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Stink Pig of the Valley

My friend Paul, he’s an awful, awful guy, and lot of people hate him with good reason, but I don’t.

I could auto-complete the jeremiads and phillipics contra-Paulam as well as any

My brain’s not broke.

Exemplum: Paul’s rude, Paul’s cruel, Paul’s crude, Paul’s yen’s to rule will not be brooked

And yet he is ineffectual, akratic, petulant, weak & whiny, stinky, sweaty, and briny

He dresses poorly and abuses prescription medication and has not called his poor elderly parents in Sioesset in forever.

But he is entirely free of the sort of backstabbing relentless obsequiousness that is like a perpetual, soul-grinding background hum these days

Everywhere? In my line of work? I think everywhere. It’s probably a consequence of the huge income disparities in America these days

You have these fortunatos running around and you need a stiff backbone not to kiss their asses. You need to know who you are. I know who I am. But a lot of folks, don’t know who they are. You could spend a lot of words trying to figure that one out. How could you not know who you are? I mean if you don’t know that, what do you know? Who could you be? Deep stuff. But as to why — early childhood stuff, mostly.

But most are finding a ring to kiss, no doubt. And you can’t blame them, or you can, but I don’t.

Cause nobody’s got healthcare, or very few. We need money, la, we need money. For love, for children, for a “nice day”, we need to GET PAID. Praise the Lord! Mommy, mommy!

Anyway Paul’s not like that.

He’s not my best friend, but he’s my friend.

I will spend an evening drinking, complaining, and watching the Rockford Files with Paul and stumbling home not feel guilt at having wasted one of my precious evenings on Earth.

Rather I’ll be like — ah, that Paul. What are we gonna do with you?

Poor me, what am I gonna do with me?

Paul I may not have your backbone but

I’ve got your back.

But as for his sister Marcy?

If I may make at a parenthesis here in case any of the Garoogian’s might be giving the old Search Engine a spin and find this piece.

No thanks.

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Nakhon Si Rachassima Pearl Diver Academy Scandal

Just tell me the personal situation! Just let me feel the feels! Just show me your heart! I want to connect with another human being.

Fine, of course, you will. But first I have to tell you a little social context, a little social and political and historical context, because we human beings are a bit like hermit crabs, aren’t we? We have a big claw and a shrewd face, but our guts are a shapeless mess, that fits the shape of whatever cast-off shell has been served us to us as a receptacle by circumstance. By which I mean to say I must tell you the politics and the economics and the society first, for those are the shell which gave my gloppy goopy heart its shape. The shape it took before it was broken. Once you know the shape of my heart, then I promise you you will see it, and you will have a chance to unplug the jar of tears deep in the chest, and pour it out as your libation. Which of course, I do not deny, is what we want.

I am the Dean of the Nakhon Si Rachassima Pearl Diver Academy. Nakhon Si Rachassima is a small state ruled (ostensibly) by a prince but (actually) by a group of fourteen wealthy families with interests in paddy farming, shipping, and above all else pearl culture. Nakhon Si Rachassima is involved in a conflict with the state of Kanchanaburi, and this conflict plays out in a continual striving for which little state can most effectively harvest pearls from the oyster beds of the Gulf of Siam. To this end we must train pearl divers, and the training of pearl divers means above all training them to believe in their mission. For the oysters are greedy of their pearls and vengeful, and cruel. When they catch a diver they kill him after several days of excruciating tortures.

So the teachers of the pearl divers must teach them to believe that fetching pearls is worth the risk.

And to be sure much of that is about lying, and claiming that the risk of death by torture is low and almost non-existent. But this is a lie. And the best teachers do not teach by such an obvious lie.

So to be sure it is about teaching that the Prince of Nakhon Si Rachassima is the child of the Sun Goddess, and while his Palm Leaf Palace is intact the sun will always rise.

But that is another lie.

So to be sure it is teaching that although the Prince is just the descendant of a merchant family that seemed malleable enough for the others to accept his nominal rule, and though indeed a failed foray into the Halls of the Oyster Kings will result in a sliver of shell up the urethra, even so…even so… it is all worth it because there is nothing more beautiful than the sheen of pearl. And what is a man if he values his own life and freedom from pain above the Sheen of Pearl?

That is what the teachers are supposed to believe.

The scandal is that they don’t. They are supposed to be teaching the very best stories to the pearl divers so they can brave the risk of death by torture.

But they are telling them stories they do not believe.

They do not believe that others will believe them! They do not test them in the Conventicles.

The Conventicles are a way of testing what stories will be believed. A teacher comes to a conventicle and tells his story and judges by looking into the eyes of the conveners. Sincere men and women. The teachers tell the stories, look into the eyes of the conveners, and judge what story is good enough to be told to the Divers, the ones who brave death by torture in the green-purple deep.

They say they are testing the stories in the Conventicles. But they are not. They lie.

It has been twenty five years since a conventicle has convened. Long ago the conveners were judged too expensive and were all let go.

The teachers said they did not need the Conventicles, that they had other ways of telling a good story. But this other way is pure intellectual laziness and self-deception. The teachers just come up with stories they say will be believed, even though they will not because that is how they have jobs to feed themselves and their families.

And the best story, the story of life not worth living without acknowledging the uniqueness of the Sheen of Pearl?

Nobody believes it at all.

No, nobody believes the story of the uniqueness of the Sheen of Pearl.

Everybody knows one can create a gemstone with as alluring a sheen from the snail known as the Meli-Meli!

The Meli-Meli crawls to the top of the banana palm and then crawls down it and one can pluck Meli-Meli pearls from his goopy interior with none of the risks of the inventive sadism of the Oyster Kings.

Everybody knows this. The Pearl Divers. The Teachers of the Pearl Divers. And me. Dena of the Nakhon Si Rachassima Pearl Diver Academy.

I report to the Prince that we will win the fight against Kanchanaburi some day. But we won’t.

How could we?

The Pearl Divers don’t believe it is worth diving.

The Teachers of the Pearl Divers do not believe their stories will convince pearl divers it is worth diving.

Nobody believes in a life spent diving for pearls. And they all say they do.

And it is my job to keep the Academy alive!

I have been betrayed by everyone.

I have betrayed everyone by pretending not to know I have been betrayed.

Every day I am asked questions which I answer as best I can. And every night I go to sleep afraid I will wake up the following morning to have disgraced myself.

Because I no longer know what I can say that is not disgraceful.

And yet when my eyelids are drooping over my communiques, trying to evade the just punishment, and my forearm falls with a slap onto my ink and I need to re-do my last page, for a glimpse I see it.

The Pearl, the pearl, the beautiful pearl. Worth dying for. Worthy of lying for. And worth being lied to for, even if your life ends in torture and disgrace.

I love it so.

You gorgeous babe, you. You sexy, sexy pearl. Ahh you milky delicious creamy thing. Ah you so beautiful. I love you. I love you. I love you.

I love pearls!!!

If that doesn’t make you feel, your soul is numb. You have less heart than an oyster with no pearl, less heart than a diver without a reason to face pain and death, or a teacher without a story, or a Dean afraid he will wake up tomorrow without a job.

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My Interview with the Prince

Eric

I’m here with the Prince who just published a book called “Spare.” Prince, I assume the title is a reference to your prose style. Unadorned. Unembellished. Spare.

The Prince

No, actually I never thought about that.

Eric

What?

The Prince

Yeah.

Eric

Really?

The Prince

Yeah.

Eric

Whoa. Not about your spartan prose?

The Prince

No. Actually you’re the first person who ever said that.

Eric

No!

The Prince

Yeah.

Eric

So why did you call it “spare”?

The Prince

The title means I am like the spare prince to be king in case my older brother dies.

Eric

Oh. I never thought of that.

The Prince

Yeah?

Eric

Yeah. Not in a million years.

(awkward pause)

Prince

Heh heh.

Eric

Heh heh. I guess it’s cause I’m more interested in prose than like the ins and outs of being in a royal family in the twenty-first century which seems kinda dumb. No offense

Prince

None taken.

Eric

Say, prince — do I say your highness?

Prince

No.

Eric

Right, no. I kinda got off on the wrong foot but can I ask my questions? I already wrote them down in this google doc and it was kinda hard to sched this zoom call.

Prince

Please.

Eric

OK. Adverbs. Are they ever okay?

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About the Iconic River of Bliss

If you want to know what something is you need to hold in mind what it is at its best. So, taking for example, healing or loving, we don’t look at degraded forms of healing — eg a quack — or loving — someone who cares in exchange for money — and try to build up our understanding of healing or loving out of them, but the reverse, we look at a perfect case of true healing or actual love, and understand the deficient cases as a falling away, or a failure to achieve the best. So let’s take as our case today, language, and investigate what language is, by trying to get clear in front of us what speaking, writing and so on are when they are flourishing — when they are at their best.

A pre-remark is worth making here because some people get confused about why we are taking language as our object of investigation rather than something else. This is always a good question, because there is a danger of fetishizing the steps of inquiry and so to speak, laying our bag on a step of the flight of stairs leading to the bedroom rather than lying down in the bed, because since the flight of stairs leads to the bedroom, we think each step is a bed. It’s not. Similarly (and here it is important to realize that when we say similarly, we mean similarly — similarity is not analogy (in fact it is impossible to find two concepts that are more dissimilar or more analogical than these two “similarity” and “analogy” and this is a deep rule of the game) we do not take language because language is fundamental. It’s not. Reality is. Language is not reality. Reality is not language. We might just as well take as our object of investigation ears or fighting or law firms. We address ourselves to the language for the only reason (and it is a good one) that language is what we are using now. It’s in front of us. It is under my fingers as a type this, alone on this dark night in suburb Los Angeles — the City of the Queen of the Angels. It could just as well be socks, or shoes.

Pre-remark, remarked, we can now make our remark, and it is a simple one. In what circumstances — in the junior reporter’s case — who when how and why — do we see language at its best? The answer is: when we go from utter darkness to complete light and experience bliss. That is the source of the famous “Iconic River of Bliss” which is depicted in so many images, both conscious and unconscious — from the DNA double helix, to the Laocoon, from the human spine to a spatter of grease on a frying pan. The river of bliss takes us from rain cloud to ocean — from the yet-to-be-manifested, to the power that resists all manifestation. It’s just too big. It’s too powerful.

And that is what language does, when it is at its best. It takes us from the unseen to the unseen, or — since a photon is after all just a thing and the eye is just another thing (when you think about it) — from a relation that fails to one that succeeds.

That’s what the American philosophers call “pragmatism”, or, more accurately, according to Pierce “pragmaticism”.

The consequences for practice are two-fold. And I’m sorry to tell you this, but neither works very well. But they’re all we’ve got, or at any rate all I’ve got. If you’ve got better, that’s very good. But I’m not you. So for me the consequences of this theory of language (and don’t get hung up on the word “theory” — it’s no more a theory than that water is wet) is that we either start with the light and create the darkness which will most blissfully be penetrated by said light, or start with the darkness and rummage through our bag of tricks for a ray of light that we are able to use to penetrate with it.

We don’t start with the bliss, although you might think, algebraically that that’s possible. Light, darkness, bliss — I said we can start with light or darkness. Why not start with bliss? Well that’s easy, actually. If you’re in bliss you don’t need to use language. You’re good.

Community follows from what darkness and what light you choose to focus on and community gives you who you are.

And that about sorts this.

— Studio City Lectures, 2023

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What Morwen Mip-go Asked of Abba Invictus

When I wipe the grease from the eye of the mind I can see others looking back at me with a glint reflecting in the liquid surface of the eye, but even if they are made of porcellain, example -a porcelain cocker spaniel. How, Abba Ivictus, and why? Is the glint in the eye a sign of something or somebody there? Or not? Is it there in the porcelain dog? Is it there in the sky? Is it in me?

Abba Invictus gave her a crumpled handful of grass.

Every single seed could repopulate a forest.

But together they ground the seeds on a millstone and ate bread together.

There are seeds, and then there are seeds, said Abba Invictus.

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The Disgraced Professor

Chapter One

The Professor got a job as an expert on things that are not animals in the department of Non-Animology. He wrote articles about tubas. Books about the Hapsburg Empire. Chaired symposia on the letter C. But then his jealous rival came to him and asked him — the tiger? Is that not an animal? And the Professor said — yes! And everybody laughed. Like he peed his pants.

Because a tiger is an animal.

Chapter Two

Oh but it is cold in this warehouse late at night where the former professor is working driving the forklift truck. So many things he thought were not animals are animals! Rat dog cat sheep hare. The night was the one he could not remember. Is that an animal or not?

Wake up professor! You are supposed to be working and you are sleeping under that pile of boxes. There is work to be done. You are going to get fired.

Leave me alone!

And so he was fired.

Chapter Three

The Professor – I do not understand why. why did i go to sleep even when i knew i should not.

The Cold Wind – Because you were tired.

The Professor – But I knew i should not sleep even though i was tired. but i slept anyway.

The Cold Wind – Because your body is an animal that goes to sleep when it is tired, whatever else you want.

The Professor – The I ? Am I not-an-animal or an animal?

Chapter Four

Years after the Professor died and was forgotten (along with his disgrace!) people decided to stop studying things that were not something but the things themselves. Where once we had studied things that were not night we now studied Day. Where once we studied things that were not Loss we now studied Gain. And where once we studied things that were not different from us, now we studied things that were the same.

Was it an improvement?

You tell me!

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I Make Thousands of Dollars While I Sleep

As Helena Bonham Ford was defeated by Helena Bonham Carter

So were all the sperm that could have been the great lord Jesus

But weren t. From thi slearn the Great Principle

Actual beats Possible. He is eating his french toast withh syrup

And sirloin steak and french fries and ice cream with chocolate sauce

And the medical team is preparing potassium chloride

He thinks — I will run. I will cry.

Will they kill me if I cry. They will. they woke up this morning

Knowing. In teh pluripotent cells.

Is Agony Is Desire Is Type Is Long IOh!

And all other Great Principles.

Man is a little world. Man is a wolf to man.

World is a Wolf to World.

A wolf is a big man. But he will never look at you.

At least you will never catch him doing so.

In your pocket is a shell – a mussel and a barnacle

Find them both in the belly of a gull.

There is a place where you peck me and I will urp

The thing I made to feed my chicks.

I m glad I ate everything that was good.

Tattoo it on my hand. Shake it behind my back.

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So Many Tricks What are You Gonna Do?

When I first came to hollywood i started making this joke. Bob (or Joe or Eddie) is a great guy, wonderful guy, you would love him — the only thing is sometimes he poses as your friend for years and then at an opportune moment strikes in order to hurt you and cause you as much pain as possible. the joke is — well then he is not a wonderful guy. it is a joke about hollywood insincerity. people say things that seem like they are saying they like you. but really they hate your guts. well the irony is of course i am one of those people — precisely the sort of person that my joke skewered is me — i skewered myself. and that of course is how it goes, because the very thing you hate as a child you become, and the very thing you love as a child, you become, and ultimately you only get to be a child when you grow up and remember being a child. because when you actually are a child you are — i do not really know what. an animal? honestly it is the same with animals — the animals are not animals. only people are animals who look within their human heart and find — a wolf, a cow, a storm. only the guilty are innocent. and this is true.

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No Regrets

Were I  a branch of the Banijurids of Tokharistan who ruled over the area of Transoxiania under the Abbasids, I would have acknowledged the suzerainty of the Samanids in the 10th century. Because that’s how I would have rolled. If the Samanids are asking for suzerainty and it doesn’t cost too much, I would let them have their way.

Maybe the other branches of the Banijurids of Tokharistan would look down on me for acknowledging the suzerainty, maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe some of them would front that if they were in my kafshi chubins (a kind of Central Asian shoe), they would tell the Samanids to f-off, but in private would say to me, Eric — we get it.

But I am not a branch of the Banijurids of Tokharistan, or any other group of Transoxianic nomadic peoples during the 10th century. I am just me, a family man in the twenty-first century, aging, working as a comedy writer, trying to get by trying to be honest and reasonably helpful to others, given the constraints under which I operate.

Much like I imagine the Banijurids of Tokharistan during the tenth century were. You know, mutatis mutandis.

Honestly, I try not to judge. I like to think that the Banijurids of Tokharistan would not judge me either, if we ever meet. But if they do, that is their right. I don’t judge their judging either.

Is that a judgment, to prefer non-judging to judging, in as much as we can. Sure. You have to compromise. With people, with the Samanids, with life.

It doesn’t mean defeat.

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