who they really are…

When someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time.

— Maya Angelou

War for Your Mind: Information in 2016

 Today’s Guest Post comes from Cassie Phillips of Culture Coverage:


There’s a war for your mind. While this statement can be cast aside as hyperbolic fearmongering, there is no denial that media, art, words and publishing have had a massive impact in molding our social mindset throughout history. From the playwrights of ancient Greece to our modern media culture, all the information we absorb has an incredible effect on our belief system in some way or another.

The question is no longer about whether the war is happening. Now we have to look at how it’s happening. How much of a problem is it? What can we do to become more aware of what’s going on and combat misinformation?

 

The History Of Storytelling

The power of the story is something that has been discussed at length over time. It’s undeniable that our ability to tell tales and share information in this way has significantly contributed to our success as a species. Shared anecdotes allowed our prehistoric forefathers to protect themselves from wild animals. Religious texts give people a moral compass to work from. Plays, movies and novels allow us to empathize with experiences we have never even had.

The part of our brain responsible for this, the frontal cortex, has allowed us to rationalize our instincts, use foresight and be reflective of our actions and their social impact. So, in essence, the sharing of media and published work isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. The real problem, in my opinion, arises when imposing powers try and control and censor these shared stories.

 

The Dawn of Censorship

 

The English Civil War Continue reading War for Your Mind: Information in 2016

David Bentley Hart Articles: A Megalist

(I assume DBH hates portmanteau as much as I, so it seemed fitting to create one for him for the cover image).
Back in 2007, David W. Congdon over at The Fire and The Rose compiled a list of David Bentley Hart articles published by First Things.

I want to expand on his list to include all of Hart’s First Things articles and, if you have any other suggestions, links to other articles DBH wrote elsewhere. Here is an index of his articles published in First Things thus far (in chronological order):

If you have any others you would like to add, please leave links in the comments and I’ll update the list.

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

The Brooklyn Film Festival at Windmill Studios

A windmill guards wonder pictures:
blades hedging bad ideas.
Festival goers’ fists and feet
vote as teams, very to very,
sparrows—they echo spite for spite,
but they aren’t right: Thous aren’t here.
The windmill unwinds weathered not
from spins unwound or spurning found sins.
Windies gone whence called:
nailed and neutered, naught milling here.
It waits. It dates waves of critics’
protected programs — posh thoughts in
tiny tins, Tiny Tims
unwelcomed by codes, unwell minds and
well alike, aligned. Alight in pyres
built of prying prudes martyred
for vows they vowed, vowels howl from
faithful ones hung (fading wonders):
“Can not and never can recant.”
No ashes nor knowing masks
that judge our judging as we ask an
honest question to ourselves
about our little burnished hell’s mill:
“By what did dem blades get cleaned?”

On odd years, I’ve made this habit of doubling my age and writing that many poems. I did it with the 46 @ 23, the 50 @ 25, and the 54 @ 27.

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter as you saw above in this poem about the Brooklyn Film Festival. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead branches as radical as the radish itself is to its dead leaf: radical because it is the root of the thing.

Here is the table of contents for my 58 attempts over the next year. After the monogram, I’m including a quote from Chesterton’s An Apology for Buffoons because it defends proper use of alliteration in English:

Go here to see all of my 58 poems written at 29 years old.

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

Greenwood

Twenty-four crypts: teeming mouths
songless closed, soothing whistlers
they pucker: Thayer, Galdwell,
Green, Michael — Greenwood blows
cyclonic, sites of graves
stirring waves up, staring stairs
down for prey. Dowreys in
stones displayed; stolen days,
stolen children — stoves aflame
the names! The dates! The native whistling
low till lakes blow circular.
Maelstrom made small in
Mortis’s walls. More teams
of ghosts, of wraiths go into
making it. Maybe a
disaster there is asterisks aground?


On odd years, I’ve made this habit of doubling my age and writing that many poems. I did it with the 46 @ 23, the 50 @ 25, and the 54 @ 27.

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead branches as radical as the radish itself is to its dead leaf: radical because it is the root of the thing.

Here is the table of contents for my 58 attempts over the next year. After the monogram, I’m including a quote from Chesterton’s An Apology for Buffoons because it defends proper use of alliteration in English:

Go here to see all of my 58 poems written at 29 years old.

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

5 Reasons My Kickstarter is Failing

We have several trite truisms for moments like these — you live and you learn; if you fall down, pick yourself back up again; if life gives you lemons then make lemonade — but seldom do these account for a strong internal compass. Recently, I decided to try my hand at Kickstarter with one of the strangest ideas I’ve ever dreamed up — which, as you know, is saying something. Though it has four days left and would only take 143 people to fully fund, as it stands my Kickstarter is failing quite miserably because of a basic miscalculation: I thought the rules I apply to everything else in my creative and professional life wouldn’t apply to Kickstarter.

I was wrong.

So here’s what I learned after living through 23 days of Kickstarter, soon to be 30 days — hopefully the lessons I’m learning as my Kickstarter is failing will help those of you who plan to use the platform in the future. Here’s me picking myself back up after having fallen. Here’s some lemonade:

Mystery has no place in a one-to-one business pitch. I know this, of course, and seldom actually fundraise or sell books based on mystery alone. However, I somehow thought Kickstarter enjoyed mystical immunity from the rules. Kickstarter definitely works one way and definitely does not work another: it works well when structured like the old As Seen on TV commercials. It works poorly when used like an Apple sales countdown or using the principles of viral marketing campaigns of the JJ Abrahms variety. I owe Richard Monson-Haefel for this insight and will be applying his wisdom to all future out-there ideas. As Don DeWelt used to say, “Teach an old idea in a new way or a new idea in an old way.” This was a bad case of a new idea sold in a new way — less than 1% of the people who watched the video inside Kickstarter have given. That tells me all I need to know.

A divided house cannot stand and neither can a divided business. While doing this Kickstarter, I’ve been in the middle of a capital campaign for my patrons. Ultimately, I should have waited — there’s simply too much communication coming out from me at the same time and people get mixed messages. If something has to go, it needs to be the Kickstarter and I’m happy to let it fail in order for my core business and relationships and art to succeed. This also kept me from making a big pitch: let’s be honest, $5k isn’t inspiring. $500,000k is inspiring. You know how I know this?

Don’t major in the minors. The album I was Kickstarting was written by a character in my forthcoming debut novel. The upside to this is that a lot of people are now excited for that novel. The downside to this is that very few people cared about the album. I will likely need to play shows under Mearcstapa for a good long while and try again much, much farther down the road. That and as a Redditor said release the novel first. Good and noble and true ideas have an infinite shelf-life. I believe that applies to this idea and the songs are already recorded — eventually there will be an audience for this thing, maybe when I’m sixty, and it’ll take next-to-nothing to finish production on the symphonic novella, so we’ll simply let it go into hibernation until demand climbs higher unless, of course, 143 people go grab a copy right now.

People need a personal connection. Part of the problem with my very mysterious intro video is that it removed me — the author and songwriter — from the people I care about and want to connect to. Only a handful of people know my music (some old college buddies, some people in NYC, and a dozen writers from a writer’s enclave). The other 8,000 or so know my fiction, my articles, my speaking, my work with intentional communities here in NYC, etc. In other words, even for those that realized I was writing an album from the perspective of one of my novel’s characters, I didn’t connected my face and name to the project so they had a huge apathy barrier to overcome.

Try before you buy. Honestly, the biggest piece was not having an EP or a Rockwood Live or something to direct people towards. Some sort of sample — playing the mystery card really, really shot me in the foot on this one. And this is where I’m going to have to get personal — in this project I learned about the handful of people who will support my work through thick and thin, through all vicissitudes. And I feel like even though the Kickstarter’s at 21% and probably won’t get to 100% before next Tuesday, I feel like I owe those early backers at least something beyond the sample of the reading and Even If:

So I decided to get really vulnerable and share a series of rough video recordings of these songs that grew out of my really painful 2015 as well as some of the stories behind them:

Cherokee Highway

Lexi’s Song

Inkwell

The Wreaker

Shennadoah

The good news?

My debut novel Faceless heads to the editor on June 27th and then the real fun begins.

THANK YOU for all of the support, even when I fail. You guys are the greatest — all 8,000 or so of you.lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

 

SPORTS: AN APOLOGY

If you’ve seen the pictures I’ve been tagged in, you probably saw that family was in town this week and that I went to several ballparks. They were very gracious to bring us along. Writing because we just said goodbye and it’s hard being away from all of them already. But I want to talk about sports for a second because I relearned some things this week I had forgotten and then learned some things I never knew.

You need to know for context that Dad and Micah are trying to hit up all 30 ballparks and they’ve gotten to like 20 — they did five this week: Citizens Bank ParkFenway ParkYankee StadiumCiti Field, and Nationals Parktonight. They bought Tara and I tickets to the middle three so that we could tag along. It’s the gift I don’t deserve, but the one I needed right now.

This is the part where I explain myself, then apologize, then make a reflection, so bear with me for the first bit in the next paragraph — I PROMISE in the end that this is a piece written out of joy and deference to the big time sports fans in my life. But first, I need to explain the reason I’m writing this:

I joke about ‪#‎sportsball‬ often. I joke about it partly because I don’t really participate in any sport anymore (last official sport I participated in was shotojitsu with Travis and before that, it was 300 hurdles with Darren and football with guys like Alex). But I also joke about it partly because I truly, deep down, think that most sports work as a sort of hegemony to keep 50,000 people or more at a time occupied in a fabricated, but otherwise meaningless regional conflict so that real issues in society get ignored and managed by a handful of people. It’s part of manufacturing the consent of those you govern — what Roman Caesars called “wine and circus” as in “feed the people and entertain the people and then you can do whatever you want with their government.” Largely in America, that’s played out verbatim the way it played out in Rome. One could argue that America has perfected what Rome invented by adding the vote to the equation.

That’s the background. Here’s where I apologize:

My mistake, however, was to direct my anger at the average sports fan, rather than at the system that oppresses him, and to overlook the things that sports gave me early on in life. And I relearned all of that this weekend through an interaction with a nameless man at Fenway.

See, this dude was from New Hampshire and loved the Red Sox — that’s pretty much the team for northern New Englanders. And I could tell by the look in his eyes, by the deep folds on his brow, the work boots, the hammer loop on his jeans used for more than fashion — I could tell this guy had a hard life and barely scraped by. I know his type. Grew up around his type. Have a deep fondness in my bones and a warming in my heart every time I spend time with his type. He came over while I was eating what I’d purchased and watching the screens for the play-by-play. This older blue collar worker looked at me timidly and I invited him to join me.

“Didn’t want to bother you,” he said.

“Oh, it’s my pleasure,” I said. “Come on over.”

“Where you from?” he asked.

“New York City.”

“All the way from the big city!” he said. “Wow, New York City. I’ve always wanted to go.” NYC is like a four-hour drive from New Hampshire, shorter than it is from Joplin to St. Louis. If you want to road trip to all 50 states, I recommend starting with the east coast: they’re crammed in up here. Anyways, this guy hadn’t been south of Boston in his whole life, kind of like how many people haven’t been outside of Southern Illinois except to cross the river for a ballgame.

“Yup,” I said, “it’s awesome. You?”

“New Hampshire. Oh man I love coming to games. I love it. I try to do it as much as I can. Perfect night, you know? Just cold enough.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess so. Yeah, I guess it is.”

“Who you here with?”

“Family. They’re trying to hit up all of the fields across the country. Doing Yankee and Citi tomorrow.”

“Now Yankee, I hear that’s a ballpark.” This is a Sox fan talking, mind you. “I hear that’s a beautiful place to watch a game. Tons of cover. And the blue and white. Just handsome, you know?” He took a sip of his beer. “Handsome stadium. It’s crazy with the Cubs this year, huh?”

I didn’t tell him I was originally from Illinois or that I grew up in the house of diehard Cards fans. “Yeah, I can hardly believe it.”

“Me neither. Me neither. You almost want to root for them even if you don’t care about them.”

Almost.

His friends came and he waved goodbye and some of the worries returned to his face but for that one moment, he had been relieved. He had been *welcome* with me and we shared something. For that one moment, he had shared in humanity with me and had talked about something small, something he could handle, something he could wrap his mind around and take in one whole bite like an appetizer.

That’s what it really gets down to for me: small talk. I’ve always seen it as a strength that I hated small talk, but perhaps it’s an egregious weakness of mine, an enormous oversight. I’ve always seen small talk as an apathy for things that really matter on the part of whoever I’m talking with, but perhaps it’s a way of building common ground, wrangling something you can wrangle together, practicing with digging post holes before you decide to go into business together — that sort of thing.

I will always believe that sports on the scale we see in America is a form of hegemony that keeps you from engaging in meaningful, local change.

BUT now I’m no longer mad at the average blue collar sports fan. You see, for some of them the weight of life is so hard they cannot fathom a way out to solve the world’s problems through uniting. And even if they could, the way they test the waters to even see if they can do that is to have a team they care about and someone to talk to about said team.

Which reminded me of all the things sports *did* teach me. Things like courage and determination, things like collaboration and cooperation, things like discipline and dignity (what many call “pride” but is much more in line with “stand as tall as you can stand and no taller”). In other words, sports can be a way to virtue ethics, to training kids in the Rule of the Knight.

http://amzn.to/1OVr2jr

…which I’ve read four times since Dena gave it to me for Christmas. And now all of its connections to sports are glowing red-hot in the wake of my family’s departure.

The way I see it, there really are two kinds of sports fans.

The first kind is the kind I’ve been pushing against for years. This kind rants about the problems of the world and then does nothing to fix them. This kind will literally hate you if you oppose their team. This kind will literally weep and gnash their teeth if their team loses as if the trump of God had sounded and a plague of pestilence had fallen down upon their house. They worship, in other words, and build literal altars to their team. And then when their team loses, especially if their team loses badly or a loses a crucial game, their primary strategy for receiving joy in their life fails them — then what have they left? Only to try and take away joy from those whose joy strategy never fails. And their failed attempts only anger them further.

The other kind is, in many ways, the family I received as my wife’s dowry. Micah is one of the finest sportsmen I know, operating with integrity and grace on every basketball court and baseball field I’ve seen him on, operating with perhaps more integrity and grace than any player in any game I’ve encountered. And though I dress it up and pretend as if it’s otherwise, I have put in a ton of games in my life so I’ve had a fair sampling of teammates and fellow dodgeball champions and sparring partners. Even when Micah did basketball camp years ago at Ozark. And he gets that from Dean who would constantly teach boys self restraint in the driveway while playing HORSE or in the backyard while having a whiffleball tournament.

The first kind use sports as an excuse to ignore their neighbor, as an outlet for everything they hate and tear down in this world. For them, sports is the end.

The second kind use sports as a method by which to build bridges with their neighbor, an outlet for everything they love and build up in this world. For them, sports is the means.

The former is like the brigand of the middle ages who used the blade to intimidate — even kill — and then pillage his neighbor. The latter is like the knight of the middle ages who knew he must sharpen the edge of his character before he ever touched whetstone to blade.

You see, I was right to push against the first kind. But as I often do, I overreacted and pushed too hard against the second kind, which is a shame because most of the great sports fans in my life are cut from the second cloth. In fact, in thinking about the lessons I learned from sports early on and the people who actually strive to make those virtues a reality, I got strangely nostalgic about sports in a way I never get. Dad used to buy season tickets for the Cardinals and we witnessed most of Mark Mcgwire’s home run season from right behind first base — he and Dean both have a copy of a photo of me bare chested right under these signs dad made that could be changed on the fly from 60 all the way to 70, kind of like dice. And while that was happening, Tara was at home watching the game on TV. The engineer mind of my father-in-law kicked in and noticed the way the sign could be switched on the fly. He pointed it out to her and the boy holding up the sign beside his father and grandfather and brother. That boy was me and that was the first time my future wife laid eyes on me. Barechested. Almost as if it were meant to be.

sports and apology
For context:
sports an apology
 

So yes, it would be foolish to throw out my baby with the bathwater. Not all of sports is bad. In fact, there are a great many good people trying to use it as a means towards virtue and not an end in itself.

Since it’s Sunday, moving forward I see two ways for me to repent. Of course, for sports fans, it’s weird watching me process through it like this, but this is how my mind works.

Two conclusions on how I can be a better person for the sports fans in my life:

One would be playing pickup basketball in Sunset Park. Basketball is my worst sport, but it’s the most steadily played one in this neighborhood (soccer is most common, but no one plays soccer in the winter). Basketball is also often the most diverse. So if I’m serious about diversity and serious about building bridges in order to see things from my neighbor’s perspective rather than closing myself off to his pain and opinions, then pickup basketball seems the most natural way this summer. Pray for me, this is going to be a YUGE exercise in humility first because of mental habits and then because I’m just awful at basketball. Just atrocious.

The second is I might… this is really weird for me to say… but I might actually have to start following a *team* of some kind from some sport. And baseball is the natural solution to this problem since it’s the one I played the longest and know the most about. And there are two fields here in New York, but one’s much easier to get to. And, as the Sox fan from New Hampshire said, it’s quite handsome. Has my favorite colors. Has an overhang for the rain. It’s in the neighborhood of several good friends we seldom get to see…

I guess what I’m saying after all of this rambling is please nobody tell my brother that one logical outgrowth from my whole reason for moving here — that of taking great care of my neighbors and contributing to the culture in a meaningful way — is for me to become a Yankees fan. He might never speak to me again.

Last word: Damien and Jonathan?

Your Mets played the best game of the three I saw. That home run after Utley…

Brooklyn Author and Producer

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