Feeling Pretty Psyched

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So here it is, the Mayan Calendar has hit the end of the 13th Baktun, the Blue Kachina will be born to dance in the pueblos of the Hopi, our plane of existence will merge with the Supercontext and we will all know ourselves as what we are, pure spirit, that life is a game and God loves us all. I’m going to hang out with friends, jam and probably get a bit drunk.

December 21st, 2012 has been a special date for me for a while now, mainly because it was such a prominent plot point in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, a comic about chaos magicians fighting ancient conspiracies run by eldritch abominations. It sort of became the charter myth of my adolescence for a while, still kind of is though Mage: the Ascension has been mixed in with it. So I’ve been pretty focused on this date, even coming up with an entire trilogy of novels as a teenager based on this date. It would have been bad and silly, would have ripped of the plot of Seven Samurai of all things, casting it against the backdrop of Apocalypse, and involved a man trying to do a musical version of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. I’ve worked out what I hope to be a better 2012 novel, which won’t be dated by Saturday. It involves a rag-tag group of magicians trying to align humanity’s chakras or whatever before the Mayan Calender runs out. It’s Magic Realism and it’s a comedy.

So besides the Mayan Apocalypse I have had something of an interesting time. I had my first romantic relationship, which wasn’t so much a relationship as a long fling, which ended in disaster and heartbreak. It’s been awhile so I’m fine talking about it, but not in great detail. To put it into some perspective, I spent the last few days after meeting her with my heart-broken more than it has ever been broken before, before realizing with the help with my parents that this woman couldn’t love me in any way that would have helped me. I bring this up because I see a certain resonance between the emotional breakdown I just went through and the alleged upcoming Doomsday.

Back to said Doomsday, I believe it’s  only fair to say that the Mayans don’t think it’s the end of the world. Yes, the Mayans are alive. I was surprised as anyone to hear that. They’re doing alright everything considered, since they have experts to deal with their calendar, such as it is. Observe the following article, found on CNN.

“It’s an era. We are lucky to see how it ends,” said wood carver Santos Esteban in Yaxuna, a sleepy village of fewer than 700 Mayans, located in a territory that once belonged to the ancient kingdom founded around 2000 B.C.

He feels it is a momentous occasion and is looking forward to the start of the new age. He is not afraid.

“Lots of people say it’s the end of the world, but we don’t believe that,” he said.

I’ve been aware of this interpretation for a while. It’s been the one I’ve favoured for the most part, since Doomsday is kind of a downer. At the very least, the Mayans are restarting their calendar and Terrence McKenna shouldn’t have taken the voices of aliens he meet via psychedelics so seriously. The fact remains as to why the Mayan Apocalypse is said to be the end of the world by crazy survivalists and jokers on the Internet. I’ve been getting all kinds of memes that say Galactus is going to eat us or there will be zombies eating us (Will people just shut up about the zombies already), but it all comes down to us being devoured by something or other. Meteors are popular too, in which case we will all be devoured in flame I suppose.

Basically, people want to world to end because we all kind of know our current system is fucked. I mean really, the environment is going through drastic changes and we’re saying that God wants to punish us for gay marriage. If God is going to punish us for anything, which Divine Love will probably prevent, it’s going to be messing with the balance of the ecosystem. I found an article on this sort of thing on Boing Boing.

And that aspect of human nature exposes the real impetus behind our childlike fascination with end times. People everywhere yearn for inner change – for a way to detach from the cycle of routine daily existence, with its conflicts, habits, addictions, worries, and boredoms. We’re surrounded by therapeutic and religious ideas – yet the wish for change and personal fulfillment is almost always unfulfilled. So, in our frustration, we look without. We hope that some kind of seismic shift will rescue us from the inability to alter ourselves. Scary as it may be, the end of what we know promises to rupture old patterns and push us toward something new.

So there it is. We want something to shock us out of the sink hole of a civilization we have found ourselves in. We’re to cozy and we know it, so we try to come up with stories about a sharp enough shock to get us out of the funk materialism and capitalism has put on us. I include myself in this, I will probably shortly revert to my usual ways of fiddling around on the Internet and generally screwing around.

After the break-up with the girlfriend, a relationship that was a huge mistake looking back, I believe I have come out stronger, knowing more about myself and my desires. I have gone through a change, but considering it all now I don’t know how big of a change this actually is. I remember her saying something about spiritually awakening me, but I am doubtful she ever had that capability and was just saying that to keep me around. I do feel, after going out with her and the disastrous emotional break down she put me through, that I have undergone a change, and I feel better for it. All in all, I am expecting 2013 to be a very good year for me.

FURTHER READING

Ben Brumfield, “Some believe Friday is doomsday on the Mayan Calendar; the Mayans don’t”

Horowitz, Mitch. “Once More Awaiting ‘The End'”

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The Inevitable KW Poetry Slam Rant

Trigger Warning: FUCK YOUR GODDAMN TRIGGER WARNING!

Dear KW Circle Jerk

You want a fucking rant? I’ll give you a goddamn fucking rant!

I have tried to be polite, and I have failed. I have decided that I will talk to you in the only language you understand, rants. This is a difficult process for me, because I’ve been taught to hold back on the sheer amount of concentrated rage I can express, so that I don’t offend, or more importantly frighten, the people around me. Well to be quite frank, I have been offended, day in and day out by you. So because we are all one big happy poetry community, I am going to bring up some of my problems with you.

1) YOU ARE NOT CUTTING EDGE!

I have heard you call yourselves cutting edge. This is a bold-faced lie. The KW Poetry Slam is about as cutting edge as Justin Bieber. The only real difference you have from Justin Bieber is that you are working in a genre that wants to be popular, but isn’t. Sure, Slam Poetry is better known then the academic branches (whatever those are), but at the end of the day you are still the popular form of the left-wing, and you are still pandering to your audience.

Let me make this clear. Women have been writing about how their vaginas are beautiful vortexes of creation since the 1960s. It has been close to fifty years now. It is no longer cutting edge. It is cliché. The Poetry Slam has been around for almost thirty years, it is not longer the new form, it is the establishment. Every Slam Poet writes about some cause. Heck, I’ve written about police brutality. I have yet to see anything at the KW Poetry Slam that is something I would describe as new.

You want to write about being a feminist, that’s fine, just don’t call yourself cutting edge unless you are.

Actually, what would make a poem cutting edge anyways? That it is faster than previous generations of poems? That it’s not only a poem, but a camera and a butter knife and what have you?

2) FUCK COMMUNITY

This connects to my accusations that you are pandering to the audience. I hear a lot about community at the KW Poetry Slam. I hear a lot about community in the Poetry Slam world in general. You know who else has community? INBREED CANNIBAL HILLBILLYS!

Actually, that’s not a bad way of describing the poetry slam. Controversy to sampling aside, poems have been known to be recursive for years, centuries even. I’m not holding cannibalism against the Poetry Slam in general. It’s the incestuous hillbilly thing that bothers me. You average Poetry Slam usually has the same few people, and eventually rules start developing. You expect certain things. You start so what anytime someone says Marc Smith. Why do you do that? Really, has anyone ever explained why this happens?

Anyways, my point is that the KW Poetry Slam has itself up so that a certain kind of poetry keeps up. It’s not that Kitchener-Waterloo only has poets from this kind of area, it’s just that the KW Poetry Slam attracts the same kind of poet. And they all do the same kind of poem. The “I am a beautiful snowflake and I am going to tell you about all the horrible things those rich white men do, but don’t worry because we have the power to change the world,” poem. Seriously, that is the only poem I hear from you. Could it kill you to write something that has nothing to do with that, and maybe, I don’t know, grow as an artist?

3) SOCIAL COMMENTARY ALONE DOES NOT ART MAKE!

I’m not saying art isn’t about social commentary, I believe that is one of art’s functions. My problem is that you are only social commentary, AND IT IS GETTING ANNOYING.

“Oh, Dylan, you can’t say that,” says the Slam Poet. “You’re just ignoring the fact that our society perpetuates rape, and Stephen Harper is destroying our country, and that Israel is setting up a Holocaust in Palestine. You just don’t have a social consciousness, like we do. Don’t you care about saving the world?”

You know what Slam Poet? No, I don’t care about saving the world. Fuck saving the world. I am so sick of you going on about saving the fucking world. You only talk about saving the world. I am at this point ready to say fuck the world, let’s end it now and put it out of it’s fucking misery because I am sick of you saying that I need too.

“But Dylan, art can be a powerful force of social change,” the Slam Poet says.

No, art is not a force for social change. Art is a byproduct of social change. Was Hitler suddenly defeated by a play? Did Pol Pot suddenly decide not to commit genocide when he heard a poem about how bad killing people is? Among all the poems, all the songs, all the books and movies made about George W. Bush’s grand eight year fuck up, did he show any sign of stopping? At this point, your only hope of poetry having any social change, is that the wind caries your piss in the general direction of whoever it is you are complaining about.

Again, I want to reiterate that good art can, and does, discuss political issues. There is a difference between a work that addresses social issues, and examines its effects on human beings within a society, and a piece that just talks about them. There is a difference between saying “The War on Drugs has a negative effect upon society,” and “The Wire.” There is a difference between saying “Good art cannot flourish under a totalitarian state,” and “The Master and Margarita.” There is a difference to saying “Since 1993, there have been 5000 unanswered deaths of female factory workers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,” and “2666.” These works show fully realized human beings, humans with strengths, desires and flaws. Human beings who are not mouth pieces for the author to go off on whatever rant he feels like. These are what I like to experience as a reader and viewer. I’m not asking you to give the next Great Canadian Novel, but you could at least seek to try giving us something human instead of talking about what affects humans.

4) I DON’T NEED TO BE ANY GOOD AT POETRY, BECAUSE THIS IS A POETRY SLAM

I have gotten this response from a prominent member of the KW Poetry Slam. I will spare her the indignity of saying the name of this individual, but this quote has stayed with me. This is probably the most disturbing, offensive thing I have ever heard at a poetry slam. Talking about rape and genocide is expected, but this is something that I find disturbing on several levels.

I admit, I am not the best poet. I am not very strong at metre, and I write very infrequently. I do like to put effort into my pieces. If you have heard some of my poems, then you should know that the next time I perform them they will be different. In fact, I was thinking of reworking a few of them to have stronger mnemonic devices so I can more easily perform them without a page. And the Poetry Slam is a very seat of the pants type of poetry. But there is still that one line, that you don’t really have to care about poetry. You just want a creative (I use the term loosely) way to bring up social critique. Ultimately, you don’t change, and without change, you can’t have good art.

It may seem foolish, but I expect the standard of art I hear to be of the same standard as the guy who does my plumbing. My father always told me that you should put your best into whatever it is you do, even if it is something you hate. Well God help me, I love poetry. Can you blame me for wanting to put in a little extra effort? And can you blame me, for being offended when people take a thing I love and treat it shabbily, as if poetry was just a prop in their trunk of polemics?

So to wrap this up KW Poetry Slam, shut the fuck up and look at yourselves. Really look at yourselves. You are not as deep as you think you are. You are not as good as you think you are. You are not the avant-garde, you are not the new face of poetry. I am even going to say that you are not horrible. You are not offensive enough to be horrible. You are just average, and in the end that is a bigger sin then being horrible.

ADDENDUM: When I wrote this I was tired and angry at things beyond my control. If I have offended you, I am sorry, but I stand by my basic point. The KW Poetry Slam has become a recepticle of all the faults of the Poetry Slam form, and has become dry, unchallenging, and boring. It is ultimately inevitable that the Slam would become an institution, and with it loose much of it’s vitality. In the name of good art, it is time for us to seriously consider an alternative.

Tonight’s the Night, a review of sorts

It’s either 3:24 or 4:24 AM as I write this depending on how late I want this to be. Tonight is Vinyl Club, which is my Dad’s thing more than mine because he has a record player. I have five albums I am willing to listen to more than once, and I keep them at home because I have nothing to listen to them with. I don’t know if my Dad ever listens to them, but I doubt it. Anyways, the point is that tonight is Vinyl Club night and I usually involve myself in the proceedings. Some of the guys are staying over because, well they can. All the women of the family are in Halifax.

At the moment we are listening to “Tonight’s the Night,” by Neil Young. My Dad says this is his desert island album. My Dad likes Neil Young a lot, which is fair; Neil Young is good at what he does. Still the story behind the album is a bit depressing. Basically two of Neil Young’s friends ODed in the same amount of time, so to commemorate their death he and a bunch of other musicians got really waisted late at night and made this album. I’m not really sure how that’s supposed to make sense, but the only thing keeping me awake is Coca Cola and the fact I can’t show weakness in front of all these married guys who have day jobs. I’m in my twenties and the vast majority of my friends are poets and independent musicians. By all accounts I should be able to stay awake for five days being sustained only by absinthe and crackers. Not that I plan on doing so, because that would be crazy. Being a bohemian poet doesn’t mean I’m insane. God.

But my Dad really likes “Tonight’s the Night,” and that’s the point. He was talking about why he liked it, but I can’t remember what he said. I think it had something to do with the emotion in the album, that Neil Young had two of his best friends OD in such a short time and the only way he could make sense of this grief was to get totally waisted and make an album. When you think about it, a lot of albums were probably made like that in the seventies, but this one has an actual point. This isn’t getting fucked up because it’s the nineteen seventies, this is the fucking dark night of the soul; he’s crossing the fucking abyss right now, and what’s even more this is some damn good music. This is the best sounding dark night of the soul ever put to vinyl, and that’s really the most fucked up thing of all.

I don’t even know what time it is, because it’s late and day light savings time so all the clocks are changing. It’s nuts. I’m messed up, but not nearly as fucked up as the people on this album. You should all listen to this record, but at 1 in the morning. So if you have a free night you should listen to this album. All of you. Thank you for reading.