Manifest Young Scion Chapter 2

To a certain degree, I think people relate to each other as extensions of themselves. They see some of themselves in others and, depending on that, whether consciously or unconsciously, they decide who they like and who they don’t. Like the murder example. Maybe if the guy sympathizes with the murderer because he could see himself doing the same thing under slightly different circumstances. Maybe he believes that if he had turned out slightly different, he would’ve ended up that way. Your idea of the dark side is very interesting. Maybe it all depends on whether or not people can accept that part of themselves.– Kurt

Donald got the idea that Kurt didn’t really pity the murderers rotting in Walpole, but the kid could be too vague and oblique when he needed to get something off his chest. Donald just asked for help when those times hit him.

The scene was all right, as the kids said these days, or something like it. The Blond Commander passed Donald the blunt. They were the age when all comments alternative were worth stating frequently. Clinton was a brief memory, and their awareness came when Bush roamed the Earth. Everything was black, white, and grey. Weed was great, could be made into everything. The conspiracy was long and vast. Straight to the Top, all of them. Goddamn, this is 70 a slice shit. Donald killed his beer. Too weak. He needed Mr. Boston, the burn that thoughts are seared from. His gait was much too straight for his liking. The Cook had the correct bottle filled with red sugar and barely distilled grain liquor, the kind one couldn’t buy in this town. The three had fused their stashes, which seemed to be a milestone or bond of a kind. A co-op of the wasted sort.

Their dealer was having a shindig and the three thought it best to show face at that kind of event. A bazaar of illicit objects to be traded for gold, paper, or anything that could be fashioned into a value. The drugs are experiences to be shared; not products for market. A tip for the procurement of wonder was a simple gesture of gratitude.

“Shall we not dance?” spoke the Cook.

“To what?” said Donald.

“To drugs and the autumn wind.”

“Let’s kill this first” said the Blond Commander holding up the blunt. They had just crossed from Allston into Brookline at Harvard Ave.

They were at the border of Suburbia, where cops roam. In many ways, modern Boston was a sprawl similar to Los Angeles. The main urban center was Boston Proper with the various outlying liege urban centers: Allston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brighton, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, West Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Back Bay, and parts of Brookline (but not really). The T expanded into the suburbs of Watertown, Charlestown, Newton, Wellesley, Quincy, Malden, Everett. Real Green Day shit. Donald wished for Metropolis.

The Cook snuffed the roach and slid it into his cigarette case. He began to mimic a trumpet and snapped his fingers, swinging the music in his arms. The Blond Commander did his waltz. Donald hesitated. His main dance moves came from a wedding in 7th grade and his staple was the sprinkler. In the dark, he baltered in a desperate prayer for mystical release from the poetry of the ages. Donald’s companions nodded at Donald’s sincerity. The Men Without Hats never said one had to dance well as a requirement for friendship.

They straightened up as they passed into the burbs, their slouches gone and any sign of booze or drugs disappeared into their backpacks. No need to blow up the party host’s spot. The house was in its usual place. Inside there was a sea of beards and a haze of glitter. Donald regretted putting down the gasmask at the Surplus earlier. House parties never meet expectations, so the best escape from the Beirut table was the New Englander back porch. The smokers were the only people one needed to meet and the stillness of the street encouraged conversation. The Blond Commander and the Cook greeted the various tribes gathered before them. The Commander and Cook in turn were greeted as ambassadors of their wider circle, whose membership fluxed. The Blond Commander, the Cook, and Donald swerved their heads as their names were forced across the noise by drunken vocal chords rising to meet the challenge.

“Well isn’t it The Trio,” this greeting came from a sophomore whose original marijuana connection had the audacity to graduate the previous May and “The Trio” opened their contact lists on their cellphones as a sign of comradery.

During their short time at school, the Trio had become the anchors of a crew of nomads: The Lovers (Jan and Jim), the Metal Heads too stoned to find more of own their kind, a lost Sorority Sister, and a gallery of lazy artists. The Trio explored the wilds of Allston and Brookline for drugs to feed their motley flock. They were the public school kids. Outside The Trio their friends were private school kids who relied on second hand sources. They could afford the premium and the illusion of safety, drinking in dorms with dubstep blasting. Sure, Donald had that kind of cash too, but that wasn’t his kin’s way.

Donald preferred his Rackpack inside of which sat a 30 of Busch Light fresh from the cooler courtesy of his Irish brethren. Often they fled to the serene banks of the Charles to drink the evening away. Donald hated the feel of fluorescent light.

The Blond Commander huddled the crew.

“The Mentor is out back”

“Who?” said Donald repelling interlopers from breaking The Trio’s circle.

“Donald, she brought us to the lantern and showed us where the cops like to search at night,” said the Cook.

“She can introduce us to Peddlers,” said the Commander.

“Screw this song.”

“Fuck it, to the Porch”

The make shift dance floor in the living floor proved to be a difficult current to navigate; it was like moving through a spell, Black Tentacles flailing all around. Donald failed his social grace save as he moved through the crowd. He clutched the Rackpack as a buoy. The Cook shifted through the dancers and his phone was pickpocketed. The Cook shrugged.

Donald wondered how many new contacts would appear in the Cook’s phone. Donald doubted he’d have the same luck the girls took Donald’s Rugby shirt the wrong way.

A girl grabbed him from the depths of the dance floor. The call of Cthulhu.

She moved her mouth and Donald took the shapes of her lips to be her name, but the beats of Kanye West kept the words a mystery. The lightless living room kept her face a mystery.
Donald nodded and said “I’m Donald.” She nodded in return. Donald figured he could always extend his hey instead of calling her by her name if they had a second conversation.

“You play lacrosse, bro?” said the girl as she scanned Donald’s body, narrowing in on his rugby shirt and processing his being into the categories that built her world view.

“Haven’t touched a stick in years,” said Donald, the girl and he were not quite phreaking as their bodies attempted to groove, “I prefer to think of myself as The Boy who Lived, some people say I look like Harry Potter in this.”

Donald didn’t mention that the people, he spoke of, referred to his mother.

The girl pulled away for a moment.

Donald spun her around, so their eyes connected again.

“Don’t worry; I don’t think I’m a wizard. I just find clothes shopping painful,” said Donald.

“I find your fashion sense painful, perhaps we could help each other out,” said the Girl, she took Donald’s phone from his pocket.

While she clacked on his phone’s keypad, he eased his arm around her lower waist. She paused and nuzzled his neck and returned her focus to the phone.

The Cook waved Donald towards the backdoor, which Donald ignored.

“I think a friend of yours wants to talk to you,” the girl said as she exited the cave of a dance floor into the hallway where she joined a cluster of well-dressed girls.

Donald joined the Cook and padded his pocket, where he felt the bulk of his phone.

The Trio found the porch to be empty, but a trickle could be heard echoing in the dark.

“What do you guys do?” said Donald.

“Get high mostly” said the Blond Commander.

“Like Majorwise, I don’t think we’ve brought it up.”

“You might have blacked out that night. I roll the blunts, the Cook bakes, and you pack the bowls”

“I doubt we’ll read that on the diploma”

The Blond Commander shrugged.

“We’re all classicals,” said the Cook.

“What?”

“Classicals references our majors reside in the classic mediums. I’m in the playwriting program”, the Cook spoke as he passed around red cups, “the Commander is something of a painter/ sculpture. You scribble as well.”

“I guess.”

“Ha, this isn’t the kind of place to guess,” the Mentor appeared from the dark recesses of the yard, where the sounds of urination created a gentle ambiance for those outside.

The Blond Commander unslouched and shook the Mentor’s hand and a full round
of shakes and pounds and rocket ships began. She was a sophomore at Brahmin.

“Do people care about being a Classical? I mean movies have been pretty big for a hundred years now and I’d bet there are a few photographs in the Louvre,” spoke Donald.

“We screenwriters are still in the New Media catalog even after we got shifted into the College of Letters, post ‘Dances with Wolves’,” spoke the Mentor.

A blunt was lit. It was only proper.

“100 years ago, screenwriting was similar to tweeting. Even today, I feel it would be a scandal to see the Dean of Letters at a picture show. What do you write Donald?” said the Mentor.

“Short fiction anthologies mostly and critique. The standard philosophical essay as well,” said Donald.

“One would be in New York otherwise” spoke the Cook.

“Are you still guessing?” said the Mentor.

“I couldn’t imagine a stable career, so I figured creative writing was a safe choice,” said Donald.

“Ah, an honest rugby shirt! True to the Ivy slacker. Let us drink to disenchantment,” said the Mentor.

They chugged a beer. Donald finished last. He went for a piss in a room with a lock. The one in the kitchen had a working one. The walls oozed with a mix of lust, joy, fear, and desperation. Donald pushed his way through. One could wait too long on occasion.

The kitchen of the party is a good spot to veg if one didn’t wish to get sweat on. It was the well, where everyone must go for free booze and to piss. Stay long enough and you can get your chair on. It was simplest play setting of being a college socialite.

Of all the movie lines in all the medium, Donald couldn’t think of a better cliché when he saw the Ex sitting in a flimsy Ikea chair at an undersized kitchen table that was debating collapse. There was a firm grip on his Ex’s waist. It belonged to a sea green Mohawk. Donald grew one of his own sophomore year of high school. He shaved it off when all his friend’s parents thought it made him a queer and banned him from sleep overs. Good Old Catholic homophobia. Mohawk had the studs to prove his willingness to torment middle aged white citizens. Probably vegan too.

Donald found the bathroom down a short hallway off the kitchen and fortunately, the hall was away from where the Ex sat. The bathroom line was long as people group puked, snorted, fucked, and occasionally pissed. At least the lighting undersold its own existence. The hall’s light source was the kitchen as Donald progressed to the door, the details around him shifted into shadow. Donald needed the Cook’s moonshine jar that was a drink for reactions.

A face pressed against him.

“Don’t be sad.”

“I’m not, I just need to piss,” said Donald.

“Use the yard like a civilized person.”

“I get shy.”

“Yea?” said the face.

An alien hand slipped down Donald’s pants. He sent out an exploratory force with his hands. He needed to get an image of what he was working with. Donald began at the waist and confirmed this was the girl from the dance floor. The face smelled out something from Macy’s, the scent was a frequent visitor to Donald’s nose. He liked the scent; it reminded him of fond kisses past. She felt human, which at this moment was good enough. Substance could be discovered later.

Donald heard his zipper and looked up, they were in the yard. Dark enough that he still couldn’t see her face.

“I won’t look,” said the Girl.

“It doesn’t really matter”

It was a solid stream. Donald wanted soap, he always wanted soap. It was important to clean. The Unknown Face didn’t share his scruples or at least Mr. Boston didn’t. It was a shitty hand job, but then the hand job is inherently flawed. Jacking off was a celebration of self and self-love. Other people just get lost. Donald removed the hand and pressed their faces together as he zipped up.

“You get stoned?”

“Yea, but not when drinking. Gives me the spins.”

“Ever had moonshine?”

“No, I only drink Absolut.”

Donald lit a Winston. The Cook had them shipped from a friend down South. Fuckin’ legit. The Unknown Face reached for a long gone bag. Donald lit a second one. He managed to catch her smile, the kind of teeth that cost a second mortgage. He bet she had a sweet name. Why did he lose it on the dance floor?

“I’m Donald Guntherson.”

“Yea?”

“Yea, figured I should probably mention it again.”

She leaned into him.

“Dagny, again,” she smiled.

“Your dad a CEO?”

“How’d ya know”

“The Frats are a few streets over,” said the Mohawk.

“That isn’t a future MBA,” said Jess, the Ex.

The Ex was always civilized. The Mohawk turned to the side and pissed. His stream flurried and sputtered and raged.

“You might need to see someone about that,” said Donald

“I think I am.”

Donald figured there were about 20 decent paces between him and the porch. If he sprinted, he would just seem wasted trying to play red rover with the Mohawk and Jess.

“Guess we’ve been to the same Doctor.”

Donald knew that statement lead to sleepless nights and morning confessions.

“Fucker”, his Ex scratched Donald’s face, “Where’s your lacrosse stick?”

Donald glared through his cigarette and tossed the butt. He hated lacrosse; he hated the Ex for acting as if she didn’t know where his clothes came from and why he wore them.

The porch knew it was time to bounce and Dagny tagged along for safe measure.

Commonwealth Ave has great late night lighting and Dagny had a Rogue streak in her hair and looked like she probably didn’t dig her name right anyway. Who didn’t read Rand in high school anyway? If Donald asked for numbers, he’d probably ask for her’s.

In his room, the question wasn’t to add her on Facebook as Donald believed the number she added to his phone was real. He thought of his rugby shirt, the lack of image he had for himself. Was he a man without personality?

He dressed like a sportsman, danced like an amputee, drank like he was a writer even if he never made it to the keyboard.

Donald ran every morning after finishing the Globe and breakfast. Praise the 24 hour Catholic dining hall. Donald awoke sharply at 5 to begin and showered by 7:30. Daily eggs and bacon marred his reflection. A longer run would be needed. Catholicism, the religion where drunken confession was praised for its honesty on occasion. The New England October ranged from freezing rain to gentle winds. On the best days, there was the slight crisp that meant a light wool sweater to class. It was the crisp that foretold of the rich smoky haze of burning wood. The dew turned the grass slightly blue in the morning. His mother would be burning the beef covered in flour and chopping potatoes, carrots, and celery for stew. Who would accompany his family’s lab, Sol, in circling his mother making sweeps for morsels left behind or dropped? Was glutton the best descriptor of Donald? Was glutton even a social category?

He returned uncertain of where his opinions came from. From what source did he draw his “self”?

How could he discuss morality without an understanding of his own “I”?

He typed anyway.

Ok , I see the angle you’re looking at this from. So you’re saying that people relate to others through how they are connected to each other, rather than how they are separate. I agree with that statement, which is why people can get so passionate over a random stranger. It isn’t who the stranger is, but rather how the stranger is similar to the judge.

Donald

Day 145: Humans After Humanity

This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing. 
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
-E.C. Fiori

Day 104: Cormac McCarthy and A Nation of Peter Pans

There is a very American fear I used to have. It’s embarrassingly selfish and naive to admit, but I always had the creeping suspicion that I would miss my generational moment. Decade by decade, there seem to be cultural hubs in America, where the groundswell of the next cultural wave begins, to roll out across the country, until another starts to build somewhere else.

I never really knew how famous authors, directors, and public intellectuals seemed to be present in these moments. What happened to those who spent the late fifties in Portland instead of New York? Or the sixties in St. Louis instead of San Francisco?

Perhaps it’s a symptom of getting older, but I don’t really have that fear anymore. I was re-reading “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy last night (written off by a lot of fans as “movie fodder”, which I think is a shame because it is actually very experimental compared to his work both before and after).

In it the protagonist, Sheriff Bell, has small first person passages scattered throughout the book, reflecting on the state of the world he lives in. One quote in particular has stuck with me, and I’ve started to believe it’s connected to that old fear:

“Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growin up. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that you don’t grow up any faster than you have to.” (pg. 159)

I think this is especially applicable with my generation, “the millennials.” It’s hard to interact with any of them and not feel like we live in a nation of Peter Pans. As if a stubborn refusal to grow up will somehow keep looming, ice-age sized economic problems at bay. Part of the difficulty in any kind of massive movement based on these problems is that the young of the falling middle class are still able to leech off of those who have profited from it in the past. Young men and women can still lean on ever weakening family bonds for financial support.

And it’s okay right now. It seems like there is a lot of individual freedom- people can make money streaming video games, or blogging from vans, or go to grad school. But a decade from now, the national anxiety will really reach a fever pitch.

There will be a large movement, and I think it will spring from the millennial generation, when it finally sets in that things will not get better. When opportunities for job security turn out not to exist. When healthcare becomes an issue as we age. When the generation after us comes into the workforce, and we realize that there is no upward mobility anymore. The little projects and Netflix shows and cultural wars we busy ourselves will, with harsh suddenty, not matter.

I’ve started to believe that our reaction to that fact will be our lasting legacy- our cultural movement. It isn’t that we don’t have a place at the table: it’s that we are lead into a room where others are wildly hacking at the table so they can get a piece, and even as we get our hands on an axe or hammer, the top is gone, the legs are long pulled away, and all thats left are screws and dust and the echoes of labored breathing, cursing us for fools for being late to the party.

-Jack Delaney

Day 96: Charlie Kaufman and the Confidence of Genius: the Acceptance of the Absurd through Strenuous Realism and Stark Portrayals of the Human Condition

E.C. Fiori made a good point today about the value of criticism in the modern media saturated society. In light of this, I’ll attempt to demonstrate what that might look like.

*Art above by peterstrainshop

Since the turn of the century, there has been something of a trend in films that spans genre: the use of internal worlds as the physical setting for the film.

We’ve seen it be the setting for horror movies for years (confirming a theory of mine that horror almost always leads the way in terms of film trends, but it has at last made the jump to action, sci-fi, comedies, and dramas. Beyond the mere setting or plot device however, I’d like to focus on the Romantic Dramedy category, since they must trade in emotion and memory as is inherent to the genre.

I’ll begin with a declaration: Charlie Kaufman is a genius. Hyperbole? Maybe, but let me make my case.

Over the past ten years there have been two films, both celebrated, that attempt to show the entire course of a relationship through non-linear storytelling the way we remember our own. The first is 500 Days of Summer. The second, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

500 Days of Summer is, I believe, a great movie. It thrills in using every tool in the genre box to tell it’s story, switching from comedy, to drama, to musical, to documentary, to music video as it fits that moment in the relationship. When seeing it in the theater I was hooked right at the credits, and would be very proud if I was the writer of it.

But for me, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind excels beyond others. Today I’m going to focus on one aspect of it. And it springs, from the confidence of genius.

There is a scene, right in the beginning of the film, where Joel is giving Clementine a ride, and she is asking him if he is a stalker. He replies that she spoke to him first, and she comes back with this:

Clementine: “That’s the oldest trick in the stalker book”. Let’s pause.

As a writer, how would you have the conversation continue from here? Joel is extremely introverted and closed off. He is starting to like this girl, and the ball is in his court.

I can tell you what I would do: I would have a call back. I would have Joel say “Do they stock that at Barnes & Nobel?” which she mentioned she works at just a few minutes before. She would reply that it’s a bestseller, or she saw him buy it, and the snappy banter would continue.

Instead, Charlie Kaufman has Joel say this:

Joel: “I gotta read that one.”

For anyone who has written anything with dialogue, the temptation to skew towards the memorable or (potentially) quotable is almost irresistible. If you’re writing dialogue, chances are you love dialogue- why wouldn’t you have Joel say something that people are going to remember and want to say in their own lives?

He doesn’t have to be suave either, you can give Joel something in character to say that is much more dialogue driven: instead though, Charlie Kaufman gives him a punishingly boring line. It achingly boring, and almost a wasted opportunity.

Until you realize just how brilliant it really is.

The film is filled with moments like these, with people not knowing what to say, and fumbling with expressing how they feel. Your co-worker just admitted he stole a client’s underwear and is now dating her? Share an uncomfortable laugh. Protagonist is skeptically wondering about side effects of wiping the memories of failed relationships away? You could answer his question about brain damage with a scientific explanation about how all memories degrade in time and the process just focuses and accelerates it.

Instead, almost tenderly, Charlie Kaufman writes this line from the doctor: “Well, technically the process IS brain damage.” It isn’t some big corporation bent on destroying love, it’s a mom and pop private practice.

Why is this brilliant? For one, it makes the acceptance of the idea of memory wipes much more palatable. Any screenwriter can make up a sci-fi premise, but selling that premise as part of a real world and not a sci-fi one is nearly impossible. Kaufman makes it look natural.

And more importantly because at the end, at the cathartic moment where we see if love conquers all, we don’t get snappy one liners, or a voiceover, a neat resolution, or a call back. You get this:

Clementine: “You’ll find things wrong with me and I’ll get bored of you because that is what we do.”

Joel: “…okay.”

Clementine: “…okay.”

The script has been so well structured and woven together that this simple acceptance is like a grenade going off in our chests.

And if I was a genius, I wouldn’t have to resort to a simile. I could just tightly weave together a story about people, have every single one be familiar and raw, and end it all replaying a faded memory we’re suddenly so glad to have.
-Jack Delaney

Day 87: Spineless and Rotting

The Atlantic had a great piece of Google’s failed library today. It is a troubling read that really shows the serious cracks in modern society. 
As you may guess most of the books published are forgotten, not just because of quality (even Shakespeare has had periods out of favor). Google developed tech to scan masses of books in a way that freed them from their fragile woodpulp bodies. This in theory gave out of print, rare books a chance to be found. 
People sued as they are known to do and in the lawsuit an idea was born. As the ownership of many books was questionable. An entity would be created to manage the funds from any sale of a book in question. The money would fund research into ownership or if owner known be able to be claimed. 
People became upset again because Google would get money for footing the initial bill and maintain the book depository. Despite owners being able to set the price of their books, many claimed the ownerless ones should be free. Once again Leftists crushed a deal for a better future. Even though the plan had a clause to grant access to public and university libraries. It would have created a counter point to the monopoly Amazon has on digital books. 
Google is a monopoly in its own right controlling almost 50% of digital ad sales. Its name is literally the current slang to look something up. But this library wouldn’t have created a new arm for the monster rather the opposite. It would have been a version of the Rockefeller libraries that taught the greatest generation. 
Instead the opponents of the library wanted the government to pay for and manage the database. The same government shut down by partisan infighting. The same one sinking the middle class. The one that went nuclear over cabinet picks. The one that poisoned Flint. Thats the real problem with the left, the only solution is the government when the country was founded on the opposite. 
We live in an age where individuals or groups of non-state actors can connect and act in ways greater than any traditional government actor. While our democratic republic is well positioned to protect our rights from encroachment even from itself (checks and balances), it isn’t or designed to be the final word in our lives. We are free to be moral without its permission. Now I fear we may have lost an important innovation in saving literature.
-E.C. Fiori