Tomás Bretterbint

wilted yellow roses

Half the stuff that I had had had been obliterated. And in order even to see it I had had to put the CD-R into the pop-out side-drive on a machine that had been my own daughter’s from 1999. My thought had been to copy over the back-up folder that had held everything, a folder called “Bane,” which had been at one time the name of an old machine, and then destroy both. But that did not work. Even going folder by folder, copying one folder at a time one folder at a time, did not work. Files got mangled, and I got curious along the way about what had happened to the pictures. I had had to suppose that in a fit of smooth drunkenness I had either a) deleted the whole self-incriminating lot, or, b) stored it in a place so secretly secretive that eighteen or nineteen years after the beginning of the recording and accumulation of these facts, the information was just as good as gone without a trace. The apparent neutrality of this present account notwithstanding, however, belied the uncertain corruption of the words and images that had been, for all intents and purposes, believed to have been destroyed. Like the small bit of pain when biting down on a bagel in the back in between back teeth that promises some sort of eventual root canal in the rotting nerve end’s ineluctable dying history, I had had to face the prospect of biographers pulling out the thousands and thousands of loose digital ends, prying loose the files, searching through extensions, making multiple attempts to pry out rotted bits of biographical gold that would further complicate and baffle any coherent understanding of my otherwise muted character; or, I had had to have destroyed the nearly one dozen machines in my possession already themselves. Though I had been once told by a friend decades ago that even then I had overestimated the ripples of my importance, the willful destruction of as much of my one-time presence on Earth by all means necessary, by anything I could dream up at night, more than anything else, this sort of human self-cleaning had become for twenty years already my lifework. There had been only so much attachment to grief and horror, misery and disappointment, misdirection and recklessness, amidst a vast sea of accomplishment and generally regarded renown, that I had been able to take. In lieu of this, I had opted to turn back to what had become, in retrospect, some of the oldest public technologies, and had had to use these against themselves to erase, step by step, everything as successfully as they had made it possible.

Tracey Freytag

corn field path

Nobody had seen my raincoat. And nobody had seen my gloves. My adze was missing as well. All the accoutrements of living were long gone. In between the bramble bush of tomorrow I had strolled and wept. I remembered the northeast climate I had had. What was that? A curling vein of smoke from a faraway chimney pipe? A loose cannon of confederate recollection came back to my graveyard destined bone bits. A melancholy after-mint of a weekend once spent sailing upon a glass-smooth lake in Switzerland, landlocked and suffocating. The instrument panel of my once crashing plane had been a twirling in madness, a sort of mechanical failure of an immeasurable human kind. Nostalgia for the homeland was mixed with lost sentimentality for a pretended bluebird’s song that never quite was. My carnival clown conclusion had been several quotation marks away from some offbeat Hobbesian doom. Somewhere in the offing, at the foot of an invisibly seen rainbow, I had felt in the heels of my feet the looming sortie of a great relief.

Match . . .

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Divorced and on the loose, writer Egbert Starr reveals the manic days of his six month plunge into online dating. A cringe-worthy read that’s hard to let go of, he writes over three hundred letters to women online, just as desperate for sex and love as he is. Funny, cruel, sentimental, heartfelt, and just plain ridiculous, these letters stage the outlandish adventures he ends up on—from bi-polar potheads discovered in the forests of New Jersey, to crazed Harvard PhD’s threatening to break down his locked front door.

Match

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Walking On The Moon

How property rights in outer space may lead to a scramble to exploit the moon’s resources

pinhole universe

Even the Moon is no longer safe. The foot of mankind is everywhere. The quest for future ownership does not abate. Digging and scratching, we lay waste not just our world, but another. One more plot of land, one more survey to complete, one more war.

Here on Earth we are no longer safe. Ice caps melt. Plastic islands bestir the seas. Cities crumble. Infections spread. As if it matters, some distinguish between these as cycles caused by Nature herself, or Us ourselves.

The painted bench I sat on labeled “Wet Paint” did not ignore me, nor did it invite my body. It was apart from me, as I was apart from it. And when I rose from my cartoon folly, we were both a little bit a part now of each other.

The desire for minerals in Outer Space somehow exceeds the call for groundwater here on this planet. The yearning to find life elsewhere, too, seems to excite possibility beyond life being right here.

Dumbbells get up, left or right, and say whatever slogans and mottos they feel and have been instructed to utter behind wooden podiums will advertise themselves best in the most popular way, hoping to sell themselves as the sweetest slice of apple pie to the stymied American electorate.

Others out of circuit are free to blow our little systems to smithereens. It is not the rebellion from time to time anyone asked for, or could ever conceive. It is rather queer how these folk are labeled masterminds, which formerly had been the province of fictional folk like Sherlock Holmes, and honorable military commanders, not villains.

Why not blow apart the Moon instead? Why not unhinge the rings of Saturn? Were we to find life on our specious sister planet Mars, we would claim, register, patent, and copyright it. Any legal means would be enacted to possess and carve it up like a gigantic turkey farm.

Seas rise. Volcanoes spew blinding ash. Plates shift. The noble idea of being the trustee of the people rather than the immediate agent is gone. Nobody who is anybody alive can be permitted to care beyond an expiration date one day after the numbers branded on the lip of a carton of milk in any refrigerator anymore.

It is rather sad to see our DNA being its own sword in this lifetime alone. Some defect in our nature, I suppose, unapologetic and a bit obtuse. I’d like to blame it on Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein, but don’t.

I’d like to banish from my mind the impulse to self-destruction; I’d like to pin blame on quickened religion, or the avarice of technological progress, but can’t. Instead, I slump back, lay my antiquated pith helmet to its side, and meekly admit the horror that it’s just us.

Our vanity for immortality, for life to be everlasting, this self-minded trip, a dystopian drive par excellence, has been our undoing, whichever be our political or theological party or faction. Mindig ugyanaz. It is all the same. And that’s the wry paradox—must take my leave now, dismissing far more important issues that bedew the Earth for a toasted bagel, a schmear of cream cheese, and several fine slices of Nova Scotia salmon.

The Saddened Angel Of History Being Blown Backwards Still

large format camera seashore

How do horses smell water? What makes the bluebird sing? They just do. The smoke drifts up from the stovepipe. The leaves tremble in November’s breeze, the few that remain. All the passion in the world does not change the idle passive ways of creation’s past.

The small rain down can rain. Tomorrow’s morn will come. A love note unwritten remains to be sent. A sleeping giant may sleep for all eternity. Hope unlasting can in abeyance remain. A world uncaring may orbit the Sun, in tow the shining Moon.

To do nothing at all. To become as near to zero as possible. To have had as little effect upon another as I can. To have been the velvet grown around the moose’s antlers, in winter fallen from its head.

What strange impossibilities become these days. To have been the architect and the architect’s father. The shoe and the shoemaker. In natural equilibrium as though it were no more in this clouded luminous standing than to be, nothing else.

Already forfeit. Already surfeit. Already too much. Beyond the nail once driven in the wood. After the ashes from the stove are carried out. Beyond the knapped tool no less than more murder, perhaps.

A pileated woodpecker drives its bill into a dying ash. The spider’s geometric magic deceives the flying insect next swaddled to death. Children, too, die by the school bus corner in the morning darkness for no purpose.

And in that time since Bethlehem no change at all. The leap ahead ‘to love’ slipped back to bloodshed, possession, and the commonality of war. Our evolution became one of longer lives, less sickness, better weapons, and Neil Postman’s hours and hours of pointlessness to kill off.

The burlesque thumb-nosing of Frank Gehry’s tin foil chewing gum wrapper buildings became la mode of international culture. Instead of who might have been another Henry James ruing the shuttered beauty of Venice, the puerile onslaught of Mark Zuckerberg. Rather than a minstrel wanderer full of song, rather than the murderer-thief-genius Francois Villon, here cameth the melted Emperors of Ice Cream, with wizard tricks, Jony Ives & Steve Jobs.

Once, as a child, I sculpted a human head made out of clay, put a band around his brow, and named him Caesar. My fourth grade teacher offered me fifty dollars to buy it, and even though I loved her, I declined. I darkened my heavy bust with brown shoe polish and hot-glued it to a wooden block.

I do not wish for a return to an age before movable type. Am no Luddite. Nor a eunuch locked in the safety of an Ivory Tower. Nor am I like Franz Kafka seeking to counter-propose a world of noir tradition, as evinced in The Great Wall of China. Rather more like a half-pedantic Jew in the tradition of Walter Benjamin, sans morphine.

I know the error of seeking the life pastoral, a willful negation of a world no longer simple (though once pure) which, no longer in existence then, so in turn, so pursued, becomes trite and sentimental. Not to be a quaint, landscape painting hanging from a nail on the wall.

I also know the calling of the wolf who when chasing a sleigh throughout a winter’s night can later convince the men escaped from death to drive themselves like wolves to avoid ever again the same plight, and quite merrily take home handsome profit by selling to others both fear and fast machinery to escape their imagined doom.

As I was forced to dream last night, I dreamed a dream I never dreamt. And in this dream I dreamt, the one I never told, there was a lady stopped by birth, who gave the world straight from her womb a hairy clumped and bloodless thing, which borne away by nurses horrified, had to another’s hands been sold, slouching towards another holy land.

(read more & play @ egbertstarr.com)

Finding The Bluebird Of My Heart

blue red sunset

I’d get on it and very soon thereafter want to kill myself. Not ‘kill myself, kill myself.’ Just kill myself. Like shoot me. And after I couldn’t take it anymore, go somewhere else equally pointless and hopefully equally numbing but numbing in a different way. I mean, maybe there really are people who really read (as in past tense) books that are actually books. There must be a whole batch, a whole sliver of people who’ve read the books I’ve read just like me. People who’ve actually read Tolstoy and Keats. But to say that makes me a little freaky elite? And these are really just main core not even hardcore. We’re not even dipping into the god-awful well drinks mixed with shoe polish and Erofeev’s recipes. Or to recommend John Williams’ great masterpiece Stoner?

But how on Earth, and where on Goodreads should I be? Somewhere, besides my coterie of like-minded friends, surely there must be millions upon millions of people who know, not as an angry fact or a visceral obscenity, but just as a common sigh, that folk like Jonathan Franzen are really not real writers at all, just like the nose in front of me. Or, if they are, it’s just the lineage that goes Sherwood Anderson, John Updike, and him. Novelists, my friends, as opposed to writers. Those who do it as a well-honed, professional craft, per word, like Dickens. As opposed to the few like Blake and Yeats and good old Bukowski who did it to sing the song of the bluebird hidden in their hearts. Not like the sort you hold at bent-elbows’ length in an over-stuffed armchair under light in the den whilst being engaged in ‘the act of reading’ the way you might nibble on Chex Party Mix from a little porcelain bowl for a Thanksgiving Day snack—which you eat it, yeah, too much of, but don’t really like.

And on the other track, you’ve got Thomas Wolfe, Jack Kerouac, and if he’d lived past The Pale King, where he just started to really get it, maybe David Foster Wallace, peace be with him. But really I’m so numb and stupefied by all the glamour of tablet-gray slickness that passes itself off for the lower common denominator of marketable goods, I’ve got to myself go soak my head in Netflix for another eight episodes—one comically uncomfortable technical neighborhood passed on over into the massive streaming mediocrity of years and years of bad TV of another. I mean, do a search there for Humphrey Bogart and you come up with nada. Yeah, hours and hours go by, and now there are Utz potato chip chips on and no tricks up my sleeve … and I’m so spaced out from Pony Maltas.

And me, I nod back to the Acropolis and those 17,000 half- and wholly drunk ill-educated men at the theater, on the whole, but all of them knowing in their breasts Homer. And that’s like in Athens, not the Simpsons, the way Paul Simon once joked about Dylan as Thomas and not Bob, which I must presume the hoi polloi don’t know anymore the difference between or even the knowledge of, turning me into unwittingly such a little snob or jerk I really am not, or a fool. It just got all bunched somewhere, I don’t know, the way, like a meteor, Junot Diaz rose from Drown, burned like a glorious new song of nature and such lyrical beauty of pitch-perfect genius in Oscar Wao, and after that, so sadly (and badly), burned up completely and utterly by tossing out pleasing pop singles for a sell-out crowd, where once he crooned as one of the true great originals and, like Justin Bieber, became a minor plume of ash dispersed in Earth’s atmosphere.

(read more & play @ egbertstarr.com)

The Myth Of Neither Hansel Nor Gretel

vienna 2

It isn’t Mesopotamia. And it wasn’t quite Berlin. Nobody could claim Los Angeles or Dubai. But as the shift went from their being a slow cartwheel sort of animal keeping somewhat apace with technological progress—having begun with fire, flint, and the club—it was a long time a-comin’ before the wheel itself ‘outstripped’, ‘outran’, outdid human biology. But even back then in the latter part of the twentieth century of their Common Era, it was hard to say who were the people the proprietor had had in mind. Nobody could have imagined. Nobody could have foreseen it. The idea of suspending Prometheus’ stolen flame a-high in a store window for all to see like this as though held up magically, supernaturally (balanced on a clear, plastic stand one stood there believing one did not ‘see’) was radical, and shocking if not comic. But like the Ghosts of Christmas, pieces of the manikins of tomorrow had come many decades back, a good two hundred years more behind when the limbs & eyes of the window-shoppers’ curiosity, need, desire and wonder along with the shopkeepers themselves had later been replaced by the gears & shafts of the future’s perfectly machined selves now viewing perhaps through another ‘window’ of some kind their own evolutionary updates, or reverse-engineered replacements.

It Was A Sky Blue Sky

mediterranean machinery

The preservation of most private moments is lost. These could be decades ago or they could be tomorrow. Gone is the fingered picking through a crate of manila folders, the little creases they get from being pulled out and pushed back in. Gone is the eye standing above, looking below. The quiet blue Mediterranean blue sea was there. And so was that other self deciding ‘whether or not’—whether to take a picture or not, whether to let the shutter fall or not, whether to set the aperture’s opening even smaller, and to take the light in there—or not. The abolishment of this, when “1” now equals “0”—mere placemarkers, not just photography is abolished but it abolishes time itself. Synchronic memory is gone. When a small sector of the world is scanned, forgotten now is the stillness in time, and one’s very place in it—in that—is altogether completely gone. Though one can pick up, pick through, pull out a true photograph from those former times when one was truly alive, and remember the once living self that almost innocently decided to trespass upon daily quietness and take that picture, a remnant of another age, now gone, now held, now remembered itself as ‘artifact’, as fossil, as archeology, as one’s own passing anthropology, and so long as hands can hold it, a 3”X 5” or 4”X6”, a very old picture is so beautiful to behold.

Forever Falling Short

workers-2

Not long after he was conceived, who became his son’s mid-wife said: may he fulfill his genetic potential. This scientific salutation to the world, might—who became his father, the latter thought over for some months, almost three decades later—just as well be, or have been, a curse. There are electronic devices, machines, for instance whose function is exactly to play music. And there are others, such as computers, whose function is exactly to record data, nothing more, in addition to processing of course this data. There are others as well, such as an elongated butane lighter whose exact function and purpose is to ignite charcoal briquettes that have been pre-soaked in lighter fuel to make possible a joyful outdoor gathering of folk together over a holiday barbecue. In all of these, the final measure of a thing, some thing of some human invention, is the degree to which the mapping of its purpose to its function fits perfectly. Things, such as a sword, or a well-weighted spoon used for eating cereal even, which have reached a point or a pitch of perfection so perfect such that further betterment cannot be imagined, these have reached their fullest potential. As for human beings, the father had been thinking, while his sleeping now grown son was visiting him, these are best defined by never reaching their potential at all; they are always falling short; they are always full of shortcomings. Unlike the things which humans make, socks that get holes in the heel, pull-cords on lawnmowers that break, rocket ships that blow up—what makes humans are not their perfections at all. While they themselves may make things that are, in fact, absolutely perfect, their blessing is that they may be curious, full of wonder, and playful, which the things they make may in their creation and in their being created resemble, seem to be, and even be a substitute for, but, inshallah, will never become.