Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rules of the One Finger Wave (Not That Kind)

As the title indicates, this is not about the rules of flipping the bird. Entire books could be written about that topic. No-- this is about a rural phenomena. It consists of having at least one hand at the top of your steering wheel and when someone comes toward you in the opposite direction, you casually lift one finger as a wave. This is when the other person will also lift their finger, or not.

Coming from a typical suburban neighborhood, near a major mid-western city, I was not inculcated to the exact rules. This practice does not exist in any form in this environment. But also having spent all my summers on an island off the upper peninsula of Michigan, I was somewhat accustomed to the practice. When I started driving, it was time for me to put theory into practice. The problem was that the rules were vague and had to be learned through trial and error.

To date, I am still uncertain about the rules.

Now, if it is someone you definitely know is coming at you, this is good time to give the wave. If they don’t respond, either they are preoccupied or they just don’t like you. At one point I thought that I would just do it to everybody, as if I were actually a local. The percentage of response was low. Drat!

Sometimes when someone you do not know does give the wave back, that person is either not sure of the rules themselves, or is simply polite. I would love to hear what they are saying to each other (if there are two people in the car), or maybe not. It might not be flattering. You have to remember that even if you have lived in a place for a time, unless you were born there, you will always be an outsider.

But I will not admit defeat. I love giving the wave. It makes me feel good, especially if I get a response. This is probably because, as a city person, deep down there is a need to connect to others. We all want that rural sense of belonging to a community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

To Unlock Our Hearts Once More

A philosopher of the kitchen table once said of Babbage’s calculating machine, “What a satire, by the way, is that machine on the mere mathematician! A Frankenstein monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid to make a blunder; which turns out results like a corn-sheller, and never grows any wiser or better, though it grind a thousand bushels of them!”

But of what do we attribute to human genius, and our constitutional compact to glorify ourselves? And of our assigning an expedient neutrality to the other inhabitants of our terrestrial globe?

One might point to language as the difference.

Yet the verbs, nouns and adjectives, which we might refer to as our wit and character, are only signifiers of a peculiar intervenience in our innermost history, subject to the same natural laws as the tulip bulb that breaks forth from the ground and becomes a crescendo of wondrous colors.

If we become deaf to the difference between the rational and irrational utterances issued from ourselves, and blind to the genius of the tulip (its look, sound, smell, taste and feel), it will also be impossible for us to tell the difference between man and our Frankenstein monster.

Let us not forget the origins of the noun: which is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, "to bring into being, create, produce."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing As Two People

I have two novels that were published in 2010. The first, The Prophet of Sorrow, is an historical/literary novel that centers on the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. The story is told by the assassin, Ramón Mercader, with journal entries from other characters. The other novel is a comic romp, The Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, written under the pen name Tonto Fielding. Tonto also has a comedy blog:

I have to wear two hats.

With the Prophet, I get to explore the use of language. I purposely wrote in a style that would let me explore the inner word-nerd in me--

David Alfaro Siqueiros: Journal

They say that, typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are splintered, turbulent, and not particularly skilled at emotional communication. I would say that the impetus for my mordancy came from the Marist fathers. Like so many other Marxist and atheists in Mexico, I had an early Catholic education. Like the fathers, I believe that when I am morally right, any blocking or changing of my obligations is viewed as an unbearable indignity, which should not have to be suffered.

I do not look to God for salvation, but to Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec king. He symbolizes the glory of Mexico and all things noble and good. In contrast, Cortés symbolizes black-hearted evil and the epitome of Western imperialist domination.

Creativity, which has been a deliberate part of my spiritual search, may be expressed not only in aesthetics but in creative action; in a way that rallies people to confront social injustice. My soul is passionately committed to creating a better world.

Just as in the world, not all factors in a work of art are equivalent. Structure, composition, and arrangement result from the subordination of certain integrants to others. It creates a flow, and the illusion of movement that is beyond the limits of psychological time. Through this flow, the artist creates a correlation between the construction and the subordination. Art represents the interaction of this struggle: the unfolding of the temporal, pure motion. Without this enslavement, or the calculated distortion of antecedents, there can be no art.

Art itself is a cognitive function that does not need emotive involvement. Emotion was not made to facilitate art, but art was made to facilitate the expression of it: the undercurrents of arousal and fury.

In the Hillbilly Vampire Chronicles, the tables are turned and I have free reign to use dialogue to define the characters--

The renovation kept Amos busy for a time, while Esther continued to smoke her meth. Pacing the length of the trailer, she would peek out through the sheets they had hung as curtains. Certain that the midget clowns were peering at her from the woods, the paranoia inundated her.

She grabbed the .22 automatic and unloaded a clip at the perceived lurking shadows. Amos hearing the burst came running out of the bedroom and relieved her of the weapon.

“Jesus Christ, you’re going to kill one of those kids.”

“It’s the midgets. Don’t you see them in that tree line? There planning to invade the trailer, I tell you.’

“Midgets? Are you crazy? Oh man, are you ever fucked up,” Amos said.

“Quiet! They can read our thoughts,” she said while picking at her skin.

She took another swig from the ever-present can of Mountain Dew she used to allay a perpetual case of dry-mouth.

The hillbilly father came banging on the door.

“Oh shit, it’s them,” she screamed. “Give me that gun back.”

“Just a second,” Amos called out.

He answered the door and had to deal with the irate neighbor. He explained that it was an accident and settled the situation by offering the gun to him to borrow for some hunting.

“We need to talk, Esther.”

“Sure but they can hear us. We need to find a safe place. Come with me. Now get down here and stick your head in the oven. We can talk in here.”

“I ain’t sticking my head in no oven.”

As Shakespeare said, “Now, by two-headed Janus. Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.”

With me, it’s inside my noggin.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review--The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

The Dog of the SouthThe Dog of the South by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Celebrate the fact that Charles Portis’ novels are no longer out of print and hidden in used book stores. If I could remember whose summer reading list I got this title from, I would go kiss her or him on the lips. The Dog of the South defines the identity of my generation’s time, the way Wallace Stegner did for my father’s. This novel abides by the rules of popular fiction, but also captures the breadth, majesty and complexity of our people. Portis does so with a cast of flamboyant characters who are transplanted to Mexico and Belize, and become victims of unbelievable circumstances. We have a garrulous con artist, political lunatics, missionaries, cranks, and disgraced dreamers. The great American novel is supposed to have the ability to define our society and culture through high art. The Dog of the South is that novel, masquerading as popular fiction. Time alone will bring this opinion into our national consciousness.

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