Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Waiting for Andre

By the time Andre the Giant reached the age of twelve, I suspect he was still called Andre Rousimoff. However, its possible that the moniker that would carry him to fame had already been applied. At the tender age of 12, Andre stood a towering 6'3" and weighed in at a svelte 240 lbs. Life being generally cruel, this meant poor Andre was too big to ride the school bus. Fortunately, his father had a dear friend who had a flexible work schedule, and offered to drive Andre to school. This is a picture of that man:

For those who read caricature, that is indeed Samuel Beckett. You can't make this kind of stuff up (oh yes you can, people do it all the time).  What you can make up, however, is a dialogue between them. So, let's have at it:

ATG: Hey Sam, how are you today? Sam?
SB: Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.
ATG: Yes, yes, some of the time.
SB: Oh, you’ve got a gift for rhyme?
ATG: I prefer wine
SB: If I had use of my body, I would throw it out the window
ATG: Is that how you would like to go?
SB: I shall state silences more competently than ever a better man spangled the butterflies of vertigo.
ATG: That is very good Samuel!
SB: Enough. Habit is a great Deadener. I mean it.
ATG: Anybody want a peanut?
SB: I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

OK, so its just a mash-up of Fezzik and Beckett quotes. But admit it, it reads a bit like Endgame, no?

Why I Write

I have had many jobs. More than I care to count, frankly. It runs the gamut, of course, from running the till at coffee shops and dry cleaning establishments, to basically professional positions dealing with real clients and real money. The real money was theirs of course, I got paid significantly less than real money. I have even had professional writing work, both as a proper editor and as a feature writer. My greatest journalistic moment remains my interview with Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame. I considered framing a copy and sticking it on the wall above my desk, but I didn't want it to become an epitaph or an "in memoriam." I still have plenty of writing to do.

So why write? Clearly, its not for the money. I would be better sorted being some kind of account coordinator or a plumber, or anything for that matter. Of course, those inclined to credulous optimism always chant the refrain, "Follow your passions, and the money will follow." It may be true, I just wish I was passionate about something for which money could more easily pick up the scent. I would love to tell you that I write because I have a deep passion and desire for self-expression, and that communication knows no higher or more noble form than the eloquent filigree of an elegant sentence. But, of course, that is bullshit. My inner Diogenes knows full well that the choir at that church is getting smaller each week, and that indeed what people want to read is more often than not represented most ubiquitously by banal and instrumental constructions that invite readers to "relate" to and "really feel" what the writer is saying. Oh yes, we must connect with readers, don't get me wrong. But let's face it, one of the reasons I write is because I simply have far much to say, and I unfortunately pursued an academic discipline that helped me develop the tools to spew my inner world onto the page, virtual or otherwise. So, it turns out, that I write because I am primarily selfish and think entirely too hard about things, while I should be playing basketball and forming shallow, but entertaining friendships or something. Xbox maybe?

This is not to say that I don't believe that I have something of value to offer as a writer. However, it is useful to make the distinction between believing and knowing. In any event, for me writing as a process and act involves more of a neurotic tick than a lofty pursuit. It is a compulsion born from a moment of reckoning with a Kierkegaardian sense of dread.  And if that sounds like a bit of pretension, it is. But what, in the end is writing other than embracing a certain kind of self-delusion that attempts to make of the moment something grander than perhaps is called for? I don't know, I barely understand the question myself.

In the meantime, I will continue because I see no other way forward. It seems, as they say, the thing has chosen me, and not the other way around.

All best.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dunk this

I have learned recently that Mormons can actually baptize people who are already dead. This stunning revelation first came to me in the form of a blurb about some enterprising Mormons taking it upon themselves to baptize Anne Frank - yes, she of the holocaust diary - and thus ensuring that her gentle soul could indeed gain entry into the heaven that she deserves. Though one wonders what her soul has been doing in the meantime, short of sitting in her living room in purgatory waiting for some Mormons to knock on the door and actually intending to let them in.

Now don't get me wrong, the purpose of this particular screed isn't (solely) to pick on a curious religious practices of a curious religion.  Although, I certainly won't pass on the opportunity. No, the purpose of this screed is to pick on someone who believes in this practice - and has in fact practiced it - and is simultaneously running for the highest office in the land.

As it happens, Mitt Romney allegedly baptized his dead, atheist father in law. When pressed recently about the practice of "proxy baptism," Mitt's reply essentially amounted to "Sure, but not recently." Comforting. However, the real outcry, and reason Romney now has to face it, involves the proxy baptism and conversion of Frank and deceased members of the Wiesenthal family. This has led Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel to declare that Mitt's co-religionists should, well, stop it.

So in an effort to suss out the nature of the hullabaloo, I began to research the whole concept. Being the intrepid and responsible inquiring mind that I am, I looked it up on Wikipedia. However, within seconds of reading the article, I was so struck by the sheer bullshit of the notion that I stopped. I don't need to know the details. Look, it is utter nonsense, no matter how you slice it. It is no more important or valid a practice than stoning one's disrespectful son or painting your door frame with lamb's blood. It strikes me that to think that baptizing anyone, dead or alive, for any reason other than that person being in need of a quick rinse is nothing more than the persistence of superstitious beliefs that is bogging our nation down in ridiculous cultural conflicts while real problems continue to loom.

Look, people are allowed to believe what they want. If it comforts you to believe in talking snakes, or magic stones that decipher golden tablets, have at it. However, if you choose to run for arguably the most important job in the world, expect some derision, if not flat out ridicule. But perhaps more importantly, I want to say to those who are offended by proxy baptism, the people like Wiesel. I beg you, don't allow yourself to be offended by this utter tripe, this fantasy built upon fairy tale. It is as many historians have done regarding Holocaust denial. Scholars who have spent careers studying the subject will often decide simply not to engage in debate with the deniers, because to do so would give the appearance of legitimating views which, for legitimate historians are farcical at best, venal and hateful at worst.

Then again, I suppose its quite possible that Wiesel is invested in his own fantasies, and really does believe that the souls of these posthumously converted Jews are in point of fact, subject to contention. Heaven help us all . . .