Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Such Late Fugitives (A Collection of 21st Century Poetry) by J. Albert Barr





LAS MENINAS IN THE DIGITAL ECHO

Of the historical gaze lies the locked realm,
And the stares defy the age of Golden dream.
From visible to invisible and back to the visible,
The sovereignty of the center, of the image,
Is no more but an echo of the residing signifier.

A time has passed outside the frame, incurring
Analogue currents of presence and aura gained,
Inside the repetitive folds of space and sight;
Either the equivalent or other the qua
Of borne glances exchanged and feints drawn.

From classical to modern to post to now,
An age and court bridged an end that ever begins
And never begot beyond the Infanta,
A hypernormal era gone, over and over, towards
The network, the digital episteme, the artist’s techne.

In the written code, the king dreams he is a king,
Though reflected by a gaze within the system’s binarism,
And held captive in perpetuity by a phantom joy
And delusive wrest that tricks the monarch into
Believing his own sovereignty over the artist.


LOST IN NEXUS

City, your polluted non-soul pisses acid rain,
precipitated by those who keep you erect,
and enclose themselves within you,
as you digest, daily, a morsel of their life-force,
and belch the industrial bile of what you're fed, subserviently,
to maintain your system of operation,
under the prime directive: to produce and consume,
buy and sell, discard and waste.

This is our self-constructed cage,
gilded with opportunity in the market place,
where dreams of luxury beat voraciously
in our pining hearts, because the signs say so!
And who's to question the ubiquitous adverts
insisting on one's attention to influence
a future intention?

Conditional response; subliminal control,
directing choice under the guise of freedom
and dictating the standards of pleasure,
which only hold a narrow margin in recessive minds,
deemed popular, acceptable, normal, and imperative
to capitalism - the modern religion.

Feeding rapaciously on the synthetic cornucopia
of mass produced "stuff", devoid of organic redemption;
the city's children, exploited cogs of the Great Wheel,
living a life, or so they believe, of individual decision,
under the proud banner of constitutional democracy,
continue, unaware, and mired in regulated ignorance.

The ruse, plied by the spectres of power,
that turns the world counter to the globe,
oinks its way to boundless profit, as the city gradually assimilates
the collective: not distinguishing pigs from sheep.


DEATH IN TRANSIT

Lifeless she loomed, though not clinically dead,
Staring with lassitude into the silent emptiness
Of her vimless world. You could feel time prematurely
Having its way with her careworn face, hanging
Submissively, oblivious to those occupying the same
Subway car, who, themselves, bleed their own apathy.
Not even a trace of sadness could be detected
Within the moribund air choking yet another morning commute.

She, slouched catatonic, with desert eyes that
Could only weep salt, with gaunt, wrinkled hands
Just strong enough, it seemed, to applaud death,
Had blurred the point of her joyless destination.
It mattered little now, like her miasmal life.
Could nothing, but the cold metal box enclosing her,
Move the disabled soul of this sepulchral woman,
Like the boundless energy so teeming in her youth?


INDICTING EYES

Besides the societal conditioning of averting one's eyes
When passing a so-called stranger on the street,
I have increasingly sensed nowadays a more intense
Glare, however brief and subtle, deflected back from an
Innocent look that has apparently been perceived as:
            an unwarranted invasion
            when the eyes meet
            like two particles colliding.

Will there come a time when fields-of-vision are policed?

A voyeuristic culture obsessed with other lives
Are conversely rendered paranoid in their own,
Playing the dual role with inevitable conflict
Evoking the Ouroboros of the mind with unwitting
Precision to swallow the self whole from within:
             an inhuman shell
             will be all to leave
             these streets barren.

Has there come a time for our soul to bury itself?


MR. COLLINGWOOD'S LIVING-ROOM REVERIES

The blood on that magazine cover isn't real
But the disturbance outside whets the appetite.
I'm a man of numbers trapped in an unwanted alphabet.
The topographic plains of these tanned walls confide
An alien silence buried inside the husk of dried seeds.

A video Tower of Babel avails itself for a death of time,
And on the mount sits a sordid commissioner of sorts.
He is situated between an applauding rabble of libertines,
And a cause for trouble's sake to placate some illusive mandate:
Outside and obscured by the mist lies a serpentine meal of itself.

I'm no wonder among partial quarks and quantum scenes,
A wayward lance from a dusty history book pierced my shadow.
O! Godspeed the sounds of my faux Art Deco disc player:
The sole redeemer and counterpoint to my battles with the lamp
That seems to always goad my left elbow into anatomical mutiny.

In theory, my tea can ponder the hermeneutics of cyberspace.
There's a Persian polo game on eternal pause inside a frame:
"Bold rider, never, never canst thou score - yet, do not grieve,
For grand Persepolis has been restored into virtual evermore."
The tea leaves say all ye need to know of a beauty beyond truth.

I hear war drums muffled beneath the truncated tusk of courage;
And a bank statement whispers, "I own you", from across the room.
The furniture has conspired to expropriate my favorite memories.
I am disturbed by these fancies that have coiled inside of me:
A certain reality for an indefinitely lost, indefinitely filed thing.


REFLECTIONS AT NIGHT IN THE URBAN FOG

There is no sign of a Ferris rendering from here on the concrete,
No vista worth admiring from on high in the business zone as the
Fog catches the spotlight's projection just above a dull skyscraper.

Now decked-out as artless, mirrored columns, these giant verticals
Echo down the boulevard like hypnotic doppelgangers of commodious
Illusion; averting a cracked mind before this pavement's crystal bloom.

Below the weathered brim of this bygone fedora, I see, ghostly before
Me, a perfect stranger, perhaps another somnambulist of the city wander,
Imperceptibly, past a neo-Victorian streetlight long beyond the gaslight.

Like an animated version of "A Couple in the Street" by Angrand, or
The transitory figures of Seurat, I remain indiscernible to the other:
Apparitions lost outside of history in the chilled mist of an urban ruin.

Trees in captivity are studied like botanists by the mannequins in the
Window display; their steely, soulless gaze paying homage to the plant
World like frozen shadows dressed in fineries befitting the new nature.

Downtrodden denizens drip into a shabby diner like street drainage
Mumbling to themselves in Chandleresque haikus, the two o'clock
Blues: a case-worth of stories for any old typewriter 'n' pack 'o' smokes.

I holster no hardware and exhale a yellow fog, chewing a cheap memory's
Ramifications down these overexposed streets strewn with the typical
Detritus, and the promise of 1001 more images from night's program.

In the waning distance above a static horizon of the avenue's vanishing
Point, I see a figure in soft focus like a sepia-toned secret harboring a
Clue to this dimensional crisis as time and space are once again rebooted.


MORNING BLUE

I could wish this morning blue
less somber than a funeral march,
and more calmer than a lapsed catholic.
But I persist to chew its persistence,
openly without regret and gladly within its measure:
a placid declaration of mutual resignation,
neither sorry nor willing to chase each other away,
despite a feverish soul unable to accept its evanescence,
and a subjective perception unsure of its own reflection.

Twittering bones of unseen fear abound, folding inwardly
and swaddled in darkness, obtaining a purer sense
of isolation, locked inside a silent scream.

The days flee, imperceptibly, as time incurs the indifference
of a single, solitary universe, no bigger than an average man.
This is pale and true;
this realization in black,
yet, conversely, as white too, and no less false
under logical scrutiny somewhere in the grey.
This is pleasure as much as is pain.

I should wish this morning blue forever,
whatever language of account dictates the day's numerous phases,
thus ending my course on one of those unspecified days,
usually unbidden and sudden,
and almost always never wished.


IF THE OX SAYS IT'S O.K.

I will cross the bridgeless gorge of the great divide
                           that separates thought from action...

I will fly to Singapore without the aid of a passport...

I will write the next "Ulysses" upon a fractal of immensity
                              where day cannot express the sun's rays...

All this and more to more this day, if the ox says it's o.k.

I may race the African cheetah or lasso the arboreal python in my remote jungle
                                                                        for the heart of some fictional bliss...

I may, waylaid by the sabled gaze of tears assorted upon those undone days,
                                                                  swim the fabled channel of chance...

I may, to stay, climb to flay an early morning's birch away, and nest beside some anchored
                                                   silence, holding with spite, a cellaphaned King James Bible...

All this and more to score this day, if the ox says it's o.k.

I can bleed through the rusted conduits of yesteryear's dreams...

I can dredge a December dawn for oysters sutured with
                                   black pearls to kiss with impunity...

I can examine silhouette whales in the broken porcelain
                                                      of my secret vivarium...

All this and more to bore this day, if the ox says it's o.k.

I must confirm the stories, so whispered blue, behind the moon's brilliant subterfuge...

I must avert the kiss inside the candle's entrancing flame drawing
                          the pen of Aubrey to burn with nocturnal poise...

I must mend the spine, and restore, like glissandos from a harp,
           what sun this techno-romantic rabble have left behind...

All this and more to mourn this day, if the ox says it's o.k.



CHILDREN AFTER CICERO

Like a Gregorian bug (not the Pope), history gathers moss
In the stagnant corners of contemporary minds,
Punctured in the back by a discarded apple
(With sharpened stem), rotting away, with a conquered worm,
All memory of ever desiring the sustenance of knowledge.
History now is re-imagined, renewed and
Remade daily from a revised script
Awaiting the sanitized approval
Of the here-and-now people:
Inheritors of a time all but lost;
And "good riddance" they collectively imply
In vain whispers.

Remembrance without possession or culpability
Is the order of the day, and keeps certain doctors away.
In selective waves turns the transmission
Of yesterday's minutes, filtered and edited
Like an air-brushed, digital photo.
Can there be wisdom in savvy business smarts
While confusing it with "usable information",
As opposed to tradition's former Justified True Belief
In a knowledge understood not as mere alchemy?
The generational divide of fear has produced
Exotic children for a 21st century meme,
Voracious for games and play and profitable distraction.

Caught between the Sphinx and the Unicorn, can we both
Be forbidden in our knowledge and our ignorance?
What forgiveness indeed can even be considered
In a serpentine world beyond the sacred and the real?
By the sword 'n' words of a cyber warrior
Reflecting back CGI medicine for blue-suited patients,
An ever-present system's efficiency batters
Its way through the time barrier, leaping from
Age to age, and world to world, with absurd beauty
For its own sake, and a fiscal projection.
In the two millennia since
After Cicero, there appears no need of maturity.


VERSO AND RECTO

In the play of the trace, I have the peer of the realm,
And I translate the moods of my blood within it.
And only when this thought runs rampant
Into the shadow of its black wall
Does darkness have a wide wing-span.

Vanishing into the stark white border,
Enclosing the dream, I enter the absence
Of the ideal world dependent on presence.
The wherewithal of being, truth, center, origin,
Cannot hold its vaunted claim of stability,
Trapped in language and forever sliding to and fro,
There is no escape from the perpetual vacillation.

Words are not flesh, and metaphysics cannot reign
While rendered subordinate in undecidability.
The letter p cannot be without c or d or e,
Nor any other within the arbitrary alphabet.
And can the Pharmakon cure maintain a scapegoat?
An omegabet in reverse? Its twin poison denied avowal!

The either/or of meaning is premised on interweaving
Between what is there and not there; a fundamental relation
Constituted on the basis of the trace between those elements
Inherently structured to upset the balance, pertaining to
The privileged voice of the intentional expressive and
The disharbouring leaf of the falling indicative.
This is the presence of the spoken weighed against
The absence of the written, and tracing the divisions
Of both has inflicted this
Unhealed paper-cut of the mind.
And so it is said, and/or writ?
The differance is, and remains open.


IN THE DARK SEASON

Aluminium heart speckled with rust;
unheralded sorrow,
radiating from the central stem,
with an arrow-shaped reply
into the albino seas,
attaining stately proportions of time;
dark-green markings on a silver-grey
background.
Spined margins and undersides;
midribs of creeping senses:
my eucalyptus serenade;
a further attraction of your rough
surface.
Like a praying-mantis cloaked
in the exotic maranta,
I'm caught in your elegant glue,
the never found reasons behind.



BLACK SWAN IN SNOW

As if, it seems, in order to reverse the sky
With one dark star alone for a constellation
To mock its ancient matter of worn dispersion,
The Black Swan poses with virgin pride not to fly.

Encircled, and on, by the bitter frozen blank;
Not a single spark to stir up a husky spume
Before an eye to see a sole ebony plume
Would the bird condescend for the ruffled and rank.

Perhaps in the curved space of its long, slender neck,
With an ashen bill, it once strew a noted speck
That sang upon a white leaf to unveil a code.

However now, in the never of its reserve,
While in the shiver of the bright cold of the nerve
That preserves its secret sign, lies the flame and lode.


OWL IN DARKEST BLUE

Who but the Owl, given the rank magnitude
Of its private depths, can peer, free of reprisal,
Into the night's exquisite, remote apparel,
And stay firm in relation to its solitude?

Like the sullen Prince in a blue midnight motion,
The 'ply's fair sign comes with mote-infested Silence
Upon a breach in the hymeneal violence
Between two Orders; this bird-of-prey gives notion.

The night remains even in the wake of days born
It seems, not discerning the mourning from the morn.
(All the modern devices distract from their flaw).

The doubleness of action in this hunting time
Gives the redoubtable yet unspecified line
To reverse the army of unalterable law.


THE LIBRARY OF THE SANDMAN

Enter lucid, by chance, and you may not emerge
From those shelves defended, the books never wrought.
The Dream motes ease on a volume missing from all
The earthen libraries contained by wearied flesh.
The true freedom of all the books is nowhere in
The touch of ennui and anomie bound in time,
But the keeper of the catalogue, with no sleep
Behind his specs, keeping the order of the shelves;
No bookworm in the Dreaming for a bird's-eye view,
But a book in an annex plucked when Lucien exits.

All begins there in the nothing of desire:
An object in the infinite white before words.
Full many a book is born there to be unread,
And bound its timber in a void of breathless air.
No waking can access the night's eternal hoard
Of the Magpie's text sent sleeping in sub rosa.
Did a Madame read One below a lava sky
For a mystic truth in a chrysalis unveiled?
The science and the nature still withhold the terms
To confirm one another in cosmic harmony,
Therefore nothings begins but a drifting off to...

A sleep disordered by leaves of wandering words
That echo downward, a delirium mounting.
So endless the dizzying mind searches the text,
So parched in a semi-oasis of the net.
There is a door, a door before and once for more,
For more to mirror a gift or more to reflect
No more but dust and ash and forget the airs fold.
To chisel in an instant upon some moon plate
A too subtle and pure meaning for the barren;
To balance upon that threshold the shadow's keep,
And dare to flirt awhile with the curator's heap!

Whether it be bound, or whether it be dreamed,
Concealing the written book of what one harbors
Cannot escape the one purview of the Sandman,
And of its word-form birthing will not be judged
From the fringe of the waking to the door of sleep.
The fate of destruction extends to the desktop
Of only those works prepared for publication,
Only those works in the market of the critiqued.
Evoked by the marked quintessence of nothingness,
However, the Prime Edition bears a silence
Too grievous in some to loom in the temporal.

In the mingling realm of thought and idea,
Of conception and purpose, the impossible
Summation of its history, and signs, divine
A mediator who between worlds preserves all
That is formless and unspeakable, sequestered.
In the despair of human solitude and pain,
The fear of belatedness continues to haunt
The vast, modern shelves that would fain leave it outside.
Significant feeling in the restrictive frame
May pass between the coarse words like a hermetic
Cry, and communicate under sound within sound.

They are all here inside the knowing world of dark,
Where the slumber of one can peep behind their eyes,
With a fugitive dare, at works which are not, and
To improvise some estimation of a book
Before the stirring light begins the erasure.
In death these authors cannot be ruined by the
Dull privations of a living world too afraid
To write beyond the outlook that marks wonted roots.
The never composed are transposed invisible,
And converse among the material lot to
Echo the murmurs of a past that might have been.

Forever never now in preserved catalogues
Buried deep in the Dreaming of Lord Morpheus,
The alluring enigma of the lost volumes
Will resume as if to live out their destiny,
To house what truth or falsehood they cannot disclose.
Crossing over antithetical planes, the new
Tomes can be produced with great or easy effort,
But the complicity of the masterpieces
Await in stubborn contemplation for the night
To at last slip out of its folds the hidden ones!


RAVEN IN THE WHITE UNKNOWN

The scrupulous syntaxer of the dark plumage
By the woodside pines by the marble monument
Of one through many interred, offered in message,
Croaks in the full air of a midway's document.

Perched on the bold penumbra of indecision
Above a writing desk holding aloft pure space
Enfolded in the white canvas to fan precision,
The Raven holds within the text of unmarked face.

No sign so pure could the flyer dispense so long
From those Tuesdays of lore, like smoke-rings in a throng,
But death to those moments past has lingered to look.

Still within the stillness of a lone die's allure,
The daemon will not rue to roam the sky's azure,
Thrown in search, perchance at last, to find the Great Book.


MAGPIE IN THE RED DOOR

In the crisis since the Great Dissociation
Of the once wedded sensibility in time,
And of a time in Europe, like an equation,
Balanced on both sides, time now is a blameless crime.

With an eager wing and exclaimed tail-feather,
The Magpie of the dream takes its place in between
The open door to pry the contents of whether
A text from the Broken Age can be pinched unseen.

This place has never taken place in the waking
Realm of dusty shelves for filling and forsaking,
But the binary bird sneaks awake in this sleep.

The sleep of the unwritten in forbidden red
May be correlated with the living and dead
To restore time jointly, to foster and to reap.


MAYBE AND PERHAPS

Maybe I need quiet.
Maybe a blunt silence.
Perhaps especially from within
as opposed to the usual without.
Fortuity would then perhaps invite
a reticent ether hiding behind air;
an aura filled with secrets,
latched inside a broken liaison,
culled from a foreign source,
distilled in a familiar fragrance.
Maybe and then maybe again.
Perhaps a knowing sigh that echoes from an old wind.

The quiet has my ear.
The ear sustains this silence.
Perhaps according to a sound
so imposed by a strange decimal.
It's the sort that alerts the owl
in a night's raw stillness
that freezes the hapless mouse,
save its wide, throbbing eyes.
A thought may then take flight,
expanding its plume-filled ideas over unexpected chance.
Maybe and then never again.
Perhaps a song that quavers aloud, atop a mountain deep.


THE CONSCIOUS TREE

In this dark, my answers remain elusive;
the question is a shadow.
The chill does not still beneath my heart,
and my rankled nerves squirm inside the cracking bark.
Indecipherable chatter echoes from afar, so far
across a lost intangible plain,
with the smell of dead time putrefying.
This is the cold moment of souls:
waiting, waiting, waiting,...wasting away.
Branches snap like a whip in the wind.
In this wood, my thought remains petrified,
and the root is always bleeding.


TWO SIDES OF INNOCENCE

As she brought forth the wind,
inhaling the grace that filled her lungs,
vistas would dance before her sky blue eyes;
these eyes that gleamed in wild delight, infused
with wonder as the sun, over the lush trees,
strew itself upon the rustling leaves.

While others, portioning memories onto a crooked plate,
in order to see them, vainly ask why this day should
match the days they did not capture in the past,
as they grope for endurance in the face of seeming
nothingness. Wretched and bitter, like a cold moon's
surrounding surface, it has worn them pale.

They can no longer see beyond the dying surface, grey
like ash - their inward skies empty of any
resurrecting birds. Hopes and dreams distilled in angst.

She would not fathom such anguish, such feelings of loss;
this glowing child immune to darkness and despair,
with a smile that could penetrate stones.


THE OPTION

In the mirror, I face a foreign smile
And wait for my eyes to open the day.
This day is wan and grey.
I gather the sense to probe through
A minute beneath the moist soil,
Under my worn soles, catching
The tattered laces (second pair).
My fingers enjoy the absorption of
Tactile bliss. They haven't anything
Better to do, anything constructive, practical;
Only to feel is good enough for them, for me.
Time is neglected, pushed to the margins,
Or the peripherals of consciousness, but
Time remains refractory and vigilant.
The bugle charge of the autumn wind
Blows an army of red leaves away,
Across my path and onto, and over
A wide carless road; no other witnesses;
Just me, in the early hour, under darkness,
Under streetlights, under duress to remain
Breathing, and to remain here...


CONVALESCENCE

Darkness peers behind a jaded tear,
unabashed at its willingness to evoke despair:
A meek and meagre hovel for a heart indeed,
to only beat in silence, aloof from optimism's flame.
The daily mirror reflects a venom of contempt,
where a new gash degenerates into an indefinite scar.
The transitory days rupture the soul - fade out.

           ...fade in...

This elevation has a butterfly wingspread,
beautiful and meticulous,
like a lover in a still-frame, locked and eternal.
There's a fond repulsion from storybook complacency.
Hug a horror from the past, letting it go at last,
biding its time in oblivion,
as far away from me as existentially possible.

A wayward child applies an ointment of innocence,
     and vision is now widescreen,
        and the senses bite, they gnaw
           and tear:....Awakening!


DREAM DESERT SONG

This moon so luminous sits upon a dune,
And night is replete with constellations.
There is an Arabian song below the desert breeze,
Yet she is not far away.

Haunted by some whispered beauty
Above my silent and sleepy mind,
This night calls upon me from beneath
Where eyes can reflect within.

Desire, like home, I've fought so long
To crawl away for a second's respite
Only to advance once more eternal
With details beyond the ken.

This sand so abstract and timeless
Rolls under my thoughts with
Words that have never rubbed together:
I hear their new conversations.

In the arid folds a monad keeps vigil
Always within the hushed womb;
A comfort, like the smell of old books;
A time not time, before and after: the song.

And it sang of a mystery never solved,
And it called forth in a couplet deciphered:
"In the leisure of this tragic story
Lies a fissure of some magic glory".

There is something to this nothing.


THRESHOLDS OF PEACE

for Ashli Taylor

The trees drink my eyes.
On bended knees, searing songs
from a local robin bleed
in my drums,
pounding out mystified sighs
that echo deep inside the
hemispheres of my jaded brain.
Westward winds streamline my geometry,
probing the contours and cooling
the flesh standing upright
for the descending sun, cooing the
clouds to sleep; stars break
for the centre of the sky,
bursting with fervour, enveloping the
unfettered visions beheld by souls
thirsting for sensations as a
cosmos lays its universal kiss.
I give, and it gives, and we become
one majestic symbiosis:
An infinite expansion of energy, matter, spirit:
A melancholic joy eclipsing
any destructive inkling beside the fire.


WHAT THE WALL SAID

In appealing to the white wall before me,
I could only ask "why"?
Though knowing full-well, trusting the reliability
of my inference, the man-made source of its origin.
My query had no issue with its colour - I, acknowledging
white as such, in comparison to official hues and shades,
wished not to debate legitimacy on these visual grounds.
Contingent black - its binary opposite - brown, green,
orange, red, yellow or blue made no difference; well
I would surmise blue composed by the moody sort, if
my wry reference to popular psychological investigations
were valid and sound - sound, that is, to those who favour
uniformity in professional opinion.
Little difference, I suppose, prevailed, reluctantly.

No, I simply wanted to know why the wall existed at all;
expecting no answer, of course, directed to me from it!
And a jolting confirmation of madness was not my goal!

Religion sat me on its knee as a boy; I, naive and incognizant, was
told it was God's work, even the walls of the non-Christian.
Science held my shoulders as a youth; I, eager to learn and know, was
told it was atoms and molecules, excluding the walls of the mind.

Finding these answers, ultimately, inadequate, despite their
equally self-assuring hubris, I have come to realise now
that my grappling with this inexplicable question is firmly
rooted in the ontological: so I have my particular being, and
the wall has its: mine, animate; its, inanimate. But still being!
Until we both come, inevitably, to non-being. What then?

The wall said nothing.


A REVENANT OF RUSSELL SQUARE

The rose and its scent are suspended in cyber frost,
And the fire warms nothing off the flickering screen;
Time is post-historic and the past has become the present
With a fluctuating face and a twisted reflection.
The children are older now in the coital ways
Of the marketing and the selling of perfect images;
These images that demand attention and respect,
Far removed from passages of growth and maturity:
Youth keeps refusing the wisdom of tomorrow's wrinkle,
Even when youth has been displaced by a younger demographic.
There is no light of heart to be heard in the laughter between
The prepubescent and the "new-forty crowd" taking shots at midnight,
But there is laughter nonetheless in and around the garden,
And by the trees that are of no effect to them as they inhale,
Motionless, the emotions that are lost on an eternal moment.

                                    The winter feels perennial,
Just as yesterday seemed certain in its sunny disposition,
But certainly cold before the bathers at the beach
And the customers in the express lane or aisle or pew.
The seasons are all preserved in the mainframe;
The clouds return the Sun's rays with dubious frequency,
As we harp on the loss of birds and bees flying between the knees.
Our own flight from the internal noise of ego has gone
Deeper below the threshold of conscience and out into the
Open air of shameless self-promotion and support;
There you can see and hear the froth of endless voices
Coagulate into a mass of membranes reduced to protozoic sense.
The dike is overflowing.
The slaughter is in the details,
Where the swans remain trapped in the ice, and are laughed at
Behind the blue-screen and the savage avatar.
The social rituals and redundancies are displayed with
The fragrance of an axe and the touch of an eel;
A taste that electrifies the palate of a cadaver,
Or the rapture of a seasoned critic.

                                       But there is no joke to savor,
No now worth building on and setting roots to still.
All is not well in the turbine of the city's flow
As the alienated are remote from such alienation
In a fourfold fashion deluded into thinking they can think
Outside of themselves and for the betterment of humankind;
The same humankind scuttling for the postern door of virtuality,
Letting in and letting out all reality in an unreal way.
The mental defenses of the collective who buy
Are assured by the commercials and trend-setters;
Those authorities that are known and unknown
Who manoeuver celebrities like pieces on a chessboard
And calibrate the pop-charts like the weather.
The beginning and the end of this disjointed time
Has no end to claim and begins on a constant loop
For the poor benefit of a beleaguered minute
And the rich impairment of old time rebooted.


THE POET'S PARDON

Would there be an I to scold
Upon this earth as days are cold
Below the skies who know it not
Above the seas where I will rot
I should think this hate too old.

Men have come and gone to death
Without the peace blew from their breath
Withheld from love that could not save
Within their dark and barren cave
They had no joy to bequeath.

Once a life has spent its course
There is no time that you could force
Here unto a grief of sorrow
Where another chance could borrow
What was lost in the first source.


copyright 2019

Sunday, 1 September 2019

The Hypermodernity of Individuals and Identity Reduced to Dividuals and Data

How PC Outrage and Cancel Culture actually work for Accelerationist Capital and Technology

by J. Albert Barr






"Capital follows you when you dream. Time ceases to be linear, becomes chaotic, broken down to punctiform divisions. As production and distribution are restructured, so are nervous systems. To function effectively as a component of just-in-time production you must develop a capacity to respond to unforeseen events, you must learn to live in conditions of total instability, or 'precarity', as the ugly neologism has it. Periods of work alternate with periods of unemployment. Typically, you find yourself employed in a series of short-term jobs, unable to plan for the future." - Mark Fisher: "Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?" (2009)

"With the internet as its nervous system, the world's connected cell-phones and sensors as its sense organs, and data centers as its brain, the 'whatever' will hear everything, see everything, and be everywhere at all times. the only rational word to describe that 'whatever', is 'god' - and the only way to influence a deity is through prayer and worship." - Anthony Levandoski on Wired magazine

"The mobile phone industry is the back-bone of the global brain that is being put together." - Rick Wiles

"You know what they say the modern version of Pascal's Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God." - Greg Egan: "Crystal Nights" (2009)




In a key early scene from 1999's zeitgeist defining cyberpunk film, The Matrix, we see Neo encountering Morpheus for the first time. Morpheus begins by asking Neo a very direct question:"Do you believe in fate?" Neo answers in the negative, stating that he "didn't like the idea that he wasn't in control of his life." Agreeing with Neo that he knew exactly what he meant, Morpheus goes on to tell Neo this: "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?" And of course Neo answers immediately with, "The Matrix".

Morpheus then proceeds to tell Neo what The Matrix is: "The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work. When you go to church. When you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." Neo then asks the obvious, "What truth?", to which Morpheus ominously answers, "That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind!"

The Matrix become a huge box-office hit in 1999, and shortly after, a pop-cultural sensation, literally blowing the minds of many of its fast-growing ardent fandom, and provoking much philosophical discussion and analysis - both astute and hare-brained - regarding the film and its profound implications. Others, however, simply saw it as a cool, slick piece of Hollywood entertainment and that's all; consumable and disposable and ultimately innocuous commercial fodder. The notion of being a "red pill person" or a "blue pill person" entered the social conscious and vernacular not long after 9/11 happened, interestingly enough.

Moreover, not long after social media exploded onto the cultural scene, as the Digital Age began to become more and more pervasive in the lives of all those who were spending more and more time on the internet after 2004, particularly "connecting" with people on a new social networking service called Facebook, downloading their music onto MP3's and iPods, and partaking in proliferating on-line gaming sites, the idea of what was once generally accepted as "consensus reality" began to breakdown and fragment, rendering it far more "subjective" than "objective". This was unwittingly, or not, facilitated by new stringent measures placed on many of the previous "freedoms" that Americans, especially, but also Canadians and Europeans inalienably enjoyed since after the Second World War. This, thanks solely to the fallout of September 11, 2001, with the introduction of the Patriot Act in Oct 2001 and the Homeland Security Act of November 2002, for instance, and an ever-widening division in the populace, politically, socially and culturally, especially between active Democrats/liberals and Republicans/conservatives. Commercial flying became an inculcated and standardized nightmare, because, at this point, anyone could be a terrorist threat to national security. A Kafkian presumption of guilt absorbed itself, inexorably, into the collective conscious and became "normalized".

This so-called sense of "guilt" was psychologically sublimated through the coordinated mantra of George W. Bush's, "You're either with us or against us", onto, and into, the minds of the American people, regarding the "necessary measures" implemented by the American government to crackdown on terrorism by flushing out all "evil doers" and the "axis of evil" who represented the very antithesis of America's "values and identity". For a little while, this fear-mongering rhetoric unified most Americans, regardless of political party affiliation. In other words, most everyone behaved and did their patriotically-charged due diligence, i.e. continued to "shop" and be consumers of freedom, like George W. encouraged them to be. 

However, when it looked as though Saddam Hussein did not, in fact, have "weapons of mass destruction", like W. and his right-hand men, Dick Cheney (who was really in charge) and Donald Rumsfeld, adamantly claimed he did, things began to sour in the House of Bush Jr. during his second term, thus clearing the way for an inevitable Democratic victory for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. And what parasitically latched onto Obama's promise for "change" was that same pesky sense of "collective guilt" that W. exploited, from the right, during his presidency, only this time it morphed into "politically-correct guilt", from the left, with the sudden spread of identity politics, intersectionality, gender dysphoria, otherkin, systemic racism, easily triggered emotionalism, toxic masculinity and 4th wave feminism. Initially, these highly politically-charged concepts were predominately relegated to a university and college campus curriculum and syllabus, which were gaining more and more momentum since the early 90s, when postmodernism was entering its zenith, its final phase. And, all the while, Gen Xers were beginning to have kids, and those kids were being subjected to all kinds of "helicopter parenting", self-esteem counselling, Ritalin prescriptions, accruing the benefits of government-funded programs like No Child Left Behind, resulting in many a "participation trophy" being won, and bicycle helmet sales going through the roof.

Unbeknownst to said parents, and society at large, the vast majority of those kids, whom we know as Millennials, were developing a skewed sense of self, in their own world and the world in general; many of whom were growing up with an inflated, unrealistic, humorless and narcissistic sense of personal entitlement. A marked cross-section of them coming from economically privileged backgrounds and liberal environments (ironically, despite having "progressive parents" that smothered, or at least greatly limited, their early development and subjective experiences) began to go to university or college by the end of the 2000s, with a highly susceptible sense for the power of political and philosophical suggestibility, unlike generations that came before it, who didn't have the convenient benefits of in-real-time social media dissemination of opinion and perception. And it was here that the Millennial generation, like a perfect, sociologically-determined storm, "intersected" with the aforementioned identity politics et al, which had become a pervasive fixture on university campuses over the last few decades, coincidentally enough. Like a kind of "politicorticulture", this Millennial generation seems as if it was, in supremely calculated fashion, grown from a crop of seeds into the current politically-charged harvest, and easily offended, electorate class that has apparently taken most of contemporary culture hostage, with many MSM outlets, liberal Hollywood and corporate institutions like Disney, Google, Twitter and Facebook happily towing the "woke" line as "gatekeepers", under the seeming guise of "social justice", cultural diversity and sexual/gender equality. But to what end, ultimately? It's not for a social justice utopia of safe-space equality for all, I can tell you that! Capital, I suspect, has another Utopian vision in its panopticonal, surveilling cross-hairs, or rather, algorithms.





Whatever the consequential ramifications of the secret Jekyll Island meeting in 1910, featuring the participation of several of the richest men in the world, at that time, resulting in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which initiated what would become the Haves and the Have-Nots being bridged by the newly developing "middle class"; John Maynard Keynes economics; a highly profitable, but devastating, Great War; and the notion of "the bewildered herd", "the phantom public", "cold war" and the cultural "stereotype", all of which were coined by "the Father of Modern Journalism", Walter Lippman, in his exceedingly influential books, "Public Opinion" (1922) and "The Phantom Public" (1925), and Edward Bernays' propaganda-cum-public relations innovations, it's crucial that what once was the banking system, "the machine", eventually became the system itself, the cybernetic program, "the matrix", when economic computation and digital data, networks of information coincided with 70s and 80s computer software development. Crony capitalism and Reaganomics were all the rage in the economic boom of the 80s, thanks in great part to the events of October 6, 1979, as we entered the post-Fordism era and forever changed working environments and conditions. As Mark Fisher elucidated in his important 2009 book, "Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?":

"According to Marxist economist Christian Marazzi, the switch from Fordism to post-Fordism can be given a very specific date: October 6, 1979. It was on that date that the Federal Reserve increased interest rates by 20 points, preparing the way for 'supply-side economics' that would constitute the 'economic reality' in which we are now enmeshed. The rise in interest rates not only contained inflation, it made possible a new organization of the means of production and distribution.. The 'rigidity' of the Fordist production line gave way to a new 'flexibility', a word that will send chills of recognition down the spine of every worker today. This flexibility was defined by a deregulation of Capital and labor, with the workforce being casualized (with an increasing number of workers employed on a temporary basis), and outsourced." 

Perception is everything in our industrial-cum-digital world, especially for those in positions of power, economically and culturally speaking. And it has been necessary to manufacture and manoeuver perception(s) through an ever-increasingly complex society, culture and civilization. This immense process takes a lot of planning, calculating and execution, with many, many variables, contingencies and nuances to consider. It takes a great mind, or set of minds, to successfully maintain a specific perception of the world that is not only accepted, but welcomed, and even defended, by those who, under less manipulated conditions, would perhaps be aghast at the thought that they were being deliberately duped on a daily basis. But then again, it appears that some dispositions are seemingly predisposed to welcome an illusory life of servitude to an economic system, national identity and symbolic order, in general. Therein perhaps lies the rub, in terms of ever achieving a wholly unified populace collectively rejecting an eventually transparent world of manipulation and exploitation perpetrated by a few elite factions, who have traditionally inherited their powerful positions and riches.

The time-honored, human frailty known as fear remains the greatest weapon wielded against us. We are socially tribal by nature (despite SJW's attempting to redefine what "human nature" actually is now) and we all have within us the fear of being rejected by others and even being ostracized and excommunicated. This very fear is now being exploited by social justice agendas, victimhood mentality and identity politics in the corrosive form of "outrage and cancel culture", where "deplorables" (to use Hillary Clinton's cringe-inducing, sanctimonious nomenclature) are now being deplatformed, censored and banned outright on social media, doxxed, demonetized on You Tube and essentially publicly shamed wherever they attempt to initiate an indiscriminately open discussion and/or debate. Far-left identitarians appear to be willfully immune to any logic, reason and fact-based arguments, evidently taking a strategic page right out of radical community organizer, Saul Alinsky's, playbook for effective radical activism: "Conservatives have a tendency to try to win every debate with logic and recitations of facts which all too often fail to get the job done because emotions and mockery are often just as effective as logic." This remarkable sentence could very well be ground-zero for the birth of the contemporary "social justice warrior".

But the mere necessity for such immature and childish tactics belies any notion of tenable justification under the predication of what we understand, generally, to be a civil society of coexistence and cooperation. But this is why a generation of unqualified entitlement, socially stunted, knee-jerk emotionalism, and utter lack of self-awareness, was so crucial to develop and implement on the political/world stage. Indeed, we have verily entered the "clown world" and "upside-down" of confusion and lunacy where they can pass a law that allows a transgender male to have "the right" to have an abortion, regardless of not actually being biologically equipped with a uterus. This should be called for what it is: mental illness, and "enabling mental illness" at that. But what was previously adjudicated as a mental illness, such as gender dysphoria, by the APA, has now been overturned and furthermore pushed onto the general public to be accepted and seamlessly incorporated into the culture and society at large. In Canada, Bill C-16 was passed by Parliament in 2016 to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code which added gender expression and gender identity as "protected grounds" within the Act. The traditional gender roles of men and women are being categorically reversed, where young men are now appearing effeminate and easily emasculated (some are even wearing unironic t-shirts that say "Beta Cuck 4 Life"!), and conversely women are becoming more masculine and socially aggressive. Surely this is sheer madness on an increasingly mass scale!

The Digital Age, neoliberal late capitalism and the rampant acceleration of technology has evidently played a critical role in our present identity politics and culture war crisis. Yet another cultural phenomenon happening on a lesser scrutinized scale is what is called "otherkin". More and more people, typically under the age of forty, are declaring themselves as "other" than their birth species. For instance, some are now identifying as "wolfkin" or "bearkin" or "deerkin" or "serpentkin", or even alternative identities emanating from fantasy or myth, like "elfkin" or "dragonkin" or "wizardkin". There's even a subculture called "Furries", where they dress-up, akin to cosplayers, as their favorite, personally identified furry creature. And much like gender dysphoria people, otherkin people are clamoring for social acceptance and legal acknowledgement within society, safe from ridicule and discrimination. There is real evidence here to suggest that humanity, certainly in the West, is regressing dramatically from generally well-adjusted individuals and mature adults to increasingly depressive, mentally ill, infantalized, data-processed dividuals, as Gilles Deleuze proclaimed in his 1990 essay, "Postscript on the Societies of Control":

"The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become 'dividuals' and masses, samples, data, markets, or 'banks'. Perhaps it is money that expresses the distinction between the two societies best, since discipline (societies) always referred back to minted money that locks gold as numerical standard, while control (societies) relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according to a rate established by a set of standard currencies. The old monetary mole is the animal of the space of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a continuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports."

We are systematically being reduced and divided into algorithmic bits and bytes, mere information devoid of any real knowledge and "authentic being" in the Heideggerian sense. As the father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener, said, "Information is information, not matter or energy." Our ontological experience is now an on-line avatar drained of nearly all and any identifiable visceral humanity, wherever you happen to be located, seeing as you are now ubiquitously connected to the matrix/hypermodern electronic exosphere enclosed around the entire globe, having a smart phone on your so-called "person" at all times. This is why so many "people" feel so disconnected with others, despite how many social media sites they frequent daily, and the moment to moment texts sent and received. As Peter Sloterdijk concluded, we are "foam", separate little bubbled worlds rubbing up against other bubbled worlds, only connected by the electronic membrane of the matrix that constitutes our "world interior". Wherever we are, it is. Mark Fisher called it Capitalist Realism. It is all around us, the very air we breathe. This is now our Hypermodern "reality".




According to John David Ebert and Brian Francis Culkin, in their collaborative new book, "Hypermodernity and the End of the World", postmodernism officially ended on September 11, 2001 and hypermodernity began, at least politically, where as culturally/technologically, it began in 1995 with the commercial advent of the internet when Windows 95 was released. I'm inclined to agree with the 9/11 commencement, as postmodernism was still very much a thing right up to the millennium, and at least residually for the first few years of the 21st century, ultimately dissipating completely by the time of the 2008 economic crash. We've been wholly in a hypermodern state ever since. One of the main differences between postmodernity and hypermodernity, again, according to Ebert and Culkin, is that the media of postmodernity had all been analogue, such as records, cassette tapes, photographs, magazines, celluloid. And the media of hypermodernity is exclusively digital:

"With the satellization of the Exosphere, the analogue telephone became transformed into the cell phone and later the smart phone, which jacked the individual into the World Interior from wherever on the planet he or she happened to be located. One didn't have to go anywhere to be included in the new Hypermodern World Interior. All analogue photographs could be dissolved from their nitrate surfaces and melted into cyberspace directly from the brain as the camera became an appendage of the World Interior. Vinyl records were dissolved and liquefied, and celluloid films transformed into bytes that obsolesced the movie projector. All analogue media were liquefied, dissolved and fed into the new matrix."

The Hypermodern Digital Age has utterly liquefied most everything within its all-encompassing mainframe, rendering it all as free-flowing information/data and pure Capital. It's no wonder so many "dividuals" are confusingly identifying with just about anything their unhinged narcissism becomes attracted to. In a recent study conducted by Idaho State University and College of the Canyons and Center for Positive Sexuality in Los Angeles, a paper entitled, "Do We Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires' Fear of Coming Out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals", a study that primarily focused on the growing "otherkin" and alternative identity community of "real vampires" - I kid you not - the researchers opined, "...it seems that rapid advances in technology provide a social environment conducive to the development of unique and unconventional identities. We should not be surprised to see a proliferation of nontraditional identities in the future."

They weren't kidding, in a manner of speaking, ironically. This definite proliferation of innumerable identities, regardless of the traditional parameters of reality, healthy maturity and political conviction, has been symptomatic of what has happened to language itself, that which ultimately constitutes the world, the Symbolic Order, in the Lacanian sense. Language, and its users, have unwittingly deteriorated unto semiotic chaos and excess, where in Hypermodernity, "too much is never enough". And this "language in chaos" appears to be affecting everyone, regardless of race, gender, politics, cultural identity, beliefs, ethics and values. Neoliberal late capitalism may very well be dragging us all towards the Singularity, like Elon Musk has been incessantly warning us about, where all differences will be rendered obsolete, as well as any discernible humanity, thus ushering in what Vernor Vinge predicted back in 1993: the post-human age. Is this what the far-left identitarians and SJW's are unrelentingly, and ultimately, fighting for? Because this is where we're headed, folks.





  







Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Zone II (a 21st century poem)



*Here's a long poem I originally wrote in 2002. It is a sequel, of sorts, to French Symbolist poet, Guillaume Apollinaire's famous 1909 modernist poem, Zone, which addressed the many modern and technological changes that were happening early in the 20th century, including the Cubist and Futurist art movements of that period. My poem takes Apollinaire's themes and brings them into the digital and virtual world that we now find ourselves, not so much inhabiting, but wholly immersed in, or even subsumed by here in the 21st century. I've made a few necessary revisions, while deliberately keeping certain freshly millennial references intact, for contextual purposes, to give the poem a more contemporaneous presentation.

by J. Albert Barr


                                 
                                   ZONE II


The spent postmodern world is weary of its own time.

Corporate CEO your bloc of shareholders are exsanguinating the fiber-optic vein.

You haven't had enough of this consuming in our late capitalist mode.

Here even the street-people resort to some basic, dishonest strategy
To weasel a buck or two from less apathetic strollers
Inevitably making their way towards dying malls like 19th century arcades.

In all the Western hemisphere you are not exhausted O credit-rate!
The most lucratively informed is you Mr. I. Cloud
And you whom the Window's share is beyond shame to keep back
From entering an ethics-room and confessing your torts in the morning
You scan the skylines the headlines the company's earnings
The public notices you singing out
Here's the morning news and for pros you have inside information
We've bull-shit web-rags saturated with lame articles
Partisan pieces, biased bile and a gazillion fucking ads.

Just tonight I saw a T.V. news report of a teen beaten to death I forgot their name
So young and green a dead weed in the sun
Competitive networks and nondescript reporters
From Sunday morning to Saturday night run "the story" a dozen times a day
Several times at night a police siren wails out
A fuming funnel slays the air at noon
The buzzwords the billboards the malls (so dead)
The pay-stubs the credit-notices nagging
I loathe the snark of these commercial streets
Located everywhere between the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis
There's more items per street and you're only here still. 

Your image dresses you in Nike and the Gap
You're an homogeneous boy and like your generic buddies
You want nothing less than parties in perpetuity
It's four o'clock the beer is all gone vomit on the floor you crawl
Into someone's room
You sprawl all morning long in a mess of pheromones.

With the internal pathetic depth of automatons
Absorbed incessantly by the VR graphics of PlayStation and Xbox
This is the stale air that we all now breath
The cyberspace the white hare now flees to within
The pimpled-face son of the mother shopping
The pixels curvy-slick all over with ani-babes
The triple action of blood and gore
The 5.0 starter kit
"God" who designs on Friday and plays on Sunday
"You" who manoeuvres better than any other player
And holds the current record for the most levels accomplished
Public star in your eye - from your cloud
Twenty-first century job knows its place
And morphs into a byte this century downloads into the hard-drive
Jacking-in like Dixie.

The AI's in their programs compute to evolution and whir
They call it a virtual organism of simulating in Game of Life
They explain if this is Artificial Life let's call it "genuine life of different stuff"
The ROM jet across the beaming screen
Microsoft Internet Multimedia Wintermute of Neuromancer
Hugo about this first artilect.

From day to day they step inside of cubicles to transfer to the source
Those promotions rescinding externally at the Congregation of the Ghost
The plain hands at Mass supplicate for things instead
See the shelves are crammed with merchandise of innumerable means
In stocked aisles the brand-names come the labels, the Logos has gone
Designers from Italy and styles aplenty and former mallrats
The "new-line" celebrated by consumers and economists
Glitters with the spirit of Adam (Smith) the first head in the market
The Dow Jones fluctuates from the board with a great weight
This for America comes the tall order.

From Japan the super-charged animation
I have only one wish to fly to Paris
Where are the poets so igneously-spirited
Inspired by the Symbolists and the new iconoclasts
The Phoenix that self-regenerates illuminates mistakes
Hid beneath the veil so desperately clasped by the ornery
Their minds repeat the previous fates
Arrange all to be sustained at bottom with their (de)vices
American dreams and Asian means all resign
To fantasize within the virtual machine.

We are accelerating in 3D all alone in a game-program
Soccer fans are cheering in passing cars as you go
Reality's shadow churns you in the viscera
Ask if you can be real ever again
If you're living in the old world you better exit the arena
You're beside yourself when you see yourself grieving
You swear at yourself man your loathing burns like infernally
The parts that you hate intensify a life with no relief
This picture is preserved in dusty digital albums
But you can never allow yourself the courage to admit it.

Today you're chatting in a coffee-shop the employed are on Prozac
This is and I do want to remember it this is the twilight of humanism.

Inured to her fallen towers New York has shown them at Ground Zero
The wound of a national heart had enraged them from all States
We were desensitized by the re-televised terror planes
And this image that owes much to biased purviews keeps me up at night
It remains ubiquitously around you this tragic image that has festered.

Now we are beyond the new millennium
Under the auspices of technology progressing all day long
You can escape into it with some choice friends of yours
One's from Department G one's from Division 35 there are three from DeVry
I am unnerved by the easy proliferation of techno-romantics
Who through a lobotomized memory feel safe to savor artificial worlds.

You are in a chat-room somewhere in the Net
You are bold with anonymity at your finger-tips
And instead of describing your true self
You reflect the avatar lodged deep in the recesses of desire.

In dreams you see yourself in bondage at the gates of Saint X
You awoke so bemused by the vanishing vestiges there-in
You felt like Neo struck dumb by the threshold
The numbers on the digital clock made zero sense
But you revert back into the linear world
And getting up to CNN hearing the morning news
The decaf coffee from that catchy jingle
Commuting back to the boroughs along the mainline
You're at home watching Survivor on a Japanese big-screen.

You're in Fort Lauderdale with a buddy who thinks you're cool but he's self-interested
He wants to pursue a Californian sophomore
Then register adjacent rooms and lounge by the pool playing eyes with one another
You'll remember it well the three days spent there and resent him for having scored.

You're at work before the assessing management
Like a disposable employee you sweat in uniform
Have you appeased your employers enough to avoid being down-sized
Before taking into account the receding sales and competitive take-overs looming?
At thirty-two you have suffered for business and company
You have lived beyond your means and have lost a third quarter of stock
I am not secure with these hands and all the while you could not see your own
Because of this because of that I dread because of all the things rendered oblivious to you.

Lies full of fears you instill those artless students
They trust in democracy they pay the schools to prepare a future
Their fees fill the budgets of the campus repute
They believe in the tradition like the graduates before them
They fully expect to get rich on the market floor
And ascend to the corporate perch then kick the ladder away.

One company exports its winning products as efficiently as they exploit your labor
Their guilt and your bonus are equally disavowed
A fraction of those students remain there and climb dutifully
In the division of advertising or the department of public relations
I always see the result obscuring the sky on the streets
They are like watchmen they rarely leave the terminal
Even while in transit above all use cell-phones and wear head-phones
Drained of soul they kick-back with a remote, remote from self-awareness.

In 2002
You sat before the monitor in a cyber-bar
Engaged in a five-hour session among the peripheral on-line surfers.

You were a knight in an unreal time.

These people are not distressed but they have their problems nonetheless
Some of them are lost in an illusory realm even among the eldest
See these children of a forgotten time.

Those hands I can see they are unsteady and callused
I have immense empathy for the feared thoughts in all minds.

For the impoverished person with no fertile future I ponder my own now.

We are alone Winter is coming
The lostmen are stamping their shodless feet at the traffic-lights.

Sight wakes night like a frost medieval
It's a fearless jester or a fearful cardinal
You take those pills that belie a fractured reality
Your reality you take down like an enemy
You yell upwards to the heavens and go home unheard
To sleep with your illusions from Hollywood and Las Vegas
They are creeds in a distorted form creeds of wanted norm
They are the costly creeds of longings denied.

Closing time   Closing time

Sum (of all)  cut  losses








Thursday, 4 July 2019

Is This Really the End of Mad Magazine?

Only in a "Clown World" Political Climate of Leftist Insanity does an Irreverently Liberal Publication like Mad Magazine Ironically meet its Fate!

by J. Albert Barr 





Holy shit! Coincidentally, being that I included with a cheeky little post on Facebook, recently, a classic pic of Mad Magazine's iconic mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, I literally JUST heard that Mad Magazine, itself, will cease publication and disappear from newsstands by the end of this year, thus ending their 67 year long run!

I first discovered Mad Magazine way back in grade 5 at my elementary school. I read several issues that were consistently available among the variety of magazines in my home-room class, and read it, off and on, throughout my adolescence. The importance of Mad Magazine in the development of my sense of humor and my sense of. and appreciation for, satire, irony, wit, sarcasm and cultural lampooning in general, was IMMENSE to say the least! What a colossal drag to hear that this iconic publication is coming to an end.

... And I gotta be honest when I say that it seems rather suspicious - or at least awfully coincidental - that Mad Magazine should be cancelled in an era, and "hyper-sensitive" cultural atmosphere, where such irreverent content, and attitude, is not only frowned upon now, but outright "de-platformed" because it hurts the precious feelings of SO many of whom have nary a sense of, and appreciation for, said satire, irony, wit and sarcasm, because they collectively perceive a "one-dimensional world" that MUST cater to one's fragile emotional and mental state (which I firmly believe has been systematically and deliberately socially-engineered) to the detriment of a logically-determined, maturely-apprehended (without having to vapidly say, "I'm adulting") understanding, or at least acknowledgement, of the real world, society, culture, human behavior (and its time-honored foibles and volatility) with - to quote Marx - "sober senses, [the] REAL conditions of life".



It's seems so ironic that the once celebrated Mad Magazine launched its cheeky and irreverent first issue way back in 1952, during a decade in American culture where there was rampant conservatism and prudish, even neo-Victorian, attitudes and sensibilities being bandied about while the Republicans had the White House, and American minds, for the most part. The UFO craze was in full-swing; the Feds were busy with "the Red Menace"; German (rocket) scientists were "recruited" by Operation Paperclip to help America get into space before the Russkies did (it backfired, interestingly enough, though the Americans did get to the Moon first, ultimately); and Philip K. Dick began writing his mind-bending sci-fi novels such as 1959's Time Out of Joint , a novel whose concept of temporal disturbance, and altered reality, packs quite an ironic and contemporaneously relevant wallop now.

Moreover, it's doubly ironic, and spectacularly tragic, in my opinion, that Mad Magazine should cease further publication beyond this decade-ending, "foul year of our Lord" (to evoke the memory of Hunter S. Thompson, aptly enough) that is 2019, when the current political and cultural climate are so irrationally and egregiously being held hostage - in a fashion - by a bat-shit crazy Left (despite a Republican, yes, buffoon, President currently in the White House) intent on utterly destroying everything in its mentally and emotionally-deluded wake, for the entire sake of never being offended nor having their collective "feelings" hurt ever again, to the extreme detriment of any discernible logic, reason, maturity, tenable polemics, and reality in general. 

Meanwhile, the real culprit behind the utter madness of our present world and society, and its accompanying semiotic chaos, in terms of what has happened to language, identity and the "symbolic economy" that linchpins the superstructure of everything we've built over the respected epochs and ages, has been conveniently ignored (via cultural propaganda and social-engineering, which ultimately "created" the SJW and unbridled political correctness) while it suffuses the very ether and atmosphere we all breath: neoliberal late capitalism, or what the late Mark Fisher called, Capitalist Realism. Also, the suspiciously impending Singularity and the ushering in of the alleged "post-human age".

Stay tuned, fellow zombies, and members of both the "bewildered herd" and "phantom public" (to cite one Walter Lippman, appropriately enough) because, as Cypher said in The Matrix, which I'll paraphrase here: "Kansas, and the rest of the world you-once-thought-you-knew, are going bye-bye!"  








Sunday, 19 May 2019

21st Century Poetry: What the Wall Said and other Poems by J. Albert Barr





This is my third selection of poems written by me over the course of twenty-plus years that I've posted here on my blog. Be sure to check out the other two selections found in my "older posts", the first from 2013 and the second from 2015, if you haven't already. And I want to thank you for taking the time to read them, and perhaps even thinking about them afterwards.

I'll begin with a brand-new poem composed earlier this year:


MAYBE AND PERHAPS

Maybe I need quiet.
Maybe a blunt silence.
Perhaps especially from within
as opposed to the usual without.
Fortuity would then perhaps invite
a reticent ether hiding behind air;
an aura filled with secrets,
latched inside a broken liaison,
culled from a foreign source,
distilled in a familiar fragrance.
Maybe and then maybe again.
Perhaps a knowing sigh that echoes from an old wind.

The quiet has my ear.
The ear sustains this silence.
Perhaps according to a sound
so imposed by a strange decimal.
It's the sort that alerts the owl
in a night's raw stillness
that freezes the hapless mouse,
save its wide, throbbing eyes.
A thought may then take flight,
expanding its plume-filled ideas over unexpected chance.
Maybe and then never again.
Perhaps a song that quavers aloud, atop a mountain deep.



CONVALESCENCE

Darkness peers behind a jaded tear,
unabashed at its willingness to evoke despair:
A meek and meagre hovel for a heart indeed,
to only beat in silence, aloof from optimism's flame.
The daily mirror reflects a venom of contempt,
where a new gash degenerates into an indefinite scar.
The transitory days rupture the soul - fade out.

           ...fade in...

This elevation has a butterfly wingspread,
beautiful and meticulous,
like a lover in a still-frame, locked and eternal.
There's a fond repulsion from storybook complacency.
Hug a horror from the past, letting it go at last,
biding its time in oblivion,
as far away from me as existentially possible.

A wayward child applies an ointment of innocence,
     and vision is now widescreen,
        and the senses bite, they gnaw
           and tear:....Awakening!



IN THE DARK SEASON

Aluminium heart speckled with rust;
unheralded sorrow,
radiating from the central stem,
with an arrow-shaped reply
into the albino seas,
attaining stately proportions of time;
dark-green markings on a silver-grey
background.
Spined margins and undersides;
midribs of creeping senses:
my eucalyptus serenade;
a further attraction of your rough
surface.
Like a praying-mantis cloaked
in the exotic maranta,
I'm caught in your elegant glue,
the never found reasons behind.



THRESHOLDS OF PEACE

for Ashli Taylor

The trees drink my eyes.
On bended knees, searing songs
from a local robin bleed
in my drums,
pounding out mystified sighs
that echo deep inside the
hemispheres of my bedraggled brain.
Westward winds streamline my geometry,
probing the contours and cooling
the flesh standing upright
for the descending sun, cooing the
clouds to sleep; stars break
for the centre of the sky,
bursting with fervour, enveloping the
unfettered visions beheld by souls
thirsting for sensations as a
cosmos lays its universal kiss.
I give, and it gives, and we become
one majestic symbiosis:
An infinite expansion of energy, matter, spirit:
A melancholic joy eclipsing
any destructive inkling beside the fire.



THE ARCHER OF HEARTS

I knew thee truly when
Winter stumbled backwards into the arms of the sun.
I knew thee truly when
Spring dug itself a burrow to shy away from rain.
I knew thee truly when
Summer hiked on the shoulders of a cloud to provoke winter.
I knew thee truly when
Fall administered an all-green proviso to the leaves.

And you jousted with kangaroos and foxes,
And traded secrets with pandas by proxy.

Yes! I knew thee truly when
Day held a masquerade for unwanted hours.
I knew thee truly when
Night spread-eagle for sunlit bolts of dawn.
I knew thee truly when
Yesterday lamented like a child for its past days.
I knew the truly when
Tomorrow disguised itself as present, fooling all.

And you shed your feathers upon a divested rose,
And dangled love where heart and mind are in repose.



THE OPTION

In the mirror, I face a foreign smile
And wait for my eyes to open the day.
This day is wan and grey.
I gather the sense to probe through
A minute beneath the moist soil,
Under my worn soles, catching
The tattered laces (second pair).
My fingers enjoy the absorption of
Tactile bliss. They haven't anything
Better to do, anything constructive, practical;
Only to feel is good enough for them, for me.
Time is neglected, pushed to the margins,
Or the peripherals of consciousness, but
Time remains refractory and vigilant.
The bugle charge of the autumn wind
Blows an army of red leaves away,
Across my path and onto, and over
A wide carless road; no other witnesses;
Just me, in the early hour, under darkness,
Under streetlights, under duress to remain
Breathing, and to remain here...


INDICTING EYES

Besides the societal conditioning of averting one's eyes
When passing a so-called stranger on the street,
I have increasingly sensed nowadays a more intense
Glare, however brief and subtle, deflected back from an
Innocent look that has apparently been perceived as:
            an unwarranted invasion
            when the eyes meet
            like two particles colliding.

Will there come a time when fields-of-vision are policed?

A voyeuristic culture obsessed with other lives
Are conversely rendered paranoid in their own,
Playing the dual role with inevitable conflict
Evoking the Ouroboros of the mind with unwitting
Precision to swallow the self whole from within:
             an inhuman shell
             will be all to leave
             these streets barren.

Has there come a time for souls to bury themselves?


WHAT THE WALL SAID

In appealing to the white wall before me,
I could only ask "why"?
Though knowing full-well, trusting the reliability
of my inference, the man-made source of its origin.
My query had no issue with its colour - I, acknowledging
white as such, in comparison to official hues and shades,
wished not to debate legitimacy on these visual grounds.
Contingent black - its binary opposite - brown, green,
orange, red, yellow or blue made no difference; well
I would surmise blue composed by the moody sort, if
my wry reference to popular psychological investigations
were valid and sound - sound, that is, to those who favour
uniformity in professional opinion.
Little difference, I suppose, prevailed, reluctantly.

No, I simply wanted to know why the wall existed at all;
expecting no answer, of course, directed to me from it!
And a jolting confirmation of madness was not my goal!

Religion sat me on its knee as a boy; I, naive and incognizant, was
told it was God's work, even the walls of the non-Christian.
Science held my shoulders as a youth; I, eager to learn and know, was
told it was atoms and molecules, excluding the walls of the mind.

Finding these answers, ultimately, inadequate, despite their
equally self-assuring hubris, I have come to realise now
that my grappling with this inexplicable question is firmly
rooted in the ontological: so I have my particular being, and
the wall has its: mine, animate; its, inanimate. But still being!
Until we both come, inevitably, to non-being. What then?

The wall said nothing.








Saturday, 4 May 2019

The Murder of Elliot Crow: Chronicles from Those with Responsibilities by A.R. Shanks: a review




by J. Albert Barr


The Murder of Elliot Crow is the debut novel from Edmonton, Alberta-based writer, A.R. Shanks. The hard-copy book was independently published in April 2018. Ms. Shanks' novel can be described as one from the fantasy/adventure genre, and may be filed under YA fiction, though it does feature some straight-up adult situations, dark themes bordering on the existential, moments of moderately bracing violence, and evinces "adult-oriented language flourishes" from one specific character, which is merely suggested by the author using asterisks as a suitable substitute, keeping in mind her predominately-targeted readership, and perhaps contemporary notions of those easily offended or "triggered".

As is clearly indicated in the novel's title, our titular protagonist, Elliot Crow, is a very intelligent and sensitive, but self-conscious, socially-detached and inhibited teenager of about 14 years of age who appears to have been "murdered" in the first chapter by a complete stranger who mistook him for the intended target of his knife - Elliot's older brother Caspar:

"The sadist twisted the blade into his gut and his whole body exploded with pain until that was his entire world. For one strange moment, all the colors of all the surrounding world appeared far more vivid than he could ever remember them being. As though his life until that point had been ventured through while he was half-asleep."

Prior to this disturbing episode we see that Elliot is living a rather dull and mundane, contemporary existence, not really committed to family participation, now that he has entered adolescence and seemingly developed a generally typical teen-angst phase. His mother, interestingly enough, is a goth (much to Elliot's embarrassment) who runs a book-store that specialises in magic and occult books. Elliot's father, on the other hand, is more straight-laced and relatively conservative by comparison to his wife, proving, in this instance, that "opposites do attract". He is a reasonably successful writer who had instilled in his son a literary sensibility, while Elliot's mother provided him with much of his imagination and creativity; all of which are lost on Elliot because he sees them as abnormal, and he just wants to be "normal". Elliot's relationship with his brother Caspar is muted and distant, and he has only one apparent friend named Sam, who is far more socially-engaged and adventurous, though not very bright.

As Elliot passes out from the stabbing, he suddenly finds himself in an exceedingly strange place or world or realm. Did he indeed die and then passed into an afterlife, albeit one that resembles little of the one more generally imagined? He's not at all sure of what has and is happening to him, but he seems driven by the great desire to somehow communicate with, or send a warning to, his brother Caspar, who will most likely eventually meet a similar fate to Elliot's.

Elliot begins his other-worldly adventure in this seemingly magical realm, where physics is only allowed a partial admittance, by first encountering the "domain of Time" itself, a formidable presence before young Elliot, who assumes, initially, that he/it must be Death incarnate. Time, having asked Elliot if he had "anything unresolved in [his] life. Anything left undone", then charges him to seek out an acquaintance of Time's, whom he cannot go to himself, because "Those with responsibilities cannot leave their domain". Time wants Elliot to deliver a package to one Trinket Deadlock, and it is he who will guide Elliot through his tasks in exchange for a chance to warn his brother of his impending doom.

Trinket Deadlock is a wholly jovial and unrelentingly positive "father figure" who's constant companion, the foul-mouthed, bellicose but reliable, Gear, help Elliot to achieve his goals, but at a necessary distance, for it is Elliot himself who must enact the challenges ahead of him in order to make it back to his own realm by proving his ultimate allegiance to his family, and to also find within himself courage and heart and purpose and a new appreciation for life in general, both his and others.

Extracting much inspiration and influence from Alice in Wonderland and the Harry Potter series, Ms. Shanks' wonderfully entertaining and genuinely insightful and empathic novel is chock full of great action sequences, vividly detailed and executed with exciting, fast-paced prose. Her characters are well-drawn and dimension-filled, running the gamut of human emotion, strength and frailty. The novel is replete with whimsical wit and delightful humour, and its themes of family bonds, teamwork, self-discovery, consequences of reality through a fantastical purview, psychological and emotional buoyancy, made for one terrifically fun and intelligent read! I highly recommend this most excellent novel!


* You can find copies of A.R. Shanks' novel at Amazon.com. And her second novel, A Child Named Loveless, is now available as well at Amazon.com!