, it took me and made me absolutely passive. It was Daddy who smelled like cunt but because he couldn't bear being scared he made me scared instead. Because he couldn't make Mother his cunt and he needed a cunt I became his cunt. I always do whatever anyone tells me to do even if I hate the person's guts. All of their guts. I do it because they need a cunt more than I need a cunt, because someone has to be a cunt in this world for the world to continue to function. At the very same time there's a spot between my legs and since it's almost always burning up it is almost my entire consciousness it becomes all of me. Since it involves another person, sexual need looks like fear, is fear, is all fear. I don't see any reason not to play my fear out, not to play along, not to swing it in their faces like a...like a joke chicken, like a taunt, like a slap in the face, like a live cunt. I spread the cheeks of my ass and look over my shoulder and Daddy's face is bloated with insane desire like a drunken clown and I'm drenched and reeking terror like a perfumed little animal provoking him to fuck me, to strangle me, to make me his slave.
Take a look at the progress of art, literature, philosophy, physics. The point of it all seems to have been to reach the point we're at today where we're obliged to finally acknowledge that none of it has any point at all. There is a knock on the door and when I open it I find her standing there looking older, worse for wear. I might not have recognized her if she were anyone else. I know, of course, what she wants.
"I'm sorry," I say. "You're too late. The person you're looking for is gone a long time now, gone forever. Dead is the word to use."
"Don't hand me that shit." She makes certain threatening moves.
I counter, "Force won't work." I sound confident but I'm feeling terrified. "Not anymore."
I can see she doesn't believe me, that she thinks it's simply a facade. It is a facade, but it isn't simple. I continue: "You're looking for someone who existed in the past but who doesn't exist in the present. Because you choose to believe that identity is constant and unchangeable that is no reason for me to believe likewise. Your beliefs, in other words, do not condition mine. Yes, you are backed by the force of authority, by the overwhelming numbers of those who hold the same opinion, by convention and paradigm. That means you win but only if I'm playing your game. You've been brainwashed and now you appeal to the very authority that brainwashed you to back up you're misperception with all the force of law at their disposal. A neat trick they played on you but I'm not playing."
She can see where this is going and that she is getting nowhere, not in this scene. She retreats down the stairs with the junk mail, shaking it at me warningly. "I'll be back," she says. "Back with the sheriff and his deputies."
I know this is just a bluff, a way to save face, but I can't get my glands to believe it and they are pumping out toxic hormones at frightening rates.
Money is the flavor that is never quite there. The taste fades before you can taste it, so you're always hungry for more. It never satisfies. You keep putting more and more in your mouth. You bite the hand that feeds you, even if it's your own. An American hero is a man who's made American history and American history is a myth told again and again by the advertisers of America.
—Kathy Acker/Meeah Williams
Posted by mw at 6:44 PM
I stand barefoot in the hotel bathroom combing the sleep out of my hair. "The skeletal remains," I think, squinting at the reflection in the mirror. A half-remembered dream floats passed because now the mirror is a window: I can't find my cell phone, then I find it but can't remember the number I want to call, then I find it, remember the number, but can't get a signal. You can water a dead stick for a thousand years and it won't put forth roses, Jesus says. Or maybe it will. Have you ever tried? The problem is you don't have a thousand years. Hence, the need for resurrection. Please send matches. There's a knock on the door. "Room service." Funny, I didn't order— "Sorry, wrong room." Am I in the wrong room? That would explain an awful lot. A lot of awful. Jesus doesn't think so. He motions me to get back on the unmade bed, already cold. He lifts my nightie. Then he takes a long silver pin from inside his robes. He wets the pin in his mouth, working it all the way down his throat, like a sword-swallower. Having lubricated the pin with his spittle, he pushes it into my belly. He repeats this process with six pins. Or maybe it's sixteen? After a while, it's only natural to stop counting. When the procedure, or baptism, or whatever it is has been completed, he extracts all the pins and leaves the room without a word. I get up, finish dressing, and then go downstairs to the hotel lobby for the free breakfast as if nothing at all were out of the ordinary. What else can you do? I have a large melty-warm cinnamon bun. There is a lot of road still to cover. I thought I recognized where I was going but the destination turns away from me like a once friendly acquaintance and begins walking briskly in the opposite direction the moment I smile. Home, I think, is the feeling of a telescopic sight over your heart through which an unseen assassin stares, unblinking, waiting for the right moment, the "money-shot." He could be Cupid. I put my hands flat on the table, close my eyes, and open up my chest. I have not yet looked at the headlines on the complimentary copy of USA Today. I take a deep breath like I'm diving into the deepest part of the pool. What the hell is he waiting for?
Posted by mw at 11:08 AM
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
"I've always thought respectable people scoundrels, and I look anxiously at my face every morning for signs of my becoming a scoundrel."
Posted by mw at 10:06 PM
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
We came upon this place totally by accident after pulling off the Interstate looking for a place to picnic. It caused me to forget about lunch for an entire half-hour! If you absolutely have to have people living next door, these are the kinds of people I'd like them to be.
Read more about the artists who created this stupendously awesome place:
Posted by mw at 11:27 PM
"There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several."
—Ranier Maria Rilke
Posted by mw at 11:06 PM
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
"Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?"
Posted by mw at 11:18 AM
Yeah, you're paranoid. Who can blame you, boobala. The mob is standing outside your window waving cudgels and you've no memory how you came by that bloody bandage on your head. No, don't touch it! Is it really so impossible that the aliens got ahold of you in your sleep, especially now that the human beings on the planet are treating you like an extraterrestrial? Up to now, you've shut one eye to the evidence, but it's sure looking like a National Enquirer kind of world out there. This is the sort of situation where a glass of magic water would sure hit the spot! You've spent years and years constructing a complicated apparatus for accessing the angelic glossolalia. All you've managed to do is produce some pretty good counterfeit coins. They put smiles on a lot of people's faces when you hand them out in town, it's true. But the jig is up and it's time to pay the piper. Now you know how Elvis felt. If only you hadn't let your imagination get the better of you. If only you'd been able to bring that sparrow back to life. If only you left the day before yesterday. This is the advice I gave Jesus before the divorce cleaned him out. Now he's playing supper clubs on has-been alley. Listen, I've got the Yeti gassed up and parked right around the corner. Just say the word. I'll have you out of here and in Atlantis sipping ichor before dawn. It's your call. Either way I'm outta here in ten. I hate to be a reptile about it but if you're waiting for them to break the door down you're waiting alone. There ain't no future in martyrdom. So what's it gonna be, boobala? Clock's ticking.
Posted by mw at 10:53 AM
Friday, August 22, 2014
Music & Vocals by Tiger Gilliam
Words by Meeah Williams
Posted by mw at 11:29 PM
"I'm wet, I'm not insane," I say. The man laughs. We're strangers taking shelter under the canvas awning of a hotel. It's not a particularly funny thing to say. I don't even know why I said it, just to say something, I guess, to be social. The man probably laughs for the same reason. The awning is green; it flaps hard in the wind. He must have said something causing me to say what I said; it's hardly likely that I would have said such a thing apropos of nothing, but what he said I don't remember. The rain is hammering down. It is the kind of rain that doesn't last for more than ten minutes or so. This rain has already lasted more than twenty and shows no sign of letting up. The man asks me into the hotel for a drink. I say "Okay." Why? I don't know. I don't remember the name of the hotel. It bears some kind of crest or coat-of-arms involving a concrete lion's head. I know a lot of hotels have motifs with lion's heads and this isn't much help. Sorry. At the bar, he does most of the talking. He is a very good conversationalist but, no, I don't recall anything specific that he says. It's kind of like background music in a movie. I have two drinks and I leave somewhere in the middle of the third. So I'm not sure how I end up in bed with him. As a matter of course, maybe; out of courtesy. Does that sound crazy to you? I assure you, it happens, probably more often than you suspect. No, I'm not unhappily married. I don't remember his name. Maybe I am insane.
When we are done, I get dressed quickly. I sit on the edge of the bed to put on my shoes. I lean forward and rub my legs and feet. How far and over what terrain they have carried me. My hands—how much they've picked up. They've let go of even more. One day I'll cut myself out of this pink suit and go back to where I came from. What a relief it will be to leave the whole mess behind. What will I tell them when I get back? Probably just what I've told you, only they will understand.
Posted by mw at 9:44 PM
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
When I get home they've taken the armoire, the tallboy, and they're in the process of removing the dining room table and an easy chair. All my favorite pieces of furniture! I press myself against the wall to let them pass with something swaddled in a stained drop cloth (like the ghost of furniture) with something still sitting in it upright. I slip inside and take a look around. The place looks like the inside of a computer raided for spare parts. They've left the toilet seat up and the bowl full of urine. Who are these men? Who authorized this semi-move, anyway?
On a small table, under the mirror in the foyer, I find a letter among the day's coupons, junk flyers, and bills; it's from Russell Edson. When I open it, I find a blank sheet of paper. It is an answer to the fan letter I wrote him in my head a hundred thousand times and never sent because no matter what I wrote it would never do and now he is dead.
With this blank sheet of paper, I finally have the stationary necessary to write the letter I've been waiting years to write.
It, too, will be blank.
Posted by mw at 7:50 PM
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
I drink three cans of poison and I still don't die. It's at this point that I say to myself "This is ridiculous. It shouldn't be so hard to kill myself. Clearly there must be some part of me that wants to live. But why?" That's the part of myself that I send off on a long hopeless crusade, riding a black horse through a desert of intricate and unworkable relationships. "Goodbye to that" I think to myself, locking the door, never expecting to see whatever it was again. "And good riddance, too." Meanwhile I go about my business—pacing the floor, drawing hexes, masturbating, eating sushi. One day, the branch outside the window flowers, a moth flies out of the cereal box, there's a knock on the door.
"Who is it?" I ask, ear pressed to the jamb, heart pounding.
I'm not fooling anyone. Whoever it is already has a key and a hard-on.
Posted by mw at 11:20 PM
"Art liberates the physiognomy of those who disappeared in the dark shadows of official history writing." —Guido Vermeulen
Posted by mw at 9:57 AM
Let's all assume we survived the Disaster. We're huddled among the broken brick, warming ourselves by paltry fires, and a cold ashy rain has begun to fall. In the distance: the booming of artillery inching closer. When the army sweeps through for the third or fourth time, what can they do to us now? We're ghosts, little wisps of smoke from funeral pyres.
The unspeakable can only be approached through metaphors and metaphors are like sparrows carrying bits of stuff over borders between distant points, connecting one anomalous place with another and thereby creating a new map of unspoiled lands. Thus the world is fertilized, readied for a new crop of Disasters.
Here's some advice: No one likes to admit they're fighting on the wrong side and they'll kill you for even suggesting it; so don't bother. At the roulette table, the best way to beat the house is to bet as if there weren't any numbers at all. Children on horseback often seem like the answer, but no matter how appealing the idea, they aren't. People who grow sunflowers are happier than people who don't. Should you, while sleeping, dream of chewing small chunks of very rare beef and find yourself enjoying it, do not believe, not even for a minute, that your days as a vegetarian are over.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
There's a celebration in progress but it seems to be coming from a long way off. Is this what it means to grow older? More and more I feel as if I'm watching things from outer space. Today I'm notified by certified mail that I've won a sweepstakes I don't remember entering from a supermarket chain where I don't even shop. As the first-prize winner I'm entitled to run up and down the aisles of the local store like a lunatic pushing an empty shopping cart. For twenty minutes I can throw in anything that I like. Soda, snack cakes, small cellophane wrapped—carcasses. Anything. I imagine running up and down the aisles for twenty minutes in a cold panic and ending up with the cart just as empty as when I started. I can think of nothing more horrible. To the audience, I must seem terribly ungrateful, gasping for breath, dripping sweat, empty-handed. It's like one of those awful dreams when you suddenly realize you're naked in public—a total humiliation. But, unexpectedly, instead of humiliation or public derision, it appears that I am now entitled to an even higher-tier prize. "Congratulations," the mailman says and presents me with a second certified letter, which, without even opening, I politely decline. "Thank you but no thanks," I say. From now on, I'll be entitled to no more prizes. The mailman nods and says, "Self is a visitor that does not stay."
Posted by mw at 10:00 PM
"It can be taken as an axiom that all governments everywhere lie—it is inevitable. Naive people think that conspiracies are seven men around a table in a Machiavellian plot: a conspiracy is an atmosphere, or a frame of mind in which people are impelled to do things, perhaps those things that they could never do as individuals, or couldn't do at other times when the atmosphere is different—[things] the populace have never heard of, nor would they find out except by accident, or by a member of the 'conspiracy' not being sufficiently brainwashed into secrecy and spilling the beans."
Posted by mw at 6:51 PM
Saturday, August 16, 2014
A faith healer comes to town and I go to see him but I wind up lame. I do exactly as he says, throwing away my crutch and crying "Hallelujah!" but I end up face down in the snow. What am I doing wrong? There must be a trick he's not telling us, a book that I can buy for further study. I look in the mirror and see a calm woman who knows all the secrets but she might as well be ten thousand miles away at the bottom of a great dead sea.
The faith healer steals out of town one frosty early morning wearing a red fez and a flowered housecoat. He's cut short his engagement without telling a soul. I'm the only one who sees him leaving. As his tour bus pulls out of the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot, I throw away my crutch, cry "Hallelujah!", and fall face-first in the snow for what feels like the millionth time. I don't blame anyone reading this for thinking the solution was going to be as easy as that. Because, frankly, I did, too.
Posted by mw at 9:56 PM
Friday, August 15, 2014
(image/poem by Richard Canard)
One day a man comes at me out of nowhere brandishing a knife. Wow, just like that, I'm being mugged. I immediately take out my purse to show him that I won't resist. He can have everything I have, which turns out to be about seventy dollars in cash. But people are surprising. They always want something different than what you think they want. Oh, they'll take what you give them, but then they go ahead and also take what they wanted all along.
What the mugger wants is to cut me open. When he's done this, he reaches inside me and removes a single star. The star is suspended inside an orb-shaped golden aura. It is quite remarkable. I had no idea there was such a thing inside me, no clue that such a thing was ever "mine" to lose. I almost feel as if I should thank my attacker for showing me this wonder.
I go to the police station afterwards. I don't really feel like it. But it seems a necessary part of the story, the next thing you are supposed to do under the circumstances; neither my heart nor my hopes are in it, however. The detective assigned to my case patiently takes down my statement, recording it word for word. I don't need to be told that these sorts of crimes are seldom—if ever—solved. I will never recover my star or whatever it was.
In truth, I can't say that I miss what was taken or that I even notice it's missing. I feel exactly the same now as I did before the attack except for the knowledge that I saw with my own eyes that something was violently ripped away from me. And I feel the complicated knot of emotions, not entirely unpleasant, that this knowledge calls up in me from time to time.
Posted by mw at 8:58 AM
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I'm called in to view a police line-up by mistake but no one wants to hear that. On the other side of the glass the men are paraded in. What a motley collection! All different sizes, shapes, and colors. I recognize him immediately, but I pause a beat or two just to make it look good. "It's him," I say, pointing to the third one from the left.
"Are you sure?" the lead detective asks.
It's funny how you pick the same guy over and over and over no matter how often it ends in disappointment. It's a crime, really. Apparently he abducted me, held me prisoner for eight-and-a-half years, and made me his sex slave. Nearly all that time he managed to brainwash me into thinking I was happily married. What a monster! Lucky for me, he got careless. He blinked long enough for me to collect my wits and get away.
"You're not the only woman he's done this to," the lead detective says when he senses my certainty already wavering. "And you won't be the last," his partner finishes.
All the same, it's getting harder and harder to be so self-righteous and I'm beginning to think that the only reason I picked him in the first place is that he reminded me of the man before him and the man before that and before that and that they all probably reminded me of some kind of hermaphroditic mash-up of the old parental unit—mother and father fused together.
"Don't even think it," one of the detectives warns.
"Why not?" I reply, defiantly, but I already know the answer.
A mental images flashes in my mind's eye: a great red bull sinking to its knees in the amphitheater, exhausted from the fight, blood foaming around it's muzzle, it's thick skin quivering with picador darts, it's sad, sunken yellow eye rolling up to the pitiless sun, the blank sky.
"He's actually quite innocent!" I shout, though the men on the other side of the glass can't hear me any more than they can see me. "They're all innocent!"
Both detectives frown.
Meanwhile my poor heart is lying in a heap in the trampled dust of the amphitheater, shuddering, bleeding out, deaf, breathing its last.
The horrible crowd erupts in an orgasmic frenzy, shouting as one for the coup de grace.
Posted by mw at 11:04 AM
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
This is the first book I've ever read by Zadie Smith. From what I gather, it's a bit different from her earlier books, less traditional. People who read and liked her earlier books and responded negatively to this one say that the narrative in "NW" is fragmented to the point of incomprehensibility and that "all the characters are unlikeable."
To that I say, "Huh?!"
I didn't find the scattershot narrative in the main part of the book—185 short "chapters" in 155 pages—a problem to follow at all. The main storyline bracketing this middle section is neatly—perhaps even too neatly—tied up in the end. And though the characters were undeniably self-centered and self-important, I didn't find them to be particularly unlikable. They didn't seem any more or less unlikable than most people I know casually. Besides, how did this dumb idea creep into the collective mind of the mainstream reading public that the main characters of novels were supposed to be likable? You're not going camping for five months in the Himalayas with these people, for crissakes. You aren't having them babysit your children.
Anyway, I don't have a ton of stuff to say about this book. It was okay. It was undeniably well-written. It's about two best friends—Leah (Irish) and Keisha/Natalie (Jamaican)—who grew up together in a rather drab section of London in the 80s/90s. They've more or less successfully transcended their grubby origins, but they feel a lot of guilt and low self-esteem that drags them at least halfway back to where they started.
Ultimately, "NW" is a book about class consciousness and how hard—if not impossible—it is to completely escape your origins, how you never quite feel like you fit into the better world, the enriched life you've been taught to work hard and aspire to even if you should happen to beat the odds and "make it."
As it happens, "NW" was nominated for a National Book Award (!) and was named one of the Ten Notable Books of the Year 2012 by the New York Times(!). Wow. I don't remember 2012 that well, except that, according to a misreading of Mayan prophecy popular at the time, it was the year that the world was supposed to end. That this book was considered one of the ten best published that year—or any year for that matter—rather surprises me. I mean, yes, it's smart, hip, and written by a literary "celebrity" with a very cool name (not the Smith part) but it really struck me as not much more than a very intelligent soap opera in book form.
Okay, if that sounds a bit harsh, then let's say it's a novel of social manners, ala Martin Amis, perhaps, (without Amis's vitriolic panache and without, thankfully, his tiresome male bravado) written as it is from the far more unique perspective of a woman and a minority to boot. NW therefore fills a double gap. But for me it just didn't pack the universal existential punch that I expect from serious literature. It is too much a novel of a particular time and place which, though I found it interesting in its particularly and "gritty" realism, just wasn't definitive enough, simply wasn't working on enough levels to make it memorable or moving on anything but a relatively superficial level. I'm always leery about "literature" that makes the New York Times bestseller list and "NW" more than anything else confirmed my instinctive distrust.
Posted by mw at 7:01 PM
It's the most ungainly, unwieldy trophy I've ever seen and I'm apparently the winner. But what is it for? There is no plaque that gives any indication whatsoever. It's a complete mystery. The thing looks like a cross between a coffee urn, a mechanical crab, and a malignant fetish out of an H.P. Lovecraft tale. I might as well have been dead for most of my life and I would never have realized it if the trumpet salute announcing the award hadn't finally woken me from my stone-cold slumber. What could I possibly have done while snoring my life away to have won such a thing? To have won anything? What kind of booby-prize is this, anyway?
Now that I examine it more closely it seems to me it's not a trophy at all. But what it is, I still can't say It may not even be mine. For one thing, it hasn't got my name engraved on it anywhere. What made me think it was mine? Someone might have just left it with me, like an orphan. That can't make it my responsibility, can it? I don't have to think of it as my child, do I? Maybe I can leave it behind, too? Maybe I can find someone still sleeping, slip it in their arms, and sneak away before they wake? Then it can be their problem. Let them figure out what to do with it. Then I can walk blithely on and finally live the rest of my life without having to bear some awful mysterious burden.
Monday, August 11, 2014
I have the ability to murder people in my sleep. I dream people dead and a couple of days to a week or so later—boom!—a heart attack, a car wreck, a random mugging in the street, whatever: out of the blue, they're dead.
It's terrible because I really try hard to let go of old angers and grudges, to let bygones be bygones, but I have no control over what happens in my sleep. In fact, to look at me from the outside, you'd say I was sleeping like a baby. Clearly there's a less developed reptilian part of me always at work, coldly going over the Book of Old Grievances like a Mafia don and systematically exacting revenge on those who've done me wrong.
Sometimes it's a complete surprise—even a shock—who my dreams decide is worthy of death. It could be someone relatively unimportant in my life, someone who committed what I'd consider a minor slight, something I hardly even took notice of at the time, while someone who really did me dirty might go scot-free for years. Sometimes it's not even the person who deserves it themselves who's struck but someone close to them, as if the point is to torture the guilty first with unendurable grief before finishing them off.
I stare and stare and stare at this ugly, cruel, capricious thing inside me and still I can't figure out what it is or what to do about it. It's like a lightning-maker or a doom-machine or even God Himself. It's a murder weapon, really, but there's no deep quiet lake I can row out into at midnight in which to drop it. Still, for all that, I can put my head on the pillow at night with a clear conscience. I can see the stars above. I can love myself. It just goes to show you. But what it goes to show you is so completely open to interpretation that any explanation I've heard so far strikes me as essentially meaningless.
Posted by mw at 8:22 AM