“for you, anyway”
by Liz Bergland
smelled like cinnamon.
tasted like salt.
brushed against me
when you slammed your eyes shut.
knocked me to my knees,
layering bruises on bruises,
and that was the end of the game.
* sad hockey image taken from here
6/19/2019 0 Comments
t's like the Dating Game, only way hotter. I'm Janie and I'm trying to date your new book. In this case, I'm trying to get in with Cactus by Nathaniel Kennon Perkins and published by the gorgeous and world-shakin' Trident Press. According to Cactus' Hinge bio, it's all about [how] "In Cactus, correctional officer and ex-punk rocker Will Stephens works guarding prisoners who pick up trash on the side of the highway. One of them, a hardened inmate with a tattoo right beneath his eye, seems oddly familiar, but Will can't quite place him. When he realizes that the inmate is none other than the former lead singer of his favorite punk band, he must navigate an emotional desert landscape populated by neo-Nazis, asshole cops, guilt, student loans, and a double dose of mescaline tea."
Since I love punk rock and really really love mescaline, I feel pretty confident that the book and I are on a one way trip to bang town. But for the sake of the game, let's Dating Game the shit out of this book:
A. Cactus would be a little self-conscious about its face tattoo (it’s only a small face tattoo), but it would still look your parents straight in the eyes and give them firm handshakes.
Q4. Let's say your book and I are going to our favorite chain restaurant, what chain restaurant would we be going to? What drink with an unnecessary (or necessary) amount of candy in it would we get?
A. It’s a first date. You’ve been talking to Cactus at the record store it works at, and after a few weeks you’ve started messaging each other on Instagram. You meet it after work and walk to In-N-Out because it’s by the park and Cactus is broke. You don’t get drinks because Cactus has forties and a flask in its backpack. You sit in the park and eat and drink, and Cactus talks for almost a full hour about how it used to be vegan.
Q5. Does book have any creepy discrete collections in its home? Like porcelain miniatures or bottle caps or nail clippings?
A. Cactus isn’t sure if its collections are creepy, though it is worried that they might be. Covered in dust are a bunch of powerviolence and grindcore records that have disturbing and violent cover art. It has a bunch of early 20th Century French erotic novels (translated into English. It doesn’t speak French). It has stacks of horror VHS tapes. It has a folder on an external hard drive full of a collection of nude photos of all its exes. It feels incredible guilt about this folder, but can’t bring itself to delete it. It only looks through it when it is really, really drunk, and hates itself later. The folder is password protected so you won’t stumble across it.
You meet it after work and walk to In-N-Out because it’s by the park and Cactus is broke. You don’t get drinks because Cactus has forties and a flask in its backpack. You sit in the park and eat and drink, and Cactus talks for almost a full hour about how it used to be vegan.
Q9. What are book's motivations? Did book birth itself like Athena jumping out of Zeus's head or did book come to life some other way?
A. Not unlike Mithra born out of the rock, Cactus was born from a bucket of dirty mop water left over from the cleanup of a previous, failed attempt at a novel about being a Mormon Missionary.
Q10. What does book prefer: WCW or WWF (wrestling not world wildlife)? Why?
A. Here’s a confession: Cactus doesn’t really know anything about wrestling, which makes it feel incredibly uncool in the indie lit community right now. But Cactus has very vivid memories of one particular WWF trading card it somehow acquired in its youth: Chyna. If not for Chyna, Cactus might not have become what it is.
Q13. If your book was to date any Mortal Kombat character who would it be and why isn't it Johnny Cage? (will accept Sonya as a secondary answer)
A. Cactus is only interested in dating Street Fighter II characters, Chun Li specifically. That upside-down spin kick. Those legs. It might like to hook up with Blanka, too. Seems electric.
Q14. What song does your book perform at karaoke when its pretty drunk and shouldn't be making this sort of public spectacle but does anyway because sometimes you just have to belt it out to a crowd full of grimacing strangers?
A. “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard. Cactus knows prison. Merle Haggard knows prison. “[Cactus] turned 21 in prison doing life without parole.”
Go support innovative and prose and poetry and pick up Cactus. Go support our boy and by extension all bossin' indie lit making a difference in this big bad world.
IDK. WTF and Who the Fuck Cares Anymore.
In which I write like the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump (a man sure to go down in history as one of the greatest cons of all time if this whole thing doesn’t end in civil war).
LR: Oh god, where to start? That was a MESS. On the one hand, I watched episodes 4 and 5 and felt happy to just be watching the episodes. If you put all your critical and/or logical reasoning by the side, it works. On the other hand...what? WTF happened w/ Rhaegal? WTF happened with Ghost? WTF about Missandei? WTF up with Dany burning everyone alive? REALLY JAMIE! THAT HOW YOU MOTHERFUCKING DIE? You’re supposed to kill Cersei!!!! It’s literally in the prophecy. Nothing was earned or deserved with all those deaths and leavings. My only hope is that this thing ends in a good way so that we never have to remember Episode Four or Five of Season Eight ever again except as setting up necessary chess pieces. Episode 5 was literally the worst episode of T.V. in the history of Game of Thrones.
The beginnings of these episode were great because CHARACTERS. We love them. And I could watch hours of them all sitting around drinking, joking, talking shit,fighting, whatever. And then everything just gets rushed and SUPER feels hollow. LITERALLY torching all character development. I still feel like the whole “Dany might be Evil” is SUPER forced. My hope was that it’s just a momentary doubt but no. First Vary’s which, fine. Then she wins the battle. BUT torching everyone alive just out of spite? I don’t even see motivation for that kinda spite. If she’s the Mad Queen fine, but set that shit up! Did HBO have some sort of crazy deadline to wrap this up. WTF were Benioff and Weiss thinking? This is God-awful storytelling. Plus, Jon Snow is BORING. WTF happened to Dany as breaker of chains and inspiring hope? They’re really throwing her under the bus in my opinion, along with killing all the women and POC. Unless this is some sort of meditation on how war and power leave the world in an endless state of nihilism but even that’s not spelled out.
And, honestly, GOT has made me numb to human bloodshed, but what about the animals? Why?!
But human deaths still were terrible. Jamie and Cersei dying under rubble? Like was anyone else in the room for this decision? How could anyone think that’s a satisfying end? There were so many more interesting things that COULD have happened. Where did the imagination and wonder go?
Benioff and Weiss deserve to never work in television again after that episode.
Sam, what do you think?
Is there any way this can be saved?
I’m fucking done. There’s no way this works. They literally ruined the show. GODDAMNIT!
Sam Williams, First of his Name, Burner of all GOT DVDs copies, Destroyer of HBO Go, Unsubscriber from HULU w/HBO, Malcontened by D&D.
In short Levi, there is absolutely no way this season can be saved. Our only hope is that George R.R. Martin finished the books before passing away, and does so in a way that is satisfying.
I’ve been interested and frustrated by the argument that we who are “bandwagon haters” of season 8 are just furious that our own theories didn’t work out. I thought Bran would be the Bran who turned into the Night King, as mentioned in like Season 1. You know what, I’m not bummed that Bran isn’t the Night King. I’m livid that we got an expositional line by Bran explaining the entire Night King’s motivation for moving south of the wall.
I thought Cersei would kill the second Dragon by Dragon Fire or Giant Crossbow, not the Disney Pirate known as Euron. I thought Jamie would be the one to kill Cersei as Cersei tried to murder him, therefore fulfilling the “little brother” prophecy death while having Jamie die in the arms of the woman he loved.
I thought Jon and Dany might both die, leaving their child behind as the kingdom is ruled by a Protector of the Realm (Sanza or Tyrion). Most likely that won’t happen. I won’t be bent out of shape by it. Most likely Jon will kill Dany now, or Arya...someone will kill Dany.
Me being wrong has nothing to do with the level of angst I feel in relation to this TV show.
You nailed it Levi. The characters are the reason this show is so good. The goodness of Ned, the righteousness of Jon (though I find him boring too), the unrequited love of Jorah, the determination of Arya, the accrual of wisdom by Sanza; the character development and arcs are THE REASON why this show is so good. When it comes down to it, it’s not about the world building, it’s not about fan theories, it’s not about the spectacle, it’s not even about The Game, it’s about seeing the fulfillment of character development. At the end of the show it’s about seeing these characters finished in a way that leaves us satisfied.
That doesn’t mean the characters have to survive, or triumph. Rob Stark’s death is so satisfying because it is the tragedy of his too-young youth, his unborn child, the happiness and success he’s found--it’s all ripped away by his death.
There’s all sorts of arguments going about the interwebs dealing with whether Dany’s dive into madness is out of character or not. (Note:it’s ludicrous that fans are reaching into a level of vitriol that they’re putting down other fans opinions). The battle Dany has within herself to be good has always been there. She’s pulled excellent power moves to abolish slave-owners, to upset political order, to abolish unfair social systems. She’s also done so in a way that makes people uncomfortable: killing, and killing with fire.
Juxtapose Jon with Dany for a moment. Dany has no problem burning people alive. Jon performed a mercy when he shot Mance Raider with an arrow, killing him before the pyre could burn him to death. Jon certainly comes out looking a bit more sane there.
To so many, Dany represents a metaphor for the level of revolution needed to make actual change in the world. Yes, she’s burned individuals and masses. They’ve always been evil people, armed opponents, or prisoners/criminals. Yes, she’s absolutely gone a step to far, but she’s never, ever slaughtered children or innocent people.
Is it totally implausible that she would? Absolutely not. It’s conceivable that she could turn evil. I mean we saw her most trusted advisors and friends die, two of her children die, and the love of her life reject her. Those are the beginnings of a villain’s story. But that’s just it: it’s the beginning. What’s the major complaint with season 7 & 8? It’s too rushed.
This is where I burn everything down:
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why D&D rushed this ending. This is a hit TV show. No one is canceling it. Fans have put up with slow progressions, like Dany getting stuck in Mereen and Jon lollygagging around the wall. Were D&D tired of GOT? Did they want to move on to their Star Wars Trilogy? Why not take the time to flush out these moments a bit more? Why emphasize the CG so much and not the individual moments?
Honestly, it feels like D&D ran out of steam, which happens and is totally understandable, but then why not hand the show over to writers who care? Josh Whedon moved on and gave Avengers over to the Russo brothers. That turned out okay! After season 7 it might have been a good idea to think about new writers, ones who would do the story justice, rather than ones who plotted towards the ending.
This season feels more like writers who are looking at their bucket list of must haves: We need a the Clegan Bowl. The Night King needs to die. Cercei needs to die with one of her brothers...nearby? Dany needs to go Mad Queen. Check, check, check, check. Okay build in some foreshadowing. Pour in more foreshadowing. MORE FORESHADOWING
What happens when you rush something? The nuance needed to handle sensitive material cannot exist. For example: Dany the Mad Queen? Or Dany the Hysterical Woman Sexist Trope? Right now, we’ve got Dany the Hysterical Woman Sexist Trope. Why? Because the show didn’t deliver her motivation for snapping. We’ve seen the outline of the reasons (i.e. Dany’s advisors dying) but never given the screen time to emotionally process the impact of these plot points. We’ve only skated over them.
What has bothered me in the recent episodes have been the explanations by D&D as to why such and such a character is doing such and such an action. We are told that seeing the Red Keep is what sets Dany off. But in the episode it is unclear as to what is making her mad. Is Dany seeing Cercei? Is Dany angry that the battle ended so early? Beyond that, we’re never given Dany’s motivation for why she decides to do lazy loop-de-loops around Kings Landing neighborhoods, burning everything and everyone, instead of flying straight to the Red Keep and killing Cercei there?
Having Dany reach a level of murder that she never has before in order to allow a Cercei death scene with Jamie creates a type of storytelling that never really hits on the mark. Why isn’t Dany going after Cercei, well, the writers want her to die with Jamie. So she can’t just fly straight there. But WHY?
Whenever the answer is, “The script said so,” that storytelling can never satisfy.
I can understand why people enjoyed this episode. As far as TV goes, it’s an amazing episode. I mean compare it to an episode of any Day Time TV in any era and “The Bells” far exceeds that. But Game of Thrones is an all-timer, not just because of individual episode effects, but because of its incredible storytelling. The handling of the long-term storylines has drooped and then plummeted, and this episode managed to solidify, for many fans, that a satisfying ending won’t be reached. At least, not in the version of this adaptation.
Ultimately, Dany has gone from a character, fully formed and fully explored, to a cliche archetype of fantasy that ultimately is a poor service to the Dany we knew and came to love. Not only does this destroy the social justice message of the show, but it accidentally feeds this idea that women in power cannot rule, that they will be subject to sudden swings of emotion, unable to resist and head logic.
It’s a shame.
LR: I agree, I’m done with anything D & D do in the future. They really showed that they have not one ounce of imagination or sense of character arcs once they ran out of Martin’s material. Great adapters. Terrible writers for new content. Terrible finishers. It truly is a shame.
(AKA The Death of Fantasy)
a rustling of love letters
by Alex Simand
I have a shoe box of knickknacks and love letters under my bed. turkey feathers. bandannas with maps printed on them. watercolors of song lyrics. little fossils of affection. they’re growing dust motes like mohawks spurting from their scalps and a bundle of spurned kitten fur and I wonder if I’m a neglectful father or if I should toss them into the trash next to last week’s lasagna. why do we keep these little trinkets of past loves? do we betray our futures by keeping truncated tokens of adoration within arms reach? I don’t know. I don’t know most things, but least of all of all this.
the last time I moved apartments, the box spilled out and I stood agape at the flood at my feet. arms spread with helplessness. I couldn’t scoop it up any more than I could hold a puddle in my palm. what do I do with every feeling I’ve ever had? what does it mean to have collected the sand from a beach for another person? there it was, spilling out of the topless jar that held, seeping into the hardwood, becoming hardwood, fading it, softening it, filling it with rot from the inside out. my skull is as squishy as a newborn’s head.
I have a rustling shoe box under my bed. from time to time, it slides out as if to say, hey. hey, remember that time you were tender? yes. remember when you were loved so hard they wanted to leave a mark of it? yes. I want the box to push its lid off like a boiling pot. I want to feel it ticking under my sleep. I want it to elect its next president, someone kind, like what a whisper looks like on a page. move over turkey feathers. there’s always room for one more.
que lastima, we cannot burn forever
by Brennan DeFrisco
a cookbook is a love letter--
tastes of bread yeast when tossed, taffy when pulled
spun sugar brought up from Georgia
smells like love that never stops simmering
when we cook together
if we sizzle in the kitchen,
should we then burn the bed?
blue pilot light of our flammable bodies
spread across the stove top, constantly clicking
que lastima, we cannot burn forever
unless our energy remembers
each other’s embers
when the wind won’t lend itself to words
& the frost-covered burner remembers
& I become a kettle, screaming your name
pans as warm as your palms
cuffing the back of my neck
as we take turns stirring, you whisper,
you’re the only recipe
I never want to share
[sticker by a Philadelphia sticker graffiti artist]
by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella
There are days when I’ve loved you like a mirror and I’m hypnotized; you’re my reflection’s self. The other night, laying on the couch opposite-ended like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you took a photo of me with your phone when I wasn’t looking and texted it to me. We were playing time machine, which is when minutes don’t tick by while under a blanket that resembles a Hershey bar. Sometimes boredom and comfort look very similar.
I looked old, and dry, and tired. I didn’t love you like the mirror of me having learned to thank my parts as I stared at the phone. Suffocating and sweating under the burden of the blankets, we became strangers.
I’ve been known to love you like we’re halved. Asymmetrical. Pieced together to make a whole. We’ve replaced letters with texts and the one on my phone with my face yellow in the lamp’s shade filled me with an unrecognizable feeling. The closest emotion to give it is loss. How can looking at me make me feel the loss of you? We aren’t under the blanket anymore. In the days following, sometimes I would look at the texted photo of the strange woman.
I have piles of post-it notes I’ve written to myself periodically throughout the years scattered all over my home in various rainbows of aging beige. Memories of my moments, and when I read them I can see how I actually look. Or at least how I think I look. In the mountains of fluttered sticky notes, sometimes I see a shadow of our asymmetrical features never quite touching. I need to take the time to read them in order to see this. I don’t do that often.
Years ago I set-up a calendar alert for Valentine’s Day and made it seem like it was a love letter from a stranger. On the day I got it, I thought maybe you snuck on my phone and programmed the surprise. Then I remembered. In the years passing, I would send myself candy grams during office Valentine’s Days. And I never forgot who values me the most.
I delete the text you sent me.
by J. Sam Williams
Are my love letters filled with truth or lies?
Do they cause highs or cries?
I would surmise, that you agonize over words that jeopardize yet hypnotize.
While you demonize, I attempt to moralize
While I revise, you militarize.
Is it you, or is it me that dramatize and oversize the problems that are pint-size?
I write letters that reprise and justify
But they only terrorize and galvanize
I write to apologize, you say I only finalize and eulogize, not humanize
I try to revitalize and romanticize
But you don’t empathize or recognize,
So, our relationship is an illegitimate enterprise, so I internalize and compartmentalize.
By J. Sam Williams
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the Millennial of the moment. The 28-year-old—at the time—Bronx Native beat out 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, shocking Democrats, Republicans, and the political establishment. Now, at 29, she is dancing her way through congress, even while enduring boos from GOP Congresspeople, attack articles from Fox News, and the outrage of many on the right. She’s earning as much media attention as Democratic presidential candidates, and almost as much as Trump. Why? She’s a rock star for some, and Satan fto others.
While political experts scratched their heads as to how this young woman could have ousted a long-time congressman, Millennials did not. Ocasio-Cortez is, for the first time, bringing a voice to the table where a majority of Millennials truly feel represented. She isn’t walking in with a centralist agenda, working to appease those on the right to gather votes. She doesn’t give in to the arguments of “but how will we afford it.” She is prepared, she’s armed, she is willing to fight back—something Millennials have been calling for this past decade.
A Gallup Poll in August showed Millennials approved the economics of socialism by 57% while only looking positively on capitalism by 56%. Democratic-socialism has never been more popular. Ocasio-Cortez is bringing another Democratic-socialist voice to the table, but she’s doing so in a way people haven’t seen. If Bernie Sanders, a white elderly man, seems to be the Godfather of this current political movement, Ocasio-Cortez is the hero. She advocates for single-payer healthcare, for basic income programs and a New Green Deal. And when those who object say we can’t afford it, she points the finger right back: our current healthcare system costs more, you want to pay 5.7 billion for a wall, we increase military budgets that are already grossly oversized. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, she asks the questions Millennials have been asking for years. “Why does no one ask ‘How we’ll pay for that’ when Republicans support budget increases, or tax decreases.”
Ocasio-Cortez truly represents a future to believe in for many young people. She also represents a symbol. She is the opposite of an outdated vision of the American politician. She’s not a white, clean-shaven 6’2” man, wearing a red tie, who talks of patriotism, a strong military, the need for working on both sides, and capitalistic fiscal responsibility. She’s Latina, smart, willing to speak her mind, a rookie congresswoman, and a supporter of taxing the rich 70%--a tax rate American’s used to pay if they earned more than $216,000 when Reagan took over as President.
Though Ocasio-Cortez belongs to a small and ever-growing coalition of Democratic-Socialists, she still represents the “different” to many Americans. We, the people, are now witnessing if Ocasio-Cortez can survive a political machine in DC that so often bucks those who dissent. For Ocasio-Cortez is not the typical Democrat. She has already broken from House-Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and we have seen how those who break from party loyalty can be ousted. Ocasio-Cortez condemned the selection of the new House committee on climate change, believing the committee too weak because the committee cannot draft legislation or issue subpoenas. She tweeted, “In DC + even in our own party, it’s apparently too controversial to ask that we keep oil+gas co’s away from enviro policy.” Ocasio-Cortez is smart enough to maneuver around inter-party turmoil, and she certainly seems independent enough to make up her own mind—something Americans desperately want from their politicians. But the collective often beats the individual.
Young liberal minded individuals are frustrated with the lack of movement in DC. There is outrage at Republicans for taxing the rich less, leading to more government debt and a possible economic recession. There is sheer disgust at the Trump administration for rolling back environmental protections and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. But there is also a collective pulling of hair about Democratic choices. Many young liberals call for more and severer environmental protections, high taxes on the rich, free healthcare and free college—ideas that many democrats won’t touch. Whether perceived or true, young liberals see mainstream Democrats as part of the problem, in bed with corporations, banks, in love with their old-fashioned centrist ideals. Ocasio-Cortez seems to be the opposite Democrat, willing to take on her own party for the ideals she was elected for.
Fighting against an out-of-touch Democratic Party is not the biggest of Ocasio-Cortez’s problems. She has become the new target of GOP senators, congresspeople, past vice-president candidates, and Republican propaganda news stations. While Trump continues to levy insults against Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff, right-wing thinkers have zeroed in on Ocasio-Cortez. Why? Because she is the future they fear, incarnate.
Republicans fear what a future will look like with people like Ocasio-Cortez in charge. It would mean greater diversity of thought and phenotypes, less of a capitalistic mindset, environmental concerned governments, redistribution of wealth, and a diversification of the power generation. This threatens their world of isolationism, wealth hoarding, fossil fuel use, and divide and conquer tactics.
Ocasio-Cortez is young, she’s an outspoken free thinking, anti-establishment woman. If she plays her hands right, she could be in Congress for the next fifty years, be a major leader of the Democratic party, and become president. That could mean more Americans moving towards the ideas of green energy, income programs, wealth redistribution, etc. Republicans can’t have that, which is why they boo her, why they try and bring her down for dancing barefoot on a rooftop, and why they target her specifically in articles addressing progressive ideals like this one.
Unfortunately, for the GOP, Ocasio-Cortez has cultivated a specific image, one that is difficult to defeat: she’s cool. That’s likely to fade in the future—more because of socialized beliefs about women who age, rather than her personality—but for now Ocasio-Cortez is a political rock star. She is seen as the voice of the Bronx, the voice of urban dwelling young people, and a major voice of progressives. Constant belittling by those on the right only feeds this image. It gives Ocasio-Cortez the fodder she can use to point out Republican hypocrisy and misinformation.
Just recently Steve Scalise used Ocasio-Cortez’s 60 Minute interview to spread misinformation. He posted a photo of Ocasio-Cortez with the caption: “Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money(sic) Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs(sic)” Of course, Ocasio-Cortez did not propose taxing all Americans 70% but only the very rich. She rebutted, “You’re the GOP Minority Whip. How do you not know how marginal tax rates work? Oh that’s right, almost forgot: GOP works for the corporate CEOs showering themselves in multi-million [dollar] bonuses; not the actual working people whose wages + healthcare they’re ripping off for profit.”
Ocasio-Cortez is not afraid to call people out,or to push the boundaries of what is “established decorum.” When David M. Drucker, of the DC Examiner, tweeted about Congressman Steve King of Iowa and his conversation with Congressman Scalise he wrote, King “initiated’ a convo today w/ @SteveScalise to inform them he would speak on floor to address his racially-tinged remarks.” Congressman King had recently defended White Nationalism and White Supremacy. Ocasio-Cortez took notice of Drucker’s tweet and replied, “You spelled “racist” wrong” adding, “At this point those who use the terms “racially tinged” or racially charged” to describe white supremacy should be prepared to explain why they chose to employ those terms instead of “racist”/”racism”. If the answer is their own discomfort, they’re protecting the wrong people.” This type of response by Ocasio-Cortez is exactly what many young people are looking for in their Congresspeople--strong pushback, a zero tolerance policy for intolerance.
Another tweet Ocasio-Cortez wrote said, “Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just “locker room talk,” but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when [Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib] says a curse word in a bar. GOP lost entitlement to policing women’s behavior a long time ago. Next.” While the message of these tweets don’t sit well with everyone, they do play well with her supporters, specifically women.
It’s clear: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t here to play around. She’s a rebel, uninterested in the conventional, in playing nice, in being a good “little girl.” In other words, she’s a political rock star, whether you like or not.
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