Oh Gunter

If I could focus more maybe this could be an editorial for Der Spiegel.

When the news broke that Günter Grass had recently admitted being in the Schutzstaffel, or better known to the world as the SS, I asked the following question:

Why now?

Why now is this coming out? This has been in public records for years. Is there something to gain as a writer, as a publisher, by doing this now? But my questions were hurled away from me by a supernatural force that I experienced that same night at a German wine festival.

Gunter Grass is probably one of the 20th centurys greatest novelists. What perhaps many people do not know is that he is also western Germany’s greatest post WW2 moralists. Of course, in todays context, great and moral and ”German” are superbly confusing.

Speaking of the confused.

Living as an American ex-pat in Germany is not easy. To me this country is a very confused place. One of the main reasons for this, in my humble opinion, is that Germans are overly pacified, as a whole they have created a kind of collective spoiled-society and, to a certain extent, none of them can get over a past that ultimately had nothing to do with who and what they are today. Of course, there are at least two generations, post world-war, that have productively utilized compulsive labour and the achievements speak for themselves. Life in Germany is so good that from the outside and compared to other western nation-states one would think Germany might be close to utopia. Well, at least that’s how things looked prior to, let say, the nineties.

But what way has it come?

Germany has come a long way but not half as far as it could have. The other night, at a wine festival in Hessen, three young, sporty, good looking men – and obviously from well-off German families, with lovely fräuleins at their sides and lots of empty bottles of Riesling on their table – called me a fascist. This isn’t the first time I face criticism as an American living abroad and sometimes taking a political point-of-view regarding what I deem to be a pretty screwed up American’t foreign policy and an even more screwed up European political circus. Having said that, I will admit that I deserved criticism from these young people but I did not deserve such a label. My voice can be loud and my thoughts at times, when expressed, a bit provoking. Yet, this came unprovoked and with a bitter smile and intellectualized self-indulgence that earned my usual response…

Would you little pansy-asses like a piece of me?

I immediately told the German with the wine-laden mouth to apologize or explain himself or else I was gonna set him straight, or at least take his fräulein. The smile left his face, his girlfriend fell silent and his friends tried to say how much he didn’t mean it. For me this was one of those beautiful and rare moments where the adage…

Its better to shut your mouth and make people think youre smart then to open it and show how stupid you are. And now it’s time to buck-up, son.

Calling me a fascist can’t go without a reaction. I am a US ex-patriot citizen and in the context of American politics I am profoundly against the Iraq war and the Bush administration. I am also aware of what US foreign policy is doing and has done to the world. Calling America fascist has almost become common place these days – and I don’t like it. In fact, I don’t agree with the use of the word – no matter what your political orientation or nationality and it is especially hard to swallow from a young klugscheisser.

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

As the young people were fumbling for an explanation, their fräuleins holding their beaus tighter, I started thinking if it really was – as a few have said regarding Mel Gibson – the alcohol. Or was it my fault because I didn’t feel like speaking German that night which ultimately caught their attention and perhaps provoked them with some of the stuff I was saying? Was it because of my short hair and all the military bases near-by that housed American soldiers — who do not have the best reputation for mingling among the locals in area?

I didn’t volunteer to tell them that I was nothing more than a failed writer living off of German hospitality. Eventually their explanation became venting about Bush, the war, and the 9/11 conspiracy of how the twin towers were intentionally demolished; they continuously asked me if I had seen the Google video about the conspiracy.

But those fräuleins were gettin’ hotter with each glass of wine.

I was quickly bored with their conspiracy krapp when something hit me, something recent in the news. Gunter Grass and his recent admittance to being in the SS took over my thoughts. What the hell is going on with Germany’s greatest living writer? I won’t go the route of saying that just because Grass was 17 he could be forgiven for doing stupid stuff. But then again, I was sitting across the table from three young Germans, they were obviously well educated, they were dressed in nice designer clothes, they were twenty-something, and they were doing some really stupid stuff. As the young men continued to apologetically explain themselves and continuously fail to define fascism, I thought: do you guys know Gunter Grass?

All Germans read Grass as part of the compulsive learning that is the origin of their collective success in the world; but did they really read him?

Suddenly Germany’s past became a Frisbee flying right over my head. I ducked and continued drinking wine, listening to young Germans eject nonsense about politics or a youth that was simply dumbfounding. But eventually an inebriated ghost popped in and caught the frisbee. It stood in the rain, it danced in the mud, it dirtied my shoes, and it laughed at me. The it turned everything a colorless green and inquired if we would like to sleep furiously. There was no response. The ghost wore a long, dark Ausgeheanzug, tall leather boots, it had a horse whip and a monocle. I laughed back at the ghost at which time it took my original question regarding the timing of Grass’s recent admittance and stuffed it in one of its pockets, along with the frisbee. I broke from my trance as the ghost was leaving and I said to him:

Was willst du von mir, schwuchtel?

Back to reality. Instead of questioning Grass timing I now thought ofVergangenheitsbewältigung and morality. I’ve tried to understand religious doctrine and its ugly-cousin morality in the hopes of understanding Germany’s past. But that didn’t work. Morality is simply too confusing. Today, as in the past, people use morality just as much as in the past as a cover-up for wrong. Morality does nothing more than leave people hanging or it arms them to the teeth. Yet it is part of life today and people don’t question it as it should be questioned. Except, perhaps, Günter Grass. And so, young Germans, drunk on sour wine, equate my nationality with fascism because I spoke thus…

“Someone needs to do something about extremism and Europeans, especially since the break up of Yugoslavia, have only shown that they are capable of doing nothing.”

Oh, where is Oskar Matzerath when you need him?

It was/is Gunter Grass that helped me understand morality; he helped me see the duel edged sword that is even now tearing the West apart. When he criticized the US response to 9/11 for example, I thought he was right. We should have looked more deeply at not a response in the form of war but how the US and the west treat the rest of the world. In his book Crabwalk it was as if he is trying to make morality tangible, in the form of a ship or at least a picture of it, that questions the necessity of killing 9000 people with a Russian torpedo.* Add to that his public appearances during and after the fall of the Berlin wall, I quickly learned, as sometimes confusing as he may be, I’d rather him tell me about what’s right and wrong then, say, a politician or a preacher. I owe Grass the following line:

Morality should be replaced by ART or at least some kind of creative process that seeks truth.

Yes, I am naive. And a German wine festival is an odd awakening. I have been living in Germany for almost 17 years and I have once again been shown that this is not my home. To go out into the blindness of German Gemütlichkeit, of which I have become so cynical, and drink wine and have a 20 year-old German call me a fascist…

Being lost is not as bad as being without direction.

What America is currently doing to the middle east, Iraq, Afghanistan is wrong but America is not fascist. Even though I heard it lowed an clear: the cynics out there (especially in America) who say: indeed, we beat them Germans in 1945 but Fascism didn’t lose. I can only hope that future generations, in whatever country, will be given a voice as brilliant as Gunter Grass to help it see through all its confusion. I also hope that Grass’s attempt to deal with his own – and even Germany’s – past won’t have a tarnishing effect on his work.

Too much hope is never enough.

I also hope that some people, no matter what their age, do not assume the worst of other people or places just because of something that defines their own past.

Now, how ’bout another drink…

Links:

 

Rant on.

-tgs-

*That may be a far-fetched interpretation but Im gonna stick with it.

 

The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Recommended reading for those who like fantasy without the formulated, predictable Hollywood (or Disney) krapp.

It must have been during middle school and my sister was in High School. My sister looked like Pocahontas and she was also a social butterfly. One day my sister had visitors from high-school. I thought that was cool be- cause I was going to enter high-school the next year. Maybe I could get some tips so I hung around. One particular friend of hers stood out from the others – and it wasn’t because of his bright red hair. His name? Keith Donohue. That was back in the seventies in a relatively small town just south of Washington, DC.

My sister recently called me and asked if I had heard of the book ”The Stolen Child”. I had not. Then she said that I should read it. I asked why, knowing that she knew I have a very long reading list. And then she said, ”Do you remember…?”

I was eventually fortunate enough to contact Keith and he remembered both me and my sister.

I’m not good at reviewing novels, so I won’t. I will say this: This is not just a ”fantasy” and in a way I’m sorry that it has to be sold/labeled in that genre. This is a literary work that is both intriguing and eye-opening. If you are only looking to be ”entertained” then that’s ok, you’re safe here. If you are looking to acquire knowledge, wisdom and a perspective on life, this will be a joyeous read. Although the protagonist(s) is a bit kitchy at times, I believe that Keith is going where few authors go. I’m not sure, but I think this is one of the first novels of the 21st century to walk in the footsteps of Swift, Frank Baum, etc. A great story well told.

Links:

 

Rant on.

-tgs-

Negative Zero

Disclaimer. The following came to me the other day – as opposed to me coming to it – which happens quite a bit – so bear with me. I had these thoughts that started with: “What is writing?” In order to prevent things from getting out of hand I attempted to hone the thoughts with some quick research (thank you Internets) but was quickly overwhelmed with content. You see, that’s the problem of thinking too much – and wanting to follow up and research it all (with the Internets). Sometimes a consequence of trying to find answers is comparable to opening up a rich can of worms. This wiki-article I found during my research didn’t actually help matters but it did lead me away from an initial out-of-the-blue hypothesis regarding Hawking Radiation. I was thinking that Stephan Hawking might have unknowingly provided a way to preemptively explain a few things that had avoided being common knowledge for a really, really long time. Or to put it another way: finding answers (to the subject at hand) is like when you’re dying of thirst and someone offers you a margarita. It’s one of them moments were you just kind go with it, you know. Still. To really find any answers there is a lot of honing yet to be done. Good luck to you as well.

I was thinking about writing. I was thinking: What is it? How does it work? Why do I have such difficultly transcribing what I think – or what I thought I was thinking at any particular given moment? Then a battery of sub-questions arrived based on the out-of-the-blue presupposition that, maybe, just maybe, writing is totally unnatural (and not just for me). For example. How do musicians do it? That is, how do those that make music come up with compositions(s) that, once orchestrated, almost always seem clear and natural? And doesn’t the same apply to mathematics? Obviously composing a song has it’s processes but ultimately the end result is clear – and therefore complete. To me that’s quit the opposite of writing – especially worstwriting. The thing is, I’ve never felt completion in anything. And let me add that I have written a lot. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just making a molehill out of an overweight american’t due to the requirements of symbolic communication that we all must adhere to. I mean, is anyone ever taught how to write? For me, writing (and not just fiction) is about creativity. Can that be taught? And if someone is taught how to write, is it possible, because of what we now know about the physical universe, math and music have a communication advantage over writing because of the latter’s lack of inherence? I mean, didn’t Einstein conceptualize special relativity before he found that famous mathematical equation? That would mean that E=MC2 was there all the time, it was just a matter of who would get there first.  And didn’t Mozart hear the music in his head before writing it down? Obviously Mozart is the only one who could have gotten their first, but in the case of music that’s a mute issue. Here I will admit, unlike mathematical equations, music is a bit more diverse in its consummation but not in its creation. Now. Can anyone say the same for James Joyce’s Ulysses? Oh boy. Headache coming on.

As worstwriter I am content. It’s almost as though I’m one with who and what I am. Seriously. Even the URL of my site seems/feels so natural. Beyond the obviousness of my worst, is there really no way to get out of me what yearns to get out? You know, that which makes it all even so worse for everybody else? Or am I condemned to the level of stupidity and ignorance that is my mental plague thus far? Oh, stick the butter knife slowly just under my left temple.

IMHO, music is there whether or not the notes are written down; I believe it’s the same for mathematical formulas. The physical universe is the way it is and it is independent of human imagination. That is, there’s no beautiful transcription waiting to be plucked from the stars; there’s not perfect dialog in the dark matter of time to be scribbled on note paper; there’s no poetry waiting to be typed while a supernova spills a glass of chianti on the keys of my Lettera 32. And so… I’m assuming – because I can do nothing else at this point – that the want/will to transcribe individual human imagination is the greatest burden a worst like myself can carry. With that in mind, let’s move on to the presumptions, shall we?

More so than music, I wonder what would the world be like without numbers? I’m even wondering how much better the world would be if there were only the results of human imagination. Obviously I’m prejudice against numbers. Numbers and math are destructive to human imagination – and more importantly to human kindness, understanding, tolerance and forgiving. Music has a different status. Even though I can’t write music and it wasn’t part of any required education, I can play a guitar and I can sing. Math, on the other hand, was a huge (and of course wasteful) part of required learning. Yet, even though I’m no math dunce – but I do need some time to calculate my change when paying with cash – I couldn’t get any of the jobs that I applied to get because employers all told me that I didn’t have enough mathematics on my resume. Now I’m middle aged and can’t make a living and I just can’t wrap my head around how much of a waste youth is in the western world – all because of math. Go even one step further and think about the fact that math is a need and music is want – where does that leave human imagination (and worstwriting)?

Something out there (in my head) has caused me to think that numbers and music are the same. I’m thinking physical universe here. Yet numbers, unlike music, serve no purpose other than enabling and facilitating a persons ability to participate in the environment that s/he is forced to live in – the modern world of slavery that is sweetened by technical advancements – which is dependent on math. It’s almost as though numbers today have been put on a pedestal – a pedestal that is a political mandate for life (i.e. living standard). Those that don’t get it are under the pedestal. I’d even go so far as to claim that numbers are part of what keep people down and not what can make them stand up. No creativity is required to fiddle with numbers. Einstein’s creativity came via theoretical physics; he just had to fit the numbers with the theory (which I believe his wife was the catalyst). The same claim goes for music. Btw, because music obviously is a great way for people to avoid doing something more useful with their time, it takes on a kind of antithesis to numbers – or… Oh my. Can you, dear worst reader, feel my head spinning right now?

At the least, I wouldn’t go so far as to sub-label music slavery. But. Isn’t entertainment (today) a form of slavery? Obviously, if you’re good at math, you will succeed in life. Entertainment as a subset of success seems natural enough to me. Yet a few hundred years ago, if you could hunt or grow your own food, you could live a pretty good life. Heck, in the olden days, after a hard day of work you could sing a song and count the frickin’ stars in the night sky and not have a worry of Lucifer. Oh, where has freedom gone? With that in mind, I believe that music serves a higher calling then math – because of the simplicity of its incarnation. Yet music has been culturally relegated to the level of entertainment, i.e. slavery, as previously and ambiguously stated. So, we’re all slaves. What a crock, eh.

Let me try to put this yet another way (to potentially confuse all friends of worst even more). Remember the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? I was very young when this movie came out. I saw it in a drive-in cinema just off of some old, dilapidated and loud highway. Typical of drive-ins was the great visual experience (the really, really big screen) but you only had this little, tiny box hooked to the side of your car with monotone sound coming out of it for the audio experience. Obviously in this movie sound played a big role even though most people were preoccupied with the lives of the characters who were all about to encounter alien life and the fingers all the boys were dipping in teenage vaginas (not in the movie but at the drive-in). You wouldn’t know that sound played such a big role in the movie though because it wasn’t part of the story until the very end. And, again, the audio of the whole movie experience was awful while sitting in a car and being fed noise from a small monotone box. Am I off topic enough here? Anywho. Who would have thought prior to Richard Dreyfuss and the others making it to that plateau that the only way for humans to communicate with aliens – beings that were obviously much more advance than humans – was to use music? Why did the author of the original story write that as opposed to some form of symbolic communication system? And – remember with me here – what was up with that alien ship that was able to duplicate the sounds we humans made? It was as though the ship was a huge concert speaker system and not a spacecraft that could travel the universe. Why would aliens build a spacecraft-speaker? And another thing! Wouldn’t drawing stick people as a form of communication suffice? Or how about drawing emoticons (since, obviously, the aliens had a head, two eyes, a mouth and a nose.) Spielberg knows as well as anyone that mathematics and the manipulation of numbers is the only way for aliens to get to us. What’s with the music, dude?

Here is a hypothetical question. If you were to encounter aliens from outer space in the next five seconds, how would you communicate with them? How would you transcribe your thoughts to them? Would you use hand gestures? If you notice they’re carrying a weapon, would you wave a peace sign with your hand? If you find that they are being obnoxious trying to investigate your bodily orifices, would you flip them the bird? And what would you do if you understood in their communications that they were asking for directions to Alpha Centauri?

Just go with me here a bit longer so I can screw this up…

I hate numbers. I don’t hate but I’m starting to dislike music. Both of these things are turning into the monster that created them: Nothingness. Nothingness is now filled with the planets largest and bestest earning army of  corporatists who have given in to being the subject & object of a world of slavery. Numbers and humans and what they hear have become the same friggin’ thing. And here we get to the gist of what motivated this little worstwriting extravaganza – besides the questions of “what” or “how”. After all the (superficial) research was concluded, I came to the following hyper-pothesis. And this has more to do with accountability, comformality and friendly transgression(s). Here it goes.

There needs to be a negative zero.

Before simply saying “I hate math” and providing the ultimate summary of this endeavor, I know that, mathematically speaking, there is no such thing as a negative zero? Zero is the constant. I mean, seriously, I know that because the concept of the constant has been embedded in my mind from grade school to driving school to credit card school. Yet, if I do know such a thing, where does my question come from? Remember the old adage about humans only utilizing ten-percent of their brain capacity? Well, its not about the ninety percent not being used but instead about it being used by something else and we not being aware of that. Am I not gleefully making very good sense by now?

After a while I sat down at my typing device to try and figure out the absurdity of my transgressions. A few hours of clackity-clackity on the keyboard and I concluded that mathematics as we know it is not just wrong and misguiding it’s completely wrong and part of a greater conspiracy to control that ninety percent of human brain capacity that ultimately could be used for something else. I mean, think about it. 90% of your brain is unused? Educating i.e. controlling people combined with modern math is nothing more than a scam. That is, a student – especially young male students – are so overwhelmed with the requirements of learning and procreating that the two simply cancel each other out. The 10% of the brain that’s life is basically nothing but a life support system. Hence there really are zombies and with the world of zombies there are different levels of educated and musically inclined zombies. That leads to the finalization and realization of the fact that human creativity is the single most important aspect of comprehending the entire universe (of which math is just a sub-sub-subset).  Music is a necessary and acceptable evil that is not required to be relegated to sub-sub-subset because, although it might keep people stupid (entertained), it doesn’t necessarily influence our lives in such a negative way like math. And. I think the thing that started all this (the physical universe) – whether that be a creator or a girl sneezing too much phlegm on her first date – has long since given up on humanity. But before worst starts on about giving up, let me try to address a few other manic thoughts.

As stated, entertainment equals stupidity. No. Entertainment equals slavery. Or both. And music helps the time pass, too. What a combination, eh. If one applies the principles of Newtonian physics to life then everything simply moves in one direction unless acted upon by something else. The problem is that the object that has been set into motion has no influence on whether or not something else can act upon it. Although at one point in time music was original and unique nothing has influenced the original object that was set to motion. That’s why most pop music sucks so bad there’s no going back to the origins of music where creativity ruled. Remember: human subjectivity has no value in the universe.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

Let’s forget music for now. This will be much easier with math since it is by nature always right. Right? I mean, math is never subjective. Or? That’s kind of a problem because everything else that is the result of math has to change. (Whatever that means.) So. What if something new were discovered in math and/or the physical universe that was never before preconceived? For example. How ’bout there being something like two different types of zeros. You know: opposite zeros. I figure that the reason there is only one type of zero is because singularity at that level fits into the ultimate plan that man has devised in order to separate him/herself from the chaos that is life. In other words, they do this because having one zero enables logic. So what we get is life and all that it is about being subject to self preservation, self indulgence, self interest and everything else that fails. If, on the other hand, there is a positive zero and also a negative zero, if you had a choice at this point, which would you prefer?

Am I dabbling too deep in the far fetched rabbit hole of my self-righteousness? No. For. Isnt it time economist and accountants start learning how to count backwards via a new beginning that would ultimately be “-0” (as opposed to “1”, the opposite of which is, of course, “-1”)? Just look at how we live. How we treat each other. How we procreate. Even the simple and calculable cheating of balance sheets that are so consistently submitted to offices of high authority – how do these relatively simple-math submissions so negatively influence our lives? And was not third grade math the beginning of such submissions? In a world that maximizes gluttony to the hilt, how long can this mono-directional path last? Obviously a new point of reference must be conjured. But how? And what c/would be the catalyst for it’s instillment? For the blind optimists that rule and are ruled, where there is only one zero, it would be at first a nauseating experience but eventually life would cope. That’s the point of life beyond procreating and furthering so much thick-headed-ness. Indeed. The negative zero would be quickly recognized – in a world of negativity’s truth to the lie of all-things positive, what a game it would be. It’s as though the great lego could finally be finished – as the one odd color that has remained so elusive in the universe pile of lego parts is found.

So I say, what about doing with zero what we’ve done with everything else? Compromise it! A zero doesn’t have to be the center of our slave-driven mathematical and musically entertaining universe. Is that even fair to Zero? Ever since I read that some men-of-knowledge had to invent their own forms of math to answer certain questions about the universe I’ve had this thought: as good as they all are (Einstein) couldn’t they also be way off base? I mean, didn’t the dudes that transcribed the Bible obviously make some major and serious errors? (Please hold back your appreciation for me keeping religion out of this whole mess.) Long after knowing the world was not flat how convenient was it that Einstein, mathematically, had to figure out that time & space ain’t flat either. And from what (little) I understand he never completed that. I dont know about you, but I see a serious philosophical connection here between falling off the edge of the earth and releasing the world from the confines of a math-mentality that is obviously very confining and the music that makes that confinement tolerable.

Obviously I spend at least ten minutes a day hoping that something supernatural will occur and save me from this misery. In fact, I’m not hoping to go to any heaven based on this and a better world but to a place that is the perpetual opposite, a world that is the inside-out, where black is white and purple is failure as much as it is success. And that’s where we’ll end this. My favorite subject above & beyond: negative zero.

Rant on.

-tgs-