Friday, October 11, 2013

Presentation/Performance Piece on Harold Jaffe's Anti-Twitter

About or year or so, Dr. Harold Jaffe asked me to do a presentation about his collection of shorts Anti-Twitter. I was up for the challenge, and I think he probably expected that what I would come up with would not be a "normal" presentation by any means. I apologize to those of you that may not have read this book, as some portions of this text might be a little obscure (So, hey, why not check out the book sometime? It's easy to find on Amazon, etc.), but I think this will still be easy to follow overall. Also, this worked much better as a live performance piece, in which I had a board behind me to scribble some of my lunacy related to the second half of this text. Alas, there was no video taken of that, so you will just have to enjoy the text by itself.

Regarding the second half of this text: for many years, I have felt a huge influence from Bentley Little's short story "Llama," which I originally discovered in the great anthology Hottest Blood. The terror derived from numbers and their connections always intrigued me, so this approach occasionally creeps into my own writing. What's so upsetting about the second half of my text is that, unlike Little's story, none of what I have researched and related to my own life is fictional. Yikes!

So here is the text of my presentation...have fun and try to keep your brain sane.


Call me a Luddite, call me oblivious, just call me plain un-American, but I don't really have a damned clue as to what the hell Twitter even is. After a quick bit of research, I've come to understand that Twitter is meant to be a “service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? ... Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the Web.” Though it appears that “twittering” is technically the correct, authorized term to describe someone in the process of using Twitter, the more popularly used term is “tweeting.” Tweeting is also a lesser-known euphemism for performing fellatio on oneself.

In Harold Jaffe's book Anti-Twitter, the popular idea of “brevity as means to distribute information” is morphed into something perhaps more aptly described as “brevity as deconstructed reality,” the truncation of abnormalities and anomalies in our world that could be or are occurring this very second. Jaffe's approach is akin to Félix Fénéon operating in our modern techno-happy wasteland, where it is not merely an artistic choice, but almost essential to strip down the perils of this world into quick blurbs. Technology is a sacred cow and information as a potent entity has pervaded to the point where it is literally everywhere. One can not breathe in the morning's dust without being inundated with the white noise of cyberspace, the 11:00 news on high definition television, and the constant “hey, everyone check out what inane activity I'm partaking in this very second” approach to Twitter. Combine this with the short attention span of most individuals, especially the youth immersed in seemingly endless gadgets, and Jaffe's riffs on the equally absurd and poignant moments of life are especially effective. However, the simplicity of these 50-word stories is deceptive; sensitivity and observational tongue-lashings are of equal partnership in this book.

Some of these moments include, but are not limited to: the choice to face death rather than reality, chimps with metaphorical cojones, archaic pain up for sale, loss of self (found by someone else), the famous and their passions for self-medication, faux death that rapidly becomes true death, attention-seeking selfish suicide, mysterious chocolate drowning (there are certainly less palate-friendly ways to go), a vagina that only takes one hand (and no actual woman) to use correctly, sexy religion, the permanent regret of seeing more stars than promised, simulated coitus, a voyeur and accomplice in the same body, men who listen to God more than is naturally healthy, suffocation of freedom, exploding pigs, Republicans in bondage, nudity used to sell clothing, women replaced by men, the measuring of unimpressive members, hyper chili, safari parks at odds, beating a python at its own game, loud fucking, garlic for bovines, the logistics of having a post-mortem online presence, texting junkies, deceptive meat, kangaroos loose in the city, crocs wearing black and white striped pajamas, homosexual pachyderms and penguins, red wine enemas, shitting on almost-Gandhi, a mattress worth millions, outhouse regulations, forced tobacco intake, a Happy Meal where the prize is a prophylactic (and the prophylactic contains its own special prize), a severed tongue, children immersed in violence and sewage, burning mouse and house, all-female asexual ants, the harsh truth of the camera's “eye”, suicide sun, guns in church, mustard gas, cancerous blow-jobs, zombified paparazzi, the path of death.

This is our world. Take it all in.

And so, here are my own inevitable thoughts on some of the contents of Anti-Twitter that I somehow connected with on a bizarre level. When I first opened this book, I had no idea I would encounter stories that I would be able to tangentially relate to my life either through research or existing knowledge. Experiences can be so strangely intertwined in a variety of ways; you just need to know where to look. This is what I found:

Page 54—“April 4 in the Heartland”
April 4th: My birthday. In this text: a vicious death day for many unfortunate others. No celebration. Only despair. Interestingly, Martin Luther King, Jr. was also assassinated on April 4th, years before this day became my birthday.

Page 53—“Hitchcock”
Anthony Perkins was also born on April 4th. Perkins is arguably best known for portraying Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 film Psycho. The man who impersonates his mother in Jaffe's story has channeled the character of Bates. It is difficult to say whether or not this man was conscious of the comparison or not, but Jaffe has manipulated a clear, direct line between the two men.

Page 99—“Aldous Huxley”
In this text we learn that Aldous Huxley and John F. Kennedy perished on the same day in 1963. This was also the same year Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Huxley's novel Brave New World was published in 1932, the same year Anthony Perkins was born. I was 17-years-old when Perkins died. Huxley was 17 when he wrote his first unpublished novel. I was also 17 when I attempted the same thing (though I'm confident my results were considerably less successful than Huxley's). King's “I Have a Dream” speech lasted approximately 17 minutes.

Page 159—“Last Words, Death Row”
Douglas Alan Roberts spoke these memorable last words before his execution on April 20th, 2005. Adolf Hitler is referenced in Anti-Twitter on pages 22 and 23. Though completely unrelated to Roberts otherwise, Hitler was born on April 20th, 1889. Eva Braun, who later married Hitler, met him when she was 17. The amount of full days between and including April 4th to April 20th: 17.

Page 17—“Vincent”
Van Gogh died at age 37 and painted precisely 37 self-portraits. On April 4th, 1889 (the same year that Adolf Hitler was born), Van Gogh received a random letter from fellow painter Paul Signac. At the time of this letter, Van Gogh was 36-years-old. I am 36-years-old.

What does this mean? What's the significance? Well, much like Twitter, I don't have a damned clue about this either. But the numbers sure do creep me out...

No comments:

Post a Comment