Do the Thing

I had a serious wake-up call yesterday. It came in the ever-mysterious form of synchronous events lining up to show me something I needed to see. God business. As good a place to start as any: I’m a writer, among other things. Like anyone making a go of creative endeavors, I deal with constant struggles against frustration, procrastination, desperation, and utter despair.

Basic reality check: if you don’t sit down to do the thing, it’s not gonna get done. Writers write. I’ve been writing consistently for over 10 years now. It started in earnest when I decided to become an MC in 2006—I’ve written over a hundred songs since then. I wrote a short novel, which is yet waiting to be finished (needs another draft or two), and I wrote a whole memoir—took me 7 years to finish, but I finished it. People have read it, and enjoyed it.

Every year I go to ceremony—the Sun Dance they call it in english, in Lakota, Wiwanyang Wacipi, “gazing at the sun while dancing.” For me it’s a renewal ceremony; my year begins there. Before leaving I lost my job in the non-profit industrial complex. I decided I’d really rather not work for any sonuvabitch ever again, so I’m making a go of it as an independent teaching artist. When I returned from ceremony this year, more so than ever it was like beginning a new life. I knew I’d have to make some changes, acquire some serious discipline in my creative endeavors, which had been more or less on hold the entire time I was plugged into the non-profit machine.

A few days ago my housemate lent me a book, The War of Art – Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. It is the perfect book for anyone trying to accomplish anything other than showing up for a job. It’s cold and ruthless in just the way that I love; no bullshit here, just the stone truth about what it takes to make creative goals happen. I started reading it yesterday, and damn near finished it. There aren’t a whole lot of books I would actively campaign for people to read, but this one is on the short list; it’s that good.

Thinking about creative goals is like thinking about mortality. We’ve only got so much time here on earth; what are we going to give it to? One of many reasons that I hate television and video games with an unbridled passion is because they are consummate time-wasters; when I look back on all the time I spent as a youth staring at a screen or punching buttons on a controller, what I see is machines stealing away a whole chunk of my life, and leaving me nothing in return. If I’d spent that same amount of time working on my art, writing and drawing comics, my craft would by now be honed to a razor edge.

No love for regrets; the past is written. What it comes down to is this: you’re either doing the thing, or you’re not. Whatever time you give to doing or to not doing, you’re not going to get it back.

So yesterday I’m reading this book, it’s inspiring the shit out of me, and I’ve got a bug up my ass to sit down and really get some shit done. I’d already accomplished my first goal for the day—1000 words written. I decided to work on my website, which features a quote from John Taylor Gatto, teacher, school historian, anti-system curmudgeon, and one of my heroes. On a whim I went to his website (procrastination, or looking for inspiration? You decide) and discovered that he had a stroke back in 2011, and is now partially paralyzed. His wife had a stroke last year, and is now in constant pain and requires around-the-clock care. They have medical bills and expenses they can’t pay for on their own, so they have a donation link on the site; they’re now supported through the good will of people whose lives this man touched.

Gatto is the same age as my dad, both born in 1935. My dad is in pretty good health overall; he’s had a few surgeries to fix worn-out parts and doesn’t move too well these days, but otherwise he’s doing better than a lot of people who are 20 or 30 years younger. It hit me how lucky I was to still have a dad around to talk about, one who isn’t going through such tragic health concerns. But I also realized this, in follow up to what I was reading:


Sounds cliché maybe, but it doesn’t make it any less true. There’s information–then there’s knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. When a saying is just words, it’s nothing more than information. The point at which it becomes real, through whatever magic, and turns into something that has a direct effect on how you live your life, that’s when it starts to make the transition into knowledge and beyond.

This revelation hit me particularly hard with Gatto because as I mentioned, he’s one of my heroes. I first read his book The Underground History of American Education back in the early 2000s. It was available in its entirety for free online; it’s a long book, and over the course of two or three weeks, I read the whole thing. It was so good I bought a print copy; I’ve read it from front to back at least four more times since then. It’s one of those books I continually revisit—the writing is amazing, the research exhausting, and its telling the truth about something we’re all Not Supposed to Question: compulsory schooling. This is one of those rare books that filled in the blanks for me, and showed me how it is that millions of human beings were converted into consumer drones. The truth in that book is ugly and terrifying—the story of corporate manipulation, the rule of systems, the mutilation of the human spirit inherent in compulsory schooling, conquest by machines. He lays it all out, how it works, and traces its DNA.

Reading this book changed my life, and fundamentally transformed how I look at myself, society, education, and knowledge. John Taylor Gatto changed my life. How? Because he sat down and did the thing. If he hadn’t done the thing, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Now that man, that heroic man, is bed-ridden. He will probably never do another guest lecture, possibly never write another book. He’s nearing the end of his life. Imagine getting to that point, with nothing but regret for all the things you could’ve done, could’ve created, and did not.

In the words of a russian mobster from the Daredevil show: I will not die like this.

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The Word and its Power

Thinking on music goals. Really, the ultimate goal is and has always been: dopeness. Manifest the soulforce, the spirit. In a room working on beats, making the heat flow, inspiring the word, the divine ecstatic poetry. It comes in a wave, in a rush, strikes like a lightening bolt, neurotransmitters firing, words coming together, stories being told, trickster vibes manifest. I got something in me that wants to get out, wants to express, to become real—flowing out of the infinite dreamtime imagination god realm, the infinite sea, crystalizing into something of beauty.

This is a process and experience that is inherently spiritual. Primitive superstition, the machines and their minions call it—how foolish to believe in any power beyond the realm of technological control and scientific explanation. God equations are beyond humans to transcribe; they are beyond space and time, beyond the material. They are the codes that tell the drops where to fall, the leaves where to grow. They can only be represented in abstractions or generalizations. The life tree grows, god creates, and in creating we are god, we are spirit.

Mental and Emotional Health. This is the official babylon category that attempts to describes the indescribable value of creating. To balance myself, to balance the cosmos, I must create, I must give form to the infinite. There are things within me—feelings, demons, angels, whatever you want to call them—and they demand that their stories be told. I do not obey, I do not acquiesce, but I do submit, kneel, crawl, and be humble in the face of the infinite, the creator of all, the song with no name. Speak, spirits, and fill me with your wonder and awe. Tears and laughter, joy and pain and suffering and triumph. Love and beauty, and most of all: truth. These words tell the truth, they are beyond any category, have no focus group, and will not be tamed or chained.

The ultimate democracy: imagination is available to all. It is the most powerful force within us, because anything that manifests in the material realm must begin in the imaginal realm. The forces and institutions of control know this, inherently. Some individuals may know it consciously, and actively seek to limit the field. The engineers of systemized mass control know exactly what they’re doing, and what effects it will have. If you can limit the imagination, you can control. Your rule will never be undermined by Dangerous Ideas. “Psychadelic” plants are not fanatically controlled by Law because of danger to their users—they are fanatically controlled because they really can change how you think, and they deliver a real experience of cosmic divinity, not just the fake kind sold in the promise inherent in all advertisements. They are efficacious sacraments, spiritual by design and nature. Proof of their miraculous powers? That the Native American Church actually got legal rights to use peyote in their ceremonies. If this doesn’t shock you, then you don’t understand how babylon works.

Colonize, control. What corpse-shell of the imaginal remains in a world where the entire field of symbols, stories, and meaning is controlled by a handful of corporate egregores? Tune in, watch the screen. Recently, the Channel Zero authorities have figured out that the last realm of truly inspired and unbridled creativity lives in the pages of comic books. The epic dramas, the gods and their powers, the frozen moments. To hold a comic book is to hold an entire piece of space and time—flip to the end, the middle, the beginning, it’s all there, waiting to be discovered anew. Move back and forth through time at will, just by flipping the page. Windows into another world, we call them panels. The Empire has nothing left but its comic books, and so it syphons their power and puts them on screen, where everyone is already plugged in.

The Marvel universe is best for this process, because the Marvel universe has always had a conceit of “realism,” a nod to the flaws that make for interesting characterization. These are heroes who are human, who make mistakes and get angry and sometimes play for the wrong side. And so they fit neatly into the cinematic universe, one that is obsessed with and beholden to High Tech. No more Peter Parker diddling away in his basement, making web shooters from junk and sewing his own costume. Now we get Spider-Man with super cyborg tech suit, courtesy of Stark Enterprises. You keep the suit as long as you do it right. The suit adds powers, value, authority, complexity. Worship this Tech.

There will be no delicate and beautiful acrobatics, no elegant and devastating martial arts for Daredevil, who in the comics is known for disabling attackers with a few calculated blows and a minimum of scuffle; there will be only punch-porn, the sadism of extended beatings, given and received. Even the monks of Kun Lun, and the Immortal Iron Fist himself, will be swallowed by tantrums, anger, guilt, and regret. There will be no elegance, no dignity; there will be only violence. The soldier Captain America will murder at will, as will the god-warrior Thor and the secret-agents Black Widow and Hawkeye.

With the exception of The Dark Knight—and even in that case, only because of the brilliant horror of Heath Ledger’s Joker—the DC movies of the last decade all suck. The wonder of the DC universe cannot be captured on film, cannot survive the transition from static, illustrated 2D to moving, live-acted 2D. “Real life,” even in the era of CGI, simply cannot live up to the majesty of the Sun God, the Will-Powered Ring, the Amazon Queen, the Living Speed Force, the multiverse, the time travel, the epic scope and sheer absurdity of imagination unleashed.

But I digress. Or do I? When I work with young people, I’ve found them to be, on the whole, totally convinced that the only use or purpose in rap music is to get rich. What a tiny, insignificant goal for something of such power. A goal that is fantastic—in the sense of being a fantasy—nearly to the level of delusion. Even a cursory amount of research will show anyone that there’s no money in the music business. Economic life is harder than ever for working musicians, and the various companies and services that control distribution and streaming outlets are the only ones getting paid.

It’s true: one can learn a lot about themselves, life, business, and the world by embarking on a serious quest to become a professional musician of any sort. These are lessons that nobody can ever take away, and will serve one in whatever one does. This, if anything, is an added bonus, small in the face of the True Power of the spirit, the god-speak. This is a power that can change you, change your reality, change your world. The power of the word, the power of creativity, is transformative. You can’t market that, you can’t put a price tag on it, you can’t do anything to chain it to the dead world of capitalist economics. It is a truth and power that is beyond all of us, beyond the simplicity of some system.

That young people would be so lost and deluded is a testament to the stupifying power of The Screen and The School. Those are the twin powers of imaginal conquest. The youth’s imaginations have already been colonized, shrunk, retarded, caged, enslaved. Some of them escape it. Most of them won’t, because if they could, if they did, this world simply would not be what it is; the machine gods would crash.

To take a crude stance: the power of the word is DC, not Marvel.

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The Supreme Anarch

“You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
– Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

There’s a lot of talk these days about “anarchists” doing this or that. There must be a lot of talk about it, because it has filtered down to me through my relatively media-trance-free life, via social media, conversations with people, etc. I haven’t sat and watched a news broadcast in years, and I wouldn’t dream of ruining a perfectly good run by tuning in. So, “anarchists.” I put that words in quotes because I’m fairly certain that almost everyone using it doesn’t have the faintest clue what it actually means. My understanding, based on use and context, is that people think an “anarchist” is someone who wants to destroy everything, create disorder and chaos, is violent, is angry, and hate all the established powers of truth, justice, and the american way.

Even a cursory reading of any actual anarchist philosophy would put all of that to bed. I’m going to give a brief summary of my understanding of anarchism, such as it is, talk a bit about my background with the philosophy, then explain why I’m not an anarchist. First off, I would recommend that anyone who wants to understand the basic principles of anarchism to get on someone else’s internet and search for “Anarchy 101” by Bob Black. It’s straight-forward, easy to read and understand, there’s no bullshit academic lingo or arcane intellectual concepts. I would challenge any reasonable person to find anything in it they actually disagree with.

Let’s look at the word first: anarchism. Three parts to the word:

an,” which means “without”
arch” which means “rule,” as in “monarch, patriarch, matriarch, etc.”
ism” which is a system of thought, philosophy, etc.

Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom from rule and governance by an authoritative power, such as a king, government, or “state.” Modern humans have lived on the earth for about 300,000 years; states, governments, and kings have existed for less than 10,000 years. Human society prior to that—and in many regions, all the way up until the last 100-200 years—was self-organized and self-ruled. Groups of people linked by land and kinship made collective decisions. Social power was spread out amongst groups within the group, different clans, orders, etc. There was no “king,” and “chiefs” did not have absolute rule or absolute authority. There was no such thing. This is the circle/cypher model. In a way, you could say that humans as a species are inherently “anarchistic.”

Nobody knows what happened that led us to agriculture and then to civilization. A lot of folks have a lot of theories, some of which are patently ridiculous and even insulting, but nobody actually knows. We probably never will. Depending on what story you believe, some 10,000 years ago, one of several possibilities took place. Perhaps the social structures and traditions which maintain diffuse power failed in some way, and individuals began accumulating power, leading to the pyramid era. Perhaps some kind of psychic alien invader colonized human consciousness with machine codes. Perhaps it was “natural evolution.”

There are things anarchists are for, and things they’re against. They’re generally for: social equity, environmental respect and sustainability, self-organization, self-rule, communal sharing of resources including land, diffusion of social power, freedom from coercion, and free association with other people and organizations. I summarize all those points with one word: autonomy. Freedom. Anarchists are generally against: governments, social inequities based on race, gender, etc., coercive power, land “ownership,” concentrated power, and the exploitation of land and living beings. Perfectly reasonable.

Anarchism is considered the far “left” of the political spectrum, which is ironic when you consider, once again, that the majority of modern human existence qualifies as anarchistic. However, in this country, there really is no organized “left.” What’s considered “left wing” in the U.S. is really just a minor chord variation on what’s considered “right wing.” Democrats & Republicans, liberals & conservatives, are all statists. They believe in “the state,” i.e. government and corporate power, industrial manufacturing, the rule of law, state violence (police, military, etc.), and they believe in the fundamental goodness of institutions that maintain economic, racial, and gender-based oppression. Anarchists are anti-statists. From the point of view of anarchism, “liberals & conservatives” are really just arguing over the details; they believe in the pyramid—some would like the edges softer, some want them harder.

Some backstory: I discovered anarchist philosophy in the early 2000’s, and began reading it with a gusto. It filled in a lot of blanks in my political understanding; I always sensed that the game was rigged, but anarchist philosophy helped to show me how it was rigged, and how there were so many assumptions built into my way of thinking and in the institutions around me that I had never noticed or questioned. Once I began questioning them, a lot of things fell into place. Unfortunately, this also came with the knowledge that things were way fucking worse than I thought. For awhile, I even identified myself as an anarchist, although I was never too serious about it; after all, I wasn’t participating in any organizing or political work. I never liked other humans enough to team up with them to do serious shit like that. I just hated Babylon and didn’t want to be a part of it, psychologically or emotionally. I wanted a way out of the matrix. Anarchist philosophy helped me find it, at least on a personal level; once I no longer accepted The Lie, I was free to define my life and my success on my own terms.

To paraphrase the black mystic and kabbalist A.A. Rashid, you can’t use the philosophy of the oppressor to achieve liberation. Anarchism, like Marxism, Socialism, Communism, Feminism, and Capitalism, are products (I use that word purposely) of western european industrial thought. Most of these “isms” are just arguing about who controls the factories; they never question whether or not we should have them. They’re also products of western european “scientific rationalism,” which is a materialist philosophy that regards the world as full of “resources” to be “used.” The earth is nothing but dead matter to the children of Descartes. To the mechanized, rationalist mind, religion and anything having to do with spirituality, ancestors, spirits, and the living earth are nothing but ignorant, primitive superstitions. Most of the prominent early anarchist philosophers were atheists. And most of them were just as racist and sexist as any other european “white” man. They believed in the fundamental superiority of european culture, they believed in “progress,” they believed in “industry,” they believed in the subjugation of “animals,” women, and the earth.

On those notes, I don’t fuxwit them.

I know the trees and the ancestors live because I can talk with them. I know the magic is real because I’ve seen it work. I know the earth is alive. These are not issues of “faith” or “belief” for me, they are experientially real, as they are for many other people I know who are connected to these forces. I don’t want to self-rule the factories; I want them gone. I don’t want power-over, I want relationships. I don’t want cold science, rationalism, and machines; I want flowers and clean water, bumblebees and old-growth trees, free children and honored prey. I pray to the circle, not the pyramid.

Back in 2011 I did an album, The Temple of DZA. It’s about destroying psychological attachment to oppressive institutions—turning the pyramid upside-down and entering the circle. “The Temple of DZA” is a cult-religion consisting of one person—me—based on a syncretic blending of indigenous religion, heretical islam and christianity, taoism, buddhism, five-percenter philosophy, and “spiritual anarchism.” “The Temple of DZA” is also my physical body; I am the temple of D(ivine) Z(knowledge-wisdom-understanding) A(god).

I have a song on the album called Supreme Anarch. Here are the lyrics:

(clip from Ghostbusters: “Are you a god?”)
(clip from Raekwon’s song Wu-Gambinos: “I call my brother Sun, cuz he shine like one”)

I am Supreme
I don’t believe in equality
I believe in expansion of me to you, you to me
“Anarch,” without rule
by dudes, schools, or rules
I simply refuse to obey

My authority come from an inner source
You see this freedom be mine by divine right
yours too, cuz you is me
come together work it out satisfactorily
We can and have been, we are
back again
And might be the la-la-la-la-last humans, so dance
embrace, laugh and cry
I was getting freaky is my alibi
when accused of confusion
and mixing up spirit and flesh
a tantra-rifical mess
Set the table, tell a fable
and pull ’em all in,
a civilized lie, just a blip in the line of my history
fist hittin the drum
I’m a god in the sun
No use in hollerin “run”

You can’t escape the desire to break out of the matrix
it come written in the D.N.A.
The ones who don’t fit in is the most resistant
wish ’em luck, and pray they don’t self-destruct
I seen ’em do it with gadgets and booze
I seen ’em do it with babies and abusive dudes
Seen ’em do it with sex and technology
They forget how to receive the call
not to mention the response, we forgot a lot
Then hip-hop came and evened the odds
Only a machine could create the projects
I reject this death-cult prisoner livin that has been given
instead I got indigenous religion–
resistance begin in the mind

Evolve alternative beyond dominance and submission:
a sub-zero mission,
cold as the vaccuum of meaning in major media
Cut ’em to pieces with the sword of D.Z.A.
Roll a bleezy up, fuck it I’m free
You see the badge?
You see the mask?
Got no room for police in my mind-steez
you can take your jackboot back to
the stygian pit

Along wit ya criminals,
pimps, hoes, bitches,
and other fantasy wishes of infected vision
I’m the cure and I’m sick
hip trippin I’m hop
flippin I’m not givin a shit about
any motherfucking matrix god
I comes from the Bay,
red pill’s what I pop, huh
Wake up,
pick up the slack, react
I crash fantastic
and my landing ain’t bad neither
I’m a true believer in being a free human
and some would say that I’m a fool
But I’m a fool with the keys to the gates beyond
and I’m inviting you to come and play along
I am Supreme

(clip from Ghostbusters: “Wait for the sign, then all prisoners will be released.”)

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White Men Writing

All of my favorite writers are white men. This is somewhat disturbing to me, but not enough that I’m ashamed to say it. After all, the literary tradition of the entire western world has been dominated—as have all other facets of the culture—by white men. There are questions of access: whose voices get to be heard? Who is seen? Who is taken seriously, under what terms? Who will be admitted to the publisher’s office, and what do they have to look/sound/be like to get there?

For a moment, let’s ignore all of the factors of oppression that can prevent one from ever becoming a writer to begin with—poverty of wealth and resources, work, disenfranchisement, trauma, etc. Instead, let’s take an archetypal, mythical writer—someone whose craft is masterful, whose analyses are brilliant and profound, whose observations are enlightening, whose characters come alive, whose stories have all the power of the human experience, all the emotions, triumphs, tragedies, joys, and humor. This is the writer who is capable of writing a body of work that will speak to my soul, and fill my mind with new ideas, new ways of looking at the world.

Now, if our writer is a woman, or black, or indigenous, or latino, the odds of them ever even having the opportunity to publish said work are slim. The default voice of this culture is “white man,” so first you have the problem of publishers and readers simply not being able to hear that voice; it doesn’t resonate with them; it’s alien; it brings thoughts they are uncomfortable with, presented in a way they don’t like or don’t understand.

Writing is active. It’s intended to affect the world, to enter the imagination, to touch the heart. Women are not supposed to act on the world; they are supposed to look good, keep house, get fucked, and make babies. Black people are not supposed to act on the world; they are supposed to labor as chattel slaves and prisoners, entertain whites, and through their existence provide a physical manifestation of the european id—be the savages, the criminals, the evil, the primitive, the body, the wild, the inferior, bottom of the social and genetic barrel. Indigenous people are not supposed to act on the world; they are supposed to disappear and die, leaving behind the romantic and magical energy of a conquered and forgotten people. Latinos are not supposed to act on the world; they’re supposed to labor, invisibly.

For nonwhite folks, literary genres are alien, they come from an alien culture. To write at all is to write in the voice of the oppressor. I would never advocate or sign up for some illusory purity of cultures; human cultures have always been syncretic, have always adopted new ways from interaction with other cultures—erotic blending of memes, stories, artifacts, imagination and expression. In cultures that are able to meet on more or less equal terms, there is pollination and exchange; when interaction comes through invasion and conquest, well that’s a different horse. In dealing specifically with western europeans, there is a unique psychopathy to their culture, a will to power-over and destroy that is unmatched—and un-aspired-to—by any other culture in the history of, well, ever. Everything these folks do is suspect.

The written word itself is a piece of sorcery that begins with pyramid/domination culture. It takes on authority that replaces the cultural role of song and storytelling. If it’s written, it must be true, it must have happened; writing is the voice of humans divorced and alienated from the rhythms and flow of the earth and the rest of her children. History begins with written record; everything before that is a muddy prequel, unknown, unconsidered, and inconsequential. Codified grammar and vocabulary, etched in the stone of words, means that language is no longer free to grow and shift and change, as a free river does. Instead, it is dam(n)med, the sides paved with concrete, a sewer not a creek. You would need explosives to change it. Explosives, or the power of another language, another culture, another way of being.

All of my favorite writers are white men, but all of my favorite poets are black. We just don’t call them poets. We call them rappers, banish them to the pulp world of gutter trash folk-art. But a poet by any other name…

All of my favorite storytellers are black or indigenous. Many of them are women. You’ll never see them in print. Their stories came in the smoke of a kitchen fire, or a blunt, and dispersed into the air. They live in my memories and in my spirit. No text can ever do them justice.

These white men who are my favorite prose writers, their works all share certain things in common that appeal to me. Their words make sense of the world I find myself in. I think it takes someone who comes from a culture to be able to fully grasp, analyze, and express the heart of that culture, in both praise and critique. The writers I’m thinking of are people who move on the fringes of this culture; they are rebels, deviants, traitors to the imperial cause, isolated, and unknown to the culture at large. They are from europe, or have lived abroad, or have been adopted by people in other cultures, touched by powers that are beyond the simple mechanical world of western imperialism. They are not the Demon White Man running a bank or pumping out murder mystery novels.

And yet, they’re still white men, which means I must thoroughly filter their words and ideas for poison and bullshit. It’s always there. A turn of phrase, a blindspot, a bold entitlement, a free walk over someone’s couch in muddy boots. Some of the fiction writers have a love for High Tech bordering on the erotic and perverse, which I find completely disgusting. The non-fiction writers can’t seem to escape a certain smarmy, smart-ass arrogance, like they were looking down at the masses from over their spectacles of rebellious genius, wondering when the apes were going to finally grow into real people. Deviance does not come prepackaged with humility. Then of course, there is their utilitarian exoticism of nonwhite people; we can always serve to demonstrate their points, to lead them into wisdom, to provide seasoning and color for their rebellious impulses. Yet, they have the voice, which means the story continues to be theirs. The narrative revolves around them and their experience.

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Enter: The Baytime Vader

You can say that something recorded is dead, and I would sit and listen to you expound for awhile. The heartbeat of music, of culture, as a celebration and witness of life in all its miraculous wonder, this is where life happens. No mausoleum of recorded music can ever take the place of a spontaneous cypher.

On MacArthur Boulevard last weekend at the Laurel Street festival, some musicians unpacked percussion instruments and began absently tapping out rhythms as I walked by. A child who was with them, maybe four years old, began dancing and making his own rhythm on shell shakers. I stopped to watch and listen and bear witness, to feel the beat live within me. I stood away from the group, so that everyone passing by was walking between the rays of my attention and the sound of the music. Soon, a couple of people stopped to join me in watching. Heads bobbed. Amplified by the energy of movement, the spirit grew. Soon, a young woman was dancing.

The players played and the dancer danced. People walked by. Most simply glanced, some gawked, some stopped to watch and move. The leader of the group of musicians pulled several more percussion instruments out of a box, and summoned us watchers into the circle, handing each of us an instrument, a magic wand. We join in the music. The spirit grew and grew until soon there were twenty or more of us in the circle, everyone with an instrument, everyone adding their own piece to the group’s Samba rhythm. People entered the circle and danced. There were children, there were elders, there were couples. There were battles and dramas, ebbs and flows, all played out through the spirit and the beat. Then, when spirit finished weaving its moment, the music came to an end, and everyone dispersed, enlivened. Alive.

It’s true–no piece of recording can ever equal the visceral power of this experience. It must be lived. In comparison to this, a recording of music is dead, just as the written word calcifies a story told by spoken words, tones, and gestures. Yet, the written word is symbolic, and has a life of its own. It has resonances that reach back through unseen history, possesses resonances that are no less powerful because they are unknown or subconscious. Like a hermetic dream emblem, the proper arrangement of words, even on a screen, even on paper, can induce a mystical state–the experience of emotion, meaning transmitted across time and space.

All the more so, then, with recorded speech. All the more so, then, with recorded musical, rhythmic speech. True, the tones and flows are solidified, but also true that they thus become symbols and possess a magic of their own. The energy that goes into the performance, the recording process–some of it, anyway. Enough. Once it is heard, by a dozen or a million people, that energy spreads out and lives in their imaginal space. It grows in power, and in meaning. It returns to its creator anew.

I have known this process in theory since 2004. I have been actively engaging this process since 2007. Through rap music, comics, and writing, I built a story–a legend, a myth, something old and new, something that belongs to its time and yet reaches beyond: The Concrete Shinobi. This myth has lived and already lives again–it has already given wisdom and entertainment and knowledge, it has already become a little girl’s favorite bedtime story. It will continue to grow, because it is meant to. The ninja sneaks in through the doors of perception, bringing god-knowledge, truth & beauty. I don’t know how far this masked man will travel, but I do know he’s always got tricks up his sleeve and cards stashed in pockets.

The Baytime Vader is something else.

Someone else.

The future of the future.

Depending on what story you believe, the Baytime Vader is:

A time-traveling shaman from an alternate future, where the pyramids were crushed and the machine gods lost the war.

A persona of The Concrete Shinobi, who is a persona of Malik Diamond.

An alien invader from the fifth dimension.

A weird rapper whose lyrics don’t make much sense but are funny.

A man in the midst of a psychotic break, delusional, believing in ridiculous things like trees and ancestors speaking to him, dreams delivering messages, transitions into alternate realities, visits to the spirit realm, truth and beauty and justice, magic and gods and superpowers.

All of the above.

Like The Concrete Shinobi, the Baytime Vader has taken on a life of his own. The more of the story gets told, the more people who hear the music, the more real everything becomes. In 2009 I wrote, recorded, and released the first album, Baytime Vader, and less than six months later I had left Los Angeles and was living in the Bay Area once again. I moved to Oakland in 2013, and in 2014 I released Return of the Baytime Vader; soon I was doing shows all over the Bay. Within a year I had built an entire network of friends and acquaintances in the independent hip hop world, thrown several legendary house parties, got a job at a hip hop themed non-profit, and was traveling to schools throughout the Bay Area to teach kids about hip hop–the circle and the pyramid, the elemental sorcery, the basic technique and essential joy of creating, dipping into the pool of wonder.

Last winter, in a creative act of furious desperation, I wrote an recorded an entire EP worth of songs in about a week. Unlike all my previous projects, I went into it with no theme or concept in mind, no structure, no real sense of what it was going to be. I just knew I needed to write, I needed to channel, and I needed to say whatever the fuck I wanted to without worrying about whether it was too mean, too weird, too whatever. I just sat down, played beats, and wrote. The project came to life, spontaneous ordering–it developed its own theme, its own structure. This was not Malik Diamond telling a story about the Baytime Vader, in that persona, as the previous two projects had been; this was the Baytime Vader telling his own story. In his own words. Alienation

It was harsh. Cold. Menacing. Rusted metal in his blood.

I realized that in coming here, the heyoka holy man from a wild, healthy world was reflecting the insanity of this sinister machine world–and in doing so, was beginning to turn evil. This album was not just a collection of songs; it was a distress signal. A transmission, sent beyond time and dimensional barriers through the seas of other people’s imaginations, intended to summon help from the ancestors, the gods, the spirits.

And it worked.

Transmission received. Prayers answered. It worked, and it continues to work.

Thank you.

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Intimate Relations

In my life, I’ve had issues arise between myself and close friends because of questionable sexual behavior. Clearly established moral and ethical boundaries were dishonored and violated. Relationships were strained and stained, some were cut off or put on indefinite pause. My feelings were hurt, I was angry, sad, disappointed. Feelings are feelings and they deserve respect, but they are not the sum total of life’s meaning; ultimately I realize that these people did me a favor by showing me who they are and what they’re capable of–I take the win and keep it moving.

I woke up this morning thinking about lovers, and what I’m currently looking for in a lover. This led me to reflecting on the types of experiences I’ve had in this realm, as well as the experiences I’ve heard about from friends, acquaintances, and strangers. I have some rough formulations that I came up with as a way of understanding these experiences, understanding different types of erotic and sexual relationships. One of the reasons I want to think and feel my way through this comes out of a need to define my values and experiences outside of “consensus reality,” which I find to be mostly wack.

There exists the standard “monogamous” model of relationships–two people in a romantic partnership who, in theory, do not have any outside lovers or romantic relationships. The standard narrative leads them to long-term coupling, perhaps marriage, perhaps children. Even long-term cohabitation is essentially the same thing as a marriage, only without the paperwork or the negative juju that many people associate with marriage due to their experiences and understanding of it.

The problems with these relationships have been well-noted by various storytellers and philosophers for thousands of years. To summarize the modern situation, these relationships are a mirror of the function of capital, which in turn is a mutation of agricultural economics dating back to the neolithic. Ownership and oppression,  envy, jealousy, the basic insanities of the nuclear family, etc. In reality, “infidelity” is common; people cheat on each other all the time. It’s considered standard behavior in many circles for a man to have a wife and a mistress, a girlfriend and a side chick.

Then there’s “dating,” which as far as I can tell is basically “try-outs” for long-term companionship. Many people simply date out of boredom or lack of alternative options, but I think most people who date are ultimately looking for someone to share their lives with. In ye olden days (pre-internet) they might meet potential partners through friends or family, or while participating in activities in which they share an interest. Perhaps they meet at a bar or a club or a show. There are organizations that set people up on dates, or perhaps host “singles mixers” for folks to meet potential partners. People meet each other in school, or maybe have a chance encounter on the bus or shopping for groceries. And since everything material in this society can be had for the right price, people even buy, sell, and trade “sexual services.”

Nowadays, technological alienation has led to a proliferation of “website dating services,” where people fill out standardized forms and are given a list of potential matches based on how well their form answers line up with each other. This technological alienation has reached its current apex with apps like Tinder, which have transformed the quest for romantic and/or sexual partners into the equivalent of online shopping–people as two-dimensional commodities, reduced to a picture and a soundbite, swipe left to reject.

In the last several years, among certain circles of consumer-class bohemians, there’s been a proliferation of the ideology of “polyamory.” People unsatisfied with the basic mundanity of monogamy have opted for relationships with various degrees of “openness” to having other lovers. Many of these folks hierarchically organize the status of their lovers around a main partner–primary, secondary, tertiary (does anyone other than me use that word?), etc. A friend who is a professional counselor told me once that there’s now a whole field of relationship counselors who specialize in “polyamorous” relationships. The most common problem they encounter is that these relationships tend to hinder people’s emotional growth; instead of making the difficult emotional journey of working out relationship problems, one or the other partner simply finds someone else to use as an emotional escape and outlet.

Personally, what I’ve seen most often is that people who are emotionally immature promote “polyamory” out of self-interest; they don’t want to be single and lonely, but they still want to be able to fuck whoever they want. Despite the protests and propaganda of folks who advocate this lifestyle, it is essentially just another commodity/consumer relationship; if I’m unhappy with the current product, I’ll use something different for awhile–I mostly eat at Jack-in-the-Box, but right now I’m in the mood for Burger King. I do not think it’s a coincidence that “polyamory” has gained popularity in the era of Late Capital(ism). Advocates of this lifestyle claim that it represents some kind of freedom; if so, that freedom has not, in any way, extended to society in general. The mental gymnastics of people looking for moral justification of their own self-interest are always fun to observe.

I’ve been in many intimate relationships that I like to refer to as “non-traditional,” mainly because I haven’t known what else to call them. I’ve only been in two long-term (a year or longer) monogamous relationships in my life. It’s been common in my adult life for me to have multiple concurrent lovers; I remember first reading about “polyamory” back in the early 2000’s, long before it became trendy. It sounded good on paper, but there was always something about it that struck me as suspect. I never claimed the label.

I’ve had two long-term “open” relationships. I’ve had sexual/romantic relationships that were on-and-off for years, but I never identified those partners as my “girlfriend,” did not claim monogamy, and had no illusions of long-term commitment. I’ve had relationships that were erotic and sexual but did not involve “intercourse.” When I was younger I did plenty of lying, but I haven’t “cheated” on anyone since I was 19; in all other cases, everybody knew the deal, and signed up with varying degrees of acceptance or reluctance. With some lovers our encounter was a one-time occasion, but in most cases I’ve been involved with someone for at least a few months.

Through all of these experiences, I’ve developed an ethics and morality of sexual/romantic relationships that is deeply personal. If I agree to be monogamous, I will be. If I don’t, I won’t, and I will be upfront about it. If a lover says they’re okay with being non-monogamous but their actions and attitudes say otherwise, I will break it off. I refuse to be the partner-in-cheating for someone who is supposed to be monogamous to another, (though I reserve the clown-pass right to make an exception if the woman is POC and the partner is a white man, hee hee, ho ho). I never sexually engage anyone with whom my close friends have a romantic history. As a general rule, I will not knowingly have sex with anyone who’s ever had sex with one of my friends, co-workers, or professional associates. I won’t keep a lover who lies–actively or by omission–about their sexual history or their relationship status. And, generally speaking, I don’t seek out lovers. I live my life, and if they show up, that’s great.

Thinking through all of this, I’ve come up with some rough categories or archetypes of lovers. In all of these, I assume a basic level of human respect between partners; I have no interest in the objectification and dehumanization of people for sexual purposes. Therefore, none of these categories involve predatory sex–seeking out people to fuck with zero regard for their feelings or humanity–or transactional sex–paying for access to someone’s body. So-called “sex workers” may take issue with my feelings on this, which is their right, but I will say it anyway: exchanging sex for money and/or resources is an affront to the spirit, and proof of the degradation inherent in (machine)(domination)(patriarchal)(capital[ism]) culture. Also, none of these categories are intended to be absolute; they can ebb and flow into one another, the moon and the tide.

The Companion Lover
The type of lover that most people are familiar with from being in “romantic relationships.” This is a person with whom you share aspects of your life–you spend time together, go on adventures, share meals, tell stories, merge your lives in some capacity, or even join forces unto death. The standard “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” fits into this category, as well as long-term lovers with “undefined” status. A spouse or life-partner is a long-term companion lover.

The Recreational Lover
This is a lover with minimal emotional attachments. Their only purpose is in sharing sexual fun. They may be a one-time lover or an ongoing affair with no degree of commitment. This is a hedonistic relationship by definition; once the fun stops, the relationship stops. (Please note that I am not condemning hedonism; it is what it is.)

The Therapeutic Lover
Sex and sexuality are fundamental to the human experience, and in a society of alienation, oppression, and objectification, folks can and do develop all kinds of pathologies. A therapeutic lover is someone who helps to heal those sicknesses through sex. This is someone who ultimately makes you a better, healthier, more whole human being… whether they intend to or not. Sometimes we need a release, but a recreational lover is not substantial enough–one needs more than just “fun.” If you’ve ever felt this, you may have been feeling the need for a therapeutic lover.

The Heart-Connection Lover
This is the spiritual ideal; the lover with whom one shares a deep, soul-level connection. This is all of the other lovers blended together in a sacred dance of intimacy. From what I’ve seen, few people ever experience this level of connection with someone. Even when they do, it’s not necessarily a guarantee of a blissful partnership. If anything, it can be more difficult than any other kind of relationship; it demands change, adaptation, emotional and spiritual growth, respect, and compassion on a level that our society ill prepares us for. This is what people are pointing towards when they use the phrase “soulmate,”–the two who become one, separated only to unite. The idea of, experience of, and hope for this lover have long inspired creative works of intense and enduring beauty.

I have experienced each of these archetypes, and blends of them. I know them by feel, know their benefits and drawbacks. Right now, I have no lovers; after dealing with plenty of heartbreak and trifling behavior, I have decided to be very cautious and intentional about who I share my time and energy with. That said, who knows what the future may hold?

I am an explorer.

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Cellular Romance

Straight to the point: cell phone technology has brought a whole new layer of drama and bullshit to every romantic relationship I’ve been in.

Background information that will help the reader understand where I’m coming from: I am not down for the Droid Era. I do not own a smartphone, which means I do not spend an inordinate amount of my time poking away at my phone. I can only check e-mail or social media sites when I’m at home, on my desktop computer–a computer which is quickly becoming antiquated in its internet capabilities because I refuse to update the operating system (it would kill my audio recording/mixing software, but that’s another story).

No smartphone means no instagram, no snapchat, no apps of any sort. No constant buzzing of a pocket computer calling me to prayer. I have a flip-phone that’s about seven years old. The battery can go for a week without being recharged. I can text and call, but I can’t get group texts, any pictures sent to me have about as much resolution as a postage stamp, and I can’t watch videos or play music. No perpetual soundtrack to my daily life, no tube television as a traveling companion. No videogames, no GPS, no streaming anything.

I do not live as though my phone were my boss or my diety. Unless I am expecting a call or a text, I generally keep it on silent so it is not constantly demanding my attention, and I turn it off by 11pm every night. Sometimes I go the whole day without remembering to turn it back on. I check it occasionally throughout the day, usually when I want to know what time it is. I rarely engage in extended conversations by text; my feeling is, if we have enough to talk about that it takes more than three or four messages, we should be speaking and listening instead of texting.

I first got a cell phone in 2003. I was 23 years old. That means I lived on this planet for 23 years without carrying a phone/computer with me everywhere. I had friends, I had two jobs, I participated in activities, I had a girlfriend, I had a life, and I was able to do all of that without a cell phone; I realize this is fully unimaginable for anyone under the age of 30, but it’s true. The only reason I even got a cell phone was because I moved into my girlfriend’s apartment and for some technical reason I couldn’t transfer my landline number to my new place.

As long as I’ve had a cell phone, I’ve always managed to live in a place with minimal reception. Three different cities, five different domiciles since 2003, and I’ve never had reliable connectivity. Missed calls, dropped calls. Texts and voicemails that arrive days after they’re sent. Sometimes even when my phone’s ringer is on, the phone still doesn’t ring when I get a call or text. A frequent enough occurrence that I’ve taken note of it: I’m around other people and they suddenly have phone connectivity issues they don’t usually have. Maybe it’s my aura.

Digressive side note: a number of times I’ve been teaching a workshop for middle school or high school students, and I’ve used the phrase “cellular phone,” and someone has asked me what that is. They don’t even know that “cell” is an abbreviation of “cellular.”

Now, thanks to these devices, the social environment has taken on some new dimensions of fuckery. Many people live as though these devices were a part of their own bodies. All face-to-face conversations are subject to disruption by gadget at any time. Folks often insist on having a personal soundtrack playing in the background for any mundane occasion. Stories, instead of being told, are illustrated, like children’s books–infinite photos, infinite death of the imagination.

I recognize that I’m the weirdo for not being down with all this, but me being the weirdo doesn’t make this droid culture any less psychotic and disturbing. People who live this way assume that everyone else does too, which is a reasonable assumption given the circumstances. On the everyday level, what this means for me is whenever new people come into my life, they have a learning curve for discovering I’m not a gadget jockey, and certain things about our relationship are going to be different. I’m not going to instantly respond to something you send me. I am not automatically available at any given time of day or night. And if I call you and you don’t answer, I’m probably going to leave a voicemail, archaic as that has become.

And there’s one thing I’m never, ever going to do over text with a romantic partner: argue.

In each of the (romantic)(sexual)(erotic)(love) relationships I’ve been in over the last five years or so, I have made it a point to tell the other party these things up front. Please, if you have any kind of issue with me, if you are upset about any aspect of our relationship for any reason, CALL ME. Don’t text me. I do not do text-message drama, not even a little bit. If you send me some crazy text or series of texts, the first thing I’m going to DO is call you. The first thing I’m going to want to KNOW is why you are disregarding and disrespecting my request, my conditions, my boundaries. (P.S., I reserve the right to act like I never saw the texts in question.)

Seems pretty straight forward to me. I’m as honest and direct about it as I know how to be. And still.

And. Still.

Somebody catches a jolt of feelings, and instead of sitting with it and figuring out how best to address those feelings, they lash out with dead letters. It’s so easy. It’s so normal.

It’s psychotic.

How many times as someone been upset with me because I didn’t respond fast enough to them, or because there was some kind of misunderstanding between us regarding something that was said or not said? How many plans have been cancelled at the Last Possible Minute because it’s so much easier to disappoint someone when you don’t have to hear the disappointment in their voice? How many scathing texts have been impulsively sent and regretted later?

Having been in romantic relationships before and after the Droid Syndrome took hold, I have to say that on the balance, shit is much worse now. Yes, it’s fun to flirt over text. Yes, I like getting cute, sweet, sexy messages from lovers. Yes, it’s a convenient way to let me know x, y, and z. No, it does not make up, cannot make up, for what is lost.

There’s more talking and less communication. Relationships are more fragile. We are more alienated from each other than ever.

“The war is over, and the machines won.”

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Empathy for the Serpent

I’ve been binging on Hellboy comics the last few days–what a marvelous series! I have the first 10 or so books, and every few years I go through and read them again. So, I currently have a head full of monsters, witches, devils, shamans, ghosts, and other folks who are guaranteed to be fun at parties.

“Chaos monsters” in the mythology of City/Civilization cultures are frequently represented as serpents of some kind–dragons, etc. For example, Marduk, the first god/priest king of Mesopotamia, created the first government/state/civilization from the remains of his slain mother, Tiamat the chaos dragon.

The serpent is also the spiral, the Milky Way, the snail shell, the gene codes, the great and small manifestations of the miracles of cosmos and life. The chaos serpents in old myths are usually female, the cosmic mothers.*** They must be slain in order for the man-rule of grids, temples, and banks to take over. And so they become the first villains in the New Story, the story of triumphant empire. In modern times, we see this most prominently in the story of Adam & Eve, where Eve screws everyone over by surrendering to temptation by the devil-snake in the Garden of Eden.

The serpent is life and cosmos, untamed, uncontrolled, wild and free. And so it becomes the enemy of The Civilized, whose ideology is based on control of life–the ordered grids of farm fields give way to paved streets, caste systems, slaves and masters, debt peonage, human sacrifice, ecological destruction, Total War, and all the other dubious accomplishments of civilization.

Chaos, in both the old and the new myths, inevitably gets a bad rap. It is experienced as “evil,” and in the Christian mythos as “satanic.” The feminine, the wild, the flesh becomes that which must be conquered and overcome. Chaos as disorder, as destruction. Horror monsters of chaos and the abyss–Cthulu in Lovecraft, giant squids in Verne, the Ogdru Jahad in Mignola’s Hellboy stories–become the ultimate evil.

This is what I think: I think that this so-called “evil” is really The Fear. It is The Fear the civilized have of that which is beyond their control, or that which threatens their control; their Fear turns “chaos” into “evil.” They look into the abyss and see a mirror that reflects all the horrors of civilization–the destruction, the rapaciousness, the cruelty, the sheer anti-life malice of the Citygod. This is their own reflection, but they experience it as something separate, something “out there,” some mysterious and hostile force that threatens their precious order.

The truth is that “chaos” is not evil; it’s not even disorder. There are an infinity of “orders” that grow naturally out of the great mysteriousness (Lakota – Wakan Tanka) of existence. The golden mean writes itself into the macro- and microcosm. The bird knows where to migrate, the spider knows how to build a web, lions know how to hunt, the moon knows how to wax and wane. All of these different “orders” are part of the same grand song of creation, “the harmony of the spheres” as Pythagoras called it. Chaos, then, is the totality of all orders. It’s the whole song. And therefore, it is terrifying to the tone-deaf android mutants who are obsessed with controlling the song.

So, we get evil chaos dragons in our stories. What the tellers of these stories fear is life, the female, the flesh, the earth. They fear wildness, they fear mortality, they fear what they cannot dominate and control. They commit evil to gain power-over, then externalize that evil–monsters in the void, dark skinned savages, etc. Their own sense of the existential meaninglessness generated by industrial society emerges from the collective (un)(sub)(?)conscious as old, evil, hungry, maddening monsters who dwell in ocean depths or in the void of outer space. These are the imaginal gymnastics of the civilized, the way they resolve their cognitive dissonance. The dreamtime fantasies of assholes.

One thing that makes Hellboy such a good series is the main character’s (and therefore the story’s) ambivalence about this entire model. Hellboy is supposed to be Anung un Rama, the Beast of the Apocalypse, but he makes the choice to reject that fate. And yet, he is still a part of the spirit world, the realm of faeries and gods; he is kin to everything that goes bump in the night. He is human and monster, united in the same body. He journeys across realms and dimensions, he fights battles to protect others, or to protect himself against those who would use him for their own purposes. He searches for knowledge and meaning. He is a shaman-warrior of the modern era, reluctant and weary but devoted to living and choosing his own path.

Meanwhile, some of the “villains” of the stories make a strong moral case for calling down the apocalypse. They know that the “End of the World” is only the end of this world–they know that the end of this world is the beginning of the next world. Their goal is not simply to destroy; they desire rebirth. Can you blame them? Could anyone with credible knowledge of this culture and society possibly desire anything other than its total destruction and the birth of something new?

“What I will do tonight can never be undone. I will open a portal, and awaken the Ogdru Jahad–the Seven Gods of Chaos. Our enemies will be destroyed. And from the ashes, a new Eden will arise.”
-Rasputin, Hellboy: The Movie

If you took all the victims of industrial civilization–that is to say, everyone who lives, from the mitochondria to the gray whales to the human child rape-slaves–and proposed a vote, I’m guessing you would get a landslide victory for Rasputin’s platform.

Yes, wipe it away, please and thank you. Yes, give us back the land, our freedom, our song and dance of living. Give us back the cycles of the seasons, our connections to our ancestors and the rest of the living world. Destroy the machines, destroy the systems, destroy the humans who build and defend them–they are our enemies. Please, an end to the Abrahamic sky-daddy/lord/king of Judgement and Envy. Bring forth the new Eden, we can wait a few hundred thousand or a few million years. Heal the poisons, dissolve the concrete shell, eliminate the citygod infection. Better death than eternal enslavement.

Heathenous? Yeah.


Ask the buffalo.

***Note: “Chaos” is also commonly represented as an egg, which is also implies the female (, or as water/fluid (

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The Softball Lesson

One of the earliest lessons I ever learned regarding the, shall we say, eccentricities of our social environment came when I was in the seventh or eight grade. It happened in Physical Education, which like everything else in school has the effect by design of killing all joy. In this case, it was the joy of physical activities and games.

As a youngster, I liked physical games. My favorites were kickball, four-square, softball (easier to hit than a regular baseball), basketball, tennis, badminton, long-jump, high-jump, shot put , and flag football. Left to our own devices, my friends and acquaintances would have had a perfectly wonderful time playing any of these–sometimes keeping score, sometimes not, talking shit, and generally being free spirited kids.

P.E. class, however, adds some bonus features, such as: being forced to play games with people you don’t like, being graded on one’s performance in a given activity, and being required to participate in any and all activities that the teacher chooses for the class. In other words, one is compelled and coerced to participate. Compulsion and coercion are the enemies of fun.

One day the class was doing a “softball unit.” As usual, my two running buddies and I were assigned to a team by default, as none of the chosen team captains were interested in having their teams sullied by the remainders of the junior high social equation. We were geeks, dorks, nerds, outcasts, fringe elements. Nevermind that two out of three of us were physically active enough to be decent participants in any given sport; skill was not a factor. I never did figure that equation out, but I got the general idea.

Since nobody on our team wanted anything to do with us, when it was the other team’s turn to bat we were assigned to the distant outfield. They simply parked us way out in right field, where they could almost forget that we were on the team. There weren’t enough catcher’s mitts for everyone on the field; needless to say, our team wasn’t going to waste perfectly good gear by giving it to us. So there we stood, gloveless, stuck to a patch of grass, reflecting on our situation with the usual sarcasm and resentment, waiting for the class period to end.

A crack of the bat sent the softball rocketing straight at us. I couldn’t tell you who hit that ball, but if the hit was any indication of their general athletic potential, they might have made a professional go of it–that ball flew through the air like a comet. We were far enough out that we had a good couple of seconds to see it coming our way; all of us were able to move to the side and avoid being crushed. The ball sailed off into the netherlands and one of us went after it, I don’t remember who. By the time the ball made it back to the diamond, whoever was on base had long since made it home.

At least half the members of our team were livid. They yelled and cussed at us, and we yelled and cussed right back. What stands out to me about this exchange is how upset they were that we refused to try and catch that speeding ball with our bare hands.

And there was the lesson.

We end up on your team, you make it clear you don’t want us, you put us in the middle of nowhere, you don’t give us the equipment we need to participate even if we wanted to, and then get angry at us when we refuse to put our physical safety on the line for the sake of your game. Then, in the time honored tradition of Civilized Masculinity, you insist that each and every one of us is a (bitch)(fag)(pussy)(whatever) for not doing so.

Well, as my mom likes to say, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

A lot of folks end up as victims of bullies in these environments. There are people who end up bending over backward to try and please the cool kids, who will undergo any punishment or humiliation to be accepted by a given group. There are people whose spirits are crushed, who grow into meek and servile adults. There are victims who move on, find themselves in the top positions, and exact revenge by visiting misery upon those below them with the same level of commitment as their own tormenters. The fuckers and the fuckees.

The model is actually very simple to grasp when our vision is not clouded by conditioned loyalty to the machine. The Plan says, take your position, fuck and be fucked. We all play it out, in some form or another. “Privilege” is a corny and inadequate term for such a serious situation, but it’s also a helluva drug. Something in me, some combination of nature and nurture, heritage and rearing, is and has always been allergic to this entire model. Why? I sometimes wonder. Who can calculate such an equation? All I know is, I’ve never been down. The idea of being humiliated in order to be accepted is something I’ve simply never entertained. Neither have I accepted the idea that I must humiliate others. I don’t want to be fucked or fuck.

Geeks & dorks are supposed to be victims. As such, I made a terrible geek, because I always thought I was cool. I always had a sense of my own self-worth, despite the constant onslaught of Babylon against my spirit. I always had a sense of my own potential, my intelligence, my creativity, and these were things I valued and took pride in. They were fulfilling to my spirit even if they didn’t get me any dates. True, I had pitched battles with anger and depression from the age of twelve or so, battles that would get more intense and destructive as I grew into my early twenties. But there was something in me. Something that refused to surrender. Something that refused to be part of The Plan.

Hugo Monster has a song called about being bullied in school (Optimus Prime). Toward the end of a song, there’s a line that says, “I hope the child in me is proud of me.” I love that line. I would have had a much easier time as a young adult if I could have seen myself in the future, imagined my accomplishments and the rewards and struggles of my journey as an adult.

I’m now 37 years old. I’ve written and recorded over 100 rap songs, given amazing live performances, lectured to students of all ages, independently published a book and a number of comic books, served as a leader and teacher in my community, helped people, become an adept martial artist, had plenty of lovers, developed a strong spirituality, and built a satisfying life for myself. I have close friends, my chosen family. I have the admiration and respect of people I admire and respect. I’ve travelled to other states, even other countries. I learned to speak other languages. I’ve even been in love a few times.

I got to be what I always wanted, deep down, to be: a superhero.

With these time-bending powers I got from the old gods, I travel back and whisper into the dreams of that young me: Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Be yourself. The journey will be hard and lonely, but it will be worth it because you will live and exist on your own terms, not the terms set by people and systems that do not care about you or your well-being. You will forge your own path, you will make many mistakes, you will achieve many victories and failures, and you will learn. Your ancestors and your relatives who fly and swim and crawl and grow will speak to you and teach you things; listen to them. What you pray for will be yours; choose your prayers carefully.

And no matter what happens, keep the laughter.

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Raccoons on the Zombie Concrete

This society is obsessed with the undead, the zombie apocalypse. It’s easy enough to understand; I knew the end times were speeding down the pipeline back in 1999, when the radio airwaves were full of boy bands and rap-rock hybrids, and all the most popular TV shows were “reality television” and talent contests with phone-in democracy. The number one rapper was a trailer trash white dude, the most interesting rock persona looked like a vampire king, and you could buy spikes for your DIY clothing at the shopping mall.

Now here we are almost 20 years later, and the hordes have come. No need to look to the future or to cable TV for the zombie apocalypse; it’s already here, in front of you. Train cars, backyards, dinner tables, night clubs, social gatherings, all full of people typing their prayers into the screen of an electronic device–zoned out, barely conscious, imaginations on life support and ready to pull the plug. Aching for a final, painless escape into the great beyond; virtual reality, come rescue me. When all spiritual power and meaning has been sucked away, processed into consumer goods, and put on sale for the low low price of the never-to-return moments of your life, well… sounds like the end times to me.

No more black lung coal mines for your children; those went somewhere else, now it’s somebody else’s children. No more factory slaves in sight; they’re locked behind bars, or across a border or an ocean. Do we still have farms, or do drones do all the harvesting of genetically modified mono-crops? I saw cows on the countryside up north, some of these folks still have ranches. Somebody must not have told them the score.

“I only watch documentaries.” I know, because–and this may surprise you–I’ve heard it before. Often. What may also surprise you is finding out that even though you think you’re somehow “alternative” (chuckles) or wise beyond the banality of TV talent shows and police porn, you’re actually just tuned into another frequency of channel zero. This is the one where they define history and reality for you, an absolute determination, complete with dramatic music, jump cuts, special effects, and the soothing voices of actors explaining The Way of Things.

Or maybe you really like watching footage of the “animals,” I mean who wouldn’t? They’re so raw, so natural, so free of boxes and technological addictions. And with the safety of the screen and the distance of time and space in between you and them, you don’t even have to worry about smelling them or running afoul of their tempers and flesh-weapons. You can look up a bee’s asshole and never have to worry about getting stung. This culture is nothing if not nosey. Voyeuristic, even. Have you noticed? Maybe it’s just me.

Murder and media re-presentation are ingredients in the most sophisticated chains thus far deployed on a mass scale. I mean, they’re already plugging microchips into dragonflies to control where they fly and what they do, but it might be a few years before they have that for your children, and there’s always the chance we might run out of metal or drown in rising oceans or dissolve in nuclear holocaust before that happens. For now, murder and media re-presentation will have to do the job.

It’s very simple, actually; you kill the thing, then you tell the story of the thing you killed. You’ve achieved a powerful dynamic of control–the thing will never do anything you don’t want it to do, because it’s dead. One of the things it will never do again is speak, in any way, for itself, so now its story belongs to you. You can say it was… well, whatever you want to say. Or you can say nothing at all. What thing? There was never one of those. You must be crazy. Let’s see some ID. Log in with your social media profile, so we can inspect for divergent thoughts.

Rhinos can live forever on screen, or at least till the power goes out. Muskrats and prairie dogs, tigers and butterflies. There’s some nature around, if I drive far enough I can see it, but there’s bugs out there and besides I might have to walk, which I’m far too exhausted to do after selling my time to the lowest bidder to eat and have shelter. My family has been spread to the four corners, but I can see pictures of them and chat with them through the screen. I mostly use it to talk to family, don’t I?

Mad science, babylon science, anti-life science, the event horizon beyond which all meaning is devoured and spirit is a primitive superstition of people who aren’t evolved enough to resist germ warfare or commit ecocide. If I tell you what my ancestors told me, or even better how to talk to your own, can I be your guru? Will you bring me nubile women, can you afford the workshop fee? Be sure to post pictures to promote it; if we can’t transmute experience into a commodity, then what good is it?

Yesterday evening I was sitting on the couch reading the quaint and life-affirming stories of an extinct culture when I heard raccoon talk coming through the front door. It was too early for the raccoon folk to be out among the deadly automobiles and machine people, and the talk was full of urgency and worry. I opened the screen door and stepped onto the front porch to see what was going on; I walked into a spectacle that could only happen in the dense isolation of urban living–there were raccoons, yes, a family; mom and children, I would guess. The kids were about half the size they’ll eventually be. Mom was at the edge of the grass with two of the kids, hollering at someone around the side of my house I couldn’t see. Nobody looked injured. This wasn’t the spectacle.

The spectacle was, a number of human neighbors were standing on the sidewalk across the street, watching the raccoon family like it was Jesus and his band of merry apostles come back for a visit. I’m watching the raccoons, trying to figure out what mom is hollering about–trying to hear–and a woman across the street yells out to me, “There’s a family of raccoons in your yard!” This was a major event for her, which is beautiful and tragic in equal measure. I smile her way and mumble something.

There’s a fence that separates my yard from the neighbors, a whole clan of salvadorans and one lone chinese family all stuffed into a small apartment building. Another junior raccoon finally comes dashing from the side of the house, from the neighbors’ side of the fence. All raccoons are at a low level of panic; they know they shouldn’t be out at this hour, they know they’re in danger under the evening light and the eyes of humans. Mom hollers at junior, who finally runs over and joins the group. They all trot off down the sidewalk, not running, but in the rush of people who know they’re in a neighborhood of trouble. By the way, the sight of a family of raccoons walking down a sidewalk is absurd, if that needed to be said.

I go back inside to the couch and the stories, and after a few minutes I hear more raccoon chirping, this time from the backyard. I went out on the back porch to check out the sequel to the front porch adventure. All the men of the salvadoran clan were on the other side of the fence, looking up at one of the trees in my yard, who was chirping. Or rather, an unseen junior raccoon was chirping. I walked out on the hard earth and dead grass to get a closer look, got tree sap and a thorn in my bare foot for my troubles. One of the neighbors spoke to me, which rarely happens. “Do you see him?” No, but I did notice that when I got close, the raccoon went silent. The young man again, big smile, teeth full of braces and red food coloring stains: “There was a whole family of them out front.” Yes, it’s too early for them to be out, I say. I’m worried for them, I don’t say.

Looks to me like junior got separated from the family. Between the inherent danger of being out before dark and the stress of humans gathering and gawking at them, I’m guessing mom opted to retreat, and one of the kids got left behind. Please (god)(mystery)(power)(spirit)(wholeness)(grandmotherfather) look after them, keep them safe and reunite them.

Later that night, after dark, I’m on the back porch ranting with my roommate about white men’s stories. I hear a telltale scraping sound and look out into the yard; the junior raccoon left the tree and ran off down the edge of the fence, in direction his family went earlier. My roommate doesn’t notice. I smile and save the story for later.

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