By Gregory JM Kasunich
We are of this thing-
This dirt and shit and sun and sin
Organic and manic / depressive and recessive genes and memes silicon beaches and perchance to dreams
We are of this place-
These measly stars and bars
Vine rotten fruit and silk suit sweet and tendered tender reaches accolades and Everglades and Escalades and pubescent promenades
We are of a mind-
Tank thinking neural mural nets defendants descendant from form and function over time Mask matte and matter spat and spittle brittle bone and burnt ember owned and owed another revolution and rhyme
We are of a kind-
Raw and unkind kindred kith and loyal swine bit lip and stick the landing farther time
Tell tale beats / receipts check the feed
We are but one funny wonder sparked and sputtered brutes and brine
We are of a grace-
Manic manicured pace
Obsolescence and reframe repeat back each echo chamber a chatted charted container a soul shaped hole in torn up space
We are of this stuff-
You and me and he and we and she and all of it all of it all the same carbon arranged and harangued hanged and banged into shapes shots sex and thoughts into lies and loss and and perfect present imperfect thoughts past and pending and sending all we got into the voice and void of some unbroken unknowing spot at the tip top tippity top of it all, all, all of it the same.
We are of this thing
A place and mind
We are grace and stuff
And all that but
We sure don’t act like it
Today I went to my favorite place, except it wasn’t any more. It was a foreign, fractured, failed state,
a facsimile rendered poor
by my unrelenting expectation
or anticipation to be something more.
A sanctuary, taps and trundled battered fare, trumpeting my ever-presence, thick and austere, and bars tendered tenderly draft deepened in frigid air.
But as captioned athletes glowered and glowed, an uneasy unfamiliarity began to grow, and roots (thought deep under soil) were just lacquered planks under toe.
And so, in my retreat I slinked a silent Irish goodbye, tipping change and cap to that familiar neon sign. This door I once warmed, I shall darken no more, for this once was my favorite place, except it wasn’t anymore.
Mississippi – my pen delights in inking the word
The repeating curls of the S’s
The staccato breaks of the I’s
The looping double back of the P’s
All evocative of the delta tributaries
To speak it out loud – Mississippi
An almost buzzing/hissing onomatopoeia
the din of 100,000 mosquitos,
blood lust in stagnant swamps
Mississippi – a syrupy welcome to the South
a patina of hospitality painted upon
the decaying bones of a prideful past
Confederate remnants stitched and fluttering
tattered but holding fast, flying
above gas station fried chicken
above pugnacious okra
above the twang and thrum of a billion Blues lamentations
above backyard celebrations
above racial provocations
Mississippi – my heart delights in thinking the word
The mysterious green sprawl
The river’s rise and fall
I fear I really don’t know you at all.
Greetings Pizza Professionals,
It has come to our attention that many of you at the company are not up to speed on the new and revolutionary ideas coming out of the ovens over at the PDL (Pizza Design Labs). We would like to take a minute to share some updates in hopes of inspiring each and every one of you to think beyond the crust and submit new, sensational, and yes, even audacious, ideas to our Pie-oneers in the labs.
We here at “The Hut” pride ourselves on being at the forefront of Pizza innovation, pushing the piping-hot boundaries of satisfaction. Now, our competitors might remain complacent dishing out the same old tired Italian disappointments but Not PH!
Allow us a moment to point out some of the milestones we have passed on our journey towards Pizza Perfection.
Our best selling “Pan” Pizza (so named for fact that early testers of this culinary revelation requested the use of aluminum bed pans during their taste tests, their bodies literally overflowing with Hutty deliciousness) is still our flagship product, but ever unsatisfied with the status-quo, we continued to develop alternative crust lifestyles and thus, the Hand Tossed and Thin n’ Crispy pizzas were introduced the world. Since then we’ve never looked back…
At Pizza Hut we have always attempted to make the most of the pizza real estate (or “Crustscape” as we call it in the savory pie biz) a canvas upon which our consumers have come to expect the unexpected. Where other, myopic, pizza manufacturers saw failure in discarded crusts, we saw opportunity. We put our greatest minds on the job and found a way to jam a mozzarella-like cheese product into the crust and voila, Stuffed Crust Pizza. We single handedly changed the game by transforming the undesirable crust into a doughy cheese tube of wonder! After Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump endorsed the product, America ate it up! It’s still one of our best sellers today.
When customers clamored for more toppings we gave them The Edge Pizza. Goodbye crust; hello cheese, sauce, and toppings that go right up to the precipice of dough and sanity. The original catchphrase, “I am become Pizza, destroyer of hunger” (later pulled from circulation due to “insensitivity issues”), pretty much sums it up.
Then calzone lovers around the world united and sent up the resounding cry “What about us?!”, they shouted at the foot of our corporate headquarters, fist raised and bellies grumbling. Little did they know that inside, on an undisclosed floor, we were putting the finishing touches on the P’zone (codename Pizza Calzone Pizza): In the end, the world enjoyed over one pound of meat and cheese in a pizza crust. You’re welcome calzone nation!
Other notable products include the ingenious Dippin’ Strips Pizza, ergonomically cut and shaped to be dunked or drenched in any one of our liquid bliss dippin’ sauces. We knew we were on to something when one pizza technician witnessed several customers attempting to jam their triangular pizza wedges into the tiny neck of a Ranch Dressing bottle. Another problem solved.
And who could forget the mind blowing Goliath of dough, dairy, veggies, and cured meats known as The Bigfoot Pizza. To this day our pizza engineers marvel in awe at their own accomplishment. When the first Bigfoot Pizza was completed the head chef exclaimed “Look on this pie ye mighty, and despair!”
So what does the future hold for all the insatiable Hut Heads out there? Well, let’s just say the recent release of our Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza is just the tip of the iceberg. At this very moment we are queuing up to release of a number of tastebud bending creations in the future including:
The Power Hour Pizza: This is sure to be a frat favorite. Sixty personal pan pizzas delivered on a rotating spit. The goal is to consume one pizza every minute for an hour.
The P’ception: A Pizza stuffed inside another pizza which can only be purchased while under heavy sedation though our new Dream Accessible App.
The Globe Pizza: A ball of dough, dunked in marinara sauce, then covered in cheese and deep fried. Served in a bowling ball bag with your choice of stick-on toppings.
The IVP (Intravenous Pizza): Your favorite Pizza Hut Pizza liquified in a Vita-Mix and delivered in a drip IV bag. Great for gamers or the comatose.
Double Deep Deep Dish Pizza: Our famous dough is shaped into a 5 gallon bucket, flash fried, and then filled with alternating layers sauce, cheese, and toppings. 2 for 1 special served on a shoulder yoke with breadstick ladle.
The Exotica: 100 bite sized pizzas served on the nude body of our delivery person (male or female not specified) Chop sticks included.
The Guy Fieri Get-Down-To-Flavortown-Italiano-Explosion: A double wide pizza with a cake frosted crust, topped with Italian sausage hand-massaged by Guy Fieri himself. Comes with free Oakleys and a bowling shirt bib.
The Pizza Pocket Pocket Pizza: A pocket sized pizza pocket that houses your keys, wallet and cell phone, also can be eaten.
The Breadstick Mattress Pizza: A pillow soft mattress sized serving of breadsticks you can eat and pass out on. Comes with a side of spicy marinara sauce to really heat things up in the bedroom.
The Russian Roulette Pizza: One special slice is laced with e.coli, fun for parties.
The Minimalist Pizza: a bag of flour, a tomato, and a block of cheese arranged on a stark white plate. Limited MOMA edition available in the spring.
PepsiCo Universe Pizza: Includes toppings from all of Frito-Lay properties, like Taco Bell, FKC, Fritos, Cheetos, and a gallon of Pepsi poured on top.
And many many more to come…
So thank you all for your tremendous service and hard work over the years and we look forward to receiving your new pizza creation ideas!
The Construction Crew Outside My House
Gregory JM Kasunich
The work had announced itself
a flyer hooked to the storm door
I disregarded it along with the mailer
who can be bothered?
Before my alarm the men where there
splitting the earth and morning apart
This hiss and rattle and grind of the work disturbed my own
days and nights and mornings on end
the vibrations joining with the hot miasma of the city
a sweltering sheet of of sound
but how I wish knew how much longer I must endure
and for what all this suffering was for
If only I had read the flyer on my door.
[Hypothetical Fables from Past Futures Pt. 3]
Gregory J.M. Kasunich
In the future, it has been discovered that the planet Earth, the planet on which humanity ascended from whatever evolutionary predecessors and remained persistently tethered (aside from brief and expensive sojourns beyond the protective membrane of the atmosphere to neighboring planets and moons), in what was once perceived to be the vast and expanding singular universe, is nothing more or less than a simple, mere, organ; a functioning, living viscus in a vast, celestial, four dimensional (and rather incomprehensible) creature. A series of connected tissues, as it were, functioning together to serve, in some yet unknown and perhaps unknowable way, a Being (A creature that would in time become christened by scientists and theologists as The Celestial Host, or more colloquially, The Being) constructed from the fabric of space and time in very much the same way the cells and tissues and organelles comprise our very own human bodies.
The discovery, as discoveries of this magnitude often do, came on slowly and was the result, not of direct study, but rather an almost throw-away notion proposed by the then young Dr. Stanley Johannes Stemrike. A suggestion that was at the same time both a hypothetical assertion proffered as an attention seeking thought experiment to his fellow matriculates (a stunt often pulled by publication seeking students) and also as the semi-serious solution to a long standing unsolved universal model, a model that was, as it came to be discovered, only partially explained by the completion of The Standard Model of Particle Physics. Of course, as these things go, he was initially, and some still say rightfully so, largely ignored and ridiculed in equal parts from the armchair intelligentsia as well as the more venerable names of educational/research establishments in science and medicine and cosmology and philosophy. Soon the theory was turned over and thoroughly tumbled by the collected thoughts, opinions, and contributions of The Internet as well as academia. So, like a stone pummeled by the relentless deluge of a water fall, the thoughts and ideas surrounding the original assumption were polished into a noticeable and unavoidable splendor. The evidence was compiled and finally, after decades and decades, the idea was once again offered up as scientific explanation. Within the century, after the development of necessary technologies including but not limited to fourth dimensional probes, instruments of Planck length, near light travel, and so on, it was concluded, beyond even the darkest shadow of a doubt, that the Earth was in fact an organ. An organ in The Celestial Host and weather or not it was the raison d’être humanity would have wanted, it was nonetheless, a true purpose, the true purpose of existence. The elusive question of the Meaning of Life had been answered.
In the public presentations of this information, information which as one might expect is still hotly debated and contested by the vast majority of humanity, the most relatable method for understanding how this planet functions is through the apt analogy of our own bodies. Of course these presentations were not performed by Dr. Stemrike, who had at this point had been deceased for the better part of two centuries. No, audiences were generally elucidated by any number of scientists, philosophers, preachers, and self proclaimed life coaches who had taken up the cause. What follows is the distillation of a number of these talks collected and generalized for expressed didactic purposes of conveying the ideas though metaphor:
“The human body, our bodies, are at the very basic level, carbon. Carbon that has been pushed and pulled and bullied and arranged by any number of predictable and universal forces in order to assemble the complex network of human life. Now, the same exact principles that are at play in our bodies are also at play on a macro a micro level as well. The governing forces, chemical reactions, proteins, electrons, protons, neurons and so on are the same from elephant to amoeba. In this way we can first begin to understand that size is indeed relative. What may seem small to us mere humans, may be universally massive to a microscopic critter. In the same way, we, as creatures of a certain size, may be rather imperceptibly small to a being of such size and significance and multidimensionality as The Celestial Host. Although the creature of which we, and our planet, are a part of is quite, quite, large, the same principles apply to The Being as to our bodies. For example, the veins and arteries that carry cells and nutrients and pathogens and viruses and so on are the same as the rivers and streams and roads and footpaths and highways of our world, all carrying organisms of varying complexity to and fro. The rock and soil and moss and grass: the epidermis, the atmosphere: the protective membrane surrounding the fragile tissue of the organ. Air and water are the plasma in which all living creatures are dissolved. Words and mating calls and speeches and professions of love, all just signals sent between cells.
If one was to examine a human cell, one would find a series of smaller organs, or organelles, within that cell. In this way, each human, is like a cell in the body of The Celestial Host. Whereas our cells contain endoplasmic reticulum, (rough and smooth) lysosomes, mitochondria and so on, we have lungs and livers, and hearts. Our cells have a nucleus, we have a brain. If we are cells, our organs are the organelles. And just like cells in our bodies, there are many different kinds, some harmful and some helpful. For example the vast majority of creatures on planet earth are like red blood cells, going here and there, eating, changing food to energy, creating waste that breaks down back into the matter that is the earth. We carry air and liquid from place to place. We reproduce creating copies upon copies upon copies of ourselves, just like cells. For most of us, for a long time, our impact has been minimal, forgettable, and brief. Servicing without knowing (the same way our cells don’t “know” they are servicing us, but rather are programed from the moment of their creation to do what they are created to do), and eventually, inevitably, dying and becoming, just like our own excrement, part of the organ, part of the Earth, a resource to be recycled and reborn.
“There are of course other types of people with analogous human cells. Thinkers, philosophers, teachers, and certain engineers and politicians. These are the neural cells. These cells (people) are responsible for solving issues of communication and transportation, they pass on information. The historians: keepers of memory. These cells together create projects (thoughts) and execute them to either great service to the Earth or to great destruction. These cells ultimately work to disseminate information and develop new ways for survival and efficiency. At times these cells govern large bodies of people in order to keep them organized and safe and operational.
“Another type: Doctors, hospice workers, caregivers, surgeons, acupuncturists, massage therapists, mental health professionals. Even some police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, FEMA workers, UNICEF fund raisers, garbage collectors, plumbers, environmentalists, and gardeners all work in a similar way to white blood cells, scrubbing and cleaning the organ of disease, of harmful factions of humanity. Removing sickness, repairing cells, and arterial waterways, planting new trees, staving off the crusty scab of pavement, removing tumors of flesh and steel. Plants themselves act as a giant liver, cleaning the air so that metal can be oxidized and broken down and digested by the earth.
There are of course pathogens and cancers. Murders and rapists, slumlords and abusers, methadonians and chemists creating compounds of death and addiction. Slave owners. Human trafficers. Torturers. Developers that scar the land, slash down forests, frack the stone hills, and pile temporary homes of planned obsolescence upon the earth like a slowly spreading psoriasis. All the factors that now have become the rote declarations of those attempting to save the organ are in fact in a very real way, brining the eradication of our species closer and closer to reality.
“It has been shown The Celestial Host has taken some measures to ensure the continuing functionality of our planet. Fires, floods, genocides, earthquakes, eruptions of ash and magma, comets and meteoroids, tsunamis, anything that has reduced the population of the planet significantly is less a natural disaster than a planetary colonic (floods), a dose of acetaminophen (fires), of universal scratch of an itch (earthquakes), or a cosmic chemo treatment (nuclear war). Yes, as with any medicine, its administration comes at a cost. Many good and healthy cells (humans) may be killed off in the process, but the intention is always for the greater good. To stave off long term injury to the organ. To continue functionality and survival.
“At this point, most begin to understand the analogy, however loose it may seem at times it is still the best analogy we have, and therefore further exploration of the topic can be undertaken on a personal level or through attendance at further seminars delving deeper into the subject of The Corporeal Nature of The Universe. But if the audience will allow a small aside, a moment of warning usually reserved for endless debates by talking head pundants, it bears stating that all the current research, the analysis of trends, tides, frequency of natural and “man made” disasters, rate of population growth and the rate in which we are expending natural resources, the temperature of the planet (organ), the extinctions of species, the accumulation of non-compostable produces collecting like an artificial contentment in the sea, the murder rate, the methane levels produces by factory farms, has all lead the greatest minds to the conclusion, not the assumption mind you, but the conclusion that our organ (planet) is in an aggressively malignant state. It cannot and will not sustain. Universally speaking, it seems that whatever larger purpose our planet served, it now, and for some time now, has been doing more harm than good to The Celestial Host. It stands to reason that sometime in the murky and unknowable future, the likelihood that our planet will be biopsied, found to be beyond reparable state, and excised from The Celestial Host in some kind of Earth-ectomy is imminent. Perhaps we have always been some vestigial rock, some potentially tumorous mass just waiting to cause enough pain to be given proper medical attention and removed from existence as mysteriously as we had arrived. So, as the intention of this presentation is not to leave you all in a state of doomsday panic or existential crisis, all that can be said it this. Know that you had a purpose, that you served in someway or another a much high power. Know that your comings and goings, the love you shared, the children you bore, the thoughts you wrote down and mused over on late nights with friends, the kindness you showed, the flowers your cultivated, the pet you kept, the things you learned, the time you had all was meaningful, and hopefully, in some way or another extended to life of this planet even a moment longer so that one last kiss could be given, one last sunrise witnessed, or one last moment of awe experienced. It was because of you, because of us we will not go lonely into the night, but together ride the vessel of our world into the quiet depths on the unknown.”
By Gregory J. M. Kasunich
[Please note, the following article is a look at the final scene of BIRDMAN, it will contain SPOILERS.]
Shortly after the credits rolled and the lights came up and the combination exhilaration/exhaustion wore off on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s BIRDMAN, the question everyone seemed to be asking themselves, and each other was, “What is the deal with Emma Stones final gaze upwards into the heavens after Riggan, her father, the once titular Birdman, jumps through the window?”
Yesterday, David Chen, of the fantastic site Slashfilm, posted an article called Let’s Talk About the Ending of ‘Birdman’ where he examines the final scene of the film. The article contains a nice lead up and exploration of the scene. Since he does a great job of setting up the scene and making his case, I won’t repeat what he wrote. That being said, with regards to the final moments of the picture, he had this to say:
“Thus, I posit that the very last shot of the film is Innaritu’s way of joining the metaphorical/imagined with the real. Riggan still can’t fly, nor does he actually jump out a window in that last scene. The movie is just conveying that for the first time, Sam is seeing her father the way he sees himself.”
It’s a great article and it worth a read, but after seeing the film [full disclosure: unlike Scott Tobias of The Dissolve, I loved it] I’ve had some time to think about it, the ending in particular and I figured I would weigh in here with my interpretation of the final, and seemingly divisive, scene of BIRDMAN.
Since so much has already been written about this picture I’ll cut to the case: I believe that Riggan’s life, and career, ends abruptly on stage after he fires a bullet (from an almost literal Chekhov’s gun) into his skull. Therefore, what this means is that the final scene, as Riggan astonishingly, miraculously, unbelievably awakes in a hospital bed, actually takes place in a heaven-like afterlife where Riggan finally achieves a soupçon of all that yearned for in the penultimate days of his tortured existence.
First, let’s look at the cinematic language employed by Alejandro González Iñárritu to hint at this conclusion at least in terms of editorial and photographic continuity. Prior to Riggan’s self inflicted gunshot wound the film is presented in one, seemingly continuous, take planting the audience firmly in Riggan’s headspace and subjective perspective. This is Riggan’s story, which is reinforced by the fact that, although the camera does wander away from Riggan, from time to time, in order to train its unrelenting eye on other members of the ensamble, it is the narration and hallucinogenic/telepathic manifestations only inside of Riggan’s head to which the audience is granted narrative access. The camera never cuts away from this continuous take, that is, until Riggan fires the gun and drops to the stage, only then does the film waver and cut, multiple times, to a fever dream of images, and ultimately to a tilt skyward towards the light.
A bit on the nose? Maybe, maybe not. Speaking of noses, when Riggan does awake in the impossible hospital his face is now covered in gauze which strikingly resembles the cowl of his alter ego Birdman. He is informed, by what may be his only friend and exasperated lawyer, Jake, that he survived the ordeal due to the fact that when Riggan fired the gun he had missed his head and instead just blasted off his nose, and that this, in fact, is a good thing.
During the film he twice expresses concern over being overshadowed on the front page of the newspaper. First after lamenting the fact that if he had perished during a flight he shared with George Clooney, it would have been Clooney’s face on the front page not his. And again, after he is upstaged by Edward Norton, it is Norton’s face printed on the front page of the paper, not Riggan’s regardless of the fact that it was Riggan’s idea, investment, etc. But now, in the hospital room, Jake shows him the newspaper, its font page plastered with Riggan. The newpaper itself containing even more incredible news. The review that was promised to end his career, and perhaps another reason he killed himself, never materializes, instead he receives an incredible review validating his choices, applauding his bravery on stage, not his cowardly exit from life. There’s more. His ex-wife, whom he still loves, is there by his bedside. Earlier we see him regretting cheating on her so much so that he attempts suicide, another hint that Riggan is all to ready to kill himself when he can’t emotionally handle the consequences of his choices. Also, let’s not forget to mention the play is a hit, the television spits images of people from all over praying for him and lighting candles, his celebrity restored, his money troubles over, all stacked together it sounds absurd, and it is, unless you look at it as if this is a version of Riggan’s nirvana.
In his final moments, alone in the room, he pulls of the bandages and looks at his new face while Birdman, in full spandex, watches from the toilet. This suggests that perhaps, even though Birdman will always be a part of him, a part of his legacy and identity, that in death Riggan is able to remove the mask, to assume a new face, a new identity, and demote Birdman, the public version of him anyway, to the crapper. Riggan then leaves the bathroom, steps through the window of his hospital room (a metaphor for purgatory if there ever was one) and leaps.
Which brings us to Sam, his daughter, who enters the room, goes to the window, first looks down, then up as a strange smile creeps across her face. Earlier, Sam blasts Riggan with one of the more scathing speeches in the film. She runs her father straight through with a barrage of pellets seething with every emotion she has felt for her father; anger, disgust, exasperation, and honesty. But now, she arrives with flowers that are anything but the not-so-passively-aggressively delivered roses (a flower which Riggan hates) she gives him earlier in the film, only this time he smell them (due to the nose he shot off to spite his aging face.) They share a tender moment, things are now better than they have ever been in the past. After Sam comes back into the room and looks out the window I believe she does see her father, unbound by his earthy burdens, free to fly as he always imagined he could.
In this way Riggan goes out completely on his own terms. Yes, maybe this was not the ideal ending to his story, but it surely is one fitting of his character.