Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chutes and Ladders

By Lauren Wood

Why do you do drugs?

Prestige, class, elitism? The ornate dens of yore? The Romance?

No! For these, you duel (with swords, of course). Drug use is no way to relax, or to revel in your superiority. Drugs kill, or turn you into a very mean old hag, as you may have learned from our helpful disclaimers, and any number of A&E series will show you to what extreme extent illegal drugs ruin lives, families, bank accounts, complexions, cuticles. So why take that risk? Why ruin lives? Why do you do drugs?

Danger! That's why! When we take our first hit of whatever substance strikes our fancy we are immediately entering a strange and intriguing new world of sin and peril. Habitual drug use introduces us to shady casts of characters, precariously ramshackle locations in strange and exotic lands ruled by shadier casts of characters. Now is not the time for professions of distinction. You live a life too full of risk for such silliness. You are a rebel. And you snort coke.

Cocaine is gritty (often literally). It is stark-white, flashy, and difficult to handle. Those who abuse cocaine often start in glittering dance clubs, and end as dingy heaps in dark alleys. Sometimes, they start in the alleys, and end up among the glittering beautiful people. All because of blow. It is versatile in that it is cool, hip, and prestigious (like Heroin), as well as edgy, terrible, and pedestrian. There is a reason cocaine is so popular in America.

That reason is social mobility. Cocaine is the American Dream, and the American Nightmare. It is feared, almost as much as it is coveted. One clean line of wintery powder can be either a chute or a ladder, and there is no way of knowing which. Do you want to know? Where's the fun in that?

The White-Gold Age of Cocaine was truly the late 70s, with the rise of Disco and Studio 54. The wild, beautiful denizens of that place and time did not want to sedate themselves with opiates. Disco, as they were so quick to assert, is life! and so their drug of choice must make a similar assertion. The risk of cocaine, its physical mutability, and its typical method of intake (what could say "I am alive" more than inhaling white powder through a raw and sensitive nose?) only magnify its ability to shake up your life and take you for a wild ride.

And though Studio 54, and the glamor of Disco have long since faded into history, the need to feel alive has not. And so we do not take hard drugs to die in style...we take hard drugs to live! We do not concern ourselves with fashion, or poetry, or gilded triangles when we abuse substances. We want only that wide-eyed sensation of vitality and possibility, that can only be found in the face of danger.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Taste for Luxury

By Caroline Wood

Few of us like being accosted by a drug addict. How many times have you stepped onto public transportation or simply walked peacefully down a city street without a crusty, strung-out old man yelling at you, preaching to you about race relations in an obscure and disorienting fashion, demanding to use your nonexistant lighter, or even peeing on you? I hate to admit it, but the majority of these people are cocaine users.

Why not try something a touch classier? Why not consider a drug that will erase your pain rather than make you paranoid, one that offers euphoria rather than stress? Not only is heroin more addictive than cocaine, this prince of drugs is also exponentially more expensive and more dangerous. And as we know from prostitutes, military strategies, and rock concerts, these are both major plusses. Delivery is the soul of style, and rest assured that medium plays an indispensible role in heroin's elegence. In all fairness, both drugs, unlike many of their pitiful hallucinagenic and prescription-abuse counterparts, are available in a myriad of forms, whether smokable, snortable, or just plain loveable. Don't doubt that we Woods debate only the best and most versatile. But we must consider the norm, and there's simply no contest: shooting up is sharper, cleaner, classier, and sexier than snorting. And, of course, more expensive and more dangerous.
The banality of cocaine is evident in her low price, high availability, and shocking popularity, but the most glaring shortcoming of all is pedigree. Heroin, needless to say, is a member of the illustrious opiate family, a dynasty whose romance and exoticism are legendary. While the sunparched fields of Columbia might be mysterious in the same way as, perhaps, a grainy photo of your grandmother, the opium dens of the east are the stuff of lavishly gilded fantasies. How can barely rumbling pick-up trucks compare with the Thai golden triangle? How can dessicated coca leaves match the fume of poppies?
I admire cocaine's success in America, and I'm willing to invest my own resources to improve her reputation. But until there's such a thing as "cocaine chic," until blistered nostrils grace designer ads, until I discover long-buried poems by romantic poets mesmerized by crack, I really cannot compromise.
Oh, yes, drugs kill. But we simply must go out in style.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Listen to Caroline...

This is your Mom on drugs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tankfish: An Ode

By Caroline Wood
The torpor of the afternoon
Had forced poor Thomas to presume
That life could offer naught

To ease the horrid, weighty gloom
That hung about his musty room
And poisoned all his thought.

He could not write! He could not eat!
His mind was empty, yet replete
With boorish, noisome waste.
No flighty muse would take a seat;
No inspiration came to greet
The poet’s fussy taste.

In his pain, his head lolled right,
And suddenly beheld a sight
That makes priests crane their necks:
A humble fish, his baby girl
Were caught up in a watery whirl,
Yes, they were having sex!

At that moment, in a flash,
Tom realized how to make a splash,
What muse could grant his wish:
For ‘tis not knights and nightingales
Or kings and queens that merit tales,
But nature's gem: tankfish!

Although our fish’s walls are glass,
They’ve secret lives we cannot guess,
Dark dramas without match;
If Goldie dies immediately,
Don’t blame her; it may just be
That you’re not such a catch.

If more youth witnessed piscine death,
They might not be on crystal meth
Or smoking their lungs black;
A proper sense of gravity
Is hardly something to decree
A worse life choice than crack.

Dear readers, take it straight from me:
All other pets are mere debris;
Dogs slobber, cats are cold;
But every fish is true and good,
Inspiring, noble, sexy, shrewd
And worth his weight in gold.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go, fish! To the Ocean! Be Free!

By Lauren Wood

Gus was allergic to dogs. Mom hated cats, and denied the existence of domestic rodents. My father isn't allergic to anything, but for some reason, cared enough about the others to not invest. Joe had not yet joined the household.

And so, for several years, until Gus miraculously got over his allergy, I had fish. And as I have never had easy access to a body of water, they were kept in a tank. Remembering this sad time in my life makes my heart swell as I look down at the delightful Q (my dog, my real pet).

When Gus was born, I wanted to name him "Fred." It was something of an obsession. At the last minute, my parents decided to go with some horridly sentimental combination of my grandfathers' names. And so I was given a fish to name "Fred."

This, in my experience, has been the pinnacle of a pet fish's purpose. A place-holder for a name. Indeed, a place-holder for personality. I only imagined that "Goldie" was in love with "Fred" and had to ward off the advances of the evil "Al." Of course, there was no way of knowing gender, ages, or even propensities toward affection or reticence. In fact, there are hardly any signs of such qualities at all. No femininity, masculinity, wisdom, self-awareness, personality. They simply exist in their little world, until that dreaded day when they go belly-up.

I'll never forget the moments when I would discover a fish at the top of the tank, floating like a soggy, multi-colored french fry. "Goldie" was dead! Never was death so apparent! And just when I had seen her swimming alongside "Fred" (thus confirming their nuptials). It was all rather more than a child should be subjected to. Even now, I am filled with sadness as I consider the nooks of the plastic castle she never got to explore. Alas, poor "Goldie"! I knew her...for a week.

Not only does this form of domestication subject children to lifeless vessels that expire before a proper life story can develop, it is cruel to the animals themselves, too! Now, I am no activist for animal rights, but I must acknowledge that it is highly unnatural and ridiculous to confine living creatures to any sort of box. It matters not how you stuff it with hypercolored gravel or bubbling plastic ornaments, the fish are trapped like rats.

It's no wonder that once, in the course of one week (true story) five of my seven fish leapt out of the tank and died on my bedroom floor. Though, if I remember correctly, it was the influence of the evil "Al" that drove them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

World Dominance is so 1850!

By Lauren Wood

I am an anglophile.

I trust implicitly anything said in a British accent. I laugh when John Cleese walks, when Stephen Fry wears a false mustache, when Ricky Gervais is silent. I've read and enjoyed The Canterbury Tales, Much Ado About Nothing, Pride and Prejudice, High Fidelity and Harry Potter . I can confidently tell you the names and marriage termination circumstances of the six wives of Henry VIII (Catherine-Divorce-Anne-Beheaded-Jane-Died-Anne-Divorce-Katherine-Beheaded-Catherine-Survived). I worship the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and the Rolling Stones. My heroes are Winston Churchill and James Bond.

My every area of interest is covered by natives of this tiny constitutional monarchy. This is no accident, or coincidence. England is simply bloody great. Just ask Henry V. Or Kenneth Branagh.

I did promise Caroline that I would be defending England here, and not Europe in its entirety (Obviously, that's just not fair), so I'll try to exclude any arguments regarding the United Kingdom's proximity to the cultural meccas of Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and (let's face it) Italy in general. However, I don't think either of us can deny that this proximity is highly in its favor. But, for the sake of balance...let's leave it unsaid.

England is so absolutely fantastic because it, unlike America, has History. And not just the arbitrary wars for independence, expansion, union, and defense. For these, while noble and important, are just the basics. England has seen it all. She has witnessed the rise and fall of Empires, including her own. Sure, the England we know today is a mere shadow of what it once was, with her people so rainily resigned to their mediocre, pasty Britishness. But really, what's the use in conquering when you've been there, done that? And this national spirit of rainy resignation leaves it entirely to the people to achieve greatness. The need is not force-fed to school children before they can say the words "manifest destiny" (let alone understand what it means), making it all the more spectacular when a skinny British boy with a lightning scar realizes he's got the magic. Or when someone writes about him and hits it big. Or when Eddie Izzard puts on a dress.

As far as politics go, I shan't attempt to make or break an argument for either nation. I know too little about both systems, and I shouldn't be surprised to learn that England's is just as corrupt and despicable as our own. Politicians are the same everywhere. I do sometimes wish that America had a queen, though. If only to detract from Paris Hilton. That's all I'll say.

Let us not forget, also, that America is a product of Mother England. Almost all that is good or bad in our culture is owed to the Brits. And I don't just mean The Office. I mean the science that makes watching it possible! The scientific enlightenment, while not necessarily British, filtered through to America via these colonial ties.

So, while America is at this moment a dominant power in the world, and England is not, I can only think of what advice our motherland could tell us. Probably "enjoy it while it lasts!" would feature in the conversation, said with characteristic wit, detachment, and, naturally a stiff upper lip.

Don't Think I Don't Know That All You People Hate America and That This Post Is Making Me Even Less Fashionable Than I Already Am

By Caroline Wood

I have powerful feelings about America,

mostly, but not exclusively, because I believe that I strongly resemble John Adams. Although not everyone can boast that their face proclaims "Amerika!" quite like mine, each one of us can surely muster the self-respect and intellect to acknowledge the fact that we are living in a nation-state without European peer, whose dimensions, in both sheer buffoonery and opportunity for Greatness, comic potential and subcultural explosion, register on a scale no parliament, however creative, could conjure.

Gertrude Stein, one of our many sage yet benighted expatriates, mused that we should only value what is truly good or frankly bad, never wasting our time on the compromised, the lukewarm, or the face-savingly mediocre. If only she had seen the wisdom of her own words. Who could argue that America isn't, at various times and in a multitude of ways, frankly and egregiously bad? And yet despite such comically shameless turpitude, is it not also obvious that America is truly good at heart, trusting, naive, and foolish in a way that only the benightedly good can be?

Britain, on the other hand, is nothing, is the epitome of lukewarm; aloof and noncommital, she is afraid of success and ashamed of failure. Pasty and weak, like her people, she is spent and world-weary. Such dry apathy may be popular badge for a sardonicist, who is so hopelessly giftless, so ineluctably burdened by the past, that he has no choice but to mock what he cannot create. But it makes a poor credential for a human being.

Oh, it is not my intention to win over Brits; quite the opposite. I loathe and pity those who refuse to invest in their own place of citizenship, believing, or choosing to humor themselves, with the sad delusion that doting love of particular television programs, hairdos, or public transportation systems can in any way replace real life. Rejecting the serious issues of their country and replacing them with minor obsessions over soft drink brands and clothing sizes, these dilettantes have neutralized any power, any legitimacy they may have once possessed and have transformed themselves into mass-media megaphones, tragic gaping zeros empty of rational thought or useful action.

If you want to wed another lifestyle, motherland, political system, and worldview, by all means, do so, but do so with passion. Manage to contribute something to her culture, since you refuse to engage your own. Work to end her problems, since you are afraid of your own. Find a historical figure who is your doppelganger, since you have abandoned your own.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Issue of Caliber

By Caroline Wood

Most young Americans first learn of pistol dueling in the dusty comfort of their fourth-grade classrooms, where they gaze up, entranced, as reluctant Miss Winkson relates Our Nation's Proudest Moment. The moment when Burr and Hamilton, our founding fathers, men of financial savvy, rapier-like wit, and finessing roguery, dueled to the death to protect their honor, the truth, and their dream for our great nation.

But perhaps you favor the sword. Perhaps you don't care about honor or rivalry, revenge or passion, risk in the hands of the fates. Perhaps you favor low-grade comedies whose most sophisticated jokes center on leggings or pseudo-parodic docudramas about El Cid. Or are you one of the many who fancies fly-riddled medieval festivals and portly chins dripping turkey leg grease? In any of the above cases, I direct you to Lauren's post; I'm certain you will have much to discuss with her.

If it is courage you seek, you will live and die by the pistol. I need only remind you of one thing: pistoleers are actually willing to die. The swordsman, however keen to engage in repartee, has the leisure to do just that; he can stall, he can taunt like a schoolchild bully, he can surrender, flee, or cheat. It is exactly what it is called: swordplay. Gravely worse, he can, as many "noble" swordsmen do, enter the duel knowing his skills will bring him victory. Where is the duel in that? Where is the surrender to the divine? The final word on a conflict so inflammatory no mortal can find a compromise?

The phallic joke is deeply below me, and below anyone with so noble and gentlemanly mind to surrender to the power of the pistol, but I must comment. Swords may be longer, but guns, fully loaded, eject. Powerfully.

Although it is clear, then, that pistols trump swords, it may very well be that we are asking the wrong questions. Perhaps it is not pistols we need, but switchblades, poison darts...tractors???