Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Forbidden Zone: Conclusion

(Sub Report, April --, 2005.
1st Block: I tried to teach the students something about business, what they'll face in the job world. Did not make a lot of headway. Gave them emergency lesson assignment with 25 minutes left in period. Shadae, Unique, Kelli, and Latoya completed it-- no one else.
2nd Block: I kept some of the class busy with emergency assignment ("Buying a Car") plus one of my own. Overall the students were okay.
3rd Block: The class was uninterested, with a few exceptions.
10th Module: Nothing to report.)

After a day of trying to impose my will upon the students, and failing, a tentative truce has been reached. The students minimally cooperate as long as I don't try to change the set way of doing things in the classroom. The dirty little secret of urban schools is that they're run by the students, who allow a facade of control over themselves, so they can get their diplomas (so some of them can anyway-- those who don't drop out) and the teachers and administrators can keep their jobs. The unspoken agreement: We'll pretend to learn and you'll pretend to teach us. (Not that no students learn-- many do, but their learning is something they do on their own, only casually related to the expense of buildings, staff, curriculums, and so on. I can't say I learned a tremendous amount myself in school. My mother taught me to read, as she taught my old man after she married him. My real education came from my jobs and my reading. High school was something I slept through.)

In the office on the second floor, the Principal, his assistant, and the clerks scrupulously construct a bureaucratic masterpiece of a fantasy that all is well. This is shown by the p.a. announcements the Principal regularly makes-- about attendance and academic progress-- to which no one-- not teachers or students-- pays attention. (It takes a day for me to filter out his words from the rest of the noise.) In his office within the office, safely burrowed deep, the Principal exults in his land of make-believe. "Good afternoon. Remember that students must at all times be in proper school uniform. Thank you for your cooperation."

Uniforms! I had no idea the students in this school were supposed to wear uniforms! As I look at the sulky students before me, I in fact now see shards of what may have once been parts of uniforms-- a white blouse here, with sleeves cut off, otherwise covered with assorted paraphernalia. There, what might be black uniform shoes, and navy-blue uniform socks.

My teaching consists of handing out the daily assignment, answering a very occasional question about it. (When I ask students if I can help, I encounter moody silence.) As a learning tool the assignment is useless. To a portion of the students it's ridiculously easy-- grade school stuff not fit for a high school. Another portion has no interest whatsoever in it-- they're occupied gambling, or in planning after school scams. A third portion, tuned out of education from Day One, isn't to the level of even attempting the assignment. For them, twelve years of school has resulted in: nothing. Warehousing.

The parameters of my role are set. The arguments of the first day between myself and the classes have dwindled to mutual silence. I don't completely give up. On Wednesday I leave messages on the blackboard for students to read or not read when they come in-- education by osmosis. Such as: "The Business Spirit: Guy in middle of avenue selling newspapers." The kind of no-pay job which earns the students' contempt, though most of them will end up in exactly such positions or worse. I pick out those who'll be in the slammer within six months of graduating. Many know prison is their fate-- and welcome it. In the rule throughout the school of Strong over Weak, the endless games of Predator and Prey, this institution is preparation for the survival test of incarceration. Fortunate are those who'll stay out of the dungeons. For the salvageable students, a school day is something to endure, little more.

I learn from observation. I sit atop my desk impassively, on guard to break up fights while thoughts run through my mind. Some students are worth appreciating-- even in the toughest class.

The Prima Donna wants to complete the assignment the fastest. Once handed it, she's on a speed clock. Problems with numbers are a breeze for her. Vocabulary questions give her trouble.

"What's this word, 'impudent,'" she asks. "What that mean?"

"Arrogant," I tell her. "You know, like Donald Trump."

"Who he?"

I remind myself they don't watch that TV show on this planet! I compliment her on her work anyway-- she's defined by her pride, evident by her dress and her bearing. By her arrogance! "You so fly," she tells me.

I appreciate Mr. Shorts for attempting the assignments, though he struggles over them mightily. Each day he slides his desk toward a particular girl to ask questions. The girl ends up helping him. On occasions when they think I'm not watching (though I always AM watching) she completes the assignment for him.

On Wednesday I'm able to coax a key to the classroom out of the office. During lunch period I'm able to leave my jailroom. The orange-vested hall monitors and blue-shirted security guards stand at the edges of the vacated hallways. They look bedraggled; overwhelmed.

I have one of them unlock the staff men's room on the floor for me (I still have no key for that). At a small, ancient wooden table inside sits a rumple-haired teacher with his head in his hands. He sighs. "How long you been doing this job?" I ask him. "Fifteen years," he tells me. "Is it always bad?" I ask. He shrugs. "Some days are worse than others!"

Thursday morning I realize the First Block class has become divided. The back two-thirds of the room belongs to the delinquents and their sympathizers. Those who want no part of them, including scattered bullying victims, have pushed their desks close to the front toward my desk for protection. My week's efforts have carved out a safe zone. At least that's something. Should I settle for that? No! My task now is to expand my territory. It's time to attempt an Extra Credit assignment.

"Extra Credit: List five or more business brand names," I write on the board, then hand out sheets of paper to those who'll accept them. The students at the front do so. The assignment is ridiculously simple. Yes, it doesn't "teach" anything. I want the students to at least think about the nature of the world around them; the prevalence of brands, business, corporations. (Even the well-schooled seldom acknowledge the structure of the society in which we live.)

"Brand names are everywhere," I tell them. "Fast food franchises carry a brand name, as do the tires on a car, the labels on the clothes you wear, or the recordings you listen to on your headphones."

The students stare at me for a full minute, then begin scribbling furiously. They bat names back and forth among themselves. Several students in the back part of the room pick up their heads to watch. In what remains of the period, a girl has listed 59 brand names, most of them for women's clothing or accessory articles. She hands in the paper with an impudent smirk. A friend of hers keeps writing right to the bell. "85," she says quietly when finished.

"Hey man, what's the record?" one of the back-of-the-room observers asks me. "85 pretty good." "I don't know," I say. "Must be around 100." He strokes his chin and nods his head before walking out.

I hadn't figured on the competitive aspect of the assignment, but can use it. "A girl in the last period listed 85 brand names," I tell the Second Block students when I mention the assignment. "I think the record's a hundred."

The five brightest students in this my brightest class perfunctorily dig in to the project, after completing the regular assignment. Gigantic Thug #1, surrounded by a circle of desks of his friends, watches the five for ten minutes. "Let me show them how it's done," he at last says out loud, standing up and striding forward. "Mr. Dude, let me borrow one of those paper sheets." I hand him a pen as well.

The best of the best five students approach 80. The giant leaves them in the dust, raising his arms in celebration when passing 85, then the long-held (one hour?) century mark. "Now we set a record no one gonna break!" he announces to his friends and to myself.

At 120 he stalls. His posse of friends begins helping him, offering suggestions, quietly shuffling forward brands. "There!" the giant says when he hands me the paper. "200. No one gonna top that, not in the whole school system." He pauses before easing his enormous bulk out the door. "If I had more time I would've done more."

"200," I tell the Third Block group of prima donnas, card sharps, and future convicts when I mention the Extra-Credit assignment and point to the board. "That's the All-Time World Record, set during the previous period."

"Man. . . .," mutter several of the students at this news. No way can this fact be allowed! This group is the toughest, shrewdest, quickest, canniest of all, and they know it. They look at themselves as if to say, "Which one of us is going to take down that fool record?"

The Prima Donna halts at 50. Many others realize the task is too great and give up. A couple students, though, struggle on. Eventually all hope settles on a young man named Leonard, a card game regular noteworthy for his silence. Students stand over him as he racks up the brand names, one after another. "Clothes," the Prima Donna says. "Cars," says the pint-sized card sharp. "Restaurants," "Sports teams," "Newspapers," say others.

Leonard slows down at the 180 mark. The class becomes lost in thought. Even Gigantic Thug #2 has stopped his stream of cussing and sits pondering. More recording labels. Someone thinks to look at the side of a textbook (the only one in the room) on my desk, and mentions the name of the company. "Does that count?" the student asks. I nod yes.

Interest now focuses on the clock. Is enough time left? The minutes click down. Students peruse their clothes, purses, shoes, radios, watches. The 200 mark is shattered as more industries are thought about, to pour additional dozens of brands into the mix. Gigantic Thug #2 slams his hand on his desk and grins from his madness. At the side of the room the Angry Man, continuing the card game with three others, scowls. "Airlines!" the crazy giant exclaims in response, and several more names go onto Leonard's list.

The bell ends the pursuit of names at 277. The triumph of the record mark is only marginally mitigated for me when the last class, of 9th graders, shows entirely no interest in the project.

Friday, being Friday, is chaos. Many students are absent; many more fill the halls. The students in my classes and I wait for the time to pass; for the cherished weekend. Gigantic Thug #1 in 2nd Block asks my opinion of the basketball season. In 3rd Block the card game goes on as normal. Leonard, though, hangs with a few others around my desk as we discuss movies. Students surreptitiously look at me. Curiosity? Who is this white guy? One offers me a donut, for which I'm grateful.

A loud kicking at the door. A student opens it. Gigantic Thug #2 in the hallway beckons for me. He holds an official-looking slip of paper in his huge hand. "I need this signed," he tells me. It's some kind of cut slip or absence request. I scowl as I look at it. "I don't understand any of this paperwork," I admit as I scribble something on the slip. He grins. "Neither do I!"

"Hey!" I say to the pint-sized hustler pocketing his cash when students are filing out of the room. "Doesn't the house get a cut?" He looks at me for a minute, wondering if I'm serious. "Naaww," he says.

The 9th graders continue their playground behavior, then they're gone and I'm free to escape. In the stairwell as I make my way downstairs stand Mr. Shorts and his gal pal from 3rd period. An invisible bond of affection is evident between them. Despite the obstacles they face, here are two individuals I think will make it.

Substitute teachers are proferred targets for the students-- excuses (if they needed any) to run wild. I'm still new at the game. Will I be able to acclimate myself to these assignments? Will I find ways to reach these young people?

I drop off the classroom key at the second floor office. The bulldog assistant principal, unseen all week, is suddenly alongside me. "Thanks for helping out," he tells me pointedly. Then he's turned, in his bulldog way; is behind the counter sniffing paperwork at the clerks' desks, pondering already what will be required to keep this outpost of education operating next week.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Fake Letter

This just to let people know that the letter supposedly from me in the current issue of The Ruminator, presented by Daniel Handler while being interviewed, is fake. My signature is a big "X." Is this supposed to be postmodern? Is the reader expected to know this is a joke? Very funny, ha-ha.

A trivial matter, no doubt, but it DOES reinforce the notion that for many of this country's trendiest writers, truth has no meaning. Which leaves them free to construct phony letters, fake other writings, plagiarize, and further reinforce and add to the widespread dishonesty and phoniness of American society-- which of course we experience every day on our TV screens. "Why should writers be any different?" seems to be the thinking.

(But the ULA IS different-- one reason why I'm no longer going to enable the dishonesty pushed out through numerous endless anonymous names.)

I do believe that in the back of their minds, people like Handler and his friends, who get a chuckle at what we're doing, are bothered by what we represent. Someplace, down deep, within themselves, is the suspicion that they're frauds, and we're for real. Why else all the trouble invested in attempts to discredit us? Why all the fake ULA sites; the hours put into constructing them and posting on them-- redoing the arguments in a rigged arena in a way to favor themselves? What does this say about these people?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Forbidden Zone, Part II

"Thinking Like a Businessman."
"The Importance of Business. (Supply and Logistics.)"
"Who Do You Work For?
1.) Corporations.
2.) Government.
3.) Yourself. (Entrepreneur)."

These are some of the things I've written on the blackboard. The bell for First Block has rung but not one student is in the room. Or (as I gather from the mob of students outside) in any room. An array of them in the hall eyeball me. Sounds of destruction can be heard down the way, out of sight. I step back into the room. Eventually, as if on a hidden internal clock, a group of youths enter, loll about, a few taking seats. I close the door. Someone immediately begins kicking it from without, violently. I open it and more students strut inside, wearing masks without trace of emotion. The intermittent influx of students continues for ten minutes. Really, for the entire period, accompanied by never-ending shouting and banging rising up through the building, a raging cacaphony of sound as if this were an insane asylum. I assume my gift of gab will get me by. I begin to speak in an impressive voice. No one pays attention. At best I'm a distraction-- "who is this corny guy?"-- my different skin marking me as truly an alien from another planet.

My words on the blackboard and my well-thought-out presentation are for naught. I try to tell the pupils that life is serious business-- that in a couple months they'll be in the world for real and they'd better get ready, or they'll end up like me! No response.

The hallways are filled with fighting; in the classrooms also-- in mine-- along with bullying, extortion, and continuous verbal degradation of everybody. A student who appears to me to be Chinese is being choked by a larger kid. "Hey!" I yell. The threatening monster releases his prey with a pointing finger: "I want the money today!" and leaves. Taking roll is an impossibility. I give a speech about work, business, self-presentation, being on time-- "Half of any job is showing up." A few students listen, others snarl, I've quieted some of them at least. To my right, a shaking, sweating, twitching student is unable to remain in his seat. He asks me for a hall pass. I scribble one to lessen the chaos.

It occurs to me that throwing so many hyperactive young people together into closed rooms is a mistake. Stifling inhospitable crowded rooms in an old structure of broken windows and doors, few books, non-existent or inoperable equipment with which to teach-- it'd be superfluous anyway. I plow ahead with my words while backtalk insults side-show arguing pushing wrestling never ceases. Things in the hallway are worse. "Outside!" I tell two young men about to square off. Thinking: Get out of this room to where there's actual fighting. I close the door behind them, knowing again will come the inevitable loud hinge-shaking kicking.

As a teacher I'm not supposed to touch students, and have to watch what I say. (Or face suspension and lawsuits.) Students verbally assault the teacher with the most creative taunts and sing-song rhymes, hold their fists up to his face-- "You want some of this?"-- threats and mocking. The teacher remains oblivious. A wall quickly goes up to filter out the abusive noise. I move among the desks attempting order, breaking up fights, engaging in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations. "This is YOUR time," I tell them. "YOUR opportunity; your moment for preparation." They don't hear a thing. My name's on the board. They call me instead "Mr. Dude."

"What are you going to do when you get out of school in two months?" I ask one smart-aleck, pointing at him. He tells me he'll open a nightclub with topless dancers. I ask him questions about managing it. The smart-aleck says he'll hire people. "How will you keep them from ripping you off?" I ask. "How will you keep your bartenders from giving away all your stock, or shorting the cash?" I tell him tricks to watch for. The truth of what I relate leaves him silent. He sneers, then turns away.

With twenty-five minutes left in the ninety-minute period, realizing I'm unable to reach them, I hand out the emergency assignment left by the regular teacher. The students loudly complain they don't have enough time to complete it. "Do your best!" I say. Few try. I give away extra pencils I've brought with me. I see the pencils rolling across the floor uselessly, settling among gathering soda cans and candy wrappers which I'll have to pick up between periods.

With my second class I vary my strategy, handing out the assignment first. Maybe this will occupy them. Several students finish quickly, then begin goofing and laughing while I see, to my surprise, most got all the answers right. (But others in the room stare at the assignment as if it were a blank page.) I write an Extra Credit Assignment on the blackboard, erasing the crap I'd put up there. "Describe a Business You'd Like to Own," I write with the chalk.

"The business could be anything," I say as I hand out blank sheets of paper. I give a few examples. "Use your imagination."

The smart-aleck's imaginary nightclub had given me the inspiration. I'm curious to see what the students will write. Five of them discuss among themselves, then write intently. The rest of the class remains uninterested. Some turn their desks into a circle, shutting out the world. Others listen to music on headphones. Two girls dance together in back. One boy puts his head on his desk and sleeps. Another stares straight ahead. I ask if I can help him with the regular assignment, which rests before him without a mark on it. "This is stoo-pid," he says. A girl comes up to me, shows me a cheap watch she wears and asks me what time it is. Five minutes later she asks me again. For me, as much as for her, the time drags!

I collect the extra-credit essay assignment, done by two boys and three girls. The businesses described are a barber-shop, a clothing store, a sporting goods store, a hair salon, and a Christian magazine. The essays are surprisingly good. I try to compliment the five students. Their faces turn away from mine, rejecting any acknowledgement, as they join the parade of the rest of the class leaving the room, on their own schedule five minutes early.

I don't try to control the Third Block group, which appears most riotous of all. I've reached my exasperation level and don't want to "lose" it. In walk the worst collection of juvenile delinquents ever seen on one planet. They glare in a collective body at me as I sit atop the desk. I try not to glare back. "Sign the roll sheet," is my only request. Their assignment sits on the desk next to it. I attempt to hand it around. Few students accept it. In the back corner a card game begins.

In my head I assign the students names. "The Angry Man"-- an ugly sour-faced inferno of uncontrolled rage. "The Prima Donna"-- braids and beads, the prettiest girl in the room and knows it. "Mr. Shorts"-- a short guy with very baggy shorts, wearing a black cap with bill turned up. "Gigantic Thug #2" (#1 was in last period)-- sitting in the back row unleashing an unceasing torrent of ethnic abuse probably aimed at me. I'm in no mood to investigate. The other students keep a safe distance from him; a wise policy. The card game goes on heedless, run by a pint-sized hustler flashing a thick roll of bills. The Angry Man slams around desks and cusses out the others in the game, including Pint-Sized, but keeps turning over his money. All the while Gigantic Thug #2 is shouting continuously at nobody and at everybody. I can only observe, shake my head, and smile at the mad picture in front of me.

"Are things like this for the regular teacher?" I ask a girl in the front row. She shrugs apologetically and says yes.

The last class of the day in the room is one of 9th graders. They make the same noise, know the same vulgarities, take the same stances as the older students-- but the performance is unformed, as if they're still learning the roles. There's a tentativeness about their toughness; sometimes the masks drop. I wonder how much of the "ghetto" attitude is affectation. Are they trapped in their self-destructive poses? One of the girls tells me she strips at a club. "You're too young," I say. "I have fake ID," she brags. She's proud of herself-- trying to prove to me how depraved she is. Can one change these codes of behavior?

The boundaries of my role are clear to me. Forget the "curriculum" and teaching. That's impossible in this environment. I'm a glorified underpaid babysitter. If I can maintain a minimal semblance of order-- keep most of the students in the room; get a few to complete the assignment-- I'm ahead of the game. It's impossible to change a pattern set by sub after sub, teacher after teacher-- and by the neighborhood, which waits everpresent in all its shattered impoverished debris outside the grimy windows of the classroom.

Not once, more like 500 times, I tell myself I'm not paid enough for this shit ($40 a day), there's no way I'm coming back. I'm going to call the agency when I get home and tell them to forget it. But early the next morning without thinking I board the northbound train, get off at the unnamed stop which exists on no map-- in the middle of a wasteland-- and walk the mile through devastated Zytronian streets to the school for another day of psychological punishment.

(To be continued.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Zytron Journal: The Forbidden Zone

TO ME the Zytronian city spreads gigantic endless in every direction enormous population neighborhoods shops lights signs cars confusion of sounds faces shades glimmering speed trains roaring mad inferno of civilization. At the fixed center stand the towering turquoise-hued skyscrapers, my only guidepost.
After a month of drug-test screening, the Zytron Employment Agency calls with a position. I hike to their office. Due to my business background, they slot me for "guest" vocational teaching. I'm handed a stack of curriculum manuals to study. I listen to a couple lectures, and have my photograph taken. Before I leave, the man at the main desk takes off his glasses and looks at me. "Just between us," he advises, "you'll be sent to locations no one else will go to, on assignments no one else will take."

I need the money. I'm handed identification.

The first phone call is for a one-week assignment. The phone voices gives directions to the school: Get off when the subway pauses after such-and-such stop, then walk west for a mile. "The neighborhood and school aren't on a map," the voice tells me. "You'd find a blank space."

Next morning the subway pauses at a station without a name. I step off. Other subway stations are green-tiled new and sparkling. This one is grimy stark gray with age, tiles missing everyplace. The smell of urine is everpresent. I hear the patter of rats scampering, amid dust and debris. Outside, at the head of stairs, the neighborhood is as desolate bleak. The Emerald City is in sight an impossible distance away. I turn and begin walking toward the school's location.

Early morning, hollow-eyed crack addicts who've not been to sleep accost me, standing on broken sidewalks in front of shattered wooden houses that are ridiculously tiny. I push past without acknowledging these ghosts of the street.

In the center of the avenue a man in a long shabby coat stacks newspapers on a rickety table. I have no time to be curious about what he's doing. This is a nightmarish urban wasteland-- not the first I've ever seen! I walk quickly. Then a giant dirty brown school of many floors confronts me.

Glaring students block the steps, reluctantly allowing an entry for me. I enter a shrouded gray corridor of foreboding. A broken metal-detection machine rests uselessly in the hallway. Students wander the halls, though the start of classes is an hour away. My eyes take in the scene, discovering after awhile a sign with an arrow on it. "Office," the sign reads.

The second-floor office is behind barricades, an isolated outpost within the cavernous building. Heavy-set women clerks behind the counter are friendly. They're built like linebackers. "We weren't sure you'd make it!" one of them tells me-- as if the actual appearance of a "guest" teacher is infrequent. I sign a blank log and show my ID-- unnecessary. Why would anyone be here if they weren't for real? (I want to make sure I get paid.) A pale barking bulldog Assistant Principal hands me a schedule and folders of assignments. We ride an elevator to the sixth floor as he tells me my routine. He unlocks a reinforced barred door to a classroom. "Keep this door locked and closed," he tells me. "There will be security on the floor. If you have real trouble call the office."

He keeps the key to the room. I start to ask questions-- he's in a hurry and leaves. I check the phone in the room. It isn't working.

I write my name on the board along with ideas I want to teach: "Preparation for the Game of Life." The hallway fills with a roar of noise; with chaos. I open the door and prepare to greet the students.

(To be continued.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Zytron Update

(Editor's note: My reports from Zytron were interrupted in order to help with the big Jack Saunders Philly reading. To be honest, I no longer know which planet I'm on, or where I wish to remain. I'd become completely disgusted with earth and with most who inhabit it-- sick conniving opportunistic individualists for the most part. I've met a few interesting folks on Zytron, despite the planet's overwhelming problems. I'll be posting unconnected Zytron journal ramblings. Here's a recent note.)

The weather on this planet has been sweltering, hotter than I ever experienced on earth. Is global warming a universal malady? The broken-down hotel in which I live, filled by beaten-down people, is so hot (no air-conditioning) many folks keep the doors to their small rooms open for all possible air flow as everyone sprawls sweating on their beds in naked torpor.

This may be the city's last unregulated dwelling place-- no questions asked when you register. Most residents are barely making it, a half-step away from the street. Others are hiding from enemies or authorities or themselves. I have a tiny room with a sink and a toilet. My possessions are a few clothes and a couple library books. Home of the unpropertied. Across the hall dwells a crazy old black veteran with a flag on the door and a note saying "no service needed." He seldom is seen. I hear his occasional moans and grumblings. Down the way lives a fat guy in a room full of little kids. He lays on the bed as the kids play around him, while cartoons jabber on the small TV ($10 extra a week) night and day. All the people who work in the hotel are residents, serving roles as housekeepers desk clerks maintenance to keep the valued roof over their heads, and this place of refuge operating.

High up in my eighth-floor room, I feel like a writer in a garrett; like I've finally arrived! Up there I've cut all ties to the corruption and falsities of the ordered world. Maybe I can find as replacement the humility of art.

I value the cell most for its narrow unscreened window, from which I lean out, feel the heavy air, and see from my high perch the old eastern half of the city spread toward the river, the maze of streets and alleyways, old wooden structures, historic sites, cafes, restaurants, churches, and the vast rowhouse neighborhoods to the south. In the morning and through most of the day the orange sun blazes intensely over all; then blue then purple sky squeezes the heat into a reflected red band merging with the shimmering river-- the red vanishes into nightfall; the restaurants which had sat silent now bustle with the noise of trays dishes silverware, of activity; conversation, laughter, life; crammed-in humanity, shadows and dark gardens; beer steins and wineglasses. Then silence for a couple hours before roaring trucks signal the approach of another hot dawn.

No better venue for a writer or observer than this! I feel like Hugo contemplating Paris from the heights of Notre Dame. I understand the moods of Balzac. A city in its vitality and variety is mankind's greatest artistic creation. When I step outside I plunge into the midst of one.

(Upcoming: The Forbidden Zone.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More Cluelessness

Every stray glance at each new issue of The Believer leaves me in amazement over the way accepted literati deliberately narrow the appeal of their product, through their uninteresting pseudo-intellectual posings. These are individuals who've never left graduate school, are still writing to impress some invisible prof-- shutting out the rest of society in the process.

There's a nonsensical discussion in fact, in the latest issue, between two profs-- philosophy Phd'ers-- in which they practice like four-year-olds in a sandbox at theoretical naughtiness. "Ca-ca." Like Donadio in her essay, they believe they exist without context. Their vision never reaches beyond the sandbox. With much pompousness and patting themselves on the back, they point out how as "liberals" they disbelieve in notions of hierarchy.


Their words appear in a journal which has become the mouthpiece for lit-world elitism and hierarchy. (As shows its every style and pose.) The profs live in hierarchies, within musty academic temples; embedded in a sprawling gleaming industry of "learning" fed by big government and monopolistic corporations-- intertwined with them-- the two men having struggled for many years inside institutions to obtain their Phd certificates announcing them as high priests, with corresponding offices highly placed in the bureaucratic rectory attached to the cathedral; the bishop's house, where everything is ordered, regulated, and safe. Is that doctoral candidate new from the seminary? Let him be wary to approach! Have him do so with shuffled feet and bowed head.

No, they don't believe in hierarchy. Not them!

Rachel Donadio II

A further remark about the recent Rachel Donadio essay in New York Times Book Review, in which she bemoans the current state of fiction in the culture.

At the end of the essay, she expresses hope that in future decades another Tolstoy will drop a modern-day War and Peace upon us. This wish, disconnected from the world around her, reveals the literary set's cluelessness.

She may want to someday read what Tolstoy himself said about the matter in "What Is Art?", in which he mocked schools cranking out legions of copycat artists and writers who know only how to create imitations of imitations, dumping thousands-- or millions-- of their unoriginal products onto the market, obscuring the discovery of original stuff. His is a perfect description of the cause of the sad condition of literary fiction (and poetry!) in recent years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Inertia and Change

Inertia can be both active and passive. The tremendous difficulty in making change is the immoveable inertia of the system you're pushing against. The current literary establishment, gigantic in all its parts, just sits there, unwilling to be budged. Its participants close their minds to new ideas. Even its leading "critics" like Sven Birkerts and James Wood deal only with things as they are-- the system as it is-- refusing or unable to step outside their mental boxes long enough to ask, "Does this process work?"

Most, of course, have career or financial stakes in the status quo, and so will choose the system first, always-- even when it's not producing great art, only widespread uninteresting competence.

The ULA's task is compounded by recurring "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots" in its ranks. As if the tiny attacks the ULA has made on an unwielding establishment is enough to cause panic! (Yet panic has been observed.) The panic of an elephant confronting a mouse.

Change is difficult-- but needs to be done. The positive thing about change is the freedom and exhilaration one feels when one fully embraces it. I'd rather be a member of a gang of rebels riding outside the gates of the metaphorical castle than one of many thousands besieged within it.

New ULAer

This crazy team of ours is privileged and pleased to announce that Brady Russell (aka "The Student") has passed all requirements (willingness to jump out of an airplane without a parachute) and is now an official member of the Underground Literary Alliance. Brady is an activist, zeenster, writer, cartoonist, and dynamic performer. Welcome aboard!

(His profile will be up at www.literaryrevolution.com. Also check out a mysterious new feature on the fan site which Mr. Simonelli has conjured-- as well as a strong "Bloxsome" Monday Report, and new writing by Devin D'Andrea and Crazy Carl Robinson at the Adventures blog!)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Status Quo Equals Failure

Status quo literature is collapsing in front of our eyes.

What other conclusion can be drawn from the Rachel Donadio article in the August 7 New York Times Book Review? Donadio bemoans the dwindling position of literary fiction in the culture, documenting how mainstream magazines publish less and less of it-- increasingly not publishing it at all. She looks for causes everywhere but in the most obvious place: literary fiction itself! How totally wedded are you lit people to a rigid failed form, anyway? How far is workshop brainwashing embedded into your artistically-blocked brains?

I've used radical language and measures, because radical measures are needed to wake people up to what's happening to the state of literature. I do this because lit folks are stupid beyond belief. And yes, the precious preppy Ivy League interns at the snob journal The New Yorker maybe should be rhetorically attacked for their complicity in the dying of an art-- for doing nothing about it, not even speaking up.

Recall that I came to these matters as a non-literary outsider-- a fully grown adult who'd been around who, fourteen years ago, encountered literary journals and noticed how completely unredeemably stiff static staid stale were the short stories contained within-- while I'd cut my teeth as a reader on the roaring flash and blood tales of Jack London and the street smart humorous wisdom of the collections of stories by O. Henry. The literary art in the hands of those two men LIVED, while the combined output of hundreds of literati over the past forty years is fit for the most part only to be buried, dead.

I continue with the ULA because I realize it'd be insane to drop out now, at a critical cultural turning point when status quo literature-- as noted by its own commentators, Lynn Freed and Donadio among them-- is an obvious FAILURE; and the energetic replacement-- the unwashed writing of the underground-- is at hand.

In no other field than literature are the caretakers so willfully blind to the evidence around them. Even General Motors at least KNOWS it's losing market share and the interest of the populace. Even the National Hockey League, among sports, KNOWS it needs to drastically change its product.

The sport of literature is in a state of failure, because its system for producing and promoting writers is seriously flawed. A rival league to the established one has appeared. It's called the Underground Literary Alliance. It can be found at www.literaryrevolution.com. THIS fan site with its collection of exciting new stars is the foundation for saving the literary art; it's one place which acknowledges there's a problem, creating its version of a solution.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The State of the ULA?

That the Underground Literary Alliance is in trouble is wishful thinking. We can be sure, when we're receiving mucho attacks, that things ARE happening with us. Otherwise, our enemies wouldn't say anything. Lately we haven't been able to keep them away. We're treated AS IF we're important, the biggest danger on the literary scene.

We just staged, here in Philadelphia, our greatest show to date. We're seeing the advent of ULA publications. We've had a strong increase in talent the past year-- not just among our writers, but in other areas. Right now we have many times the capabilities of the original team. All we have to do is leverage it through our campaign.

We haven't done all that much advocating in recent months-- but it's working, slowly, our message and our ideas seeping in through the cracks of the mainstream. That Harper's acknowledged there was such a thing as plagiarism, in a recent essay, or that Mr. Moody sought to explain the Franzen NEA award choice in a recent essay in The Believer, indicates that people are listening to what we say-- no matter their screams upon hearing it.

THE PROBLEM with the ULA is that we set amazingly high goals from the beginning. Expectations followed accordingly. We've been operating for close to five years-- but what a five years! Think of the ULA's progress not from the perspective of NYC Insiders, for whom the path is greased; nor that of the flunkies who identify with them, but from ours-- originally, a lowly band of zinesters mainly from Detroit. The lowest of the low; the most outside of outsiders. Writers with no connections, no backing, no money. In less than five years we sent vibrations of rebellion through the heart of media empire, were covered in-- well, do I have to list all the places? Black Book? Page Six? The Glasgow Herald? As recently as late last year we were listed among leading literary sites by the N.Y. Times. Yet some aren't satisfied.

"Losers" or "name-droppers": Our critics will spin whatever we do or say in the most negative way. The truth is that we're well positioned to grow in strength. Our writings are beginning to circulate around the country. We have a fun fan site, highlighting an unbeatable line-up of personalities. We've distinguished ourselves from the pack-- no mean feat. We've made the ULA name identifiable, in so doing becoming the "Other" of American letters: the true alternative. From a strategic standpoint, we shouldn't mind any of this.

More important, we have the most exciting voices on the planet. We're the only lit-group around with real energy. People scoff from a distance, under anonymous names. Do so at your own peril! If I'm to be accused of heckling writers, I may as well do it for real. See ya up in New York City sometime.

Twilight Zone

I haven't heard from "Bryan Guski" in awhile. I wonder why?

Sorry, but the guy was getting too weird for me. One can deal with only so much insanity. Keep in mind that I know who he is-- he gave himself away early. Yet he became outraged at me for throwing his (fake) name around. Someone too caught up in the part he's playing.

As it was, his arguments became little more than personal attacks. Fine-- but do it in your own forum. "Guski" portrays Frank, J.D., and myself as fossils. (In 1920's Paris he would've described Stein, Pound, and Joyce as old, failed bottom-feeders.) He has, as always, a trendy mainstream-media perspective. It's a question of perspective. If we were politicians we'd be considered young; are just entering our prime. (At a good age to be leaders.) Walsh for one has more energy than any writer I've seen at any age. Those who've met Frank know this. The funny thing about it is that "Bryan" isn't that much younger. He talks as if he were twenty-five!

The loon also spends much time castigating me as a writer. Am I supposed to be very bothered? Those who've read "The Origins of the ULA" in Zeen Beat 3 (I had some old copies at Zinefest recently) will know that I don't portray myself as a writer in the piece, but as the organizer of the ULA, assuming the task of putting together a team of charismatic young writers. Though obviously I write, the role I slotted for myself in this project from the beginning was as promoter-- or "impresario," as the N.Y. Times referred to me. Duh! Which book of mine is Potter's ULA Press bringing out, I wonder? There isn't any! Golly, "Bryan," if the purpose of the ULA is to promote myself as a writer, something important is missing. Where are those manuscripts of which you speak? (Fortunately there are many fun and interesting writers in our organization.)

Sometimes I use computers at libraries, but I sure don't use them in psychiatric wards-- from where I suspect "Bryan" has been posting. (If I knew which hospital, I'd send him an "I Hate King Wenclas" t-shirt.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Catazeen Progress

Jeff Potter reports he's mailed his OYB Catazeen to 450 stores. The catazeens include announcements of the new ULA Press. I look forward to seeing a copy.

Progress never happens overnight. In fact, it takes a lot of patience. The trick is to be constantly moving in the right direction-- which we're doing. Getting ULA writing to more and more people is one more step along the way.

The ULA is on the march! (Sorry for the enthusiasm. This bothers some people.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

The ULA Goes 826!

I've been envisioning the course of the ULA if critics have their way and a successful coup ousts me from the organization.

First step will be to change the look of the ULA's writers. They don't fit the proper self-absorbed trendy-hip image needed. I mean, Jack Saunders? Get real!

The new ULA caretakers commission a Madison Avenue digital makeover of Big Jack, sans beard, dressed in latest Yves St. Laurent fashions. The caretakers study the digital photos, frowning.

Crazy Carl Robinson is put onto a crash diet and ordered to remove the "Crazy" from his name. Wred Fright and Frank Walsh are sent to Brooks Brothers. Their wrestling masks and other costumed paraphernalia are taken away. Wild Bill is no longer to be called Wild or Bill, but William, and is required to begin wearing shoes and a shirt-- also told to get rid of the pit bulls and become a vegetarian.

Leah Smith is not allowed to own cameras. After focus group studies, it's decided space exploration isn't fashionable. Spaceships will no longer appear in Yul Tolbert cartoons. His new, approved subject is a band of hip trust-funders who hang around Manhattan bistros. There will be no more finger photos or finger drawings.

All hints of proletarian or rural attitudes and culture are removed from ULA writings and the ULA site, which henceforth will be in strict black-and-white, including no outrageous depictions of writers facing tanks. It will, however, have cute fonts. The site's domain name is changed from "literaryrevolution" to "literaryaccommodation."

Outside consultants eventually determine that all ULA writers need to be fired. They keep one as a token undergrounder. The ranks are restocked with a host of McSweeneyites capable of the much-practiced Eggers/Foster-Wallace narcissistic smirk. All are well-bred and well-schooled. All write exactly the same witty-cute way. A new version of Slush Pile is ordered from Iceland. The writing and presentation are professionally slick. The new editor previously worked for Pindledyboz. The issue costs twenty-five dollars and includes a free cd.

A different manifesto is put onto the ULA site. It announces the ULA's new "get along with everyone/don't make waves" policy. The manifesto is written by Heidi Julavits.

To celebrate the changed ULA, Director Bryan Guski hosts a big reading on New York's upper east side. No dive bar for this shindig! Overground all the way! One of New York's trendiest clubs is booked for the evening. Taxis and limos drop off an audience of the gentry, eager to see and be seen. Pompadours and preppy-dresses everyplace, and scores of Brown grads originally from Switzerland and France. Very chi-chi. Look! There's Tom Beller! And Elissa Schappell! Others of the "Three Thousand." Isn't it wonderful to be at peace?

The sole writer holdover from the previous ULA regime is lost amid a shoving crowd of the beautiful people. A bouncer is about to throw him out for not being properly dressed. "No! Wait!" ULA Director Bryan Guski in three-piece suit intervenes. "He's with me."

Bryan is ready to begin the evening. He's introduced by his new buddy: Rick Moody. "I always loved The Ice Storm!" Bryan gushes.

Bryan reads from his notes about how, from now on, everything in the lit world will go smoothly, without a murmur of disagreement. "After all," he insists. "Isn't everything in literature perfectly okay? Tonight there will be no ungenteel noise, no protests, no heckling," (sneering) "no balloons, no street poets, no poor people, no 'Read-Offs,' no 'Crazy Carl' prizes for the audience; no boxing promoter hats or wrestling masks; no gaucheries. Instead, everything will be exactly the way we want things always to be. Aristocracy Forever! The status quo always!"

Modest applause, what will be the biggest response of the evening. An austere young woman with bobbed hair and bored voice reads a story about puking up green creme de menthe at an Ivy League sorority party. "Green chunks through my nose," she listlessly relates. To show emotion would be un-cool. She affects disdain at her own story. Then Bryan reads a one-hour excerpt from his novelistic masterpiece, How I'm Like Every Other New York Writer and Want to Be Accepted for Being Me. It's been heard a thousand times before, but the audience listens politely. Excellent manners! They could be pod people.

"Wonderful. Wonderful!" a lone frizzy-haired man surrounded by bodyguards claps at the back of the club, knowing his reign at the top of the literary heap is safe.

News II

It's been alleged that mainstream media truly is covering the real literary happenings of the day, that the ULA campaign is simply sour grapes.

We have as proof the Philadelphia Inquirer of August 2, 2005, which carried a large feature article by Amy S. Rosenberg, "Chick Lit Is on the Case"-- a fawning examination of current doings in the publishing industry.

The Inquirer is owned by the Knight-Ridder conglomerate, I believe, though you receive no clue of that from its masthead, which gives the impression it's an independent newspaper. For literary happenings, it seldom steps outside the corridor of conglomerate-mainstream acceptability. The conglomerate monopolies so dominate our minds 24-hours-a-day, a writer like Ms. Rosenberg is likely not aware alternatives are out there, some in her own city. I haven't seen her at open mics around town. She certainly would never have thought of attending the ULA's great reading.

No, the focus is eternally upward. Tops-down culture all the way. What are the publishing giants selling? Conglomerate newspapers profiling meaningless conglomerate novels produced by blueprint, while authentic literature from the streets escapes the radar screens.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Peace Offer

I'm perfectly willing to satisfy the requests of the ULA's opponents-- but only under certain conditions, and on condition of the ULA's approval.

I'll agree to shut down this blog and take a long vacation from the ULA, if:

1.) Wealthy novelist Jonathan Franzen returns his NEA literature grant, which he received under false premises, as the award is intended to fund a person's writing, and he didn't use it for this purpose.

2.) That Rick Moody give back to the Guggenheim Foundation the funds he received from them several years back, and agree not to appear on panels doling out money to writers.

A fair deal? Specific details can be negotiated.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Continuing Corruption

A few years ago novelist Jonathan Franzen, who'd received a huge advance for his Corrections book, accepted taxpayer money from the National Endowment for the Arts. The money was intended for writing expenses. Not needing it, he spent the money on the artwork of a friend. The grant had been made to him by a panel chaired by Rick Moody, another friend. This is fact. Not one cent was ever returned by Franzen to taxpayers.

If anything, Franzen was rewarded. Or at least, business went on as usual. An unremarkable writer and mediocre thinker, Franzen has a feature essay in the current issue of the New Yorker. He remains an approved and applauded icon of the literary establishment. There is no sanction, scarcely an ounce of pressure, against this, due to the conformity of the literary world.

We spoke up against Franzen's grant when he received it. Everything we said was true.

In 2004, to a New York Times reporter, Jonathan Franzen accused the ULA of attacking him anonymously. This was revealed to be false. Franzen has never apologized to us. Because he's wealthy and powerful, he doesn't have to.

Franzen's misdeeds are documented fact. In comparison, what are mine? Being out-of-fashion? Popping a balloon?

(This post is an example of the kind of thing denounced as "vicious" and "violent" by the ULA's opponents. All it does is tell the truth.)

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Posting anonymously shows lack of character-- the inability to stand behind one's arguments. It shows a lack of accountability; a failure to take responsibility for one's actions. Anonymity calls into question the motivations of those posting. The motivations behind aggressive statements can never be examined, questioned, or known.

The person posting as "Bryan Guski" knows this-- which is why he became upset at my pointing it out; why he came up with a phony name with which to cloak himself.

Anonymity unloosens the naked, uncontrolled Id of our enemies. We see what they really think, beneath their masks of phoniness. It's an unpleasant sight, one not for the squeamish.

The ULA was formed with public action; with a protest to which all six founding members signed their names. WE KNEW we were risking our literary "careers," what we had of them. It was a bold statement, something of which I'm still proud.

The ULA was founded in contention and has never been meant for the timid.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Natural Writers

IN THEIR ARGUMENTS our critics like to place ULA writing at some point along a continuum of training-- in a sophomore writing course, or the first year of MFA workshops. Or, more likely, in nursery school. The implied standard, the assumed aesthetic goal, is the final culmination of the process: the much valued Master of Fine Arts degree, symbol of writerly accomplishment.

Yet it's indisputable that the dominance of MFA programs has failed literature. The art's position in the culture has become marginalized. Despite huge investment, the system produces no great writers. The vast bulk of literary writing remains overwrought, overrefined, stilted, imitative. Creative writing professors themselves, like Lynn Freed in Harper's, now denounce what such training does to writers.

One has to wonder if it'd be better if writers were less well-trained; if at some point in the continuum, the process ground to a halt, while the writers still maintained a portion of originality and freshness; before all life had been processed out of their works.

Then again, if they were natural writers, they wouldn't be in the programs to begin with. The programs are for bourgeois people who lack confidence in their art, who've yet to find a voice. They're wannabes: They wish to be writers-- they've paid their money, now tell them how!

The natural writer writes. He need know the rudiments of spelling and grammar (shaky even in Shakespeare) enough to communicate with the reader. Then get out of the way!-- this person writes because he has something to say, a message to impart or story to tell. There are no writers blocks or blank pages for the natural writer.

Jack Saunders latest novel, Bukowski Never Did This, is experimental, in that it's like no novel cranked out by the conglomerates. But it's also transparent. There's clarity on every page. Jack puts his thoughts, his ideas, and his life in the book and says, "This is who I am." No training, craft, or calculation necessary.

Each underground writer is completely different, of course-- which is what makes the genre great. Can one dismiss an entire body of writing which contains such variety? Emerson Dameron isn't like Wred Fright isn't like Bill Blackolive isn't like Urban Hermitt isn't like Steve Kostecke isn't like Grant Schreiber isn't like Mark Sonnenfeld isn't like Bernice Mullins isn't like Christopher Robin isn't like Michael Grover isn't like Marissa Ranello isn't like Crazy Carl Robinson isn't like Doug Finch isn't like Leopold McGinniss isn't like Jessica Disobedience. All that unites them is the authenticity of their voices.

Demi-puppet caricatures will dismiss all of them. Writers who aren't themselves genuine are unable to relate to genuine writers. Establishment writers and wannabes take their cues from the outside world. What's acceptable? What are the trends? What do the System's agents say, or the editors, or the critics? What's being published? What is the public encouraged to buy? Is this book 2005, or 1983? What would people in Manhattan say, or in Williamsburg, or in L.A.? Or in the workshops' highest levels, Iowa, the New School, Columbia, Brown, or Bennington?

Natural writers have never paid attention to that kind of shit. Their aesthetic cues come not from others but from their own vision. They express THEIR truth, in their own words, their own styles. At its very best-- the stray issue of Last Laugh or Urban Hermitt; a poem or essay by Frank Walsh; a novel by Joe Pachinko or James Nowlan-- the writing is very good, expressing truths about this world and about life itself that can't be found in a thousand slick overpriced processed one-week-available products from the assembly lines of the university programs and publishing conglomerates.

The natural artist will always be dismissed by the fake version. Someone pointed out on this blog the way Van Gogh and Gaugin were dismissed by the well-schooled salon painters and critics of their time. After all, they didn't follow the rules. They didn't paint inside the lines. Amateurish! Sophomoric! Infantile! (And the way they dressed! And what happened to the guy's ear!)

We've seen the phenomenon in popular music, when early rock n' roll MADE music the popular art form it is now. Elvis and his combo couldn't play their instruments, highly-skilled jazz musicians insisted. Grade school! Romper room! Janis Joplin's band couldn't hit their notes, their academy-trained producer sniffed. Their notes! Bad, bad music everyplace. All it had was energy and genuine feeling which connected in deep ways with people. One can see the classically trained violinist, huge sums of money invested in her education, rightly puzzled and envious of cornball rubes of the 1950's having-- on independent labels yet!-- monster hits. The majors like Capitol and Columbia steadfastly stayed with the standards and the classics while their world sunk around them. For the expert violinist, the cataclysmic cultural happenings of the day were surely beyond comprehension.

As the writings of the ULA are beyond the comprehension of the MFAers and MBAers and the wannabes now.

What do we do with natural writers like Jack Saunders, or Bill Blackolive, or Pachinko, or Hermitt? Do we enroll them in writing school, and conform their visions, laboriously wringing all spontaniety and original voice out of them until they're "trained" and write just like everyone else? It would ruin them. Overtraining is a form of decadence. The writer loses the fresh eye of the newborn. The baseball pitcher with the 100 mile an hour fastball begins wondering how he does it. The tightrope walker begins looking at his feet, and falls off. There is no turning back. This is the risk, anyway. Take a wild animal from the forest or jungle and domesticate it, confine it, put it into a zoo for part of its life-- then release it back into the wild. Could it survive?

In The Sweet Science A.J. Liebling discussed the trainers of pugilist Rocky Marciano, a crudely effective slugger. They didn't try to remold him, to make him a fancy boxer light on his feet. They worked with what he had, careful not to alter his natural ability, in fear of losing his awkward but tremendous punch. They knew he was an original.

We don't argue against all trained writers. That would be ludicrous. We're arguing for an alternative. Too many MFA writers are beyond hope. They're too well-trained. All is stilted. All is craft.

That craft is all is shown by the mocking statements of recent critics on this blog. What invalidated my essay about a border crossing wasn't what I said, what truth, experience, or insight I had to convey (this not mentioned), but how I said it. The critic said that he wrote like that in tenth grade! Style is all. If you're not in fashion according to New York City arbiters of taste you're no place. I doubt the person at all cares what Jack Saunders talks about in his books. The style seems unfamiliar. It looks too simple. The ideas? The struggles? The experiences? The humor? The wisdom? Don't bother about that! Ideas in writing? That's not what they care about at the bistro!

We live alongside a literary world of ruthless suck-ups who've never had a genuine thought in their lives, who busily watch what OTHERS are deciding-- what might Maud say? Or James Wood? Who crank out their stories of groveling ambitiously at loft parties as they grovel ambitiously in reality, and pander and praise on their blogs, truth a relative concept, the level of plagiarism or grants corruption determined by what the mass of the lit world has to say; their minds contained and controlled every step of the way by the offices gossip peer pressure trends standards routines of the Machine. We're supposed to listen to them?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


First, I'll concede that we're the most unhip, out-of-fashion writers who've ever been-- especially myself, Crazy Carl, and Wred Fright!

I'm struck by the way our critics get their cues from big media trendoids and fashionistas. This causes them to misread my arguments and my motivations. For instance, when I've mentioned garage band rock, it's not to jump on any bandwagon. The ULA is about jumping on no one's bandwagon-- instead creating our own. I've discussed garage band rock because it's an apt historical analogy for what we're doing, in that the participants had few resources, were mainly low-tech, DIY, used independent labels, and so on. Their music was crude but had energy.

I look for analogies to our DIY lit movement wherever I can find them; from the movie "Jailhouse Rock" to "Twenty-Four Hour Party People." At some point, we have to be our own analogy. We have to realize we're living in history. By our difference, by our agitation, we're creating literary history. The most exciting period of any movement is at the beginning. That's why I don't worry if we don't have instant overflow crowds at our readings. William Blake gave an art exhibition once, put out flyers, and nobody came. Those who are at our events are the hard-core, the pioneers, and the curious-- who'll be able to say, "I was there, at the beginning, when they were putting on amazing shows for 40 or 50 people."

When the trendoids and fashionistas jump on board will mean it's time to move on to other things.

Monday, August 01, 2005

ULA Behind the Scenes

The great thing about leading ULAers Steve Kostecke, Jeff Potter, and Patrick Simonelli is their genuine enthusiasm for underground writing. They promote writers like Jack Saunders because they believe in them. This makes a strong foundation for what we're trying to accomplish. From these guys we'll see no hesitations, poses, or phoniness-- only total support of the underground. Potter, for instance, has been involved with the zeen scene for close to fifteen years. (As I have.) His support for the genre is genuine.

Many east coast folks don't know how to take us. From their layers of cynicism, they can't believe our straightforward agitation could possibly be real. Where's the payoff? What are we really after?-- the incorrigible cynics ask. They judge our behavior by their own corrupt standards.

We wouldn't be investing years of our lives in this project if we didn't believe in it and our writers. I was a fan of Bill Blackolive's "Last Laugh" long before the ULA was thought of. I wrote about Jack Saunders in my newsletter ten years ago! Jeff Potter flew to New York City for the ULA's Amato Opera House show in 2001 because he was a fan of Jack's. There was not a thought at the time of Jeff joining the outfit. I'd never met him before, was in no way a friend, but was struck by his professionalism and his selflessness when he joined me posting and passing out flyers in what quickly became a downpour; in the way he bought refreshments for the cast. Not until much later in the ULA's tumultuous history-- after we'd been through internal conflict; after, purely as a fan, Jeff helped rescue this project-- was I able to persuade him to become an official member of the gang. There has never been a time since then that I didn't know Jeff's word, or Steve's, was their bond. I've known they have my back. With the inevitable disagreements which arise in any project, we operate under an atmosphere of communication and trust.

Those who met Pat Simonelli in Philly quickly realized he's like this also. The guy is for real-- a genuine fan of the Underground Literary Alliance. (Why else do we stress that www.literaryrevolution.com is our fan site! We're fans of underground writers.)

What's my point? It's that writers and others who join this outfit should know we have YOUR back also. In the final analysis, we pursue this cause not out of stray hopes of personal gain, but because we love what we're doing.

It's the reason we've continued despite occasional rainstorms of ignorance, hate, and scorn.