American Monster III: The Soundtrack to the Fall of the West

When I first visited Berlin, in 1981, it was a place of darkness. The streets were black, it was always night time and it was always raining, razor wire and walls cut the city in half. Junk was everywhere and everyone was on it. Punk rockers and anarchists seized neglected apartment buildings and fortified themContinue reading “American Monster III: The Soundtrack to the Fall of the West”

American Monster II: We Dream of What We’ve Lost

Since before I was born what came to be known as the Eastern Block was off limits to Westerners. I don’t mean it was simply impossible for most to travel there. I mean something more insidious. I had a picture of every place I ever traveled – Wales, Spain, Germany, Canada, West Covina. Those picturesContinue reading “American Monster II: We Dream of What We’ve Lost”

American Monster I: Europe Was Our Ideal

Europe was our ideal. Europe at one time was not merely a place, not simply an economic or political entity. It was not even just an idea. In Europe one found an atmosphere of free inquiry, a prerequisite for scientific and philosophical activity that was largely absent elsewhere in the world. Europe had developed andContinue reading “American Monster I: Europe Was Our Ideal”

Post-Historical Guatemala

Guatemala is a country of left-overs – left-over cultures, left-over churches and temples, left-over wars, houses and stores made out of discarded billboards, scavenged packing crates and sheet metal, governments made of discarded ideologies. A trash heap of a country where every spot touched by human hands sprouts a deadly, ineradicable mold. It is aContinue reading “Post-Historical Guatemala”

Claiming the Victims

Since the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center there has been a insistent effort to excuse perpetrators of violence against innocents. Not simply by conservative Muslims, but by many Westerners. The line of Muslim thought has been examined exhaustively. (Whether it has been examined competently is another matter.) This line of Western thought,Continue reading “Claiming the Victims”

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Book Peddlers

So-called “independent” bookstore owners have far more in common with the large chain stores and online booksellers they denigrate than they have differences. Small bookstore owners have as little respect for both writers and readers as do the chains, they exploit both the writers’ work and the readers’ money with as much avarice and single-mindednessContinue reading “The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Book Peddlers”

American Monster IV: The City of Light and the Cités of Darkness

On the night of the gay pride parade in Paris, S. and crossed the river to meet our friend David for drinks. We walked across the place de la Bastille, which we later discovered contained 600,000 revelers. On the way we saw a man beating on two drag queens. The crowd followed the assault backContinue reading “American Monster IV: The City of Light and the Cités of Darkness”

El Salvador in the End-Time

The one thing that everyone in El Salvador told me – the professor, the ex-mara, the former guerilla – everyone but the very rich and the hardcore ideologues on the left, is that everyone wants to leave. That El Salvador is unfixable, and unworthy of being fixed. That everything of value has been looted fromContinue reading “El Salvador in the End-Time”