Active Shooter: the Mini Series

Good storytelling has a universal structure that appeals to something fundamental in our humanity. It’s pretty basic: beginning, middle, end. Or as Steven Pressfield calls it in Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit: Hook, Build-Up, Payoff. Put the characters in jeopardy! Raise the stakes! Make a hero, make a villain! Etc.

Every time there’s a mass shooting in the states, it’s big juice for the media cartels. It appeals to american sentiments because it’s the Reality TV(tm) version of an action movie. Somebody shows up somewhere, with a load of those most holy of american artifacts—guns and ammunition—and commences to blowing the shit out of as many people as possible. Oh, the excitement! How many people killed? How many injured? Who did it? Why did they do it? Etc.

The collective response, particularly in social media, is so predictable that I sometimes wonder if there are actual people commenting on it, or if it’s a gang of androids that have been programmed to release the same responses to a given stimuli. Or if there’s a difference. In the era of memes and soundbites, often times the posts on social media are identical to the ones from the last mass shooting—recycling is good for the social environment, it seems.

Mass Shooting Bingo, play by yourself or with friends!

  • Criticize the NRA
  • Support the NRA
  • Bring up the problem of “mental illness”
  • We need more gun control, cuz guns are the problem
  • We need less gun control, so armed citizens of justice can defeat the evil shooter
  • Black folks point out the hypocrisy of mass shooters being treated tenderly by the police, when we are in danger for our lives even in a traffic stop (duh)
  • Social Justice Warriors point out that the “real terrorists” are not scary muslims, but crazy white men (duh)
  • Politicians exercise career-building by proposing to effect new laws
  • Politicians exercise career-building by proposing to eliminate laws
  • “thoughts and prayers,” or its variant, “hearts go out”

If I were willing to scour my social media feed, I’m sure I could find more. Those are just the ones that spring to mind first. You get the idea.

If one is either foolish or masochistic enough to tune in to TV news “coverage” of such events, one gets to experience the identical “dialogue” about mass shootings every time one happens. They may as well play the same footage from the last time. It can’t be too hard to find in the files, because at any given time, the last shooting wasn’t that long ago.

Discussions (scripts?) about mass school shootings have their own special flavor of bullshit because of what’s left out of the discussion: the institution of schooling itself. A mass shooting at a club or a festival is bad enough, but is distinguished from school shootings by one important factor: students are REQUIRED BY LAW to be in school. They are coerced; they have to be there. It’s like going on safari at the zoo; the rhinos don’t have a chance.

No matter how many kids are bullied, no matter how many kids’ spirits are crushed, no matter how much violence, assault, rape, molestation, suicide, homicide, abuse, humiliation, and no matter how many mass school shootings there are, nobody ever criticizes the institution of compulsory schooling itself. Like maybe, just maybe, school is not the best place for kids to be.

The schooling system we have in this country—and that, so far as I know, most other countries have as well—is compulsory. That means you have to go. It’s the law. The law means that it is enforced by the THREAT AND APPLICATION OF VIOLENCE. Parents and guardians are on the line; if you don’t go to school, people with guns will come and take your family members to jail, or take you away from your family. To escape that model, you have to jump through all kinds of hoops; feel free to do a little research around the laws concerning homeschooling to discover just how difficult it is to take your children out of the system.

I’ve taught dozens of workshops in schools, if not hundreds. Whenever I get the chance, I introduce this concept to students as a matter of seeing a different perspective. We’re required by law to attend school from K-12; thirteen years. Have any of you, during any of that time, ever learned anything about the origins of the school system? Of course not. Interesting; thirteen years of our lives stolen by the state, and they don’t even pretend to tell us where the system of schooling comes from.

They can’t. One, because most people simply don’t know, including teachers, grad students, social workers, college professors, counselors, mentors, and any of the other legions of “experts” who are fed by the school system. Two, because the real story of the origin of the schooling system is terrifying, and knowledge of it would undermine the very fabric of consensus reality. Social engineering. The machining of consciousness. Scientific management. Industrialization, massification, homogenization. A system planned, openly, from its inception, to turn a population of individuals into obedient, emotionally insecure, ignorant and easily manipulated drones.

And it works.

It works so well that it’s invisible. School, like “tech” and mass media, is a completely unquestioned and uncriticized institution of our society. Sure, there are always a few cranks and crackpots who believe that their children should be free of state & corporate programming; they are a distinct minority, rare as a coyote or a healthy romantic relationship.

Those of us who were fortunate enough, for whatever mysterious combination of nature and nurture, to escape being completely indoctrinated, and who have learned something of the history of this country and of civilization generally, are never surprised by the latest mass shooting. How could you be? It would be like being surprised when there’s a car accident, or a rape, or a president. This country, like every other civilization, was founded on conquest, mass murder, mass rape, and slavery. You’re not going to get oranges from an apple tree.

I would be surprised if there weren’t mass shootings. In fact, I would be terrified; it would be a sure sign that the full mechanization of human consciousness was complete. Everyone perfectly controlled, perfectly homogenous, perfectly predictable, perfectly “happy,” perfectly “safe.”

Mass shootings are “good for the economy” in at least one sense; there is now an entire industry of professionals whose job is to train staff members at schools, hospitals, venues, and other places where people gather en masse what to do in an “active shooter” scenario. My cousin is a nurse, and is currently seeking out this training with the goal of making an abundance of extra money as a consultant. Be your own boss! If only the poor souls at Columbine circa early ’99 had access to such training…

…or Virginia Tech…

…or Wounded Knee…

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Paradise Now

How long had it been since the bare flesh of my back touched damp, green grass? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but now I have a new time marker; I got out of bed today, put my laundry away, heated up yesterday’s coffee, and went out and laid in the grass, in the sun, shirtless. If my yard wasn’t bordered by 500 obnoxious, nosy neighbors, I would have preferred to be nude. Spiders are naked.

What would your ideal life be like? How would you know? This question occurred to me as I was putting my laundry away. I’ve been brainstorming writing prompts for an upcoming class, and I think that’s a good prompt. What would come out of teenage minds in response to that question, in 2018? I’m excited to find out.

What would come out of adult minds? To wonder about your ideal life is to explore your desires—those that are immediate, those that are hidden, and those that are manufactured. I imagine that a number of aspects of that Ideal Life would be easy to predict—wealth, luxury, leisure time. Delving into the realm of fancy and fantasy would no doubt reveal many things about people and the society in which we live.

But what if you based that answer on experiences you’ve actually had? Remove the pie in the sky, alternate universe accoutrements and dive instead into the riches of your life and memories. Jesus said the kingdom of god is within you, so what is it like? What IS it?

For me, I’m as close to my ideal life as I’ve ever gotten. I’m not selling my time to some Boss or Company for their profit. I have a fridge and cabinet full of food that I enjoy eating. I make my own schedule, I write and draw and stay up all night and host amazing parties. I make music, I read, I nap. I spend a lot of time doing nothing much at all. Which, despite what They told you, is exactly what humans are supposed to do.

So what’s missing? What would make it more ideal? The answers to that question are easy for me, because I think about it often. It comes down to one word: expansion. To be able to share this life with folks who have also achieved this freedom. “Free your ass and your spirit will follow.” Trapped in the Planetary Work Machine, finding a portal to freedom that doesn’t involve destitution and misery is a feat worthy of the mightiest gods.

It took me almost five months—five months!—to release enough anxiety to actually be able to enjoy where I’m at. How will I pay for this? I’m broke! Will this contract go through? What will I do next year? Will I make enough money? I don’t want to go back to the plantation! I can’t afford to do x, y, and z! Blah blah blah.

Two major events took place that freed me from my own internal chains. Number one, one of the school contracts I’ve been working on for months was finally approved. YES! I now have a guaranteed quantity of funds that will go into the freedom coffers. We hoisted the skull and crossbones and we’ve captured the merchant ship captain; it’s off to Tortuga for us! Number two, I got rid of a burgeoning vampire romance before it could pass the smooching phase—more importantly, this last undead adventure was so intense that I decided it was past time to confront whatever it was about myself that was leading me into relationships with these horrible manipulators.

Magician with the tools, and I put them to work; I confronted, bound, and banished the Black Djinn and blocked the Evil Eye. Sage and sigils, midnight ceremony at the crossroads, graveyard dirt and artifact sacrifice. Off to the beach, follow the middle star in Orion’s belt, and arrive at paradise beach. Malik is one of the 99 names of Allah. I have now been living more or less consistently in the kingdom of heaven for several weeks now. And yes, it’s as wonderful as you’ve heard. My life has become an autonomous zone, and I will do whatever I have to do in order to keep it that way.

My only affliction is loneliness, and the pain that comes from watching my closest friends suffer as they struggle to “earn a living” selling their lives to other people. A pirate ship needs a crew, but everyone’s rowing oars on the slave galley and they’ve got satellite lasers to blast buccaneers and corsairs right out of the water. Basically, I want people to share my freedom with.

And not just freedom from work, but also freedom from the total commodification of reality that is inherent in the technology that people have almost completely capitulated to. I have no interest in laying nude in the grass with people who are scrolling through their spacephone. I don’t want our lounging on the beach to be instagrammed. Proof that TechnoBabylon is adept at robbing meaning from anything: even people who are compelled to use terms like “internal colonization” and “decolonization” seem completely unable to perceive their own colonization by machines.

Recently I visited an old friend who I hadn’t seen in sometime. He took the pardon, as I like to say—surrendered the possibility of using his amazing skill and brilliance to achieve an exciting life of substance. Instead, he’s now worked the same “secure and stable” job for over 15 years, and will probably stay there until he retires in 20 or 30 years. He’s got a house in suburbia that looks, in structure and decor, like every other house in the suburbs—a zone of complete spiritual decay—and he is surrounded by people who offer zero challenge to his intellect. In other words, he surrendered to The Fear.

In his living room he’s got two gigantic big-screen TVs, so that when his plebeian comrades come over for their ritual worship of Babylon, they can watch multiple sporting events at once. Looking at the devices, all I could think was: you could’ve spent that money on tantric call girls and brandy. Pack a bag full of easily concealable psychedelic drugs and let’s go to Morocco! Be sure to invite me! But alas, even staying up past 11pm on a weeknight is a feat of daring too great for those who Have To Be At Work In The Morning.

It’s like this: if I know you then we’ve been to heaven together. You may not have noticed, but I promise you I did—if I didn’t reveal the secret, it’s only because I didn’t want to taint the moment with too much self-consciousness. In my imaginal realms, if nowhere else, everything is united—that time we spent on the porch, that walk we took, the dancing, the love-making, the sitting in the woods in silence.

I must confess that my heaven is haunted by melancholy, by the separation from my beloved. If only she could have accompanied me here; if only we could have found our joy together. I dearly miss her, as I’ve never missed anything or anyone. But as Gnarls Barkley put it, “I’m going on—and I’m prepared to go it alone. And I promise I’ll be waiting for you…”

East Oakland is laced with billboards—sponsored by whatever evil Xtian cult—that say (menacingly): “When you die, you WILL meet God.”

I’m like, why wait? PARADISE NOW!




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Tantric Revolt

Someone once wrote that the 80s were a far more erotic decade than those that followed, and through the haze of mediation you can see it, even in the films. The other day I watched the original Lethal Weapon (currently on netflix). The movie opens with a beautiful, partially nude young woman sensuously writhing around on a huge bed in a luxury hotel room. She gets up, sniffs some lines of coke, then walks out on the balcony and jumps off. There you have it, in one 5 minute scene, the entire shamanic program of erotic sexuality, the Goddess Initiative: beauty, physicality, intoxication, and ecstatic flight.

This culture hates the body, and proof of its hatred is easy to find. You don’t have to look any further than probably the most common contemporary image of human behavior: a person crouched over an electronic device. Brain in a jar, plug in, tune out. Mesmerization is not the same thing as attentiveness.

This body is shaved and made-up and worked out and fed poison. Anything but loved. Anything but embraced. Most people’s physical activity is limited to laying down, sitting down, and brief walks in between places where people do one of those two things. Sit down at your desk, sit down in your car, sit down on the bus. If you’re part of the servant class you probably spend a lot of time standing, and carrying out tedious repetitive tasks that require little in the way of physical coordination.

Maybe you go to the “gym,” that shopping mall of sweat and loneliness, where you watch other people run in place like hamsters, ears and eyes glued to the screen and its chattering. Your body is clearly not good enough the way it is, or else you wouldn’t spend hours trying to sculpt it into something else—something that matches the images on the screen.

This culture hates the earth, which is even easier to see. All you have to do is go outside and bear witness to the asphalt tomb that’s been stamped onto the living flesh of our common grandmother. Further evidence abounds for your direct senses; you don’t have to do any research to discover the reek of noxious gases spewing from metal carriages, to see their mark in the sky, to observe the endless parade of trash. Where are all the coyotes? The creeks and fish?

Nature is everything TechnoBabylon says is wrong and evil. Nature is raw and dirty. Nature is queer and androgynous—it is male, it is female, it is both and neither. Nature is inherently sexual. All that pollen in the air? Plants having sex with each other. Seeds and soil, slime and fluid.

But we’re separate from nature, isn’t that the truth of this consensus reality? Nature is “out there,” some place we have to drive to if we want to visit it, maybe go for a walk while we listen to satellite radio or count burning calories. But the truth of the living world is simple: your body is nature. You are nature. We are nature, and we are natural. My body is the earth, and vice versa. Rivers of veins, fungal brains, stone bones and soft, mossy flesh. I know the touch of the mist and dust.

Your body is “gross” and “disgusting,” and so is everything else that lives. If you don’t believe it, observe the extent of revulsion toward anything that smacks of the biological; germs, dirty hands, body odor, hair, sweat, fluid, waste, bugs, dirt. Disinfect your entire reality! TechnoBabylon’s utopic future—a perfect plastic box in white and gray, sealed off from all life. What a fucking travesty.

What can “eroticism” possibly mean in such a world? If it is a state of being, and not just a word, it can only be a state of complete rebellion. To love one’s body, to immerse oneself in pure physicality is a de facto rejection of even the most subtle oppressions, the fascist cops, sneering bullies, and moralizing priests living in your colonized imagination.

Always remember and never forget: the criminal breaks the law; the outlaw rejects the very spirit of it. Customs and rights! Give me the big piece of chicken and pass the fucking wine.

Tantra is simple: to cultivate attentiveness, to make a temple of this living body, to make it divine, to join in mutual ritualized worship with another—sexual union as the most perfect form of divine communion; the two become one, the androgynous earth, the ecstasy of holistic pleasure—physical, imaginal, spiritual. The rest is just details; choose the head trip that works for you. My entire being is an erogenous zone, but first among equals is my imagination—consciousness also belongs to the body.

There’s no purity here, “cultural appropriation” is a term to entertain the screen jockeys, to nurture their resentment and compulsion to exert superiority. Let them gnash their teeth in their prosthetic, simulated lives; I threw the white man overboard, and now we sail with eyes for treasure of all types. Exotic is now merely another word for pleasurable, and we are cultivators of pleasure.

Cultivate touch, taste, smell, attentiveness, empathy, sensitivity. Psychonautical exploration, birth of the divine within. Don’t ask me what’s in this potion, just drink it. Take the chance, be the bunny. In india and in the islamic world, there are entire cults and religious practices devoted to the sacramental use of cannabis. Now there’s an incense! Now in CaliforniaLand, you can just go into a store and buy it. Let’s not waste the opportunity.

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A Pirate’s Life for Me

I feel disgust like burning, for so much of what passes for society that to escape this feeling is an actual mission. Who needs more reasons to be miserable, more doomsday proclamations, more excuses to disappear into the zombie stupor that masquerades as consciousness? Not today, my friend. Today, I am ablaze.

The machines have claimed all territory, but they cannot conquer all spaces. Babylon is the hydra inside you; cut off one head and two more online celebrities grow from the gory neck hole. I piss on your tech and your updates, and by the way make sure to warn your friends before they set foot on my lawn that all sci-fi gadgets must be stowed and locked upon arrival; their signals interfere with the flow of truth and beauty.

I see you, yes I do, scrunched over a cold device. I’m betting you’ve never even tasted that plastic case, and therefore have no understanding of embodiment; prepare your saliva, I’ll wait.

Embody, in body, of BODY, and nothing else. The other day I was wondering what it would be like to transfer my consciousness into someone else’s body, and after a few minutes of thinking about it I realized that even this fantasy is a symptom of our sickness. There is no you, no consciousness that exists outside of your BODY, no software that can be moved around like exchangeable cogs. Your traumas and joys are written into your BODY, inscribed in ever muscle fiber, every cell–your anxiety is a chemical cocktail traveling well worn neural pathways; if I were to suddenly find myself in your BODY, I would be you. And oh, how I would play.

And where, may I ask, does your body end? At the skin? Cells shedding by the millions, drifting in an invisible cloud around you, as much a part of the air as gasoline fumes and electromagnetic radiation. Your body leaves a trail for us to follow you home, and if you know the password we may offer you an initiation–for the right price, of course. Haven’t you heard? Reality is a commodity.

Stinking waste for the antiseptic bowl; we’ve got a whole shelf of products to sanitize your humanity. Riddle me this, dark knight of techno-banality: what kills germs and forests? I’ve seen the sacrificial altars, riddled with roadkill and splattered exoskeletons. There used to be sacred customs and taboos, now instead we’ve got armed guards for reservations full of lice-headed kids and child molesters. Rape is the universal language.

How dare I even speak, let alone entertain an idea or a feeling unique to my experience, my human-all-too-human understanding? Everything is prefabricated nowadays, including your thoughts. Yes, I know exactly the proper words and opinions to be accepted in your clique; I just don’t give a fuck. I don’t have any fucks left to give if I wanted to; they ran dry when I realized my life was a science experiment. The hermit is wise indeed, hiding out from infection by devils–he wouldn’t even leave the cave without ceremony and protective amulets.

I’m old enough to remember when the internet didn’t completely suck. Once upon a midnight past, the net was still a place where joyful mischief had a home; bootleg music, movies, software–fuck all these companies and their slave-built infrastructure, (if I want to watch the latest piece of hollywood garbage while drool-dribbling stoned on fine hash, or acquire the latest edition of I Need This Program To Do Anything Meaningful In Babylon, the LAST thing I’m trying to do is pay for that shit.) Crappy page designs full of tantalizing secret knowledge, message boards with only one rule: Never use your real name. We are not avatars, we are writers and conversationalists–and, as it happens, some of us are involved in hobbies and professions that are frowned on by law enforcement (the bastards).

Recently the hills in west L.A. were on fire; I lived in that horrible city for over 10 years, and I can tell you that the hills have always been on fire, along with the rest of the city. It just so happens that most folks didn’t notice. If I use the phrase “false consciousness,” would they even know where to begin? Would you? Nevermind, just google it.

Every society that has experienced the FUNDAMENTAL SOCIAL DESTRUCTION inherent in class-based hierarchy has borne the plague of the social parasite; dreadful names they call us, pirate, criminal, barbarian.  Why the hell would we bother to do all this damn labor, when we can just wait for you to do it and then swoop in and take its fruits by force? Let’s not play any silly moral games, either; otherwise we’ll have to embarrass you by pointing out that your entire way of living is based on force, violence, cruelty, domination. When we taste your blood, it is bitter with the resentment you feel for our freedom. Ten-thousand years have not sweetened it a bit, just as those years have not diminished our desire to live without bondage.

It is true young jedi, there are still secrets in the world; secret zones, secret spaces, secret knowledge. There remain a chosen few of Zion’s elect who retain those secrets, who can teach you how to fall between the cracks in the monolith into the gutter-gardens at the center of the earth. We are the forgotten, the unknown, the impossible, the True and Living. We are the unseen chiefs, and we are not looking for you; it’s already too late, you’re too old, too invested, too addicted, too ashamed, too domesticated. More than anything, you’re too convinced that consensus reality is real, when we’ve known for sometimes that it’s nothing but a complex simulation–a mass hallucination with the power to drive species extinct and suffocate entire oceans.

You might have noticed when you were younger, and you were probably punished for it. Years of negative reinforcement later, now the ghosts don’t speak. If they did you would fall apart, then try to put yourself back together by searching for a “logical explanation,” as if that were something worth finding.

If I share my (knowledge)(wisdom)(understanding), it will wash away instantly, diluted by the tide of HYPERMEDIATION, another insignificant bolt of static in the endless airwaves–another meaningless opinion from another faceless avatar, at best something to ridicule on (anti)social media in hopes of getting another hit of microvalidation. “This guy thinks he knows something, but he actually sucks.” Yes, yes, I suck, now please keep it moving. You are not the target audience. There is no target audience. Actually, there is no audience; everyone is a performer–Sturgeon’s Law applied to humans. Besides, it would take years of intense therapy in our labs and dungeons for you to even notice that we had something to say.

Instead, we just pretend to be One of You–a horrible and tedious game, but one that makes it much easier to commit freedom. We’ve been preparing our alibis for years; they look great on paper. Too bad the machines have extensive data on everything you’ve ever said, every place you’ve ever gone, every person you’ve ever fucked, and algorithms to hunt and track divergent thoughts; if you’re not mechanized, you’re already the enemy.

Well, so be it. Nothing will ever erase the seductive scent of this wine and sweat, the caress of soft fur and warm blankets, the boundary-destroying melding of sexual ecstasy. No droid knows the heart. The past is ours, the future is ours; here, we stake our claim for the NOW.

So hoist the sail, my friend; this compass points to your True Desire, and the wind is in our favor.


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Mourning and the Mausoleum

Some weeks ago I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine who is around my age. We were lamenting that we’d been denied the punkish post-apocalyptic world of mutants, spontaneous freedoms, and actual battles with manifest oppressors that was promised to us by 80’s and early 90’s era science fiction books and films. What we all got instead is the soul-eroding and -denying banality of the endless shopping mall.

Death of the social, communities transformed into masses, the living world converted to a dead shell of asphalt, the long night of the end of the world.

Last night as I was driving out to the supermarket—or as I refer to it, hell—I had a realization that the world I came from no longer exists. It’s been paved over, rebuilt, remade, and everything now in its place sits as though eternal; beyond my memories, my past has been erased. Where once were fields and owls and oak trees, there are housing developments, restaurants for the pampered and safe, and parking lots. It was already disappearing as I was growing up, though my young eyes could not see it.

Like almost everything about modern “life,” such radical change in so short a time is fundamentally alien to the human experience. For hundreds of thousands of years, we lived the same way our ancestors had “always” lived, and we could count on our descendants doing the same. Life was cyclical, bonded to land, territory, weather, and all our various relatives in the web of living beings. Sure, every few thousand years you might get an ice age or other major geological/environmental shift, but on the whole, life was consistent.

Whereas in my short, almost-four-decades-long existence, so many bewildering changes have occurred in how I live and how humans interact with each other that my imagination struggles to make sense or meaning out of any of it. And that’s part of the simulation, the artificial reality that has replaced whatever existed before—there is no sense, no meaning, only the cold absolute drive of anti-life, the same-ifying of everything, the race to nothing. We’re not supposed to be able to make sense of it, an impossible task. We’re just supposed to be carried along with the signal flow. Plug in, tune out.

Mediated lives. The endless screen. Everything and every act a commodity, pre-defined in advance by a consciousness that perceives everything as a photo-op, every experience a potential subject of miniature documentaries.

I worked a show over the weekend where the band had arranged a VIP pre-show event; about 30 people got to come in early, meet the band, do a Q&A, take some vodka shots, and hear acoustic versions of two new songs. An awesome idea, and would have been a genuinely unique experience, had it been limited to the moment in which it took place. But before it even started, it was already filtered, mediated, defined, limited, rendered dimensionless; the band had photographers and videographers recording the whole thing, and at least half the people who came entered the event with their phones held dutifully in front of their faces, standing in between them and the actual event. Instead of being a special moment, a human moment, it was already artifice. It was already simulated. Whatever lingering magic that could have existed was already gone, deleted in advance.

Back to the supermarket. Consumer and commodity, reflecting each other until neither is distinguishable. Instead of sitting on shelves and colorful displays, we sit in cars in parking lots and stand in lines, herded, processed, just like the things we buy. Alone in our shopping bubbles, we move from shelf to shelf, surrounded by pop music and cold fluorescent light, hoping on some level not to have to interact with any other humans—the ultimate tragedy, to confront directly the isolation that defines our existence by breaking it, just for a moment, by acknowledging another victim.

As far as I know, somewhere in the High St. Mi Pueblo there is, right now, an abandoned bag of potatoes sitting in a random location in the store. I was carrying it, put it down, forgot about it, and didn’t remember until I was paying for my other items. There was no way I was going back for it. I barely survived the first trip through, and I still had two more supermarkets to visit before returning to homebase.

I spent three years in the simulated community of a nonprofit organization. People brought together by employment and mutual disaffection with the standard slave jobs available for working class black and brown people. Who among us has not made a latte, served a meal, mixed drinks, stood watch, hauled boxes, mopped floors, pretended cordiality in the face of obnoxious, rude, angry people? For the promise of something better—the promise of meaning—we signed up for the nonprofit get-down, and one by one we discovered, whether we could articulate it or not, the ultimate truth of the 21st century: there is no there there.

I can imagine that my life is a smooth flow from birth to my current adulthood, but I would be lying about my experience of it, which is nothing if not fragmented, broken into chunks, distorted. Multiple lives lived successively—here now my teenage world, my friends, now gone. Here now my college world, my friends, now gone. Here now my bartending world, my friends, now gone. Here now my restaurant serving world, my friends, now gone. Here now my nonprofit world, my friends, now gone, but not all of them. I kept a couple in the aftermath. How long until they, too, are gone? Even my own dear mother I see only a handful of times a year. The most consistent person in my life is Thomas, who is a cat. He will be with me until death do us part. My deepest, longest, closest, most abiding friendship, having now outlasted my longest romantic relationship (seven years).

Death of worlds and ways of being, without time or space to mourn their loss; endless and ongoing mourning, with no catharsis, no closure, no finality, no relief, in a culture of insipid morbidity—life as a drifting journey through an eternal concrete mausoleum.

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Rap Thoughts on a Cloudy Morning

I started teaching myself how to rap in 2005. I was 25 years old.

Usually people start rapping much younger. Truthfully, I did, too—I wrote my first rap when I was 9 years old. But it wasn’t my rap, in a sense. It was in fifth grade, we had to write journal entries every day, with whatever banal topic was issued by that matron of school slavery I called Ms. Snyder. I was bored with the topics, so instead I started drawing comics in my journal. One of them featured a character called Skate Freak—basically it was a Dr. Jekyl-Mr. Hyde type of story, where a nerdy kid who wanted to be cool created some secret formula that then turned him into a super-powered skater-kid rapper. (P.S., don’t bite that, I still plan to do a version of this story someday.)

Anyway, the rap I wrote came out of the mouth of that character. “My name is Skate Freak / my board is so sleek / and I’m rapping to the beat / as I rule the streets.” Because it was his rap, I never thought of it as being my rap, even though I wrote it. In fact, I didn’t occur to me that it was my rap until about a year ago.

Everything changed when I had The Vision, of my future-self as a masked MC. I started teaching myself how to rap, how to put words together in rhyme. Eventually, I started writing to beats. I’m not sure when the transition happened, but at a certain point, I got really good at it, and decided that was the direction I was going to pursue in life.

It’s difficult to describe the feelings I get from rhyming. Elation, joy, laughter, a sense of mischievousness, a sense of connection to powers beyond me. Sometimes I look back at things I wrote years ago and I’m amazed; it’s like it was written by someone else. I was always in love with the process of creating, even though it was often frustrating. Years of writing and recording raps gave me a powerful sense of my own creativity, and helped me to understand who I was and what I was about. Words are powerful; I have seen, time and time again, things I’ve written come into existence. Every feeling, every struggle, every triumph, every joy I’ve ever experienced is encoded somewhere in the songs I’ve written.

True, like every other rapper/MC, when I started I dreamed of making a career out of it; rap and get paid? Not have to work a dumbass job? I can’t wait! But once I got into actually performing, seeing how the underground scene and business actually worked, I realized it was mostly wack. I realized that what I was really looking for was a kind of energy—the energy of a hype crowd, of community, of connection. This is not something that happens in a stadium, or even a big venue. This is something that happens in an intimate space—a basketball court, a tiny barroom dance floor, a basement, a living room.

I started throwing house parties because I knew that was the only way to create the energy I was looking for. I knew it was possible; I just had to be very intentional about creating the space, and bringing in the right people. Thus was born the Invisible Party—No Photos, No Videos, No Phones allowed. And it worked, like magic. Every house party I’ve thrown has been an epic jam. At every party, a handful of newbies have approached me, eyes wide in amazement, and said, “This is the best party I’ve ever been to.” At every party, artists have gotten on the mic and said, “This is the best response I’ve ever gotten from a crowd.” Every. Single. Party.

Through being in the underground rap scene, I’ve learned by experience why all these OG MC’s spent so much verbiage talking about wack rappers and wannabe MC’s—point of fact, generally speaking, rappers suck. As artists, and as people. Under the yoke of media-mind control, most of them are only interested in feeding their narcissism and egos. “Look At Me” is the theme of almost every rap performance I’ve ever seen. In my own events, I’ve done my best to limit this phenomenon by centering the crowd and the DJ—each rap act is limited to 10 minutes, and at least 3 hours of the party is devoted strictly to whatever jams the DJ is playing—which means people are dancing, chilling, enjoying themselves, without the distraction of gadgets or playing paparazzi.

Last June, I threw the first event here at the house that was NOT a rap show. I booked no artists, only a DJ. I sent out almost 100 invitations. Despite the fact that there was (hella) free food, of the dozens of rappers I’ve booked over the years, only two showed up to the party. Nobody else even bothered to hit me up and let me know they couldn’t make it. So, while I only have this one event to go by, it seems to me that there’s a very distinct phenomenon going on here: No shine for you = you’re not interested.


I think I’m done with rappers. Not totally; there’s a handful of the homies I would still book. But on the whole, I’m over it. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s disappointment. Maybe I’m just tired of twenty-somethings in need of emotional validation. Maybe I’m tired of watching mediocre performers make demands of bored crowds.

But I ain’t done with rapping. Not by a long shot. The whole phenomenon of online digital music is the definition of wackness, but there are still people who will buy and listen to my CD’s. I’ll continue to make music for myself, and share it with them. I’ve been getting more into production—I may add that to my musical repertoire. Maybe I’ll learn to play bass.

And I’m definitely not done with throwing events. I’m currently getting my song-blending bars up on the turntables. Stay tuned for King DZA the Sound Selektor.

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Thinking With, Thinking Through

I’ve been in communication with a professor at a local university about doing a series of workshops on hip hop culture and pedagogy. He’s working on a major project with the aim of decentralizing the stranglehold of western european philosophy on critical thinking in university-level education here in the U.S. Of course I am inherently on board with this—any cultural mode and model that’s responsible for unleashing such unimaginable devastation and horror upon every living creature on the planet must be decentralized, if not for Truth & Beauty, then simply for survival.

Two of the main ideas I’m exploring as part of the themes of my workshops are: 1. the idea that “thinking,” including critical thinking, happens not merely with the “rational” faculties of the “mind,” but holistically and intuitively—this includes body-knowledge/awareness and creative imagination & expression—and 2. the idea that all noncivilized human societies and non-industrial civilized societies possess a mode of consciousness that involves thinking critically with and through one’s total environment—thinking with the land, other living beings, dreams, visions, spirits, and ancestors.

Sometimes mechanoids express shock and awe that ignorant savages have such a thorough pharmacological knowledge of their landbase, and that their brews, potions, medicines actually cure sicknesses. “Wow, how did these primitives ever figure all that stuff out? I know! They must have done it through ‘trial and error’ over the course of thousands of years! Those silly, clever savages,” etc. As if every time someone was sick, healers gave them random plants until they found one that helped. Because mechanoids’ prized method of discovering “scientific knowledge” is through experimentation on and torture of living beings, they figure their psychosis is universal; everyone must do it that way.

When in fact, if you read any anthropological reports on traditional and shamanic healing—or even better, if you talk to someone who is skilled in those methods—the practitioners all say the same things; the plants themselves speak to them, or visit them in dreams and visions, or animal & ancestral spirits visit them in dreams and visions, and tell them what plants, songs, and methods will heal an illness. Duh.

This is, of course, superstitious nonsense to the children of Descartes, for whom the entire cosmos is filled with dead matter and automatons, save for the wondrous western european man. This is the “rational” and “scientific” perspective—reproducible, controllable results. That this method, when it comes to medicine, has resulted in a bureaucratized for-profit medical industrial complex that hoards and price-gouges for what useful medicines and treatments it has, seems to not phase the one-dimensional mechanoid consciousness. That their entire cultural model has brought the planet to the verge of complete extinction of all species by global warming also seems to not phase that consciousness.

Divergent sidenote: I call it “global warming,” because that’s what it is. I realize it’s an old-fashioned term now, on account of the PR machines have branded us with the New & Improved buzzwords “climate change,” which sounds so much more ambiguous. It’s the best kind of lie, because it has just enough truth to pass under the radar—technically, yes, the climate is “changing.” They got that much correct. But the nature and quality of that change is unaddressed by the phrase. The earth’s temperature is heating up, as a direct result—for those who may be new to the matter—of the burning of coal, oil, and gas, mainly in industrial production.

Anyway, back to the main plot: thinking with the environment. Solving problems through communication with other living beings, and the various spirits. Thinking “as” an animal. These are modes of cognition that are inherent in cultures that live as part of a landbase, and that are close to the rest of the living world. In my experience, that way of living is not even imaginable to the modern urban blacktop dweller. The only animals they even see on a regular basis are either “pets” or the handful of species who manage to thrive in cities—rats, pigeons, roaches, ants, flies, etc.

Recently I read a book, The Intimate Bond, about the history of domesticated and enslaved animals in civilization. It was fascinating for reasons that varied from sweet to horrible. One of the things I learned was how common it has been throughout the history of agriculture and civilization for humans to share a home with their domesticated farm animals. Like, they sleep in the living room, or whatever the archaic equivalent of a living room is. They’re in your house. Like, sheep and donkeys, mules and cows and horses. They’re part of the family. Even I was like, thafuq?, when I read it.

As I said: close to the rest of the living world.

Last week I spoke to the professor on the phone. We were examining options for getting money to pay me for these workshops. I settled on the option that enabled me the most freedom and flexibility, but there was an additional price to pay: I would have to write a proposal, to give to the money guardians.

I hate writing proposals.

I don’t know what it is about them. Maybe it’s because, like grant writing, they’re pretty much all the same. Maybe because it’s basically just a commercial for something that may or may not resemble what’s in the commercial. Maybe because I’m entitled and I feel like these people should just give me hella money because I’m the DZA and they should know that, and be tripping over themselves to give me checks with many zeroes. Who knows?

I spent a good couple of days after that phone call whining about it to anyone who would listen. Then I sat down to work on it one evening—scribbled out a few ideas, brainstormed. Got a few good things out of it, but I just wasn’t focused. Then, sitting there on my couch, it finally fucking hit me:

I need to go to the woods.

The realization is followed instantly by a feeling of utter foolishness—I’m sitting here in what basically amounts to a manufactured box, trying to come up with an outline that involves the concept of thinking with the living world. I’m fully caught up in the mechano-european, rationalized, brain-in-a-jar worldview, so much that it took that long for me to figure out that I needed to think with the trees. I tossed down my notebook and resolved to spend the next day hiking. The next day I spent about four hours wandering along trails, listening to the crows and wind, the trunks and leaves, the sun and shade.

They told me everything I needed. As they always do.

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Counting Coup

My first victory of the day is getting out of bed.

The eternal battle. Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance, and that’s as good a name as any. The shadow force, the annihilator, the entity and energy that comes into being the moment you realize what your True Calling is. The second that passion emerges from the fiery engine of our hearts and souls, it calls into being its enemy. This is the dynamic balance of the universe; that passion is Creation, it is the power of god and the power of life, and so it has its spectre: Resistance.

It’s heartless and cold and impersonal. It doesn’t care about you; it just exists. And more than any other time in human history, it is fed and supercharged by the very structure of our culture and social organization. There is now an infinity of ways to distract yourself from Doing the Thing. Social media, youtube, TV, video games, texting, Tindr hook-ups, porno, a smorgasbord of high quality designer drugs, bad food, bad consciousness, employment, school.

Since I’m an educator, let me go ahead and riff on that last one. When I was in school, I was internally motivated to achieve and succeed, to get the A’s. Something within me would not settle for anything less. However, I was never under any delusion that the work had any real meaning or importance. Once I learned the true purpose of schooling was to make us into idiotic, obedient droids emotionally dependent on authority figures, all of the tedium, banality, and cruelty of school instantly made sense. But when I was there, I didn’t know any of that. I just knew the shit was a waste of my time.

And so I approached every assignment I ever got with one goal in mind: get this shit done as quickly as possible so I can get back to doing what I WANT TO DO. True, frequently what I “wanted” to do was watch TV and play video games. But I heard the cosmic call of passion and desire for the first time when I was 8 or 9 years old; that was when I knew I wanted to make comics. If I had a worksheet for a class with a backside that was blank, it was covered in drawings—super heroes, guns, doodles, cartoons, whatever. I finished the work as soon as possible and commenced to drawing.

Again, I knew the schoolwork was a waste of my time. By the end of middle school, I’d figured out the system pretty well. By high school I had mastered it, and so I developed a new way to get the dumb shit done more quickly—cheating. Copying answers out of the back of the book, or from other people. Trading homework from one class to someone else for their homework in another class, copying it by the stack, never once reading or taking in any of it. I learned just enough to get an A on the test, but even without that, the grading systems of school classrooms are generally designed to shuttle you through with a passing grade as long as you complete all the work. You could fail every test and get out of the average public school with a C or B average as long as you hand in all the assignments.

Victory over the machine. Defeat the soul-crushing time-waster. Piss on their standardized tests.

Back to now. Victory number one is getting out of bed in the morning, because I sure don’t want to. I’m warm, I’m safe, I’m comfortable. I’m entertained by dozing dreams, or by my own head chatter, which is generally far more interesting to me than any of the pap on television. I’ve got my best friend in the world cuddled up beside me, and he too would gladly stay in bed all day, perhaps getting up once in awhile to run around or visit the litterbox. He’s got a weak stomach so I feed him expensive artisinal cat food, which has an added bonus of making his coat super soft and luxurious. I could just stay in bed and pet him.

The Resistance is strong, the voice tempting and powerful. Stay in bed. All day.

But then the Thing will not Get Done. So I get up. Victory number one. I leave the house, victory number two. I make it to the meeting on time, I show up for class, I get up at ungodly hours to ride through tunnels on screaming metal carriages stuffed liked a cattle car full of mechanized zombies. I travel through the hated City, with all its noise and concrete, I walk into bland, depressing buildings where schooling indoctrination takes place, and I activate imaginations.

I get up. Nowhere I have to go today? Then I sit down at the computer and start typing. The voice of Resistance fades to background noise, because now all I can hear is the pounding of keys and the words stretching to get out of my head, the song of the muse. Victory.

For now. The enemy always returns, because the struggle is eternal. It will keep me from eating. It will advocate whiskey. It will find big and small ways to keep me from sitting down at that drawing board and scrawling out another page. I’m not the best at drawing; it takes me a long time to pencil even one page. Sometimes it’s agonizing. Mostly, it’s enjoyable. But the real joy comes when I see that world laid out on the page, panel by panel. The characters are living and moving and speaking. They are more real to me than the droids on the train, my relationship with them is more dear to me than most in the 3-D world. They demand their stories be told. They, like the seagull and the rat, want to live.

The first blessing of the day is to wake up; it means I’m alive. That means one more chance to get it right. One more chance to Do the Thing, one more chance to live the path that has been illuminated for me by god and truth and beauty. Write the proposal, fill out the contract, return the e-mail, shake the hands and kiss the babies. That stuff is even harder, because I hate it. What I love is on that page. What I love came from the tip of my pencil, but its source is beyond me. That source is infinite; it will never slow down, it will never dry up, it will never not be there. It awaits only the call.

So when that blessing comes and I wake up and I’m alive and the battle begins, there is only one question: will I give the call? Will I sit down and Do the Thing? Will I fight and win against Resistance, will I do my ancestors proud? That was four questions, but they’re all the same.

Pass me the coup stick. It looks like a pencil, or maybe a laptop.

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Old Shoes

Today I threw away an old pair of shoes. They were excellent shoes, probably only the second pair of excellent shoes I’ve ever owned in my life. Red Wings, custom fitted, black leather oxford design, slip-proof with reinforced toes.

I got them for restaurant work, back in 2010, 2011 maybe. I was working at Local Chain Pizza, slanging high quality and high priced recreational food to suburbanites who ranged from rich to wealthy. Slip-proofing is a must; mop floors, clean spills, avoid the doom of your head hitting the tile floor. Reinforced toes are a must; drop jugs, pint glasses, boxes full of heavy frozen things, keep your toes. Custom fitted is a must; flat feet, wide feet, joints deteriorating from genetic disease, pain while standing and walking for extended periods of time.

The active life of those shoes saw nine lovers, four jobs, one major move, one weekly FM radio show, three U.S. states, eight roommates, and one fall from a cliff.

They were dusty, their life spent long before I finally let them go. The catalyst was a new pair of black boots I got cheap at Big 5 so I could respectably meet the dress requirements of my part-time job in the concert venue field. One of the last illusions I was holding onto that told me to keep the worn out Red Wings was the idea that I might Need To Have Nice Black Shoes For Something. The reality is, they were long past nice. They were scuffed up, the laces frayed, the heals worn. There were gashes in the sides from the rocks I landed on in the cliff incident. The right shoe was split along the front where the ball of my foot would flex—last winter when there was hella rain, I went out wearing them and ended up with wet socks and feet.

Once I got the boots, that illusion faded; I just didn’t need the Red Wings. I could let them go, aftermarket insoles and all. You served me well—now into the trash!

And with them, the energy of past lives they carried. Not the memories, never the memories. The experiences I keep forever and visit whenever I want, for better or worse. The women I kissed for the first time while I was wearing them. The anger in my steps—embedded in the shoes—from every time a rich brat co-worker couldn’t manage to do their share of the work or even think for themselves. Midnight liaisons with the Mad Russian. Nights smoking and drinking, movies and Resident Evil 6 with Brother Precious. The weight of every wonderful and every poisonous interaction I ever had in 18 months of street canvassing. The battle of overthrowing a demon king ex-boss. The woman I loved, who loved only herself. The guy I choked on a balcony.

In 2008 when I wrote my first novel, I used a soundtrack. One album that I would play on repeat every night when I sat down to write. That album is Shango by Juno Reactor, which I first got from Victor Vortex. I’m listening to it right now; Masters of the Universe is playing. I’ve heard the song played live one time, when I went to one of their shows. I was wearing the hat I’m wearing right now as I write; I was dancing with a gorgeous young armenian woman, our hands wandering freely over each others’ bodies. After the show, I’m with her in the back seat of her friend’s car. The friend and the friend’s date are sitting in the front seat talking. The woman and I are making out. Later, I walk her to her car, we continue to kiss, I say something to her, words long forgotten. She melts into me—oh my god, your voice…

I never see her again.

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Never Enough Time

When I visit a class to teach, it seems like there’s never enough time. There’s so much—SO MUCH—that I feel like young people need to know about. There’s so much that these kids aren’t going to learn anywhere else if they don’t learn it from me. I hit them with a ton of information every time, and every single point or topic or issue I discuss is like the tip of the iceberg.

Life, history, people—these are complex topics. They resist categorization of any kind by all but the most disingenuous. To give a presentation is to tell a story, and you have to construct the narrative carefully. What do I include? What do I leave out? There are always time constraints. There are always constraints on what I can talk about. I don’t have the chance to get to know students as individuals, or find ways to relate what I’m talking about directly to their lives. I have to speak in generalities. But there’s always more. There’s always more.

This past week I did a series of presentations at a charter high school in San Francisco. I was invited there by an english teacher, to his 12th grade classes, to present information that would relate to the themes they’re studying: identity, art, and society. I did what I do: take the veil off the matrix, talk about all the institutions that we don’t think about or question. But there’s never enough time! I worked with three different groups of students, I had a total of 3 hours with each group. NOT ENOUGH.

I want to give them the keys, show them the doors. I didn’t come here for money—I came here on my Harriet Tubman: to free slaves. The bell rings, I have a moment of panic. There’s so much more I need to tell them. So much more they need to know. I have to be satisfied with this: for the first time since I started teaching workshops, I leave them with a reading list. My favorite books. “If you read all the books on this list, your entire way of thinking, your entire experience of reality will change. You will never be the same. Consider yourself warned.”

There’s a phrase that came into vogue sometime during the corporate ecstasy era of the late 80’s and early 90’s: “think outside of the box.” They love that phrase. But here’s the thing—you can think inside of the box, you can think outside of the box, but what you are never ever supposed to do is think about the box. It is not supposed to be questioned. I go into classes and I say, here’s the box. In all the time I’ve been teaching, the students respond entirely positively. In all that time, all teachers, with one exception, have likewise responded entirely positively. People are hungry for this.

You can’t escape the desire
to break out of the matrix—
it come written in the DNA”
from Supreme Anarch

Time is always limited. All the more so in a classroom setting, in a compulsory schooling institution. Real education means pursuing knowledge and/or skill without boundaries, including time boundaries imposed from outside. On the first day with the third group, I was in the midst of telling my version of the story of hip hop culture—which, if I may, is way more interesting and deep than any other version I’ve ever heard; I was motivated by boredom and frustration with typical narratives to create it—and we ran out of time.

All of the students had to leave to go to another class. When I saw that same group the second time, I used that incident as part of my discussion of the pathology of compulsory schooling—I asked them, by show of hands, if there were no consequences, who would’ve rather stayed and listened to the rest of my presentation instead of going to whatever other class they had. Every hand went up. Every hand—Even the bored and cynical looking kid slouched in a chair in the back of the room.


A young woman asks me, “Why aren’t you a teacher?” I tell her I am a teacher. But I know what she means—she means a classroom teacher. My answer, brief and diplomatic—I hated school the first time through, why would I go back to work there? Everyone laughs. But the truth is much more complex. How do I explain to her in five or twenty or ninety minutes why it is that I can’t teach the way I want to teach, and students can’t learn the way learning is supposed to happen, within the boundaries of a state institution? How do I explain that this place, this system is designed to prevent learning? Only the most heroic efforts of the most dedicated teachers deliver anything resembling education within that system.

I tell a young Salvadoran boy, a middle-schooler, about indigenous people and spanish conquest. His eyes are wide. “Can you be my history teacher?” he asks me.

A young man who shares my name and my interest in rapping is taking notes on everything I say. He asks me questions, searches for clarification, after the class period has ended. He’s skipping another class to see my presentation.

A young man asks me if I will be his friend.

A young woman asks me if she can give me a copy of her zine—she did the art, her boyfriend wrote the poems. I enthusiastically accept. I read the poems on the train headed home, the words of this young man who at twelve years old turned to selling drugs to help his mom pay the rent. Tears burn my eyes. I look on the back of the zine: it was produced as part of the youth program at the organization where the love of my life works, the woman I have not seen or spoken with in eight months. Her name is on the back of it, as art director. Tears burn my eyes, again.

A young woman, and another, and a young man, and another… All ask me, “Are you coming back?” When I tell them no, their disappointment is palpable. It breaks my heart.

Ninja. Disappear in a cloud of smoke.

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