capitalism

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Of Poverty and Parasites

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

24852600_522175624816523_6155051481049473096_nI was working the counter when some old knucklehead sashayed through the doors and wanted a thermostat for his car. His complexion told you he had money: he was in his 60s and his face was smooth and more or less wrinkle free. Meat on people who don’t worry year in and year out about food and housing tend to maintain a youthful elegance. His face wasn’t taut or shiny, which ruled out plastic surgery. He was simply a man whose concerned lay outside the sphere of struggling to make ends meet.

Like most people with money who found their way into the part store, he was clueless. He knew the year and the model but not the make or the engine size or the OE thermostat temperature. He somehow knew he needed a thermostat and expected me to procure it for him. (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Fear and Anxiety

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

img_4397So I’m sitting in my car outside the emergency room, windows down, smoking a cigarette. Signs every ten feet or so declare this property smoke free, but for the amount these swine charge me for a visit here, they can lick my sphincter if they think I’m going to haul ass across the street to choke down a square. To be honest, I don’t even know why I’m sitting here. I just got out, after more than two hours. Two long hours. And nothing accomplished.

It’s a few minutes before ten in the morning. I woke up at ten ’til seven, anticipating my alarm, and felt strange: lightheaded, hollow-boned my heart racing. I bolted up and checked my pulse. 130 bpm. How the fuck do you wake up with a heart rate that goddam high? Sweet Jesus, I’m fucked. This is how I die, like my father—a fucking heart attack.

Fear twisted my head in a vice. Tension behind my eyeballs threatened to jettison them from my skull. Every muscle in my body tensed. No, “tensed” isn’t the right word; they seized. And every nerve in my body, every axon in my brain, seemed to fray then scorch. (more…)

Before the Law by Franz Kafka

by
Frank Kafka.
Translated by Ian Johnston

img_4336Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” At the moment the gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try it in spite of my prohibition. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I can’t endure even one glimpse of the third.” The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud, later, as he grows old, he still mumbles to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But heimg_4337 recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know, then?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”

You can find more translations by Ian Johnston here.

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 6

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

y.

ddickeyBenzo withdrawal sucks. I wouldn’t recommend it.

In my zeal to wean myself off Lamictal, it didn’t occur to me to taper off the Xanax. Instead, I took the remaining pills over the course of a few days and disposed of the bottle. That I could or would experience withdrawal didn’t occur to me until the symptoms descended on me.

I wasn’t quick to recognize the strangeness as withdrawal, which stoked my anxiety as I experienced topsy-turvy perceptions of reality—that’s the best way to describe it: “topsy-turvy.” Everything felt off-kilter, somehow. Even my visual perception shifted. Imagine consuming thirty cappuccinos loaded with espresso. Too much caffeine made “reality” appear as if I were experiencing it through a camera with a foggy lens and the gain cranked too high. (more…)

Anti-Advertisements: The System of Objects

by
Daulton Dickey.

“If we consume the product as product, we consume its meaning through advertising. Let us imagine for a moment modern cities stripped of all their signs, with walls bare like a guiltless conscience. And then GARAP appears. This single expression, GARAP is inscribed on all the walls: pure signifier, without a signified, signifying itself. Signified despite itself, it is consumed as sign. Advertising, like GARAP, is mass society, which, with the aid of an arbitrary and systematic sign, induces receptivity, mobilizes consciousness, and reconstitutes itself in the very process as the collective. Through advertising mass society and consumer society continuously ratify themselves.” —Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

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