The State Does Owe You A Job or 2 Millions Dollars

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We drink Coke. IA Richards is wrong. A paleolithic man wouldn’t drink a Coke, nor would he have any interest in Hamlet. In all Post-Apocalyptic stories the survivors want to roll the clock back; that is their central theme. If you have ever actually tried to survive in the wilderness, you know that water taps and central heating are worth the trade. Survival is not liberty, either.

Generations ago we traded our ability to support ourselves off the land for the coordinated, collective action known as The State. We traded this ability for the collective gain in productive power so that we could benefit from the bounty of this increase known as the division of labor. This trade came with an obligation from The State to provide for us. It is not possible for a contemporary human to survive off the land. A contemporary human does not in fact own enough land to survive. Because of this we are in fact entitled to support for our survival. The existence of The State makes the phrase an Nanny State an oxymoron. All nations are Nanny States.

We are entitled to support in the same way that a fish is entitled to water, a bird to air, a contemporary man to his Nanny State. Our greatgreatgrandmother’s gave away our ability to support ourselves long before we were born to The State. The State, in turn, must make certain that we have food, shelter, and education. In the United States this contract is the promise of the Constitution and includes the slightly weird concept of “the pursuit of happiness,” not happiness itself, but its pursuit. You can chase it if you want. Happiness I suppose is the carrot. Unhappiness is the stick. But any threat of starvation or denial of anything else at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy is breaking the contract.

If The State breaks this basic provision of food, water, shelter, health care, personal security, privacy, education, and the time and freedom to make and maintain social bonds then The State has broken its contract and should provide you with the ability to do this for yourself. So at my age that means the basic survival of my family will cost about 2 million dollars (with education and health care being completely covered on top of that). This figure came from the The Self Sufficiency Calculator for Washington State.

If The State fails to honor this agreement, than the agreement would seem to be null, and yet the void of no state — the appeal of zombie narratives, Mad Max, and other end of the world narratives — is another world and one that in which we are not designed to survive. Even in these myths the survivors end up like maggots surviving on the corpse of The State and the only way that the survivors survive is by creating a new state.

Why would anyone want to void the existence of The State? We traded our ability to take care of ourselves for the reality of cooperative action and the effecinces of the division of labor. The State does not have ability to restore us to our condition before this trade. It is merely a myth to think that we could return to what we were before The State. As a species we have been altered forever by The State.

If I were you right now to give you a parsec of land, like the Romans did to their citizen soldiers, could you turn that land into a living? Of course not. In America, only a libertarian nostalgic for a golden aged pioneer world that never quiet was would yearn for such a thing. Continue Reading →

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On Work

Women leaving work for the day, Hana Shoe Factory, Lewiston, Maine, August 1973 Photo by Alex McPhail.

Women leaving work for the day, Hana Shoe Factory, Lewiston, Maine, August 1973. Photo by Alex McPhail.

Americans are obsessed with work. It is the one cult that I think most Americans willingly belong to. Just work hard and everything will be all right. The cult ignores the obvious reality that if you are being exploited, labor is an aspect of your miserable conditions. It is not your salvation. It is the terms of your oppression. The cult ignores the obvious reality that the richest people in the country are free from labor. We like to believe that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, and so on have became what they were through hard work. And if you work hard enough as well, you too can be a Koch. I talked to Jeff Bezos once for five minutes. I was aware that in those five minutes, if you measure a person’s time by the dollar, those minutes were easily worth more than my annual salary. Labor itself cannot buy you freedom.

Of course I’m typing this on the third weekend in a row when I am working… blogging itself is labor and it is labor I am not paid to do. If only I work hard enough I will crack will open in the sky and money will pour out. Even the folks at The Stranger praise work. Christopher Frizzelle pointed out at an after work even that itself was on the clock for The Stranger staff and only obliquely leisure time for myself, that then books editor, Paul Constant, had written more than 10 blog posts a day for his entire career so far at The Stranger (in addition to doing his other work.) In reading a sociological study of the bums that lived in the Hooverville in the Duwamish during the Depression, the bums were praised for their industry. My father’s highest praise for someone: She is a hard worker. Socialism and Communism are derided by many Americans because they makes people lazy. Even the so called slackers are now seen as hopeless rubes for the expansion of the work week. The millennials are regarded with alarm because they value leisure time. I’m sure that will be fixed by the time they start to have children, mortgages, and run out of forbearance on their college debt.

Okay, I need to get back to work after taking a break to do some work.

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Reading with Matt Briggs, Gary Groth, John Olson 10.10.15 2 p.m. at the Frye

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Genius / 21 Century / Seattle SEPTEMBER 26, 2015 – JANUARY 10, 2016 Genius is an unprecedented, large-scale celebration of exceptional multidisciplinary and collaborative artistic practice in Seattle in the twenty-first century. It features over sixty visual artists, filmmakers, writers, theater artists, composers, musicians, choreographers, dancers, and arts organizations. The exhibition and its more than thirty-five events will run from September 26, 2015, to January 10, 2016.

Literary Festival

READING WITH MATT BRIGGS, GARY GROTH, JOHN OLSON

Saturday, October 10, 2015
2 – 3:30 pm

Location
Frye Galleries

BREAK THE GENRE

What are the boundaries and limits of genre? Readings are followed by a moderated panel discussion.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Matt Briggs is the author of eight books. The Publication Studio recently releasedVirility Rituals of North American Teenage Boys, a collection of stories, and The Double E, a novel. Briggs first novel, Shoot the Buffalo, was a finalist for the 2006 Washington State Book Award and won the 2006 American Book Award. His stories have appeared in The Chicago Review, Word Riot, BULL, Spork, Birkensnake,ZYZYYVA, and elsewhere. He lives in Des Moines. (I’ll be reading on the “Genre of Silence.”)

Gary Groth is President and Co-Publisher of Fantagraphics Books, Executive Editor of The Comics Journal, and Co-Editor of the Mome anthology.

John Olson is the author of numerous books of poetry, the most recent beingLarynx Galaxy (Black Widow Press 2012). He is also the author of three novels, including The Seeing Machine, The Nothing That Is, and Souls of Wind, the latter of which was shortlisted for a Believer book of the year award in 2008. In 2004, Olson received The Stranger Genius Award for literature and in 2012 he was shortlisted for an Artist Trust Innovator Arts Award.

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Writers in the Information Economy, a talk at Seattle Central College 10.29.15 at 12 pm with Matt Briggs, Paul Hunter, and Phoebe Bosche

Making Hay | Matt Briggs, Paul Hunter, Phoebe Bosche as part of the Conversations on Social Issues at Seattle Central College, Thursday 10.29.15 12 pm. (Library Room A)

Making Hay | Matt Briggs, Paul Hunter, Phoebe Bosche as part of the Conversations on Social Issues at Seattle Central College, Thursday 10.29.15 12 pm. (Library Room A)

I am going to talk with Paul Hunter and Phoebe Bosche (with The Raven Chronicles) about the humanities and in particular writers in the information economy. We’ll bring our talk to Seattle Central Community College to talk as part of their series Conversations on Social Issues at 12 p.m. in Library Room A. If you are free for lunch that day and in Seattle, I hope you can make it.

Paul Hunter studied English at the University of Washington in the late 1960s, and was around in Seattle during the end of the first tech boom fueled by Boeing and the start of the counterculture in Seattle. He worked as an English instructor at a private school in Seattle where his students went off to work in the second and third-wave tech booms. Paul is a poet, musician, instrument-maker, teacher, and editor and publisher. For over a decade, he has produced letterpress books and broadsides under the imprint of Wood Works Press, located in Seattle. Hunter is the author of several chapbooks and four books of poetry: Ripening (2006) and Breaking Ground (2005 Washington State Book Award), both published by Silverfish Review Press; Mockingbird (1981, Jawbone Press) and Pullman (1976, University of Washington Press). He was profiled in on the PBS News Hour in 2007. Continue Reading →

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Mowing the Lawn

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I am aware though after I mow my lawn in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy lawn.

I am aware though, after I mow my lawn, in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy space to call my own.

I mowed the lawn yesterday. This morning I’m looking out on the bluish early morning light and seeing the edged and smooth and somewhat green velvety texture of the lawn coated with early morning dew. There are drops in the scraggly and mostly dead rose bush. I like the collapsing and tangled and probably unhealthy rose bush and don’t want to trim it, but the lawn itself is something I feel a degree of suburban energy around. I don’t even know know how to phrase this. I didn’t have a lawn when I lived in an apartment while going to college. In fact the entire building didn’t have a lawn. It had a hedge of bamboo where raccoons would hide while migrating from Lake Union to Green Lake. There were planters for the Japanese maple trees along the street. But otherwise the building was free of vegetation even though it was under very tall city trees that left leafy, cool shadows on the side of the hill in the Spring and Summer. But after this I lived in houses on city lots with tiny lawns that required mowing and I would kept these patches of grass trimmed and short. It would take less half an hour and I would be done. I didn’t think much about the lawn or lawn care or mowing lawns in these rental houses. We lived for a time in a house north of the city, and the previous tenant had left the back lawn to grow. He’d had a bon fire in the middle of the grass that had gone to seed for several generations leaving clumps of golden straw and a brown morass of old seed pods. I used a weed whacker to cut the grass down to a manageable size and then began to cut the grass and after a season the grass was a plush bed of grass and the old fire-pit disappeared into the soft bed. It calmed me, but it wasn’t until I bought a house in the algae coated suburbs filled with cul-de-sacs, pastures holding drainage ponds, and houses with somewhat vast overgrown yards that I became the owner of my own bit of managed lawn. Continue Reading →

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Reading for Moss with Rebecca Brown, Janie Miller, Mariam Cook, and Matt Briggs

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Art does not come down from the sky. It comes from here, from us, from the world we live in. — Rebecca Brown

I’ll be reading with Rebecca Brown, Janie Miller, and Mariam Cook at Richard Hugo House on 9/6 2015 at 7 p.m.

This from the Hugo House Web site: The online literary journal Moss began in the summer of 2014 as a new venue for showcasing the talented and imaginative voices of the Pacific Northwest, with a special focus on emerging writers and a mission of celebrating and preserving the Northwest’s robust literary culture. Now, as Moss moves into its second year and prepares to publish a print anthology of its first three issues, editors Connor Guy and Alex Davis-Lawrence invite you to join them for a special evening celebrating a year of supporting and publishing great Northwest writing.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with refreshments provided and drinks available for purchase, with readings beginning at 7:30. Copies of the print anthology, Moss: Volume 1, will be available for pre-order via Kickstarter following the event.

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Gun Violence

British #4 Rifle

My stepfather had a British #4 with a magazine and a bayonet. He told me once, if the blade get stuck in a rib cage, fire the rifle to clear the corpse.

My experience with gun ownership begins and ends (well except for the military where I did train to shoot people like me who were stupid enough find themselves in a situation where they were shooting at other people) with my stepfather who owned a number of military rifles and bayonets that he kept under his bed in the security of the cardboard boxes in which they were shipped to our house. My stepfather was a Northern Irish man who was not very comfortable in Reagan’s America but he loved having the firepower to execute any of the people he did not agree with; he had the odd habit of identifying someone in a check out line at the grocery store — typically some 80s dude with a mullett and baseball hat that had been artfully curled wit the application of pressure and palm sweat at ether end. Often the dude would just ignore my stepfather. Other times they would go, “What you looking at?” My stepfather wouldn’t answer but would just star at them and scrunch up his lips until they turned white. And then the dude usually backed down which may been the game of chicken my stepfather was aiming at. But if things continued to escalate my stepfather would turn his head away. And when the dude went back to buying his cigarettes and Olympia or whatever my stepfather would mutter, “I could kill him. He’s a dead man now.” This man, my stepfather, was typically a sweet guy but a nasty drunk and even a nastier hungover person. He had a copy of Mein Kempf in the back window of his car probably in a provocation to people carrying the Bible around in the back window of their car. And he had three assault rifles. He took me to a range and we fired the weapons at targets that had the silhouettes of human beings on them. We were both a terrible aim. Things got really bad when he started listening to Wagner and his lime green lederhosen arrived via mail order. (I’m unsure how a person discoverers where to order lederhosen in the pre-interent world?) He armed one if his army rifles with his bayonet and began to goose step up and down the hallway. I don’t know what happened next because we got out the house and we didn’t live with him after that. But at the root of his inability to interact with other human beings and his inability to navigate even the Fred Meyer grocery store line was a fall back position of lethal force and a fantasy of Dirty Harry style firefights not against “bad guys” but against his children, dudes in the grocery store, against women driving vans with their kids to the movies. Far from taking personal responsibility, the “clinging to guns” of those who would keep our gun laws as they are strikes me as an abdication of personal responsibility, an active fantasy of dehumanizing “the other” to the point where these people entertain the fantasy of putting a bullet into their “center of mass” (that is their torso). You only need to look back at the needlessly fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman to understand guns must be regulated and anything short of very strict controls is to pander to the fantasy life of adult children and lunatics like my stepfather (who was likely just a bad drunk and hardly a candidate for psychoactive medication.)

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Earth vs Space

The Blue Marble is a famous photograph of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles). It is one of the most iconic, and among the most widely distributed images in human history. It is more than a symbol of globalism; it is the photograph of globalism.

The Blue Marble is a famous photograph of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles). It is one of the most iconic, and among the most widely distributed images in human history. It is more than a symbol of globalism; it is the photograph of globalism.

Putin is now the US’s Daddy: Putin said in his Op Ed in the New York Times a while ago, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” I agree the American Exceptionalism and the American Dream are both really dangerous (and heave been myths that have hammered the US middle class/working class in the last three decades.) Russia hasn’t needed myths to suppress their middle class/working class what with purges and the Gulag, however. But whose counting? We have vast prison systems; they have vast prison systems. We have the Russian Mafia; They have the Russian Mafia. We are essentially the same place. When I go for a walk on Sunday at the pier, I am surrounded by Russian couples.

I think it is more dangerous that we see ourselves as “The West” and we see Russia and Asia as “The East.”

It is retrograde to use “The East” as something to define ourselves. Edward Said’s book Orientalism is really handy in breaking down the reductive trick of balancing West against East. Not only is East/West really old as a set an artificial world-view dichotomy, it also serves no purpose in Globalism aside from setting up seating charts, resource distribution schedules, and other administrative tasks. Continue Reading →

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Genre of Silence, a talk, part of Genius – 21 Century Seattle on 10.10.15 2PM

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The Master of the Genre of Silence, Isaac Babel, at his arrest.

I’m going to be talking about The Genre of Silence at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle as part of an exhibit, “Genius: 21 Century Seattle” My talk will be on October 10th at 2 p.m. moderated by the Seattle poet Maged Zaher with two other writers. We’ll be in a talk that will last about 90 minutes with questions, answers, and hopefully some silence called Break the Genre: what are the boundaries and limits of each genre (poetry, fiction, memoir, comics, etc.).

Our current world seems awash in noise with perpetual tweets, hourly outrage cycles playing themselves on Facebook, trending topics, and so. There is so much talk that Dewey Decimal style categorization schemes have entered the mainstream as jargon: #hashtags. We are surrounded by so much information, we have all acquired some skill as information scientists. In this deluge of noise, how does silence stand a chance? Continue Reading →

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Response to the Words, Writers Should …

Do you disagree that writers should read a lot, that it’s good to spend time with one’s writing alone without oversharing, that writing students should meet their deadlines, and that it’s good to write with the reader’s enjoyment in mind?

Well it is good we don’t need to agree with each other, because I don’t agree. Mainly, it boils down to the concept of need to or should. I guess I don’t really see need to or should really be relevant to me as a writer. Who is another writer to tell me how I should or need write? And conversely who am I to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. I’ll read (or not read) their writing.

On the surface what you are saying here (aside from need to/should) sounds reasonable, but they are not things I agree with.

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Kerry Fox as Janet Frame in “Angel at My Table.” The last scene of the movie is to me the scene of the writer at work. But then, so is someone with a laptop in a room full of other people typing.

Writers do not need to read a lot. If it were at all true that they did, then the widely read would often be great writers. (and the under-read poor writers; and how in the hell could Cicero or Lucretius be good writers at all considering the scant number of book in existence at the time?) I have experienced that the the widely read are almost always insufferable unless they just love books and read a lot of trash. For some reason I love talking to someone with a super sweet tooth as a reader. Consumers of junk for some reason are infectious when talking about lit. Personally I read a lot but also feel under read at all times.

Writing can be done in an iterative, constantly sharing confessional loop just as it can be done completely alone. This is one of the things I found fascinating about Tao Lin, and I find fascinating about my daughter’s generation. My daughter writes constantly. She is a fantastic writer. Her writing always includes feedback; she is always writing to an audience. I have been learning a lot about how to create a writing practice that includes this type of feedback. In my day job, where I am a writer, the good writing is done in short bursts that is constantly feed through a feedback loop. Like you, I read about the writer in their garrett, and when I went to school the model of production as a writer was one where the writer alone sat with their thoughts and wrote. When I started writing I read in the introduction to Ursula K. LeGuin’s collection the Winds Four Quarters that she wrote 40 stories before she published her first one, and so I spent the first five years of my writing doing just that; writing stories trying to get that number of 40 stories. My first book took 8 years to write and I did nearly all of that alone. (Like most writers I wrote manuscripts that will never see the light of day.) One book took 13 years to write and before it was ready to send out I didn’t show it to anyone. I like working alone. For me it is how I work; but I can see that is not the only way to work.

Continue Reading →

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