Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hot Hula Action

What goes through a person's mind just before they commit murder? Are they pumped with adrenaline? Does everything fall silent? Is there a song they can't stop hearing? Does their version of God give them a pep talk? Having never felt the urge to kill, I honestly wonder. Then I put more ice in my drink and blast some classic Led Zeppelin.

I think that instant media makes human insanity bigger than it really is. There have always been mass murderers and serial killers, only now we hear about them while the bodies are still warm. Immediacy of information heightens the terror. If we had to wait a couple of days before learning of this or that rampage, the initial shock would be dampened. The carnage would already be history. And Americans hate learning history.

Of course, this is only a theory. Maybe human madness is truly out of control. Perhaps people are more coarsened than ever. Put that between two slices of French bread and sell it as a gourmet sandwich. Given what people eat nowadays, you'd probably make a tidy profit.

Let me step away from the chalkboard for a moment and stare out the window, hands gripping my lapels. No, you don't need to move. This isn't a test. Well, not a test for a grade anyway. Life itself is a test, so in that sense you are being tested. But then, so am I. The teacher as student? Precisely.

Where was I? Right -- crazy people who kill. Are all killers crazy? Aren't there rational killers who treat murder as a 9-to-5 gig, then clock out and go home? Outside of the government, I mean? I can't think of any offhand, and even if I could, there would be some mitigating factor. Cross dressing. Cannibalism. A shrine of skulls. Severed heads in the freezer. You can bank on one or more of these.

On the surface, everything is quiet and normal. Firm handshakes and hot cups of coffee. Underneath, however, a seething resentment against the modern world. How can you tell? Put it this way: if a neighbor wants you to buy his paintings of kittens, pack up and move. It's only a matter of time before your head's next to his ice trays.

So, in summation, human insanity is part of the game. People kill because they can. If you think I'm being blasé or cynical, just know I've got weightier issues on my mind. Like mice in the Pentagon. What if the mice accidentally launch a world war? Or are exposed to a secret ray and become monsters? How do we guard against that? Can we guard against that? What, you've never considered this possibility? Who's the blasé cynic now?

She's beautiful. Her soulful eyes framed by cascading ginger hair. Her moist lips, pert breasts, long legs. The mystery of creation in her smile. If she wasn't throwing rocks at my head and cursing my name, we might learn to love each other. But after this, forget it.

When I'm old enough to be called Pops, I'll have plenty of zingers in response. One is where I say "I've got your Pops right here!" while patting my jacket pockets, then getting nervous because my pockets are empty, then breaking down crying. Another is where I pretend I don't understand English. Considering how today's kids talk, who does?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Routine Bites Hard

Air travel is a metaphor for decaying America. Maybe a microcosm. Perhaps a tattered symbol. Whatever it is, the service blows, seats are cramped, jets are old, and passengers increasingly surly.

USA Today covered some of this nasty ground, but there's a deeper backdrop. In the past year and a half, I've flown more than I have in my entire life. I'm an air regular, intimately familiar with various airports. There you see the classic cross-section of types, united mostly by frustration and boredom. You not only get an immediate sense of how big this country is, but how atomized our population remains.

Probably inescapable, given the control our owners enjoy. But it isn't an excuse. Think of the millions streaming though airports, filling stadiums, churches, malls, and trade shows. Countless people of varying aptitudes, held in place by shared nationalist myths and relentless propaganda. It's quite a triumph for our keepers. Should things get out of hand, they have a militarized police apparatus to protect them. But for now they have little worry. We're too eager to comply, believing we have a stake in a game fixed by those we'll never meet.

William Burroughs once quoted a Black queen, "Some people are shits, darling." A basic truth. Part of doing business. But how many shits are created by this anxiety-ridden culture? How many bright, compassionate people are pushed into the muck? Perhaps Devo was right: Humans are bad spuds de-evolving at an accelerated pace. Yet a system based on cheap sensation and personal alienation plays a serious role in shaping attitudes. The question is, how long do we let this drag on?

While waiting for flights, most travelers want nothing to do with each other. Crammed in the same space, they zone out through their electronic toys. Courtesy is rare. Recently at Detroit Metro, I sat near a brawny kid who was listening to speed metal on his headphones. I know this because the volume was so cranked that I wondered why the kid bothered to cover his ears. A few people moved to other seats, but most remained, pretending not to hear the thump thump thump blasting from his head.

His expression was of sullen defiance. Looking at the discomfort he created, the kid smiled, then turned up the volume. He was large and muscular, which I suspect is why no one told him to turn down his music.

He openly played on this. When the flight was set to board, the kid slid his still-thumping headphones around his neck and told the airline rep that he was a solider destined for Afghanistan. She dissolved, gushing about his bravery and service. The people who were annoyed now smiled at him. The kid put his headphones back on, speed metal bouncing off the jet bridge walls.

It was instructive. You had an obnoxious kid, intimidated travelers, and military worship in one place. There wasn't an honest connection in sight. Mix in my voyeurism and the scene was complete. No sharing. No effort to find common ground. No civility. Just a detached playing of roles. I felt some guilt for not asking the kid to lower his music, to honor whatever chivalrous code a war-bound soldier possesses. But his semi-crazed look frightened me as well. Maybe he was prepping to join a Kill Team.

Fortunately, the kid sat in the rear of the plane while I was near the front. I opened the New York Times to a story about Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh-born Muslim shot in the face by Mark Stroman, a racist Texan who flipped out after 9/11, killing two other people he assumed were Muslims. Bhuiyan survived, but lacked health insurance. He went through hell trying to recover. Bhuiyan's marriage suffered, he went blind in his right eye, fell into poverty and depression. And yet, Bhuiyan forgave Stroman and lobbied against his execution.

This lifted my spirits. Here's a beautiful example of what is possible. Bhuiyan's forgiveness eventually touched and changed his assailant. Stroman confessed to his brutal ignorance, overwhelmed by Bhuiyan's attempts to keep him alive. How genuine Stroman was is unknown, but the alternative was merely more hatred, deeper division, and added suspicion. The lesson is clear.

States, on the other hand, aren't into forgiveness. They are mechanisms of control and violence. Texas is hardly an exception. The court denied Bhuiyan's request to meet privately with Stroman. His plea for clemency was also ignored. Last night, Stroman was executed by lethal injection. His last words were:

"Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain. I love you, all of you. Goodnight."

This from a white supremacist who called himself an "Arab slayer." What's our excuse?

ABOVE: Banksy, Love Is In The Air (Flower Thrower) 2006.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obvious Things

In case you haven't noticed, our owners and their political wing hate us. Deeply. They hate us so much that spectacles like the debt ceiling dance are performed in full light, a reminder of who controls what money is left and what more they can grab. It's an astounding sight, an open Fuck You to the rest of us. And the sad truth is, they'll get away with it.

Where's the resistance? the political anger? Observers have long noted that the Democrats will be the ones to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, and here's Obama promising to do just that. Of course, such dismantling is couched in talk of "cuts" and "fiscal discipline," but the cruel intent is clear. And apart from some grumbling about "betrayal," most liberals offer no push back, no alternatives other than holding their noses and voting for Obama once again.

What -- you want a President Bachmann?

A few of us questioned Obama's fraudulent claims for national rebirth in '08, and were shit on for our efforts (such as they were). The HOPE heads were too high on CHANGE meth to consider critical views. What's their excuse now? Even Obama's re-election team knows better than to stoke false dreams. They see that liberals have no place to turn and lack the political courage to break from the Democrats.

It helps that the GOP field is certifiably insane, with the exception of Mitt Romney, the Mormon Obama. If Romney snags the Republican nomination, watch out. He and Obama are close enough politically to make the 2012 election a nail biter, which is why most liberals pray that Bachmann, Palin, or Santorum heads the GOP ticket. Placing one's faith in lunacy has become a mainstream value.

Meanwhile, our numerous wars continue. Libya is a debacle. Iraq was lost ages ago. Afghanistan teeters on the edge. Pakistan is pissed off. Somalia starves while the CIA runs torture sites. There seems to be enough money for all this and more. No Beltway hand wringing about fiscal discipline here.

More ominously, there's no antiwar or populist movement to counter this butchery. Small wonder why powerless people gorge themselves on shitty food, loud empty movies, "reality" television, and increasingly twisted porn. Nationalism remains popular, the one supposedly solid feature left to average Americans. But it's flag waving over decaying myths. The more dire the circumstances, the more flags go up. Patriotism is the last refuge of the despised.

Can it be turned around? Yes, but it will take effort and sacrifice. Find comfort in that we've already sacrificed much, so that shouldn't be an alien sensation. Political effort is another story. That will require heavy lifting, endurance, tenacity. But we don't have to do it alone. If we're connected through misery, we can be connected through solidarity. And love. That's a binding power that the true cynics cannot buy, sell, and outsource. It's so obvious it's a cliché. Let's be clichés.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oh Mercy Pit

Opera dogs are howling again, distracting the singers, threatening another delay in production. I'm tempted to feed them poisoned meat, just to get through a rehearsal. But this would set off a vicious species war in which victory is uncertain. We barely survived the rodent uprising. Dogs are bigger.

The canine explosion metastasized into factions, even genres. Apart from the family dogs, heroic dogs, mad dogs, cute dogs who roll on their backs wanting their tummies rubbed with tails wagging, cyberdogs, and dogs of mystery are countless new breeds. We haven't been able to name them all. Fresh strains crop up hourly. A few are attempting human speech, determined to evolve. Joke's on them. Look at us.

I have nothing against canine evolution. I'm very live and let live. All I desire is to produce quality local operas, based on my librettos and music known only to me. Convincing performers who can sing is hard enough. Most want to do Dvořák, Janáček, Berlioz -- the standard crowd pleasers. My stuff is a little more challenging.

You have to hum it for a month before singing it, and then it has to be precisely in my pitch, an uneven falsetto. Also, there's a lot of running in my operas. Singers must be able to hold notes while jumping over the large letters that spell my name. So rehearsal is crucial.

Then the opera dogs found me. When I learned of them, I figured they'd harass the bigger companies. The first ones I saw were harmless. A few high-pitched yelps and that was it. When my production of Bavarian Sluice! premiered, the strays had grown into a pack. To enter the theater, customers had to wade through dogs howling my music. Some thought this was part of the show, applauding my originality. I'd smile and nod. The dogs and I knew differently.

At this point you're probably expecting some twist. Like maybe I'm really a dog writing this, or that the opera dogs are symbols for human neglect, or that I'm simply insane, wasting your time. But maybe you're the opera dogs. Never thought of that, did you? Let that possibility bake to a golden crust in your cynical minds. Life isn't all about you.

Sitting on a ledge, overlooking the sleeping city. So many people. Millions of hopes, fears, desires, dreams. And nightmares. Holy shit! Think of the nightmares! Statistically, a good third of the city suffers from nightmares. And I'm not talking about forgetting your lines in a play or having your teeth fall out. I'm referring to hellish landscapes dissolving to personal isolation where inner-demons gleefully rip your spirit to shreds. Where fantasies of love shatter on jagged rocks of regret. Where each living breath is a death march. Then mix in how many of these people own firearms and feel they have nothing to lose. If you can sleep knowing that, you're better than me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Freedom Of Choice

In a shameless bid for the women's vote, Mitt Romney declared he would protect America's toddlers from Casey Anthony, or anyone with Casey or Anthony in their name.

Not to be outdone, Michele Bachmann said she would protect the citizens of Whoville, whom only she can hear.

Believing God has already elected him as president, Rick Santorum signs executive orders on anything anybody hands him.

To show he has nothing to hide, Tim Pawlenty invites schoolchildren to search his scalp for head lice.

If elected, Jon Huntsman promises no distractions from running the country by keeping his family behind an invisible fence.

Herman Cain spends most of his time convincing white conservatives that he's not going to enslave them.

Always the maverick, Ron Paul tries to hypnotize a New Hampshire audience into embracing the gold standard.

Newt Gingrich is also courting the hypnotized vote, employing wife Callista at fundraising events.

Still weighing her options, Sarah Palin fears she may not be crazy enough to win the 2012 nomination.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nations Of Debris

Bigger shards are easy to remove. Feel torn flesh release broken glass. Cuts collapse in each shard's wake. Blood is the lipstick of wounds, said O'Donoghue. Blood beautifies these gashes. Almost don't want them to heal.

Someone smashed a champagne bottle. Celebrating, angry, doesn't matter. A minefield of shards, all sizes. Kicked off my shoes hours ago. Wandering the pavilion, bottle in hand, tie loosened. Did a friend's coke to stay awake. This is why I didn't feel the glass cutting through. Sliced my feet deli style. I keep walking, oblivious.

Another friend's date comes onto me. Cute perky curly-haired brunette. She's good. I believe her. Or I'm that drunk. She rubs against me. Says I'm cute. I love these lies. Moët buzz intensifies. But this is a classic con. She's trying to make my friend jealous. She succeeds. He doesn't leave her side for the rest of the night. He glares at me, wounded. She flutters her wide eyes. A shameless flirt.

I drain another bottle. There's splashing, laughing in the corner. Other guests share a jacuzzi. Guys topless. Girls in wet t-shirts. Walk toward them, losing clothes as I go. Down to my briefs I dive in. Instinctively, my hands shoot out. Keeps my head from hitting concrete. Barely. Later, sober, I ponder what might have been. Broken nose. Broken teeth. Fractured skull. Paralysis. Instead, just bloody water from my gashed feet. The party in full swing.

If there must be pick ups, weigh them down in mud. Bricks, sand, equipment. Whatever's heaviest. Climb wet hills, tires spinning, mud flying. Deliver supplies to construction sites. Make it functional. That's a sane world with pick ups.

In my youth, guys with pick ups were crazy. Usually armed. Their rusting hulks hauled garbage and mortar. They also intimidated. Several parked at dusk at Village Pantry. Guys leaning against tailgates. Smoking, drinking. They'd yell at anyone crossing the lot. Rarely acted. They'd finish their beers and peel off. You'd hear them shooting their guns in the woods. Primal screams under a cloudy moon.

Suburban pick ups are sad jokes. Big polished things. Wide gleaming tires. NASCAR decals. A consumer statement. It's easy to cite Freud here. Marx might fit too. Maybe Henry Ford would retch. That alone would justify the purchase. But I doubt suburban pick ups care. Probably for the best.

Mary returns from LA. Another pilot season without work. I see defeat in her smile.

She cut her hair short. Thought this might make a difference. No takers. She's too small for short hair. She looks like a pixie. Longer hair gives her a naughty Marlo Thomas vibe. Surely there's a role for that.

My friend Dan's in town. He's with me when I meet Mary at the airport. On the bus to the city, Mary and I kiss and grope. Dan sits behind us, annoyed. I like annoying him. Plus, I'm fondling a beautiful woman wearing nothing under her skirt. When we get back, I ask Dan to see a movie or something. I'm a shitty host. But Mary's too hot to resist. Can't wait to dig into her.

Months later, Mary ends it. She's through with marginal life. Given up the cattle calls. Begins seeing a man with real money. I'm devastated. Confused. Lost. Soon I'm the one in LA. There's money in laughtracks. I know a guy who knows.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Off for a few days to see family. Until then, celebrate freedom by listening to me talk philosophy with old friend Doug Lain. A satisfied listener shared:

"Pardon me if I want to go out back shoot myself in the head. This is without a doubt one of the most cynical and depressing interviews I have ever heard on any subject. Are things really and truly this mind bogglingly dismal, hopeless, desolate and discouraging in the good old USA? I hope this is all more a reflection of Mr. Perrin's psychology than the conditions on the ground."

It's probably me. I'm sure that consumer life in the US is much happier than I could possibly understand. But we don't go to sideshows to see the well-adjusted, do we? For one mere mouse click, see the Hopeless Man who makes you want to kill yourself! Ladies, hold on to your dates! He's one of capitalism's cruelest jokes!