Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All the Dogs Bark at Once

Santa is a fat white guy and this is a great country for fat white guys. They’re getting fatter, threatening to leave the United States of America if we stop them from eating more. They will take their fat white asses and swallow everything in sight somewhere else. As much as they can no matter what. Their hunger is powerful. They proved it this week when Obama said they could go ahead and run the government. Supposedly, the tax breaks about to expire will instead last for another two years, creating jobs along the way. They didn’t create any jobs since passed during Bush’s first year, but for some reason they will this time. What can the cable addicts say about Obama now? He had to convince the fat white guys to include unemployment benefits in the new bill, just enough to get through Christmas and the New Year. Then what? Then the fat white guys will hire people and they can get all the things they couldn’t get on unemployment: iPods, flatscreens, guns, trucks and books (I wish). And the Tea Party can say I told you so.

My neighbor Feo is fat and he’s white, but he’s not a fat white guy. He despises them more than I ever could. His rage is so fierce I often feel threatened when we're alone together. This does not stop my frequent visits to his cluttered isolation. His weapons take up most of the place– I’m not a fan but I’m comforted knowing the arsenal is there in case– and the rest seems like big frames leaning and a couch covered in books and magazines. All Feo could talk about was Julian Assange and the epic state of Journalism. “It’s a shame they won’t hang him. That’s a true heroes death. He’s a fucking hero.” I opened a beer and dropped it and picked it up before too much spilled on the corner of carpet I squeezed into. Feo waved his favorite machete with one arm, the other arm pushed in his pocket, searching for his capsule of psychedelics. “I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you and your family.” He staggered back into the kitchen, disappeared beyond the doorway. I finished my beer quickly– Feo has a few rules– placed the empty on a stack of books about the fall of Roman Empire and snuck away to my own cave nearby. Locked the door in three places. If I could warn the others I would, but I was safe so I settled for a better chance than those who didn’t know.

There’s a fine line at the finish and the sooner you start the sooner you will get there. The poetry of everything is lost along the way. Automobiles get bigger. Wastes get wider. People get louder because they need to be heard, acknowledged in any kind of way. Some don’t even care when the attention is negative because it’s emotional despite being confrontational. This was clear when Feo started banging on my door an hour after I left him and his machete. I watched him through the peephole. He appeared unarmed but was salivating mad about, Pay Pal and Mastercard. “China will turn them all into piggy banks in the next twenty years. Open up, I need to talk.” I suggested we talk through the door. He walked off and came back with a stool and sat. He started in about John Lennon. “He’s still a villain. He’ll be a hero someday.” I stopped watching because it looked like Feo was crying. I listened to his weak wimpers, the way he cries, I’d heard it before. He managed to express his hatred for fat white guys calmly, as though it would all be over soon anyway. His perspective sounded hindsight. “Then they voted on a war against Iran. Then Russia sided with Iran. Then China watched, quietly. Then Cuba sided with the US. You know that’s never a good thing.” He insisted I respond. Even his delusions were self-conscious. In his dreams people were as bad as animals get and what’s the use if that’s just how it is. He was silent for a few, so I watched him wipe his eyes with the back of his trembling hand. He picked up his stool and left. I heard the door close.

It’s almost Christmas, then the New Year, and this has been a good year for both Right and Wrong. It’s all straight forward, the way we see it. Everyone thinks they’re right. There aren’t many maybes anymore. I’m definitely not a maybe, though I could be wrong. I like to think about it and I’m yet to discover an objection I find reasonable. I’m looking because the way I see it the fat white guys are in control. That means one thing and we’ve seen it before. It’s remains consistent, refuses to change. We can publish all the Mark Twain there is and ever was. We can read it as often as fish swim. We can eat it up and get fat on it. Psychedelic condemnations aside, Feo had point, lost somewhere between his thoughts and his words. He was in Vietnam and sometimes I realize that jungle is still with him. Some people are just better at war with themselves. Those who know this handle it better than those who don’t. Those who don’t find others who don’t and together they pound their feet like stubborn apes. From now on I will leave the apes out of this.

I should finish here. Someone is listening on the other side of my door.



Friday, November 5, 2010

Flip-Flop Jibber-Jabber

By Brian Wask

My TV is old and the picture is fuzzy. That’s not the reason I can’t tell the difference between most Democrats and Republicans. Reliably, their drool is repetitive and their hairstyles are socio-pathic, but I shouldn’t expect so much from Executives and Lawyers. It’s absolutely true they eat babies on Thanksgiving and slaughter bunny eggs for Easter. It’s a hard world for cute things and the ugly guys want to keep it that way. Leadbelliy never picked a bale of cotton but who’s to say he couldn’t write a damn good song about it­? Only a fool. So, maybe, if we stop paying attention to crying politicians they will stop eating spaghetti with their hands. The drama of World Wresting should stay where it belongs. An R or a D before someone’s name is a Scarlet Letter. Politics are supposed to be a carnival and if that’s agreed we’ve succeeded once again. Now I can finally sleep at night.

Crying is free. You can do it all you want and it won’t cost you much, except some right-minded time to think clearly. Sometimes I think too clearly and I need some chaos. I called my friend Harrison, who is still living in the nation’s capital, though his wife’s attorneys took all the furniture and left him with only a few TVs. His diatribe was on loop, having just returned from the local bar where he’d unexpectedly bumped into his doctor, which might’ve been pleasant if the same doctor hadn’t checked his asshole for hernias just a few days before. They shared time over several strong drinks anyway, discussing rumors of the early midterm results. By the time Harrison started the ignition of his minivan, a calm spirit of delight, complimented by grief, settled in his gut. And by the time I got him on the phone he was in a blissful trance, surrounded by not politics, but primetime sitcoms concerning best friends with silly problems. “Careful,” he told me in a deep, comfortable tone. “The devil will come wearing the cross. He will come as your friend wearing a tri-cornered hat. He will open his eyes to you and smile. And because you’re unprepared and misinformed, you’ll smile back. Then you’ll make a sign about the Founding Fathers and smash someone’s head open with it.” Harrison is always good for clarity, but he still has that gun and I worry he’ll find a good reason to use it.

The people are terrified again and nothing good will come from that. Fear is not a reasonable emotion but in this part of the Americas they serve devastation for breakfast; the television, newspapers, the internet and radio. We graze on it, over and over, the same shit over and over. The Conspiracies from the Birch Society are not worth the saliva they spread in, yet for the most popular slobs on television it sells very well. But I don’t blame the TV or the media for this great misunderstanding. That kind of excuse is designated to Fools and Fatheads. I don’t hold conservatives responsible either. They’re wired wrong from birth and, like anyone else deficient of intellect, it’s not quite their fault. Instead I blame the Fools and Fatheads. Their light-headed opinions are easily persuaded by obvious lies. What ridiculous opinion did they have two years ago they don’t have now? Did they think Obama was the Messiah, and when elected he would fix everything himself by simply snapping his fingers while singing a Woody Guthrie proletariat battle cry? I think they did. Why else would they get out of bed in the morning to watch an Alcoholic turned Mormon blubber his way through the Constitution? Tears pull at the heartstrings, don’t they?

But lets get down to brass. Someone who smokes a little pot should not go to jail. Not even someone who smokes a lot of pot. It’s simple. Jail is not a place for people like that. There is no credible argument for it. The debate ends there. I’m sorry if that sounds close-minded, but you have to draw the line somewhere and irrational jibber-jabber is where I draw my line. The House of Representatives’ new majority leader grew up in a bar, and that’s okay. But what’s in the California drinking water? That desert is overpopulated with the results of a secret nuclear mistake. I’m terrified of what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s obviously resulted in strange behavior. That’s the verdict among those who have a clue. The rest I guess are too stoned and don’t give a damn. A pothead will smoke pot, legal or not. It’s time to wrestle the gun out of Charlton Heston’s cold dead hands.

Soon after hanging up with Harrison my neighbor Feo serenaded my door with a monotone ballad about Iowa and her homophobic reaction to the state’s federal circuit court. In his song the voters hung their activist judges from a good old lynching tree in the center of a sparsely populated corn grove. At least that’s what I head through the peephole. I refused to open the door because Feo was also drunk and most likely armed. It was then I realized even progressives are stockpiling weapons and it was about time I did the same. I’m not scared, but I should be. Because suddenly the Fools and Fatheads and the Conservatives and Christianites got a good hand and they won’t fold without a fight. So it’s now time to fight. Fight for equality, freedom, and decency. When the economy is bad and there are no jobs, it’s a good idea to collect taxes from the people who have it. In fact, that’s their contribution to society. They’re boring the shit out of us anyway, so if they want to be awesome then they can act like it. It’s not ideal, but what is?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brian Wask: Socialist Rant Contest Winner (The Red Collective Quarterly, March/2010)

Rant– n1: a loud bombastic declamation expressed with strong emotion. n2: pompous or pretentious talk or writing. v: talk in a noisy, excited declamatory manner.

If Socialism is behind the wheel feel free to remove your seat belt, kick off your shoes and prop your feet on the dashboard. Let him know if you need a bathroom break or a quick bite. He will oblige. If Capitalism is driving, buckle up and brace yourself, he will quickly dominate the conversation and the itinerary. Voting on a town to visit and a place to eat is possible, but if Capitalism is paying, Democracy becomes a smoke screen for wealthier interests.

Democracy is a socialist idea, it’s about time everyone understands this. One man, one vote. Its natural counterpart would be egalitarian. The idea Democracy is connected to Capitalism is a fake, a conspiracy, like religion and text books. Are we really so limited, propaganda from the fifties still gets to us? Capitalism is best. It means freedom. It’s the American way. When? What? For who? It failed big time all over the world and just recently here. Now it’s time for all the socialists to stop feeling horrible, stand up and say I told you so. Democracy told you so. Capitalism tried to tell you so but it lied. Continued to lie. And then it showed up at school with no pants on. We’re not Russians. It wont be so bad. Don’t be afraid. This is just the basics.

Traditional communism is not good. That’s what we’re afraid of. The Red Scare. Cuba is not Socialist. It’s a dictatorship, despite what Castro and the Miami opposition insists. If you believe a dictator and the neo-Capitalists in South Florida, then go on believing Cuba is Socialist and turn the page. The USSR was not Socialist. It imperialized at least a dozen nations and held them down for almost a century, while the power players profited during the world’s greatest prosperity. That’s the opposite of socialism. There’s the learning curve. Thank the good earth these misguided places did it first. It makes sense according to the founding fathers. No way would they tolerate men with Boca Raton tans deciding who owns what piece of land. Or Goldman Sachs convincing Congress to allow bankers to control a democratic government of the people, by the people. In the 1970’s one president was brave enough to tell Americans the real threat– the greed, the need, the me first addiction. It’s up to you to figure out which one. Hint, he failed too. Lift the rug and see what’s been swept beneath. Sooner or later people move and the furniture has to go. All the crumbs left behind must be dealt with and digested, otherwise they will attract rats. Rats compete, they don’t share.

Run down the essence of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They sound egalitarian more than profit/power driven. Equality and natural rights. Natural rights are not founded by a specific God either. Arts and Science are expressed more than religion and profit, which easily translates to other than the norm. For anyone to equate the meaning of independence (natural rights) and power (natural selection) they must be over-occupied by their own image in the mirror at the gym. One of the ‘naturals’ is evil. The wrong choice will be forgiven but it must be confronted. Remember Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick. We will spare them of that, for now. We will not even kill their children though we fear the mentality they rapidly breed. Instead, we will educate them. And they will learn to be better than where they came. The reckless opinions previous generations excepted, the death we allowed, harm we imposed, now the good we postponed will reign again and the dreams of the past will wake up. The silly nightmare is over. It was only a pile of drool to begin with. Unlearning as an adult is harder than learning for the first time. There’s the conflict. Lucky for me I never learned to begin with. I know I’m not alone. The reality is, despite your accomplishments, if you believe what your fifth grade teacher told you there’s not much of a chance what you think still makes sense, and progress will remain digressive while TV continues to educate people. Even the Bible people knew this. Only Big Government can face off with Big Corporation. Or else Big Corporation will swallow Little Government.

Airlines are the perfect example of Capitalism gone wrong. (If you request more examples I will provide them.) Going through the airport is normally convenient. They even have machines that spit out your tickets. Thank you. Going through security is pleasant, as long as you know the drill. Pull out your belt, slip off your shoes, fold your coat. Don’t bring your own shampoo cause you know they’ll catch you. I tried. My fault. The hassles feel exaggerated when you get to the gate. Then the real problems start. The airline reps appear bored, defensive and authoritative. The planes are late and flight attendants treat you like you’re on your way to Saint Peter, cash your complaints with him. Some are hospitable, okay, but how often are they enthusiastic about helping passengers. I’m not old and I remember when Capitalism worked. It doesn’t anymore and short flights to Boston prove that. In fact, most terrorist’s scares today are because someone got pissed at a flight attendant, not because of Western policies in the Middle East.

Even I don’t feel comfortable standing up for Socialism, but damn me if I stand for Capitalism. Damn you too. Stand up for Democracy. One man one vote. All votes are equal, not matter your worth, your land, your accomplishments. Don’t sweat Venezuela or the USSR or Cuba. That’s not The United States. We should give healthcare away. We should do our best to help children with parents who can’t. We should support seniors, veterans, the disabled, families temporarily struggling who need it. What good is anything else? What good is the moon or Mars? What difference does oil from the sea mean if a child is hungry? What? If you drive an expensive car you should be ashamed. But shame is good, it means you have a soul and something in your soul doesn’t feel right. Now sell your car and by a tent and a good sleeping bag. Don’t be cheap. You’re going to need it. The stars will look amazing at night. I promise.

This is just the beginning of a very sophisticated argument. If you object I welcome your options. Don’t rely on a Texas text book to help you. Reality is available and an argument against it is a waste of time. Again, like all other righteous fights, this as well will prevail. The details of course are evolving, but the certainties are obvious. Capitalism is dead. The propaganda is exposed. It was a long time ago when it first appeared in black and white, in its earliest forms– imperialism, repression, exploitation, slavery. We’re not in the dark ages, those who choose not to be. The evidence is out there, everywhere. I urge you to care. Find it. Read it. Get with it. Otherwise stay out of it because there is no way you can stop it.

Brian Wask is the founder of Tire Swing Press and remains a regular contributor, despite the unpaid staff's vote to impeach him. Check out his books and music at

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Danielle Vettraino: reflections of a psychopath in the early stages of development: exhibit a

so i have this, um, it’s a cell phone. i make, you know, calls on it…and stuff…and it comes off as being this really great thing. you can call people all over the world. there’s also this feature, with the keys. the numbers, they have corresponding letters. and you can actually type messages to people. and it’s crazy. i mean people can be really good at these things. it’s like this whole unspoken universe going on. and it’s amazing to me, the things people can write.

“hey, whats up?”

“Wanna grab a coffee?”

“let’s meet for a drink”

also, you can receive these messages, any time of day. it doesn’t matter.

3am: “come over”

3:03am: “i can’t do that.”

3:04am: “i’ll pay your cab, just come”

and what you think is, no, i can’t come. i haven’t seen you in a while, and you broke my heart, and i haven’t really gotten over it. and i will probably start crying the second you touch me and i get close enough to remember how you never smelled like anything or i hear the same four leonard cohen songs you always play or i see your big round face and your little tiny penis, but that’s not what you write, you see, because the beauty of this message system is you aren’t actually talking to them in real time so you can hide the fact that you’re freaking the fuck out. so no, that’s not what you write. what you write, because your fucking stupid is,

“k, leaving in 5”

and you get there, and everything is fine, he’s being nice, you let him bang you, and then, of course, you start crying. and after a while he just sits there staring because some version of this happens every time we meet up, and i just hope my face will save me. he loved my face. he would always say i looked like a porcelain doll. and when he got in his condescending moods he always seemed to forget how pretty he said i was. and no, i can’t spell condescending and i don’t actually know what it means, i just feel that it applies to you. because we never really fight. it’s more you reminding me that you’re smarter better wiser and i am just some little girl who doesn’t know how to articulate herself so she just cries. and i shut down and hope you will look at my face. the face that you love, the only part of me that you love. hoping it would be beautiful enough for you to stop. and you’ll tell me you’re sorry, and beg me to stay because you couldn’t bear to be away from my face. please just say you love me, you want me to have your babies. but you don’t. my face doesn’t get me out of it. why do you get to make me feel ugly? so unwanted? just today! at the library, i was distracting boys from their studies left and right. i was just sitting, reading, and i could feel their horny eyes climbing all over me. searching, finding my face, my breasts, taking in as much now for use later when it’s just as quiet and twice as lonely. and no matter what position they could fantasize me in the would never dream of making me feel as small as you do. i’ve tried to move on. there are others. some with bigger cocks, some who think i’m smart, most more successful then you. yet, three whiskeys into an empty night, your punishment is what i seek. and i’m sitting on your bed and i’m crying not because it lasted two minutes, i was used to that but, i don’t know, you are everything i hate about myself. and just absolute nonsense is spilling out of my mouth and i can’t stop and there is this ghost of me floating above telling me i am out of control, pleading with me to shut the fuck up and i’m trying to explain why i’m crying, begging for you to love me two years too late and i want to leave and i want my phone so he doesn’t know about the others because fuck, how do you tell someone you just had anal with that you want to take it slow. and i run and i run and i run away from you

Danielle Vettraino is a founding member of LabRats Collective Ensemble, where she is a contributing writer and actor. She plays ukulele and dreams of one day marrying Bob Dylan, despite the age gap.

Chris Conroy: Chef of the Future

The storm proved the victor. We all had plans. Thank the many gods for the space heater our small profit could afford. The staff was restless and the rain sounded like the beaches of Normandy, 1944. When we lost power I announced a plan to eat Hector first. No one will know. This idea was quickly rejected. Credit to the staff. There was food in the fridge and the rain was supposed to stop soon after midnight. The fear was temporary, we concluded. Bad parties last longer than this. What can we do with what we got? After several suggestions the best idea prevailed. Conroy was the winner and Tire Swing Press’s future chef. His combination of dead plants and ground up animals resulted in a hearty delight. So tasty the entire staff spent all night on the cement floor recalling other meals that maybe came close. In the morning I demanded the recipe, or else Conroy’s resignation. He provided. If you’re ever stuck in Epcot Center or a Whole Foods over night, give this meal your best. You will survive and be a better person because of it. That night it was dark and the rain was heavy on the aluminum awning above the exit, sounded like unwanted guests. Don’t be discouraged. I was and that was wrong. Way wrong. Now, I can say that was good. – BW

Dinner by Chris Conroy

Recipe: Ziti with sautéed Italian sausage, organic red-bell pepper and broccoli in a spicy garlic white wine broth.

The Ingredients:

* 1 Italian Sausage, leftover (I used sweet, I already ate the spicy ones, but you can use either; if they've been chillin' in sauce--or gravy--I recommend first rinsing off the sauce--or gravy--and then slicing into little discs)

* 1/4 red bell pepper (chopped into large squares, picture a scrabble piece and then double it, perfect)

* Broccoli (use leftover or steam some fresh)

* 1 or 2 Garlic cloves (diced or smashed and then slivered)

* Ziti (fill a cereal bowl with dry pasta and you're good for 1, probably end up with leftovers)

* Herb-ox chicken bouillon (little bit, careful here, not too salty, we have 'salted' whipped butter to come)

* Water (depends on how you work the broth & balance the salt)

* Chopped parsley (a handful)

* Cracked black pepper (few twists)

* Parmesan Cheese (lots)

* EVOO (little bit)

* Whipped Salted Butter (little bit)

* Red pepper flakes (optional but come on)

* White wine (optional but come on)

The Game Plan:

While waiting for your ziti water to boil, heat evoo and whipped butter in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add chopped garlic and cook for about a minute and then add the red bell pepper squares and sausage. Sautee the garlic, peppers and sausage for a few minutes and then add in the red pepper flakes and some cracked black pepper. Turn the heat up to high—stirring & scraping all ingredients with a fork to prevent burning—and then hit the hot skillet with some white wine, about a ½ cup. In the couple of minutes it takes the alcohol to burn off, add your ziti to the salted boiling water and stir. Now take your leftover broccoli and nuke for about 30 seconds, just to get the chill out, and set to the side. Turn the heat back to medium on your cast-iron skillet, stir ingredients again with fork, toss in parsley, and then ladle into the skillet some of the hot boiling ziti water and then add in some Herb-ox chicken bouillon. Stir again and taste your broth—add more water if too salty and more bouillon if not salty enough—cover and lower heat. By now your ziti should be al dente so drain and return to a cold water-rinsed pot and toss in broccoli. Blast ziti and broccoli with some more evoo, shred lots of parmesan over it and ladle in your spicy garlic white wine broth with sautéed Italian sausage and organic red-bell pepper, mix, and then plate. Add more cracked black pepper, red pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.

Drink: 2006 Bleasdale Langhorne Crossing (52% cab, 27% malbec, 15% shiraz, 6% petit verdot. Cost: $10)

Non-Alcoholic: 3/4 of tall mug with Canada Dry Seltzer with a 1/4 of Boylan's Black Cherry Soda

Dessert: 2 Mini Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Entertainment: Carver's 'Cathedral' or Spielberg’s JAWS or Van Morrison's 'Enlightenment' or simply the moon, in any form--full, thumbnail, half, cloud scratched--staring back at you and yours.

Conroy's fiction has been published in several online and print publications, including Whetstone, Word Riot, Ward6 Review, Zingmagazine and The Hell Gate Review. Check out an excerpt from a fiction in progress--Quercus Alba--in the inaugural print issue of The Wanderlust Review, Feb 2010. Or drop him a line at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jamie King Reviews the Arts: All of Them

If you’re an upper-middle-class American like myself, you’ve probably wrestled with the following question: how do I while away the odd decades before my children are conceived? While other nationalities and social substrata might labor under obligations such as “learning a skill” and “pursuing a useful trade,” this lucky sliver of the American population is able to spend the bulk of its twenties more or less fucking around, or as some have rationalized it, “chasing a dream.”

Due to an alarming overlap of this demographic with the blog-reading community, I dedicate the following column exclusively to these laterally-mobile citizens. Raised with the understanding that any years not directly spent keeping a tiny, helpless person alive may be flushed away in the pursuit of some artistic goal, they have been called “Hobby-Capped,” “Persons Living with Dabble-Abilities,” or, more bluntly, “Art-tarded.” While most of them will never see their goals come to fruition, that doesn’t ease the difficulty of deciding precisely which gust of wind to piss in. As someone who has failed at more things than most people have ever tried, I feel qualified to give a brief overview of the options available in the pursuit of self-expression, self-exploration, and running out your biological clock.

“But Jamie,” you say, “I’m in my twenties. Can’t I express myself and get laid?” If this is your response, then music is the art for you! A hedonist’s dream, success in music is possible and often easier to achieve when under the influence of drugs, alcohol and spectacular overconfidence. Playing music for a live audience is probably the closest you can come to actually fucking someone with your art (unless your creative passion involves the construction of ornamental dildos. See next week’s review!). It’s a lock for those that demand an immediate, visceral reaction from their patrons, one that often ends in unprotected sex. Downsides include loneliness, tattoos and early death. All in all I give music a 7. It’s the greatest artistic thrill imaginable, but if you fly that close to the sun, you must be prepared to conceive a child with it in a urine-soaked bathroom.

Let’s say that you lack the technical skill for music but still crave the adoration of the masses. If you feel comfortable speaking English out loud and happen to be eye-meltingly gorgeous, then acting might be the art for you! Considered to be minor gods in most developing countries, successful actors have combined exhibitionism with knowledge of words and a staggering ability to be looked at to become the most celebrated artists in the world. For those interested in acting but without the benefit of good looks, spin-off pursuits such as performance art and stand-up comedy offer the self-indulgence of acting without the perils of payment or recognition. Try this easy test to find where you fit: snort baby-aspirin and attend a concert by a moderately successful musician. If you wake up in your own bed, the life of a television actor is probably not in your future. However, if you have the face for it, acting is a dream job in every sense, easily scoring a high 8. Some claim that there are large drawbacks to the actor lifestyle, such as a total lack of personal privacy and crippling sex-addiction, but these people are by and large very attractive jerks attempting to corner the market on godhood.

But maybe you’re not a people person. Maybe you’d prefer that the adoration of the masses doesn’t begin until years after your death. If this is the case, then visual art is probably your best choice. Visual artists can spend years in isolation, crafting masterpieces with their own blood, sweat and tears (often all too literally). While lacking the popularity and visceral response elicited by music and acting, visual art compensates with a total lack of any quantifiable criteria for success. Most people are able to identify bad music or bad acting, but bad visual art can almost always be hidden behind a compelling explanation. Almost anything, from an unpainted canvas to a small amount of human feces can be passed off as visual art, as long as the artist exhibits expansive sociopathic tendencies that can be interpreted as an “aesthetic.” Whether you’re a little eccentric, a future serial killer, or just plain like to draw, visual art is a safe, relaxing choice that earns a solid 9.

Of course if you’re blind and tone-deaf with a face that frightens even the bravest children, you can always try writing. Writing is widely regarded as the lowest art form, and it’s a little known fact that up until the late 16th century the terms “writer” and “leper” were interchangeable. Beside the fact that it requires almost no preparation or materials and can be performed under any circumstances (for example, while sitting in my underwear, picking cheez-it dust off my hairless upper thighs), writing has very little to recommend itself as an artistic goal. It elicits no visceral response from the audience, garners little praise or recognition, and works within a network of grammatical conventions through which bad writing very apparent quickly becomes. Considering that, if current trends continue, within 10 years all written work will most likely be limited to 140 characters, this artistic pursuit is lucky to walk away with a score of 2.

I hope this condemnation will not go unnoticed, especially by those sunk deep into the dabble-ability of writing, such as New York Times columnists, and the producers of “Mad Men.” To these people I say, it’s never too late for you to switch gears and try something else. Join a band, get some headshots, poop on a pedestal. And if you need someone to wallow through your pathetic writing jobs once you’ve abandoned them, I can begrudgingly offer my services. After all, I’ve tried everything else. And I’ve still got a little more time to kill.

Jamie King is a writer and comedian from Washington State, based in Brooklyn. Recently, his work has appeared online in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and onstage at The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, New York. More essays, videos, and propaganda can be found at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Brian Wask: CPAC Sounds Like a Douche

Hell's Kitchen, NYC– The plan was to visit a friend in DC last weekend, but the snow and growing wolf population gave me second thoughts. Since Spring of 2009 record number cottontail rabbits have burrowed homes into Washington’s vast lawns, but with so much snow they’ve been unable to find their holes after returning with food for their young. I was eager to see what would come of the rabbits since the Mall was devastated by snowfall two weeks previous. According to Republicans, hot after a few lame victories in usually blue friendly places, Obama should’ve been out with his shovel first thing in the morning. But what does an elitist immigrant born with a silver spoon in his mouth know about shoveling snow. That’s hard work. Obama went to Harvard. The white rabbits had the snow in their favor, but a hungry wolf can smell a horny bunny three miles away. That’s nature and the nation’s Capital is the still heart of a bloody corpse because of it. The rabbits are timid anyway and that kind of stink is lethal in Washington.

During the brief moments between snowfalls my phone rang. I reluctantly answered but all I heard on my end was the TV real loud and a lunatic reading the inscription from the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. The wretched refuse, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door… I recognized the weeping on the other side. It was Harrison, whom I was to visit, and my source of all good things political. He’s recently divorced, wife took the kids to Puerto Rico, so the first image popped into my head was an empty bottle of Jack between his thighs and a Ruger Single Action revolver to his temple. (I was with him when he picked it out, his nervous hand could barely hold the plow-handle grip.) “Put on Fox News Channel,” he said. I told him I couldn’t. He agreed it was painful but there was something I needed to see. I explained I lack the luxury of cable and instead endure the long-hand version of politics on C-Span. “God bless you,” he said. “Most people don’t even know what that is.” I asked if he was okay and turn the TV down so I can hear you. “It’s Glenn Beck. He’s puking all over the place, making a mockery of the Revolution. He’s cried several times. I can’t turn it off.”

A week before CPAC wrapped up its annual three-day convention in DC, but the stench lingered like a toxic gas from a George Romero film. The remaining Crazies gathered at coffeehouses in nearby Alexandria, where Harrison holed up in the new suburban spread he’d recently purchased for his growing family. Not no more. I felt bad Mother Nature discouraged me from visiting, but I also started the weekend early, and forget the weather I wasn’t going anywhere for at least three days. Plus I had work to do. A friend of a friend found an agent willing to read my latest, but I’d lied about being finished in the first place, so the next few days I’d have at it. It was unlikely I’d get anything done with all that was on my mind­­– wolves and the slaughter of innocent rabbits– but I’d give it an old-fashioned coffee and Benzedrine try anyway, despite the cold-weather in my head. “Is anyone else there?” I asked Harrison. He said he was alone and the only company he was expecting would come by small plane trailing a banner denouncing taxes. “The fuckers defended the bastard,” Harrison said. “Like they did McVeigh and Nichols. The Right is armed to the teeth, taking a page from Al Queda. It’s bad. Cheney needs to be muzzled. He’s telling everyone America is unprepared. When will that prick’s machine heart finally fail?” We agreed probably never.

Harrison answered a call from his lawyer on the other line and forgot I was waiting so I hung up soon after. Hopefully things work out for the guy. The value of his house is down a good chunk of change and since the Mexican gangs supposedly took over Northern Virginia’s school system no one was looking for property in the Fast Food district of suburban Alexandria. But progress will prevail, always has, which got me thinking about what’s wrong and what’s right, and who is this CPAC guy and why does he spell his name like a robot? I went to C-Span’s website and activated a marathon of CPAC footage. It was quite a chill to see Liz Cheney, the grateful offspring of a savage Aryan, soak the microphone with rumors of incompetence over the Christmas Day Attack. Keep America Safe is the name of the group Miss Cheney represents, which seems to me a twisted joke when it’s her own gene pool that would better serve NASA’s waste management program in space far far away. Friday night turned into Saturday morning, despite the terrible reality of CPAC and the digressive culture it dignifies. Halfway through the second day’s events I again confirmed why I often side with lame Democrats over their textbook counterparts in the GOP. Thanks to CPAC it gets easier and easier.

The ferocious banging at my door will have to wait. Dedicated Aryans (see Teddy Roosevelt’s Following the Sun Philosophy) have hijacked our nation’s cornerstones and rewritten them to suit a “Christian” foundation, contradicting the founders' preference of Science and the Arts (see Amendment 1) and to justify imperialism with the Monroe Doctrine (again, see Teddy Roosevelt, John McCain’s favorite president). Forget all the other dangerous opinions breeding among Tea Party carnies. They maintain a distant second place to this vile, primitive agenda. Global Warming can wait. Right now there are powerful people whose happiness depends on other’s misery (see the gloating of Pat Roberson after the earthquake in Haiti, the hurricane in New Orleans and the destruction of the Twin Towers). CPAC called their invited guest Ryan Sorba’s homophobic rant connecting civil rights to natural rights via reproduction “freedom of opinion.” Sorba, a combative misanthrope who justifies his delusions with philosophical roundhouses, thinks humans are programmed like wild beasts and all feelings between us are pure instinct, no passion, love or intellect– in his case this is true. If that’s all that Limelight Conservatives can say about this kind of hateful ignorance, I fear what will happen if CPAC’s bag of nuts ever serves as a jury of my peers.

Brian Wask writes books, makes music and has spent several trips to an isolated cabin sweating out his unhealthy addiction to American Politics. Go to to see more.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Joe the Plumber's Aquacracy: A Photo Exhibition, Reviewed by Duncan Sweever

Joe the Plumber– one of his many aliases– presented his most recent work at the Whitney Museum last week. It was the follow up to his book, the thought provoking and distinguishingly logical Fighting for the American Dream. In the book he casually rationalizes the beneficial ways a country should run government, as well the wholesome luxuries that go along with being hardworking, old fashioned and Christian, when convenient. Though the same ideas have failed over and over throughout history, they worked at the Whitney last week. Aquacracy demonstrates restraint and fear. Multitasking is not easy. Ideas don’t have to “work” in order to be preserved and repeated.

Those in attendance were a fair balance between the left-handed and the right-handed, and at times their ambiguous debates concerning the artist’s intentions contributed a surprising aesthetic to the gallery’s setting– the floor was soft. The dexterity of angle was an obvious sign the artist is right-handed. At the same time the materials photographed pursued a space found left of center. Perhaps contrived, perhaps provoked, Aquacracy presents a vulnerable tension while recognizing its own uncertainties. Peripherally, in Australia, it could be compared to surfing, without motion, or an emptiness harangued by the professor himself, like a half-eaten balloon.

Aquacracy symbolizes a downstream mentality. It’s a blunder of theories, tangled by nature, isolated by choice. The brilliance of civilization recognizes differences, but awareness is brief and differences endure. People used to live in caves, now they live in houses. That’s a big difference, and standing out among the variations is plumbing, and, on a grander scale, Water Works. Still, for six thousand years, since God created the Earth and its varicose water tables, similarities linger. Gravity, a divine invention, remains the determining factor, despite technology and/or science.

Photography toys with reality and perception. Images appear and disappear. Everybody knows that. The deceptive impact is frustrating and frightening, creating both euphoric anxiety and violent reactions. Joe the Plumber discreetly inspires confusion, but the possibilities of interpretation pass the baton, until finally the finish line appears, though distant, within sight. Yet when finished one looks back and wonders why they ran around in circles to begin with. But circles don’t end. Neither does gravity. But Space does and Aquacracy proves this. Thanks to Joe the Plumber that debate is over. Next up for the man of many names: The Left’s addiction to Lying and the benefits of saying you own a business when you really don’t.

Duncan Sweever writes for a number of print publications, including Afterthought and PlayDate. He remains elusive, despite a very long nose.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jamie King Reviews Turns of Phrase: Inspirational Sayings

This week I’m bringing a critical eye to so-called “inspirational sayings:” turns of phrase designed to convey hope in times of despair, grant strength to the downtrodden, and shine a light where once there was only darkness.

As exemplified by that nauseating topic sentence, even the most cynical of writers can find themselves drawn to flowery analogies when inspiration is involved. This is due to the baffling truth that optimism increases exponentially when combined with half-hearted wordplay and flimsy metaphors. As proof, one needs only peruse the multitude of “inspirational quote of the day” websites scattered about the Internet like the abandoned children of an overly fertile, deadbeat Care Bear. Online, these phrases are as prevalent as pornography, evoke about 40% as much masturbation, and are far more harmful to our society than a thousand hours of German pooping videos. For even the vilest sex act ever filmed is guiltless of the sins committed by inspirational phrases: the sin of false hope with a thin sugar coating.

The most insidious of these phrases seem upbeat at first glance, yet after rudimentary examination reveal themselves to be as depressing as a stillborn smurf. My first example, “You never know,” is so delusional a phrase that the New York State Lottery employs it as their slogan. It presents itself as a rebuttal to the pessimists:

“I’ll never win a million dollars. That’s crazy.”

“Hey, you never know!”

Unfortunately, the marketing geniuses behind legalized gambling overlooked the fact that this phrase can just as easily be cripplingly depressing if used in response to a more positive statement:

“We’ll have beautiful children together.”

“Hey, you never know!”

“...well, as long as they’re healthy.”

“Yeah, but you never you?”

“I guess not. But you love me. And that’s all that matters, right?”

“Sure. I mean that’s what I keep telling you.”

“But I’ll never really know...will I?”

“Definitely not.”

The fact that nothing can ever be truly known is one of life’s great tragic ironies. And yet, its inspirational usage elicits warm smiles and wasted change from thousands of people every day. For this reason I give “You never know” a solid 2 out of 10 stars.

Next up for review is the insidious backhanded compliment, “You’re one in a million.” The sins of this phrase are fairly obvious: while clearly intended to boost confidence, its literal translation smacks of isolation and insignificance on a massive scale. What types of things stand out as one among millions? Grains of sand on the beach? Stars in the sky? Trees in the forest? Bloggers? Being “one in a million” says nothing about your value in comparison to your 999,999 competitors. A far more specific and accurate compliment might be “You are a successful sapling in a field of failures” or “your accomplishments make me feel bad about my own. “While these phrases may keep it “too real” for the inspirational quote establishment, they easily trump the unspecified praise of “You’re one in a million,” which earns a merciful 4 out of 10 stars.

Most inspirational phrases are in the public domain, originating in that long ago time when very little had been said and almost anybody could end up with their ramblings sewn on a pillow. The coining of a modern inspirational phrase is a rare thing, and attempts are frequently clumsy and misinterpreted. Still, every now and then a group of young men will sell their souls to the devil in exchange for wild success, eternal life and the authorship of a memorable inspirational quote. I am referring, of course, to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” by the Rolling Stones.

At first glance, I find this quote much more satisfying than the previous two. Its abrasive honesty is refreshing, and it seems to be the first truly post-modern inspirational phrase. Unfortunately, it sells itself out in the 2nd act: “But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Close inspection reveals that lyricist Mick Jagger’s efforts to fit the phrase gracefully into the chorus of a song have resulted in the addition of a depressing number of modifiers. Consider the amount of variables in this sentence:

“But if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

When you consider the likelihood of trying in the first place, the dubious timing, and the fact that even a successful attempt “just might” be successful, the chances of actually getting what you need seem very, very slim indeed. That’s why this phrase, which in the last few decades has become a kind of fatalist-rallying cry, earns only 6 out of 10 stars. While it seems to affirm through multiple choruses that everything happens for a reason, in reality it sounds more like a poorly thought-out exchange with the Almighty:

“God, why are we here?”

“Because…um...if you…maybe, um…try and believe in me...I, uh…could…sometimes…possibly…have a divine plan.”

“So do you have a plan or not?”

“I just might!”

“But we’ll never know, will we?”

“Oh hell no.”

Jamie King is a writer and comedian from Washington State, based in Brooklyn. Recently, his work has appeared online in McSweeney's Internet Tendency and onstage at The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, New York. More essays, videos, and propaganda can be found at

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chris Conroy: Possible Side Effects

Josh Marino bitch-slapped his boss. He didn't win the lottery or have another job in waiting and it wasn't when Gary Ponderson, Josh's boss, told him he wasn't on the level, that he needed to produce the Franell Reports quicker and with more attention to detail, that Josh slapped him open-handed across the face.

No, here’s how it went down:

"How're the Franell Reports coming?" Mr. Gary Ponderson asked standing over Josh, clicking a pen-point in and out, click, click, click.

"Oh, slowly but surely," Josh said looking up from his desk.

"Looks like”—click, click, click—“you're out of practice.”

"It's been awhile."

"We'll need you to pick up the pace. We're on deadline you know. And details, you must pay attention to the details."

"I can do that," Josh said, turning his head, realizing Gary had already walked off. Josh stood up, stretched and went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. He bumped into Gary in the doorway.

"By the way, Josh, we're out of half-n-half...pick some up on your lunch break, okay?" Josh just stood staring up at Gary for a few seconds. Gary pointed his pen at him and click, click, clicked it—“Oaky?”

And then wham, the bitch-slap to the boss's face. It was a simple order disguised as a request—pick some up on your lunch break, okay?—that set Marino over the edge. Or maybe it was that fucking pen, the incessant clicking, like a tiny drill-bit piercing the proverbial ‘thin ice’ of patience and common respect that set him off.

Josh called his girlfriend Cindy on the way home and told her what happened. He forgot his head-piece on his desk and was driving with his phone to his ear.

“Shit,” she said. “Guess you’re fired?”

Josh said he didn’t know for sure but expected he was and that he wanted to see her later tonight.

“Why don’t you come now?”

“They’re waiting for me.”

“Jesus, Josh.”

Red lights flashed in his rearview. He hung up on her and stashed the phone under his seat, working a scenario in his head while trying to properly conceal it, forgetting to set it to ‘ALL SOUNDS OFF’ mode.

His brother Mark bailed him out of jail.

“Dude,” Mark said on the way back from the station. “You turned what would’ve been a silly ticket into a possible criminal record. Resisting arrest—what the fuck?”

“How’s Mom?”

“She’s a wreck. She thinks they’re putting you away.” Mark slammed the brakes and pulled into a 7-11.

“That reminds me, she needs cigarettes.”

Josh waited in the car biting his fingernails and squinting out the car window. There were black cats, hundreds of them, slinking around the parking lot, huddled on the hoods and rooftops of the other parked cars. Then on top of Mark’s car, clawing and scratching at the paint, their sharp tiny teeth exposed in quick hisses, bloody tendrils of prey hanging from their mouths.

Mark got back in and slammed the door. He looked over at Josh. “You okay?”

“Do you see them?”

“See what?” Mark brought his window down and stuck his head out. “The skateboarders? What?”

Cindy was looking through the blinds when Josh pulled up in his 87’ Pontiac. He flashed his lights at her a few times and she waved him in. Everything 80’s Radio was playing Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, and he wasn’t about to turn off his favorite song—‘Out along the edges…Always where I burn to be…The further on the edge…The hotter the intensity. He turned it up louder and started singing, “Highway to the Danger Zone…Gonna take you Right into the Danger Zone.”

There was a tapping at his window. It was Cindy. She lipped ‘what the hell’ with her hands in the air. He turned off the car and grabbed his 12-pack of Bud-Light Golden Wheat from the passenger seat and got out. He kissed her. The moon was full above them.

“It’s been a rough day,” he told her inside, sitting on her couch, cracking a beer. She was in the kitchen pulling cold mugs from the freezer. “What’d you say?” She said walking back to him and setting the mugs down in front of him on the coffee table.

“It was a rough day,” he repeated and filled the mugs with measured pours—a little in this one, a little in that one, back and forth—until the foam rose to the top and puffed over the frosted rims. She held up her glass.

“To tomorrow,” she said. He held his up and clinked it to hers. “Tomorrow.” They chugged their beers, she finishing and wiping her mouth before he.

A half-hour into Weekend at Bernie’s and eight beers later, they were all over each other. They only had sex a few times and things were still new and exciting; the unfamiliarity of bodies its own aphrodisiac. But something was wrong. Josh wanted sex, wanted to release the stresses from the day, to satisfy Cindy, to bring them closer in mind and body, to make love or to simply get laid, it didn’t matter, Josh wanted it and so did Cindy, but it was not to be, it was mush, Josh’s dick was mush and neither one was making love or getting laid. Not tonight anyway.

Josh Marino called his doctor the next morning. They put him on hold. He used an anti-bacterial wash on his hands while he waited. His cell phone was being kept as evidence and he was using the house phone with the long black coiled cord. God only knew what type of germs and filth grazed upon this ancient unit.

“Hello Josh,” Dr. Zubowski’s voice sounded on the other end. “How’s the new medication working?”

“Well, the attacks aren’t as bad, but I think I’m experiencing side effects.”

“What are they?”

“They vary.”

“Well, let’s make an appointment. We’ll have to adjust the dosage or get you on something new.”

Conroy's fiction has been published in several online and print publications, including Whetstone, Word Riot, Ward6 Review, Zingmagazine and The Hell Gate Review. Check out an excerpt from a fiction in progress--Quercus Alba--in the inaugural print issue of The Wanderlust Review, Feb 2010. Or drop him a line at