Title: Derek
Subtext: Todd's Todd.
Date: 19 Feb 17 (Sunday in the AM)
Time: 1 minute
Replies: 75
Revisions: 14
Publicity: Workshop

Ignoring mortality, we worship mediocrity, and wait to see what happens up on high.

— Bad Religion

It was Christmastime, so the digital highway sign reading plainly “Avoid Coal” might have made sense that way. But it was also just after Trump’s election, and given the shenanigans to which progressives were resorting, nothing could be put past even DOT staffers loyal to a state so blue it was nearly green, least of all subliminal double entendre.

At home, D sat down to a plate of hummus and hosts, the latter shrewdly acquired from an online Christian church supplier. The taste of his choice generic brand was inimitable. Nothing short of god in wafer form paired as well with garbanzo and tahini.

The tele faded into the background to make room for a smartphone search of George Price. Half the rest of the night went into internet oblivion.

Coming up to that characteristic void induced by the web gave impetus to thought. Derek had learned just three things for sure by 47 — chewing gum in the shower is unholy (to say nothing of chewing it in church), there are limitless crumbs beneath the edge of any kitchen counter, and the true origin of the catchy phrase “go fuck yourself” could only be known through the context of marriage, and its literalness upon divorce in particular.

But salvation was due, and like all the universe’s miraculous phenomena converging into one thing at one time in one place, Stacy appeared from the darkness with her big tee tucked in at her stomach, which highlighted the seventy degree angle her runway made with the ground. She and the high arch of her bangs came together in the shallow pane of reality just outside the sliding glass door.

She was welcomed. They turned low the light, lit a colored lamp in its stead, and thereupon broke through to the other side with the spirited succor of Jon Bon Jovi.


Elk » Authorship
Elk » 1:51 PM 05 Aug 17
Elk » 7:26 AM 25 Jun 17
Elk » 7:22 AM 25 Jun 17
Falcon » 5:35 PM 09 Mar 17
Falcon » 1:13 PM 09 Mar 17
Falcon » 1:11 PM 09 Mar 17
Falcon » 1:10 PM 09 Mar 17
Elk » 10:25 PM 08 Mar 17
Elk » 10:23 PM 08 Mar 17
Elk » 6:56 AM 28 Feb 17
Elk » 3:14 PM 19 Feb 17
Elk » 9:58 AM 19 Feb 17

The Thread (75)

 Author's voice in grey. 

  1. Audio intact.

  2. Softened the rhetoric, straightened out some language, and varied sentence structure a bit.

  3. No replies — perhaps it’s all lost on you?

    The Bad Religion quote not only suits Derek but elucidates the weirdly contradictory spiritual/secular lives of many simpletons.

    Christmastime, and the overlapping of Christian right and secular left in one succinct statement (avoid coal).

    Hummus and hosts, the secular/religious clash of snacking on god, if not outright clash of religions, particularly following identification of this as the Trumpian era, wherein ostensibly secular and ostensibly religious duel about the fates of various faiths in a country founded on the non-establishment and free-exercise clauses.

    George Price basically converted from physicist to saint, secular to religious, each in the extreme.

    The unholiness of gum chewing in perhaps a most secular space (shower) and a theoretically most religious space (church), and that nasty phrase (go fuck yourself) and its relation to a religious no-no ignored almost universally in a secular age (divorce).

    Salvation in a miracle as confusedly secular and religious as a sex kitten who under mass-like light spins the Bon Jovi track that opens its most revered album with a church organ and proclamation of the virtues of dancing in tongues in a bar.

    The weekend comes to this town seven days too soon for the ones who have to make up what we break up of their rules.

    Well I saw Roxie on the table, her girlfriend down below. They’ll give it up to the king of swing before it’s time to go. They said, ‘It’s alright (alright) if you have a good time. It’s alright (alright) if you want to cross that line, break on through to the other side.’

    Contrast the far leftness and secularity of punk outfit Bad Religion with the cross-blaring likes of Richie Sambora.

    Anyway – that’s how I write, in the event you never noticed.

  4. Strike liberals and shenanigans.

  5. Why? They would be liberals, and this would be a shenanigan.

    I find it more than contradiction that the left side of politics can resort to slurs like “Hitler” and “Nazism” and “genocide” (which is at the height of disrespect for those who actually suffered such atrocities), but maybe can’t take being called “liberal”, or having their activities characterized as “shenanigans”.

    The left has no idea what it’s doing to itself. It’s a tragic corruption and downfall of a beautiful ideology.

  6. Because you are playing into stereotypes and tropes and offereing nothing revalatory, and actually reinforcing intentional obfusactions and relaying propaganda.

  7. It’s a trope or a stereotype to suppose liberals want to avoid coal, or are opposed to Trumpian policies?

    As for resorting to shenanigans, whether it’s an obfuscation or propaganda doesn’t matter — this is fiction.

  8. And what’s revelatory here is not the politics — I could care no less about politics than I do right now.

    This piece is about religion. The tag for politics is merely there because a political issue appears in the piece. But the context of even that issue is religious.

  9. “It was Christmastime, so the digital highway sign reading ‘avoid coal’ spoke to morality, per se. But this was shortly after Trump’s electoral victory, so it seemed to be flashing about energy policy too. This is Massachusetts.”

  10. Yesterday Falcon and I had a telephone conversation that evoked the zenith of RL. I wish you all could have been on the line. It reminded me how important talking/meeting is to writing.

    The thrust of that dialogue was Falcon’s contention that my opening paragraph evidences poor authorship and lack of an independently minded interrogation of mainstream propaganda, or worse, advances it — i.e. that there really is no bipolar political dynamic, and that it is small-minded to succumb to the notion, even in a piece of fiction.

    My retort was and is that his is an opinion grounded in a personal bias giving shelter to offense, and a meticulously curated political identity of which he is fully aware but must after a life invested in it deny to pretend at any degree of influence through objective authority.

    I maintain that the word liberal is used correctly, that is to say, in accordance with its definition in the English language, and furthermore, that the political alignment against coal is correctly associated with liberality, i.e. openness to change and generally directed at broadening, and finally that that is a position not incorrectly posited opposite Trumpian rhetoric.

    I also reiterate here as I did on the phone that the artist has no obligation to perpetual total novelty, and that this is especially the case where the artist has made the interrogation and concluded either personally or artistically consistent with a non-novel contribution. Something need not be novel to constitute contribution.

    I am however open to the tenor of Falcon’s suggested rewrite — i.e. more of a nonfiction scene-setting approach, as opposed to more active authorial involvement.

    I also want to doubly impress that, while the political issue has struck a chord (Bear and I had a telephone conversation four times as long as mine with Falcon about the same issues when the piece first landed), the piece is actually about the contradistinction yet cohabitation of secularity and religiosity. I don’t want that to get lost simply because I use and capitalize the word trump.

  11. This piece appears to take up a very specific political posture. The narrator posits that the sign reading “Avoid coal.” can and probably does have political rather than religious motives. That the narrator tells us this seems to place him directly on the political spectrum rather than outside it.

    I think Falcon’s suggestion is (or could be – and I could be wrong) less based on personal political bias and more based on a preference for a more objective narrative voice. The passage might simply relay the ideas without the narrator directly voicing the conspiracy. Letting readers put that together might be a better choice.

    Here’s a quick stab:

    It was Christmastime. The digital sign over the highway read “Avoid coal.” What that meant in blue-state Massachusetts a month after Trump’s election is anyone’s guess.

    This would ultimately serve the story better, keeping the voice above the fray and letting readers equate the irony however they’d like. Otherwise you’re opening the story up politically and your thoughts on the religious versus the secular will take a permanent backseat.

  12. This is good advice @bear, and consistent with @falcon.

    But let me ask you, what would HST do? Painting the context (i.e. the setting) for future readers is precisely one of the author’s roles, if not duties.

    Do you think an author has no right to weigh in? What am I reading him or her for if not to get something of his or her take on reality, or, god forbid, his or her take on fiction?

    I call bullshit.

  13. HST would put it all out there, but he was a journalist, primarily. I don’t think he wrote fiction particularly well – Fear and Loathing is the exception.

    I’m thinking more the Guy de Maupassant approach.

    Certainly you can do whatever you’d like, but you must be prepared to be called out if you’re making explicit political statements in your work. And then we’re discussing politics.

    But you stated this isn’t political, so I’m trying to help you work around that.

  14. It sounds like you want to have your cake and eat it, too: you want to make an overt political statement but don’t want us to focus on it.

    Also, just delving in a bit, I think the charged words here are “shenanigans” that liberals are “resorting to”. I wouldn’t personally call them offensive, but they are politicized, without question.

  15. Fairly stated. But I think it’s not the words themselves, but rather the perception (not the authorial implication) that liberals are in a disadvantageous, if not desperate position that set this conversation in motion — that’s the offense called out; that’s the bullshit.

    Fact of the matter is, this is fiction. And you all give yourselves away when you don’t call out anything about Alien but do about liberal shenanigans.

  16. I think you’re being disingenuous.

  17. It’s fine using these terms so long as you understand you’ll get these types of reactions from your readers. Interesting how the degree of power of certain words fluctuates over time. The old George Carlin bit and all.

  18. Wait a minute, Elk — did Big Coal pay you to write this?

  19. FYI — See here for stats demonstrating one corner of the Trump triforce (never mind that the USA isn’t included, because it’s no less indicative).

  20. Correlations are easy; causation more challenging than most are willing to accept. It’s just too bad the con job won the day here in the USA.

  21. Speaking of sacrilege, please do not use Zelda terminology in this context.

  22. Although in Zelda if you kill the final guy and get the triforce but don’t go into the room with the princess, you can go back out into the world for some pointless and potentially endless slaughter. Perhaps the analogy is on point after all.

  23. One of the issues your article seems to point out, Elk, is a reluctance to adapt to a changing market.

  24. It’s not my article.

    Those are UK stats about gender and employment, presumably the male side is majority white.

    Have you ever seen the policy, “Women and minorities encouraged to apply.”?

    Me too.

    How does a white male adapt to that? Serious question.

  25. It’s your article in that you provided it.

    There’s a link in it to a New York Times article on the American analogue.

    As for the last question, the clear answer is the Soul Man approach.

  26. Seriously though, the fact that women and minorities need to be encouraged says a lot – that they’ve been discouraged in the past.

  27. In fact, your issue should not be with regulation, but with assholes who have made regulations necessary: employers who don’t treat women and minorities fairly. They’re the cause of that problem.

    Unless you think that white men should have some inherent advantage in the work place.

  28. I’ve mentioned before my affinity for a certain saloon in Scenic, South Dakota which has on its sign “Indians Allowed”. I doubt anyone thinks “White Men Welcome” would be a necessary addition.

  29. By the way, “encouraged to apply” does not in any way negate a white man’s ability to get the hypothetical job. Your question about adaptation might be more practically answered thus: be more qualified.

  30. I think you mean “thusly”?

  31. From thefreedictionary.com:

    Usage Note: The adverb thusly was created in the 1800s as an alternative for thus in sentences such as Hold it thus or He put it thus. It appears to have been first used by humorists, who may have been imitating the speech of poorly educated people straining to sound stylish. The word has subsequently gained some currency in educated usage, but it has long been deplored by usage commentators as a “nonword.” A large majority of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in 1966, and this sentiment was echoed nearly forty years later in our 2002 survey, in which 86 percent of the Panel disapproved of the sentence His letter to the editor ended thusly: “It is time to stop fooling ourselves.”

  32. You’re not a 19th century humorist, are you, Rabbit?

  33. Figures that Bear would resort to thefreedictionary.com, which is owned by Farlex, Inc., a corporation hailing from Huntingdon Valley, PA. We all of course are well aware of Huntingdon Valley not only for its particularly high standard of living, but from this gem:

    In July 2009, a nationally publicized incident occurred at the Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley. A group of mostly African-American children from a day care center were removed from the club due to the children’s race. On July 15, 2009, the day care center successfully filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the club. In September 2009, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission found probable cause that racism was involved. The swim club filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on November 15, 2009, and has since gone out of business.

    Thusly has Bear been exposed.

  34. My suggestion was based on improving the writing. You are employing received definitions of concepts that are greater and more complex than your framework for them. This situation is comparable to that time Mako was using the word “God” in the most uninteresting way possible, and at once critiquing his characters for their concept of divinity, which was precisely his limited definition. You give your power away in the first paragraph. I could give a pellet about your politics in this context.

  35. It’s the women I love, and the law that I hate.

    — Jason Isbell

  36. That seems a Popeye-ism. I yam what I yam.

  37. @elk — I looked him up. He has a punch-me face. I don’t understand the import of the quote, though.

  38. We aren’t meant to like laws. But their design, by nature, prevents what we would like less.

    – Lionel Hutz

  39. It’s the women I love, and the law that I hate.

    – Joseph Smith

  40. The import is that in the United States at the moment there is a very common belief that because one disagrees with a particular political means he or she might disagree with the intended social ends of it.

    Speaking of lack of investigation, there is often a rush to judging and condemning those who disagree with certain means. For example, advocating for free markets does not necessarily mean one is against the intended outcome of socialism; and critiquing racial/ethnic/gender preferences does not necessarily mean on is against the intended outcome of affirmative action or gender equity. Often it is quite the contrary, that the other side agrees totally with the end goal, but feels quite strongly that the opposite side is acting contrary to achieving it.

    This applies to right and left both, setting aside the issue @falcon takes with that terminology, which is fair and reasonable, but does not detract from the point I am making.

  41. There’s a saying about ends and means.

    Means matter.

  42. Precisely my point — one side of this equation has become obsessed with the means and has lost sight of the ends. Means matter such that getting them wrong undoes any admirable hope for the ends.

  43. I don’t know what to tell you, man, except I think you’re very misguided.

  44. @bear — Are you referring to my politics or to my writing, because the former were purportedly not on the table, and if they are, it’s far more complex than to which replies here can do justice.

  45. Wait, @rabbit, regarding con job, are you saying Trump was elected for no legitimate reason whatsoever, i.e. that whatever the reason(s) those who voted for him (not me, by the way) could have had in mind when making their selection, such reason(s) could only be illegitimate, because of something about the candidate himself? That’s classic ad hominem.

  46. Politics, which we’ve been discussing since you conflated writing and politics from the word go.

  47. I would argue that ad hominem doesn’t apply here as character is part of the position.

  48. Well I can’t believe I’ve been asked to defend my politics here.

  49. From the Law Offices of Wikipedia:

    However, in some cases, ad hominem attacks can be non-fallacious; i.e., if the attack on the character of the person is directly tackling the argument itself. For example, if the truth of the argument relies on the truthfulness of the person making the argument—rather than known facts—then pointing out that the person has previously lied is not a fallacious argument.

  50. It seems like discussing your politics was the entire point of the story.

  51. No, the point was to highlight the everyday cohabitation of secularity and religiosity despite their contradiction. The liberal shenanigans are just context, setting, time and mood.

    As for ad hominem, saying that any reason someone might have had in mind when voting for Trump is illegitimate because Trump is a liar is weird and simple. People vote as an expression — sometimes it’s for the person specifically, but very often it’s a political act and statement in and of itself, having less to do with the candidate than with the holistic stance compiled behind or around him or her, or perhaps as a position against something or someone and not for anyone at all.

  52. I see your weird and simple and raise you an irresponsible. Voting for or against ideology is what got us into this mess. Like the earlier means, the actual person in the position matters. Not taking this basic tenet into account will have drastic real-world results.

  53. And this is more or less brand new. You used to be able to vote ideology and get away with it because past candidates were competent and capable.

  54. What mess? Seriously. Do you even remember Iraq? No disrespect, but who shits where is a far cry from the thousands of civilian heads blown up under false pretenses in the name of bizarre familial business vengeance.

    Don’t predict me the future or promise me a mess. It’s hyperbole and media mongering. We’ve seen real messes in our lifetime, and nothing under Trump approaches the atrocities of our nastiest and least justified wars. It’s actually rather sad how blinded people have become to actual real-world consequence — or lack thereof — by their dislike for the man himself. It’s the exact same problem as voting for him because you think he’s a successful business man. You’re both wrong.

  55. You’ve bought into media rhetoric, just from the other side. I’ve already heard all that.

  56. Anyone who goes back and reads the piece after reading these replies has to be astounded that we got to this point in the conversation. It’s driven by Democrats who are latching onto a crumb like a dog on a bone.

  57. I don’t read news or watch TV. What media rhetoric? I read books (currently Don Quixote de la Mancha), academic research, and law.

  58. @elk – While I appreciate the strain you must’ve endured framing your question-and-comeback as such, no, of course that’s not what I meant. I’m not victim-shaming or questioning the intentions of the conned.

  59. I’m confused. If you don’t follow the news why the reference to “media mongering”? And how do you know who is reacting to what and why? How would you have any idea what the current Administration is or isn’t doing? I smell me a hyperbole’r right here in our midst.

  60. But then how are they conned if they made a decision premised on legitimate reasoning using free will? Not everyone who voted for Trump did so because they think if he’s president we’re all going to get fancy mesh hats for our skulls and twirly Taj Mahal cupolas for our houses.

  61. When I bought cologne from an attractive member of the opposite sex in an D.C. alleyway, it was a decision premised on legitimate reasoning using free will. The cologne was fake. I was conned.

    Trump didn’t begin the con, but he certainly brought it to a dangerous extreme. If you’re unwilling to see it for what it is, not sure what to tell you. Still of course I don’t believe you that you don’t follow the news so this conversation seems particularly worthless.

  62. It is hard to believe, but I’m maxed out on a local level and simply don’t have anything left for Texas, Bahrain, or ISS. I hope to come back to them, though.

  63. Also, the irrelevance of the cologne purchase is that the act of it was not part and parcel of an aggregate societal redirection, the mechanism for which is codified in constitutional law, and which occurred quite deliberately, not by con or by accident, whether it was gonna be Trump or Mr. Potato Head behind the desk, assuming of course that’s not a distinction without a difference. This was coming down the pike, people. Sorry you were surprised.

  64. Exceedingly narrow view of what I’m talking about, which to be fair is far more than I’m motivated to type. But to paraphrase Morrissey, some cons are bigger than others.

  65. Swapped progressives for liberals — word up, @falcon.

  66. Also amended to “so blue it was nearly green” to match use of progressives. Now tell me that’s not right, either.

  67. I made an edit.

  68. Can’t say I object to any of the sentiments @falcon added, but I think I might mildly object to the additional wordiness.

    I think Falcon knows he overheats his word processor with prependings and annexations, to the point that semantic jambalayas stew. It’s kind of his thing. And I kind of adore it. But it’s not really my thing – not that I don’t do it, or even enjoy doing it from time to time – just that my mode tends to be less clausey, and less logically sinuous.

    Will give it another minute.

  69. Word to the Rooster. For the record, I am always just trying to be precise. I saw your comment coming when I read it through though, as I thought, “Well now that sounds like me.” Figured I’d let it stand because now we’re for sure talking about writing. Psyched to see where you land, @elk.

  70. Still gotta revisit this for the @falcon edits.

  71. Bumped it back to my version, but kept the switch from shortly to just. Much appreciate the thoughts and suggestions from Falcon, though.

    Does the line about progressives still sting, or has time healed/desensitized any?

  72. Fun to revisit, both piece and comments. Like fine hip hop the piece ties itself to a moment in time, leaving interpretations to shift as we gain distance.

  73. Concurrence.

  74. Package this up in fine crinkly crate paper and shoot it into deep space. I’d rather re-experience the whole thing again than have to learn from it.

  75. Nobody so much as mentioned Stacy — that sex is going to melt Derek’s face.

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