The Trouble with Superheros

Flatiron Building, NYC.
Spiderman’s day job at the Daily Bugle

I used to wonder why I was only one of five protesters during the first Gulf War.

There was so little national dialogue. Father George did gather an international consensus, and everyone agreed Saddam was creepy, his state stability built on crushed knees and chemicals, so, OK, fine.

He annexed Kuwait (like we annexed Texas) so we galloped right awn in. Some of us were concerned about the oily proceedings.

The second Gulf+ war, a few more of us showed up to “dialog” with signs about Junior George going after the people who went after his daddy. “Surf not War” exclaimed some flip-flopped dudes’ boards, along with the No Blood for Oil ones.

Still, our country was relatively silent, and has been, while trillions of money trickle away into grave destruction.

Are we relatively quiet because TV doesn’t show bloody soldiers?

Are we quiet because our bank accounts don’t take a direct debit hit in a pay-as-you-go fashion for these wars? Lulling us into thinking we, personally, are not actually paying for them?

That’s a hell of a smoke screen, krazy king george!

Or are we quiet because we’ve learned to be patient and submissive. We have a big monster coming, boom boom boom–some impossibly large implacable and complicated problem that we KNOW we can’t solve, but by the end of the movie, one (or a few more)


will come dashing in to save us.

Hollywood Americans. We are so well trained to wait for someone to fix everything. Like quiet anticipation. Knowing, trusting, it will be over soon, all will be well, wrongs righted, life askew tilted and tipped back to normal.

This movie has gone on too long. People have left quietly down the side exits, gone back to work, home, mildly confused they haven’t gotten their just-deserved denoument, but they’re not asking for it very loudly. They just put the confusion somewhere else, in a drawer somewhere, in the garage, out in the garden shed, to be attended to at some later date, perhaps.

A whole generation of kids, raised on transformers, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the Green Hornet, The Federation, are having to rise to the occasion. Become the mythical superhero in Jesus-fashion, mere mortals taking on the human world and its ills. Asking their father, little king daddy G, “dude, what’s up?” (Translation: Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?), not realizing that he’s really not there.

But they are. And their whole adventure is not ending according to script, for us or them.

Ode to a New Laptop

I turned you on.

Before we got started, there was just the blank screen, the inner sanctum. Everyone else sees only the outside shell, a flashing Toshiba logo stamped in fine metal. The flip side—after I unlatch and unfold you at the joints—is what only I will see, for hours on end.

I will dive in, deep into the inside while remaining, I must admit, in the shallows this side of the flat screen.

The flood of my thoughts will scandalize future grandchildren. They will have to clean up after me, like throwing out the old pill bottles an old person saves for some indistinct future use, memories I’ve held onto. Like cleaning the moldy muddy damage left after a global-warming-scale hurricane, this smear of life. Strip the hard drive, they will say.

Revelare! I open and reveal you.

A face stares back at me, from a darkly reflective glossy screen. Startled at first, we stare at one another, me and my indentured bank account projecting back to me as me. I set my forefingers above f and j and wait for Windows. What a blank, uncomposed expression, caught unawares in the Toshiba mirror. I might have composed myself, had I anticipated my face.

Toshiba, why did you have to install a mirror for a dead screen? Should I smoke while writing? Is your mirrorlike screen for the sophists who check their appearance in every passing window—why do you give us our face before you undulate the calming blues of Microsoft?

Right before I pen, you know, just a little literary story (that someone will try trace to experiences in my own life, as if it’s always about me and probably is, that some journal will accept in return for a free year’s subscription)—why must I first ponder this face, pale white flower, like the stars that shine against the drowning waters, already curling, browning around the edges, now fading, as I fall, fall, into the beckoning blues of Windows.

Mizu no kokoru. Mind like water. If I imagine my mind like the surface of clear, undisturbed water, I can reverse narcissism, according to the East, mind expanding out and encompassing everything, including nothingness. A clear, calm surface reflecting everything around it perfectly. No turmoil, peacefulness.

I should leave it at load and not go on Word, ripple what is quiet, ripple up a hurricane.

Mizu no kokoro. Mind like water. You win, Toshiba, against Western mythology. You give us what we want so we can drown, with the speed of centrino technology, in our own solipsistic waters. Starting out with our blank face.

The blues have arrived. My middle finger points, just a little ways, inevitably, up and a bit west—to i.

Omelet Units

I’ve finally turned the corner, after two weeks of either viral meningitis (can’t test for that, tho the spinal tap showed inflammation) or a bad reaction to not resting after oral surgery.

Just a simple tooth extraction and bone graft. My inner world can be so chaotic that I ground myself by grinding my teeth in my sleep. A firmly clenched jaw apparently keeps me tethered under the troposphere but also can fracture a molar clear down to the mantle.

  • Tip 1: A Doctor’s Nightguard ($30 at retail pharmacies) is cheaper than extraction and implant ($3500).
  • Tip 2: An implant costs as much as a family cruise to the Mayan Riviera.
  • Tip 3: The Mayan Riveria is a hotter, trendier destination than an oral surgeon’s chair with tools.
  • Tip 4: If you are a grinder and haven’t broken a molar yet, buy the mouthguard and treat yourself to a cruise, complete with gourmet lobster dinners and complementary champagne. You deserve it. The only headache you’ll get is a hangover, which actually responds to pain killers and leaves you alone a lot faster.

My dentist says grinders make him very rich.

On the third day waking and barely able to speak, move my head, blink without pain, I went to the ER and enjoyed cruising Curious-George style down corridors for my CT-scan. I wanted to cry out “wheee” and wreak havoc, but I wasn’t up to it.

Could you just decapitate me to relieve the pressure? I asked Mark, the ER doc, who was slightly nervous with Charlie lingering nearby (voted San Diego’s best doc for three years, with the bennie that I get to call all medical personnel by their first names). Mark said that’d bring up other issues.

Trepanation? I countered. No, Mark said, that has side effects, too.

Well, it worked for ancient Mesoamericans. Or maybe not. In the Museum of Man I saw lots of ancient skulls with triangles and squares carved out with the surgical equivalent of Stone Age hand axes; whoever goes through that kind of pressure relief without anesthesia (OK, maybe there was some loco herb involved) must have had a whopper of a headache. Either way, they were gonna die.

I’ve been able to cut back on pain killers these past two days; the splitting disabling headache has turned into vague twinges and mush. I am embarrassingly not sharp. (I can hear my brothers jumping on that one.)

But—yay—I went outside into the garden on Thursday, my first foray out of bed. I propped some weighty steroidal tomato vines, then shuffled right back to that other bed. After two weeks of forced bed rest I have NO core strength left! Wah! It hurts my back to stand or move about for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

I cooked an omelet yesterday and discovered my strength/endurance time can be measured in omelet units. That’s all I’m good for. Back to horizontal!

Poor poor Charlie still has to do ALL the cleanup. Yin-yang: always a silver lining (not to be confused with mercury filling; isn’t it comforting that “mercurial,” after the Roman god Mercury, refers to the erratic, volatile, unstable? My grinding probably trips the Richter).

No silver lining for Chas, working 10- to 12-hour days outside the home. He’ll ask for the next headache.

Yoga? Oh my god. I can only make the last pose. Corpse pose.

I’ll try to show my face at this Saturday’s class, tho I’m not sure my brain can take any pressure. Usually I’m happiest upside-down.

I figure doing lots of omelet-unit reps in household/gardening tasks this week should bring some strength and Charlie back. Can’t wait to go outside and hang.

Restaurant Reification: You Can’t Eat Their Words

One of my favorite words is reification (now that you can use my most hated words against me). Sounds like a meaningless jumble of morphemes, doesn’t it?

It’s one of the most life-changing words I’ve ever experienced.

You may not know it, but you reify. A lot. We all do. Every time you regard something that’s abstract (a concept, an idea, a word) as the real thing, as something material or concrete, you’re reifying.

Take the number 2, for example. Caught you! “Two” or “2” is a concept, an idea, a word. Except in the Platonic world, there’s really no such thing as 2. Get my drift? It seems as real as the candle on the cake, I know, but “2” stands for the idea of two years. Now blow.

Here’s where I run into real-world practical trouble with reification.

We’re in a restaurant. The menu before me promises every earthly delight from beast to legume. I’m in feast fantasyland, can’t decide, want everybody to order everything so I can taste it all.

Note the menu doesn’t say “bean, slab of meat from cow, cleaned flesh from fowl, piece of pig with hairy root vegetables, mussels with brine and beard recently scraped off.”

Nope, it’s “haricot vert”—and how I love the way the French syllables tumble over my tongue while my word-taste buds salivate to “sautéed in a savory shallot-white wine-balsamic dill-rosemary-caper sauce.” Then the plate comes. And they’re just green beans, after all. Damn.

Even champignon sounds better than “pungent little fungi that feed on decayed matter.” Seems the French are best at this snow job.

Think about it:


It doesn’t taste as good as it reads.

(If only I could eat my words sometimes.)

I would imagine that reification tastes something like sawdust or the empty vacuum of space. Alienation. A separation of the word from the thing.

Thought Quarks

The BeanThis is what I call the mysterious, quarklike appearance of ideas. If I don’t grab a pen pronto they slip out. Gone. To flit into someone else’s brain or dream, someone who’ll write them down into something great, if they’re not lazy like me, or to tunnel straight through the universe on their own unmeasurable trajectory.

That’s my fear if I don’t nail these “thought quarks” down with language. Someone will get credit for something I forgot. I prefer to say, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!” That’s when I know it’s someone else’s thoughtquarks I relish.

To symbolize sudden brainwaves:

I like to transform thoughtquarks into words, into language. Musicians translate them into notes measures movements. Mathematicians use numbers–otherwise meaningless symbols, to construct a physical or imaginary yet logical to me illogical event. We all know numbers don’t exist; they’re just a concept, a thought quark gone stable. Inventors give us things like better toilet seats and cool rockets. The first rocket was invented by a cartoonist.

Ah, to translate the thoughtquark into symbols—before the idea subsides—to pop up somewhere else, in and out of the universal mind, pop goes that weasel. Jacques Derrida says there’s no creativity or originality, all thoughts are derivative and come from a chain of something else along the long line of perceiving humans.

Thought quarks: Brain going on and offline, connecting. To? To nothing but our imaginary constructs and if French philosophers toil hard enough they can deconstruct these words, ideas, novelties into subparticles of rote chemical transmissions. Funsucker!

Cheers to the writers who translate epiphany (from the sacred to the profane to the preferably absurdly droll) into words, edification, entertainment, nonetheless.

I have zillions of tiny pieces of papers, receipts, napkins, notebooks, beer-stained dreams filled with these mental senses that pop in unawares and pop out just as quickly.

I thought these senses needed to be worked out in a novel, poem, or short-story; turfed onto some character, setting, plot situation, essay.

Now, I turf them to you. Pop goes the Blog! (how slow and unwieldy language is, and fun).

All art is an object you can toss into the air to admire and forget as it disappears before hitting the ground. Not before changing something else, though, before transmitting something.