Hunter Thompson, Nixon, and the Werewolf

 “It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America’s answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”

As usual, I am a day late and a dollar short, but I wanted to post something about werewolves in honor of yesterday being Friday the 13th with a full moon.  This quote is by the always great Hunter Thompson.


Insane Language

Over three years, fires raged, violent crime spiked and the murder rate soared so high that on a per-capita basis, it “put us somewhere between Honduras and Somalia,” says Police Chief J. Scott Thomson.  

“They let us run amok,” says a tat-covered ex-con and addict named Gigi.  “It was like fires, and rain, and babies crying, and dogs barking.  It was like Armageddon.”

I read those sentences in an old Rolling Stone today.  They were in an article by Matt Taibbi about Camden, New Jersey.  I understand what is going on there to be a human tragedy.  However, those sentences were so batshit insane they made me laugh.  I have a thing for over the top language.  Whether it is Hunter Thompson or the writing on Deadwood I just enjoy that type of language.  Maybe it is the kind of thing where if I didn’t laugh I’d cry.  Who knows such things…

I Understand Why People Do Drugs

I can’t really blame anyone for using drugs.  If you watch advertisements, the TV news, anything to do with our political culture, reality TV, work a meaningless job, or pay attention to the million and one other absurd social and cultural things that go on in this country, you might need to get high.  If you aren’t good at compartmentalization or aren’t a Zen master, you might need to ingest some kind of chemical to numb your thoughts.  I’m not saying it is healthy or preferable, only that I understand.

We make criminals out of drug addicts, but hasn’t our society made drug addicts out of citizens?  I feel like the only way to exist in this country is to live with a divided mind.  For instance, you might realize that our economic system is unfair, but you have to earn a living and work within that system to pay your bills.  A mind divided will surly fall, or something like that.  If you look out at our country right now and think everything is as it should be, then you are either dumb, seriously deluded, or some kind of mutant sociopath.

I once remember reading or hearing something about Hunter Thompson’s drug use that talked about how he was just trying to cope with an insane world.  He was acutely aware of the injustice of the Vietnam War and long slow decline that followed.  He was highly intelligent and tuned in to what was going on around him.  It was his way of self medicating.  Sometimes I picture drug use as a way to even out the insane pressure from the outside world with insane pressure from the inside.  Maybe it’s just creating a state of equilibrium.

We should stop demonizing drug use.  We should help those that need it get better.  Better still would be to make society a place where insanity isn’t the norm.  It would be far better if drug users would spend all the time they used acquiring drugs to fight against societies ills, but too often those that don’t use drugs can’t even muster up such stickfuckingtoitness.

You’ve Got to Have Hope

The above video is a long speech by author and activist Rebecca Solnit on the topic of hope.  It’s easy in this day and age to want to throw your hands up in defeat.  With climate change, reality TV, endless war, the military industrial complex, overpopulation, banal music on the radio, the increasing gap between rich and poor, people in power like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, or any number of other things, it can be hard to wake up each day with a can do attitude.  On this blog I often point to a lot that is wrong in this world.  The reason for that is simply that a lot is wrong.  However, if I didn’t think things could be better I would simply quit writing, go buy a ton of drugs, and enter my own private fantasy land.  I always loved Flannery O’Connor’s quote that if a writer writes about dirt it is because the writer despises dirt, not because they love it.  (Paraphrased)  Hope doesn’t mean looking at the world through rose tinted glasses.  It just means realizing that the potential for positive change is there if it is worked towards.  Even someone like Hunter Thompson, famous for writing things like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, believed in fighting the good fight for a better future.  There is nothing more noble in human beings, in the face of an ever growing storm, than small acts of defiance like hope.

Media Diet and Rambling Thoughts

Huffington Post is still promoting the missing plane mystery as their headline.  How many days will this go on?!!!  I bet the cable news is having a field day with that too, though I don’t know for certain, as I don’t watch that shit!

I’ve been going on a media diet in recent years.  I cut out cable TV and I cut out radio.  These are two outdated forms that offer little if any value to one’s life.  When I listen or watch one of these formats I almost start believing my conspiracy theory friends that the media is manipulating us to make us dumber.  Songs riddled with clichés and Ken and Barbie dolls reading Teleprompters are running ramped over a demoralized public.

Did you see the singer form Hootie and the Blowfish has a country career now?  Who buys that stuff?  Who bought his Blowfish albums?  Kevin Russell calls this stuff golf rock.  Did anyone notice how metrosexual a lot of the male country stars are now?  I find that funny as their base is partially composed of redneck males who think they are tougher than the rest and are often homophobic.

I wish Hunter Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut and George Carlin were still alive.  They were of the rarified few that knew how to expose the great contradictions in our society.  This is an absurd country in many ways.  Our comedians have become our truth tellers and our newscasters have become our mindless entertainers.  Remember in a capitalist democracy we vote with our dollar a good deal of the time.  Support those things that bring value to your life and cut out on the fat!

State of the Union and Hunter Thompson’s Disease

I watched the State of the Union speech and some of the coverage surrounding it tonight.  My mind kept ping ponging back and forth between taking it seriously and feeling that it was all some large piece of absurd theater.   I watched it on the ABC live stream.  That was probably my first mistake as that put me in a dark mood as the talking heads there pumped out gibberish of the highest order.  A couple of semi intelligent Americans picked at random could have provided better insight into the speech.  They spoke in large swaths of meaningless language, clearly trying to hide the fact that they didn’t know any more than the viewers did.  That was just before the speech.  After the speech they provided all important facts like how many times people applauded and laughed.  During the speech they had some kind of side scroll that highlighted what the president was talking about and what he would be talking about as if we couldn’t hear him.  It was like some kind of bizarre game show.  There is a reason that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert never run out of material when it comes to the news media. 

Ok, I could easily drift off into a small book of things that drive me nuts about such events.  In any State of the Union Speech by any president there is always going to be a certain amount of clichéd passages that are meant to reassure the hoopleheads in the crowd: God bless America, children are our future, etc.  Obama also glided over several things that would have been sticky had they been dealt with in any truthful way: Our current drone policy being number one.  He said that he was going to reform it, but that in no way acknowledges what evil has been done in our names because of the current policy, and exactly how it he was going to reform it. 

Maybe it was reading about Pete Seeger earlier, but tonight I don’t want to just spread negativity throughout the land.  I was extremely happy that he made such a strong stand that climate change is a settled fact.  I mean that should be obvious to most people at this point, but there has been such a large disinformation campaign that I was glad he said what he did.  I was also happy to hear the President say that this country needed to stop being involved in continuous warfare.  That is easier said than done, and it remains to be seen what he is going to do about that, but again it is important that he acknowledged the fact that we have been.  I am glad that he is willing to use executive order to raise the minimum wage.  I have lived on ten dollars an hour and it is hard to survive, I can’t imagine trying to live in this country making less than that.  The current economic inequality is one of this countries biggest shames.  It’s easy to see it as a smart political move, but I was happy to hear him come out strongly in favor of women getting equal pay for equal work.  How a society treats their women is a sign of how good of a society it is.  Those were just a couple of the highpoints in the speech for me. 

Even though I can often be completely cynical about our politics at times I still often have what Kurt Vonnegut called Hunter Thompson’s disease.  That is that, “All those who feel Americans can be as easily led to beauty as to ugliness, to truth as to public relations, to joy as to bitterness, be said to be suffering from Hunter Thompson’s disease.”  I still have hope for the future of this country as much as certain signs point towards our decline.  If I criticize it often it is only because I still have hope that it can get better. When hope is gone I will simply cease to write anything at all.  

Gorilla in the Mist

The more I watch this House of Cards show, despite thinking it is an extremely well done drama, the more depressing I find it.  It combines everything I hate into one show.  A show full of conniving dirt bags.  Watching everyone jockey on this show to control the 24 hour news cycle is reminding me why I don’t watch TV news.  Maybe the only thing more depressing then the sleazy politicians and journalists is the world of upscale fundraising as it is presented here.  People wearing tuxedos to raise money for people that can’t even eat in Africa.  The realist in me knows that all of these worlds need to be dealt with, that they are all complex and full of both good and bad, that it’s too easy and naïve to think you can just ignore such things if you actually care about the outcome of this world.  But Jesus Christ I’d like to some days.  I realize what Hunter Thompson meant when he talked about the pain of being a man.  Sometimes I want to forget about the political world and its machinations.  Tonight I’d like to cast off the burdens of this world and run out into the woods, just another gorilla in the mist.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Slow to the boards today. My band No Show Ponies played a great show at the Continental Club last night.  I got lost in revelry afterwards.  I’m not a big drinker anymore, but last night the gloves came off.  It feels like some kind of beast sat on my chest last night while I slept, and sucked my soul out with a straw.  We’re playing an acoustic show tonight at one2one in Austin at 7pm.  It’s a song swap with my friend John Neilson.  It should be good.  If you happen to make it out and I have a thousand yard stare, you’ll know why.

The sound girl at the Continental was exceptional.  Her name was Katrina I believe.  I send my apologies to her if I got that wrong. That stage can occasionally be too loud in the wrong hands and vocals can get lost.  It’s one of my favorite rooms in Austin.  It’s great that they have someone that can make it ring clear as a bell.

Those of you that aren’t musicians probably don’t understand how much a band has their fate bound up in the person that does sound.  You can show up three hours in advance, spend an hour sound checking, and if you have a bad soundman you will still be doomed.  Meanwhile, if you have someone great, you can throw and go and really sound like something.

I should also note to those of you that have never performed in a band, the sound on stage is completely different than the sound out front.  You could hear a great show and to the musicians in front of you it could be a sonic nightmare.  Conversely you could see a band jamming out, thinking everything is grand, while out front it sounds like they are performing in a trashcan.  Usually though a good sound person will get both right.  Sometimes it’s not their fault though.  Certain rooms just aren’t built to have great sounding music in them.

So much in this business, like life, is just out of your hands.  Work hard to control what you can, and pray that the gods smile upon you more times than not.  Like Hunter Thompson used to say, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Where I’m Coming From

I would like to explain the kind of writing I am trying to do with this blog a little more.  Think of it as a diary, but where a diary is a reflection of one’s own feelings and inner thoughts, this is a diary of what I see and think of what is going on in our culture on a day to day basis.  Where a diary would be all about me, with this blog I am trying to hold up a mirror to the world as best I can.

I am trying to write on a daily basis, without fear, on what I see, hear, and read.  All writing is biased and personal to some degree.  I don’t have a stranglehold on the truth.  I am simply trying to tell my truth as best I can.

View the culture as an ocean.  Everyone is swimming in that ocean.  It influences us in ways that we can’t even comprehend.  I am trying to help people understand that ocean and how it influences us.  In even the simplest pop song there are market forces, cultural prejudices, and tribal loyalties at play.  When someone drives a pickup truck they may be driving it for reasons of need related to work, or they might be driving it because of reasons associated with identity.

I grew up in a liberal family with mostly conservative friends.  I am from the North East, but I live in the South.  I am a musician who played sports as a kid.  I’ve worked white collar jobs and I’ve worked blue collar jobs.  My parents are Unitarian, but I have read the Bible and taken religious classes, and I don’t belong to any kind of church or organization.  I’ve read Steinbeck and I read Entertainment Weekly.  I treasure David Lynch, but I’ve watched trashy reality shows.

My heroes include Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Morrissey, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Stone, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Nicolas Winding Refn, Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, John Lennon, George Orwell, Hampton Sides, Lou Reed, Bill Maher, Haruki Murakami, Flannery O’Connor, and George Carlin.  Those are just a few of the many people that have influenced my way of thinking.

I have an American Studies degree from PennState and am getting an Environmental Science and Policy degree from St. Edward’s University.  I play in a band called No Show Ponies and a band called Shinyribs.

This will hopefully tell those of you that don’t know me a little bit about what my background is and who I am.  I’ve always liked George Carlin’s distaste for groups and the way that he tried to treat every individual as an individual.

I have my own biases and blind spots.  I don’t claim that I have some kind of secret information that elevates me above anyone else.  If there is anything that I view as being slightly different it is that I don’t fit neatly into any tribal affiliation.  In the past year I’ve gone to art museums and drank beer on the back of a pick up truck while my friends went hunting.  Although most of my political beliefs could best be described as extremely liberal, I have friends that run the gamut in terms of their political orientation.

Every time I write something I am filled with a feeling of pride followed by a serious feeling of dread and self doubt.  I promise to write as honestly as I can in the moment and let it stand as is.  I will not revise anything, unless it is for spelling or grammatical purposes.

Hopefully those of you that read this will learn to trust me.  Not that you will agree with me, but in the sense that I will not bullshit you.  I will fail and I will succeed.  I am human.

Windup Wire

The title of this blog is taken from two different sources.  The first is Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles.  In this novel Murakami’s writing ranges from extreme realism to complete flights of fancy.  I believe good writing can and should go anywhere that the imagination will allow.  Sometimes fiction can shed more light on the truth than non-fiction.  The other reference is from a machine called the Xerox Telecopier that Hunter Thompson called the Mojo Wire.  I have always loved Thompson’s sense of the absurdity that exists in these United States.  I hope to provide a different viewpoint of the cultural ocean that we are all swimming in.  I will do this by examining politics, flim, literature, art, music, and sports.  Sometimes I will fail, but I will always try…