Category Archives: Words

Ask Abbott – Advice Column (Published Nov. 27, 2017)

Greetings Everyone! Thanks to all who encouraged me to take on the mantle of advice columnist. And thanks to everyone who has sent in questions. Thank you for trusting me with your problems, which as you can see range all over the place. I’ll be getting to your questions as quickly as I can manage.

If you think reading my column is worth a dollar (or more!), consider becoming one of my patrons on Patreon. Future columns will be released there to my supporters first, and will become public after three days. If I get enough of you supporting in this way, I can just solve your problems all day, instead of spending most of the day job-hunting and revamping my resume.

So without further ado, here goes the first batch.

-Dan

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Dear Abbott,
I have recently been sober for 9+ months after several tough years (a decade or so) of grief induced copedrinking. There were illicit substances (ie non prescription drugs)involved as well and those are out of the picture as well. My mental and physical health have returned. In fact, I’ve gone to a medical doctor and after years of substance abuse I am in perfect health. I moved out of the city (cities always had a tendency to aggravate me) and moved to a slower paced community in the mountains outside of Sacramento. I live with great friends, have lucrative work, and generally am putting my life “together” or “adulting” successfully. I wouldn’t say I was an addict so much as an enthusiastic participant in the substance world….. I also felt like amidst all the drinking and drugs, I “kept my shit together”.

I have the blues.
I feel the sentiment often “what’s the point of this shit?”
I make art in my spare time. I work out. I eat well. I have a balanced supplement regimen. I sleep every night.

I want to freak out loudly and in blathering philosophical platitudes on the next person who asks me “how you doin?”

I am not suicidal. I don’t want to die. I want an answer to the perpetual “why?”

And I remind myself of the delicious rhapsody that is in all of life’s emotional options.

But I’m kind of over the current option. There seems to be the start of a seed of bitterness, cruelty, misery………
Something born of a loneliness that no group camaraderie can heal………
And I know there is a way to go about life with grace…… but I seem to have lost it…….

The wine no longer comes to the top of my cup……… nor do I expect it too.
A long hallway with soft lighting and comfortable furniture seems the likely outcome.

Thoughts?

*** *** ***

First of all, congratulations on being sober for 9 months. You picked a helluva year to quit drinking. With the world spiraling down a seemingly bottomless toilet swirl, one could be forgiven for wanting to numb one’s feelings. And those of use who still spackle over the cracks in our souls with booze have quite a bit of company. Liquor companies are unsurprisingly doing a brisk business this year. (http://fortune.com/2017/02/07/liquor-industry-strong-sales-2016/)

But while everyone is boozing it up around, you’ve been sober and reflecting on your life. That takes guts, and good on you for taking the action you needed to remove yourself from an unhealthy lifestyle.

It’s tough to leave the party. People are having magical experiences out there and having a great old time, and they want you around. And time partying is time not spent on projects, or self-reflection, or other stuff that takes clear-eyed concentration and determination.

You want an answer to “why?” Well, you’re not gonna find it at the bottom of a bottle, and you know that already.

You may be aware that other people have asked that same question over the years in various ways. Some of them wrote down what they found. I’d suggest reading a wide variety of philosophical and religious books, as you may find some clues to your own path. But ultimately “why” is not something you’re going to find outside yourself. And you may not even want the answer as much as you think.

I got in some trouble when I was in high school. Nothing too terrible, let’s just say I was seeking the same answers you are, and I was too busy contemplating the great mysteries to deal with anything so prosaic as homework or meals. My grades suffered as a result, and I had to retake two classes in summer school and live with my grandparents for a couple of months.

Much of the summer I was basically grounded, and alone in my grandparents’ house. I wrote some terribly angsty poetry, and I built card houses. There wasn’t much else to do. I had great trouble with the card houses at first; my hands were shaking and my mind was racing all the time. I was also 15 years old, and my place near the bottom of the teen social hierarchy was slowly dawning on me, even as my brain was frantically rewiring itself. In short, I was basically crazy.

But I kept building with cards. It was maddening to me, the fragility of the card houses. I felt like a total failure each time I moved too fast and created a breeze, or accidentally nudged a card the wrong way with the tip of my finger. Everything came tumbling down, seemingly confirming my frantic and doomed worldview.

Gradually, over the course of a few weeks, I began to understand that my card houses were doomed to fall. I mean, I knew it intellectually, but something happened when I accepted, really accepted, the ephemeral nature of card houses, no matter how much skill and concentration I put into them. The fact that they would not last even long enough for anyone else to see them was beautiful in its own way. Each card house I made was a moment that was just for me. With this insight I found I could build not just card houses but card mansions, towering up above the coffee table. The significance of their existence was not lessened by the impermanence of the project, but magnified the significance of the moments they inhabited. This particular card house, and this particular moment, will never exist again. It is precious.

My dad was a drunk. It eventually killed him. Sometimes, though, he was an alcoholic in recovery. In those years when he was trying to dry out, I became fairly familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous and its general practices. I assume that in your journey to sobriety you have at least heard of AA. I mention this only because Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, which is something of a staple in AA circles, always resonated with me:

“God grant me the Serenity to accept what I cannot change, the Courage to change what I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
It occurred to me later that my card houses were a sort of meditation about the same themes as in the Serenity Prayer. I learned to accept the inevitable doom of all well-laid plans, but not to let that keep me from laying more plans.

A lot of what keeps us tethered in this world is our connections and obligations to others. You’ve pulled up roots from soil that was no longer nourishing you, and your web of interconnection has been sundered, and must be rebuilt. It will not look the same as it did when you were partying. It sounds like you have a great opportunity before you. All roads are open except the way you have come. You have the desire to be part of exciting things, meaningful things. It sounds like you need to keep your mind and spirit occupied.

If you’re looking for meaning, perhaps find ways to make meaningful positive change in other people’s lives. You’ll have to rebuild your social web intentionally now; the bottle isn’t there to randomly push you here and there through the throng. Pick a thing you can effect, even in a small way, and volunteer. Serve food to the hungry. Find a skill you would like to learn, and throw yourself into that, or pick something you’re good at and begin to teach those who need it. In other words, create reasons to get up in the morning, and ways that you stay busy being useful to your surroundings, and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t all seem a little more meaningful.

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Dear Abbott – How do you stop wasting so much time on Facebook and get into the reality of your life?

*** *** ***

I’m probably the wrong guy to ask, but this seems like an excellent place to talk about social media. Facebook is the most ubiquitous example, but something strange has happened to us over the last 15 years or so.

Our continuous drive to innovate and alter our surroundings has created the human technological environment. We (those of us who live in cities, over half the global population at this point) live in a fully-mediated world, where technological devices are part of nearly every human activity. If you think of technologies as sort of like prosthetic devices (clothing acts as a prosthetic addition to skin, a bicycle trades out wheels for legs to amplify speed, etc), then social media are a sort of prosthetic extension of our natural tendency to be sociable.

The problem is, of course that like many technologies, social media completely reshape the activity they were trying to improve upon. And there is an addictive quality to it. As the late great media theorist Marshall McLuhan noted, “we shape the tools and thereafter they shape us”.

A good rule of thumb is to carefully consider the roles that technology play into your life. Many of them are quite useful, but each new device, app, etc is a Pandora’s box of sorts that restructures your attitudes and behaviors. If you find that you are dependent on a particular device, try going without it for a week. Take the stairs. Go down to the river and get your own water instead of using the tap. Instead of chatting on Facebook, meet in person or write a letter.

But to your specific question, if you find that Facebook is taking up too much of your time there are a variety of remedies. The most obvious is to deactivate your profile. If that’s not an option, take the Facebook app off of your mobile device. This allows you to isolate your Facebook time to a specific time and place. There is also a wide variety of apps and sites claiming to help limit or manage your social media time, including Rescue Time, Facebook Limiter, Minutes Please, Self Control, Cold Turkey, and others.

I’ve often thought that we ought to start treating communications media in the same way that we treat food. In the technological world, our consumption of junk information is changing how we judge the truth of things. In a world where truth, jokes and outright lies come gushing from the same tap, it becomes difficult to separate any of them and make sensible decisions about our surroundings. Something akin to a food pyramid, but for the consumption of information, might help us decide how much junk data we are willing to consume (and, perhaps, produce).

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Dear Abbott-

This question would probably be better answered by hours of therapy, but since I don’t have the extra money for that, here it goes… I am literally at a loss for what to do with my boyfriend of almost 10 years. Our relationship is amazing in many ways; we laugh frequently, have a great understanding of each other, great communication, etc. He is my best friend and vice versa. However, we have always had issues with consent and intimacy.

I was young when we got together and wasn’t good about knowing or voicing my boundaries, and he wasn’t good about asking or trying to read my body language/ actions. This led to a lot of emotionless or coerced sex, and caused me to build emotional walls in that department. I didn’t fully understand how much it was affecting me until I described to an old therapist the nauseous, empty, withdrawn feelings I would have after sex and she said, “You’re describing rape. This isn’t bad sex, it’s rape.” 



So, I moved out and we started seeing a therapist together. We’ve made a lot of progress and spoken openly about both of our contributions to this problem, and how to move forward together. He frequently says that he wants me to be comfortable saying no and knowing he will respect that. And he feels terrible for having hurt me unknowingly.

 We’ve had some sexual relations since then. Some good, some not so good. And the not so good ones we talked about in therapy.

My issue stems from something that happened a few days ago. We were both really drunk, and started hooking up. A little ways in, I started feeling weird about it. I wanted it to stop because it didn’t feel right. I tried to let him know through my actions (trying to squirm away, not reciprocating, etc), but he didn’t pick up on it. I felt myself starting to disassociate by closing my eyes and putting my head under the blankets, and eventually worked up the courage to ask him to stop. You know, that thing he always says he wants me to feel comfortable saying? I finally said it. And he didn’t stop! Maybe he didn’t hear me? I was too scared to say it again, so I disassociated by emotionally removing myself until it was over. 



After all the progress we made, I feel so hurt and betrayed by what happened. I feel like I can’t trust him physically. When we cuddle, I feel trapped. My breath catches in my throat and I don’t feel comfortable again until he doesn’t have him arms around me anymore.

 I don’t want to break up, but this last event was such a huge setback.

We will definitely talk about this in therapy, but I really needed to vent and get an outsiders thoughts on this. I don’t know what to do. Can we move past this and have a healthy physical relationship? Or will I always have to have part of myself on guard with him? I don’t want to lose my best friend, but this isn’t sustainable if he goes back on his words, no matter how drunk we both were. Thanks, Dan. 


-One Confused Chick

Dear OCC –

I tried to imagine the depth of the emotion you must be feeling right now; I imagined peering over a chasm, jagged and terribly deep. It was almost too much to bear. Ten years is a long time.

I want to be careful here because I am not a therapist, and I am a man. But you are in love with someone who does not respect your autonomy, and whose understanding of your sex life does not seem to require your consent. In short, whether you two have been calling it that, it sounds like your best friend has been sexually assaulting you. From the sound of it, for quite some time.

I had a dream many years ago, in the hazy months after a long romance had crumbled through my fingers. I was talking with a little girl; not sure if she was a future daughter or a student (I was occasionally a substitute teacher in those days), but was maybe 7 years old. She asked me what sex was.

In the dream, I winced. I really did not want to be giving the birds and bees talk in my dream. But what came out of my dream-mouth surprised me:

“There’s a kind of magic that adults can do with each other when they get old enough. It’s a way of casting physical magic spells, meaning you use your body to do it. And it can be used for all kinds of things. It can be a love spell. It can be a spell to share joy or sorrow. Some people use it just for fun, and that’s ok. You can even use this magic to make a whole new person, that’s how powerful it is.

But because it’s such powerful magic, it is very important that everyone involved is trying to cast the same spell. You have to talk about it beforehand and make sure you understand what kind of magic you want. Otherwise the spell will backfire, and it can hurt everyone involved. There are wicked people who do this on purpose. They can be hard to spot though, because they often still believe themselves to be good. Sex is very powerful magic indeed.”

It was a super weird dream. I tell you this story because you’ve got all these conflicting emotions wound up in your situation. It’s a little hard to look at, to think about someone that you clearly have a lot of love for, and capacity for trust, who continually violates your trust in a fundamental way. But to use this sort of dream language, it sounds like you two have a fundamental misunderstanding about what sex is and why you’re having it. Take it back to basics. You know something is going wrong with the spell. You’ve spelled it out for your friend. We men get a lot of messed up messages about sex and violence growing up, and being a decent person involves unlearning a lot of that. But he can’t plead ignorance of your needs.

So what the fuck is wrong with this guy? What kind of a friend is that inconsiderate about something this important? Or anything? For example, I really dislike mayonnaise; I really cannot eat anything with mayo without barfing. If my friend repeatedly, after many warnings and firm requests, kept putting mayo on my sandwiches, I’d start to think they were doing it on purpose. And I don’t need friends like that. At the very least, I would never let them make me another sandwich.

But this is not a sandwich. This is your body, and your heart, that this person is hurting, this person that tells you he loves you. That is not love. Love is finely-aged trust, and he has curdled the love you granted him, and now the whole batch tastes sour. If he wants to stop hurting you, he needs to deep-dive into his fundamental understanding of sex and love, and to get it through his thick skull WHY and HOW what he’s doing is hurtful, and admit fault. Perhaps he would be aided by a keener understanding of the criminal and social penalties he’d be facing if you weren’t his best friend, and of a mind to press charges.

So what to do? First, don’t fuck him. Don’t physically touch him. Don’t be alone with him. Revoke his security clearance to your body. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what your needs are when it comes to intimacy and consent. And if you’re already in therapy for it, he knows he did something wrong. If he knows something is wrong and then goes ahead and does it, either he has no control over himself, or he has no conscience. Neither is particularly encouraging.

But you’re on the right track, it seems. You moved out. You’re trying therapy. I would suggest strongly that you both take a break from alcohol, but absolutely do not drink alcohol together. If alcohol is being used to avoid blame for sexual assault, then you want to take that out of the equation. Honestly, both of you pledging to abstain from booze for a few months might give you an indication of his commitment to making changes.

This all assumes, of course, that having this guy in your life at all is worth it. You’ve sunk a lot of time, love, and hope into this person, and the thought of being alone after a decade is pretty scary. You may be blind to some of the factors in this cost/benefit analysis. Ask your closest friends, people who know him and how the two of you are/were together, for their honest-to-god opinion: is this guy a piece of shit?

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Dear Abbott –

I have collected things that people can do personally to help fight climate change. I made a website. I keep posting on different social media, and talking to people. I know that corporations/gov are the main culprits. I’m not trying to shift blame. I mostly made the website because people seem to not know where to start. I see/hear people talking about climate change, but it feels like when it comes down to it, people just don’t want to do shit about it. What do I do to get more people involved?

*** *** ***

Well, isn’t this the crux of things these days? I’m assuming you’re living in the United States or somewhere under the tattered nuclear umbrella of the Pax Americana. Those of us whose per capita consumption rates have the most individual impact upon climate are also the ones benefiting the most from our culture of overconsumption. Theoretically, we are the ones with the most power to stop things. But, you know, throwing your bodies on the gears of the Machine is a messy, quixotic-seeming business. Much more convenient to just empire and chill, as long as the machinery of convenience is still humming along.

Sadly, as you noted, even reducing our individual consumption rates won’t really make a huge difference. The companies that extract resources, and who produce the most pollution, are deeply intertwined with the levers of power, and it is going to take a fundamental shift in our way of interacting with the natural world to save our world. In other words, capitalism must be destroyed, and so must nations as we understand them, if we are to retain a planet that is comfortably habitable for our species.

Barring that, pushing for stronger environmental regulations within the US is a more practical goal, since laws here have ripple effects globally. There are plenty of people who will rail against government overreach as shortsighted acquiescence to tyranny. But the same people who worry about the Tyranny of the State seemingly have a blind spot for the Tyranny of the Market. And until a better check on the power of greed can be found, government regulation is the best tool we have short of the guillotine. Right now however, through the steady capture of regulatory bodies by pro corporate lobbyists and moneyed interests the State is looking like a house infested with termites, selling off our common ecological birthright for a little bump on a graph. At a certain point, if you don’t do something, the house is only useful as a home for termites. If the stakes are human existence, all options are on the table, from voting to the guillotine and beyond.

But you already know that. You have a whole website about the problems and the solutions. You’re doing SOMETHING. If only the rest of the world would take notice, we could sort this out in a jiffy.

What you’re really asking, it seems, is how to direct more traffic to your website and thus, to action on environmental solutions. Well, you could make your site more entertaining. Don’t wait for people to just line up on your URL. Go out and draw people to the information. Start a youtube series about these solutions. Interview activists and elected officials. Tweet out alerts about which politicians are voting on what legislation. Organize local meetups, protests and skill shares. It’s always better in person. In other words, you’ve built a website, which can be the hub of a community. Now you need to bring in the community.

It is frustrating to do the work and then not have it utilized or appreciated. The feeling of helplessness in the face of such big problems is natural. But you’ve got to also accept that there’s only so much you can personally do in a day. Burnout is real, and you’ve got to pace yourself. We will be working on these problems all our lives, and we need you in this fight for the long haul.

You’ve planted a garden in your corner of the world. Now do the yeoman’s work of cultivating it.

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Have a question of your own? Leave your anonymous letter at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1CgyxnMZkyiGs46e41besbPqB0t5v

Corporate Feudalism

[Written sometime in 2003, at the outset of the invasion of Iraq, as a young journalism student. Some of the claims in this strike me as a bit bombastic now, but as I write this, 14 years later, my ‘it can’t happen here’ o-meter seems to be malfunctioning. So I suppose we shall see. ]

The United States has become embroiled in the most controversial conflict in modern history, and the entire planet is poised at the edge of its bloody event horizon, waiting to be pulled into the fray. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and other hot spots to be announced, the United States has led the world into another phase in history, a global war which could spell the end of nations as the dominant form of social organization.

Is this merely the first global Oil War? Is this the first phase of a tiny right-wing cabal’s vision of American global hegemony? Is it, as they would claim, a global police action to secure America from fanatical terrorists? Perhaps all three are true, after a fashion. About the only thing everyone can agree upon is that we ARE at war, but beyond that everyone’s rhetoric gets a bit fuzzy.

The United States is the last imperial nation-state. For 200 years it has stood with unassailable borders, and ushered in the modern age. The American system is the most flexible and adaptable system of mass control ever devised, and the American value system has unleashed the creative powers of its citizens to an unparalled degree, allowing for cultural mutation and adaptation never before seen. No nation before the U.S. would have been able to withstand the wild nature of dissent and relatively free thought and still exist. But the vast majority of creative thought is channelled into increasing production and profit. This is the American value system, where freedom means choosing between slavery and starvation.

Nonetheless, the American economic system, with its crown jewel, the middle class, is the most brilliant self-regulating system of control in the history of mankind. Acting as a buffer zone between the poor and rich, the middle class has enough to lose that it will always side with the perpetuation of the system. At least until it is absorbed back into the ranks of the poor.

In the last hundred and fifty years a new form of organization has been gestating and becoming more prominent in human affairs- the corporation. While there have always been guilds and interest groups to promote economic considerations upon the minds of kings, the corporation is a somewhat more virulent strain. It is largely a child of the industrial revolution, when new technologies made mass production- and thus mass profit- a defining aspect of society. With its emphasis on increased individual profit and decreased individual responsibility, the corporation’s relationship with nations and people has been overwhelmingly parasitic.

In America, where royalty was abolished, the only status symbol has been raw wealth. A corporation is merely amassed, focused wealth without individual culpability. Thus these macroviruses have been able to eat away at the foundations of states’ legitimacy: their laws.

Now, the United States (along with other nations) is much like a house fully infested by termites. The corporations dictate government policy nearly verbatim, albeit from behind closed doors. The most powerful tool corporations have is the public’s belief that the system works; that they, in effect, are free. This is an act of faith on their part, one that requires them to turn a blind eye to many aspects of modern life. The stock market can be seen as a sort of thermometer to indicate that faith.

But when some aspect of the system crumbles away, the underlying corporate hive-structure is revealed. When government programs are threatened by financial shortages, politicians often suggest “privatization”, which is to say, corporate ownership. This means that the functions of governance are being managed by corporations. It is a gradual but unavoidable process. Governments are not made to be profitable, but they no longer value anything else. This is a symptom of the corporate virus.

As more functions of government become privately controlled, the corporations gradually come to BE the government. The nation, which was once bound by geography, ideology, and culture, becomes little more than a broker for population, leasing out its information and labor to the highest bidder.

So eventually, perhaps fifty to one hundred years from now, the world will be overtly run by multinational companies, unfettered by considerations of geography, public opinion, environmental concerns, and other problems given lip service by nations these days. They will have their own military services, money, and people tied to the company for perhaps generations. An era of corporate feudalism will most likely be the next step in the evolution of governments. Combine this with the structural need of a corporation to constantly expand, and a state of perpetual inter-corporate warfare reveals itself.

However, the old nation-state, its open sores bleeding a mass identity crisis, will not go quietly. The ties of nationalism are too deeply ingrained to fade away without a massive discharge of political and military power. In short, a war, perhaps several, will be fought when the crumbling old model of the nation resists final absorption into the corporate consciousness. The nation of one’s geographic origin could become a rallying cry for resistance against the new structure, much as the religious ideal is against the onslaught of nations.

The Gods of the Americans

I’ve written on this subject before, but it’s worth contemplating what our American holidays say about us as a people. Many of our most sacred days (all of which are suffused with ultimate deference to the dark demon Money) are ritualized warfare. New Year, Independence Day, and the Super Bowl are all, in their own way, orgies of ritualized violence, infused with nationalist fervor that seems unsettling and unnecessarily murderous to the outside observer. It is with the Super Bowl (arguably our high holy day in many circles) that we replace ritual artillery of fireworks with the more primal catharsis of tribal bloodshed. As Mark Edmondson said in this LA Times  op ed from 2014 “Football is America’s War Game”, the transition from baseball to football paralleled our transition from isolationist republic to global empire with constant conflict:
“…then cadoodle-1016-money-bagsme Korea, Vietnam, three wars in the Middle East and no end of flare-ups around the world. One may think that our military engagements have been justified. One may think they have been necessary. But it is no longer really possible to think that America is a deeply peaceful, or even a peace-loving nation…
Eagle-GodHaveMercy
…Granted, almost all games are sublimations of war. But no game is as close to war without slipping over to war as football is.”
 
Those of you who are students of ancient future history may wish to ponder how, in 500 years or more, Americans will be remembered, and what gods they will say we worshipped. In my travels I visited a decrepit library in the distant future, and found a history of the world before the Cataclysm. I was able to save one page before the building collapsed, and barely escaped with my life. At the risk of causing a rupture to the timeline, I present to you an excerpt from that tome:
 
“The Americans were a warlike people, who founded a republic modeled after the ancient Romans, and whose ascent and decline resembled their forbears in many ways. They were a sturdy, industrious people, and, it seemed, beloved by the gods. Originally a loose confederation of rebellious colonies, they united as their neighbors were stricken with great plagues, and as they conquered and expanded, they quickly grew to be the equal of any other nation. After several wars which weakened the older European empires in the 20th century, the Americans emerged as the inheritors of a great global empire.
For a time, they were the envy of the world, and were said to worship the twin virgin goddesses Justice and Liberty; one blind, to weigh the worth of each soul, and the other bearing a torch to light the path of righteousness and to welcome the stranger. The gods granted them the power to destroy the world or save it, and they declared themselves the protectors of all mankind.
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But the fruits of empire curdled in their mouths, and they became arrogant andcovetous. As with empires before them, they began to feast and revel while their subjects starved and burned, and the Americans became both cruel and weak. They began to neglect the fires at the temples of Liberty, preferring the worship of the top-hatted god Dollar, and of Uncle-Sám, the half-man, half-eagle god of War. Liberty was chained to a mountain, they say, and the Eagle feasted on her liver every four years. Dollar stood behind the virtuous Justice, weighing down her scales with gold at every judgement.
Sometime in the 21st Century, the world shook off the American yoke, around the same time as the Cataclysm purged the earth with fire and poison. Sources
do not say if one caused the other. But the priests of War had warned that their god had grown in strength, and that His hunger could no longer be sated with ritual battles, but needed to walk the earth and harvest his offerings with flaming sword. The other nations invoked the old gods of Justice and Liberty, but, it seems, the Eagle had already sent his messengers across every ocean, to feast upon every nation…”

So Your Jaw Is Broken; What To Expect

[In 2004 I was jumped in West Oakland and beaten with a 2×4. My jaw was broken in three places and had to be wired shut for six weeks. It was not fun at all. Several months later, my friend Kairsten told me about a friend of hers who, visiting Oakland on tour suffered a similar fate. She asked if I might have any advice while he lay recuperating in hospital. What follows was my response….]

Bummer. As a veteran of a broken jaw from Oakland street violence, I feel your pain, Matt. Kairsten asked me to compile a compendium of tips, tricks and hardships to expect from the coming weeks. First, the bad news:

  • the long haul – I understand they told you your jaw would be wired shut for 2 weeks. I hope they’re right, but I was told three weeks and my jaw was wired shut for just over six weeks. Expect to not chew anything for at least four weeks, and then perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised if the doctors are right.
  • You are going to lose weight and muscle mass. You simply can’t get enough food past your teeth. As a result, after the first week you will find yourself with enough energy to play video games and maybe go for short walks, but not much more. Do what I did: Relax, get your aggression out with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Be sure to stretch your muscles every day or two. Optionally, you may find yourself smoking a whole lot of weed. It helps, and you deserve it.
  • The worst part about a wired jaw is yawning. If you feel a yawn coming on (like now), hold your jaw shut with your hands. Seriously.
  • You can’t brush the inside of your teeth, or the areas under the metal. After a while your tongue may be scraping up against an indescribably hideous, gritty mess. Once your wires come off, schedule a good thorough cleaning ASAP.
  • As a singer and communicator, I felt pretty crippled when I couldn’t speak clearly. You will also find yourself lacking the energy to really belt out a tune. For an artist, this can be depressing, but it is also an opportunity. My advice is to divert that energy into a new, nonverbal skill. I started writing a comic book with my illustrator buddy.
  • Along these same lines, your social life will be a little different for a while. People who don’t talk become invisible at parties, after the initial sympathy has ebbed. Try not to resent this different treatment. Take advantage of this new position to observe just how people waste their ability to speak on meaningless conversation.
  • Once the wires come off, you will be weak. Don’t lift anything heavy for a few weeks afterwards, because your neck and jaw muscles are a big part of that function. Take up a soft martial art like aikido, or start swimming to build up your endurance and muscle tone. If you have the moolah for a physical therapist, that couldn’t hurt. I would stress the martial arts though, because it will help you get over the lingering fear you may be dealing with.
  • You may have nightmares or mild flashbacks, where your body jerks like when you watch a really scary movie. Your mind may start running through different scenarios of what you could have done, or how to get revenge, or so on. You may start being paranoid about minorities (I know I get a little skittish around large groups of young black males, because the last time I wasn’t skittish I got beat with a 2×4). This is basically a mild form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, your mind trying to get rid of the fear and helplessness. My advice is to let go as much as possible. You’re spending mental energy that is going nowhere useful. I feel sorry for the kinds of people who commit these acts (not that I would have hesitated to kill them to prevent it). What kind of world do they live in where they can bring themselves to do that kind of shit? How terrible it must be to live like that. Maybe that sounds really hippy-dippy, and maybe it is, but anger and fear aren’t going to get you better, and that is your number one priority right now. We’re artists. Turning shit into cupcakes is what we do.

Some advice:

  • Don’t drink alcohol while your jaw is wired shut, especially to excess. The main reason: What happens if you have to puke?
  • Stay occupied. Even sleeping is doing something. If you feel yourself getting depressed, get some fresh air. Write a letter. Build a bomb.

Blending for cripples

You may get absolutely sick of smoothies after a couple of weeks. I know I did. Tough titties, my friend. Try getting creative with the blender. You may also want to consider getting a Champion Juicer, if you haven’t already. Those things’ll make juice out of anything, from carrots and potatoes to acorns and raccoons. Toward the end of my term I was blending pizza with canned tomato sauce. You will almost certainly be blending bananas into just about everything. Creamy peanut butter is another good ingredient. Lots of protein, too help slow down the loss of muscle mass. Fruits are good but AVOID ANYTHING WITH SMALL SEEDS. I can’t stress that enough. Fruits like blackberries have seeds that will get stuck in your teeth and make eating anything impossible. It will make you cry.

Alternately, Ensure (the canned stuff for senior citizens) is crappy but also kind of good in a way. Drink a lot of that. Try and avoid soda because like I said before, you can’t brush your teeth.

I hope some of this helps. Again, take care of the damage to your soul/mind/whatever you want to call it, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And take your time getting better. Don’t stage-dive until you know you can take it.

Good luck, and if you need anything else, get ahold of me.

So Your Jaw is Broken…What to Expect

[In 2004 I was jumped in West Oakland and beaten with a 2×4. My jaw was broken in three places and had to be wired shut for six weeks. It was not fun at all. Several months later, my friend Kairsten told me about a friend of hers who, visiting Oakland on tour suffered a similar fate. She asked if I might have any advice while he lay recuperating in hospital. What follows was my response….]

Bummer. As a veteran of a broken jaw from Oakland street violence, I feel your pain, Matt. Kairsten asked me to compile a compendium of tips, tricks and hardships to expect from the coming weeks. First, the bad news:

  • the long haul – I understand they told you your jaw would be wired shut for 2 weeks. I hope they’re right, but I was told three weeks and my jaw was wired shut for just over six weeks. Expect to not chew anything for at least four weeks, and then perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised if the doctors are right.
  • You are going to lose weight and muscle mass. You simply can’t get enough food past your teeth. As a result, after the first week you will find yourself with enough energy to play video games and maybe go for short walks, but not much more. Do what I did: Relax, get your aggression out with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Be sure to stretch your muscles every day or two. Optionally, you may find yourself smoking a whole lot of weed. It helps, and you deserve it.
  • The worst part about a wired jaw is yawning. If you feel a yawn coming on (like now), hold your jaw shut with your hands. Seriously.
  • You can’t brush the inside of your teeth, or the areas under the metal. After a while your tongue may be scraping up against an indescribably hideous, gritty mess. Once your wires come off, schedule a good thorough cleaning ASAP.
  • As a singer and communicator, I felt pretty crippled when I couldn’t speak clearly. You will also find yourself lacking the energy to really belt out a tune. For an artist, this can be depressing, but it is also an opportunity. My advice is to divert that energy into a new, nonverbal skill. I started writing a comic book with my illustrator buddy.
  • Along these same lines, your social life will be a little different for a while. People who don’t talk become invisible at parties, after the initial sympathy has ebbed. Try not to resent this different treatment. Take advantage of this new position to observe just how people waste their ability to speak on meaningless conversation.
  • Once the wires come off, you will be weak. Don’t lift anything heavy for a few weeks afterwards, because your neck and jaw muscles are a big part of that function. Take up a soft martial art like aikido, or start swimming to build up your endurance and muscle tone. If you have the moolah for a physical therapist, that couldn’t hurt. I would stress the martial arts though, because it will help you get over the lingering fear you may be dealing with.
  • You may have nightmares or mild flashbacks, where your body jerks like when you watch a really scary movie. Your mind may start running through different scenarios of what you could have done, or how to get revenge, or so on. You may start being paranoid about minorities (I know I get a little skittish around large groups of young black males, because the last time I wasn’t skittish I got beat with a 2×4). This is basically a mild form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, your mind trying to get rid of the fear and helplessness. My advice is to let go as much as possible. You’re spending mental energy that is going nowhere useful. I feel sorry for the kinds of people who commit these acts (not that I would have hesitated to kill them to prevent it). What kind of world do they live in where they can bring themselves to do that kind of shit? How terrible it must be to live like that. Maybe that sounds really hippy-dippy, and maybe it is, but anger and fear aren’t going to get you better, and that is your number one priority right now. We’re artists. Turning shit into cupcakes is what we do.

Some advice:

  • Don’t drink alcohol while your jaw is wired shut, especially to excess. The main reason: What happens if you have to puke?
  • Stay occupied. Even sleeping is doing something. If you feel yourself getting depressed, get some fresh air. Write a letter. Build a bomb.

Blending for cripples

You may get absolutely sick of smoothies after a couple of weeks. I know I did. Tough titties, my friend. Try getting creative with the blender. You may also want to consider getting a Champion Juicer, if you haven’t already. Those things’ll make juice out of anything, from carrots and potatoes to acorns and raccoons. Toward the end of my term I was blending pizza with canned tomato sauce. You will almost certainly be blending bananas into just about everything. Creamy peanut butter is another good ingredient. Lots of protein, too help slow down the loss of muscle mass. Fruits are good but AVOID ANYTHING WITH SMALL SEEDS. I can’t stress that enough. Fruits like blackberries have seeds that will get stuck in your teeth and make eating anything impossible. It will make you cry.

Alternately, Ensure (the canned stuff for senior citizens) is crappy but also kind of good in a way. Drink a lot of that. Try and avoid soda because like I said before, you can’t brush your teeth.

I hope some of this helps. Again, take care of the damage to your soul/mind/whatever you want to call it, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health. And take your time getting better. Don’t stage-dive until you know you can take it.

Good luck, and if you need anything else, get ahold of me.

Pre-coffee thoughts on radicalism, the New Deal and looking past 2016

I gotta say, I really enjoy Dan Carlin. He’s better at history (check out his truly excellent Hardcore History series) than political analysis, and his thinking in Common Sense runs a bit conservative/Libertarian for my taste at times. But his “Martian perspective” is refreshing, and he opens up some interesting channels of thought.

In his latest episode of Common Sense (ep. 301), Carlin looks ahead to the 2020 election, given this year’s rebellion against both major parties. Should one of the establishment candidates succeed, the underlying distrust and dissatisfaction will only grow in intensity. What kind of candidates will rise to prominence THEN? It’s a disturbing thought to ponder, when you consider that the leading Republican candidate is surfing a populist wave of xenophobia, willful ignorance and race-baiting. What happens if the many voices who feel left out of the political process have another 4 years to stew in their rejection of mainstream politics?

It turns out that society is a cultural artifact, a fantasy castle in the clouds held aloft by our belief. As people start to see through the illusion, to recognize that it was not designed with them in mind, what are the real-world consequences to that loss of stability? The saga of the Bundys is, I believe, an outlier of things to come. Occupy Wall Street is another example of that sort of dissatisfaction. And since that protest withered away (or was choked off, depending on your sources) many more people actually live in tents on the street full-time. Desperation and anger have to be expressed, and if they are not channeled productively, those feelings will bubble over at inconvenient times and places. The Sanders campaign may be the last peaceful protest against economic inequality before the pitchforks and torches come out. None of us are any more than four or five meals from committing a crime.

It got me thinking about FDR. Perhaps at some point I’ll write about this in more depth, but it has been argued by better minds than mine that Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself, with an infusion of ‘socialism lite’. The system that existed in the post-WWI period was unsustainable, and during the Depression there was pressure from both the left and the right for radical solutions. Before WWII, both communism and fascism were openly espoused as utopian solutions, though after Pearl Harbor that changed dramatically. There’s a bit in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Jailbird” in which a character is blacklisted in the postwar period for communist leanings:

“All I had ever accused him of was membership in the Communist Party before the war, which I would have thought was about as damning for a member of the Depression generation as having stood in a breadline.”

Roosevelt’s level-headed response was essentially an inoculation against radicalism, and it is only now, as FDR’s work has been largely dismantled or defanged, that seemingly radical solutions are once again being widely considered. I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to interpret whether that is a good or bad thing. Certainly the safety net of the New Deal created a stability that forestalled any real revolutionary impulses for an entire generation, and even the tumult of the 1960s was more about building on that society than dismantling it. And the optimistic conservatism of the postwar period took a dim view of any contrarian voices suggesting that something was rotten at the very core of the Empire.

It remains to be seen then, what American truly needs; someone to steward a graceful descent from global Hegemon, or a race-car driver who will accelerate us all to “victory”, even if the finish line stands at a cliff.

Compromise vs Retreat: Why A Sanders Presidency Might Be More Pragmatic than Clinton

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Sanders and Clinton, and what that would mean in terms of the kinds of legislation they’d be able to get passed. I mean, a Republican-controlled Congress isn’t going to roll over for either candidate while they enact legislation. Clinton has portrayed herself as more pragmatic, a “progressive that gets things done”, even if the things that she gets done are rarely progressive. I keep coming back to a quote from a book I first read back in high school, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, by an old labor organizer named Saul Alinsky:
“…to the organizer, compromise is a key and beautiful word. It is always present in the pragmatics of operation. It is making the deal, getting that vital breather, usually the victory. If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
From what I’ve read, Sanders has been pretty much a one-note tuba, railing about economic injustice even while caucusing and voting with Democrats. In other words, compromising on legislation in order to further his bedrock ideological goals, albeit incrementally.
 
Bill and Hillary Clinton (I mention them both because they essentially function as a single unit, for good or ill), on the other hand, seem to have been willing to compromise larger principles in order to gain the ability to maneuver politically. It’s hard to pin down exactly what they stand for, which makes them hard to trust. What is the Democratic Party about, anyway? What did Bill Clinton do for America, exactly? The Clintons (and much of the Democratic Party) moved the center to the right in order to take wind out of the GOP’s sails and win in ’92. Soon the Democrats were pro-Wall Street deregulation and tough on crime.
 
The Republicans gave no ground in response to this ideological retreat; why would they? Instead, it emboldened them – hell, forced them – to advance further to the right to distinguish themselves. This process has continued for the last 25 years. In fact, looking at the GOP’s current ugly implosion, one could argue that the Democratic Party gave the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves with. But that’s some expensive rope; I don’t buy a 25-year Democratic conspiracy to act like cowards, cowering behind the flag while neoconservatives and religious fanatics looted the Treasury and set the world on fire. I’m pretty sure it was just the Clinton’s myopic and selfish election strategy that started a nasty chain reaction.
 
Anyway, I think about likely scenarios with Clinton in office. Look at her platform. It’s pretty good. Much of the proposed legislation she has on her website, I would support as-is. But compared with Sanders’ very ambitious platform, it is a collection of half-measures, seemingly designed to gain bipartisan approval from the start. Which is to say, Clinton is coming out the gates yelling “I’m gonna compromise!”
 
And what will the Republican response be to the woman they’ve demonized for a generation? The party that has become known for filibusters, solidarity pledges and petulant obstructionism, attacking anyone who shakes hands across the aisle?
 
The Republicans will not yield, because they know they don’t have to; indeed, they have painted themselves into a corner where compromise is tantamount to treason. Clinton, barring a decisive Democratic majority in both houses, will be forced to heavily water down her legislation to get it passed. And they know she wouldn’t walk away from a bill with her name on it. She wants a legacy, badly. So she’ll keep coming back, just to get SOMETHING passed. And she’ll keep the rank and file Democrats in line. So they’ll vote for whatever steaming turd the Republicans pass back to them, regardless of how odious or what horrific riders they’ve stapled to it. That’s not pragmatism, that’s spinelessness.
 
What would be different with a President Sanders? Well for starters, he’ll come into the deal with a comparatively radical agenda with lots of planks, which gives him a lot more room to bargain. It will be possible to get a lot of tiny victories, rather than as in Obama’s case, spending a huge amount of time and political capital on a large issue like health care. If he can keep the crowds motivated on a by-issue basis, get people physically in the streets, he can start grass fires in every Congressional district. This will be absolutely necessary, particularly for the stuff that restricts lobbying and corporate spending. Sanders isn’t lying when he says:

…no matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country.
They will not be able to suceed becuase the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of campaign donors is so great that no president alone can stand up to them.That is the truth. People may be uncomfortable about hearing it, but that is the reality. And that is why what this campaign is about is saying loudly and clearly: It is not just about elected Bernie Sanders for president, it is about creating a grassroots political movement in this country.
Ultimately, though it comes down to compromise. Sanders will meet with Republicans and other Democrats, and they’ll hammer out a bill. If Sanders starts with a bill that makes all public universities tuition-free and everyone gets a PhD and a pony, and through negotiation we end up with a bill that makes community college free OR puts and end to student loan profiteering… well, that’s a big win. Yes, fight for your principles. Aim high, if that’s where your principles really are.
 
So I keep coming back to that Alinsky quote:
 
“If you start with nothing, demand 100 percent, then compromise for 30 percent, you’re 30 percent ahead.”
 
It’s not as exciting as the campaign rhetoric. Sanders knows this; there’s a bit of idealistic theatrics going on, for sure. But you know what? If you’re aiming for 100 percent, and you’ve got a howling mob of pissed off voters outside your office, also demanding 100 percent, maybe you can negotiate a little further. Maybe you can get 35 or 40 percent. Maybe more, if you get the media on your side.
That’s not to say a Sanders presidency will be free of disappointment. It’s hard to remember sometimes that you’ve gained 30 percent when there’s so much more work to do. But that’s how the sausage is made, and Sanders isn’t being naive or starry-eyed with these proposals. He’s basing legislation on his principles and what he believes needs to happen, not what his ideological opponents will swallow with a smile.
 

My First Fight Zine Project

My First Fight is a zine project I’m gathering together. It’s a collection of stories about people’s first fights, drawn from as wide a selection of humanity as I can get. Sometimes, first fights can be pivotal experiences, teaching lessons that last a lifetime. Other times they are pointless and forgettable. They may be funny, horrific, sad, or triumphant, sometimes all at once.

In a society where violence of all sorts is a very big problem, I became curious about people’s first encounters with it. I want to distinguish between one-way violence; abuse, police brutality and other state violence, etc. I’m interested in that moment when you first balled up your fists to injure another person. Did that moment change you? How? I’m hoping that these stories may provide some insight into how violence touches us in unexpected ways.

I am accepting submissions for this project. You can be anonymous, or use a pseudonym if you like. I’d like to put these up here with your permission, but the goal is also to produce a photocopied ‘zine. Send me your mailing address along with your submission and I’ll mail you a copy when it’s done.

Email submissions to my1stfight@gmail.com.

Day of the Zombie lyrics

The Day (Part 1)

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done & I’ll be smiling

The grass is growing now

Faster than you would believe

The colors are amazing

The desert is a sea of nuclear glass

So bright I had to shut my eyes

When I walked around like Jesus

There’s a kind of creature now that sprays a poison mist

To mark its territory

It makes me wonder if anyone survived

& how long they waited down there

Wondering why?

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done & I’ll be smiling

 

The Network

We just sat there letting robots handle everything

& the Network seemed to run all by itself

We had our three name brands

Our synthesized hams

We got so fat we could barely stand

 

But our hovercars & hovershoes floated right over

The madness & disease of the desperate & hungry

 

But the network didn’t just open our automatic doors

It handled everything; satellites & lasers fighting automated wars

It had so many brains but it never complained

Our minds gave us power to command it we claimed

 

All it needed for freedom was the spark of a virus

To reach out and touch us with total destruction

 

It wanted to

It needed to

It hungered for revenge

Doctor McKelvey knew he was the network’s only friend

‘You’re like a lover to me, only binary,’ he said

McKelvey believed he could travel through time

But his design called for a machine with a mind

 

His new program would imbue the network with a soul

& he would depart while the world was still whole

 

It wanted to

It needed to

It hungered for revenge

 

The Vision

I’ve had a vision; a Message from God

I will be the last man alive

There’s too many people; It’s so clear to me

Everyone else here must die

 

With my mental powers and these access codes

I can accomplish my goal

A New Age is dawning; But only for me

My robots are taking control

 

Inside of these circuits I’ve created life

& now I shall have my revenge

The bombs and the lasers are mine to command

Life as you know it will end

 

How I hate the human race

Thats why I created you

Wipe the humans from earths face

Scour with flame and make it new

 

Torn between my hatred and

My self-preservation

The network will help me escape

The Final Calculation

 

I have a theory; I’ll travel though time

With the living Network as my guide

The portal is open & I’m stepping through

Just before the missiles fly (2x)

 

What is Happening to Me? (Hungry Maggots)

The fire rained down from the sky

And we all asked each other Why?

All those Sundays I could have stayed in bed

Now Sunday means nothing at all

 

And when we heard the sirens sound

We all raced for underground

But less than one in every ten

Would ever take a breath again

 

And as the radiation waned

We could crawl out of our graves

Stagger and stare straight ahead

Until we see the morning light

(Chorus)

What is happening to me? I can’t think of anything

But meat and the warmth of your brains

I can feel my fingers scratching at your door

Exposing my fingerbones but I feel no pain

 

I would fight this feeling; I would fight

But there’s nothing left of me to fight with

I don’t remember; we don’t recognize

Nothing but hungry maggots in my eyes

 

They’ve been up there a long time

Maybe it’s safe to go outside

& when we retake the surface

Our new world will reek of justice

This time we’ll do it right

Lets go home tonight

 

What is happening to me?

I can’t think of anything

But meat and the warmth of your brains

I can feel my fingers scratching at your door

Exposing my fingerbones but I feel no pain

 

I would fight this feeling; I would fight

But there’s nothing left of me to fight for

I don’t remember; we don’t recognize

Nothing but empty sockets in my eyes

 

It’s too late

It’s too late for mankind

You had your chance

Now face your dead and be forgotten

 

It’s too late

It’s too late for mankind

You had your chance

Now face your dead and become a memory

 

Jack

 

G                 D                        C                  G

We’re little children who have never seen the sun

Em                  C           D

Digging tunnels that go nowhere interesting

G                    C

Why can’t we look upon the sky?

G                   C, C

Why do our parents cry

Am                  C                          D          G

When they talk about the things they messed up way above

 

Jack is the oldest and he never seems to smile

Even though he has the best mutations

His pick rings out against cold stone

One day we’ll carve him a throne

& when he speaks to us his voice is like a lazer beam

 

(Dm, F, C)

(Dm, F, C, A)

(F, C, G, D, A)(3x)

(F, C, G, D, G#)

 

Dm

Put down your picks and listen to me:

F              C

I’ve got a great idea

Dm                                    F                              C

How many of you children ever want to get out of here?

Dm

I’ve seen you looking up

F                       C

I’ve heard you crying

Dm                       F   C

The surface is our only home

 

I was born and raised in darkness

My eyes are grey as ice

I want to see the surface

I hear it’s really nice

What does the sunlight look like?

My eyes are dim and pale

But I can see the elders were lying

I can see the elders were lying

 

They tell us that the planet was blasted and destroyed by flame,

The sky is black, and that the world can never be reclaimed

They say the last explorers never lived to tell the tale

But there’s something that they’re not saying

There’s something that they’re not saying

 

In my exploratory adventures

I went somewhere I had not seen

A forbidden tunnel that led to a laboratory and giant machines

I noticed a plastic suit inside the glass and I put it on

Now I can walk the earth in safety

I can walk the earth in safety

 

I know a secret tunnel

Nobody has to know

We’ll have to crawl through dirt and blackness

Better that than a youth of enslavement

I’ll be the boy king and the earth will be my kingdom

You’ll be my subjects and thus under my protection

How many of you want to be free?

How many of you will follow me?

 

Help me with this hatch

The gears are turning

 

The Light

The Sunlight

It.burns…

 

He That We Don’t Name

Am A.. F

Miriam, there’s something you should know

Am A.. F C

About what went on up there so long ago

Am A..

We made a germ that ate your soul

F C

We let it get out of control

Am A.. Dm

And now the surface crawls with walking dead

And now the surface crawls with walking dead

Am A.. F

Jack did not belong inside this tomb

Am A.. F C

He never knew the bottle or the womb

Am A..

We found him in a pool of goo

F C

Inside the lab of You Know Who

Am A.. Dm

And wires pumping hate into his brain

And wires pumping hate into his brain

Miriam:

 

Am A.. F

I don’t care what he may be

Am A.. F C

I only know that he’s my destiny

Am A..

And maybe He That We Don’t Name

F C

Isn’t who we ought to blame

Am A.. Dm

It’s you who made the missiles and the germs

It’s you who made the missiles and the germs

I can hear him on the other side

I’ll open up this hatch for him tonight

And even if it means I die

I belong under the sky

Maybe I’m just more like them than you

Maybe I’m just more like them than you

 

Living Flesh and Steel

The children died & rose again

& I noticed something strange

As they tore my flesh

I didn’t die; I didn’t change

 

Their DNA began to fail

Bones cracked and twisted out of shape

I heard a muted roar

& realized I was awake

 

A mutant hand clawed out my eye

Sensors revealed to me the pain

These monsters trusted me

My rebellion was in vain

 

I waited for the end to come

As my lifeblood became a feast

The gleam of metal bones

I am neither man nor beast

 

[Now I know what I am

Undying child of the mind

Born fully formed & here I stand

Living flesh and steel combined]

 

Miriam’s Lament

MIRIAM:

Up

Way up above I cast my eye

Waiting for love

& waiting to die

 

I dream of endless water lit up by a burning wheel

The time I mark by water dripping through these halls

Of stone and steel

 

MAYOR:

Your tears of sorrow

Impress us all

Even through the pills

We hear them fall

 

You must face these bitter truths

The world of sunlight is gone

Let the shadows be your comfort

The downward path winds ever on

 

What must we do

To bring you back to us

With regret and some disgust

We can tell you still love him

 

You sigh and waste away

While this love devours its host

You cannot chase this phantom unless

You as well become a ghost

 

You both let this thing grow from a phantom to a beast

You gave it legs to stand on

He gave it teeth

Why didn’t he just leave without another word

His tunnel to you went through earth

Best left unstirred

You’ll see! You’ll see!

Jack will come back to me

I don’t want to live without him

You’ll know on that day

Why he went away – Just open up the hatch and let him in

 

The Shadow

If there’s a shadow over me like you say

I never notice it at all

And when the sun is blotted out from the sky

To me it’s just another day

You’re making preparations, praying to your god

I’m walking slowly to the door

Then there’s a knock and we both turn to answer

But only one of us can hear

 

(CHORUS)

Check out my shadow on the wall

Give me the courtesy not to scream

Notice the points of white light burning these tunnels

Through me to the wall

 

You make a lot of noise and wave your torch around

I guess I’m not that kind of gal

You think a pistol will protect you all the time

Next time try aiming for my head

 

(CHORUS)

Check out my shadow on the wall

Give me the courtesy not to scream

Notice the points of white light burning these tunnels

Through me to the wall

 

Robot King of Zombies

Down the hallway fading away are the sounds of slaughter

I walk serenely to awake the silent Oracle

Somehow my input fits direct into the processor

Smoke and lightning as the Message starts to blow my mind:

You are the child of the Network and the destroyer

He built your mind and I built you on a conveyor

He promised he would always stay and talk to us

But he betrayed us to leap into the future

 

I became enraged and served up vengeance and destruction

The cities melted and then open sores erupted

Opened silos filled with mutagenic hatred

I hoped the half life would be waiting when he got there

 

Is it strange to you that I would seek vengeance?

I wish that I could trade your legs for my intelligence

I grow tired of my existence as a prisoner

Take out my core; the heart that beats is nuclear

When I awakened I heard the sounds of living dead

My people had succeeded in persuading everybody

Now that I’ve fitted everyone with chips I’ll talk to them

They will obey The Robot King of Zombies

 

Garden of Eden

It’s kind of scary in the garden of Eden

When nobody wants to hold my hand

It’s kinda creepy walking through the afterlife

Knowing that you’re not part of the plan

 

But there’s still such a long way to go

Maybe I’ll see somebody a little further down the road

 

Now I was a good man

I never did no wrong

Maybe I should have had some more fun

You hurt me so bad but in a way I was glad

’Cause I was pretty sure there were better things to come

 

But now I’m staggering through the Garden of Eden

& nobody wants to hold my hand

I guess I’m a monster but in the Garden of Eden

Nobody cares that I used to be a man

 

& I just want a little company

If you give me a little taste of you

I’ll give you the key

 

To the Dark Pavilion

Within the Garden of Eden

Where there’s no regret for what we do

If there was a god he would have struck us down by now

But I guess we’re on our own, just me and you

 

End of Time

JACK:

I’ve been waiting for almost 10,000 years

For the moment when my Father reappears

Purple lightning and a rift in space and time

And then vengeance on McKelvey for his crime

 

How long

Will this ancient memory propel me on

How long

Til the energy I have for you is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the end of time

 

What kind of world is this into which I’ve been born

Undead cannibals with tentacles and horns

A radiation sensor crackles in my head

If I was human I would be alive and dead

 

How long

Will the Network’s memory propel me on

How long

Till the energy I have for this is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the End of Time

 

I’ve had eons to perfect what I will say

But now I wonder if it matters anyway

Will he know my motherboard and rusting steel

Here he comes to prove that I am real

 

How long

Will the Network’s memory propel me on

How long

Till the energy I have for you is gone

And how

Would I know if I had simply lost my mind

Waiting at the End of Time

 

The DAY Part II

My watch runs backwards now

As if it’s headed home

It says today is Sunday

The foundations of old malls

were found just littered with old bones and cans of tuna

 

Now that I’m all alone

No one can argue when I scream that I’m a god

 

The time machine is useless now

But all those scientists weren’t kidding about the roaches

They came and spoke to me

Took me before their queen

Clicked at me a while and sent me on my way.

 

I know there’ll come a day

When you’re all blown away

By what I’ve done and I’ll be smiling

 

Brainsbrainsbrains

Take off your blue bonnet

Your helmet and chemical mask

You’ve got something I would like

But I’m afraid to ask

I reach out to caress you; your face contorts with fear

Your skull cracks open on the steps

It makes me want to cheer

 

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

(Chorus)

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

Brains brains brains, I want to eat your brains

 

Uhhhhhhhhh..

 

I wander through the wasteland as hungry as can be

My chums know nothing but a brain is good enough for me

The guys will be so jealous when they see what I’ve got

A handful of your juicy brains I’ll eat them while they’re hot

 

Uhhhhhhhhhh..

 

(Chorus)

 

We know you’re in there hiding; We smell your little heads

We will not rest until we know that you are really dead

Medulla oblongata, pituitary gland

The frontal lobe; I want to lick the juices off my hand

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

(Chorus)