The Digital Curtain and the New Iron Cage

You may have read a few thoughts here about the problem with social media as what Infinity Gauntlet calls “universal input,” the immediate awareness of all life and matter.  I’ve talked about taking a break from Facebook and about not really missing it and not realizing how long I’d been gone.

It also occurs to me that not participating in social media may have unintended, isolating effects.  But I think the remedy there remains in the real world of in-person interaction, something that’s increasingly easier to withdraw from given an expended digital presence.  It’s a not-altogether-surprising idea.

Another tech analogy seems apropos here: the need to reboot.  Reconsidering the social graph has helped reboot my neural pathways away from the reward system some forms of social media train us to crave.  100 years ago, Max Weber talked about labor rights, economic issues and social anxieties in terms of an “iron cage.”  The Cold War brought us the Iron Curtain.  Billy Joel gave us the Nylon Curtain (and we’re living here in Allentown), language for a social and economic barrier that seems far more permeable than it really is.  In the digital age, we have to consider the digitization of our curtains and cages.  Their existence isn’t as obvious, and we’re often hemmed in without knowing.

I don’t have any pat answers, but I can say who and what I understand myself to be.

I am a child of God, a follower of Jesus.

I am a pastor, a progressive Christian.

I’m a graduate of Yale Divinity School (MDiv) and the New School (MFA, creative writing) and Ursinus College (political philosophy).

I participate in my family business.

I am an advocate for people living in poverty and people experiencing homelessness.

I am working on projects that synthesize these settings and experiences, some of which are obvious and public, some of which are quietly rejected by literary journals, and some of which are works in progress with varying degrees of promise.

I feel very, very free.  I know that many people don’t.

I find this video therapeutic.

I miss Prince and Tom Petty and Leonard Cohen.

I have more to do.

I believe in forgiveness.   I need it and I need to give it.

I believe in sharing grace and giving people a break.

I believe baseball is the Beautiful Game.

I believe in local farms and local food.

I believe kids grow up fast, and I don’t believe life should ever be what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overreach and Progressive Stamina

I’m going to say something that might seem counterintuitive.  It may also seem like I’m swiping at your political beliefs (regardless of what they are).  I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of conservatism, liberalism, or progressivism as we tend to imagine them.  I’m just going to make a point about stamina, in this case, the stamina of the progressive agenda as I understand it at the moment.

The greatest threat to progressive stamina right now isn’t from Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, but from the predictable overreach of a certain set of so-called liberals who remain fundamentally detached from the experience of the American working class.

Overreaching on Roseanne doesn’t build capacity for basic universal income, even though the Connors would likely benefit from Bernie-Sanders-style economic policies. At the same time, I recognize that a progressive focus on class that doesn’t also speak to systemic racism is counterproductive and likewise problematic.  That said, it bears repeating: when BLM protestors confronted Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primaries, she “explained” why they were “wrong” about her record, values, and agenda.  When BLM protestors confronted Bernie Sanders, he sat down and ceded the stage.  He literally gave them a platform.  Maybe that’s too nuanced a distinction in an era of increasingly frenzied (if still anemic) values-signaling.  Our current discourse is basically like Starbucks: overpriced, no real substance or nutrition, whipped and frothing in the hopes of producing an illusion of value for the sake of profit.

Feel free to discuss.

Note:  Since I used Starbucks’ products as a metaphor, I should be very plain and clear: the incident in Philadelphia is all the proof anyone should need that systemic racism is deeply rooted and sinfully thriving.  I’ll come back to this later today.  Right now, I have to make an inventory run for the truck.

UPDATE: The Roseanne reference was made before the events that resulted in Roseanne Barr losing her television show.  Here I’m speaking about earlier criticisms of the initial reboot that seemed misguided and underdeveloped.  I don’t retract those concerns, even though Roseanne Barr (not Roseanne Connor) has since said things that have seriously undermined whatever point of view she may have shared with her fictional counterpart.

Ode To OCD #1 — Fractured Faith Blog

From the folks at Fractured Faith Blog.

I know what this feels like.

You let me binge And now I’m singed Unhinged. Swinging from the gallows that I constructed for You. As you look on The idle god of all you survey. You smile As I decay Dismayed and flayed. Splayed in my grave Of rotating routine.

via Ode To OCD #1 — Fractured Faith Blog

If Hollywood Were Sentient, We’d Call It Harvey Weinstein

We tend to think of Hollywood as a place were supposedly liberal or progressive ideas and attitudes happily roost, and from which new mores emanate across the fruited plains like crashing waves.  These mores seep into the ground on each coast, but run off the hard, dry acreage of the great American middle.

You’ll allow me some poetic license, but you’ve the heard the story.

Here’s the thing, though.

If Hollywood were sentient, it would be Harvey Weinstein.  Hollywood is one of the few American institutions that has been allowed to routinely and for-profit objectify women under the guise of art and progress, all while paying lip-service to equality and fairness.

Our civic and religious institutions have trended over the past 100 years toward gender equality.  They’re not there yet in anything resembling absolute terms, but they are empirically progressing.  At the same time, Hollywood produces more and more material using the female body to tantalize, a process that necessarily objectifies women and encourages a disposable view of them.

I’m not saying we need Victorian convictions about decency.  Those are actually also part of the problem.  But it occurred to me in reading about the allegations surrounding James Franco that most sex scenes or instances of female nudity in film probably exist because the directors, writers, producers or whomever else are creeps.  How many of those scenes are necessary to the plot and integrity of their respective projects?  I’m willing to grant that some are.  But, in light of everything we’re learning about powerful people in Hollywood, my gut says the balance are someone’s exercise in wish fulfillment.

It’s ironic that calls for decency  typically come from the American middle, and are chaffed at because of those origins.  And because, like the Victorians, the American middle is, perhaps, a little too hung up.  But Hollywood is hung up even more so.  I think that’s obvious now.

(Miss You) When You’re Gone

 

There’s an image in today’s British press of Dolores’ mother following her casket into St. Joseph’s church.  It’s very striking.

This from The Guardian:

Born in Ballybricken, Co Limerick, O’Riordan was the youngest of nine children (two of whom died in infancy) of Terence O’Riordan, a former farm labourer who was left unable to work after an accident, and his wife, Eileen, a school caterer, and went to Laurel Hill, a Roman Catholic school in Limerick. She was a tomboy, burying her dolls in the garden and spending most of her time with her heavy-metal-loving brothers. Yet she also played the organ in church and, well into her teens, wore flowery dresses bought for her by her mother. The influence of her church music and the heavy rock she heard at home instilled a desire to join a band – specifically, “a band with no barriers, where I could write my own songs”. That’s what she got.

At 18 she landed a job with a Limerick group called the Cranberry Saw Us by playing an early version of a song she had written, Linger (it was inspired by her first kiss, aged 17: “I’d always thought that putting tongues in mouths was disgusting, but when he gave me my first proper kiss, I did indeed ‘have to let it linger’,” she said last year).

Equally in thrall to rock and Gaelic folk music, her voice was startling and steely, and gelled uncommonly well with the band’s melodicism. Her Doc Martens-shod, spiky-haired look provided a visual anchor, overshadowing the rest of the group entirely. Despite being out of step with the prevailing Britpop and grunge scenes, they were taken on by the Smiths’ former manager, Geoff Travis, and courted by 32 record companies. The pivotal moment came when the successful label Island booked them as the support act on the fast-rising band Suede’s 1993 American tour. Suede’s seedy ambiguity cut no ice in the US, but the Cranberries returned home as stars.

Return home, a star.

To a Poem is a Bott the Stranger

A few thoughts on this.

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the overall success of some of the language or if I’m terrified by it. I am leaning towards inspiration, but I also tend to romanticize things.

That said, some lines really stand out:

“the wind is only for me.”
“there’s part of the world between the darkness”
“the father of the light is not a fist of the bones.

The line about the wind is almost identical to something I read yesterday, which I think was by Antler. I’ll share it here when I can find it again.

The darkness line is lovely, and reminds me of “Break on Through,” by The Doors.

“The father of the light is not a fist of the bone,” is to my ear very similar to the idea behind this line of Christian scripture: “anger does not produce the righteousness of God.” That’s James 1:20. James 1:17 says “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Data for Breakfast

Code is Poetry. This is part of the WordPress philosophy. As a coder and a poet, I have always loved this phrase. I decided to turn this phrase around and ask, Can I make poetry with code? Could I make a bot that could write original poetry? I created an experiment to find out.

First off, I knew that if my bot was to learn to write poetry, it first had to read poetry. In 2017, authors used WordPress to publish over half a million posts tagged as poetry. I reached out to some prolific poets sharing their work with WordPress and asked if they’d be willing to collaborate with me on a fun experiment: would they allow my bot to read their work so that it could learn about poetic form and structure, so that it might learn to write its own poetry? Special thanks to these intrepid…

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Milestones

We were having a picnic, the late summer, ’93, a milestone barbecue birthday.  None of us had to cook, which is no small thing when you’re all in the food business, mobile concessions with hot flattop grills and fryers throwing off wavy lines and bad skin.

There was a tent in the yard with circus stripes, yellow and white like a hard-boiled egg.  My friend Dwayne, who was called Bubba, brought the October solicits from the comic book shop.

Batman #500 was gonna be big.  New costume, new bat-#&%! and broken jawn under the hood. The Knightfall arc was long and exhausting, for Bruce and for us.  500 was the payoff, the resolution, the all-new Batman in an era when all-new anything came with variant covers, pre-boarded and bagged, everything die cut and metallic.  I think Cable #1, with its hologram cover, came out the day of the party.  Comics were events, and huge stories were everywhere.

I was reminded of all this today by a post from Graphic Policy looking back on the milestone Batman issue. It’s hard to believe everything from 1993 will be 25 this year, things like the death of Superman and Batman #500.  Me turning thirteen, my Dad turning 40.

You only have to write one true sentence, Hemingway said.  I’m trying to write one true sentence a day.