Revisiting Blade

I recently re-watched Blade for the first time in well over a decade. Seeing it again after so long sparked a lot of thought and reflection.

This movie was one of my favorites back in the day; I even bought the soundtrack, which I would bump at trunk-rattling volume as I drove around town in my old Honda. In 1998, when the movie was first released into theaters, I was working in one. It was my senior year of high school, at the peak of my burning desire to get the hell out of suburbia. As I was both a comic book nerd and a big fan of Wesley Snipes (“I’m a blast from the past!” – Demolition Man), I stayed late after work on the night of Blade’s release to see it on the big screen.

I was blown away. The dialogue, the stunts, the fighting choreography, the costumes, the cinematography, the lighting, the soundtrack—everything about the film electrified my deepest pulp-action fanboy sensibilities. I took full advantage of my ability to watch movies for free at my workplace; I saw Blade, from start to finish, at least seven or eight times, and many times I sat in for pieces of it during breaks from slinging popcorn.

However, this was long before I was to acquire the knowledge to really analyze what I was seeing, or why it resonated so deeply with me. It would take more than twenty years for me to get there. I used to have a copy of the Blade on DVD, but it was lost to the Great Neo-Ascetic Anti-Babylon Purge of 2009, when I went through my collection of movies, graphic novels, and books, and threw into the trash everything that featured hero soldiers, hero cops, or the undead. Blade, being a vampire movie, had to go (I regret nothing).

About a year ago a friend hooked me up with his HBO Max password. I doubt I’ve used it to watch more than a dozen flicks since then; I don’t have much interest in movies these days, and I absolutely hate the idiosyncrasies of streaming video—loading time, freezes, sudden disruptions in video quality, etc. For that matter, I hate streaming services, period—whether of video, music, or software (Lease it From the Cloud!). Turning what once was a product into a service has devastated independent media arts as a career path—independent musicians, in particular, have basically turned into glorified merch vendors, since most people no longer buy music. Streaming services are the 21st century’s foremost pay-as-you-go corporate hustle; now, instead of owning something, you have to pay rent for access.

I logged into HBO Max the other day, spotted Blade in the line up, and decided on a whim to revisit it. HOLY SHIT, BATMAN! There is a lot going on in this flick. Like a number of other innovative movies from the mid-to-late ’90s (Dark City, The Truman Show, The Matrix, etc.), Blade has taken on a level of depth that borders on prophecy. What follows is not an essay or a detailed analysis, so much as it is a somewhat random record of my thoughts and impressions of the movie from the standpoint of post(?)-pandemic 2021. I’m writing under the assumption that anyone who would read this has already seen Blade, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

***
My soul longs for the Truth & Beauty of an alternate timeline where we got a Black Panther movie in the late ’90s, featuring Wesley Snipes as the lead. While I would dearly miss the dignity and gravitas of Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa, it would be more than worth it to have a film that would likely contain a genuine and radical sense of black empowerment and self-determination, instead of the neoliberal identitarian fairytale that we got; the Snipes Panther would never have fist-fought his Oakland-raised brother to pave the way for Wakanda selling off its mineral resources and relinquishing its secret technologies to Babylon.

***
Rapid fire high kicks—in heavy boots, full costume, and leather trenchcoat! Snipes was an experienced martial artist long before this movie came along, and his love for the arts and the movement shines in every scene. The kung fu stylings are unparalleled! This might have been the last time an American actor had a real sense of style, flair, and emotional content in their action choreography; most fight scenes are conducted by stunt doubles, who are probably forbidden by contract from having swag. Bruce Lee, an obvious hero of Snipes’s, would be proud.

***
Has there ever been a more beautiful black man than Wesley Snipes? Here we have him at the peak of his physical might and majesty; rippling muscles, a razor-sharp fade, and luscious dark chocolate skin that gives a tri-racial mocha latte mutt like me a distinct case of melanin envy.

***
Confession: when I sat down to watch this movie, I only wanted to see the opening scene at the vampire rave—partly to enjoy the action, but mostly to enjoy New Order’s dope-ass track Confusion, and reminisce about a lost era when a secret venue could be packed with people dancing full throttle, with nary a fucking smartphone in sight. For anyone too young to remember such ancient and forgotten days, let me assure you: yes, we thought it would last forever.

***
Speaking of the rave scene… All of the naughty and tantalizing erotic energy of this movie belongs to the world of the vampires. Bodies writhing and grinding to techno music in secret underground clubs, polymorphous and polyamorous sexuality, lithe young bodies, wealth and leisure, the pleasure of feasting and the body. In a brilliant and suitably disturbing turn of casting, the face that introduces us to this energetic current at the beginning of the film is an actual former porn star: Traci Lords, well known for beginning her porn career when she was underage. If there’s ever been a world that came closest to the literal manifestation of blood-sucking, demonic predation, it’s the porn business.

The villains get to be sexy. In contrast, the rageful, stoic, and hostile Blade is treated to only two erotic moments, both of them horrifying; first, an attempted seduction by his mother-turned-vampire (a cinematic premonition of the current phenomenal popularity of internet incest-fantasy porn); second, when desperation leads Karen to offer up her own blood to revive Blade for the final boss fight—even the hero of the movie is deeply implicated in the violent rape motif inherent in the mythology of vampires. All the rest of Blade’s physical activity involves fighting and killing. Not even a hint of romance.

***
Vampirism in Blade is not the “dark gift” of Anne Rice, but a virus—a sexually transmitted disease. By the end of the ’90s, HIV was a long-established holocaust of both blacks and gay men. In the post-AIDS world, a virus can turn you into a killer who creates more killers. The villains of the film are promiscuous, but not Blade. He’s got a serum for that.

***
The most prominent vampire characters all look exactly like what they are: rich, sick junkies. If you’ve been to San Francisco or Portland in the last ten years, you feel me on how real this is. The twin oligarchies of Tech and Finance are populated by rich, narcissistic young whites who do a lot of hard drugs. One person I know from that universe recently lost a friend to an overdose… from putting ketamine up his ass.

***
The trickster element is well-represented. The movie never takes itself too seriously, and neither does Snipes. There’s just the right amount of silliness to sell the pathos.

***
Another late ’90s film, like Dark City and The Matrix, where the horrific truth of our world lies hidden beneath the veneer of everyday life; looking back through the decades, I see this era as the time when the spirit of Philip K. Dick made its last great and ultimately futile push to warn us of the evil future in store. Blade: “The world you live in is a sugar-coated topping!”—the best single-sentence summary of consumerist ignorance to the violence of TechnoBabylon that I’ve ever encountered.

***
Vampires at the Apple store! Deacon Frost, shirtless, sneering and miserable, alone in a florescent room, sitting in front of a computer screen, using an app to solve the code that will summon an anti-life vampire god to finally end the pain of existence. I’m certain that all of the Tech Overlords have altars to this god, set up in the high-rise lairs where they sacrifice children to algorithms.

***
Stephen Dorff is magnificent; I hated Deacon Frost in every scene. Whining, selfish, entitled, and driven by bitter self-loathing—Frost perfectly depicts the heart of 21st century white nationalism, an enormously popular death cult of hateful, murderous parasites… many of them wealthy.

***
Kris Kristofferson is at his curmudgeonly best, limping around, growling his lines and chewing up scenery. How on point is the casting for this movie? Every actor they got is perfect for their various roles. M’Bushe Wright makes the most of a rather limited lead female character, who, as usual in action movies, is mainly there to be victimized, get into trouble, and look cute. Wright brings the perfect amount of toughness and vulnerability; she’s great at delivering the character’s shock and horror at each new discovery of Blade’s shadow world, and at showing how her character adapts.

***
Old school blue-bloods from the “Old World” looking down their noses at the antics of an upstart American yuppie. They got their money the old-fashioned way: slavery and war. All that work, and here is this yuppie, throwing raves, playing with a computer, getting it on with all the hot chicks, and then dissing his elders at the board meetings. This was the one point in the movie where my suspension of disbelief got a bit shaky; any real organization like theirs would’ve put this dude out to grill in the sunlight the minute he got out of line.

***
Light and shadow: the vampires, being a secretive minority, have an actual community and culture of their own—families, friends, and lovers. Blade, on the other hand, lives a life of near-total isolation, moving from warehouse to warehouse accompanied only by a crusty old white man and a lot of weapons. Blade’s intense hostility to Karen makes it clear that girls are not welcome in this clubhouse. However, the vampire community is defined by deception, manipulation, political maneuvering, sadism, predation, and hunger for power. The micro-family of Blade and Whistler is defined by love, trust, loyalty, and mutual respect.

***
Here we have a black man, an anti-hero at best, whose life consists of little more than violence and murder. The black woman has to turn violent to keep up with him, and later has to sacrifice her lifeforce to save his, and to save the world. There’s a lot to unpack here. Note that all of this was sparked by paleface predation; a vampire made Blade, and a vampire bit the doctor.

***
Our (anti)hero, Blade: a baby negro infected with violence in the womb by a bloodsucking, paleface parasite. To me, this is as good a metaphor as any for the legacy of American chattel slavery.

***
Something I never put together until this viewing: it’s Blade’s fault that Karen gets bitten. He could’ve just killed Quinn, who ends up biting her (and turning her ex-boyfriend into a 4chan troll), but instead Blade decided to torture him, in what is revealed to be an ongoing game. Blade lights him on fire, knowing it won’t kill him, knowing that the authorities will show up and take a vampire in need of feeding/healing to a hospital filled with potential food. To be fair, it’s clear that Blade doesn’t give much of a shit about the squares. I’d call his alignment Lawful-Neutral.

***
Another “gift of symbol” from this film: a visual representation of the disgusting mass of rot that passes for the souls of countless screen-addicted internet trolls. Whether they’re incels, neo-nazis, or garden variety creeps, Pearl is what they all look like on the inside. I think torture is wrong, but, like Karen, I doubt I’d pass on the opportunity to bake them with an ultraviolet flashlight.

***
This is, far and away, the best movie ever made of a Marvel comics character. It puts the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to shame. In the grand countercultural tradition of genre fiction, Blade has something real to say about a range of interrelated themes: about being black in a white world, about wealth, rape & domination culture, about the blood-soaked underside of modern society. It’s shiny and dirty at the same time; it’s beautiful, ugly, disturbing, exciting, and a lot of fun.

The MCU, on the other hand, is nothing but billions of dollars worth of advertising for the military industrial complex, the Cult of Salvation-By-Technology, American exceptionalism, and plain ol’ imperialism… dressed up as shallow action flicks, heavily marketed to children, and containing a healthy dose of clichéd liberal pandering. All thrills and emotions generated by these movies are the result of sophisticated but empty spectacle, as hollow and unreal as the films’ endemic computer-generated special effects.

***
Hollywood is weird on many levels (hashtag Harvey Weinstein), but one of the most personal for me has to do with screenwriting. In film, screenwriting is more of a widespread collaboration than the work of whoever is credited. Uncredited re-writes and contributions are standard, as is the changing, adding, and deleting of lines (or even characters) by actors and directors. Even a great screenplay can turn into a garbage movie as a result of any number of factors: poor direction, sub-par acting, last minute cuts in the editing room, or changes—sometimes substantial ones—made by producers and/or corporate executives.

Blade is credited to David S. Goyer, who has written some scripts that became great movies (Blade, Dark City) and some that became steaming shit piles (Batman v Superman, Man of Steel, and Terminator: Dark Fate). Between the writing, directing, and cinematography, Blade has genuine vision; as a writer, I’m now curious to know how much of that vision came from Goyer. I’d love to read his original screenplay.

***
Viruses, sickness, serums, cures, and experimental treatments. Sound familiar? In the post-covid era, this aspect of the movie hits a nerve with a hammer. Vampirism is a virus, and can spread to others… or kill them. Many folks have responded to the pandemic as if it was just as fictional as Deacon Frost, and they continue to view it that way no matter how many bodies hit the morgue.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Glory of Heresy and Weird Religions

I am a multi-dimensional heretic.

Many years ago I undertook the shahada (Arabic: “the testimony”), the profession of faith required to convert to Islam. The catalyst of my conversion was a dream-vision in which I was initiated into the Nizari Ismaili—the radical sect of Shiite Muslims better known to history as the Assassins. Fun fact: all of the world’s major religions have fringe offshoots with established traditions, rituals, and techniques of acquiring spiritual knowledge through dreams.




As I recently told a Palestinian friend of mine, I’m a pirate Muslim. I’ve never read the Quran—at least, not in its entirety. I eat pork, hang out with queers and pagans, worship idols, and partake of an array of psychotropic drugs—particularly alcohol and cannabis, which I consider sacraments. I abide by the esoteric interpretation of Islam’s Five Pillars as outlined by the anarchist scholar-philosopher-pervert Hakim Bey in The Anti-Caliph.

The Persian Sufi poet Hafez famously wrote, “stain your prayer carpets with wine.” I don’t consider that a metaphor. After all, it’s been hundreds of years since one of the medieval leaders of the Nizari Ismaili, Hassan II, announced the arrival of the Qiyamat—the Great Resurrection—and the end of religious law. In the middle of Ramadan, he broke his fast forever by drinking wine in front of his congregation at Alamut.

The Spanish-Arab Sufi poet Ibn Arabi once declared—and I’m paraphrasing—that the most perfect way to contemplate the glory of Allah is through sexual union. I have vigorously pursued this form of prayer since becoming a sorcerer in 2004 and joining the Unseen Order—an occult secret society that doesn’t exist, except in the imaginal realm, where it is the most powerful. Sex parties, multiple concurrent romantic partners, tantric rituals, group make-out sessions, and even a couple of experiments with monogamy…

One time back in 2016 I dropped acid, and Prince—one of the Secret Chiefs of Truth & Beauty—arrived from the spirit realm and took me for a ride on Pirate Ship Erotica. It was a purple spaceship of infinite doors, each one leading to a different realm of erotic experience. I opened them all. Wouldn’t you?



I’ve been influenced—and in some cases, captured—by many religious traditions. I prefer to think of religions as something that one continually acquires, like a hoarder. I put the Islamic stuff up front because it makes the average Amerikan uncomfortable, which warms my ninja heart.

I consider myself a Daoist-Buddhist-Animist in the tradition of Sun Wukong, the Beautiful Monkey King—a super-powered monster and incorrigible savage, the Monkey King made war against heaven, became a disciple and guardian of a famous Buddhist monk, and had to be tortured into behaving himself. If you went through the compulsory schooling system, that last point should bring back memories.

I’m also a secret Christian, like science-fiction author Philip K. Dick. I’ve been to Heaven and Hell on many occasions, I have conversations with Jesus all the time, and whenever I’m going through a particularly rough patch I use my copy of the Bible as an oracle; with my eyes closed, I flip it open to a random page and drop my finger on a line. It’s never let me down yet. And why would it? It was a gift from an old Colombian lady who was a devout Catholic and powerful psychic.

Long before the fundamentalist cabal flattened Christianity into a dangerous, reactionary parody, there was a wide array of Christian kooks, cranks, and crackpots who were deeply involved in the cause of religious and political freedom. In fact, one of the most prominent figures of the Quakers, the Public Universal Friend, was an in-betweener—someone that modern jargon would describe as “non-binary.” And then there were the Ranters, the Diggers, and a whole host of other folks broadly classified as Antinomians—people who reject religious law. Their esoteric and radical ideas led them into everything from the establishment of communes and group marriage, to open rebellion against the U.S. government.

For that matter, the only group in this country to successfully resist the technological imperialism of modern capitalism is a fringe Christian sect—the Amish! You may not want to live their lifestyle, and if you clown them I’ll probably join in… but you gotta respect the hustle. And the commitment.

The center of my spiritual life since 2010 has revolved around the Sun Dance, an annual Lakota renewal ceremony that’s become a kind of pan-indigenous tradition among many tribes. Native peoples had to fight serious battles with Amerika just to be able to conduct their ceremonies, which were illegal until 1978. The particular Dance I attend was started by a Lakota medicine man who had a vision of opening the ceremony to non-indigenous people. For “traditional Natives,” that makes my Dance heretical. For me, it’s three weeks every year of camping, the scent of burning cedar, communal meals, wild children, stories around the fire, sweat lodges, and the wisdom of elders… all in the company of folks who have cumulatively served centuries of prison time.

I blasphemed against my middle-class upbringing and costly university education by refusing to get a Real Job. Instead, I embarked on a career as a fringe weirdo. I’ve been fired from every corporate job I’ve ever worked. Most recently, I got sacked from a local chapter of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex for refusing to kowtow to the whims of the executive director—an exploitative, coke-head narcissist. To make ends meet, I’ve waited tables, tended bar, managed a restaurant, tutored illiterate children, given arts workshops in middle and high schools, and taught kung fu to undocumented teenagers, retired federal agents, combat veterans, and anarchist musicians.

Speaking of kung fu, the teacher to whom I was apprenticed for three years in my twenties was a former underworld enforcer who betrayed his Confucian culture—and his own teacher—by leaving “the life.” I recently learned that his grand-teacher was a member of an obscure Taiwanese cult that blended Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. I was completely unsurprised.

I’m a heretic to the cult of technology. I don’t own a television. I’ve never been on Zoom. I don’t rely on fucking GPS to find my way everywhere. I still use a flip-phone; I hate smartphones with a seething passion. I could make a credible argument that the internet is the Anti-Christ, and I think the tech mafia are basically war criminals. If I could burn down all of their revolting cement & glass temples and send their shiny, gadget-pimping faces backwards in time to a commie labor camp in Mao’s China, I would do it in a second. “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” -Matthew 10:34.



Perhaps most dangerously for my social life, at least in the Bay Area, I am a heretic to the fake progressivism of Starfleet—my term for liberoids, Social Justice Warriors, and other counterfeit leftists. You see, I’m an actual radical, not some cybernetic drone who was indoctrinated by memes and click-bait articles on zuckerbook, or initiated into political awareness by Bernie Fucking Sanders. If you want to find out how authoritarian and imperial these so-called progressive folks really are behind their masks, try disagreeing with them about their gender ideologies… or their sense of entitlement to things like plastic, electricity, and pornography.

This culture produces alienation and mental illness the same way it produces prisons and styrofoam cups. Human beings, as a species, are communal animals; your ancestors for most of the last 150,000 to 300,000 years lived in small tribal groups that had intimate relationships with their particular landbases. Now, most of us live on top of each other, packed in like rats and isolated from our closest kin. How many miles would you have to travel just to see all of your favorite humans? How many people have you known who were addicted to cocaine, methamphetamines, or abusive relationships? How many have drank themselves to death or overdosed on painkillers? If there’s ever been a human society that desperately needed some form of divine grace, it’s this one.

I’m an MC. I started rapping and performing in 2007, back when I was running around L.A. in a ninja mask, partying hard and having hair-raising escapades with fashionistas and action heroes. I’m one of the chiefs of the Invisible Army, a hip hop cult I started in 2012 for the purpose of throwing events where no photos, videos, or phones are permitted. I’ve stood on the brick mantle in my living room and rocked crowds so thick you couldn’t see the floor, with half-naked women dancing on either side of me. I even wrote a manifesto.

In light of these rather colorful life experiences…

Why wouldn’t I join the Church of Wrestling?

The collection of concepts, rites, and rituals that we broadly classify as religion is inherent to the human species. It shapes our experiences, structures our cognition, provides openings into non-ordinary consciousness, and performs a vital role of social bonding. Here at the end times of TechnoBabylon, religion continues to be widespread at all levels of the population—it’s just that most people in our society pray at the temples of Consumerism, Narcissism, Domination, and Gadget Worship. They are devotees of Anti-Life.

I first went to GLAM, one of the Hoodslam theme nights, back in May of 2019. It was my first live wrestling show. I’ve already gushed at length about it elsewhere, so I’ll summarize and say that it was the dopest public event of any kind that I’ve been to since I was dancing all night at warehouse parties in L.A., circa 2005.

At GLAM I found the last public remnants of human communal celebration—screaming, laughing, ritualized warfare, bodies pressed together in the crowd, with plenty of booze and blunts to go around. Furthermore, it was deeply embodied. This is no digitized super-spectacle; if you ain’t paying attention at ringside, you might get hit with a stray boot. The sweat is flying and might splash into your beer. If you’re a neurotic germophobe, this is not the place for you. And really, if you’re not willing to let Vulcana take a swig of your beer, I don’t think we can be friends.



GLAM truly touched my life. As a certified Party God, I had long been lamenting the fact that ever since the smartphone invasion, live shows of any kind have completely sucked; nobody actually participates in the moment because they’re too busy stroking their phones, or watching everything through the machine eye of a screen. GLAM blew me away because it was so much fun in spite of that. Getting to watch a bunch of beautiful, athletic women in fetish suits toss each other around was, of course, a major bonus point.

I attended every GLAM thereafter, all the way up until the covid apocalypse. At two separate shows, I laughed as hard as I’ve ever laughed in my life (much to the chagrin of the surrounding crowd of gentrifiers)—once when Vipress kicked the one-legged Hip Hop Harry in the face (I swear he spun around in the air and a “K.O.” sign flashed over his head), and once when Thicc Martell socked Mazzerati, and referee Nuk Nuk Johnson shouted, “That’s a female!” If you watch the video of that match, you can actually hear me and my roommate laughing over the noise of the crowd (right around 8:00 on the video).

I’ve also had at least one genuine, deep-in-my-soul spiritual experience at GLAM: Heather Monroe was standing on the ropes right in front of me, playing to the crowd before the match, and I looked up at her from ringside…

And I saw something. I felt something. It feels cheap to try and put it into words.

I was in the Presence.

I was also extremely high on cannabis edibles and gin.

If you think that somehow cheapens my experience, or makes it somehow artificial, you need to go back to the beginning of this essay and read it over again.

Just over a year ago, after I met and shook hands with DARK Sheik for the first time, I immediately began having recurring dreams about her. She would show up and we’d have adventures. It still happens. To put this in perspective, you need to understand that I’m something of a dream technician; it’s a regular occurrence for me to deliver or receive dream messages with people I’m close to—or even, in the case of some lovers I’ve slept next to, to share the same dream in the same night. That said, there is not one other person I’ve ever met who’s even come close to appearing in my dreams as often as Sheik… And I don’t even know her!



After a few months of these dreams, I was completely vexed. And, to be honest, kind of weirded out. Like, who the hell is this gorgeous, gentle, silly, sassy, elegant neo-lady, who just a couple of years ago was a hirsute pretty boy whose performances revealed so much passion and rage? And what the hell is she doing constantly showing up in my dream world? What does this MEAN?

Some people read comic books for their fix of super powers and melodrama. I pick up my phone and call the homies. I discussed these dream visitations with all my close friends and family—a rag-tag collection of rapscallions, degenerates, pirate intellectuals, outlaws, and savages. My nephew and music partner, DJ Innalect the Party Activator, joined me in many conversations about gender and sexuality. The bisexual warrior-witch Amaz0n cheered my dreamtime journeys into the world of queerness. Hoodoo warrior monk Solstice just laughed and shook his head. Solomon Jones, the reclusive prophet, gave the whole phenomenon a title: I Dream of Sheik (niggaz always got jokes).

Then my mom, another gifted psychic… my MOM had a dream about Sheik—wherein Sheik showed up, introduced herself with a shy smile, then left. WTF?

I’m like, okay, now this is really getting bizarre. And for me, that’s saying something, as I’m sure you’ve figured out if you’ve read this far.

Given all this… Should I be even a little bit surprised that Sheik would start a church?

Sign me up.

*******
Recommended Reading:
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
God is Red – Vine DeLoria Jr.
A Language Older Than Words and Listening to the Land – Derrick Jensen
The Underground History of American Education – John Taylor Gatto
Immediatism and The Temporary Autonomous Zone – Hakim Bey
The Invisibles and New X-Men – Grant Morrison
Hip Hop Decoded – Black Dot
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Quantum Psychology – Robert Anton Wilson
The Book of Lies – Richard Metzger (editor)
Spiritual Journeys of an Anarchist, Green Hermeticism, and Heresies – Peter Lamborn Wilson

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The New Feudalism

ALLENDALE DISTRICT — OAKLAND, CA

Around ten in the morning and I’m collecting my change from a small window in the bulletproof glass at the gas station. I spot a headline on one of the newspapers in the rack next to me: Pandemic Desperation Deepens.

I leaned over to read the first paragraph, wherein a woman tells of being jobless for months and now being too poor to buy toilet paper or tampons for her daughters.

Heading home from the gas station, I took a detour to avoid road construction and found myself face to corner with the new Gentrifier Donut Shop. Every other time I’ve passed by it while it was open, there was a line down the block like they were giving away stimulus checks. This time, there were only two people inside placing orders. I decided to check it out.

The sky was blanketed in misting rain. The shop has canopies set up along the block, to keep the front half-dozen or so social distancers dry while they wait to order off the glowing menu screen, where all the obscene prices are listed in lower case letters with a sans-serif font. The consumer class can always be counted on for minimalist banality of design.

I parked in the red zone in front of the liquor store across the street, then got out and took my place under the canopy. Inside, two chunky off-brand Beckies—one of them carrying a Louis Vuitton bag the size of a toddler—were placing their order with a hipster femboy who was sporting a three-inch gold feather earring.

Right on cue, a couple of Yemeni kids pulled up in a giant Lexus sedan and commenced to doing donuts in the intersection. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch, including the soccer mom who saddled up in line behind me with her perfect blonde child.

The Beckies got their donuts and opened the door to leave. On the way out, in a pitch-perfect rendition of Standard Becky accent, one of them said to femboy, “Enjoy the show!” I thought about pushing her off the curb, but then I remembered it won’t solve the problem.

I waste no time once inside; I’ve been scanning the donut rack through their pristine window. I point, three times: Give me one of those, one of those, and one of those. I pay cash, wishing I’d taken the time to rub it through my ass crack a few times before entering the store.

Here’s what $7 worth of donuts look like in New Oakland 2021:

On the Oakland side of the Fruitvale bridge, there is an entire block that is one giant RV and tent camp, full of the human remainders of the Global Capital financial equations—the same equations that have seen over forty years of the greatest transfer of wealth upwards since the time of the pharoahs.

On the other side of the bridge, less than a five-minute walk away, are the perfect palaces of the Island. There’s not a scrap of trash on the ground. You won’t find a single RV parked on the street, not one tent village, and homeless folks are a rare sight.

All bushes, lawns, and trees are meticulously manicured. The yards are elaborately decorative, and every one of them looks like the only people who ever walk among the shrubs are the scrubs who do the landscaping. In total on the Island, there must be several square miles of such well-tended emptiness.

I was out for a walk on the Island earlier this week, long after the squares had retired to their padded mattresses. The reality of my situation hits me in a sudden jolt: the only possible way to maintain such a stark stratification of wealth is with hardcore, militant policing. The emptiness of wealtharians is rigorously defended, your tax dollars at work.

An invisible occupation; I see no cops or their cars during the ninety minutes or so that I spend walking. Yet every time the lights of a vehicle approach, I get an unmistakeable tinge of The Fear.

The wealth disparity of California is now worse than Mexico; it’s comparable to Guatemala or Honduras, two countries that for decades have been wracked with civil wars, military coups, and all the other miseries of the global south.

This is the new feudalism, buy your ticket to ride. The ship is sinking, but we’re sure to get plenty of platitudes from the Bidet adminstration, possibly concerning hope. Once the San Francisco schools open back up, they can go back to chastising teenagers about the proper politically correct terminology to use in class, so the kids all have a proper Woke Education before half of them go back to sleeping in the back seat of mom’s car.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Screen in Your Head

Who sings for the trees in this industrial parking lot? Only the lightning and the metal, high-pitched whine of electricity zapping through wires, powering mystery machines, the endless buzz. The scream of jet engines above, the cry of train wheels screeching along tracks. A few birds, maybe.

And now, the DZA. The Concrete Shinobi, blacktop medicine man. I will sing for these trees, rooted in the earth, surrounded by asphalt… as are we all. Trapped here without their kin of creatures; immobile and decorative, unnoticed, invisible… as are we all. Here they will stand and grow and live, until taken by old age or disease or climate death or murder… as are we all.

These cyborg people, these post-humans—they plug their children into screens and call it school, or entertainment. Their lives are commodity images beaming through satellites, scores of infinite moments, infinitely dead. A simulation of life, mediated on all sides and all dimensions. The screen is in your head.

Not me no sir. It’s been over 15 years since I decided to LIVE my LIFE, to be present, to refuse the documentotalitarianism. And so my life lives in my heart, in my memories, rippling and imperfect, subject to transformation at any and all times; malleable, beautiful, alive. Soil to grow my spirit.

Cyborgs are absent even when they’re there. Presence is more than just a body in a spot; it is active consciousness. They had no such consciousness before the world closed for pandemic remodeling, and so they live in regret and devastation, with no new digital memories for their timelines, no photos worth posting. No livestream of restaurant meals, no big screen hollywood war machine, no streaming radio on the treadmill at We Can Build You Gym. No shitty videos of shitty concerts, no selfies at the bar on Superbowl Sunday.

How many of them are in crisis right now? Warning, warning: breakdown is imminent! Set up a virtual meeting with a therapist, it might even be covered by insurance, if you have insurance. If not, the liquor stores are still open, and weed is legal for recreation in several states. You can get psychedelic in front of your streaming videos.

I hunger to lace up these boots and plant them on asses, and have to remind myself that the real frustration is this: I never thought I’d be so very alone in playing this game. I’m not going to interrupt our shared breath to respond to the eldritch call of the beep, and I keep hoping I’ll meet others who feel the same but it (almost) never happens. Whatever we’re talking about, your machine always takes first place in the race of priorities, it’s like having a parent or lover who’s always on call and never home.

The Social is dead and we have a cybernetic substitute.

Still, I thought we could all go phone-free by agreement, but the addiction was too strong and so I had to play Lord of the Castle and take them away; hand it over or go home. If you opt for leaving, you won’t be the first. Goodbye and good riddance, tell your virtual friends.

Most of the people I like most are far away, they are only voices laced with static now. And so I sacrifice my hearing and comfort and possibly radiate my brain in order to have what’s left of a relationship, a static voice. Maybe we’ll smell each others’ sweat in the next life.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Long Live the Villain!

Chip on his shoulder with a slip-on holster,
a clip, a folder,
and his grip on a boulder,
boaster, they supposed to know—
it show when his aura glow
-DOOM, Gazzillion Ear

The god cypher is mourning the death of one of our own. He went by many names, including a legal one, but the name we use is the one he chose when he first graduated from forgotten rapper to underground legend: MF Doom.

Sometime in 2004, I was sitting in the living room of a tiny, overpriced apartment in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles, listening to my buddy Jojo tell stories about rap and rappers. Jojo is a hip hop griot—someone who listens to everything, knows all the lore, and takes great pleasure in discovering the most obscure artists and sharing little-known tales. He asked me if I knew about MF Doom. I’d never heard of him.

Here’s the story, more or less as Jojo told it to me:

Back in the early ’90s there was a rap group called KMD. They put out the album Mr. Hood in 1991 that did fairly well—I remember hearing its single Peachfuzz on the local rap radio station when I was a youngster. They must’ve played it often, because when I finally heard it again many years later, I still remembered the melody.

Anyway, KMD featured a young MC named Zev Love X, and his younger brother DJ Subroc. Their second album, Black Bastards, generated intense controversy because the cover featured a drawing by Zev Love X of a sambo-type character being lynched in a game of Hangman. KMD’s label dropped them and cancelled the album. Subroc got killed in a car accident. Zev Love X disappeared from the rap world.

A lot of rumors circulated about what became of him. Some say he ended up homeless, sleeping on park benches, cursing the music industry and planning his revenge.

In 1998, he reappeared in the rap underground wearing a metal mask. His new face was a cross between the mask Russell Crowe’s character wore in the movie Gladiator, and the mask of the notorious Marvel Comics super-villain and dictator Doctor Doom—master of science and sorcery. Zev Love X was gone forever; in his place was Metal Fingers Doom. MF Doom would never again make public appearances without the mask. He claimed he wore it to hide the emotional scars left by the passing of his brother.

On his first album, Operation: Doomsday, he proclaimed his mission: to destroy rap. It was an open declaration of intent to perpetrate super-villainy on the entire music industry—a mission that would include multiple alter-egos, sample-heavy instrumental albums, team-ups with obscure underground artists, and a host of bootlegs, remixes, rumors, and disinformation.

Watch your own back
came in and go out alone, black
stay in the zone, turn H2O
to cognac
On Doomsday, ever since the womb
till I’m back where my brother went,
that’s what my tomb’ll say
Right above my government, “Dumile”
Either unmarked or engraved,
hey, who’s to say?
-MF Doom, Doomsday

The technical ability of his flow was unmatched. His lyrical attacks on wack rappers were merciless. His beats were phenomenal, and he didn’t bother to clear any of the samples. He blended god-knowledge from the fringes of esoteric black neo-pagan mysticism with geeked out references to forgotten flotsam of pop culture. He pioneered the use of audio montage to tell stories, and struck crushing blows against amerikan racism and the feminizing ideologies of Starfleet. He talked bad about scandalous hoes and freely pilfered corporate imagery. He ripped off record labels, betrayed other artists, never showed up on time for shows, and often sent impostors to perform in his place.

He referred to these counterfeit villains as “Doombots,” after the mechanical soldiers Doctor Doom uses against Marvel superheroes while remaining safe in his sovereign nation. MF Doom lived most of his life in New York City, but he was a British national; in 2010, he was exiled to the UK.

MF Doom was the True and Living. He was a trickster, and he was a genius.

He was also the man most directly responsible for inspiring me to become an MC.

After Jojo told me the story, I was thoroughly intrigued. Before I had a chance to listen to any of Doom’s music, I met the unmasked villain in person. I was tending bar at the Grand Star Jazz Club in L.A. Chinatown, a popular hang-out for the various crew members and artists of Stones Throw Records, including the legendary Madlib, who bought drinks from me every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Fridays at Firecracker (the best party you’ll never get to attend—R.I.P.). Stones Throw released one of Doom’s most popular albums, Madvillainy, under the auspices of one of his many alter-egos, Madvillain, produced by Madlib. Eric Coleman, a member of the Firecracker DJ crew, took the cover photo for this album.

Told ya,
on some get-rich shit
as he gets older
he gets colder than a witch tit
Madvillain, Figaro

I don’t know if Doom was in town for label business, to do a show, or what, but one of the regulars brought him to the bar and immediately used his name to get a couple of free beers out of me. The regular pointed his thumb at the man next to him—a rotund, dark-skinned, bespectacled negro—and said to me, “Do you know who this is? This is MF Doom!” The man in the glasses chuckled, in slight embarrassment. I gave them the beers, and I gave the man called Doom a fist bump.

The first of his albums I listened to, and the one that remains my favorite, was Viktor Vaughn – Vaudeville Villain. It blew my fucking mind. I played it repeatedly for months. I was glad I listened to his music after meeting him in person, because it saved me the embarrassment of going super-fanboy on the dude, which I surely would have done. It’s no understatement to say that Vaudeville Villain changed my life forever. I never even imagined that you could rap about the crazy-ass shit he was rapping about. And I definitely never imagined that anyone could do it so masterfully.

Viktor the director flip a script like Rob Reiner
they way a lotta dudes rhyme,
they name should be knob-shiner
For a buck they likely dance the jig or do the hucklebuck
to Vik it’s no big deal, they just a buncha knuckle-fucks
Viktor Vaughn, Vaudeville Villain

The Villain opened the portal for me into the outer limits of what was possible with hip hop music. He was far more than just a talented lyricist; he created an entire universe with his words, and then lived in it. He built a world where The Concrete Shinobi could exist. And, I think most importantly, it’s clear that he didn’t give a fuck whether or not anyone “got it.” This was no spoon-fed rap opium for the masses; it was him, pure and unadulterated. You either got it or you didn’t.

In my earliest experiments with writing raps, I spent hours upon hours dissecting his multi-syllable rhyme punchlines, and attempting to re-create them. I followed his lead and developed multiple personalities and alter-egos. The Concrete Shinobi has a unique and eclectic style (I call it “the spiral flow”), but when it came time to take up my own villainous mantle as The Baytime Vader, I used a style that was much more consciously a homage to Doom. Especially on Alienation, the influence is palpable.

Definition, super-villain:
a killer who loves children,
one who is well-skilled
in destruction as well as building
-MF Doom, Doomsday

Everyone with a lick of sense knows that black folks, and especially black men, are the bad guys in the Story of Babylon. Thugs, super-predators, looters, criminals, drug dealers, pimps, deadbeat daddies, gang bangers, rapists—the tales of the matrix frame us as the violent, hyper-sexual id of amerikan consciousness. MF Doom did what many of us long to do: he took that racist bullshit and transmuted it into a source of tremendous power and creativity.

Doom was the poet laureate of my circle. There is no other artist we quote more frequently, no other artist who speaks more directly to our secret desires for power and transgression. Not only was he villainous, but he did what we most want to do: he got away with it. A wildly successful team up with DJ Dangermouse and Adult Swim resulted in Dangerdoom – The Mouse and the Mask, which made Doom a household name with white folks, geeks, and hipsters of every stripe, and enabled the Villain to write his own ticket.

Hold up—
he bout to change the price again,
it go up each time
he blow up, like
hydrogen
DOOM, Gazzillion Ear

On Halloween of 2020, the Metal-Fingered One joined the ancestors. In a feat worthy of such an icon, his family kept his death secret from the public until last week. In my circle, this was devastating news. I made and fielded several mournful phone calls. Even the amaz0n, who named her son Victor in tribute to the Villain, was distraught to an extent I’ve rarely witnessed; the King of All Tears, it seems, had struck a blow at the very heart of the Invisible Order, and taken one of our strongest and most influential warriors.

The internet conspiracy world went into high-frequency buzz. This is only right; faking his own death is exactly the kind of thing the Villain would do. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Doombot in the coffin.

The gods don’t need conspiracy theories; we have the secret truths. Like Obi-Wan, Doom in death is simply that much more powerful. That power belongs to all of us now.

The Villain can never die.

LONG LIVE THE VILLAIN!

Nowadays it’s amazing raising young;
rule number one,
keep your fazers on stun
-King Geedorah, Fazers

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Hawks Gather

Yesterday I was desperate to get out in the open. Out of the house, out of the box.

Usually I go to the woods; Redwood Park is a short drive from my house. But this time, even the idea of being hemmed in by trees gave me a profound feeling of claustrophobia. I needed open space, preferably high in the air, where I could see as far and wide as possible.

I headed for a place I know in the Oakland hills, where the sky is not strangled by the bondage of electric wires, where the horizon is not mangled by the right angles of buildings. Singing birds, flocks of doves and pigeons sailing through the sky, moles pushing dirt out of their holes. In the distance, at the bottom of the hill, where the last of the meager rainfall has not yet evaporated, I could hear the croaking of frogs.

I began to feel human again.

On the way back to my car, a hawk glided by me, less than fifteen feet from where I stood. She was close enough for me to look in her eyes, to admire the sheen of her perfect feathers. Hypnotized by this gorgeous sight, it took me a moment to notice that she was clutching something in her claws. Or I should say, someone—a successful hunt for a bird of prey. She took her prize off to a nearby tree to feast, frightening off the resident birds.

I learned something new about myself over the last two weeks, and it’s this: I could never be an investigative journalist.

Recently I was excoriated by a friend on zuckerbook after I declared my intention to ride hard on the newly elected president and vice president—Joe Bidet, the walking toilet, and Kopmala Harris the Executioner. Nothing quite like having someone attack you personally because they disagree with you, and then accuse you of being “immature.” Methinks thou doth protest too much.

I think it’s important to question your beliefs from time to time. I’m skeptical about everything, including what I think. I’ve been a fringe anarchist radical thinker for so long, there are many things I simply take for granted. So when this True Believer in the cause of Liberal Democracy™ told me I’m part of the problem because I clowned on the lames who managed—barely—to depose the Goblin King from office, I took it as an opportunity to reexamine some of my ideas and understanding of the world.

Instead of relying on my already existing understanding of the way these professional bastards get down, I decided to do some background research on the incoming administration. I looked up articles, tracked down leads, followed links, and traced careers.

After a full day of this, I felt sick.

I felt like I needed a bath—perhaps in sulphuric acid, which would kill me and therefore alleviate forever the burden of this horrible knowledge.

This quest took me on a nightmarish journey that touched on everything from the Pentagon’s intimate relationship with Hollywood, to the U.S. government’s collusion with banking interests to crush the Occupy Movement, to the heartbreaking effects of immoral wars on U.S. troops.

I stopped short of following up on those wars’ effects on the people who live there. I’ve read plenty on that in the last twenty years. I can only take so much.

Iraq. Afghanistan. Yemen. Somalia. Libya. The list goes on.

I’m going to include links at the end of this piece to a handful of the articles I read. If you’re willing to get your soul dirty following up on what these villains are about, you’re more than welcome. As always, I don’t recommend it for its own sake; it’s only useful insofar as it either reassures you that you’re not crazy for thinking these psychotic fucks are a problem, or it shatters some lingering illusions you may be carrying about Liberty and Justice For All.

For those who are too wise, too apathetic, or too lazy to follow up, here is my summary:

EXPECT WAR. Lots of it. The drums are already beating.

EXPECT “AUSTERITY,” which is smoke-and-mirrors politician talk for stripping away the remains of the social safety net—medicare, social security, social services, etc—from the already-desperate poor and working class.

EXPECT THE WEALTHARIANS TO GET WEALTHIER. The billionaire class has increased their wealth by a third since the covid apocalypse arrived. That’s right; while you’ve been sitting around getting drunk and trying to figure out how the hell you’re going to pay your rent or feed yourself, the Jeff Bezoses of the world have been raking in so much money, the interest alone could easily support you and everyone you know long enough to make it through quarantine. The last forty years has seen the greatest upward transfer of wealth since the time of the pharaohs.

Did you vote for that? If you’ve ever voted, the answer is yes.

EXPECT THE CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF LIFE ON EARTH. For chrissake, Joe Bidet came on TV and openly proclaimed his support for fracking. If you don’t know anything about fracking, go ahead and spend a couple hours reading up on it, and learning about all the exciting toxins and heavy metals it dumps into the soil, rivers, and lakes. Fracking is a weapon of mass destruction.

At a young and tender age, my dad gave me the essential principle for discovering what’s really going on in this country at any given moment: Follow the Money.

Any 7-year old can grasp the basic logic of the situation. Don’t take my word for it, go find one and ask them: if I can get rich by promoting war, what am I going to want to do?

If you’re really feeling saucy, you can hit them with another one: if I’m willing to get rich by murdering a whole lot of people, crippling their families, starving their children, and destroying their homes, what kind of person does that make me?

By law, any new administration has to publish a document listing the members of their transition team, and the team members’ previous employment. You can find the Bidet-Kopmala list here. Go ahead and browse through it for a bit. Take note of all the bankers (JPMorgan & Chase, Capital One Financial Corporation, etc.), and especially take note of all the people who worked for the RAND Corporation—a militarist, right-wing think tank.

I did my digging on RAND way back during the early days of the Bush Jr. regime. I was in my early 20’s, and therefore more resilient in the face of sheer evil. Let me put it like this: if Lex Luthor was real, RAND would be high on the list of his most valuable consulting firms.

These motherfuckers are legitimate villains.

One of the things my True Believer friend insisted on was the importance of the Righteous Crusade Against White Supremacy, as embodied in the fight to elect Bidet and depose the goblin. First of all, in this country’s history (you know, the one built by chattel slaves on the stolen land of genocide victims) there’s never been a party, and few politicians of note, who weren’t white supremacists.

Just because Kopmala and ol’ BObama (a.k.a. Bombama, a.k.a. The Clone, a.k.a. The Barracks, a.k.a. The Drone Bomber-in-Chief) are brown doesn’t mean they’re not white supremacists. There’ve been many, many slaves who sold out their brethren for a few extra crumbs. Every brother ain’t your brother.

Second of all, a lot of folks out there are worried about redneck Nazi-wannabes, when what they need to be worried about is Dow Chemical, Monsanto, Weyerhauser, Raytheon, and Lockheed-Martin. The last time pale-skinned invaders had a body count that even approaches those companies, Crazy Horse was still riding through the plains fighting calvary.

And guess what? Joe Bidet and rest of the Dems have been suckers of Satan’s cock on behalf of those and other planet destroyers, basically since forever.

My friend declared the importance of holding the newly-elected officials “accountable.” I have yet to find someone who can give me a credible explanation of what the hell that even means. Really, it’s a meaningless platitude, the kind that makes people feel as though electoral politics can have some actual effect on the policies of this country—a fantasy that has already been thoroughly debunked.

Liberoids love to talk about the glorious “non-violent” tactics of Saint Martin Luther King, Jr. What they don’t often mention is that the movement he led got the attention of people in power because it hit them in the pocketbook; this was the goal of the Montgomery bus boycott.

I don’t know what it would take for regular citizens to get these war-mongering fuckwads to the negotiating table, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be a bunch of blather about “accountability.”

A massive rent and labor strike might do the job. How bad do you want a better world?

The hawks are gathering. And they’ve got the whole world in their claws.

**************

Here are some links. Peruse at your peril.

One Third of Biden’s Pentagon Transition Team Hails From Organizations Financed by the Weapons Industry

The Pentagon’s Strengthening Grip on Hollywood

10 Hollywood Movie Scripts Altered By The Pentagon

U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans

A Debasing Spectacle: Behind and Beyond the Latest Quadrennial Carnival

A Man-Child in A Promised Land: Obama, Trump, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Richie Rich

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fear and Donuts

ALLENDALE DISTRICT – OAKLAND, CA

I’ve been up all night with a wheel gun strapped to my hip, making the world safe for cannabis grow houses. Work was over at 5am; back in the neighborhood I filled up on gas and put air in my tires, scanning the gas station for trouble as usual and fortunately encountering none.

At home I finished up a long e-mail to a friend, had some soup, and issued a communique to my zuckerbook feed:

“Fair warning. I mostly kept quiet about the Trumpletonian for the last four years–not because I think he’s anything other than a walking beef-turd, but because the best magic to deal with evil tricksters is to strictly limit the attention you give them.

But this Joe Bidet motherfucker, and Kopmala the Executioner?

I’m finna go HUNTER THOMPSON HARD on these war-mongering, bankster fuckheads, from ’93 till infinity.

I’m bout to verbally kick that senile pervert down a flight of stairs and clown that fascist Jamasian bitch like I was Too $hort, EVERY CHANCE I GET.

If there’s Dems and Liberoids left on my feed, or any remaining Sandernistas, y’all should unfollow my feed NOW, because I promise you the clouds of my rage will bring a withering rain of hurt feelings. I’d rather not fall out with any more real people because of zuckerbook politics.

I may not actually care about any of this shit, but by the gods I have a cosmic mission to fulfill and I WILL NOT BE STOPPED.”

I then drove up the street to the liquor store to buy a pint of gin, as one does. For the last few months, the building across the street from the store has been busily converting itself from a small, defunct diner into some manner of gentrifier donut shop—the kind of business that has its name printed on the window entirely in lower-case letters. I’ve shaken my fist at the place every time I’ve driven past it, but my disdain failed to destroy the beast.

Now they’re open for business, which I figured out when I saw a shitload of masked, six-foot-distanced people lined up down the block to get inside.

What the shit is this? Are they giving away free weed, or what? I asked the guy at the liquor store and he chuckled. I was only half joking. Anything that would get that many folks to wait in line at 7:30am on a Saturday morning—during a pandemic—is not to be taken lightly.

Pint in hand, I returned to the whip. I thought about pulling up to ask someone in line what the hell was going on, but I hadn’t yet had any of the gin, and therefore wasn’t willing to trade my sanity for curiosity.

I also thought about turning up my stereo to maximum volume and skirping out a bunch of donuts in the intersection, but I’m old and conservative and my Ball Street Journal CD was at home. Besides, these look like the kind of people who would tell on you to law enforcement via spacephone. “I felt really unsafe,” the white lady who moved to the neighborhood last year from out of state said tearfully.

I confess that when I first saw the line, I had a brief moment of The Fear. The whole thing was so bizarre and surreal; I had thought-flashes—is something wrong? Some emergency? Is it a covid vaccine? The Fear passed when I realized what was going on; another flavor of the same took its place.

Krispy Kreme 2020, Allendale Edition—a genuine Tickle Me Elmo moment of localized consumer insanity. Science requires that I try their donuts, perhaps even stand in line with the droids and get the Full Experience. But all I can really think about is how good the donuts are at the local spot nearby that’s been here forever. The one where non-gentrifiers go. Better that these fucks don’t know; I don’t want to see them more than I have to.

A vision and a curse: if I walk in there and see a bunch of happy-ass Bernie voters from Boston behind the counter, I’ma show up in the middle of the night and plaster the entire property with Lady Gaga stickers that ignite shit-bombs on contact—a whole crowd of disgusted invaders covered in splatters of diarrhea from syphilitic meth whores.

I returned home in a daze, sure of my latest column topic and desperate to pop the gin. The first few paragraphs of this piece were already done when one of the local correspondents appeared in the office and I discovered that I’m way behind the game; he’s been passing the spot on his way to and from work for several weeks, and had already witnessed the lines around the block.

His assessment was dead-on: “They [gentrifiers] all moved here but they were all spread out, and didn’t want to come to any of the spots cuz there’s hella niggas around. They’re all excited cuz now there’s a place in the neighborhood where they can feel comfortable. None of them are talking to each other, it’s not social, but they all line up and wait. There ain’t no donut that good.”

When he first came across The Line, my correspondent experienced the same confusion and cognitive dissonance that I did—for that matter, so did the d-boys who hang out kitty-corner from Drone Donuts.

The defunct diner’s sign still hangs on the corner of the building, with its faded, hand-painted letters: King’s Coffee Shop.

All upper-case.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Some People Want to Punch & Kick You

Back in my kung fu student days there was another student in our small class, a Japanese stuntman and Shotokan karate blackbelt who I’ll call Koji. Though of slight build he was strong and fast, but he was also stiff, lacking in control, and dumb as a post. We used to spar after class, and Koji always presented a problem because he was incapable of adjusting the intensity of his technique; he always went full contact, with zero concern for the safety of his sparring partners.

I had another kung fu brother in the same class, a man I’ll call Mason. He and I used to train together outside of class, and we formed a lasting friendship that continues to this day. Like myself, he was never interested in going super hard on the sparring. As a result he usually went light with Koji, a favor that Koji repaid with withering blows. On one notable occasion, he kicked Mason so hard that Mason yelped out loud and ran a circle around the room, clutching his stomach.

Afterwards Mason was discussing the matter with Sensei, a man whose jolly demeanor and playful exhibitions of high-level skill belied his violent past and cold-blooded attitude about physical conflict. Mason was frustrated that Koji seemed intent on proving his worth by hurting the other classmates as much as possible. Sensei’s response, in his delighfully succinct and limited english, was something on the order of this:

“Maybe you don’t want to punch and kick people. But some people want to punch and kick you.

The unspoken implication being that you have only one choice in such a situation: you can either get beat up, or you can prevent a beating by issuing one of your own. This is one of the realities of violence. As a quote I once read puts it: Warriors may choose pacifism. All others are condemned to it. Mason took the lesson to heart, and from then on was merciless about sending Koji crashing to the wooden floor at every opportunity.

I had a similar experience with Koji, and a similar conversation with Sensei, which culminated in a sparring session in which I beat Koji nearly unconscious—along with most of the other members of the class, a roster that also included one fat Japanese rich kid, one passive-aggressive new age dimwit who seem to take joy in causing pain to others in controlled situations where it wasn’t necessary, and one construction worker and ex-marine who outweighed me by more than fifty pounds and was known for flying into blind, violent rages while sparring.

They’d all been taking out their frustrations on me for sometime, sending my hemophiliac body home with everything from split lips and sprained fingers to blood in the whites of my eyes. One day, I decided I’d had enough. I flexed on them, and never again had to deal with their casual and reckless violence.

I’ve been thinking about all of this recently after going through a brief and ultimately doomed friendship. A friend introduced me to a woman who I got along well with… until I didn’t. One night back in October, after going out to a bar with her and some friends, we returned to my house for cuddles. I got out of bed because I was feeling dizzy and sick, then went into the living room and passed out on the couch.

I woke up in a fight.

This chick bombarded me with full Jerry Springer bad attitude in my own living room. I got the shock & awe of verbal violence: gaslighting, talking over me, interrupting me, refusing to let me speak, and a veritable litany of implied threats about how much worse things could get. She was rude, aggressive, and hostile; to my credit, I was able to deal with her without returning her psychic violence. However, the routine didn’t end until I invited her to leave my house.

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, and talking about it with friends and family, I decided to give her another chance. Without getting into all the details, there were several mitigating factors as far as what she was going through personally, including some medical issues, that could have—at least in part—played a roll in her behavior.

I sent her a letter to tell her what the deal was if she wanted to continue our friendship—in summary, aggression and hostility are not welcome in my life. About a week later, I got a text from her, telling me that she’d received my letter, and proposing that we meet to talk. I agreed and we set a date. We met up earlier this week, at the same bar, which is about a 15-minute drive from my house. We met up at 8:00pm.

I was back home by 8:24pm.

Straight out of the gate she was hostile and defensive. The first thing she said to me was: “So, you have me here.” Um. I twisted my head and face in confusion. I thought about pointing out that meeting up was her idea, but thought better of it; she was clearly on a mission for conflict. I told her I’d said everything I had to say, and was here to hear her side.

She launched into an elaborate, self-centered justification of her behavior, a rant about why my letter to her was fucked up, and claimed that she and I were “coming from two different perspectives.” Nothing about her demeanor or attitude suggested that she was the least bit interested in having an actual conversation, or even giving me the chance to respond. In her mind, her behavior was perfectly acceptable.

I listened to approximately two minutes of this diatribe before pouring out the last half of my beer in the gutter, giving her the salute, and leaving without another word. She was shocked.

The next day I was telling my close friend and music partner Innalect about the incident, and expressing my confusion: like, why did she even suggest that we meet up? I was thinking that she was interested in saving our friendship, which is what I was hoping for. But I also knew going into it that only an immediate apology from her would incline me in that direction. Clearly, an apology was the furthest thing from her mind.

Innalect’s response: “That’s that spiteful shit. She just wanted to have the last word, and to give it to you in your face. And she was expecting you to take it like a simp.”

Some people want to punch and kick you.

She was right about one thing: we’re coming from two different perspectives. One of those perspectives says that if you feel some type of way, it’s okay to be aggressive, hostile, rude, and abusive to people, even in their own homes.

I disagree.

It’s now three days after election day, and we still don’t have a new president. The goblin-in-chief’s administration is firing off lawsuits to challenge ballot results they don’t like. Heavily-armed white supremacists, in various colors and guises, are hooting and hollering about “civil war.” The election is close, far closer than reason, decency, or human dignity can tolerate. After everything that’s happened in the last four years—every racist diatribe, every lie, every crime, every piece of devilspawn fuckery—a solid chunk of the voting population of this country still lined up to cast a ballot for a retarded nazi.

Some people want to punch and kick you.

All of you out there with a genuine belief in truth, beauty, and basic self-preservation would do wise to take Sensei’s words to heart.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cultists of the Vote

FRUITVALE DISTRICT – OAKLAND, CA

As part of the ongoing efforts by Oakland city officials to make my neighborhood as difficult as possible to navigate by automobile, they recently installed a series of giant speed bumps on 38th Avenue between Foothill and International. This is a stretch of road that is densely populated, and so for the safety of the folks who live there, the speed bumps are a great idea. However, I simply cannot shake the feeling that these—like many other local “improvements” I’ve witnessed over the past seven years—are for the benefit of incoming populations of gentrifiers.

They’ve also installed a special bus lane and median down International, a huge clusterfuck of a construction job that rendered local traffic intolerable for over a year, and has now made a whole array of local side street shortcuts impossible. It’s also doubled the average wait time to pass through any traffic light with unprotected left turns onto International; the medians extend into the intersections, making it impossible to drive around anyone making a left turn.

The Oakland “Slow Streets” initiative led to city workers blocking off the entrances to local side streets with construction signboards. This has only served to make traffic worse and local driving more dangerous; now the locals simply steer around the signs, rather than making a regular turn, which has created some hair-raising situations when there is oncoming traffic from the other direction. If the officials involved in these decisions had ever spent so much as an afternoon driving these neighborhoods, they would know what a terrible fucking idea this is. The side streets already have an abundance of traffic-slowing technology in the form of giant speed bumps and ancient pot holes of unusual size.

This smells to me like exactly the kind of idea that makes a politician sound really good to their privileged, property-owning, voting constituents. Nevermind how it affects the rest of us.

Because of all this infrastructural fuckery, I started taking a different route to get on the 880 freeway heading south when I have to go to work. That route takes me on a journey through more lights, more pedestrians in various states of intoxication and madness, more double-parked take-out customers, and more Hell’s Angels.

There are a number of major streets in the neighborhood where homeless folks have set up camp in the middle of mostly-untraveled sidewalks. The camps run the gamut from basic tents to elaborate shanties built from wood palettes and other recovered junk.

One of these major streets is along my new route, and until a couple of weeks ago had just such a shanty. Three days a week, to and from work, I would pass by this man and his castle; occasionally I would even see the man himself, looking bummy but not particularly crazy. Then, one morning I passed by and saw not a shanty, but a charred crater where it used to be, as if a death ray from space (perhaps from one of Elon Musk’s glorious Skynet satellites) had blown it off the map. Not one to succumb to the whims of fate, the man got another tent and set it up right next to the charred crater.

These are some of the things I think about when people try to convince me how important it is to vote. I think about all the infinite and varied decisions carried out by aliens from another income bracket that affect the every day lives of people who have no meaningful say in those decisions.

Recently, I was accused on zuckerbook of claiming that voting was “meaningless.” On the contrary, I think voting is extremely meaningful—I just disagree with the average person about what that meaning is. Voting is of vital necessity to the continuation of the corporate-military-surveillance-police state that we call a “democracy,” for the simple reason that it gives people the illusion of control. Giving people the idea that they have some kind of say in what happens is crucial to maintaining this system.

Every single example of meaningful change in industrial civilization—and by “meaningful change,” I mean change that has increased freedom and reduced oppression—has come about because of four things: organizing, activism, agitation, and violence. If anything, laws have changed when those four things have made it impossible for things to continue as they are; by the time something important gets to the voting stage, the changes have essentially already happened. At that point, politicians get to step in and take credit for the efforts of others, and everyone who wasn’t involved in organizing gets to feel like they helped because they cast a ballot.

Whether you look at the union, civil rights, or women’s suffrage movements in this country, the overthrowing of apartheid in south africa, or the reduction in oil exploitation in nigeria, this point holds true.

Voting is easy. You go in, you do it, and it’s over until the next run—you’re free to go back to watching netflix and shopping on amazon. Real political activity is difficult and time-consuming. People choose voting over activism because they either don’t have the knowledge, don’t have the interest, or don’t have the time—the intellectual retardation manufactured by compulsory schooling prevents people from having the knowledge, pop culture prevents people from having the interest, and the economic struggles of surviving under capitalism prevent most people from having the time.

Cultists of the Vote have many bully tactics to punish anyone who isn’t part of their faith. One of their favorite words to use as a moral bludgeon is the word “cynicism.” Frankly, I think cynicism is completely justified—it’s not necessarily healthy or helpful, which is why I’m skeptical of it, but when you’ve been force-fed shit sandwiches every meal for a few hundred years, a bit of cynicism is to be expected.

Several years ago some researchers at Princeton did a study in which they demonstrated that the “will of the people” has basically zero effect on policy and law. Here is a link to an article about the study, which in turn contains a link to the study itself, if you care to wade through it. At the very least, do me the favor of reading the article before you waste any effort trying to convince me of the importance of voting.

Americans vote. I’m from Turtle Island.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Haze and the Rage

“I Hate it Here”

Being the name of the weekly column published by one Spider Jerusalem, in the comic series Transmetropolitan, which I’ve found to be a quality medicine for the current times we’re living in. It ran from 1997-2002, and yet speaks so clearly to NOW that it’s disturbing. The first major story arc covers an election between two presidential candidates who differ only in the variety of their evils. It could have been written last week. And it was written not by an American, but by a Brit. For shame.

FRUITVALE DISTRICT, OAKLAND, CA – The sidewalks have lost the war to the combined rebel forces of Pigeon Shit, Old Chewing Gum, Liquor Stains, and Urine.

Do you know what the one of the stand-out features of urban life is? Trash. Refuse. Garbage. Garbage everywhere, like revenge on the earth for having given birth to us. Wrappers, cigarette butts, discarded bags of fast-food packaging, broken bottles—an endless litany of ugliness, dropped or dumped or forgotten by apathetic masses.

Up and down the street I go, on Foothill between Fruitvale and Coolidge. I’m waiting the requisite 15 minutes for my pupusas to be ready from Los Olivos, the best spot in the neighborhood for Salvadoran food—that is, unless your abuela is doing the cooking.

It’s been over six months since I had a conversation in spanish. At the window of the restaurant, the woman greets me in that language—I’m just brown enough, and any features that would betray my non-latin identity are obscured by a combination of facemask (mascarilla) and the wide lenses on my sunglasses. I’m taken for one of her own, and it feels great. I’d forgotten how good the words felt rolling off of my tongue, even for something as simple as ordering dinner.

Here, wandering the street: the forgotten and pathetic masses of working class brown folks. These are the people who cannot telecommute via laptop and spacephone. They don’t work from home, they don’t have 401ks or piles of college debt. They are laborers, service workers, domestic slaves, drinkers of cheap beer, attendees of the seventeen million churches in the neighborhood. Perhaps if they pray hard enough, their fellow citizens will learn to use a fucking trash can.

Cannabis is for sale in the smoke shop, along with rows of techno gadgets and accessories, white t-shirts, fitted hats, rolling papers, wireless speakers, and belt buckles with knock-off logos. Outside a shop that promises to wire money even as far as Guatemala, a woman and her daughter are set up with coolers and hot plates, peddling homemade food.

Another mom and daughter walk out of a shop. The woman looks like every other latin mom on these streets, pudgy from a poor diet, features frozen by the apathy of grinding mom-life. Her daughter is just on the verge of adolescence, a child in a body that will soon present the danger of impregnation. The endless potential of youth—she reminds me of all the kids I can no longer joke with and tell stories to in the classroom. The odds say that her potential will die on the vine; by the time she reaches her twenties, she’ll most likely be trapped by mom life until death arrives to pardon her, as though life was nothing but punishment for being born female.

Loitering up against the wall of a market are two grimy laborers. Every such pair seems to consists inevitably of one seemingly respectable man, and one man who looks like he wouldn’t hesitate to molest your daughters if given half a chance, sleaze and creepiness emanating out of him like radioactivity. The parking lot of the auto parts store is full of similar characters, lingering because they don’t have much else to do besides return to their families, and who wants that? Even with my limited spanish, I know they’re talking about nothing much.

An old man in a wheelchair sits waiting for the bus in the middle of the sidewalk, his head dropped low with the weight of struggle and poverty. I walk in front of him and he rushes to scoot backwards out of my way. Is this courtesy, or is this fear? It feels like the latter.

Honking cars, impatient and reckless drivers swerving dangerously through traffic and running red lights, a continuous line of vehicles from here to doomsday. I have a bleeding heart and I hug trees, it’s true—but I will freely admit to what I’m sure is the secret desire of many: for covid to wipe out most of the population, and leave behind them a world that the rest of us can maybe turn into something beautiful. Alas, alas.

Moments of peace and quiet are rare in the city. You have to be up early in the morning or late at night to get any reprieve from the constant, stress-inducing noise. My house is wedged between two small apartment buildings, and so I am daily tortured by the incessant racket of hollering family members, screaming children and their fence-pounding soccer balls, the mindless drone of other people’s television sets, and the booming cultural insult of moronic autotune rap voices. Hardly a day goes by when someone isn’t running some kind of electric saw.

Assholes in muscle cars roar up and down the block, kids pilot dirt bikes down the city streets. Ever and always, the insufferable sound of infernal combustion engines—whether coming from directly outside my front door, or from the neverending background tide of freeway traffic. The scream of the BART train, the bellowing of Amtrak. Screeching tires, thundering police helicopters, occasional gunshots.

In bitter moments I harbor fantasies of escape, but where would I go? My livelihood is here, I have no independent wealth with which to purchase a release from the city economy—perhaps a humble house in the outer reaches of wild country, guarded by barbed wire and booby traps. Only the postal workers and the amazon.com delivery folk dare to venture to the house of that weird old man with the limp, the one who always wears that ratty old green t-shirt with the stars and the 1-up mushroom on it. There’s always bizarre laughter and gun fire; better to stay away.

If I could finance it, I think I would enjoy a Swamp Kingdom of my own, of the kind enjoyed by my good friend Reina Blood, who lives in the outer reaches of the midwest. She lives miles outside of Town, and is rarely disturbed by visitors or even passing cars. In the rainy season, her property creates its very own moat. But like most of us, she doesn’t own the property she lives on, and could at any time find herself forced to move into Town, where she would then also be forced, like me, to deal at all times with the general idiocy of humans whose minds and spirits have been crushed into retardation by modern civilization.

Where I grew up, the neighbors don’t talk to each other, or make enough noise to be heard by one another from behind their suburban walls and fences. I spent more time talking with possums, raccoons, and the occasional skunk than I ever did with any of the humans who lived nearby. I think I got the better deal; few are the humans I’ve met who are more interesting than wildlife.

Yesterday morning, after finishing a twelve-hour shift of sitting in a junkyard lot with a gun on my hip, reading comics and talking to myself, I made my usual stop at a donut cafe near my house—donuts being my personal reward for completing another weekend of Employment (ugh). The flatscreen TV on the wall—a feature so predictable that if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was required by law—is blaring the news, telling of recent surges in Bat Flu infections in certain regions. It seems that many Americans just can’t be bothered to take a pandemic seriously. I can’t say I’m surprised. This is, after all, the same country that elected a Nazi Clown to the highest public office in blatant reaction to the unforgivable insult of having a black face in the white house for two terms.

These are all things that are at least tolerable for me when I’m either drunk on blended whiskey or sitting with the Fire and the Stones at sweat lodge. Only one of those therapeutic methods has been available to me since covid canceled Normal Life. No lodge, no fire, no voices of the elders in the dark.

Just the haze and the rage.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment