Considering the current state of our country, it’s amazing I can still be surprised. Trump has bathed us in the muddy waters of his bullshit for so long that I’m ashamed to say I’ve begun to rely on little bouts of Apathy to get me through the day. All I have to do is turn on the radio for more than ten minutes and viola! I’m in Bizzaro world.
I can listen to locals talk about how Muslims ain’t gone continue to move into their neighborhoods ’cause they got their guns. The host laughing along with them as if they’re both in 8th grade and telling fart jokes. I can listen to Rick and Bubba talk in Stereotype Chinese voice and make fun of Nagasaki.
The latest Bizarro event happened on February 28th, 2020 during an interview between NPR and the former mayor of Georgetown, SC, Jack Scoville. When asked what he thought of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, he said Pete was too articulate. The anger that began to swell inside me soon dissolved into a low grade, nauseous resignation that ignorance is not only pervasive in our mentally deteriorating country, but is indeed the new status quo as well.
Being articulate means you can fluently and coherently relate information. So in saying this, Scoville is saying he would feel better with someone who can’t clearly relate information. He is saying he would like the next President of the United States of America to be a stuttering, incoherent, and babbling idiot. He belongs on the Right, not the Left. The Right already has someone unintelligible in office, and he takes his job of irrational rambling and disjointed muttering quite seriously.
If you’re the least bit educated, you may not be able to wrap your head around Scoville’s statement. If you listen to Rick and Bubba, you probably understand exactly where he’s coming from. If you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed and you find yourself listening to someone much smarter than you, this usually leads to feelings of inadequacy. Compared to this person, you feel a little dumb. This leads to shame, which finds it must mutate into something else because shame cannot endure. It can turn into an irrational anger, directed at the person who has uttered things you cannot fully grasp. It can manifest as fear, as in fear of the unknown, or the things they know that you don’t. But the easiest state to achieve is doubt. A state of not trusting this person who has all this information and all the right words to go along with it. After all, they’re relating concepts that you haven’t made the time to think about yet. And besides, thinking is hard. You don’t have time for all that. You can leave that up to the morning talk show hosts who seem to have all the answers. They think kinda like you, except, and here’s the rub, they can articulate those fuzzy little thoughts you have. The ones about why people that don’t look like you shouldn’t be allowed in the country. The ones about how everybody should speak the same language you speak. And so on. You latch onto their words because that’s much easier than reflecting on things yourself. And even if you did take the time to think it over and come to some sort of shocking revelation, who would you share it with? You’ve surrounded yourself with people just like you. You’ll only get a side-eye from them. There’s no one with whom you can share epiphanies.
And this is where the propaganda machine reinforces these thoughts. They talk about the Left being elitist. That they’re people who think they’re better than you. This creates more than an intellectual bias. It creates a class distinction. The uppity, know-it-all professor types who think they’ve got it all figured out. And why would you listen to someone who thinks they’re better than you? Who talks better than you? You wouldn’t. There’s no reason to trust the stuck-up and high-and-mighty. Let’s listen to Rick and Bubba instead. They’re just a couple of God-fearin, good ole boys like me. In fact, they’re smarter than me, but not by much so it’s okay.
It’s cute when toddlers fumble over their language while trying to explain why their doggy is the best doggy ever. It’s terrifying when the leader of your country can’t stop gibbering goddamn nonsense to another world leader. Fumbling your words is funny in a college speech class, but not when your diarrhea of the mouth can adversely affect millions of Americans.
We need someone in the White House again who is articulate. If he likes stuttering so much, Jack Scoville can go jerk off to an auctioneer. I’m two years from 50 this year, but I’m going to say something that’s a little ageist. If you are under 30, for the love of God, please fucking vote this year.
I’m not a thumber. I use one finger only, and hit one key at a time on my LG keyboard, much to the chargrin of my son and daughter. I suppose that makes me officialy old now. My thumbs are not surgical in nature. But then again, neither is my forefinger. It’s amazing I can ever make it on an elevator.
Then I heard of gesture typing. I looked it up on the Google. I can say it like that now because I’m old. You basically take a more drunken, lackadaisical approach by sliding your finger carelessly around the keyboard. At first, it caused me not a small bit of anxiety, brought on by my own lack of knowledge. I knew there was an algorithm behind this nonchalant madness, but my finger raced across the keyboard from one letter to the next, a panicked drag racer when I couldn’t think of the next letter. I was afraid of slowing for a second and the algorithm stopping suddenly, punishing my insolence with a randomly selected, brute-force guess, extrapolated from my weak, anxiety-ridden forefinger. Turns out, there was no reason to panic. You can go as slow as you like, even my kind of slow. Zootopia DMV slow.
So I started using this method. But something was still bothering me. It was the algorithm itself. You see, it’s an enabler. It’s not running to the store at 2 am to get you a six pack for your nightcap, but it is allowing you to not try as hard, to not be as exact, in short, not to think as much. It’s not a huge difference in mind-power, think-joules, thought-newtons, however you express that. But it probably does cause a few less neurons to fire. And humanity does seem to be heading in that aloof direction. Long-form articles are disappearing behind headlines with summaries for all the TL;DRs. And that’s what worries me, is that every action we carry out becomes algorithm assisted, allowing us to only have a vague conception of what we wanted to accomplish, as the Al(gorithm) steps in and articulates or manifests our hazy intentions.
What if we applied Al to everything in the near future? It would allow drunken doctors to operate without worry. That would be good. And no one wants to go on Netflix and sit in front of 1500, randomly selected movies to choose from. Those recommender engines let Al help you find what you want without trouble. That’s good.
But what if we transfer the half-hearted attempt at language from written to verbal. Maybe you don’t have to articulate at all. Goyngasto means I’m going to the store. In ten years, we’re deep into some pidgin half-language think-speak where we utter lost syllables incoherently at each other until Al figures out our unique form of garbled chatter. No one will type; just a lot of half-swipes at random boards of letters. I can see someone stabbed in an alley, their last clue to their killer not a name, but some irregular geometry patterns in blood. Another person asking, “Hey, what’s that smell?” “Oh, that’s my ass. I swiped at it. You get the gist.” People will remember when Al broke down for some reason and no one could communicate, just a bunch of people swiping at the air and speaking garble. Another hundred years in the future and they’ll look back and not be able to decipher anything from the 2020’s.
To be clear, I’m not typing the words I want, I’m only getting marginally close to those letters, and Al is doing the rest of the work for me. Enabling me to be unclear, inexact. My thoughts become approximations. I’m not getting at the core of anything, only rummaging around it on novacaine legs. A hazy interest with a lack of complete attention. A bored interest.
And maybe that sums it all up. Nowadays, we cast our mental nets out there and pull in Kardashian sea trash, plastic beads of fourth grade reading level speeches, and toxic alternative facts. Our minds don’t challenge these things, instead nibbling at the outer layers of fact, unable to bring our lazy thoughts to grab a shovel and dig a little.
I’m going to continue to use Al to trace out my grocery list. To tell me what I might want to watch next. To let me know when there’s a traffic jam. But I’m going to always keep an eye on Al.
Al doesn’t seem to have his head wrapped around truth yet.
The butterfly flaps
its tornadic wings; is stepped
on by a black swan
My parrot sits,
on the balcony rail
far above the bustle
turning a wry eye
to watch me eat my omelet.
LOOK! AWWKK! I’M A HUMAN!
His sharp beak scratches at me
Then . . .
I’M SO DRUNK! AWWKK!
His mocking beak spits at me
tottering drunkenly, slovenly
side to side
on the precipitous rail.
Another fluffy bite of chorizo
MY! BEST FRIEND! AWWKK!
His pointed beak darts up and down
SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK!
His broken record hawks at me.
The wind whips around the building’s corner.
A tasty sliver of sausage
riddled with fat
slides past my tongue and gets
sideways, my eyes wide
OH GOD! AWWKK! MARK PLEASE! AWWKK!
His insinuating beak accuses as he
falls backward from the rail.
The attenuating wail becomes lost
as I hack the fatty pork
back atop my omelet.
I stare with tears at the plate
and my sarcastic parrot
on the rail.
Death walked amongst the tombstones in no particular hurry. His cloven feet had been specially fitted only a week ago, but now his shoes were rubbing. He should have broken them in. No use in whining about it now.
He looked down at his legs. As it turned out, duct tape did not fix everything. His flesh was still strung together haphazardly, with the bones exposed and shinning a bright white here and there. No matter how many times a day he ate, no matter how many plates of Burrito Supremes with extra beans he put down, no matter how much he lie around and took whole weeks off at a time (in which no one on Earth died, not that anyone noticed) he was still skin and bones. Literally. Still, after hanging out with Famine for a few days last spring, he couldn’t really complain. He was a pot-bellied pig compared to Famine.
Reaching his boney hands into a small, black sackcloth, Death grabbed a vial. It was about the size of a baby turtle minus the shell. Never seen a turtle without its shell? Never mind, it’s a little underwhelming anyway. To better explain, it was about the size of an Argentinian, three toed sloth in its twelfth week of gestation. Give or take a few ounces.
As Death glided silently through the dew-ridden grass and past numerous fake flower arrangements, he uncorked the vial. Maybe that’s a misnomer. It wasn’t a cork that was holding things inside the vial; it was actually the souls of one thousand and four Billy goats born on a summer’s solstice. Cork, you see, is slightly porous over millennia, and the souls of Billy goats are not.
The nubby carpals held slightly over the opening while those souls scattered in all directions with a panic that was devoid of any real purpose. Every so often, one of the souls would come across a train or screaming child and the goat soul would suddenly go stiff and fall over. This is because they were fainting goats in their past lives. Old habits die hard. At any rate, no one living noticed, and after a few seconds the goat souls hopped back up and continued on with their panicked travels.
There were only four million, seven hundred forty six thousand, nine hundred eighty eight drops, so he would have to choose carefully. It sounds like plenty, but there are a huge, huge amount of dead people all over the planet. Like billions. Probably a lot more than that, but I don’t want to sound braggy or pretentious by spouting off arbitrarily large numbers. Fine, I don’t really know the number, but it is really, really more than you could imagine without thinking about it for an amount of time that would also be so huge you really wouldn’t want to take the time to think about it, and then, well you see where that could end up going.
When Death chose a plot, he tipped the vial and let one drop of viscous, glowing purple liquid fall from the its open mouth. There was a moment of silence as time stopped and the lavender droplet fell through a vacuum of anticipation. When it finally passed through the Earth’s epidermis, there was a sound akin to a miniature, clown’s motorbike slamming its brakes on. A parade squelch of tiny rubber tires finding purchase on a summer Main Street in a small, Midwestern town. It was quite counterintuitive and very unnerving. He wasn’t sure of the physics involved, but was certain that said substance had no actual mass in this plane of existence and should therefore not make a sound at all. So the fact that it did made him question the one who had sold him the concoction. But that was a few thousand years ago and to tell the truth, he wasn’t certain if he still had the receipt, having kept it in a corked vial.
Death wondered to himself what the sound should sound like. What kind of ring it would have to have to please the ears or, at least, make sense based on the drop’s apparent liquidity and the grounds limestone mix. Like a heavy rain drop slapping some mud? A small, seedless grape being hit with a tennis racket? And if it didn’t have to make sense, as apparently it did not, then why not something more fanciful? Something like a woman’s quick, orgasmic moan, or the mischievous laughter of three dead children? Or for that fact, what about something you could actually listen two over and over again, millions of times, without getting bored out of your mind with it, like John Lennon’s Mind Games. And wouldn’t that be appropriate and fitting?
Another teardrop of magenta lightening passed from the chilly graveyard air to the casket below. Squelch!
“Fucking seriously, then!” Death raised his voice, and then quietened, looking around and feeling at once embarrassed with his outburst.
Death continued into the night. In his wake, no pun intended, the grounds began to loosen in places as the dead clawed their way from their claustrophobic, little resting places. And if you thought about like that, it was more of a rescue really.
Fuck me lips
and a Styrofoam face
made for gasoline.
She stutters and spits
like an oilless engine,
groaning and grinding
cunt-like in the neon basement.
From the mouth of God
spews a lava-filled litany
of arcane curses
and forlorn yearning.
Her bruised, steampunk-blue neck
pinned to the soaked mattress
with an afterworld glow
that spreads it glistening tentacles
throughout the concrete room
like gossamer octopi.
The room is pregnant and
with piss dribbles of fear.
She is most alive
seconds before her death,
when the swirl of dirty bathwater
draws the last shaved hairs
to the sewer.
She smiles at me from
across the restaurant linens and
asks if we can go back to her place.
First dates are so stressful.
How does dead skin taste
I repeated back
like the smothered homeless
to officer shiny pants.
His partner, vomit-ridden
with us both
for illusory discrepancies
crimes against humanity
omnivorous and blatant
on the green porcelain plate.
Like cold rigatoni
and it turned out to be
too simple a metaphor
too easily grasped
and the shiny pants smile
quizzical, indifferent, numb
because now . . .
they tasted that rigor mortis pasta
like I did.
And just like that
significant others will wonder
what’s wrong with their simple Italian dishes.