Woodstock is a Bird

Mud.

Music.

Bad acid.

The blueprint for every Grateful Dead Phish tour ever?

The dress rehearsal to Alatamont?

A bunch of histrionic nonsense that doesn’t merit our attention?

The birth cry of our post-modern Return of the Primitive?

Or maybe it was just a thing that happened, and meant something to someone, and got pictures taken of it, and despite all the insanity got remembered as a grandness. Compared to Fyre Festival, it at least happened.

And sure, I was pretty unimpressed with the nostalgia for it when it was 20 years old. Sure, I thought the ’94 re-do was lame, and gleefully giggled when the ’99 re-do was so horrible that no one wanted to do it again. I’m glad that they didn’t manage to do another festival this time. I’m sick of hearing about it.

But that’s because it wasn’t for me. It never had anything to do with me. It was for someone else. So go on and give one last nod to Rural Joseph and his Pisceans. And don’t forget the wisest thing that was ever said about it:

If you can remember it, you weren’t there.

Thoughts on Charles Manson

Quentin Tarantino has a new movie out, which has the Tate-LaBianca killings in its backdrop, and I both do and don’t want to see it. I want to see it because I’m a fan of Tarantino’s work and have been since I first saw Pulp Fiction as a college freshman. Then as now, no one makes movies like he does. For all the talk of how he is a style thief and wallows in campy excess, he is one of the few directors today who can genuinely surprise me. When I watch something he’s made, I never know what’s coming next. He’s a rare filmmaker whose work is both a household name – who mainstream audience will pay theater-ticket prices to see on his name recognition alone – and a reliable critical success. I don’t like everything he’s done: Death Proof was a bridge too far, and Django Unchained left me cold. But in today’s world where everything is an existing IP, or a remake, or a reboot, or a comic book movie, his work is a reminder that cinema is supposed to be art, and art for grown-ups. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is almost too appropriate a title in that framework.

That doesn’t mean you have to like his movies, and it especially means you don’t have to like him. But he’s a damn rare thing these days, and I predict we’re going to miss him when he’s gone, and talk about him in the tones that people speak of Hitchcock and Kubrick.

I don’t want to see it because, and there’s no two ways about this, enough with Charles Manson. I’ve written before about how uncomfortable I am with the pop-culture awareness of famous killers. Manson wasn’t exactly a serial killer, but in many ways he was something worse. Jack the Ripper didn’t harm anyone but the prostitutes he sliced up, but cultists like Manson drag otherwise good people into savagery, too. As with Jim Jones, or Adolf Hitler, or Lenin, Stalin, Castro and the rest of the Reds, spiritual degradation is their work, as much as anything else.

So below, I post an essay I wrote about Manson for my defunct medium.com account, at the time of his death. I stand by it.

Charles Manson Was No One

And he does not deserve our attention

“First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the pig Tate’s stomach! Wild!”

-Bernadine Dohrn

Homo homini lupus est. (Man is wolf to man)

-Roman proverb

charles_manson_mugshot_fci_terminal_island_california_1956-05-02_3845-cal

Humans are apex predators. We are in fact the apex predator of apex predators. We hunt and kill apex predators. We kill lions. We kill sharks. We kill cobras. Not because we need to — at least, not all the time. Because we like to. There are humans who hunt for no other reason than hunting is in our DNA. It’s what makes us what we are.

And often, we hunt each other. Because being apex predators, we are threatened by the other apex predators, i.e., one another. So we kill each other for resources. We kill each other for mating prospects. We kill each other out of fear that the other will kill us first.

And sometimes, we kill just because.

Charles Manson is finally dead. Every few years, he would come up for parole, and every few years, he would be denied parole. It was a bureaucratic absurdity. He’d been condemned to die in prison long ago. He lived in prison. He was prison.

At the time he started his cult, Manson had spent most of his life in some correctional facility or other. He had never had a steady job. He had never completed a degree or diploma. He had never owned anything of value, and aside from getting a few women pregnant, had never contributed anything of value. He was, in short, a failure in every way that a man can fail. His existence was a hole where a human life should have been.

What does a human do when he’s consistently unable to function in human society? Very often, he reverts to default, to atavistic survivalism. He becomes a predator.

The insanity of the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969, the horror-movie flavor of them, the sheer lack of a discernible purpose for them, have led people over the years to attribute to the mastermind of them some manner of demonic, dark-guru status. No less than four separate television interviews have tried to pry into the Mind of Manson, only to discover a howling void of nonsensical utterances.

look at yourself. You‘ve got to wear that, whether you like it or not. You‘ve got to do things. You‘ve got to get up and go through all kinds of changes; whether you want to or not doesn‘t matter. Your whole life is put in your paycheck. You couldn‘t pay me all the money in the world to do something I don‘t want to do.

If I‘m shoveling the barn, and you want me to go (INAUDIBLE) I say, no, no, no. I‘m doing something right here. I‘m helping this blind man. I feel better in doing what I want to do.

I did not break the law. Jesus Christ told you that 2,000 years ago. You don‘t understand me! That‘s your trouble, not my fault because you don‘t understand me. I don‘t understand you either, but I don‘t spend my whole life trying to put the blame over on you because my cigarette didn‘t light or because something didn‘t work right. What do you want to call me a murderer for? I‘ve never killed anyone. I don‘t need to kill anyone. I think it. I have it here.

I don‘t need to live in this physical realm. I walk around in the physical realm, and I put on the faces, and I talk, and I play (INAUDIBLE) it‘s just a big act, man. In the spiritual world is where I live. I exist in places you‘ve never even dreamed of. You talk about, you know, just the little physical realm you live in, guilty, and is he in sin? How‘s your courts guilty? How many people do you think you‘ve hung on the ventilators in the nut wards and forced medication on them?

You see what I‘m saying? You don‘t have any idea what the hell is going on.

-Charles Manson, MSNBC interview, September 2007

It is the human habit to seek patterns, to find cause and effect, to believe that if something exists, something is behind it. We want to listen to this man who speaks in prophetic cadences and hear what he has to say. If we pour over this quote, and analyze it, and search for meaning and truth, we will find none. And we cannot accept this, so we attribute to him some word that will cover it. Like “insane”. Like “evil”. But these are words indicating the lack of a something: the lack of reason, the lack of goodness. They do not attest to anything being there.

People have spoken of Manson’s odd charisma. And let us stipulate that he had it. But where did it come from? What does “charisma” mean other than people are fascinated by a person? And is it not plain that what fascinates us is nothing but what expresses something we have deep within?

The reason that the girls like me was — hey, now, hey, now, I‘m all around you, around you, hey, now, up on your heart I can sing through you. And I play, and I sing. And they‘d say, “Hey, man, you‘ve got — you‘ve got soul in that music.” And I said, “Yes, I play a little bit, you know? I like music.” “Man, you‘re really somebody.” I said, “Oh, I am? I just got out of jail. I don‘t know what somebody is.”

They like my music. They say, “Man, we want to get you over.” I said, “Get me over for what?” They said, “We take you down here to Beverly Hills, and we want to get you in because you‘re a star.”

-Charles Manson, MSNBC Interview, September 2007

Sometimes, we are attracted by what repulses us. In the extreme of horror is a fascination. In the brutal cruelty of the Third Reich, Germany created a monument to wickedness that our popular culture will not stop examining in books and film. The glamour of the Nazis and their evil were bound up in the same thing. By their refusal to abide by human obligations, they became something we feared, something we expended great effort to destroy, and something that haunts us still, 70 years later.

That’s why Bernadine Dohrn of the Weather Underground expressed such admiration in the killing of “those pigs”. Bernadine didn’t know those people, she was incapable of making any judgement upon them. They were “pigs” not because of some defect in their character but because that is how Bernadine chose to see them, as degraded beasts. This speaks to her moral degradation and nothing else. She was not seeing Sharon Tate. She was only seeing her own hatred of the society she grew up in. Any manner of hatred would have been acceptable to her. Manson had nothing to do with it. He had nothing to do with anything. That was his problem.

charles_manson_-_lie-_the_love_26_terror_cult

Look at the eyes of Charles Manson on this album cover and tell me that the same howling void is not staring back at you. His eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming, as the poet put it. He looks like he’s not seeing you, or anything at all.

“…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.”

-Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

And at times that emptiness fascinates the Bernadine Dohrns and the associated hipsters who delight in the inversion of human relations so that they can celebrate themselves for celebrating the inversion. The call to cast aside obligation, and wallow in Id-sense, to spit upon one’s hands and hoist the black flag, calls out to many of us from time to time. But the one who does it is not a hero, nor is he a mystic. He is only hostis humani generis, the enemy of all mankind.

Quick Review: Fyre Fraud

The Hulu documentary is a hoot. It’s more about the lie, the huckstering, Billy McFarland as the Incompetent P.T. Barnum of the time. The Netflix doc was more about How Not to Put On A Music Festival. This is about how people got suckered into believing something that was not physically possible.

All from the power of our mobile devices to distort reality.

A lot of balderdash about Millennials, which misses the point. Bad music festivals have happened in the past. No one died at Fyre, but at least at Altamont The Rolling Stones actually showed up and played. This Festival existed only in the creators’ mind. It was fairy dust. The belief that Instagram could force reality to conform to it comes from the age we live in. Con artists are always with us, but the cons are flooding at our eyes, all day every day.

Things That Are Going to Suck

Picard is going to suck.

It’s a bastardization of the character, reduced to catchphrases and some Borg plot.

The question is, why? Why is it being made?

Because member-berries?

Because the carnival of 80’s nostalgia that’s been gripping us since the late 90’s just Will Not Die?

Because J.J. Abrams ruined Star Trek and no one knows how to make it anymore?

Because we’re all getting dumber?

Because we’re isolated and cut off from each other by the false connectivity of the Web, and we long for entertainments that remind us of a time when that wasn’t so?

Because we haven’t figured out how to make culture in the age that Gibson prophesied?

Because I’m getting old and grumpy?

So Barbara Streisand is a Monster…

I almost wrote a whole blog post about Leaving Neverland, the new documentary about Michael Jackson accusing him of pedophilia.

I didn’t. Because ultimately I decided I didn’t want to wade into that morass.

I don’t know if Jackson did anything. I wasn’t there. Rumor is less than truth and accusation less than proof. He’s already been acquitted of it. So let the matter stay.

But, for the love of God.

Streisand, 76, made the strange comments to British newspaper The Times in a piece out Friday, in which she also said that Jackson’s “sexual needs were his sexual needs.”

She says she “absolutely” believes the allegations of abuse by Robson and Safechuck, but puts more blame on their parents than The Gloved One.

Now, here’s a couple of consistent positions:

  1. Michael Jackson molested little boys. He was a perv and we should shout it from the rooftops.
  2. Michael Jackson is innocent. These men are grifters and liars and we should condemn their falsehood.

Either of those stem from a disagreement about the truth of the accusations. Who should be blamed follows as a consequence of who is guilty.

But neither of these is Barbara Streisand’s position. Barbara Streisand’s position is:

  • Michael Jackson had sex with boys, and that’s fine as long as they don’t turn out like Corey Feldman.

Yeah, she’s apologized, unsaid it for the camera, but whatever. The mask slipped. That’s what Streisand really thinks. She really thinks a little pederasty is fine so long as you provide a nice resort for the family.

Really.

And it strikes me that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Rich & Famous stand by each other like this.

Remember how Roman Polanski sodomizing a 13-year-old in a hot tub wasn’t “Rape-Rape” according to Whoopi Goldberg?

Remember how everyone on the set of Guardians 3 went to bat for James Gunn (Who, waddya know, is back on the job)?

Remember how no one said shit about Harvey Weinstein for 25 years?

I’m starting to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there’s yet more poison in the mud to be hatched out.

I’m staring to wonder if anyone in that industry is capable of seeing another human as more than a commodity.

And I’m starting to wonder if there’s some way to purge it. Like with fire.

When Everything in the Machine is a Crisis, The Crisis is What Feeds the Machine

James Lileks finally found a way to inculcate his classic Screeds into his regular blog, calling it the Wednesday Review of Modern Thought. This past Wednesday, he groused about the overuse of “crisis”:

One of the manifestations of twitchy, sullen, self-righteous miserabilism is the desire to see every problem as a crisis, and every crisis as a justification for the expansion of the state, or the abandoned of old norms.

This is, of course, correct. Fear creates the longing for security, for Direct Action. So, as the old-school Commies knew, the Worse, The Better. And of course, having infected the Fears, as “ethical” stumbling blocks to performing an activity, we then use these to declare that the Poor Little Dears can’t possibly act on their own. We’ve all become the nerdy black guy from The Good Place who can’t choose a hat.

If you can’t make a meal because you’re paralyzed by whether the beans were ethically sourced, and you feel like you’re failing your kid because you let him have a hot dog, you’re probably unhappy about everything in the gott-damned world.

The answer for the food crisis includes nationalized day care and government-run health care, if you’re curious. That’s for starters.

We have problems. Not every problem is a crisis. You need to reserve words for other things.

That would be wise. But they won’t. Because the overuse of the word “crisis” by ethical scamsmen has inculcated us to its use. We see it on the Internet all the time, and like that stupid Grammarly app that keeps emitting itself in my YouTube and Hulu, we have allowed the Machine to tell us how to write.

“Crisis” isn’t even a word anymore, it’s just a meme. Or rather, a program:

  1. Notice unpleasant reality
  2. Declare Unpleasant Reality a Crisis
  3. Make Pious Noise About the Hardship of Dealing With the Crisis
  4. Demand that Big Daddy make all better
  5. Share, Like, and Smash that Subscribe Button
  6. Boom goes the Click Rate

Meanwhile, I go home and make Macaroni and Cheese for my kids. Because I’ve been voting Republican since I was 20; I’m already a monster.

All of Cal Newport’s books could be titled, “How to Be an Effective Person.” Or, maybe, “How to Be an Effective Person In This Technological Epoch.” Digital Minimalism is, like Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, about why you should quit or drastically limit the digital distractions that have proliferated in […]

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