July 2008

If you were any prettier you would be a bright red balloon,

…and you would float off into the sky and I would only be able to appreciate you from afar,

…and I would want to take a bow and arrow and pop you so you’d come back to me,

…but then you would be all flaccid and not pretty any more.

So instead I will let you float away.


This is in response to Jeanine Wurzel’s July 28th Op/Ed in the Daily Californian titled
“The Constant Feeding of an Insatiable Hunger”       



           There is a place for and a real need to address issues of harmful and pathological addictions, and for the calling of attention to real actions and beliefs that can be shown to negatively affect our communities and cultures. Wurzel’s Op/Ed piece, I believe, is doing neither. Instead, it is an essay with the tone that may be most closely akin to a Fundamentalist screed. I will try to briefly explain how the piece reads like the rhetoric of a strict religionist and then open to other thoughts the piece brought to mind.

Wurzel sets up a fearful bogey-man, lays a wide reaching net of blame, and sets herself up as somehow laying claim to truth and reality. First, the Devil of the piece is what she calls the ‘industry’, the ‘money-makers’, and by implication ‘puppeteers’. It is not really clear who these sinister powers are. They appear like St. Paul’s ‘powers and principalities’-nameless, faceless perhaps, but powerful and to be feared. There’s always good money, or at least always attentive ears when this kind of imagery is used. Its amazing how quickly marketing majors, artists, business entrepreneurs, etc. are transformed from individuals who live among us to the shadowy back rooms where they become the manipulative and cackling criminals of imagination that Wurzel supports here.

She secondly points a finger that is indiscriminate. She speaks of a ‘consumerism’. Is this capitalism? Is it American style free market? Is it just America or does it include the world? I do believe that there is such a thing as an unhealthy attitude towards all types of consumption. I watched enough Phil Donahue and Dr. Phil to know that there are plenty of things to be addicted to. My mother herself has spent over two decades working in mental health and addiction recovery centers. There’s plenty of unhealthy people around who are making choices that harm them, their loved ones, and the world. But Wurzel takes the Calvinist route it seems: we are all under the curse of consumerism. Or that is how the piece reads. When does one go from being a considerate and compassionate citizen and neighbor and become a dazed drone at the whims of The Money Makers? It would have taken a lot more research and thought to discuss the psychology and nature of buying decisions, and I know that’s not what the piece is about but as it stands it seems to be not about much at all.

This brings me to the last point of rhetoric that reads like a 1940’s evangelical tract: Wurzel has somehow been elevated over the plane of consumerist mind control. How many have joined her on the prophetic mountaintop? From her height she can see plainly how all the other poor saps around her are being led stray like sheep. She speaks of the “reality-world” as opposed to what she calls ‘false images’ like brazen calves lulling us into the idolatrous craving for Gelato. If Wurzel is enjoying ‘reality’, I applaud her for it seems that it has been a major philosophical project to deconstruct the idea of ‘reality’.

This type of fundamentalist thought is scary. It is scary because it sounds good. You can easily replace a few words and it can become a ‘rock music is of the devil’ argument, or a Luddite ‘technology is evil’, or any number of paranoid conspiracies. I know that Wurzel wouldn’t damn Huey Lewis and the News or write anything irresponsible, and she hasn’t here. However, without clearly identifying who and what she is talking about and decrying, it appeals to a egoistic reading because rarely does one identify as an ‘addict’ so they must fall in the category of an enlightened one who, like Wurzel is seeing the ‘reality world’.

So, that aside…

The title: “The Constant Feeding of an Insatiable Hunger”. This hellfire and brimstone sounding title could be the heading of any number of religious groups’ publications and it just isn’t really true. Even I, who am living off student loans and has not a care in the world about money except where the closest ATM is, can tell you the American economy is in a downturn. It’s bleak times for those who are trying to sell us things, so I’m told on NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Buyers’ confidence is down they say. What happened to Wurzel’s frantic and insatiable buying? Or is this only a description of the line at Jamba Juice when the weather dares jump above ‘chilly’? She writes of a “constant dreamer, someone who sees through a lens which the images have conditioned.” Not only are our buying habits market driven and conditioned, all things around us are culturally conditioned. I’m not sure if anything we look at, at anytime is ever free and autonomous and not influenced by cultural values of some type.

A word about pornography: It is not journalism. At no time will there ever be a court hearing about a pornographer manipulating the facts and evidence. Recently there have been a number of cases of photo-journalists getting caught doctoring photos, and even reputable newspapers falling prey to fast and loose reporting. We will never see an investigation into Hustler’s photo-essay “The Sex Kitten’s Meow” to find out if Miss August really has a vestigial tail. And porn does not have the corner on the fantasy market. I’ve even been shocked to hear that innocent-looking co-eds among us have fantasized that their partners are Harry Potter characters while in the throes of monogamous sex acts! Draco Malfoy? Really? Fantasy, the considerate and careful crafting of image, and actively pursuing one’s desired reactions in others have always occurred in marketing, romance, and erotica. Another dose of puritanical fundamentalism bleeds through in Wurzel’s “The real, intimate act of sexual intercourse is a far cry from the mechanistic pleasure and 12 inch…high heels…” Intimacy? That all and well for some, but for incoming freshmen and the rest of the good ol’ proud perverts among us, intimacy is the last thing on our minds.

This may be time for a point about the ‘reality world’ that has so far eluded me and many others. I think that perspective, subjective experience, and the interpretive task of parsing the sign vs. signified mean that reality is owned by no one. We are always encountering a strange dance of colliding perspectives that are influenced by many cultural factors. If I wear pants that are fitting in such a way to give the appearance of a buttocks where there is none, am I avoiding reality? Who is the real me? The meek identity I wear on a nervous first date or the bold one I wear when I’m drunk and on a nervous first date? It may not just be the trendy or successful agents of Corporate America who are putting thought into how they are perceived and how they relate to their consumer (a very intimate relationship I have been told by independent business people). How many times have you heard someone report back from a date they found on the personals or an online dating service “Their photo looked a lot better.” Believe me, I actually know some of the people on Myspace and facebook and they look nothing like their profile photos. Amazing what holding the camera above your head will do.

So I want to finish with a note on Wurzel’s writing of a “perfection that can never become a reality”. She elsewhere writes of a ‘naturally occurring drive or hunger’. This ‘drive’, I would argue, is the same that has created Homo Sapiens, religion, and also what she calls in her piece “consumerism”. Humans are looking for bigger, better, more efficient, easier, comfort, pleasure, health, enjoyment, entertainment, etc. I think it could be that the same things in our brains that attract us to that delicious ice cream cone also compel us to write that new hymn to J.R. Bob Dodds or Zeus. It is the fantastic, the impossible, the strange and peculiar that seems to good to be true that brings us back to healthy and unhealthy relationships, makes us get up in the middle of the night to write a hackneyed poem to read at the Starry Plough, or believe that in American politics “Yes We Can”. Is the idea of a global community consisting of justice just a polished up and photo-shopped Jonas Brothers? Maybe it isn’t that we buy into things and value things, but what are we valuing and what do those things mean to us? Is the Pentagon’s military spending a reflection of Wurzel’s ‘Consumerism’ or something else? What kind of perfection is being chased in the Olympics this year in China? Wasn’t the four minute mile a ‘perfection’ that could never be attained?

That we are attracted to the fine, the gourmet, the novel and effective is not so shocking nor is it damnable. What is perhaps worthy of note is that Americans donated nearly three hundred billion dollars to charitable causes in 2006 and have traditionally been in the fore in regards to donating time to social justice causes both faith-based and secular. Maybe Catholic Charities has a catchy logo and really dope ad campaign, or maybe we are all a better lot than it’s easy to suspect.

Ryan McGivern
Catholic and Good Ol’ Perv

The essay that led to me staying up late on a Monday












Henna work and photograph by hennadervish/Kree Arvanitas; please click image for more

I like the feeling of tears in my eyes and it doesn’t always mean I am sad. I wipe them off when people are near to avoid their misguided pity. Babies make me smile because they don’t understand suffering yet. I appreciate the sounds of my neighbors having sex as long as they don’t last too long. I often hesitate to talk to strangers because I think they are afraid of me. Sometimes I feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Other times I feel like Tinkerbell. When I look into your eyes I see stars, so long as you aren’t cross-eyed. I have never picked up a woman at a bar, club, gym, bookstore or public transit. I can appreciate watching lonely men gaze at women in violent appreciation. One of my favorite things is watching elderly or disabled people make out. I love the idea of bouncy balls. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. I think heaven is like being a rainbow. Sometimes I look at clouds and think about gods and cotton and then I remember they are really like a cold floating sauna. I do not intuitively understand why clouds look like they do, that if I leave my cup of water outside it will eventually become part of that cloud. At times I judge women for both wearing makeup and not wearing makeup. I wish I had cravings for food that are actually healthy for me. I keep forgetting how to be my own muse. I don’t think peeps are really edible. The things that make me happy keep changing. When people don’t make eye contact with me I feel like I don’t exist. Laughing is my favorite thing to do and I don’t believe tickling laughter is always sincere. I wonder if those evil comic book villains that laugh all the time are happier than me. I like the smell of fresh flowers but not potpourri. There is nothing evil about puppies and flowers. Sometimes I practice karate in my sleep. I get great joy from removing dryer lint. I wish humans were striped like a zebra. Every time someone lights a cigarette I think about eternity and every time I see a wristwatch I think about my cell phone. I will never know what you really think about me.

We’ve been deluged with money saving tips here at MindFlowers.
Are we that obviously broke? Well, with arrugula and gas prices out of control, I thought
I’d post some of the great ideas that will go down easy on the pocketbook.

“My husband and I take a bath together and tell the kids to play outside for an hour.”
-Tess B.

“These gas prices are just horrendous! So, instead of taking a long driving trip, we load up our Yukon and hitch our Focus on the back, tow it up to the cabin and then take mini driving trips around the lake. We also like to save money by buying our top hats in bulk.”
-Lily W.

“Usually, to save money, my wife and I will get in a fight about finances, lack of sex, or whether to raise our kids Jewish or Catholic and I end up staying a few nights at my buddy Jared’s. Its pretty cool: he’s got XBox and doesn’t care if I pray the Hail Mary over his toddlers.”
-Sean MacMalhoney

“To me everyday is a Staycation.”
Grandpa Theo, Oak Haven Senior Care Housing

If you love animals as much as I do (rabbits, caribou, finches), you’ve got to help me stop
“Livery Stables”.

My research has found the advertisement below written by their owner and as far as I can tell neither PETA nor Animal Solidarity have heard about this ghastly enterprise. Read below and decide for yourself!!

Dearest Loyal Customer/Animal Loving Patriot:

Our most recent foray into the often turbulent but lucrative animal warehousing market has been met with great success.
Our clientele has always expected the very best from our patented Animal Warehousing Technologies,
but Livery Stables has now raised the bar with our new “Program: Excellence” 

Our newest intiative, “Program: Excellence” is in short a miracle of modern Man.
First, we take our customers most beloved animals, pets, livestock, cattle, and/or seeing eye dogs and give them the everlasting empathy, spiritual connection, and non-judgemental love that they truly deserve. We then put them in a small, ammonia laced bleach bath in a wooden keg.
We then write down any feelings that we are sensing from our co-workers or the world-at-large and then place the creature in a cardboard lined slot in our newly spraypainted drywall.
We then give the animal a good washing with an ammonia mister that we have patented
ourselves called the “Mr. Myster”.
We then will test for breeding compatability with our other shelved pets.

Livery Stables is the Industry Leader.

We have a Corporate Motto which says: “Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.”

Lemuel Osmond
Livery Stables

Please join MindFlowers in ending this barbaric venture.
Together, we can save a pet’s life.

Let me give you an experience. You are me, so we are a she who look quite alike in two bodies. Now, get in the car.

Head from the city by the sea. You’ll bypass sirens and god-like fishermen and giant roll-on deodorant towers – keep going. Southerly with the winds, traveling of your own accord, in my own Accord, with one long continuous song playing on the radio. Some say it’s classical, others make it classic. You just heard one lyric you like about being a headlight on a train.

The day waning, eyes wide awake, you pass by the remnants of a religious age. Buildings like delicate foods with tops and towers constructed like the tush of a kush in Pakistan – things they name drugs after these days. These are the legislative buildings of our lives. These days, when bands derive their names from a drive way or a causeway or a path. Sleater-Kinney among the trees and I’m thinking of history and politics and destinations ahead.

“Hey, what’s the story with Sleater-Kinney Road?”
“I dunno. I hear they broke up,” my companion replies.

But you are the south. And you crawl through the skeletal bellies of spiders. Peeping between the flashing beams and ribs, you catch glimpses of the water. You’re on a natural barrier. Suddenly, things become more green than ever before.

You can stop at Deanna’s after Olympia and hear the latest gossip as to why Sheila won’t let Mystie run the register today. Something to do with some Carlo from miles down the road. There’s a camera above the toilet in the bathroom. Some don’t mind the idea of a voyeur, a blank black eye in the white of the plaster above them. For a good time, call Deborah 626-554-8900.
Call her. Call her that number. Call her that name. If it doesn’t work, there are more on down the line, tracking the wall like lines on the highway.

Hit the road.

Pass the Farm Boy Drive-In, a circle of big red barns and ready-made food in your car.
Consider the $6 oil change (Honda cars need only apply).
Ask people who walks their dog and what kind of kibble they prefer when you get to Portland. Then head on down to the Espresso shack to discover what a Star Shot is in the parking lot of the Value Village as you ponder who Fred Meyer may have been, and why he decided Portland was to be the heavenly abode of Fred Meyer superstores. Visit all three in the one-mile stretch along Foster as you head out of town toward 205.

Make a mistake. Go off the path while your friend sleeps on top of the directions. It’ll be great as the trees loom larger and the trucks drive slower along twisty clusterfucks for roads. The citizens of Eugene will be riding their bikes hauling wood and groceries and recyclables to the plant in buggies meant for babies and kids. The sun will sparkle through the leaves of trees, waving like crazy, warning you that it’s about to get hotter than a motherfucker. You heed the warning, but shrug. “What am I supposed to do? I’m heading for country roads.” Smoke, smoke, smoke

that cigarette

smoke. Great tunes, dusty roads, windows low, you hear conversations in other cars. Finally, in Veneta, off the lane where the friendly man with the gun guards his American flag (and you wave Hello!), everyone is flowing in the same direction. Take a right. Gravel path. Flowers in the air. You see men with long hair. You are there.

Parking, hay rides, women with shining breasts. Giants, stilt walkers, advice that doesn’t have your best interests in mind… You suddenly want an umbrella. You are lying on a big white couch in someone else’s tent staring up at the blinking leaves of trees. You realize that the light isn’t what causes the glisten, but the shadows of material objects which obstruct the path of the light in your eyes. Enlightenment, a teepee luminescent in lava projections, bubbles from a peace pipe, and go!

Glow sticks. Singing Sublime next to a faery and a pile of sticks and wings. She’s talking about the Dozes; she’s fryin’ in the pan of these labyrinthine trees and beings. Among the horns and strange masks, it’s night outside and when people cradle their arms over the roundness of their heads, it looks like an open eye. Third eye, the one that does the dancing insanely in the deep. The drumming hasn’t stopped for 8 hours. An Organic Time Machine blesses your evening on a home-made stage at a fork in the path. I am exhausted, in a broke-down palace, in a bar converted into a coffee shop with showers. But I keep on talking, you keep on walking these paths through the forest.

There’s a floating stimulation haze from all of the people dressed like field features, dark creatures and flowers. We’ve been wandering the sparkling woods next to small ponds and incestuous rivers. You’ve worked all day making Avocado Dreamboats (doo-doo doo dooooo!), splitting, slicing, scoring, eating out… selling “sexy popcorn” and covered in juice. Even after making 8 gallons of hummus in one bowl, you could go for more. You make up a term: vaginally salivating. You wonder why it is that food turns you on.

There’s a secret. It started in the pillowy love pit. You heard it and passed it on. Out loud, someone whispers it to the sitar player at the many-gods worship booth. They do not suppress the giggles. The noisy part-Native guy complains that we will run out of fire someday. You’re not listening to his talk of appliances and elders and womanly life-crafts. Instead, you grab the peach you nabbed like a gypsy from a basket and cut it so that you peel slices off of the full moon of flesh surrounding the hardened pit. “A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one,” someone imbued on you. You imbibe the fresh sliced fruit, zoning in on a man in an 19th century suit wooing a mistress dressed in white with two black eyes, like a mime.

Blankets, mouse ears, wizards, and bodies. Loin cloths galore. Dressing in drag, just slips from the drawer, a group of men direct you to the journal store. You find some hand-made paper and a batch of sage to rub under your arms or to burn around your apartment after it’s clean. Everything is made by hand. You carry it on your person. Backpacks and pregnant bellies collide in line as a fat man in an Egyptian mask sings an old 80s love tune, simple as a power ballad in a falsetto can be. You do a twirl. You dazzle among the fresh-ironed silk ribbons blowing in the wind. “How much?” “Three dollars for that one.” “I don’t think so.” “Alright, one.” Then you buy fifteen and tie them together. Sometimes a scarf, maybe it’s a tent flag. Maybe…A new head wrap. You take off your shoes. Tie one around your ankle and slip it up your legs in a zig-zag pattern. Now you have slippers made of feet. And you’re dancing, slinking into a time space of 13 drummers among the calf skin and hay bales, beating all at random, all in tandem, to a rhythm song sounding very much like – and very much better – the latest M.I.A. track you last heard in the car. Wild belly dancers are drawn in by the wind. They don’t dance for change in here. Among the sticks and the muddy grub, a dangerous man in hip-hop style and locks flails among the crowd, and they love him. He removes his business shirt.

You wonder the time and look at the millions of wrists connecting to arm bones, crafting hands, writing wrists, carpals of contrasting writs, and tan bodies. You realize you haven’t seen a watch or a clock since you got here. You could never gaze up at the sun and wonder like a character from Kafka. You have to ask, “What are the machines like?” and all you see are people akimbo doing different things that make the place one and the same. It’s more like physics.

So, we are agreed. We are observers. But there have been rumors that we have eyes that can listen through a tube to the stretching rubber band sound of nirvana coming from a stream a quarter of a mile away. You give it a try and looked up in time to see a man walking by, removing the nautical spiral of an expertly tie-dyed shirt from their back, tying it to their shoulders, then to the waist, then you watch as it falls to the ground in his wake. You wait for his return beneath a group of robin’s eggs hatch into babes, which everybody watches for days in amazement.

There’s a Druid in the forest next to the smoking area and closer still to the giggling, striped legged witches who won’t say anything, but don’t hinder you in understanding that this is one of the few times when everything happens all at once. Things don’t normally happen that way, and that’s the reason we celebrate and create those specific times apart from the normal order of events. Everything is just as we imagined it. Then David the Gnome walks by with an oversized carrot.

A shaman palms rocks for tots and talks of magic in a bottle. You watch his healing techniques and wonder at the moon-shaped crest of your back, realizing you will soon be old.

You listen to children chatter in tents. They engage their wisdom at the peak of absurdity. “How many poopies wil the rain drops fall to make it purple?” “I don’t know. But grapes are the best fruit ever.” “POOPIES!” “GRAPES!” Who needs chocolate mushrooms and purple rain perfume? You suddenly wish for a short umbrella and a tall, tall hat.

You overhear other conversations about our cellular bodies, the meaning of mojo, potty training, conserving energy. “I have expert mojo,” the striped one declared. “I think I have bad mojo,” a shadowy friend replied. “Nonsense! You have great mojo. Together, we all do!” And she made them march with their knees high onward to get high over by the forked tree at the end of the woods near where the fire dancers were.

And the dancers licked flames. They ate danger. They spit the heat of their obsession in your face. Stickly figures dancing for your health, they train in the movement of the body as head and green light rolled off their back. They ducked under the joy of the fire and rollicked with balls aflame. “Hey! Does anyone have a cigarette?” For some, this was a weekend to give up smoking and my friend offered her the rest of our quashed pack of American Spirits. On our way back to the tent, a man grilling steaks on a grill asked, “Hey? Have you seen the American dream? I know it’s around here somewhere? Where’s that spirit? Where’s that light? I thought it said it was supposed to be here?” Luckily, we had another lighter to light a candle to brighten the forest and trees.

We gave them eyes. We made them googly. We gave sight to the water, to bananas, to chips and horse shit. We got the chair to look at see. We enlightened the rabbits and pandas on our shirts and we put them over our own glasses.

I had a dream that I removed a giant film from the inner part of my eye. It was like a wet web and it made me ill to think that I had dug so deep. When we trekked backward through the vegetation and the skeletons and the rough, We saw a mountain explode. We thought it was spilling its guts – an urge I hadn’t had in quite some time – over lunch, but it turned out to be a forest fire that looked close, but was almost a day away.  I realized I hadn’t seen a reflection of myself in days that felt like weeks. Before I’d left, a homeless woman had said to me, “If you want to look like me, fine, go right ahead. Because when I’m dead, I’ll still be here – and where will you be? So if you wanna look just like me, well, then, go right ahead. But I’m warning you: people will be out for you because you wanted to be me. You will be sabotaged for looking the way that you do.”

When I got home, I took off the spectacles. I removed my clothes and stared into the mirror. My skin still glowed. I was more decorated than I remembered being before. When I looked into my eyes, they were clear and white as snow.

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