More Meaningful Ways To Spend Your Time This November Instead Of Voting for Hillary or Trump.

Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Trump is tanking in every poll, and stands a snowball’s chance in Hell at winning this election, especially after he is embarrassed in the first debate (and he will be embarrassed). His relatively small cadre of angry white voters aren’t enough to propel him into office. The GOP has put up perhaps the single worst presidential candidate in modern American history. Even Hillary supporters have realized this, and have pulled back a bit on the shameless fear-mongering and condescending finger-wagging.

So, since a Clinton victory is inevitable (as I predicted as far back as the night before the first Super Tuesday of the primaries: https://selfaware1.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/super-tuesday-2016-analysis-and-predictions/), here are some ways you can spend your time, INSTEAD of going to a voting booth and casting a vote for Hillary, that will have a far more meaningful impact on the world:

– Write a well-argued public blog or FB post exposing and criticizing the un-democratic nature of American elections.

– Have a discussion with your children about the importance of political and social engagement.

– Donate a small amount of money to a good charity or cause.

– Research the requirements for running for local public office, and if you meet the requirements, run.

– Participate in a protest, rally, or march in your town or city; and use it as an opportunity to network with other like-minded activists in order to lay the groundwork for more political action in the future.

– Watch (and comprehend) a documentary about the causes of the 2008 economic recession or how the influence of money in our political system dramatically skews the focus of our government in favor of the rich and powerful, and then tell someone else about it.

– Have a deep political discussion with a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor.

– Consciously abstain from voting for either of the candidates offered up by the dictatorship of the wealthy, and let as many people as possible know exactly *why* you are consciously abstaining.

– Plant a tree or a small garden in your back yard; increasing the biodiversity of the small patch of land in your possession.

– Pick up litter on the side of the road or the shore of a river/lake/ocean and recycle what you can.

Any and all of these activities will be more beneficial to you, and to your community, than casting a vote for either Trump or Hillary.

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House of Leaves: Decoding Pelafina’s letter to Johnny (pgs 620-623)

In the back of the House of Leaves, following footnote #78 on pg. 72 to Appendix II-E., there are dozens and dozens of pages of letters to Johnny from his mother, Pelafina, who is writing her son from a mental institution. Over the course of her letters, her mental illness (schizophrenia?) intensifies, along with a chief symptom of her mental illness: paranoia.

On page 619, her letter to Johnny reads:

“Dear, dear Johnny, 

Pay attention: the next letter I will encode as follows: use the first letter of each word to build subsequent words and phrases: your exquisite intuition will help you sort out the spaces: I’ve sent this via a nigh nurse: our secret will be safe.

Tenderly,
Mom”

(Notice the misuse of colons. I think its safe to say the breakdown in punctuation symbolizes or tracks the breakdown in her mental health. The letters that follow this one, including the coded one I am about to decode, display a total breakdown in proper punctuation, grammar, and epistolary structure.)

The following letter, decoded, is as follows:

My Dearest Johnny,

               They have found a way to break me.  Rape a fifty-six year old bag of bones.  There is no worse and don’t believe otherwise. 

The attendants do it.  Others do it.  Not every day, not every week, maybe not even every month.  But they do it.  Someone I don’t know always comes when it’s dark.  Late.  I’ve learned not to scream, screaming gave me hope and unanswered hope is shattered hope.  Think of your Haitian.  It is far saner to choose rape than shattered hope.  So I submit and I drift. 

I let caprice and a certain degree of free association take me away.  Sometimes I’m still away long after it’s done, after he’s gone-the stranger, the attendant, the custodian, the janitor, cleaning man, waiting main, dirty MAN-the night tidying up after him. 

I’m in hell giving into heaven where I sometimes think of your beautiful father with his dreamy wings and only then do I allow myself to cry.  Not because your mother was raped (again) but because she loved so much what she could never have been allowed to keep.  Such a silly girl.

You must save me Johnny.  In the name of your father.  I must escape this place or I will die.

                                             I love you so much.  You are all I have.

P.”

Is she actually being raped? Are her paranoid fantasies and hallucinations getting the best of her? Is she lying in a last ditch effort to be taken out of the hospital? We do not know… But imagine being in Johnny’s position…

House of Leaves, Chapters 1-5: Fractured Narrative.

Recently, me and a couple of close friends discovered House Of Leaves, a 600 some odd page novel, and decided to read it together in a small book club. After reading the introduction and the first four chapters, I’ve decided to blog about the book. So this entry will be the first of multiple short essays investigating aspects of the book that I find particularly interesting. I am not interested, however, in summarizing the book, just in analyzing or exploring parts of it.

The first thing you notice when you get your hands on this book, and begin flipping through it, is the radically strange structure of it: hundreds of footnotes (some extending for multiple pages), photos and sketches in color, entire paragraphs written backwards so that the only way to read it is by holding it up to a mirror, entire pages with only a sentence, a word, or even just a letter occupying them, and the word “house” always in blue ink, even when written in another language. In short, the book is fucking weird. And that weirdness only amplifies the creepy, unsettling story found within its pages. In some ways its reminiscent of Infinite Jest: a behemoth of a novel with multiple intricate, overlapping narratives, footnotes, appendixes, etc. Both books are postmodern and both were written in the 90’s. But perhaps that’s where the similarities stop. The stories themselves are very different. Infinite Jest was a deep and sad examination of American society, and the people who populate it, at the turn of the 21st century, while House of Leaves is a labyrinthine horror story about a family moving into an old and secluded 18th century house.

Either way, the point of this blog entry is to discuss the fractured narrative of House of Leaves, and how it effects the reader.

The novel takes the form of a book written about a film by a recently deceased elderly man. The book is then discovered by a young man living in L.A. as he helped a friend clean out (or, rather, go through) the elderly man’s apartment after his death. Soon the young man, named Johnny, descends into a dark obsession with the book, which gives rise to some psychological issues which, in turn, seem to be increasing in intensity. But while the main story is the book written about the film by the old man, Johnny inserts long footnotes explaining parts of the book, the original author, and his own experiences as he delved deeper into the very story we, the readers, are now delving into. This complicated web of narrators, and meta-narration leads back to us, the readers, as Johnny often breaks the fourth wall and addresses us directly (even making wry making puns for us and immediately becoming self-conscious about it!).

So, in short, the reader finds themselves reading a story about a film, presented to us by a narrator who played no part in the creation of either the book nor the film, and appears to be slowly descending into madness. Additionally, dialogue occurs between the characters within in the film itself, which is recorded in the book being written about said film, adding another wrinkle of narrative. Consequently, we are constantly being ripped from one level of narration and forced into another without warning, then plunged back into the initial narration, only to be pulled out again, addressed as the reader, then tossed back into the Johnny’s second-level narration; then we are led to a footnote referencing a scholarly article which attempts to analyze the film that is being referenced in the book written by the old man about the film! Its as dizzying and it is exhilarating.

The effect this has is one of self-consciousness;  you are unable to dissolve yourself into any one level of narration fully, and are therefore reminded of yourself *as the reader*; and so the structure of the book begins to structure the way that the reader relates to him/herself.

But fractured narrative aside, the quality of the literature itself is dazzling. Here are some snippets I especially enjoyed:

“…So I renewed my kisses with even greater enthusiasm, caressing and in turn devouring their dark lips, dark with wine and fleeting love, an ancient memory love had promised but finally never gave, until there were too many kisses to count or remember, and the memory of love proved not love at all and needed a replacement which our bodies found, and then the giggles subsided, and the laughter dimmed, and darkness enfolded all of us and we gave away our childhood for nothing and we died and condoms littered the floor and Christina threw up in the sink and Amber chuckled a little and kissed me a little more, but in a way that told me it was time to leave.”

and:

“When confronting the spatial disparity in the house, Karen set her mind on familiar things while Navidson went in search of a solution.  The children, however, just accepted it. They raced through the closet. They played in it. They inhabited it. They denied the paradox by swallowing it whole. Paradox, after all, is two irreconcilable truths. But children do not know the laws of the world well enough yet to fear the ramifications of the irreconcilable.  There are certainly no primal associations with spatial anomalies.”

So, not only is the book a dizzying, complex web of postmodern meta-narration (a story about a book about a film); its also a wonderful achievement of literary fiction; the prose often teetering on the edge of poetry.

This is not for the weak of heart/mind; or, as the book says on its first page, “This Book Is Not For You” (me?).

Hm.

Anarchism In The Context Of Today’s World

Being an anarchist, for me, does not mean that I think we can have, or even should have, a stateless society overnight, or in the near future. That wont happen.

What being an anarchist REALLY means for me is to be constantly surveying the political, social and economic landscape in search of all forms of hierarchy, power, authority, and injustice, and then systematically analyzing and critiquing those structures; forcing them to justify said hierarchy/power/authority, or be opposed in every way possible.

Those systems of hierarchy, authority, and power can be obvious, like in the case of governments or corporations, but they can also be more subtle, albeit just as dangerous, like in the case of patriarchy, institutional racism, homophobia/transphobia, etc. An anarchist opposes them all, and knows *exactly why* she/he opposes them.

Additionally, its our social duty, to whatever extent possible, to self-govern. This means making a concerted, daily effort to behave as morally as possible; to plant, in you own little sphere of influence, the seeds of a better world. A world of cooperation, solidarity, social responsibility, and love.

If you call yourself an anarchist, you better be trying everyday to do these things or what’s the point? Anarchism is not just wanting to “smash the state”; its much, much more than that. Its about developing yourself and your community, its about caring for your fellow human beings, its about opposing injustice anywhere and everywhere that it appears.

Ultimately, its about believing that a better world, a more just world, is possible, and then taking on the responsibility of trying to help build that world…