Has it really been that long since I’ve blogged? I’ve felt in a curious fog, so sorry. I know you were all anxiously awaiting my most recent post.
Here’s a dharma update. I’ve been a solitary practitioner (read: lazy) for quite a while. I make some midnight runs to drop food off at the local priory, and try to dispense the dharma appropriately whenever possible (read: be a condescending douchebag). Sometimes I feel the need to remind myself of the worldwide sangha, or just the local one. The lovely Eriq Nelson, hardcore meditator, was looking for a sangha too, and discovered that a chapter of Dharma Punx meets just down the street from our houses. Fuck yeah! So, we decided to go together.
The next day, I was walking back from the store with wife and daughter, and I looked off the sidewalk into a bush next to a fence. There was a seiza bench sitting there in the bush. Eh?!!??!
This one was weatherbeaten and covered in slug trails and spiders(read: AWESOME). So I took it. That’s karma, son. A guy decides to go meditate, finds a meditation bench in a bush… what’s he going to do? FUCKING SIT ON IT, POTSIE!
To kill this post before it gets too long, we did go to the meeting, and let’s say attendance was… scant. That’s okay. We’ll try again.
As far as the bench goes, it worked as advertised. Which is to say, my rusty-ass legs fell spectacularly asleep. You cultivate joriki real quick when trying not to fall over like an etherized gorilla during kinhin. I did get a nice little sky blue pillow at Ikea to sit on, but I think my bench needs punk rock stickers, or painted flames or something.
Well, I had started one of my next books and figured I would share the prologue. It’s going to be good. Anyway, enjoy, and there will be more soon.
1000 POINTS OF DEATH: PROLOGUE
There were then a thousand ways that a man could die, just by the secret techniques the Tears had come up with. That had always been the way, though nobody every thought about it. You were just terrified every time you drove your stage down the street and splashed mud on the stranger’s boots. You were inflicted with a creeping dread when you joined a friendly poker game with some muleskinner acquaintances at the saloon, and you could only really distract yourself by getting shitfaced. It was stressful in those wild times and it never could be explained away by poor hygiene or gold fever or superstition. The world worked differently back then- it was occult, truly. Hid things, like the Tears, who were larger than life but never even crested into the world’s gaze long enough to be turned into tall tales.
They were just rumors.
Like the one you had heard about a party of prospectors shot all to hell and gone by what the Marshals said was a pack of Red Indians- but you heard there was only a single bullet found on the scene, scraped down to just a nub like it had zipped through half a dozen skulls before coming to rest. Or the blonde dandy of a doctor Charlie said he’d ridden out to a remote box canyon. The doctor had carried red hot pistols in a locked box, Charlie said. Actual red hot pistols sitting there in a bed of gravel, and the doctor had gotten all dressed up in blacksmith’s gear and fired them off in the canyon. Six prospectors killed by some trick shooting? That you could write off, but a pair of pistols that erupted with streams of liquid fire too bright to hardly look at? Well…
Maybe the West was just too rough for you. You could have gone back to Boston, made good with Clary’s father and gotten your job at the butcher’s again. Instead, just as that perfect idea came through your thick mule-skinning skull, you had to get even smarter and get chatting with a real dude about how scared you were. That dude was real sharp in his black suit and slicked-down mustachio, and his mother-of-pearl buttons, and that dude was real interested in what you’d heard about.
The whisky had got your tongue moving, or was it the fear? The anticipation of telling the stage company where to take their Judas-kissing contract? You were positively giddy with it, and you told that dude all about the prospectors, and the blonde doctor, and the German with that strange scatter-gun, and more. Some of your skinner acquaintances tried to warn you, but the dude stared them down and just let you roll that noose up.
Finally you shut up. You’d said plenty. The dude seemed happy, though, and let you take the rest of the bottle. You bid him a hasty goodnight as you pushed your chair backwards and almost over.
It was normally right noisy this time of night, but out in the rutty street there was a strange hush. Not good. You shambled your way down to the livery to get your horse and leave this shitheap for good, before there was no more chance to go. But waiting for you at the door of the livery was the dude. He looked just as friendly leaning there against the doorframe, but even drunk as you were you could tell that was just a mask. That and the dull Colt Army that he gripped casually, not even bothering to aim it at you.
A boozy plea richocheted its way around your mind and almost reached your lips before the dude spoke up.
“There’s no love lost between me and my… rivals, Mr. Quinn. So while nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing them brought low in the jaws of the public, it’s not right for a loud-mouthed son-of-a-bitch such as yourself to be talking about The Tears.” He pointed the Colt at you and pulled the trigger, and you winced, but there was no report.
At first you thought it was a misfire. Then there was a buzzing from the barrel like a nest of goddamned hornets, and staring at the bleak little hole at the end, you saw the bullet shake its way out and float slowly across the intervening space. That’s when you ran.
“Take your time, Quinn, it’ll get you eventually,” the dude called after you. You turned for a moment, and that’s when you ran into the Chinaman.
At least he looked like a Chinaman- or was dressed like one, with railroad togs and a big coolie hat. Underneath that hat was a white face covered in ashes and grime, and some piercing gray eyes that locked onto your own for a moment. In a way they were more frightening than the genial menace of the dude. This man was Hell.
He pushed past you and you kept running, but turned long enough to see him running towards the dude, now with some God-forsaken Chinese sword drawn. He took a wide slash well out of range of the dude, who ducked anyway, and well he should have. The awning post he stood next to was sliced clean in two as if it hadn’t been there, and the overhang collapsed onto the dude. You didn’t stay to watch anymore. You could hear a hornet.
It got you eventually.
Yes, Joni fans, I drove back from northern Cali today and am exhausted. But Hissing always excites me as much as it does Stephen Street so despite exhaustion I am still feeling peppy. But, must go back to work tomorrow so I will force myself to sleep. Great things are in the works, great thinks as well, and the “Posthumous Works” is going to be wondrous. Rest well.
We’re going forward with a brave thing. When I wrote my novel 10 A BOOT STOMPING 20 A HUMAN FACE 3o GOTO 10, I inserted a character that I’ve used in a variety of unpublished work. His name is J. Sheridan Osborn, and along with his partner Adam Sentinel, they represented a mythological version of myself and my good friend, historian Philip Bickle, respectively.
It’s hard to do an author avatar, or author surrogate, or what have you- at least well. Garrett Cook can do it. Norman Mailer can do it. It was Mailer who convinced me that I could as well, and during that sturm-und-schreck 71 hours that I wrote the book, I found that the real trick, as those much more talented two had obviously learned, was to let your surrogate wear any closet skeletons like a hat.
To put it simply, J. Sheridan Osborn is me, but far more competent in a narrative capacity and only slightly more of a jerk. Which is to say, quite a bit of a jerk. But means well.
Along the way, a character makes the sole mention of one of Osborn’s works- The Metahermeneutics of Paralinguistic Qualia. Believe it or not, that accurately describes something that I am interested in, and I wanted the philosopher character to have written some sort of over-the-top wank that I might actually have done were I more infamous. Then I thought- maybe I’ll take a stab at Metahermeneutics. It would be a shame to give up on the characters of the book. In fact, I happen to like myself, even fictional versions that caricature my shortcomings.
That’s when I came up with the idea that maybe I should explore some of his other works. Or perhaps some other people should? I’ve been wanting to collaborate with a lot of people. Like Phil Bickle- Adam Sentinel himself. We’ve been talking about writing an ultraviolent historical novel forever. Most of the writers I know are just as busy with creative efforts and families and whatnot as I am, so it seemed unlikely that I’d be able to make all those collaborations happen. BOOM! Chocolate and peanut butter.
The buy-in so far has been great. Eriq Nelson is already working on his account of being dragged head first into a fictional character killing spree. Michael James Brown, better known as an agitator than author, jumped right in with a smooth understanding of his relationship with Osborn. Ed Morris, who is way more talented than I could ever hope to be, will be contributing something. Christy Leigh Stewart and I will be creating some sort of terrifying hypersigil with illustrations by Megan Hansen. Not to mention some great names like Jordan Krall, Matt Revert, Michael A. Rose, The Pueschel, Eckhard Gerdes, and William Pauley III.
I have high hopes for this project- it’s going to be a very different, rough beast. I’m going to start posting pieces and fragments here at Dharma Beatdown, and anyone can feel free to email me or leave comments with ideas.
Just saying hello. My DHARMA BEATDOWN site on Blogger has been long-neglected, so figured I would hop on with the rest of the cool-ish kids and try a wordpress since I am rejuvenating myself and waking up and all that midnite jazz.
What to expect? I don’t know. Video reviews from Cthulhu? “The Posthumous Writings of J. Sheridan Osborn”? Rinzai Zen shenanigans of all sorts? Who knows. Stick with me, take a look at my friends, it will all be well.
On my way in to work today, I came around a bend on the expressway and as I neared the traffic signal, I saw that a semi truck had laid on its brakes- hard, as it had arrived at the red light. There were long skidmarks and HUGE cloud of mephitic smoke. Lots of smoke.
As I pulled up alongside and stopped, I took a look at the cab of the truck. Guess who it belonged to?
You know, as a man of very modest intellectual powers, and as an artist, a disciple of philosophy, and lover of mental stimulation, I must confess to a certain desire. I want to argue. I want to debate, to exchange barbs and quips and bon mots, to engage in some mutual shit-talking or a healthy round of the Dozens. Unfortunately, like some jaded gourmand with limited restaurant choices at hand, or a libertine who can sense the inhibitions that lock every sweaty curve away from him, I realize that it is not easy to get what I want. Most people are not up to the task. They assume that the idea of conflict, of opposition, is a negative one, and in their shallow understanding, their fear, we see a crude mimicry of the graceful forms that aesthetic debate can be. The haters- these rude commentators- are like untaught martial artists angry that the master has effortlessly counted coup on them, now losing control and striking out to wound.
But just as these martial tyros end up on the floor, embarassed and unharmed, so the haters are going to get called out for their bullshit. I’ve tried to be nice, to make allowances for ignorance, but at this point it’s not helping anyone. These haters are absolute shitheads, and they’re not even good at it.
In Zen, we have a concept called ‘dharma combat.’ It is from this idea that I took the name of the blog. Simply explained, dharma combat is some combination of masters and senior students engaging in dialogue to test each others’ understanding and experience. Its nature is variable. The dialogue can run from cryptic to mundane, the language can be refined or scatological, and dharma combat can end in tears, laughter, frustration, or enlightenment. But as I have opined already, it is not for the rank novice. I’d like to take dharma combat as a model for modern oppositional discourse and critical response, with the idea that everyone can join in eventually and no whiny pee-pee pants get their feelings hurt.
Now, on to the good stuff.
In a previous post I critiqued, honestly, a local band. It turns out that they are good friends of my little brother’s, so I know I can’t be accused of cronyism. As can be easily read in the comments to that post, a representative of another local band responded in a rude and childish way to this criticism. The commentator was friends with the first band, and they play together, so I will call cronyism on her. My response was sharp, yet I tried to retain some humility and harmony, and I further went on to make a seperate post reviewing her band in an honest and actually flattering way. Make note- the important thing here is honesty, to yourself and the rest of the world. We’ll come back to that. The point is, I have been really good to these people.
So now that the ashes are cold, along comes some anonymous douchebag to have a go at me. I’m starting to feel like Gene Wilder’s character in “Blazing Saddles,” laying my guns down undefeated and then getting shot in the ass by some young punk. Let’s take his comment apart bit by bit, together, shall we.
Well, there’s your first red flag. If this douche had really wanted me to understand his points, or to initiate some sort of dialogue, he would’ve at least left some way for me to contact him, instead of hiding behind the Intarweb anonymity that so perfectly matches his mediocrity. At least use a fake name with a dump email attached. I’m sure Eazy-E had a PO Box for Dr. Dre to send letters to in between albums.
welcome to the northwest. it gets chilly so people put on a flannel.
First off, already in the Northwest. Been here 18 years and counting. Your point? And my point, with the flannel, was that it was obviously a fashion choice, and a poor one. It looked like crap, and IT WAS JULY. The opposite of chilly. I used to wear a suit and trenchcoat at gigs sometimes. That was silly. But there were gigs where we all wore hipwaders, or we all wore masonic robes. It was part of the overall aesthetic. People wondered what crazy shit these guys were going to have on. While the flannel might have matched the WIBG aesthetic, nobody told the bass player that. So I don’t see any consistency.
you attacking some guy for his body type/ appearance is pathetic.
Show me the attack. I reviewed the performance, which I liked overall, and talked about the parts of it that bothered me. That’s my prerogative. I am the one putting my opinion out there. Everyone has an opinion. Anyone can express it inarticulately over PBR with their hangers-on or in an anonymous web post. But to expose your opinion for every douchebag with an aggregator, and to do it in a consistent and philosophically honest way that leaves you open and vulnerable- that’s hard. One could easily say that the singer of WIBG doesn’t say anything bad about me, so why pick on him? Well, that’s kind of the point. He behaves in an extraordinary manner (getting on stage, using affected mannerisms), which takes courage, but if it had come off as being beneficial instead of detrimental to him and his band, I would have applauded him in an extraordinary manner instead of riffing on him in one. I don’t know the guy, there is nothing personal in it. And if he wants to check out my band and review it, he’s welcome to. I would hope that his criticism would display as much integrity and dedication as mine does. Criticism is egalitarian. Anyone can do it. It’s even easier these days, but we must set the bar higher.
and, judging by yr comment to ms hatkin, it seems like you need to ditch the ego bullshit
Well, you sir cannot judge by my comment because you clearly did not comprehend it. I don’t believe you read my followup post either. I assume by ‘ditching the ego bullshit’ you mean me talking about myself and what I’ve done. Well, you may recall, had you actually understood the things you read, that she challenged me with “WHO ARE YOU?” I did not take that as rhetorical. The rest of her comment seemed to indicate that I was not an artist myself, but a soulless critic lambasting other people out of feelings of inadequacy for being able to do what they do. I responded to that challenge. Not only is the field of criticism enriched by the experience of its practitioners, I feel that the sterotype of the cloistered, hateful critic is unfair. Do you want a realtor who’s never bought a house? A doctor who’s never been sick? Neither of those examples stay in business very long. Speaking in a strictly reductivist fashion, I believe that academic criticism that is uninformed by experience ends up as a fruitless discussion of qualia. Which sucks. Like you, Anonymous. Stop giving ‘ego’ a bad name. For better or worse, without ego there would be no human consciousness, and we don’t need to ditch the ego, simply reconcile it.
quit explaining how yr projects are more legit than ‘hipster’ trends and ahead of some imaginary cultural curve
Don’t put words in my mouth, motherfucker! If you’re going to come up with your own ill-informed meanings for my statements, then use your own ‘I’ statements. Don’t be a coward. And if you are going to be a coward, at least don’t be complete-ass wrong. My explanation of my own projects’ legitimacy is a response to Ms. Hatkin’s prejudicial attempt to discredit me. Her own statements about how hard it is to play her style of music in a town that loves it are incorrect, at best. If I am independent of ‘some imaginary cultural curve,’ not ahead of it as you say, then it only signals my freedom from faddishness and my ability to have a broader perspective. And someone in this dialogue definitely needs to have that.
go back to buddha for some enlightenment.
Oh, snap! This was what set it off for me. I have to wonder, since you are clearly so insensitive and intolerant, do you tell aboriginal people to “Go back where they came from?” Do you really want to go there? Atheism is a core doctrine of Zen Buddhism, and like pretty much everyone in the world I was born an atheist. Remaining one makes me one of the last officially persecuted minorities in this country. Is that what you want, to make religiously inflammatory comments without any clue of what you’re talking about? Again, you did not try to initiate a dialogue with me, but made a foolish drive-by comment without any sort of class or grace or wisdom. All this- the art, the learning, the critique, the philosophy, is part of my yearning towards enlightenment. I don’t need to go back to the Buddha for that.
And that’s that. Ignorant motherfuckers need to chill. Or, step up. And thanks to Louie CK for the title of the post. I’m not stealing your act, don’t kill me, man…