IMYS #26 - Deep breath
I'm projecting a dark winter
|Alex Ezell||Nov 9|
It feels better to write this newsletter on a Sunday, especially after a week like the one we’ve just had here in the US. Sure, it’s only about 24 hours since the election was called and there are lawsuits and protests and eruptions of anger and frustration. Unfortunately, those eruptions don’t appear cathartic. As the left was stricken and saddened by the results in 2016, the right seems to be angered and retrenched by these results of 2020. The president-elect calls for reconciliation and rediscovery of this American experiment but maybe we are one toe over the line.
I can’t help but think if we were just one toke over the line instead, we’d all be able to get through this a lot easier. The decriminalization of drugs continues to gain ground across the country. With liberalization laws passing in several states, Oregon steps way out front by decriminalizing the possession of all drugs. The new law acknowledges the fact that addiction is a health matter and not a criminal matter. I hope to see other states follow suit. This is also a key pillar of the “defund the police” movement. Let’s take all that money spent on body armor, pepper spray, and assault vehicles and instead spend it on helping sick people get better.
I count myself lucky to have had my addiction be one that’s far more socially acceptable. Alcoholism is as much a plot point or setup for a joke as it is something I would have been put in jail for. Especially, as a white male, the only thing that drinking might have gotten me in trouble for was drunk driving. Meanwhile, if I had developed an addiction to the painkillers I was prescribed after two collarbone surgeries, I likely would have found myself shopping on the black market with all the dangers that entails.
Instead, with alcohol, the state can benefit from the money spent on taxes. The bars can continue to generate tax dollars and low-pay service sector jobs that rich people seem to think are what we are all looking for. I do fear that the legalization of marijuana (and potentially other drugs) will lead us into the trap we’ve made with alcohol and nicotine. Capitalism has a cruel hand when it comes to caution. That said, those problems seem far more surmountable than do the ones of opiate addiction, overdose deaths, drug market street violence, and a scarcity of medical care.
Further, I’m excited about the increase in openness to studying the benefits that psychotropic drugs can have for chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder. This renewed interest means we might find in nature what we long ago dismissed as shamanism, depravity, and a danger to social order. Maybe now more than ever before, we can agree that the status quo is nothing but rapacious destruction.
Perhaps we can tear down this world and build a new one in its place.
When I was studying and teaching literature, there was always a nagging voice in the back of my head that told me it was all nonsense. That is, all the symbols and metaphors and similes to which I attributed such meaning and art might just be a winking joke. I still wonder how much of the art we find in literature, painting, or music is accidental. There is certainly a story behind the knights fighting snails in these medieval manuscripts. Too bad, we don’t know what it is.
Outkast has just released a deluxe, remastered version of their album, Stankonia. It’s the 20th anniversary and the album holds up incredibly well. The beats are masterful and fun. The lyrics are perhaps a bit of their time though they still rise above almost all current music in their playfulness and occasional subterfuge. What stands out is the tension between the more traditional rap structures and flow from Big Boi and the sing-song, almost pop, sounds that Andre 3000 was moving to. I guess that's what ultimately doomed the duo but here, it helps to sharpen each perspective and propel the whole album to classic status.
Sharp as a Blade
Wesley Snipes has been out of the limelight for many years, with good reason. He spent a few years in prison for tax evasion. (They always get you on the taxes.) That came after his films become unintentional comedies that weren’t earning back the way they should. Still, Snipes got to where he was because he is magnetic, intense, and deeply weird. It's fitting that his potential comeback will be starring in Coming to America 2 with Eddie Murphy. I was part of a group that did a few sketch comedy bits based on the original. Shoulders of giants. Let's hope that Snipes has better accountants now and that some time away has renewed his focus. Whether it's comedy or drama or action, Snipes is impossible to ignore.
Don’t Stand So Close to Me
I’ve written in this space often about the power of nature, specifically forests, to heal and energize us. In a similar fashion, human touch also has deep power to affect our wellbeing. However, we live in a world, even before the pandemic, which increasingly eschewed touch in nearly all of the places where we gather. For good reasons, uninvited touching of others is no longer acceptable, yet, it begs the question of what this isolation might mean to us. I grew up in the Episcopal Church and the bit of the mass where everyone would shake hands and say, “Peace be with you,” was always my favorite. There was something transgressive about getting past the fancy clothes and the solemn seriousness of the situation and touching other people. Will we enter an era of constant distance or will we react and do quite the opposite?
George Romero passed away a few years back after leaving an indelible mark on popular culture with his zombie films. Before his death, he began work on a novel that would dig deeper into the social commentary and satire at the heart of the zombie genre. With the blessing of the Romero estate, Daniel Kraus has completed the novel titled, The Living Dead. It is everything it’s cracked up to be. The satire and eye-poking is only outdone by the gore. Halloween is over but this book is worth devoting some time to before the US holidays bear down on us. You’ll be rewarded with over-the-top violence and gore with an undercurrent of dark humor and smirking finger-wagging.
That’s it for this week. Try to look away from the cable news and get prepared for oncoming winter.