Friday, April 23, 2010

Ding-A-Ling Prose And The Slippery Word

I sometimes have a little fun with self-help programs, which fall somewhere on my long list of targets. As a concession to potential opponents, I'll state that I think there are most likely a few good self-help programs floating around out there. I sympathize with those who try to use them.

What I want to do now is distinguish between solid self-help advice and fluffy feel-good prose. I never look at books with titles like Chicken Soup for the Soul or Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. First, I consider such titles an insult to my intelligence. Second, I have no wish to read vague, flowery prose whose sole purpose is to shut down readers' brains and give them a fleeting sense of animal satisfaction.

Some local publication recently published a piece of feel-good slop called "Ten Rules for Being Human." I'd like to amuse myself for a time by unpacking some of this ding-a-ling prose.

The so-called 10 rules are vague and nonreferential and imply a constantly positive valence. In short, they're designed specifically to make the reader feel good about himself regardless of the reader's condition or environment.

One of the wearying aspects about American culture is that one is always obliged to be positive no matter how dire the situation is. Even when people get a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, schizophrenia or incurable cancer, they feel they must come up with some sort of positive statement about the prognosis. In much less extreme cases than the three I just listed, I've sometimes found myself wanting to say to a person, "Well, I really don't see anything positive in your situation." But I just stay silent, because I know that it's pretty much forbidden to say things like that.

Having said that, let me go back to my description of this list as one of so-called rules. I want to be clear: nothing in this list is a rule. The items in this list are assertions about what it is to be human. For example, it is asserted that people will learn lessons, will repeat lessons and never stop learning lessons. A rule would have to take a linguistic form such as "You must learn lessons." There is nothing like that in this list. There are no rules here. There is nothing the reader is obliged to do or refrain from doing.

Let's start looking at the text itself. No. 3 on the list asserts "there are no mistakes, only lessons." Item four asserts "lessons are repeated until they are learned."

If there are no mistakes, how exactly does one "learn" a lesson? The assertion that one can learn the lesson assumes that there is a correct way to respond to the lesson — in which case it has been "learned." If one does not respond correctly, one has made a mistaken judgment about the lesson, in which case one has yet to learn it.

Now we are told "When you have learned [a lesson], you can go on to the next lesson." This is an assertion that human life presents lessons in a linear, sequential form. For example, one may first learn the lesson of what must be done to secure a job. Then one may learn the lesson of what must be done to secure an apartment.

The assertion leaves no room for the notion that lessons might overlap; might come in clusters; might come in an infinite variety of orders or in no order at all. There is no room for the notion that a lesson — say, for exam ple, the lesson of ways to enter new groups — would be accessible at some times and inaccessible at others.

No. 6 reads as follows: "'There' is no better place than 'here.' When your 'there' has become a 'here,' you will simply obtain another 'there' that will again look better than 'here.'"

Can we conclude from this item that people who live on the "here" of Riverside Drive do not feel that they live in a "better" place than the "there" of Ward 9 in New Orleans? Is it reasonable to conclude that a black male living in the "here" of Compton should think that a person living on Long Beach does not live in a "better" place? In New York, is the "here" of Harlem qualitatively indistinguishable from the "there" of Long Island?

I know from experience that while it may not always make sense to talk about places being "better" than other places, it certainly makes sense to talk about the cultures of some places being different from those of other places. In Southwest Louisiana, where I reside, difference is strongly discouraged and independent thought is blasphemous. People in this area are expected to be team players, refrain from the questioning of all authority figures and just basically get with the program. In Portland, Ore., where I lived at one point in the past, difference and the degree of one's independence of thought don't have any effect on social relations. Portland is the most libertarian city in a very libertarian state. The approach in Portland is live and let live. People there base their self-concept on what they have in their heads and what they do and accomplish. They don't feel the need to coerce others to accept their points of view about anything. It's taken for granted that a multiplicity of points of view is to be expected; is not a problem; and is never a hindrance to social discourse. It seems to me most unlikely that a sensitive or shy or introverted or creative person who has dedicated herself to the high arts or to complex thought or literature would feel as good in the "here" of Lake Charles as she would in the "there" of Austin, Taos, Ann Arbor, Santa Cruz or any number of places.

Now, back to the list. Time and again claims are presented in this list without one shred of evidence being offered in support of the claim. Let's look at No. 7, which reads "Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself."

OK. Let's apply this claim. If I hate my spouse for striking me with a closed fist, this means what I really hate is the psychotic aggression in my subconscious mind?

Did I get that right? If I hate to be beaten, that reflects my own hatred of my wishes to beat others — and that's the case even if I've never beaten anyone else or felt the conscious desire to beat anyone else. If I hate to be yelled at, that reflects my hatred of my own wish to yell at others, even if I'm utterly unaware of any such wish.

If I understand No. 7 correctly, I cannot hate what a sadistic, sociopathic thug or control freak does to me without at the same time concluding that I must subconsciously wish to engage in the behaviors of the thug that I find so repulsive and must therefore hate myself on that count.

I cannot get my head around No. 7. If a complete stranger is rude or treats me with lack of consideration, must I hate something in myself to hate what the stranger does to me? Just what in myself would I hate? Would I hate my preference that people treat other people with common decency?

On to No. 8. It's designed both to make the reader feel good and to lure him into the current pop psych fad of "empowerment."

"What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours."

Now, can I conclude from this that I can make my life what I want it to be if I have Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, severe mental retardation, leukemia or a painful terminal cancer? If I am paralyzed from the neck down at, say, age 18, can I just use all those tools and resources up in my head to make up my mind I'm going to feel chipper while I spend the next 60 years lying in bed staring at the ceiling?
What about the single mother of two children who's working a minimum wage job; has no savings and only a high school education; whose friends are as poor as she is; and who's just lost her last relative, who left her nothing, having nothing to leave her? What little miracle is this person supposed to whip up with her poor, skimpy network and the "resources" in her head?

What about the fact that more than 25 percent of this country's citizens don't have health insurance? Is it the case that a quarter of the population is just too lazy to make the choices and take the actions necessary to get health insurance? I don't think so. The insurance is overpriced and the people are underpaid. People can't change that basic state of affairs by thinking a certain way about it. It's not just a lie but a vile lie that gross economic inequalities can be erased with acts of individual will. On occasion, some single-minded, hard-working individual will rise out of destitution to a position of economic se curity. But for every one who does there are a thousand — or 10,000 — who are as single-minded and work just as hard and die on the treadmill of the working poor (and now, the middle class poor as well).

OK. No. 9: "Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust."

Like all the items, this one suffers from sloppy language usage. Due to the nature of American culture, almost all Americans who hear or read the phrase "your answers" will assume that the answers are both definitive and positive. In the rush for a positive outcome, it may be forgotten that the choice we are given is often the choice of the least bad alternative.

There is no simple, positive an swer — whether within you or with out you — to the state of dying a slow, painful death in the twisted wreckage of a car. You will search in vain for "answers" to intense physical pain that lasts for a long period of time. Where is the answer for the myriad individuals undergoing torture, genocide, famine; for those who are being beaten or raped or murdered while I write this column? The author provides no evidence that there are any types of "answers" about anything whatsoever. She does not even provide an example of an answer. And I suspect I'm not the only one whose sense of logic is troubled by the assertion that while "there are no mistakes" there are "answers."

"All you need to do" to get the answers, we are told, is "look, listen and trust" what is "within you." First, that's bad grammar. One could look at, listen to and trust what is within one. Second, it's ridiculous for me to "trust" what is within me if I know I'm schizoid, bipolar, severely depressed or have a tendency to extreme guilt, shame or anger. If I am in such a position, I should, far from trusting what is within me, carefully scrutinize what is within me at each shift of mood to be sure I'm not creating my own problems with my neurotic or psychotic thought patterns.

Sloppy, vague, insubstantial, feel-good language doesn't give us psychic security or even psychic direction. Pain, adversities and unexpected reversals are going to come. We are not going to find "answers" to all of them. Sometimes, no matter what we do or how hard we try, we're simply going to feel bad. In most of the world, there's no law against feeling bad.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Great Book of the Couch

As I write this, it's 2:18 p.m. according to my Mac. Thus far today I've eaten two biscuits with gravy, half a link of sausage, two individual pizzas and three individually wrapped Reese's SnackBarz. Who knows what I will send through my stomach and liver before I finally take my sleeping pill and drift off into insomnia tonight?

I feel like the narrator of Saul Bellow's novel Henderson the Rain King, who tells the reader at the beginning of the book, "I'm a bum."

I could say I'm a slacker. But before I did that, I'd want to make clear that there's a long and great American tradition of literature about people who just kind of hang out and work little or not at all. Read the great 1960s and 1970s novels by Bellow, Norman Mailer, Walker Percy, Joan Didion (her essays too), Robert Stone, Marco Vassi, Thomas Pynchon, Richard Brautigan, Ronald Sukenick and on and on and on.

And all these people were working in the great tradition established by Herman Melville in the 19th century in his story "Bartleby the Scrivener." You remember Bartleby. He was the guy who answered every request (and order) with the phrase, "I prefer not to."

These books and stories are about people who've given up on that old American idea that you just have to show up and be ready to work and you'll be successful and happy. And the 1960s and 1970s fictional works were written in a time when Americans who weren't rich actually had some money.

So, having said all that, I go on to say, Call me bum. Call me slacker. If you ever see me with my mouth open, put a pork rind in there.

I used to blame my outrageously bad eating choices on stress. Now I think they're just habit. I don't feel right if I go to bed without having had at least two or three kinds of sausage during the day. And I go to bed early. Real early. Would you believe, say, 7 pm?

When I say I go to bed, I don't mean what most people mean when they say, "go to bed." What I'm referring to is not really going to bed; its going to couch. For me, the quintessence of slackerism and slackness is not eating biscuits and gravy with cracklins on top. It's lying on my couch doing nothing.
I thought I might one day follow in the footsteps of Ivan Goncharov, Samuel Beckett and John Kennedy Toole and write a book about a guy who did nothing but lie around all the time.

But then I decided there would be something not quite right about this. As I see it, my whole life has been a book about doing nothing. My life has been a long song of praise to lying on the couch, staring at the wall.

There are some who think doing nothing is a form of being lazy. That's a grave error. When I say I lie on the couch and do nothing, many, if not most, will assume I mean that I lie on the couch and watch television, or at least listen to music.

If that's what these people think, they and I are on two different pages. When I say I do nothing, I mean I do nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And thus it is demonstrated that what I do (or don't do) has no relation to being lazy. For if most people actually did nothing (as I do), they would immediately become unbearably bored. They would soon be in acute distress. They wouldn't be able to stand it. After five, 10 minutes max, they'd have to turn on a TV or grab a magazine or pick up the cell phone.

I'm light years beyond that. I lie down in absolute silence and I do not move.

Oh, I don't say I never get up and put a CD on the boombox. That happens once in a while. But I'll do such a thing only after a long period of deliberation about whether I'm up to doing it. And actually getting up off the couch will require a tremendous act of will. It'll be something I'll have to build up to. I'll lie on the couch thinking things like, "OK, Brad. You can do this. Come on. You can make it." Seriously.

Now someone reading this may think, "Why, this fellow's powerless to do anything. He has clinical depression!"

I'll go with that diagnosis as long as we both agree I'm suffering from junk-food-induced clinical depression. And if any person with the appropriate medical credentials is willing to give me free anti-depressants, I will happily take them.

But I don't want the basic nature of my life to change. I lie there on the couch, looking at all the books around me, thinking, "You know, Brad, you could get up and read one of those books." But then I think, "Oh no, not another book! You've read 10,000 and you've got another 10,000 to go. I'm tired of reading. Let's just defocus. Defocus. Ah. Now, doesn't that feel better?"

A book is a great project of diversion. And what is there about me that has changed after I've read yet one more book? I am, as the Floyd sang, "another day older and another day closer to death." All I've done is amuse myself for a few hours. And by the time I quit reading, it's time to go to sleep. There's no time left for just lying on the couch doing nothing.

I'm over half way through this essay and I still don't have the slightest idea what it's about. Let me just make up some topics out of the blue. Let's say it's about my perpetual tendency to do much, much less than could ever be expected of any American man. The idea of being successful, practical, ambitious; these things are inscrutable to me. The idea of staying active for the mere sake of staying active I find distasteful, and the idea of staying active because I'm expected to or supposed to is downright disgusting to me.

What about the idea that there's something wrong with me if I don't have a social life? I say, "Fine. Let there be something wrong with me. I'd rather have gangrene than have a social life." And the notion of taking steps to prepare for the future seems ridiculous. What? I'm supposed to prepare for the nursing home? That's crazy. I say let the nursing home prepare for me.

Even after I've trotted out and dismissed all those potential topics, the essay still seems a wee bit aimless. But that's OK. I have plenty of time to make up a topic before I get to the end.

What's it like to be the bum, the slob, the neurotic, the curmudgeon, the cynic, the introvert, the hermit, the underachiever? Well, I don't know if it's quite right to say that such a life requires a great deal of work. But it does result in a great deal of cognitive dissonance. To be such a person is to be a fish out of water. The moment I encounter a group of human beings, I'm lost. I don't care what anybody's children or grandchildren are doing. I don't care how cute anybody's baby looks. I don't bother about discussing current affairs because I know that if I do, the other people will just trot out their respective ideologies and shove them down my throat. And if I tried to initiate a discussion of philosophical ideas, why, they'd just look at me as if I were some kind of freak. And since they're already doing that anyway, why should I make the stupendous effort of forcing myself to say something they don't want to hear?

No, when I'm in a group, I just stand there, smile, look pretty, and think, "Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!"

If I wanted to make myself sound better than I really am, I might compare myself to Sherlock Holmes. There's a Sherlock Holmes story in which a doctor tries to intimidate Holmes by showing off his physical strength and threatening Holmes. He insults Holmes' insular, intellectual, gentle life, calling Holmes "the meddler; the London busybody."

The doctor is macho; a man's man. I'd be scared to death of him and say, "No problem, sir. I assure you, you've seen and heard the last of me."

And in fact, Holmes says this is the most frightening case he's ever worked on — but not because of the doctor. Holmes is frightened by another aspect of the case that I won't mention here so as not to spoil the story.

Holmes defeats the doctor not through strength, but through his quiet, solitary Holmesishness. While the overconfident doctor strides around his estate like the cock of the walk, Holmes lurks in the shadows, waiting for the right moment, slowly and carefully working out all the right moves: an antisocial ninja of the 19th century British countryside who ends up snapping the manly doctor like a twig.

It would be a mistake to think that Holmes, for all his bitter pragmatism about humanity; for all his sideways, cerebral approach to experience; is really comparable to me in a fundamental way. You may recall that Holmes was driven; was only happy when he was working on a case. In that sense, he is a sort of mirror opposite, a sort of Janus face, to me — a person who's only happy when his life is free of work.

I could conjure up some kind of bogus philosophy of the couch, or actually try to write some sort of crudely lyrical paean to the couch. But that sounds an awful lot like doing something.

How much better it is just to type out the words as they come into my head. I type the words, I borrow money from my mother so I can pay my rent, my credit card companies charge me interest and the world goes round. What is wrong with this system? Well, there are a few things wrong with it. But it keeps me passive, so I like it.

And when I die, what will I, the consummate underachiever, have accomplished? What will anyone have accomplished? The ordinary person looks back over his or her life, and thinks, "I busied myself with this and that. And in the end, what did it all matter? What difference did it make in the general scheme of things? And now I feel it all drifting away. That's what I did. I busied myself with this and that."

As for me, I'll say, "I busied my self with this and that — only less so."

Like Holmes, I can take a certain pride in what I do. Yet again, I've managed to write a full length essay about absolutely nothing.

"Well, so what?" someone says. "Jerry Seinfeld put together a hit show about nothing more than 10 years before you wrote this."

Beaten to the punch again! An underachiever even at underachieving! I couldn't be more pleased.

When I leave this vale of tears, the great book of the couch will be complete. Floating on the astral plane, it will drift there, waiting for anyone who dares to plunge into this anti-epic story of the ordinary man who was nothing but what was in his head.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"We Do Not Loan Out Our Under Things" — Pristine Gibberish and Deep South Music

Summer, 2010, ushered in two new CDs by a group of folks who are playing and promoting the music of Abita Springs, La. (home of Turbo Dog beer) and south Mississippi.

I Remember the Night Your Trailer Burned Down, by pianist, singer and songwriter Bobby Lounge, is a series of long New Orleans piano rolls in a variety of styles, including blues, ragtime, boogie woogie and gospel. The rolls are of the rapid-fire, bang-'em-out variety. This isn't gossamer make-it-sing stuff.

Even more impressive than the virtuosic fireworks of the piano playing is the raucous, absurd humor in the songs' lyrics. Lounge has staked his claim in Southern culture on the skids subject matter, and let his sense of the ridiculous run wild. Try not to laugh as you read these passages:

• "He won't show you nasty movies ...
"He won't take your night shift down at Popeye's fried chicken." -- "I Will"

• "They ran Tippy out of town on a morals charge ...
"Tippy met some Communist Chinese.
"They toasted him with wine until his head was swimmin'.
"They tattooed him all over with motorcycle women ...
"The queen said, 'We do not loan out our under things.'
"He said, 'Ma'am, just send me home to Abita Springs.'"
— "Take Me Back to Abita Springs"

• "It's pitiful, 'cause Shauna don't know who her mamma is.
"He said Rosa said the other evening she came in there and looked up at Rosa and said, 'Memaw. Memaw. Be my momma memaw. Be my momma memaw.'"
— "I Remember the Night Your Trailer Burned Down"

I can't remember the last time I heard such pristine gibberish on a popular music recording. Just keep this CD on your player and you can throw away your copy of Chicken Soup for the Humor-Impaired.
For more information, visit www.Bobby or write John Preble c/o Abitian Records, 22275 HWY 36, Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420.

The second CD, New Mardi Gras Classics, presents 16 songs about Mardi Gras that have been written over a 40-year period.

The Abitians, who have the lion's share of the cuts, are real genre-jumpers. In "This Is Endymion," the calypso sound is dominant, but there are nice touches of rockabilly and melancholy burlesque guitar. That same guitar, along with some sweet sock-it-to me organ, shows up on the tribal burlesque rocker "King Zulu." This cut would have been the perfect accompaniment for a screening of a stag film in the dark back room of a downtown New Orleans storefront in the 1950s. The calypso vibe is dominant again in "When the Levees Broke."

"The King of Bacchus" is a mock Dylan ballad, with such clever lines as "No facts-based logic could prepare me for this."

In one cut, a man with a gravely bass voice sings,
"I'll wear some high heal shoes and a boustier
"To some it may be a little risqué.
"I'll be the cutest thing you ever saw.
"I want to be the prettiest girl on Mardi Gras."

"Mardi Gras on the Mind" is purist hillbilly music.

But with all this genre-jumping and mixing, the Abitians are still perfectly comfortable playing "Mardi Gras in Evangeline," which is a straightforward traditional Cajun rocker.

"Mardi Gras Season" offers the most insightful line of the CD: "It's so much fun when you're not you."

This is a sound endorsement of a New Orleans Mardi Gras that has meat on its bones: that allows for absolute improvisation and near absolute self-indulgence in street theatre — the kind of thing one sees in Charles Gatewood's Mardi Gras street photos of the 1970s.

Dash Rip Rock, a band that's starting to work Lake Charles, La., venues, pulls down the best hooks on the record with "Orpheus Night," an upbeat pop number with lots of playful guitar twanging.

You can tell from the pictures on the inset that there aren't any woe-is-me 20-year-olds on these records. Some of these musicians have been at this a long time. It's a recording with good execution all the way through that never takes itself too seriously.

For information, visit

Both discs are being promoted by the UCM Museum (pronounced You-see-'em Museum), 22275 Highway 36, Abita Springs, 70420. This place is a DIY art center. Don't expect to see any Blue Dogs paintings here. The museum caters to low-brow and outsider art and little models of old-fashioned service stations and the like.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Evil Word Gods And The Biological Telescope

If you're reading this blog, you're probably well aware that dozens, maybe hundreds, of fine rants appear on the Internet every day. In the reviews that follow, your correspond will introduce you to three that stand the test of time. They are guaranteed to provide satisfaction and amusement for as long as any freak anywhere is able to track them down. Prepare to be puzzled.

Val Valerian "The Markabian / Orion Scenario for Planetary Control" and "The Markabian / Orion Model of Earth's Future"

The long distant origins of this planet's culture, according to this author, were pleasant enough. Earth's culture was started by "fun-loving beings who created mock-ups of games" with "planets, forms, colors, sounds and lots of action and sensation."

If it weren't for the unintentionally humorous language — "fun-loving beings" and "lots of action and sensation" — this scenario would have a lot in common with the theological concept of the universe as the game of God, which is found in Buddhist, Hindu and Christian traditions, and perhaps in others.

Our author calls his version of this construct "the master game." Immediately after interjecting the phrase, he writes, "But that's another story."

So what story does the author tell? His story is one of "cosmic players" — immortals who go from one incarnation to another in a long effort to leave human beings "subjugated and enslaved."

The "master players" are "Markabians/Orion Group/Reptilian Groups." They've created the world we live in now — AKA "the Markan Scenario" — and appear to serve a "master player" named Xenu.

The master players first started messing with Earth 75 million years ago when Xenu undertook an "atomic blasting" that pretty much wiped out living things on Earth. In a fancy flourish, the reader is told "Xenu was his name and terror was his game."
Master players demand conformity from human beings. They get it through the use of "government extension" and "influence by mind control." The fear of government extension may have motivated the "Markabians" to "[work] flat-out to defeat President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher." Our author is perhaps working from a pre-neoconservative view of conservatism. One could hardly think of the Republicans of the W. era as taking a strong stand against excessive government control.

At any rate, Markabians are striving to bring about a "One-World-Police-State" through a tricky device: the offer of "peace, friendship, new technology, trade, and economic and political alignment," all of which is to be delivered by aliens called "Markab."

It's not clear how Markabians will deliver this offer to earth folk; it may come, says the writer, through a "biological telescope receiver."

The text confused me a bit when it used the word "Markab" to describe both the aliens making the peace offer and "world bankers."

The most astonishing part of the text (aside, perhaps, from word of a massive nuclear attack circa 75 million B.C.) is the promise that all the people of the earth will hold a simultaneous "world vote" to decide whether to accept the Markab peace proposal. If the Markabians win, we are told, folks will lose their "chance for an exciting, independent, expanding future." No matter how many times I'm told I have a "chance for an exciting, independent, expanding future," the news always surprises me. How have I become so thoroughly convinced that my future, like my present, will be boring, dependent and meager in options? Perhaps it's Markabian mind control that's led me to believe these things.

As for the present texts, I can't imagine you'll find much reading material that will cram this amount of interesting information into four pages. The mythos presented here is almost as detailed as Lovecraft's and more systematic. "Markabian/Orion Group/Reptilian Groups" are at least as intriguing as sottoths, and as easy to imagine. (Really, what does Nyarlathotep look like? I have no idea.)

As for language, I think it'll be tough to beat such phraseology as "biological telescope receiver." Of course, any reference to mind control is always tantalizing.

There's much to recommend these texts; nothing that I can find fault with. This mythos is different, but has lots of bite.

(If you want to read Valerian's out-of-print 400-page-long books, you can find them for sale on the internet at prices starting at $100.)

Randy Crow "Antichrist Anointed President because of Rigged Diabold Voting Machines — Abominations Fault Ukraine Election"

While many Bush detractors have tagged the emperor with derogatory names, few have found as colorful a moniker as Randy Crow, who habitually calls Bush "antiChrist Little George."

Crow is just as colorful when it comes to describing the program he thinks Bush wants to institute: "a zioni$t communi$t police state." Crow's not afraid to play fast and loose with capitalization, spelling and the free exchange of one type of symbol for another.

For the most part, Crow's critique resonates with that of most of Bush's critics. But there are differences. One, the notion that Bush is a communist sympathizer, we haven't seen elsewhere (as far as I know). Information about such theories is welcome. Some may recall the popular right wing rant in book form None Dare Call It Conspiracy that declared Richard Nixon was a communist sympathizer.

Crow also maintains that Bush wants to "engage the United States is [sic] a self defeating war by attacking Iraq, Iran, Iran, India, and China." Were any country's leaders dumb enough to engage in an attack of all the countries Crow has listed, defeat would, I agree, be inevitable.

Of all the things Crow could pick as the No. 1 problem in the U.S., he chooses "communi$m." To this and 25 other problems he lists, Crow offers a "solution," which is this: "Tell the People the Problems and the People will Solve The Problems." Crow seems to have great confidence in the as-of-yet-unexercised will of the people to familiarize themselves with current issues and think them through.

Without really, as far as I can tell, explaining what the "zioni$t plan" is, Crow levels a devastating attack on it by describing it with the single word "stupid." He argues that "communi$ts" and "zioni$ts" are identical, and both are "paranoid."

This large, paranoid group, Crow asserts, will somehow persuade Russia, India and China to lob nuclear missiles into California and New York.

Near the end, the text degenerates into rant babble:

With zioni$t and blood flowing all over the globe and the end of the world a near done deal, Democrats, Republicans, zioni$ts$ will say OK God you're cool, we will vote for Randy, zioni$ts will give up their money is God religion.

I don't know what that means. But after it happens, says Crow, "the world will start acting right."
About time.

Gene Ray "Nature's Harmonic Simultaneous 4-Day Time Cube"

In this 76-page long manifesto, the author, who describes himself as "the wisest human," presents an often belabored and vague, and sometimes incoherent, explication of his concept of the "4 day Rotating Creation Principle of Cubicism."

To get the most out of this document, the reader should try to follow Ray's advice and "think cubic." The accent in this text is decidedly on the number 4, and in particular the relation of the number 4 to the ways in which people measure the passage of days and minutes.

Ray's phrase "4-Day Time Cube Creation Principle within 1 Earth Rotation" seems to mean that each 24-hour earth day contains within it 4 days. But the cubic principle extends beyond the traditional concept of one day per every 24 hours. For people too are cubics: "There is no human entity, just human Cubics — as in 4 different people in a 4 corner stage metamorphic rotation." This could mean that each person will, at some point, be at each intersection of some sort of unseen cube. On the other hand, it could mean a million other things or nothing in particular.

Sometimes Ray uses that old rant trick of simply declaring the opposition is not only wrong, but cerebrally challenged; for example, consider this mathematical foray: "-1 x -1 = +1 is stupid and evil."

Still, several of Rays recurring motifs — and there are many, many recurring motifs here — are appealing to this reader. Ray is skeptical of the notion of self, perhaps even feeling there is no such thing. ("You think self, you are evil.") We tend to believe these days that selves are constructed with words inside the head. Ray is also skeptical about words, feeling that they're inaccurate or misleading — at least in the ways they're presently used. ("You word murder your children ... Adult word worship is an evil adult scam.")

Since teachers, as Ray accurately asserts, use words to indoctrinate, they are, in Ray's words "evil word gods" who are "teaching commercial plunder of nature." That last clause indicates he may see a danger in a too-eager trust of words and a personal immersion in consumerism.

Fortunately for the reader, Ray's manifesto often turns into indecipherable rant word salad: "Evil 1 day Biblekills children."

In similar passages, he sometimes seems to be getting very close to something that sounds sensible: "Burn the bible, honor Childhood via which adults evolve. Babble Power is suicidal." But at other times, the meaning is just elusive: "Creation has two sex poles & 4 corner races of humans. God is cornered as a queer." So, 4 corners up, God down. Read this and maybe you'll get the message. For adventures in cubic thinking, this text remains unsurpassed.