Monday, November 21, 2011

Outside Looking Out

When I was a boy, I was scrawny and nerdy. There were only two reasons to be singled out and taken out of class, Special Ed and Gifted & Talented. I was put in the latter. But my parents are from Brooklyn, so unlike the other kids who got picked on, I was not taught to turn the other cheek. I got into fights. And with the case of one particular bully, after typical spineless solutions like "Tell the teacher when you have to go to the bathroom so she can secretly push the PA button, alerting the office so the Principal can walk down and watch the bathroom door", my parents did involve the police. At the time, there was ONE cop who handled youth matters. But rest assured, that cop AND that principal grew to fear my parents. Even after the bully's father threatened to show up at school with a shotgun, my parents still didn't back down and the bully was kicked out of school. Of course, the true difficulty was just the whole legal/political matter of the money involved in putting the kid in an alternative school.

Anyway, neither the fights nor the bullying stopped. When I was 10, my parents finally enrolled me in a karate school. Now, bullying is arguably the most common cause for parents enrolling their kids in karate school. I take that back. At the time, it was pretty much the only reason. Today, parents are more familiar with the true benefits. And yes, around sixth grade, just before my parents took ME out of public school, I did have a cinematic moment where I beat the shit out of one of the bullies in front of the whole school. But wouldn't you know it, a year later, AFTER Id been put in Catholic school, I was hanging out outside a friend's house, a fellow karate student nonetheless, when that bully turns out to live across the street. One day he shows up to start trouble, this time with a friend. I may have been taking karate but Id never faced multiple opponents before so I grabbed a stick. Wouldn't you know it, the "friend" was a fellow nerd and Gifted & Talented student. He'd taken the sidekick route I guess. Things escalated and here's what happened. I ended up fighting the sidekick because he jumped to the bully's defense. I gave the bully one swat in the arm. But he mainly let the other kid fight while he just insulted my mother. And the WHOLE time, the fellow karate student stood by and watched. The lesson? Not only does violence keep coming around but learning karate doesn't have anything to do with violence or even the courage to use it in the right circumstances, like defending a friend. It was only as I entered adolescence as one of only thirteen students at Our Lady of Lourdes that the true lesson of martial arts sunk in. Only then did I learn that by believing the bullies, my thinking had allowed them power over me. By mastering this art, I mastered myself. I no longer saw myself even in the same context as bullying or violence.

NOW, that's MY story. At the age of 32, and in light of the recent suicides, the subject of bullying has hit home. First and foremost, I feel that the use of the term 'bullying' has proven to be a PR gaffe. No one is associating the term with the dire consequences we are seeing today. 'Harassment' would be a better place to start and even that might fall short of what is being done to kids today. And I know that while I may have survived or come around, that certainly doesn't mean I can remain indifferent. In fact, I feel quite the opposite.

I have developed a concept called Outside Looking Out. Over a decade ago, this was the title of a song my band at the time had never finished. Over time, the title has stuck with me because of its defiant tone. When you consider the term it is derived from, "outside looking in", the message is presumptuous. As always, status must be defined by its relationship to the "inside", to the "accepted". Where is the phrase that speaks for those who are outside and happy to be there, contentedly looking outward and beyond? Most importantly, where is the space for those young people who feel this way?

The nation's schools have been making considerable effort to 'police' their own, re-educating and regulating the space of the general population of students. However, the outsiders remain outside. While they might appreciate what's being done with the other students, this does not mean any steps have been taken to give them their own comfort zone, for lack of a better term.

Outside Looking Out will start as a publication. Originally conceived as a comic book anthology, it has since been reconceived as a literary forum for those who feel different or separate from the norm. It is my hope that submissions will cover the spectrum of emotions these students feel as the piece's themes. In the future, it is my dream to extend this concept to other displays of creativity and art from band nights to exhibits. Currently, I am seeking a home for this concept but I am always available to lend my support in any way possible to the larger cause.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


  That's right, folks. As of tonight, my life has become Wilkey III and I fully intend to race each and every one of you down the beach wearing half-length, torso-revealing tank tops. You'll beat me over the course of a montage but by the end, I shall be victorious and we will embrace in mid-air, in slow motion. Wait, that's in Rocky III. This is WILKEY III. It begins here on the floor of my brand new apartment, in a muscle shirt and underwear, and it certainly feels like it took an exhibition match with Hulk Hogan and two heavyweight bouts with Mister T to get here. Join me in my deep, continuous sighs of relief as I recount the first two chapters of the Wilkey Saga.

  The original Wilkey ended when I was 17. It was a free ride. I gave it so little thought, I can barely remember it.  In fact, I so rarely stepped out of my mind, Im not sure I was ever really here. But it's a lovely story. Give them what they want, so long as it doesn't take time from my fantasy world. Black Belt, Honors Student, Varsity Athlete, Musician, Editor, Set Crew Member. What else do you got? How about a hospital stay? How about Wilkey II?

  Who gets a second chance at growing up? Who gets to reassemble and restart? Most importantly, who spends another fifteen years trying to do it all over again, expecting it to turn out better? Here's the good news. The 'you' that you're supposed to be is never far away. In fact, he's been with me all along, often lost, confused and angry but he's been around. Where do you think the writing and the music has been coming from? And instead of Mickey being an angel on my shoulder all these years, I have had my parents in my corner. I have had brothers and great friends. Wilkey II is dedicated to Mom, Dad, Grandma, Trisha, Hiro, Kevin, Jenna, The Colonel and Pollard.

  Mickey dies in Rocky III and Rocky moves on to other mentors.  Not me. Mark my words. I'm the only in my corner and that's the way I want it to be. That's the way it's always been. My friends and loved ones have their own lives to live. They'll always be there for me but after growing up twice, it's time I took the wheel. It's taken 32 years but I know how I work. Here I will establish what I call The Bunker. This is where I make my stand. This is where the fantasy world starts to cross over to the real one in a big way. My writing is my mission. This is my workspace. From here, I will be on the outside looking out.  From here, I will reach out to others like me. From here, I will create the future of WILKEY.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Get The Big Rock Out Of My Way

Easter. I understand the story. That's always been enough for me. Being true to one's self will take you beyond this life. Staying on the path is the challenge. Will you stay on it once you see what happens to those whose path was to show us this? And I'm just talking about those lives ended by the mercy of a bullet. There is a reason why those who are not governed by  kings, emperors or presidents are no longer paraded by us, beaten, asphyxiated, impaled and crucified. That just happens to celebrities. But it is us who are nailed to one place. There is no path. Our means of "travel" has been placed in our hands. How can you be true to yourself when you're staring at your cellphone, friends? That's just to distract you from the television. And that is it. There is no path. There is no beyond. Live with it. How does that sit with you? Hopefully, you're still reading.

The Jews did not kill Christ. It was the rabble. It was you and me. Galilee was a ghetto where people had to choose whether to feed their family or pay tax to the emperor. Sound familiar? Imagine an anti-authoritarian peasant telling the rabble that they have the power, not the emperor. That also means the onus of life is on them and not an old man in the sky. The king wants to kill you for saying youre the king and the religious want to kill you for saying you're God. Then you die and become the old man in the sky. Finally, one of our most beloved celebrity filmmakers decides to sink his personal fortune into telling a story that brings you back down to earth and runs you through the whole gamut again. Show the man that walks the path no matter what the cost!! Millions see it. Millions are made. What gets taken away? The violence. It's too violent. The story of the mother, Mary? The mother sees her son fall and rushes to his side like shes done countless times. The story of the love, Magdalene? He offers a hand to someone lynched and ostracized. The fate of so many other characters such as Judas, Peter, John, etc? Not a trace of these elements turn up in what is written and reported. Instead, we crucify the filmmaker and continue to do so with glee. In these times we raise them up and take them down with glee and efficiency that puts the Romans to shame.

Like children, we still don't know what we want and we're still waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting for us.  In that Roman outpost, the rabble were expecting a magic king and got a carpenter's son. They destroyed him because he didnt do magic. Instead, he prayed for the forgiveness of those who visited inhuman amounts of pain and suffering upon him. I guess it's not extraordinary enough.

At some point, science rose to power and the skeptics found their own religion. The story comes under attack for being a story. The main character comes under attack for being too extraordinary. He's just not believable. Science doesn't see it but it creates the distraction from truth it so readily accuses the spiritual of being. If the kingdom of god and all of our answers lie in the present moment, we must remain distracted from it if we are to be governed and remain docile. You may not believe someone can die and return to life but I am sure you can imagine people experiencing something awesome enough to find their own path and create the extraordinary. The story remains perfect.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Chatter

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate." 
Noam Chomsky, from The Common Good, 1998 [43]

"I'm a little vaklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic." Linda Richman.

There was a time when the voice of a dissident was met with a gunshot or rolled over with a tank. People were simply not given a choice. The day the people were given a choice was the day democracy was born and we all lived happily ever after. What a lovely story. But who's telling the story? If you're thinking that you don't see that question in your day-to-day life, you have started on a path and I refuse to take the blame for it. Perhaps, however, I will offer a small measure of guidance. Your view of your world has a Zoom option like any camera. You may experience a wide angle and speak of world issues or you may be stuck in a tight shot with the bills and Charlie Sheen. The enlightened conversationalists among us may be able to swoop gallantly from one pole to the other. Who is pressing that button? Who made the camera? Where did it come from? Again, these may be questions that are not turning up on your Wall. Even if you've had the notion that there's more to things than meets the eye, there is plenty of programming and merchandise for you. Individuality is an ad campaign. The illusion of choice is key to controlling a free people. Just keep talking. Keep participating. There's something for everyone. This is The Chatter.

If you're familiar with Noam Chomsky, you won't be surprised to learn that the quote I opened this blog with is the shortest and most to the point I could find. Chomsky is boring, long-winded and not pleasing to look at. His talks are most often experienced without any graphics, side scrolling bars or background music. Oddly enough, he does seem to want to control any discourse he might generate. In fact, throughout a Chomsky lecture, you will hear him repeatedly cite his sources and encourage you to check info out for yourself. When he sets his parameters, he tells you he is setting them and attempts to do so in the most transparent fashion. There is a lot of room to breathe. Am I saying that Chomsky is exempt from The Chatter? Not at all. In fact, I am always certain that there is a protocol for anything or anyone I could possibly bring to the table. Still, there is a reason why I opened with his words, as there is a reason I involved Linda Richman.

Speaking of protocol, I believe it is still more than safe to say that any political discussion is immediately drawn and quartered by certain well-conditioned responses from Chatter participants. Don't discuss politics and religion. Sound familiar? If a citizen is aware of anything, it most likely comes from skimming the muck at the surface of the water. An earthquake in Japan is just as likely to be there as the current popular reality televison series. So, they're all good. If you fancy yourself more sophisticated, the media is waiting with open arms. What does the billboard say? Come and play. Actually, it is more likely to invite you to rage against the machine. Does it take above average intelligence to get this far? No, I believe it takes common sense and a firm commitment to it at that. Sooner or later, someone is going to feel like they're listening to one person talking about one thing rather than feel like they live among millions of people. What is to be gained from this effect of reducing the voice of millions to the voice of one? Who or what would it take to pull off such a trick? I believe the 'correct answer' in common discourse will lead you to good old conspiracy theories and other charming eccentricities. Like I said, there's something for everyone. However, if you're still committed to a common sense, we can reasonable accept the possibility that it takes more than one person in a white house to run a country. In fact, we can even assume that any instituion based on so much rhetoric couldn't possibly be responsible for getting what gets done every day in America. That covers our political system. At the same time, there are no boogeymen despite their very obvious appeal to our imagination. There is no Big Brother, no Man or any other tidy patriarchal catch-all for the disillusioned. There is money and there is power. Those that have them run the show. Yet he who makes the gold does NOT make the rules, not necessarily. He who makes the gold does not care about us but he cannot ignore us nor can he shoot us or run us over with a tank. What's the poor tyrant to do?

Chomsky speaks of a "specialized class". He borrows the idea from Walter Lippman, whose writing I studied as a Communication major. We're talking about management, those whose job it is to think and plan and mind the common interest. Who do they manage? A more colorful term used would be the "bewildered herd" but I feel the more accurate one would be "spectators". Just keep watching. Just keep talking. There you have The Chatter. I'm afraid so. Like all games, it comes down to winners and losers. Or does it?

What could be better than minding the sheep? Imagine if the sheep could mind themselves! Enter the internet. I bet this specialized class thought it was pretty good at establishing ground rules to shape a culture without actually telling the participants. Have you been on Facebook? We have created our own Chatter, our own rules and haven't told each other anything! Think about it. Social media is not only the elephant in the room but it's been years and NO ONE SPEAKS ABOUT IT! It has made it to the very PALM OF YOUR HANDS! Still, can anyone tell me where I can find the handbook for etiquette? What's happened?

The work of the specialized class is now in the hands of the bewildered herd. The line is severely blurred. Whatever made the specialized class specialized clearly does not apply to the spectators. The Chatter has become The Twitter. So is this overly disturbing thought the reality? Let us take a moment. I am fairly certain the potential of the internet was written off the moment porn became its biggest source of activity. However, there is one very important feature that separates the Net from all other outlets. It is virtually infinite and the means of production are in our hands, literally. Don't count the ole TV out but it enjoyed quite a run of piping The Chatter directly into our living rooms without any opposition. It remains at the center of The Chatter. However, it is apparent that our input became far more required than ever before at some point.  No one is showing up for Neilsen ratings that I know of but I don't really know that anyone ever did. Does anyone know where those things came from? Anyway, who needs them? Everyone wants to know what we think!! Isn't the 21st century exciting? The people's voice has its place next to porn after all! Of course, it is about as articulate as porn but you can't count it out.

In David Fincher's The Social Network, I would say our current situation is represented quite well in the scene where Eduardo Saverin, portrayed by Andrew Garfield, comes home to his psycho Asian girlfriend, played appropriately enough by former Disney starlet, Brenda Song. After bombarding a befuddled Saverin with accusatory questions about unanswered texts and his Facebook relationship status, Song starts a fire in his trash can with the scarf he bought her as a present. Meanwhile, Saverin is realizing that his world has become unrecognizable to him. A little over the top, but I maintain that it brilliantly captures our general mental state at this time while also reminding us that this seemingly apocalyptic era has been dropped in our hands, again, literally. It may also be in the hands of the experts who have quite obviously mastered it and put it to use like they always have but they had to concede to us to do it. It wasn't too long ago that the forces of marketing and advertising had to at least acknkowledge the media savvy of their audience with a wink that still implied who was boss. We are well past that point.

You may note that I seem to have smuggled a silver lining into this essay. I hope so. Every one us has gone from being part of a sleeping giant to being a giant our self. Are we awake? How could we not be? There are countless reasons to close our eyes, That much has never changed. The noise around us has grown bigger and scarier. Yet I say again that our minders, our managers, cannot maintain this Chatter without us. While most would forfeit this responsibility, it apparently is not ours to forfeit. Our voice belongs in this Chatter whether we like it or not. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Biblionaut Versus "The Book"

If you don't play by "the" book, they'll beat you senseless with it. There was a time in my life when I was all over "the" book but I guess you could say I never read my own press, at least not if it was printed in "the" book. All I had to see was what life was like for those who weren't mentioned favorably or weren't in "the" book at all. I called these people friends. They were stuck in a black hole while I was a star soon to burn out. Yet my story remains in this book and stories require belief to sustain themselves as living things. So I ask where has all the belief that has sustained me through the years come from? A select few individuals have managed this and even fewer continue to believe. In the end, only my mother and father continue to testify to the superstar protagonist of an obscure story in a hypothetical tome.

As a self-professed biblionaut, I continue to venture into the ether on a daily basis and aspire to gather materials with which to build my own books. No longer am I holding out for elusive happiness or success. If I must ride my broken heart like a battleship to the day of my demise, so be it. Make no mistake, noise will be made and pages will be filled. Sooner or later, I will figure out how to sustain myself in this world but not without a fuss, never without a fuss.

The age in my eyes is really beginning to show through. Those who gaze upon my face may or may not sense that these eyes have seen much more than this world and have yet to actually read "the" book. I mean, I've skimmed it, read the Cliff Notes and seen the movie plenty of times. But really, who can read that thing? Maybe it is read to us in the womb. We are certainly aware of it as soon as the world it describes supplants the world we came from. For me, if I could actually look back to the world we came from, I imagine a great big pair of legs with green and white striped socks like Nanny from Muppet Babies. A part of me will always have my arms wrapped around one of them, refusing to be pulled into this replacement world.  The lines between life and survival will blur for as long as I draw breath. Somewhere there is a girl who just happens to need what I've got and when we collide, I will wrap my arms around her. I'm sorry, Nanny.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

People Are Dead

People are dead. A nine year old girl is dead. Not even 24 hours have passed and already, as I write this, the national conversation is locked all the way down to the Facebook posts. They're dead. The girl is dead. The judge is dead. At least three others are dead. A woman was shot in the head and is fighting for her life. Am I wrong to want the puppet show passed for politics to be postponed until at least, say, tomorrow? Why am I hearing the names and words already? Why am I hearing people blame a cable news network? Why am I hearing about Sarah Palin and Glen Beck?

People are dead. A nine year old girl is dead. Do you know that the early broadcasts of the event consisted of the appointed Bobblehead reading text from YouTube and Myspace? Any of us can do that. By now, the feeds are scrolling, the graphics are working, the faces are rotating. Facebook is already peppered with television. Those people, that girl, are no longer dead. Already they are being bandied about from press release to press prelease. They have been absorbed into the maelstrom of hot air that swarms out of control through the homes and minds of Americans. Making up your own mind, are you? You wish. If you're not already using the handbook imprinted on your mind, youre swinging at whatever the talking heads are lobbing your way.

Stop. Kick all voices out of your head save your own. Allow your mind to process a man pointing a firearm at a person's head point blank and firing. Go one step further and try to imagine that this person's actions has, in some way, a connection to us all, as people. Dwell on it as long as you need until you absorb it. Then, maybe you can step up to the conversation with a right mind. You will not be scrambling about frantically trying to piece together fragments from a late night talk show monologue. Death should be able to exclude someone from our inane ravings, at least for a little while, right? Why am I thinking of folks like the Westboro Baptist Church protesting funerals? They really don't get it and neither do you if you cannot resist jumping into the melee following murder with virtually the same fervor as when Jersey Shore gets a new cast member.