Washed Up Reviewed by K. Eby

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Axis of Brilliance

Washed Up is another great ride. Again, Alistair shows his talent for introducing us to characters who span an entire axis. Wealthy/Not, Healthy/Not, on their way out/on their way back…in a mathematic axis, these people are dots who live (or will live) in the x AND y planes AND in the positive AND the negative planes. Through wonderful dialogue and narrative talent, he carefully describes them just enough for us to get to know them – and apply our own experience to flesh out who they really are. He then tells us their story and sets up the crashes. You see these collisions from above – at least what you think they will be. But, as great storytellers do, they are not what you assume – which is what leaves the lasting impact.

Running through this novel, like a Booker T keyboard (it knows when to lead and when to lay back and when to duck out), is his observation of alcoholism and its impact on this world. This is the catalyst to many of the events in the book and it is through this vehicle that we experience a lot of the emotion of the novel. Joy, pain. Victory, loss. Second chances and the careless disposal of second (and maybe last) chances.

I found myself not entirely comfortable putting the book down until I was satisfied that I had finished the journey and found adequate resolution to the plight of these characters. And could make my own hypothesis as to their future. Like all of Alistair’s work, in my experience, this one rents a little space in your brain for a few weeks after you finish it. I like that.

Kent Eby

Fearing Fate

Some Born To Greatness Some Flee It Unsucessfully

Fate is a concept that has fallen from fashion; like honor, morality, and manners. We think of fate as akin to voodoo, primitive twaddle embraced by simple, unsophisticated people. Surrounded by our gadgets, the much-loved amulets and totems of today, we imagine ourselves swimming in free will, shaping our very reality as we go, bending life itself to our wishes. This, of course, is fatuous delusion, the product of our misguided belief that technology will cure the human flaws that have dogged our every step for millennia.

In fact, we are well past the master/slave tipping point and it has become impossible for any serious student of modern life to suggest with a straight face that these machines serve us; our habits and behaviors have simply become grist for the mill they own and operate.

We are the raw material; they are the plantation owners. Candidly, you will have to search far and wide in our society for anything resembling freedom and free will; as was the case in post-bellum America, “volunteered slavery” results when the terrible face of freedom rears its ugly head, we race back to the comfort of shackles, all of us.

Mental illness introduced me to freedom, real freedom, the freedom one experiences wandering alone in the desert at night, pursued by jackals. It is every bit as terrifying and exhilarating as you think it is. But today, now, I am more interested in fate, that force we imagine we’ve outgrown.

I suggest that the only people who would deny the existence of fate are those who have never tried to disobey its merciless judgment, those of us who have never tried to swim upstream, those among us who have never put forth the unpopular, contrarian position just because someone needed to do it and no one else, apparently, had the moxie.

Because, friends, you flee fate at your peril; hide from fate and you enter the old testament world, you get smote with a two-by-four.

Let’s paraphrase Shakespeare. “In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some are beaten like rented mules and stepchildren until they finally get a little humility, to say nothing of a clue, and start doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Greatness lurks on both sides of my family tree like a meretricious monster, smiling its disingenuous smile, lying without even saying a word. As a child I did worship it, like other people, but became more conscious of its horrors than its delights, and soon fell into the familiar pattern of fleeing into escape in its myriad forms, drugs, alcohol, mania and depression, indulging hedonistic appetites, the adrenaline rush of reckless thrill seeking, etcetera.

What comes of wrestling with one’s fate, hiding from it, denying it, is simple – and recognizable from far away – you see a man losing a war with himself, a man who has become his worst enemy, a man self-administering the death of 1,000 cuts.

In 1990 I wrote the first draft of my bipolar memoir, Invisible Driving. In the course of doing so I had to confront some hideous realities.

First, of course, came the shame and disgrace of being less than, inferior, crazy. Then there was the ragged history of escape into intoxicants. Worse still was a long string of unpalatable attributes, cowardice, arrogance, entitlement, narcissism and elitism among them.

But, as I slaved to do the impossible, that is, put readers into the unimaginably foreign world of mania, something even more horrible appeared, a quality I’d feared yet always secretly wondered about; greatness.

Once you have done something absolutely new, something clearly impossible, you cannot pretend you haven’t. You know. And if you know, and you fail to act on that knowledge, you are far worse than a slacker – you are too much of a coward to be yourself.

We are put here to love one another, to care for one another. When we don’t, we fuck with fate, and the sickness begins. There are a million ways to be great.

If greatness is your fate, do not flee it; but remember it’s the gift that keeps on taking.” Taz Mopula

Occupy Art: Behold Armchair Activism

Attention All Armchair Activists And Recliner Radicals

The occupy movement has come and gone, leaving only a trail of Starbucks coffee cups and disillusioned armchair activists. We must not be shocked or even disappointed to learn that this symphony of orchestrated whining accomplished absolutely nothing since it had no agenda, stated objectives, or suggestions.

However, lurking deep within the sanctimonious orgy of middle-aged, middle-class malcontents yet unready to embrace the adulthood they’d fled for decades; was a point.

These cheery nitwits drew fuel from more than mere ennui and narcissism; righteous indignation burned in their stomachs like bad Mexican food, inviting the question – Is there any such thing as good Mexican food?

How can it be, they inquired, in that charmingly innocent way of theirs, that 99% of the nation’s wealth is in the hands of only 1% of its population?

It is a fair question, but a stupid one, since the American public stood by for generations and idly watched the looting, too complacent even to vote, much less defend itself.

Far more interesting is the cultural divide, and where one stands on it.

“Never confuse fame with artistic quality, or wealth with value. Society gets what it wants, not what it needs.” Taz Mopula 

After merciless soul-searching I have come to the conclusion that in all my artistic endeavors – (novels – poetry – cartoons – tazmopulisms – essays) – I am aligned squarely with the 1% and have no interest in appealing to the 99%. Let’s do the math.

Entire U.S. population is approximately 300,000,000

Cretins 10%
Neanderthals 10%
Troglodytes 10%
Liars 10%
Racists 10%
Religious Zealots 10%
Xenophobes 10%
Illiterate 10%
Impoverished 10%
Unapologetically anti-intellectual 9%

Alistair McHarg prospects 1%  equaling approximately       3,000,000

Let it be proclaimed for all to hear that I serve the 1%; proudly!

“There is only one truly authentic way to enjoy success; that is by remaining indifferent to it.” Taz Mopula