My Cup of Coffee in the Majors

Is all networking the essence of success, that is,
better than working independently? Well, if your life is all dialed in with a bunch of highly paid celebrity superstars, such as I was in the early 1990s, with Major League Baseball, then you are in for a wild ride. Especially if they stupidly commit a near suicide with the baseball strike of 1994-1995, an experience officially ended with the court decision by now Supreme Courty Judge Sotomayor.
How was my cup of coffee with the majors? My answer begins with a description of a lavish boardroom in Scottsdale, Arizona, as a bunch of publishing entrepreneurs are celebrating the accomplishment a hard-won affiliation with Major League Properties, Inc.
We are all there, feeling like we had finally made the Bigs. The entire staff was sitting beside a long, magnificent table and I remember there was a big blowup on the
wall of a famous black and white photo of Babe Ruth saying goodbye to fans at
Yankee Stadium.
There I was, the managing editor of a new magazine, The Diamond, the
official history magazine of Major League Baseball. The Boys, my bosses, who
had given themselves all grand titles ---- VP this, executive of that, CEO of ad
infinitum ---- spoke in solemn and reverent terms about what it meant to get the
licensing for a product that would go out to every major league season ticket
The guy who hired me at The Diamond was Ron Bianchi. When I first entered
the finely adorned, wood-paneled offices of the controlled-circulation glossy magto-
be, there was no one in there but the Boys. Bianchi had tons of baseball
memorabilia on his desk and we talked about the greats of baseball literature.
Ring Lardner, Roger Angell, Thomas Bosworth -- the poetry of Donald Hall. It
was music to my ears.
Bianchi was an idea-a-minute guy. Nothing was too big or farfetched. A
dreamer who made people believe in his dreams. His father was some kind of
judge back East, and he once told us a story about he'd been a PR person for
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the Three Mile Island incident.
For more than a year he worked to get an interview with Fidel Castro about
his pitching career with the Washington Senators organization, and eventually
made all the connections to travel to Cuba for the meeting. But it never took
place. Bianchi's Cuban contact disappeared mysteriously while he was there,
and he was left stranded as he waited for "the call" to meet Castro. But it was a
great story when he got back. And as time wore on, Bianchi, who liked to put on
a kind of mafiaso demeanor, looked more and more like some Jeffersonian relic
with his blown-back, graying mane of hair.
Interestingly, he was the first guy to tell me about the Internet. I think it was
1992. He plopped a copy of Wired on my desk, a form to fill out from
Compuserve, and said, "This is the future, Bubby. This is where it's all going to
be at someday." I looked down at the stuff, placed on top of my pile of
manuscripts and proofs, and thought, Shit, one more thing I'm going to have to
take care of.
Anyway, if Bianchi had a nemesis in life in those days, it was Michael
Bernstein of Major League Properties in New York. Bernstein was some redheaded
piece of work, from the stories Bianchi told after trips to New York.
Bianchi described Bernstein as a demonic street-fighter, a cussing, cursing,
cynical, unhappy human being who quite probably wished he'd been able to pull
off The Diamond himself, rather than have us do it in the Netherlands of Arizona.
One of the biggest points of contention was this: Major League Properties had
right to review all of our content and advertising before we went to print.
This became a bigger and bigger problem. If the moguls of Major League
Baseball are notorious for their stupidity, imagine what their publicity and
licensing machine is like. Even though MLB allowed alcohol to be served at most,
if not all, major league ballparks, Properties wouldn't let us sell advertising to any of the beer companies. A huge loss for a magazine in need of paying revenue.
The restriction was so tight that if an advertiser didn't have a franchising license
from Major League Properties, or at least their seal of approval, we couldn't get
the ad. I'll never forget the day we landed a $300,000 contract for a long-term
two-page spread from a company that made leather jackets with classic baseball
images woven into them. We shuffled our pagination and planned out a whole six
months worth of stuff and everybody was on a real high for this big time
magazine startup. Our first big source of actual revenue.
But then, a few days later, Major League Properties told us we couldn't run
the ad campaign because the company had no official license to offer such
They reviewed our stories, too. We would fax our working drafts to Bernstein's
assistant (who I called "The Chimp.") She didn't seem to know much about
baseball and had certainly never played the game. But she had to read a lot of
our stuff because Bernstein, running his own baseball version of Pravda in New
York, didn't have much time for reading about Ty Cobb, Josh Gibson or the
I called her "The Chimp" because of that Disney film about the guy who taught
his chimpanzee to judge the quality of television shows. If the Chimp didn't clap,
well, it didn't run.
I talked this dean of baseball literature, Mark Harris, who wrote "Bang the
Drum Slowly," into writing an article for us. We sent it to Properties and they
objected to it, a story about the only man ever killed in the majors by a beanball.
"Too depressing," the Chimp said.
I sent it back to Harris for a rewrite, very apologetically. After all, who were we
to tell this literary dean of baseball that tragedy wasn't serviceable content at our
He re-wrote it, but later printed the original version, of course a much better
version, in an anthology of his writings.
We had a story about Babe Ruth, in fact a lot of stories about the Sultan of
Swing, and we could never get anything in about how he was a womanizer and
drunk and the first ubermensch of American sports. We were supposed to be an
authority on baseball history and we never once used the words "tobacco" or
"spitting" and you can bet the Babe's regular visits to the whorehouses of New
Orleans during spring training never made it into even one faxed document to
Major League Properties. Ty Cobb, the personification of evil in terms of
personality traits, was equally problematic. Never ran a story about old Ty,
especially not his high-flying spikes.
No, we kept all of that that visceral stuff that history is made of, heck, stuff that
good stories are made of, like tragedy and human frailty, out of The Diamond.
Bianchi had this story idea about an old Dodger pitcher who committed
suicide because of some kind of love triangle involving Ernest Hemingway, but
he never wrote the story because of our deal with MLBP. He just didn't want to
hear Bernstein howl, with that brackish New Yorker accent, from his offices to us
over the telephone speaker.
With advertising revenue limited due to our licensing deal, we were going,
going, deep, deep into the red. So Ron and the Boys -- the VPs this, execs that --
had to find inventive ways to keep the magazine funded until we could figure out
how this thing was supposed to pay for itself.
Didn't work, though.
They brought in some guy with ties to the Vatican, supposedly, to pull
together his investors. I remember there was talk about some guy named Abu,
who was going to rollover funding from Africa. Another guy had a heart attack
right before he was to provide venture capital. Or so we underlings were told. We
eventually found one main sugar daddy, Gordy Hormel, of the hot dog
conglomerate, but he eventually stopped sending checks with the onset of the
Major League Baseball Players Association strike of 1994.
The magazine closed after 9 issues, out of business with at least $5 million in
debts, probably more. Bianchi and the rest of The Boys never really recovered.
They were a considerable scandal in Scottsdale as the lawsuits started to pile up.
I guess the moral to the story is you have to be careful about the motivations
of your partners. They may not have your best interests in mind.
Bianchi never learned that lesson. He tried for years to get The Diamond back
up and running, and apparently he kept borrowing money from every stranger
and more nefarious sources. I used to put him on my resume as a reference.
Until last year, that is, when I found that he had been murdered, in a mob-style
hail of bullets. They found him full of holes in a forest near Payson, Arizona. I
imagine that just before he died, Bianchi was marveling at his life's story, how
someone might find a source for literature in his end.
Who killed him? Some former affiliate had just had enough. That's my guess.
Like I say, affiliates may not have your best interests at heart ...

An excerpt from "One Quarter Now, Once-Click Wars to Come," collected essays by Douglas McDaniel:


Seventy Two Hours as a Social Darwinist

To the sound of silent cyberpunk we go:

Spent seventy two hours as a social Darwinist
Gotta get ahead of you (Seventy two hours)
Seventy two hours as a Social Darwinist
Gotta get an edge over the loss,
vengeance is hip you know
Gotta get a handle on the guilt I miss
gotta get a multiple set a girlies to kiss
Spent seventy two hours as a social Darwinist
Gotta get over you (seventy two, seventy two, seventy two hours)
Seventy two fucking shitty hours as a Social Darwinist
As you tried to convince me of your Know Nothing bliss,
I let my eyes look away, if for just a minute (Seventy two, seventy two seventy
Being anti-social ain`t darlin little Darwin
You won`t like the feeling, your empty hand will be shaking (seventy two, seventy
Won`t like the smell as the whole world is quaking (seventy two, seventy two
seventy seventy seventy two)
On the third day I flew across the sky
rebuilt the temple of love, I did pray
Sure, I fell, makin` a heaven of hell,
and man O man let the bunker busters fly.
I ran for cover, O sweet Seventy Two (eyes of blue, eyes of blue)
After Seventy two hours as a social Darwinist
I ran for cover, looking for the way you look at me,
hoping and I`m praying to look up to you.
(Jaggedy Guitar riffs here)

Seventy hours as a social Darwinist
for just three days I forgot about you (seventy two, O, seventy two, yeah)
Seventy two hours of living from your hand to my fist
Seperate but equal, sure, gotta get a step on you.
Treated every living thing like my private little toy
Dreamin of the cosmos now, when I was just a boy
Wore your love like a glove but there was no joy
Gotta get around these blank walls, gotta get over you

Black Madonna

In the beginning was de word,
de talking drum & de invention of sword,
followed by de blood of de prophets,
and de blood of de best sanger.
He sang rael well. He was a rael good sanger.
The roll of daughter blues, of Martin Luther Jr. hues,
in France, ders de clues, de meaning & good news,
the ebb and the flow, de coming and de go.
Away from de ego, into our DNA soul.
Her graal is de Grail, since de sweet Sarah did sail.
She sang rael well. She was de rael sangraal.

In the Beginning
There Was a Word
from Our Sponsors

Welcome, O welcome
the many winged archetypes,
supple and black,
enfolded in milky white,
milky way white,
hanging in midair,
peering through
the portal, the slinky tube
of the time traveling
Dream Catcher wheel.
Help is on the way ...
Hooray. Hooray.
Help is on the way …
Hooray. Hooray.
For whom?
I cannot say.
They exist in the imperfect
Shapeless spaces unifying
Our oppositional own imperfect
Spaces. They resonate in
The ripples of the swimming
Pool light at moonlight,
And intimate choices
Made by man and volcano
Long ago.

Help is on the way …
Hooray. Hooray.
Help is on the way ..
As they wave, pleading,
Begging for business deals,
Moving closer to our dreams,
Tumbling through timeless
Synchronistic switches
That speak our name.
They twitch in the fierce
Firestorm of the Eve-bitten
Apple, and dance,
frightened and purple
Help is on the way,
They hope and pray:
Hooray. Hooray.
Their master, like ours,
Has up and gone away.


Lyrics for Son Mythville ...

Storms Across America

See the Madonna Disneyland
lean into the sea, casting a spell
of the deep as hailstones
ring white pins honed from Hawaii
and a tide of low pressure
rounds up upon the shore
of the Forty-Fifth parallel,
of the Forty Fifth Parallel
at the Forty Fifth parallel

And she sings ...

Rise, O rise, storms across America
Your plastic passions await you
as cars stream in from the Orient
and gas passes through your ports
of entry, pleased, as they are
from the total penetration
of the perfect plan

Star of India, our captains
catch colds in the bowlegged
polarities of warm seas
and freezing skies
The sun, well-timed,
is a clock-face ticking,
hidden from our view

America, may the tilted jet stream
blow a gale of goth up your nose
May the ocean rise and plaster
a new continent where truth
gets chased into the wind,
wakes the ghost dancers from
the Pacific to the Atlantic
before the living dead
can get out of bed

Shipwrecked sailors
found lost at sea
discovered homes
in their own faces,
in bindles of woody words
crushed to hand-length bits

After forty days of fire,
forty days of rain,
of the Forty-Fifth parallel,
of the Forty Fifth Paralell
at the Forty Fifth paralell

Glass Floats on the Beach

The sun goes up
and Mercury goes
into retrograde
as our satellite’s
telescopic echo fades
and techno-pop
becomes the sea
in which we wade
defuse the threat
with another tragic
mind blast

what a tree lacks,
the wind whispers;
and loving couples
strand tennis shoes
on the frosty morning shores
as missiles are clicked
into load in the underground
caverns of Iran

The camera’s eye
is just a catch
for this cuckoo cluck house,
our mourning latch
and what is least
is that which lasts
as buzzard gulls sift
through black morning trash
and I try to unlearn
this noisy cache
of highway moms
speeding by bullet blasts
and taxi driver Thanatoss plants
look like gods in camouflage pants

Glass floats on the beach,
it’s endless, at last!
The end is coming near
and it’s coming here fast
It’s time to drink
from the pirate’s flask
and toast a tune
to all of that glass,
to the sun, the sky,
the nuclear smash,
the currents, the past,
the pounding surf,
the manic search
for meaning and gas,
the molten glow,
the melting snow,
the rivers that run
through those who know ...

Glass floats on the beach,
the ebb is endless,
it’s here, at last

Ginsberg Rolls Over
(Katie Couric Scares the Shit Out of Me)

Saw a flower child
of a flower child
with a ring in her nose
house big as a cloud
Hanging from a cliff
like a prisoner in a noose
facing the wind,
rastling of the trash bin
behind the media megastore

Someday we all will be
forced to where some kind
ofr ridiculous head contraption
and now I can’t get to sleep anymore
and the country crooner
is a caged old bird now


And I think Orwell is right, always right
as Ginsberg rolls over
while the president goes on vacation
the world burns and seas swell
The world heard over your headset
is corporeal, corporal, and Operation
Wannabe Warlord is just a rush
for the kiddies in the suburbs
And those hay bales
in the hay barn won’t dry
mom and pop from American Gothic
have left their pitchforks to rust
and the country crooner
is a caged old bird now


And I think Orwell is right, alwaqys right
as Ginsberg rolls over
the president on vacation
the world burns and seas swell


And I think Orwell is right, alwaqys right
as Ginsberg rolls over
the president on vacation
the world burns and seas swell.

California Zephyr

Take the train. The mystery whistle
gives warning as a service
to each and hovel and burgh along the line.

Take the train. Shape your body
At a bad angle, to sleep with
One eye open,
a hand on your backpack:
Walk the aisle of the peaceful.
Tiptoe through the dead.

Take the train, but do not envy
The conductors in beautiful
blue caps, who tell tall tales
of DEA rousts, great rivers
frozen over,
whole cities rolling
alive into possibility.
Take the train, leave the attendant
regrets of lost love behind
with the voice of reason
that rules the iron-fisted
tracks of time, faith
and paper-thin legal fantasies
concerning the state
of our nation.

Take the train. Avoid the bad energy

of airports. Smoke in the smoking car.
Listen to long and endless movement
and look toward the Northern Lights.

Take the train, but just know
Charlie Vaughn, he’s just
a shape changer
in a checkered shirt.
The roust was real.

Take the train,
and he’ll confirm
The sun behind the sun.

Take the train, note the brown burned
empty water tank on its side,
feel the mystery rail move forward
again. The observation deck is a churchy
made-for-tv movie ... a transition space
of carpet and glass, frozen stiff,
the great white world,
grafting all tracks
within the context
of our mutual lost
and lonely selves.

Take. The. Train. The late
lifeline and link from Boston
to San Francisco, monk’s tea,
fuel-stained air, electricity humming
up ozone

from East to West.

Take the train,
But send it all back down the hill,
The anger, the fear, laments that fall
upon thine eyes.

Take the train, drilling through

a one-tracked meditation
on your soul’s cruelest capabilities.
Take the train, step off,
greasy, forbidden
and a little too real.

Hothouse Day

On a hothouse day
a solar storm on election day
electrifies a lake of fire
in the sky

The pattern: A tree,
maybe an off-ramp signage shadow,
with pecked And puckered knotty holes,
Where owls perch and eagles play.
I took that last quarter
To the phone booth ...

Oh, if not for so many lonely
And cynical Winnebegos
That drive, ceaselessly,
To bridge the great divide.

The real question isn’t
How to turn lead into gold,
But how to turn gold into soul.


I was walking toward the stone circle
overlooking the city of the mind
Leaning over to pick up seven stones
a bone collector, a creature of desire

Both good and evil are in full supply
evil can be found there
in endless supply
great good comes there
at lookout burial mound
overlooking the city
glowing silver town

There on the hill of seven white stones
where the heart will never be found
its made of flesh and cannot ever
be collected, as these bones groan
and so these old bones need flesh
Both good and evil are in full supply
And evil is available
in endless suplly
and great good comes
in endless supply

Both good and evil are in full supply
And evil is available
in endless supply
and great good comes
in endless supply

Out there on the hill of seven quartz white stones
where the heart will never be found
for its is made of flesh and cannot ever
be collected
and so these old bones need flesh


Get 'Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain,' a living novel by Douglas McDaniel:

Media Arts in War: Part Dos

The scene: In the imagination, but with combat boots on the soil, clearly, lugging the laptap across the land. Just out of lunch after getting my Chinese fortune cookie from this rough-up downtown takeout joint in Lowell, Massachusetts, too dumb to realize I was doing the historic Jack Kerouac tour in some crude way, since he was born and raised in this half-priced-on-everything, that is, everything turned into a pawn-shop-of-a-New England post-industrial town. Must have been nice when he was a boy.
I certainly don’t remember or have the cookie fortune now. Wish I did. Must have been a one-line bibliomancy both eternal and true. When I stumbled upon a commemorative site, a classic red-brick mill building river-walk territory of the National Park Service, or at least this part of town near the Merrimack River seemed to be, I stumbled upon the Jack Kerouac National Monument, or perhaps it was just a shrine, I couldn’t tell. It all seemed very official. Paid for. Some kind of Stonehenge. With big horizonal cement slabs in half circles, trees growing old and wise. Worthy of the full respect of everyone. It was late December, the year 2000. Bush had just been elected.
I’d gotten there how? By train out of Boston, I guess. I pulled a folded pouch of black, white, quite stained cloth from my backpack. I set it on a cement bench with various notebooks of poems and mental notes and lists, lots of them, indicating plans, big plans … a backpack carting the PC, a compass, business cards, collected media, small piles of books bought from garage sales and second-hand bookstores, since I tended to rove around, accumulating books by the cart like a wild Celt trying to save literature; a carved wooden “eagle” and, gotta have it, the Mythville logo, which is the image of a steer skull and the words Mythville.org, my brainchild just coming to being. An adaptation from a Georgia O’Keefe motif (traced it from a drawing myself … a red, white, black deathly image … when a friend saw it he said, “How unfortunate.”) But at that time, for myself, it said it all. Or so I thought. Really, the logo was just a “A premonition of anthrax,” I can now chuckle to myself, in the mythville of my mind, on how that logo was devised nine months before September 11, 2001, but only a couple of weeks, if that long, after December 13, 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all Floridian dimpled chads null and void. That’s the kind of humor you find now. The ironic kind. Laced with synchronicity. With saturnine subtext. Oh well, satire never plays fair, but self-satire is at least honest enough to keep it real. For the time being.
All we really knew back then, the witches of Essex and myself, was there was going to be some serious hell to pay. “Some serious action,” this bizarre historian landlord in Ipswich, who also claimed to be the makeup artist for Blue Man Group, would say after the World Trade Center Towers were taken down. Back then, in howling, painful plea for compassion, I was making frantic drawings of churches with rivers of blood running from the door, lightning in the background, Abrahms and Bradley tanks gunning up for assembly in the background; an anguished plea for my future ex … my thoughts being consumed by a mournful longing to restore order in my household, and therefore, my cracked-open heart. And the logo, the dot org, a network of one? What a gag! A serious non-prophet action, yes it is, yes it was.
Oh yeah, the scene, again: the Jack Kerouac shrine in Lowell, Massachusetts. Right by the river. Betwixt the satanic red-brick mills. The site is chosen now, for examination, because just eight years or so ago (as I write this), sometime after the so-called “election” of Dubya as national executioner, and just prior to the dawn of a century where the prophecied drowned “ceremony of innocence” was tossed about by a churning blood-blackened sea of “mere anarchy” and the authoritarian agents of chaos and predatory capitalism, that is, on January 1, 2001, I had accidentally found this place. Or, since there’s no such thing as an accident, it had found inconsolable me.
There I was, in a Chinese food restaurant in downtown Lowell, after coming out of the “T” station (Yes, I can see it, hear it now, the Dr. Sax sound echoing in my head, bobbing alone to some unstoppable radio relay in a personal musac running simlutaneous to all of the other racing thoughts), the Lowell railway terminal, right along with the “On the Road” mementoes … and me regularly lugging it all over to the city center because, hey, it was something Kerouac would do. To see a woman. A witch ... to have her … should have seen it coming …. That it was just a sea-salty neck to run to, a few wild nights of sex to kill the pain, a ghosty reflex to the sudden loss of love … I didn’t really have that thought, however, until I opened up my fortune cookie and realized, like I say: I was “On the Road” to Mythville, on the way to the so-called Blakean “Palace of Wisdom,” on the high end of a borderline charge down the cyber-human highway of excess.
Yes, yes, certainly, it was a road of excess ... I just loved to wander all over New England, by car, train or, at best, by foot, to let the thickety mysteries of the Hub, for this transplanted Arizonan, find me ... a mad attempt to run away from myself, my deep-felt sense of dread and disorder and outraged abandonment.
So then, from downtown Lowell, I just got up, and started walking toward the Mer O Wac bridge, toward the home of this earth woman, a graphic designer and co-conspirator who had agreed to create a logo for the self-publishing effort ... the mission ... she had long flaxen hair, long flaxen body … could it be an accident? Finding that place. Along the way, wham! A moment of complete synchronicity. I walk right up to the Kerouac shrine. Ker O Wac by the Mer O Wac. Never even knew there was such a thing. A veritable stonehenge for the New Journalism.
So now, the coffee is ready. Time for the imaginary press conference. The pouch, a pirate flag unfolded and draped over my shoulders, like a cape. An act of bizarre eccentricity worthy of a Lord Byron or Robert Bly. There are imaginary snickers all around, and I stand (the performance artist) on the cement benches there, part of the circuitous shrine, with big stone slabs circling me, each with bits of Kerouac’s writings, his poetry … imaginating a bunch of nobody listeners around me, listening to me, nobody, signifying nothing. I light up a cig, an Indian bidi, blowing out the smoke for effect. To make it worse, I stand on the center stool of the Kerouac shrine, and my voice begins to boom as the sound waves bounce around within this literary circle, standing on this sorcerer’s stump: “Click, clack, paddywhack, I just met Jack Kerou-oooooouuu-wack! Right along the Mer-O-Wack, the mighty Merrickmack,” and so on, with nobody around to listen in, nobody to say, “shut up” … or, “I knew Jack Kerouac, and you ain’t no Jack, Jack.” Those not in audience, the members of the nobody press, would’ve just whispered sour nothings and giggled, but with the acoustics, if the nobodies in the cowed media corps really had been there, could fail to hear the other: “What a piece of work! Standing on the shoulders of this giant, Kerouac! Indeed!”
I sat down. Belly-laughed at myself concaving into a slow rumble, then cruched down into a sitting ball to weep.


Where am I now, or that is, where do we go? Nowhere, so much, because at the end of it all, it exists in each and everyone’s mind. The Road, that is. Think of it like the impossible endless search for the Holy Grail, negotiating the storehouse of each person’s personal mythology, where all of their angels and demons live. It’s the shining city of light. A place the imagination (and therefore the soul) can go into infinite directions. Just on the edge of touch, but certainly not your mind. For some people, it’s a whole barnyard of beings and deities, gods and their avatars. To meet the Ethereans, perhaps, at first. To ask for their guidance … all quite within the literary tradition of summoning the muses … yes, yes ….

Start, click, go ...
Answer, click. go ...
A dark star, lacking
historical shape, summons
the swooning sun and cold,
diminished by Pluto,
like the ghosts who roam
our napping houses
and see us through
mannequin eyes and pass
through us in pixilated clouds
of moneyed seas
Born of the earth,
this failed and fabled space,
where darkened dreams
dare us through tubes
of digitized light,
and friendless faces,
quartered bodies,
serve as avatars
in our endless night ...
Ask me a question. Anything.
Play me with your games.
Answer me. Anything:
Demons, be loved!

There’s a code for this quest. Comes in handy. Comes from studying the cemented-over bricklands, the symmetries of it all, the way the old Freemasons even lined up the old North Shore lodges, leaving clues in the aging stone bridges crossing the river in Haverhill, Lowell, North Andover … Ah yes, code is law ... just follow the sun east to west, note the charted streets, the compass-like points of civilization. The passwords are being all handed out now, then, to all of the nobodies there … indeed, a reflex action to turbulating times. But this is no French cartogropher’s “Rex Deus,” Priory of Sion-style hoax to earn the crown of Paris. No indeed. The very use of kings and queens are beyond comprehension. Just like the Da Vinci code, too, but in this case it’s a real story of that search? Some of it perhaps. But it’s all a lost doggy story, too, really. A cautionary tale about how a borderline personality learned to surf eight years of George W. Bush II, yes, a borderline perp trying to find his own little lost doggy. Yes, yes … explains the pain … the loss, the endless searching .... the wars and so on … You do need to be able to work your machine to get to my machine and then download, or just fuck me, but more likely get either an e-book or print-on-demand book, or fuck’n’hell, just read my mind. It’s all tipping over now … pouring out. Feel the pain.
So the code is the computer, the ghost between the digits one and zero, and all of these digitized geeks, who like to read about wizards, the enviro digeratis, the online sorcerers, all of those not in the audience … except, perhaps, as, well, kind of personal pathway: The seekers on the road to superinformation? The search for a cure for information disease? Like Blake said, “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.”


The road could’ve begun, a ticket for a tricked up mule born then bought on the Smolak Farm in Andover, actually, when I had a long discussion about rabbits. Actually, books with “Sully,” as in author William Sullivan, who wrote numerous short, somewhat quirky, oddly sinister children’s books. It was the fall of 2000. Election day was looming. It was a beautiful day. Picking apples, wandering through the trees, picking a pumpkin with black-hair brunette Italian-American wife and my little girl. Talking of wolves and rabbits. The little lady bossing up in bouts of joyous Catholicism. Then I met “Sully” and saw what he was trying to do, and is still doing, writing fairy tales about rabbits and a whole barnyard of his own characters. I was the senior editor for Access Internet Magazine, with its 11 million readers weekly, another kind of content farm, and I suddenly realized the connection between the mythological constructs of William Blake and the hierarchical order of the online, and therefore, real world. Ah yes, the first notion of the online dissenter. And more than that, what it might mean for a self-publisher of numerous, smaller, shorter, more digestible reads. In other words, making e-books, William Blake-style. Some dumb idea, huh? In reality, it was just an excess burst of energy in addition to an overly channeled professional, high-paying workload running unchecked while under the influence of a shrink-prescribed dosage of Aderol, amphetamine salts, all leading, at the back end of a legal-speeding year of taking the stuff, culminating in a psychotic break. But for an adee-dee outpatient like me, it seemed to be an attractive option. I mean, they had pamphlets for the stuff all over the psychiatrist’s waiting room’s coffee table, right there with copies of Harper’s and The New Yorker and Scientific American, right?


The experiment in experiential literature all started, also, with a pirate flag. That is really the crux of the whole thing. That was my first logo. The Jolly Roger. A textbook version of the story was later published by conspiracy history author David Hatcher Childress, who theorized that when the Knights Templar were disbanded in 1307, their massive fleet, created for the purposes of patrolling the Mediterranean during the Crusades, dropped off the charts of the known world in 1307 from their sea-base at La Rochelle, taking their treasure with them. They were the first pirates to fly the Skull and Crossbones flag. Some fled to the new world, others marauded Vatican ships, still more moved on to Scotland, where their members joined up with the St. Clair family of Rosslyn, where they initiated the Scottish Rite as a secret society and planted the seeds for Freemasonry.
What kind of Peter Pan fantasies are we talking about here? Now? No, that’s right … I remember ... That medium was the message. The pirate flag was the crux of the whole thing, the Skull & Crossbones vibe back then. A kind of upgrade from the televised “X-Files” journey of the 1990s … the pirate flag … the crux … the whole thing. Oh well, maybe I really should backtrack? Provide even more back story before the Bush era even begins? When moving through a lot of the ephemeral stuff quickly, we are well advised to keep the mind still and the eyes sharp. The truth will fly right past you.
Okay, so there’s the election. I voted for Nader. Who knew? Then, this long period of a couple of weeks, then a month, then six weeks of nobody knowing who the hell is in charge anymore, right?
Then came a solar storm … A solar storm hit New England. I looked it up. Nobody believed me, except for a lady in a gas station pay counter near the freeway in Andover. A lake of fire in the sky, over Lawrence. I thought the whole place was ablaze with lightning. Yes, yes, that was the first day of forty days of fire that I can count, the forty days of rain …

Falling from the startled sky,
a ping pong ball hits a hardwood
floor. Sun-scorched groundlings look up
as they project their plans for vacillating
ports of thirsts and wolves plow
through woven bursts of hunger.

It goes like this:
Last night I realized
this tussle is bigger
than all of us, this war,
and everyone else, too.
The world does not need
saving. We need to save
each other.

In our storm of power,
The electrical charged-dens,
the humidity cave contracts,
pushing me out. My wall,
porous and impossible,
quakes into birth
in a bottomed-out boat
on awkward waters.

The world does not need
saving. We need to save
each other.

Penetrate me and you will fell
the timid tree of earthen polarity.
Open yourself and I will pour out
an endless river of myth
and information. I will become
that blank, vacant stone face
of the autocratic cowboy,
plugging the pipeline
with blood and tufts
of wool, terror and wonder.

We are the air between the clouds,
the unembellished force between you,
me, silent pulse in cell phone static,
tongues that lick, pendulous TV.

If I smoke, I will be like smoke,
and of smoke I will be ... Myth
and Turks, tongue and TV. Our vapor,
my steam, colorless and apt, cools
the firestorm of the big mistake.

But all politics aside, this thing
is bigger than you, bigger than me.
We are sick and sad and shuddering
tense toward all roads leading
to darkness within darkness.

This dark place, colorless and free.
This congenial mix of ebony leaf,
taurine, fear, cell phones,
ozone and TV …

The world does not need
saving. We need to save
each other. Lies and myth,
steel and money, cell phones
and tongues, ozone, Taurine and TV.

Look it up yourself, a freak solar storm hit New England, the whole earth, really, from that point, sometime between the election and December 13, 2000. Apparently, it was the end of a 13-year cycle of unusual solar activity. My theory is that it sent vibrations turbulatin’ on into the very core of the earth. I was certainly feeling them: After the Supreme Court had ruled to decide the election, I just broke loose. I wanted nothing to do with this country, or, any other. It was as if a bolt of lightning had briefly lit up every one of our institutions and revealed, for just one brief flash of X-ray, every one of our major institutions as faulty, frail and hopelessly corrupt. For me, looking at it from the dark, wintery, London-esque Mordor of Boston, one big, giant, monstrous … well … one big complete bogus ... Mythville. Not that there was much of an audience for this kind of publishing, or expression, or angst or call for action, through the blogs and so on … a specialized audience, indeed. Audience? At that point, I was just one guy with a blogger … A voice crying out in the wilderness …. Yeah sure, that’s what we all believe, but like the ancient Google myth, it’s really just endless pourings of pitchers of water into a crack in the earth, an attempt to cool off the planet, or heat it up, who knows, with words? … So, as my world was coming apart, and I was determined to break out of the system, especially creatively, in pursuit of this self-publishing, self-expressive dream, I decided I needed to network with like-minded people.
So, what I did was …. And really, trust me, I’m not this person anymore … I took the pirate flag, which I intended to give to my future-ex-father in law for Christmas, and I hung it out to flap in the breezes on the front porch, right out there to challenge the American flags, innocuous sailing flags, and so on … for whatever reason, people in New England all have flag mounts on their porches. I wanted to signify to anyone who might get the code: Panic! Panic! It’s time to take action. It’s time to be a pirate.
But action came from unexpected quarters: My wife threatened divorce , then followed through with those threats. My in-laws, Sicilian mob-style, tried to get me kicked out of our place there in North Andover. They called the cops. Stirred up the neighbors. Threatened to send thugs over to kick me out. Took the family car, a kind of wedding gift, away, leaving me wheeless, with me in it, dragging me out into the street after following me for a couple of blocks … the future ex-father-in law using a spare key-clicker to open the door after three people in their own vehicle followed me, pulled up behind me … dragging me out, pushing me around, threatening to beat me to threads if I didn’t leave town, leaving me on the street, alone, gasping, shaken … driving away with the broken-down family’s blue Ford Taurus, which had been loaded down with Christmas gifts … I ran to a nearby friend’s house to call the police, but they did nothing, absolutely nothing, as it all led to a confrontation in front of my house with police siding with future ex-brother in laws, a sister in law, and my future ex, too, who hadn’t been there for the original rousting, but all of them there, now trying to get me kick out of the apartment … I was a man at war …a Man-of War along the Mer-O-Whack … Once, when I had left the home, they snuck into the basement and pulled out all of the fuses, leaving the place completely dark. I guess they figured I would never be able to get the old place back up and running. In fact, I’m pretty damned good with matters electric. They called the landlord and said I was burning candles in the house and leaving wax all over the place, like some kind of creepy Vincent Price.
O sure, there were candles … Yes, but I only burned them at dusk, as a ritual before more writing and blogging and grieving and so on. I was in mourning, politicized: Look, I'm not saying I wasn’t getting a pretty weird ... approaching the borderline … yes, well past, already, by the time I … I was just expressing the anxiety and turbulance I was feeling all around me. For God's sake. It was the year 2000!
Since both misery and mystery love company, some pretty cool people got curious about what I was up to, and started to come over to the house. I’m sure this sudden new type of gathering in the neighborhood only served to stir things up even more. By this time, the North Andover police really wanted my ass in a sling. One cop, a long-timer macho kid, who lived as a townie all his life, came over, and asked me, after I smarted off about “search and seizure” and preserving the U.S. Constitution and some such lunacy, he asked me if I was a lawyer. I said “Yes, I went to Harvard law school.” It was true, the going over to Harvard part. What I didn’t say was it was only for one day to attend an Internet-related conference on MP3s and Napster. Anyway, I was obviously going head-to-head with the Gillette crate-packing mentality around there.
That’s when I really started to meet the witches of Essex county, too. They would come over, hang out. I would play loud music, loads of U2, the Tragically Hip, Radiohead, and try to describe what, exactly, was going wrong with me, trying to get me off medication I had been prescribed for my ADD … many of them were members of a group to quit prescribed medications of the Aderol sort and I was dying from the hebbie jebbies of cold turkey … and they’d get to play the healers …. People from a salon in North Andover. In fact we had designers, Webmasters, entrepeneurs, like-minded folk came over, too … but there was a strong New Age vibe …. This Reiki therapy trainee came over and practiced on us, for myself, something of a hallucinatory experience: I imaginated a merely multi-colored dragon as I closed my eyes and relaxed from the near-touch of Reiki-trained hands hovering over me. Was it Mesmer or was it Memorex, who cares? It was a real salon, Parisian style, and I was that cat Cagliostro. Or, at least one of them: the millenial metromystical man … a Prometheus, on the drugs, at least, who once saw too far and was by this time suffering painfully from the ill effects of time travel man. It only lasted for a short while, though, a few weeks at the most ... it was short-lived because I had decided to get out of there. The Sicilians around the corner, my former New England family fully militarized against me, were getting to be too much … I constantly felt I was being watched, followed, plotted against.
My whole plan was to end up in Telluride, Colorado, writing my wigged-out tales from my heart-home, anyway. So with so many problems for me in the neighborhood, my pending divorce, and all of the lousy bitterness and stupidity that entailed, I decided to leave, going back to my friends in the mountains of southwestern Colorado. From there, at about 9,000 feet in altitude, I launched the first incarnation of my brainchild, my Frankenstein, my personal obsession, this text, my message to you, dear reader … and Bush had just been elected … the dot-com bust just a few months away … Still nine months away from September 11.
Then, I lived in Telluride for a year, then came back to New England, living in Ipswich this time, in order to clear up legal stuff related to the divorce. But right as I moved back, this time to Ipswich, the attack on the Twin Towers changed everything. I was living in Concord, Massachusetts, home of the first “shot heard ‘round the world” on the day the towers came down in an apocalytpic cloud of dust and awe. All I can most clearly recall is the complete silence of the skies to the east, over Boston, where the hijackings had begun.
I moved to Haverhill because it was cheaper, times getting tough, setting up a small “metamedia” bookstore and art gallery right there on the street. And, of course, I always put my pirate flag out on the window to attract like-minded people and ward away the foul spirits, too. Artists. writers. Out-of-work programmers. scammers. sheer lunatics wandering that unwalled insane asylum called Haverhill. Perfect town for people with Peter Pan fantasies in their heads. Lot of Captain Hooks floating around up and down the main old downtown quad, home of Arichies’ Comix, Viet Nam war vets, most likely … up and down the street drinking beer and me bashing away on my laptop in the Irish bar downstairs. I loved that place. A writer’s place, that bar, for this message to you, dear reader.
Please keep on, see … I almost starved. Trying to sell e-books and print-on-demand poetry is not, exactly, the stuff of commerce you’ll no doubt find. You can only go so far with a pirate flag in your shop window, as well. But the public doesn't give a fuck about even the shadows flickering on the wall anymore, much less the secrets of the fire kept only by the Platonic allegorical philosopher King. So until they do, it’s to thine own self be true, with time still to hope everybody else eventually realizes the only actual political boundary, that of Gaia, is both rock, living and atmospheric in nature and moving, through space, on the moment at perilous speeds ... the road going onward … the little doggies as lost as ever … and the weather spinning madly about … pressurized within the undulating currents beneath the overheated earth …

I thank the sky lord
for clean water to drink


I thank Tom Clancy
for providing so much
damn PR for the military
industrial complex


And a special thank you, too,
to the clown in his flight suit
sky bombing us in his dreams
And a special fuck you to
the apocalypse for being
such a damn Good Book
and making it so hard
to get clean water
in Beiruit
and for the passing
of fluids through
his oh so cool
heliopadster suit

And thanks for a hole of hot sun
stretching toward the East,
causing a bubble that burns
little words into a diplomatic urn,
and thank the world
for what the devil would do

His imitation is your mastery

as the nations fold and unfold
and the bailiwicks bawl
about the rule of law

And thank you money for your energy
passing over the world like a green cloud
being and for hell being all filled up,
by the counting of your digits
Thanks a lot for my sanctuary box

Thanks, thanks a lot

An excerpt from Many Moons to Mythville,' collected road poems by Douglas McDaniel:


1,000 Points of Bin Laden

When George Bush Sr. was crowned president in the 1980s, he moved his office pens, pencils and stuff into the Oval Office to the sound of a pretty swell soundbyte. Remember: "One-thousand points of light."

It was a beautiful idea. One everybody in networked society could completely understand. The Reagan era capped off the tank with all of its trainees, a whole beehive of cronies, and so the only problem was with a nation of 250 million people was, hey, if you really looked at it, "One-thousand points of light" was still pretty elite company.

After a decade of gestures in the form of little wars in the 1980s, the Company launched us all on another 10 years of real big war in Iraq. True to form: It was a group effort. A small group, yes. But now, look and see, the 1,000 points are still in action. The Company, still intact.

But what we failed to avoid, or understand, in the rush to another large-scale compaign, was this: History was repeating itself. Not the first Bush era, but a whole `nother millennium.

Somewhere in one of Dubya's first speeches after Sept. 11, another unfortunate mantra sprung from the Company spin machine: A "crusade" against terrorism.

This was the problem.

Our language, our first media soundbyte to declare a war on terrorism, "crusade," only served to stir up a festering beehive. And just like the Popes of yore, the Christian world poured itself into the melee only to increase the feedback loops of incredible vengeance.

President Bush, our former national executioner, egged on by the 1,000 pointed hats, inspired a network of new lights on the other side of the world. Call them "One-thousand points of Bin Laden."

With news that if elected, the Bush administration will likely bring on the draft, one is haunted to remember the first Crusades. They were real disasters. Except, that is, for those who stood to make a profit from all the action. Like the pointed hats.

For example, if you are wondering if perhaps a land war in an arid nation on the other side of the world is wise, we could learn a few lessons in history. So, as a public service, I offer this excerpt from Piers Paul Read, who boiled down one such adventure in The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order in the History of the Crusades.

In 1185, according to the book (please forgive the sudden introduction of most of these names for the leaders of the Christian army, which had gathered in Jerusalem):

" ... King Guy (the Christian appointee for Jerusalem) ordered the army to march at dawn. Taking the northern route over the arid hills toward Tiberias, constantly harassed by Muslim archers, and soon debilitated by thirst, they reached the village of Lubiya. Here the King received a request from the Templars who brought up the rear, to stop for the night. Count Raymond, leading the vanguard, was aghast: 'Ah, Lord God, the war is over. We are dead men. The kingdom is finished.'

"The well at Lubiya was dry. The army camped on the waterless plateau known as the Horns of Hattin, overlooking the village of Hattin where Saladin's army awaited them. As the night progressed, the Muslims edged closer: any soldiers who went in search of water were caught and killed. The Muslims set fire to the scrub that covered the hill: the breeze carried the smoke into the Christian camp.

"At dawn, Saladin ordered the attack. Maddened by thirst, the heat and smoke, the Christian army tried to break through the Muslim phalanx to the lake. They were either killed or taken prisoner. Above them, the armoured knights repelled the repeated assaults of the Muslim Cavalry time and time again, but they too were weakened by thirst and each onslaught reduced their numbers. With his knights, Count Raymond charged against the Muslim phalanx which suddenly opened to let them through. Unable to return to the main body of the army, they fled to Tripoli.

"Behind them, the remaining knights formed a circle around the king, making numerous sorties against Saladin's men. With them was th e Bishop of Acre holding the precious relic of the True Cross. When he fell, the True Cross was taken. The battle was over. King Guy and those knights who remained alive now fell from exhaustion, not from the sword. The most eminent among them were led off captive to the tent of their conquerer, Saladin -- among them King Guy, his brother, Amalric, Reginald of Chatillon and young Humphrey of Toron. With the exquisite courtesy for which he was famed, Saladin offered the thirsty King a glass of rose-water, cooled with ice from the peak of Mount Hebron. After drinking from it, the King passed it to Reginald of Chatillon but before Reginald could slake his thirst, the glass was taken from him, the life of a captive who is given food or water is assured.

"Saladin now berated Reginald for all his iniquities and, again in obedience to Muhammad's teaching, offered him the choice of accepting Islam or death. Reginald laughed in his face, saying it was rather Saladin who should turn to Christ: 'If you believe in Him, you could avoid the punishment of eternal damnation which you should not doubt is prepared for you.' On hearing this, Saladin took up his scimitar and cut off Reginald's head."

Now, we could wax on and on about this eternal futility of trying to convert each other. We could wax on the irony of our current Pope lashing Bush for his own pointy-hatted war (oh well, he was always the reformer). We could argue on and on ... hell, we could fight it out for a century. But mostly, next, we should pursue the following point: The rest of the book on the Templars by Piers Paul Read is a bit of a disappointment. Worse than that, it's disheartening.

And it's more than his scepticism about the Grail Legends, and, whether or not the small cottage industry of "Da Vanci Code"-style historians have any true secrets to reveal.

For example, as he approaches his climax, he writes this beaut:

"A final verdict on the Templars must depend upon our judgement of Catholic Christianity, and in particular of it's long war against Islam, the crusades. By and large, the crusades -- like the Inquisition -- are perceived today to have been a bad thing."

His point being that at least by launching centuries of warfare on a foreign foe, the powers of medieval Europe were able to stimulate their economy, and, keep the riff raff from duking it out on their own shores. The processes of Western civilization were served pretty well by it, despite all of the bloodshed.

But what do we expect from a man who wrote "Alive!," the best-selling book about plane-crash victims in the Andes turning to canibalism to survive? The end justifies the means: One of the first civic lessons you learn in grade school about Republicanism.

So yes, even if the trickle-down effect begins with the Pointy Hats of Light, there's an inherent fallacy because Republicanism is planetary feudalism. In its national self-interest, it lacks a global perspective. Sure, pour the bucks into the war effort, from Halliburton to every defense gadget now drawn up to the Department of Homeland Security. As Robert Penn Warren often repeated in his imitation of the southern political boss Huey Long, "All the King's Men": "It takes a lot of manure to make the grass green."

Sure, that's the real world. War is generally good for a stalled capitalist monarchy. It certainly keeps eyes away from problems at home. But, to borrow from another planetary Liberal, Canadian singer/songwriter, from his song, "Nicaragua": "Sandino of the shining dream ... who stood up to the U.S. Marines."

The final point being, the U.S. Government has unleashed a whole new generation of people who delight in the idea that they, too, can dream the dream of Saladin. Who cares if we ever get that relic chunk of the True Cross back? That antique is way too costly, in the long run. When the Company got another four years of power, we became instituted for at least a century of global sectarian conflict. In fact, it may already be too late. "One-Thousand Points of Bin Laden" is a hell of a price to pay for a piece of wood.


Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?

Editor's Note: I found this old post on one of my original blogs going back about 10 years, but I always liked this writer. And so, I share this with you ... DLM

By Thomas Pynchon
The New York Times Book Review

As if being 1984 weren't enough, it's also the 25th anniversary this year of C. P. Snow's famous Rede lecture, "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution," notable for its warning that intellectual life in the West was becoming polarized into "literary" and "scientific" factions, each doomed not to understand or appreciate the other. The lecture was originally meant to address such matters as curriculum reform in the age of Sputnik and the role of technology in the development of what would soon be known as the third world. But it was the two-culture formulation that got people's attention. In fact it kicked up an amazing row in its day. To some already simplified points, further reductions were made, provoking certain remarks, name-calling, even intemperate rejoinders, giving the whole affair, though attenuated by the mists of time, a distinctly cranky look.

Today nobody could get away with making such a distinction. Since 1959, we have come to live among flows of data more vast than anything the world has seen. Demystification is the order of our day, all the cats are jumping out of all the bags and even beginning to mingle. We immediately suspect ego insecurity in people who may still try to hide behind the jargon of a specialty or pretend to some data base forever "beyond" the reach of a layman. Anybody with the time, literacy, and access fee can get together with just about any piece of specialized knowledge s/he may need. So, to that extent, the two-cultures quarrel can no longer be sustained. As a visit to any local library or magazine rack will easily confirm, there are now so many more than two cultures that the problem has really become how to find the time to read anything outside one's own specialty.

What has persisted, after a long quarter century, is the element of human character. C. P. Snow, with the reflexes of a novelist after all, sought to identify not only two kinds of education but also two kinds of personality. Fragmentary echoes of old disputes, of unforgotten offense taken in the course of a long-ago high-table chitchat, may have helped form the subtext for Snow's immoderate, and thus celebrated, assertion, "If we forget the scientific culture, then the rest of intellectuals have never tried, wanted, or been able to understand the Industrial Revolution." Such "intellectuals," for the most part "literary," were supposed by Lord Snow, to be "natural Luddites."

Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it's hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn't sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, "people who read and think." Being called a Luddite is another matter. It brings up questions such as, Is there something about reading and thinking that would cause or predispose a person to turn Luddite? Is It O.K. to be a Luddite? And come to think of it, what is a Luddite, anyway?

Historically, Luddites flourished In Britain from about 1811 to 1816. They were bands of men, organized, masked, anonymous, whose object was to destroy machinery used mostly in the textile industry. They swore allegiance not to any British king but to their own King Ludd. It Isn't clear whether they called themselves Luddites, although they were so termed by both friends and enemies. C.P. Snow's use of the word was clearly polemical, wishing to imply an irrational fear and hatred of science and technology. Luddites had, in this view, come to be imagined as the counter-revolutionaries of that "Industrial Revolution" which their modern versions have "never tried, wanted, or been able to understand."

But the Industrial Revolution was not, like the American and French Revolutions of about the same period, a violent struggle with a beginning, middle and end. It was smoother, less conclusive, more like an accelerated passage in a long evolution. The phrase was first popularized a hundred years ago by the historian Arnold Toynbee, and has had its share of revisionist attention, lately in the July 1984 Scientific American. Here, in "Medieval Roots of the Industrial Revolution," Terry S. Reynolds suggests that the early role of the steam engine (1765) may have been overdramatized. Far from being revolutionary, much of the machinery that steam was coming to drive had already long been in place, having in fact been driven by water power since the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, the idea of a technosocial "revolution," in which the same people came out on top as in France and America, has proven of use to many over the years, not least to those who, like C. P. Snow, have thought that in "Luddite" they have discovered a way to call those with whom they disagree both politically reactionary and anti-capitalist at the same time.

But the Oxford English Dictionary has an interesting tale to tell. In 1779, in a village somewhere in Leicestershire, one Ned Lud broke into a house and "in a fit of insane rage" destroyed two machines used for knitting hosiery. Word got around. Soon, whenever a stocking-frame was found sabotaged -- this had been going on, sez the Encyclopedia Britannica, since about 1710 -- folks would respond with the catch phrase "Lud must have been here." By the time his name was taken up by the frame-breakers of 1812, historical Ned Lud was well absorbed into the more or less sarcastic nickname "King (or Captain) Ludd," and was now all mystery, resonance and dark fun: a more-than-human presence, out in the night, roaming the hosiery districts of England, possessed by a single comic shtick -- every time he spots a stocking-frame he goes crazy and proceeds to trash it.

But it's important to remember that the target even of the original assault of l779, like many machines of the Industrial Revolution, was not a new piece of technology. The stocking-frame had been around since 1589, when, according to the folklore, it was invented by the Rev. William Lee, out of pure meanness. Seems that Lee was in love with a young woman who was more interested in her knitting than in him. He'd show up at her place. "Sorry, Rev, got some knitting." "What, again?" After a while, unable to deal with this kind of rejection, Lee, not, like Ned Lud, in any fit of insane rage, but let's imagine logically and coolly, vowed to invent a machine that would make the hand-knitting of hosiery obsolete, and so he did. According to the encyclopedia, the jilted cleric's frame "was so perfect in its conception that it continued to be the only mechanical means of knitting for hundreds of years."

Now, given that kind of time span, it's just not easy to think of Ned Lud as a technophobic crazy. No doubt what people admired and mythologized him for was the vigor and single-mindedness of his assault. But the words "fit of insane rage" are third-hand and at least 68 years after the event. And Ned Lud's anger was not directed at the machines, not exactly. I like to think of it more as the controlled, martial-arts type anger of the dedicated Badass.

There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he Is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect.

The knitting machines which provoked the first Luddite disturbances had been putting people out of work for well over two centuries. Everybody saw this happening -- it became part of daily life. They also saw the machines coming more and more to be the property of men who did not work, only owned and hired. It took no German philosopher, then or later, to point out what this did, had been doing, to wages and jobs. Public feeling about the machines could never have been simple unreasoning horror, but likely something more complex: the love/hate that grows up between humans and machinery -- especially when it's been around for a while -- not to mention serious resentment toward at least two multiplications of effect that were seen as unfair and threatening. One was the concentration of capital that each machine represented, and the other was the ability of each machine to put a certain number of humans out of work -- to be "worth" that many human souls. What gave King Ludd his special Bad charisma, took him from local hero to nationwide public enemy, was that he went up against these amplified, multiplied, more than human opponents and prevailed. When times are hard, and we feel at the mercy of forces many times more powerful, don't we, in seeking some equalizer, turn, if only in imagination, in wish, to the Badass -- the djinn, the golem, the hulk, the superhero -- who will resist what otherwise would overwhelm us? Of course, the real or secular frame-bashing was still being done by everyday folks, trade unionists ahead of their time, using the night, and their own solidarity and discipline, to achieve their multiplications of effect.

It was open-eyed class war. The movement had its Parliamentary allies, among them Lord Byron, whose maiden speech in the House of Lords in 1812 compassionately argued against a bill proposing, among other repressive measures, to make frame-breaking punishable by death. "Are you not near the Luddites?" he wrote from Venice to Thomas Moore. "By the Lord! if there's a row, but I'll be among ye! How go on the weavers -- the breakers of frames -- the Lutherans of politics -- the reformers?" He includes an "amiable chanson," which proves to be a Luddite hymn so inflammatory that it wasn't published until after the poet's death. The letter is dated December 1816: Byron had spent the summer previous in Switzerland, cooped up for a while in the Villa Diodati with the Shelleys, watching the rain come down, while they all told each other ghost stories. By that December, as it happened, Mary Shelley was working on Chapter Four of her novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

If there were such a genre as the Luddite novel, this one, warning of what can happen when technology, and those who practice it, get out of hand, would be the first and among the best. Victor Frankenstein's creature also, surely, qualifies as a major literary Badass. "I resolved. . . ," Victor tells us, "to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionately large," which takes care of Big. The story of how he got to be so Bad is the heart of the novel, sheltered innermost: told to Victor in the first person by the creature himself, then nested inside of Victor's own narrative, which is nested in its turn in the letters of the arctic explorer Robert Walton. However much of Frankenstein's longevity is owing to the undersung genius James Whale, who translated it to film, it remains today more than well worth reading, for all the reasons we read novels, as well as for the much more limited question of its Luddite value: that is, for its attempt, through literary means which are nocturnal and deal in disguise, to deny the machine.

Look, for example, at Victor's account of how he assembles and animates his creature. He must, of course, be a little vague about the details, but we're left with a procedure that seems to include surgery, electricity (though nothing like Whale's galvanic extravaganzas), chemistry, even, from dark hints about Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus, the still recently discredited form of magic known as alchemy. What is clear, though, despite the commonly depicted Bolt Through the Neck, is that neither the method nor the creature that results is mechanical.

This is one of several interesting similarities between Frankenstein and an earlier tale of the Bad and Big, The Castle of Otranto (1765), by Horace Walpole, usually regarded as the first Gothic novel. For one thing, both authors, in presenting their books to the public, used voices not their own. Mary Shelley's preface was written by her husband, Percy, who was pretending to be her. Not till 15 years later did she write an introduction to Frankenstein in her own voice. Walpole, on the other hand, gave his book an entire made-up publishing history, claiming it was a translation from medieval Italian. Only in his preface to the second edition did he admit authorship.

The novels are also of strikingly similar nocturnal origin: both resulted from episodes of lucid dreaming. Mary Shelley, that ghost-story summer in Geneva, trying to get to sleep one midnight, suddenly beheld the creature being brought to life, the images arising in her mind "with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie." Walpole had been awakened from a dream, "of which, all I could remember was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle ... and that on the uppermost bannister of a great stair-case I saw a gigantic hand in armour."

In Walpole's novel, this hand shows up as the hand of Alfonso the Good, former Prince of Otranto and, despite his epithet, the castle's resident Badass. Alfonso, like Frankenstein's creature, is assembled from pieces -- sable-plumed helmet, foot, leg, sword, all of them, like the hand, quite oversized -- which fall from the sky or just materialize here and there about the castle grounds, relentless as Freud's slow return of the repressed. The activating agencies, again like those in Frankenstein, are non-mechanical. The final assembly of "the form of Alfonso, dilated to an immense magnitude," is achieved through supernatural means: a family curse, and the intercession of Otranto's patron saint.

The craze for Gothic fiction after The Castle of Otranto was grounded, I suspect, in deep and religious yearnings for that earlier mythic time which had come to be known as the Age of Miracles. In ways more and less literal, folks in the 18th century believed that once upon a time all kinds of things had been possible which were no longer so. Giants, dragons, spells. The laws of nature had not been so strictly formulated back then. What had once been true working magic had, by the Age of Reason, degenerated into mere machinery. Blake's dark Satanic mills represented an old magic that, like Satan, had fallen from grace. As religion was being more and more secularized into Deism and nonbelief, the abiding human hunger for evidence of God and afterlife, for salvation -- bodily resurrection, if possible -- remained. The Methodist movement and the American Great Awakening were only two sectors on a broad front of resistance to the Age of Reason, a front which included Radicalism and Freemasonry as well as Luddites and the Gothic novel. Each in its way expressed the same profound unwillingness to give up elements of faith, however "irrational," to an emerging technopolitical order that might or might not know what it was doing. "Gothic" became code for "medieval," and that has remained code for "miraculous," on through Pre-Raphaelites, turn-of-the-century tarot cards, space opera in the pulps and comics, down to Star Wars and contemporary tales of sword and sorcery.

To insist on the miraculous is to deny to the machine at least some of its claims on us, to assert the limited wish that living things, earthly and otherwise, may on occasion become Bad and Big enough to take part in transcendent doings. By this theory, for example, King Kong (?-1933) becomes your classic Luddite saint. The final dialogue in the movie, you recall, goes, "Well, the airplanes got him." "No. . . it was Beauty killed the Beast." In which we again encounter the same Snovian Disjunction, only different, between the human and the technological.

But if we do insist upon fictional violations of the laws of nature -- of space, time, thermodynamics, and the big one, mortality itself -- then we risk being judged by the literary mainstream as Insufficiently Serious. Being serious about these matters is one way that adults have traditionally defined themselves against the confidently immortal children they must deal with. Looking back on Frankenstein, which she wrote when she was 19, Mary Shelley said, "I have affection for it, for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words which found no true echo in my heart." The Gothic attitude in general, because it used images of death and ghostly survival toward no more responsible end than special effects and cheap thrills, was judged not Serious enough and confined to its own part of town. It is not the only neighborhood in the great City of Literature so, let us say, closely defined. In westerns, the good people always win. In romance novels, love conquers all. In whodunits, murder, being a pretext for a logical puzzle, is hardly ever an irrational act. In science fiction, where entire worlds may be generated from simple sets of axioms, the constraints of our own everyday world are routinely transcended. In each of these cases we know better. We say, "But the world isn't like that." These genres, by insisting on what is contrary to fact, fail to be Serious enough, and so they get redlined under the label "escapist fare."

This is especially unfortunate in the case of science fiction, in which the decade after Hiroshima saw one of the most remarkable flowerings of literary talent and, quite often, genius, in our history. It was just as important as the Beat movement going on at the same time, certainly more important than mainstream fiction, which with only a few exceptions had been paralyzed by the political climate of the cold war and McCarthy years. Besides being a nearly ideal synthesis of the Two Cultures, science fiction also happens to have been one of the principal refuges, in our time, for those of Luddite persuasion.

By 1945, the factory system -- which, more than any piece of machinery, was the real and major result of the Industrial Revolution -- had been extended to include the Manhattan Project, the German long-range rocket program and the death camps, such as Auschwitz. It has taken no major gift of prophecy to see how these three curves of development might plausibly converge, and before too long. Since Hiroshima, we have watched nuclear weapons multiply out of control, and delivery systems acquire, for global purposes, unlimited range and accuracy. An unblinking acceptance of a holocaust running to seven- and eight-figure body counts has become -- among those who, particularly since 1980, have been guiding our military policies -- conventional wisdom.

To people who were writing science fiction in the 50's, none of this was much of a surprise, though modern Luddite imaginations have yet to come up with any countercritter Bad and Big enough, even in the most irresponsible of fictions, to begin to compare with what would happen in a nuclear war. So, in the science fiction of the Atomic Age and the cold war, we see the Luddite impulse to deny the machine taking a different direction. The hardware angle got de-emphasized in favor of more humanistic concerns -- exotic cultural evolutions and social scenarios, paradoxes and games with space/time, wild philosophical questions -- most of it sharing, as the critical literature has amply discussed, a definition of "human" as particularly distinguished from "machine." Like their earlier counterparts, 20th-century Luddites looked back yearningly to another age -- curiously, the same Age of Reason which had forced the first Luddites into nostalgia for the Age of Miracles.

But we now live, we are told, in the Computer Age. What is the outlook for Luddite sensibility? Will mainframes attract the same hostile attention as knitting frames once did? I really doubt it. Writers of all descriptions are stampeding to buy word processors. Machines have already become so user-friendly that even the most unreconstructed of Luddites can be charmed into laying down the old sledgehammer and stroking a few keys instead. Beyond this seems to be a growing consensus that knowledge really is power, that there is a pretty straightforward conversion between money and information, and that somehow, if the logistics can be worked out, miracles may yet be possible. If this is so, Luddites may at last have come to stand on common ground with their Snovian adversaries, the cheerful army of technocrats who were supposed to have the "future in their bones." It may be only a new form of the perennial Luddite ambivalence about machines, or it may be that the deepest Luddite hope of miracle has now come to reside in the computer's ability to get the right data to those whom the data will do the most good. With the proper deployment of budget and computer time, we will cure cancer, save ourselves from nuclear extinction, grow food for everybody, detoxify the results of industrial greed gone berserk -- realize all the wistful pipe dreams of our days.

The word "Luddite" continues to be applied with contempt to anyone with doubts about technology, especially the nuclear kind. Luddites today are no longer faced with human factory owners and vulnerable machines. As well-known President and unintentional Luddite D.D. Eisenhower prophesied when he left office, there is now a permanent power establishment of admirals, generals and corporate CEO's, up against whom us average poor bastards are completely outclassed, although Ike didn't put it quite that way. We are all supposed to keep tranquil and allow it to go on, even though, because of the data revolution, it becomes every day less possible to fool any of the people any of the time.

If our world survives, the next great challenge to watch out for will come -- you heard it here first -- when the curves of research and development in artificial intelligence, molecular biology and robotics all converge. Oboy. It will be amazing and unpredictable, and even the biggest of brass, let us devoutly hope, are going to be caught flat-footed. It is certainly something for all good Luddites to look forward to if, God willing, we should live so long. Meantime, as Americans, we can take comfort, however minimal and cold, from Lord Byron's mischievously improvised song, in which he, like other observers of the time, saw clear identification between the first Luddites and our own revolutionary origins. It begins:

As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd!

New York Times Book Review, 1984

From Spermatikos


What Would Water Do?

The water would run to work,
but turn, gone amok at the work corner,
toward the One-O-One
to drink a red eye and puff a smoke
in the early morning Ra

The water would pick up
trash along the way
but wait for more force
to finish the job

The water would arrive
on time and unplanned,
feeling out each empty
bottomland space
since every handmade
space is disorganized

The water would percolate
in the apocalyptic heat,
catch the wind
and go fly a kite

The water would commit
murderous rage and recede,
unpleased, unsatisfied,
moving on the moon

~ Lincoln City, Oregon

Disparate de Miedo (Folly of Fear)

Mr. Death hangs over
as they tumble.
Time will get them.
But not today.
Senore rises
in an angel's robe,
Aretha Franklin
singin' praises,
man with a sword,
face sketched
in a tree.
Wind blowing to the West.
Away from destiny,
which is too easy
to deny.

~ Telluride, Colorado

Disparate Feminino (Feminine Folly)

Spreading the blanket
like a firemen's net,
six women in jest
with two male jugglers.
Dancing in delight,
each long-dressed lass
has a different opinion
on the topic.
The jugglers,
they've got it so lucky,
all those women working
to make them happy.
But note: in the net,
the husk of a dead donkey,
Goya's coy brush with death
hanging in the air.
If Autumn came any earlier
there would be a counselor,
a policeman,
& tax collector
at the door.

~ Telluride, Colorado

Bedford Toll Plaza

And the more I drive up
The interstate, the more the evidence
of love gets pissed away into the snow.
Pee free or die,
So the state flag Of New Hampshire
May one day say.
The pattern runs hot
And steam runs loose
From a new day's snow
On a hothouse day
In which a solar storm
Would electrify A lake of fire
In the sky
The pattern: A tree,
maybe an off-ramp signage shadow,
with pecked And puckered knotty holes,
Where owls perch and eagles play.
I took that last quarter
To the phone booth ...
Oh, if not for so many lonely
And cynical Winnebegos
That drive, ceaselessly,
To bridge the great divide.
The real question isn't
How to turn lead into gold,
But how to turn gold into soul.

~ Bedford, New Hampshire

~ From "The Kachina's Son," by Douglas McDaniel


Media Arts in War, Part Uno: A reflection for the Fourth of July

What has happened to artistic expression since Sept. 11 as it’s transmitted through any kind of media (or anyone claiming to be a medium), from the political satire of "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show" to the mega-bombastic sequel to the classic post-apocalyptic thriller in any theater near you. To the episodes of “Survivor.” To every creative impulse that every tried to be a light in the darkness; to all those media images that are flowing through us now: How do we respond? How do we deal creatively with our own struggle to find the appropriate voice? How do we know the right thing to say, when we see death, so much death? He do we contend with what David Byrne of the Talking Heads once anticipated in “Life During Wartime”:

“Ain’t got no speakers
Ain’t got no headphones,
Ain’t got no music to play.”

After many knee-jerk reactions to Sept. 11, including a slew of benefit performances
by rock stars and actors, there was a shaky sense of assurance. After an alleged victory over the Taliban, followed by their resurgence, Americans crawled out of the foxholes and flooded back into the malls, then the floods and economic crisis of late 2008 flooded right back out. Nevertheless, Sunday’s gladiatorial epic, otherwise known as the NFL, stormed right on through from Super Bowl to Super Bowl. Like a country immune to war, then, not so immune. A country dotted like a push pin map of the Stars and Stripes remains as a menacing reminder of who we have become ... and then the election of 2008 ... as if every now and then the electorate feels guilty for its leadership and responds.
For several years, anything that strays from a patriotic vision was likely to be, with the force of a fully diligent flight crew, wrestled to the ground and whisked away: A terrible beauty was born. But where does it stand now?


Seth Butler, out of a concern for air pollution on North Shore of Massachusetts and a need to burn film for a photo essay for a class at Montserrat College, loaded a roll of film and fired.
He pointed his weapon, a truth-telling device, at the churned and weathered brown spires of the Salem Power Plant. Since photos never lie, or, at least, a picture beats a thousand words, he figured in some small way the images might flesh out of the mystery and wonder of the place. He thought the suspected poisons made possible on a daily basis by the plant might be explicated by his pictorial essay, and through this kind of truth we might all be saved from this inconvenience, or, at least, that we might all enjoy some breathtaking pictures of the alleged poisoning taking place.
In fact, such satanic mills have been fodder for artists since William Blake. In fact, power plants and factories will always be great targets for interesting photos. Especially now. Technological wonders perched on American shores will always make great targets. For artists. And for terrorists.
Which, for Seth Butler, age 22, of Vermont, became part of the problem.
After Sept. 11, as a he snapped on the lens and took in the fall New England air, he looked at the monumental smokestacks, trying to see what the relationship was between himself, the lens and the world at war----not so much the brother-against-brother battle, but man-against-nature war.
“I was just struggling with how to deal with it,” he says.


If the medium is the message, then the date, Sept. 11, is the portal where we pour all of our pain, and then, put it on display. The message is our mantra, our artistic Alamo. Lest we forget, every shark-eyed cub reporter tooling around the town halls of Salem, Beverly, Gloucester and Marblehead has felt a nearly subconscious duty to post that date, Sept. 11, at least once or twice, like staples into the newsprint, glossy or cheap, of whatever passes for local media.
One reporter, well after the attacks, typed “Sept. 11” in four times within the text of an article that had absolutely nothing to do with the war or terror, real or imaginary.
(Well, actually, even in some tangential way, it was hard to fail to find some way the war against terror might apply to each and every thing we did in a daily lives, from trips to the mall to articles written under intense deadline.)
Plagued by nightmares before a pilgrimage to Ground Zero in New York City, the writer provided repeated semi-accidental advertising for our national numeral of
mourning, anger and fear, for all of the shell-shocked sensibilities, destructive or creative, which launched our nation into a heightened state of awareness (whatever that means) on Sept. 11. To write Sept. 11 in copy, in short, became our patriotic duty as muckrackers and documentarians for our times.
For example, so far this chapter has used the date five times. The date, Sept. 11 (OK, that’s six) flows like water, like shorthand, or better yet, a link to the streaming media of shock, horror, and yes, nationalistic fervor, our personal bond to (what it believes to be) justice and (unbelievable) vengeance. By expressing oneself in this way, in times of mass hypnotic states of hysteria, war, famine and scary bad TV, we discover the most constructive choice in terms of reacting to the world around us.
I mean, why send a missile when maybe a simple e-mail note or a Hallmark card would do? “Hey,” we write, “Remember Sept. 11, and get well soon.”


As they say, the medium (Or, the media) is the message. So is writing the date, Sept. 11 (seven). On posters, stamps, newspaper supplements, whatever we can get our hands on.
But what is the most appropriate way to express oneself on the big blank page of life during a time of national trauma, and yes, tight security? The Urizen archons of control, the warlords and the convergent media paradigms, are all in sync with the Union at War.
What if you are a dissenter? A pacifist? With dark skin? Maybe even a Canadian. Or worse, an Islamic art dealer who needs to take a plane to Paris?
A Hub taxi driver?
A Quaker who just woke up one day, and, feeling his or her oats, decided they had
something to say?
A photographer on the North Shore of Massachusetts who pointing and firing near
some power plant smokestacks?
Better think twice. First figure out if it’s naughty, or, nice. Think twice before you click.
But then the reversal came true, especially after the release of "Fahrenheit 911" before the election of 2004. Slowly and surely, as the war became less popular, a whole new sense of media emerged.


Seth Butler, age 22, photography student at Montserrat, isn’t an idiot. As a cub photojournalist he knew that when firing off snapshots of satanic mills in Salem during wartime, it’s best to let the most immediately available authority in on what you are up to.
“I went up to the police officer out front of the plant, gave them three IDs, and warned them that I was shooting photos for a project,” he says.
Butler thought he’d received permission, at that point, since he was on public property, to start firing away with his telephoto lens. The guard at the gate said sure, whatever.
“But then this guy pulls up,” a security guard, he says. “I just wanted to do my work. They told me I had to leave.”


The bombardment of the global media, crashing all day, all night upon the New England shores, lighting up the giant video screens of Times-Square (still standing) and the pubs of London (last time checked), and yes, your living room, became overwhelming. Our sense of freedom and free expression, in every aspect of our daily lives, from Paris to Portsmouth, became critically impacted. Especially so for those of us in the curious position of being at the seacoast front of a new kind of war when the media buzzword, as in “terror,” is the message, and the enemy could be just about anyone.
“Since Sept. 11, as a photographer,” says Ron DiRito, a teacher at Montserrat whose specialty is art and media and its context and meaning in society, “I don’t think they understand what it’s like for us. I think the rest of the country doesn’t have the same kind of …,” he pauses, looking for ways to explain how it feels to be at the front of this new war, then, completing the thought: “ Everybody in New York understands it better than other people in the country. The physical distance changes our perception of something. There is this overwhelming sensibility.
“We have learned to tolerate each other better, but on the other hand, there is that thing going on, you don’t know who to suspect. This is still relatively trying to be
understood. I don’t think we have processed it culturally and socially.”
But, once it did, America's appetite for violence in the media soared ...


“They watched me leave and get back into my car,” says Seth Butler, spurned photojournalist after being unable to capture very much of any possible dangers,
through photographic realism, of the alleged poisoning of the sky at the Salem power plant.
As he moved on into an intersection, at a speed of 15 miles per hour, the legal limit, a white pickup truck sped in front of Butler’s vehicle and slammed on the brakes. “He must of have going thirty five when he went by me and stopped,” he says.
“This cop says, ‘Some people want to talk to you.’ ”
Another police car pulled up, and then another. The local arm of the security state was coming down on Seth Butler, age 22, of Vermont, like something out of a
Raymond Chandler novel.
“A large black SUV with tinted windows pulled up next. I kept my hands in clear view,” he said. “I had the film …,” he laughed nervously, visibly shaken, as he spread photos of American flag imagery upon a table in the media lab basement at Montserrat.
“I was in possession,” he admits, “of concealed film.”


For all practical intents, seemingly, the latest CD by Madonna was for several years rendered not so much obscene but most certainly oblique. On the surface level (which really the only level you can really make money in the entertainment business) it’s a commercial question. What were audiences looking for?
Perhaps everyone had seen enough. Time, though, has proven just the opposite, as the apocalyptic thriller jumps out of the horror box into its own category virtually demanding Oscar consideration. The sentiment immediatel after the attacks exploded so cinematically onto the real world’s stage. But things have changed. While it was hard to know what to feel, at first, the natural inclination toward unity, even for writers, artists and performers, who are often malcontents and social renegades, even they seemed to join up and salute to the brave new paradigm: grieve now, kick ass later. Trhen kick ass, on screen, bigger and bigger.
Oh sure, there was that initial sense that pyrotechnic violence on theater and television screens was a thing of the past. But that was naive, it has been proven.
“A lot of people had the same impression, that it seemed like Hollywood, not the real thing,” said David Goss, director of fine arts at Gordon College, of the terrorizing video of the Sept. 11 attacks. Prior to the terrible events of that day, and the subsequent season of terror that followed and continues to this day, the main concern for the planners of fall concerts, for example, might be quality, recognition, publicity, recognition, ticket sales, recognition, who might get top billing, and oh yeah, recognition. But now, everything has changed.
“People are feeling uneasy about what they once considered to be so exciting,”
Goss said.
But that's all different now. You can rate films in terms of tonnage of TNT now.


My first night in Ipswich was Sept. 18, 2001, and it revealed something … at least in terms of the ripple effects (tidal wave, actually, in hardy Ipswich sea-shanty talk) of the post-Sept. 11 realization. I was feeling world weary. So much moving from town to town. I just wanted to be an old tree, not a burned out leaf in the crosswind of global or civil war. All the same, on that day, Sept. 18, I was feeling thankful for having found some shelter in the storm.
More out of accident than a sense of patriotism, I wore my blue Ralph Lauren, “Polo Jeans Company, RL,” baseball cap, which features stripes, but no stars, because Mr. Lauren is the only star to be allowed on this particular head-based insignia. I was a human billboard for Ralph Lauren, patriot … even if most people only recognized my tribal signifier: red, white and blue.
I had a beat up used copy of Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” in my back pocket, as well as a childlike curiosity about this strange town called Ipswich. Down the street I went, toward the town center, a babe in the woods beneath a dusky sky of implied imaginary terror.


Was the media really ready to fess up, since Osama-style violence is only the copycat caricature of three, hmmm, maybe four late ’80s get-the-terrorist films, two of those starring Bruce Willis, who can walk on the White House lawn, most likely, any day of the week without an invitation. Are post-Sept. 11 tastes no longer able to stomach the video violence?
Yeah, right.
You only need to consider the many years conditioning, that is, what’s required to stomach a totalitarian storm of Christmas-season escapes into Star Wars, hobbits and pre-teenage detective wizards, Monsters, Inc., The Sopranos and on into the phantasm we go ... The Christmas of 2008 it became another of a long line of films with furies frames of evermore destruction. In the global mythic village, the plastic monsters and war toys are as real, within the own scale, as anything you can find in the jumbled up world. Just another mask for our national fascination with violence, which is still, quite surely, anything but satiated.
While the purpose of art has not changed, the art of re-purposing myth towards the designs of the machine are more than ever apparent. But money machines, still, easy to come by, for some, are less easy for others. Starving artists included. So then, the big money still wins. The purpose of mass entertainment (as opposed to art), taking its Dec. 7 queue from the way the film industry rallied to the cause in the 1940s, now becomes a mouthpiece for that very same machine.
And it’s only beginning: Coming to a theater near you – a lock-step, achy breaky heart sort of thing, with a plastic Bill Murray doll for the marketing tie-in. It’s a pull-upyour-bootstraps at the boot-camp sorta flick. With real napalm, and, real renegades to storm the unsafe gates of the Republic.


Just then, it happened: a spontaneous moment of humanity. A grizzled old man walked toward me. Small towns such as Ipswich, especially those that have made peace with nature, require us to say hello. It’s the decent thing to do. But a week after Sept. 11 everyone was being decent to one another. A crying of our lot in each and every eye.
But this time my fellow pedestrian and I appeared to be on a collision course. The man just came right up to me, took my hand and shook it, saying, “God bless you,
I was taken aback. Maybe giggled out of a sense of surprise. I figured he saw my cap and was thanking me for my heroism. Yes, Ipswich is a friendly little place, but connections like these, random acts of humanity, were taking place all over the country.
For the first time in a long time we noticed each other, realizing we all had something – loss – to share.


As Boston political satirist Jimmy Tingle put it, in a post-Sept. 11 performance at the Wingate Street Micro Theatre in Haverhill, Massachusetss, “everything has
As part of the performance, serious even for a satirist in less apocalyptic climes, he read from a poem he had written in reaction to Sept. 11, “911: Prayer for America.”

There’s a hole in the tip of Manhattan
A hole in the soul of America
A hole in the center of our psyche
A hole in the foundation of our confidence
There’s a hole in the faith of our country
That fills churches in search of our God
There’s a crack in the national mirror
empty chairs around the family table
dark houses of our missing neighbors
Vacant desks of our absent workers
On our streets,
There's a wail from the widows with candles
sobs from the orphaned with pictures
the face breaks on the lawyer of the dead women’s husband
flags and flowers for the public servants
There’s a hole in the soul of America
Afraid with the televised pictures
Numb with the morning papers
Grieving for the land they loved
Grieving for the land they lost
Grieving for the innocent victims
Grieving for the broken families
Grieving for the friends still weeping
Grieving for the ones who fight fire
Grieving for the ones who fight crime
Grieving for the volunteers by the thousands
Grieving for the City that never Sleeps
Grieving for the City on a Hill
There’s a hole in the soul of Humanity
And I pray for all of our leaders
Good people and well intentioned
Condemned to retaliation,
Doomed to retribution
Sentenced to seek revenge


It happened again in the local café. Strangers meeting eye to eye, recognizing the shock and the grief and pain. We all had good radar for it, at least until Thanksgiving.
We were awakened out of our complacency, if for just a few weeks, months or years, 10 depending on your sensitivity to such things as alcohol, Duncan Donuts coffee or intensive psychotherapy.
Times such as these bring out the best, and also the worst. It has always been that way. In 1916, a small contingent of Irish patriots (today we might call them terrorists), took over a post office and ended up dying in a martyrdom of British bullets and fire.
The poet, W.B. Yeats, reflecting on the shock waves the event created in Irish society, wrote the following: “All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.”
America became terrible beauty, then the bloom came off the thorny rose bush ...


After his 45-minute roust, Seth Butler, spurned photojournalist, put his Greenpeace passions aside over the Salem power plant, and started taking photographs of American flags. But rather than puffing up his frames with a patriotic fervor, his eye seemed to be finding something else. An irony. A horror. A beauty. A terror. And more than anything else, a sense of alienation.
“For the first time in my life, I was feeling like a stranger in my own country,” he said. “They basically insulted me. They asked me why I wasn’t in Vermont (which is where his family lives). I was being very open about the whole thing. I was being very civil about the whole thing.
“I’m trying to deal with an event, a problem, over air quality, carcinogens, a serious matter. I ended up being shut down. I tried to work from farther away, and ended up trying to look at it in different contexts.
“But never did I think that I was going to run into the FBI as a college student.
“This was history. I didn’t want to give up. Somebody needs to be working, recording. It doesn’t stop, and I’m not going to either.”
Of the flag photo project, a follow up to his season of hope, terror, frustration, whatever, Butler has decided to call the series “Tattered.”
A terrible beauty was born.


During those fall nights and days in Ipswich, I worked the late-night copy desk at The Salem Evening News. More than anything else, I remember the horrible anxiety I felt each time the 10 p.m. news came on in the newsroom. It got to the point where I was afraid to look over my shoulder and at the television. But still, I got all of the sound. Each night, the local anchorpersons would gleefully report the day’s horrors, the new death count for the September 11 attacks, and, of course, handy health tips for the best way to deal with the anthrax threat.
One night I decided to ask another copy editor, who also lived in Ipswich, about the “God bless you” guy. He told me a story that I did not expect.
He said the man was a kind of local loony. Somewhere along the line the man, who had been a boxer but decent civil servant, lost his marbles. Something to do with a divorce. Figures.
In fact, he had been coming up to people in Ipswich and blessing them for years.
This stunned me. My impression, as first impressions often are, was incorrect. The “God bless you” guy’s greeting to me was just another day in the life of Ipswich. It had nothing to do at all with the sudden wash of compassion and kindness in American life.
He was always like that.
It was then that I realized this: While everything has indeed since Sept. 11 has changed, the biggest change of all, the one that I couldn’t detect, was within me. So, let me just say this: God bless you all, brothers. A terrible beauty, reborn, faded and then became, what?

An excerpt from 'Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain,' a living novel by Douglas McDaniel