The Case Against “Fluff” Pieces on WordPress

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I might safely estimate that well over 80% of the material I have read on WordPress is what we writers might call “fluff” pieces. A “fluff piece” is a news story or pieces of writing which are essentially feel good op-eds.  The writing is meant to be cute, funny, or something like that. For example, if a writer does a story about kittens, it is a “fluff piece”.  Stories about kittens are essentially unimportant (oh, I can hear the hate mail churning!) The writer chose to write about kittens, not because it was important, but because it is cute and may help his/her viewer stats.

Fluff may take on numerous guises.  Aforementioned kittens?  Fluff.  Family travel logs?  Fluff.  Best make-up products on the market?  Fluff.  But to me,  the most offending piece of fluff on the WordPress market today are the countless stories that try desperately to convince the reader that the universe we live in; the planet we inhabit; the relationships we take shelter in – all of these somehow rotate within and upon some essentially pleasing spindle they call “goodness.”  Mostly, this goodness online is ego-defined as some omnipresent benefactor lovingly watching over us, raining upon our precious little heads measures of good fortune, benevolence, and unconditional love.  Yeah…fluff!

You have to travel far and wide into the ether of WordPress to hear an opposing viewpoint to this endless vomiting of “goodness.”  While the writer of such pieces may feel justified because he or she just can’t contain the fact that something made them happy, they have to purposefully put on blinders so as not to disturb their nirvana with snapshots of the truth.  The world is not essentially “good.”  Fluff is fleeting.

More than 5/8ths of the world’s population live in impoverished and violent conditions, whether that violence is nature driven or man-made.  To them, this vaporous concept of “life is good” is like a fleeting but violent wind that passes over them and cuts them sharply to the bone.  They are as aware of the “goodness” showered upon the fortunate few as we are willfully ignorant of their pain and suffering.

If you are fortunate enough to own a computer and have the luxury of spending your free time posting online, chances are these people live in the periphery of your vision.  You only glimpse them briefly on sensationalized news channels that can be quickly turned over to a “fluff” program like American Idol.  It just “feels better” not to notice.  Don’t lie…we have all been guilty of looking away to ease our conscience.

Yet there they are…the majority of the earth’s population starving, dying of treatable disease, buried to their necks in the fire-ant-ridden blazing sands of poverty and violence as the majority of us munch away on cheese-laden nachos while watching the Super Bowl.  It just feels better not to notice.  We need the “fluff” in our lives with which to stuff our ears and block out the infernal screams of our dying brothers and sisters.   By the way, if the term “brothers and sisters” offend, I’ve made my case.

You need proof?  Admit it.  Most of those who started reading this post have surfed to another WordPress freshly-pressed site about kittens, or dating advice, or how-to-be happy sites because, well…it simply “feels better.”  We need our goodness fix.  We need our fluff.  The only people who will read this through to the end are the artists and poets who understand that life is anything but benevolent and “good.”  They recognize, in their works, the crush of human apathy and indifference toward the brutal suffering of the “least” of our brethren.  They know because they don’t run from suffering…they run toward it.  Not to shun it, but to embrace it and evolve as human beings.

It appears the editorial staff of WordPress is complicit in the spewing of “fluff” when you consider that poets and artists are freshly-pressed much, much less than the feel-good article writers.  You won’t read this on WordPress because it feels “bad.” It probably isn’t a conscious decision on their part; it’s basic fluff survival 101: who wants to read depressing shit?  It just doesn’t sell!

The artists and poets of WordPress may be less visible, but they are there.  Shame on WordPress for making them enter in the dark and through the back door.  They struggle in vain to instruct a worldview that is ultimately a call to action.  They use their words to scatter the razor-toothed rats that gnaw on the emaciated bones of the poor, the hungry, the murdered masses. Poets and artists know there is goodness out there…they truly do. They see “goodness” descend upon the more fortunate, while the bulk of humanity suffers in despair and agonizing isolation.  They just refuse to wear the blinders.

For myself, I no longer really give a damn about this fleeting goodness. I’ve been shot, stabbed, robbed, and violated in a thousand ways that more than fill one lifetime of despair. And yes, in case you’ve ever read my writing, I have buried my grief and pain in ample cups of amber absolution and beneath the press of fentanyl patches.  I, too, am a coward. If there is goodness in my life, it is only there to mock the other 99.9% of my existence so far. I’m not happy, that is true. But I’d rather spend eternity locked in the pages of Baudelaire and Rimbaud than spend another minute reading about your “kittens.”

Perhaps that’s why most of my postings are poems.  Poetry allows a writer to scream invectives to an unjust, unhearing, apathetic God (who, in my opinion, is the ultimate piece of “fluff)  I’ve seen others (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Iraq, the Sudan comes to mind) who have seen their human potential snuffed out by either extreme violence, (human against human) or natural disaster (famine, floods, disease).  I’ve seen the children of Syria and Libya and Somalia, and, well…spin the globe and press your finger upon it.  It will almost certainly stop at one of these hellholes devoid of human compassion.  The majority of the world’s populations are simply ground to dust by the merciless millstone of life.

I am happy for those of you who believe the illusion that “evil” is the transitory state of humanity and that “good” is the true, permanent human blessing. WordPress appears to exist so that you can dine on a steady diet of “fluff.”  I just don’t see that wide-eyed gorging of “feel good” backed up by facts.  I’ll continue reading your fluff because people like me are more in need of a laugh than just about anybody. I just can’t join you at that particular ”hallelujah” table.  Enjoy the fruits of this “goodness”, but never forget that even more of your brethren have never known such feel-good promise in their lives…and “fluff” just won’t fill distended bellies or bind up the bleeding wounds.

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The Corner Bar

I love telling stories of my  favorite corner bar.( My poem “Corner Bar” follows below)  And I love listening to others tell theirs.  On the Morning Media Menu today, author and New York Times Magazine ”Drink” columnist Rosie Schaap talked about her new memoir, Drinking With Men. The book shows how bars have helped shape her personal and creative life. She also shared tips for pitching This American Life.

Here’s an excerpt: ”What I love about bars is that they are places where people talk to one another and tell people stories. There is a kind of openness and exchange of stories in bars. Everyone is relaxed. You go to a bar not to get dressed up, not to have a really fancy night out on the town. You go to the bar to be relaxed and to be yourself. I think that really facilitates great storytelling among regulars. That’s really what we do at bars, we tell each other our stories.”

She concluded: “But you can tell (whether you are writing a story or telling your friends in the bar a story), whether the story is working or not. Sometimes the story you tell in a is going to fall flat. I think in a way, bars are a great place to hone your storytelling skills. Is this making my fellow bar-goers interested in hearing the rest of the story? Am I going into too much detail? Am I not giving enough detail? Bars are great laboratories for storytelling.”

Here’s my bar story.  Hope you can barely relate…for your sake.  Enjoy!

CORNER BAR

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It always felt familiar and safe;
not like home, but filled with that same tragic scent
of failure, futility, and confusion.
In this darkened chapel, night after night,
we feigned brotherhood, but watched our backs.
We found religion in tall tales
and twisted notes floating softly from the jukebox.
The enormity of the lies exchanged was staggering,
yet not once was truth demanded.

Here, we worshiped and blessed ourselves
at the mahogany and brass altar of amber absolution,
our sins washed in a flood of cheap whiskey and stale beer.
Our bottles filled the night with dead words, hungry ashtrays,
and all these incessant “maybes”
while shameless calls for “another!” filled the tepid air.

We licked the back of our teeth
and bought rounds for the prostitute sitting there all alone,
hunched over to entice our drunken libidos.
We adored her, this faded Madonna,
with her chipped teeth and sagging breasts,
reeking of a stale alcohol and tragic perfume.
Where once there had been beauty and life
some bastard had beaten it out of her;
taking everything that made a woman good and reduced her to this.
Our prayers were answered
in the way this whore swallowed you whole
in the back room’s secret confessional
where you keep her words tightly knit
in the dark corners of your heart.

This was the flip-side of our saintly home-lives;
our souls consumed in the repetition of it all.
We whispered our hallelujahs as the clock struck two;
last call and a slow retreat into the shameless shadows of wretched existence,
as God soundly closed the doors behind us.

 

Echoes Across Time

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Love never dies…it echoes across time.

It is like a circle revolving with no beginning, no end. The pains of love diminishing as it journeys to the far side of the circle is real and deep…but remember the joy before the pain and listen for the echo.

Love has no dimension, yet it clearly defines all that it touches. It fills you up and leaves you empty all at the same time. Memories are the images carved as love passes along  our side of the circle; life’s subtle reminder to hold on and listen as love echoes across time.

Cast your ear to yesterday’s wind, if you must; do not be too surprised when the sounds you seek reach back to you from tomorrow. Echoes bounce in time and space, for that is their nature – but they must return, for that is their truth.

The circle cannot be denied.

Love cannot die…it echoes across time.

 

THE WANDERER by D.L. McHale

 

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I am what they call a “Wanderer.”  Not exactly a social pariah, more of a curiosity.  My disdain for social conventions puts me upon a lonely path, but I am not alone.  There are others like me; dark, brooding, faithless.  In another time we were called Writers.  Much like spiders who craft intricate webs to ensnare their prey, Writers painstakingly spin intricate phrases with the thread of words designed to trammel the unsuspecting Reader.

In another age, Writers were revered.  Turned and examined, magnified for detail, polished until their inherent nature shimmered in the light; their words lovingly bound in the finest of leather and placed high upon shelves as a beacon guiding the lost through the fog of Human condition.  We were Artisans and verbal Musicians, who, with the careful stroke of the pen cuts through the suffocating haze of uncertainty and lays straight the path toward true understanding.  But that was then.  Today, we are held in much lower esteem, not quite reviled, but avoided nonetheless. And so we Wander.

We Wanderers toil in the wee hours of the morning, honing our craft for eyes that cannot and will not see.  Our books, our life work, are used to prop open unruly doors and to serve as false counter-balance to the plasma screens and the computer monitors.  In a pinch, they still serve as excellent mortar to chuck at the wayward spouse.  Few of us who remain still wield the courage to load the printer with paper and actually print out that which we write.  As  long as our words remain framed in the relative safety of the Internet or the hidden Journals, no one can do more harm in their criticisms than the “delete” button or the roaring  fireplace  will allow.

We exist in the sharpened edges of social relevance, often cut asunder beneath the weight of the smart-phone and the IPad. We subsist by prostituting our vocabulary for a few meager coins of acknowledgement, often to our fellow Wanderers.  Yet we remain shackled to our craft and devoted to that slim chance that we might one day rise again in ascendency.  Like Moses, we roam the deserts of art with our tablets tightly tucked beneath our wings, searching for the promised land.

Until that day, we Wander.

Juggling Life

Consider for a moment that we are all jugglers. For in truth, that is what life demands of us; constant juggling – of time, relationships, responsibilities. We feel ourselves, at times, caught up in the endless task of keeping so many things up in the air and smoothly rotating, round and round.

Now suppose we see that we are juggling three balls: one rubber, one wooden, and one crystal.

In the course of our juggling, we slip and drop one ball. Let’s say it’s the rubber ball. What happens to it? Well, no real damage done, right? It bounces. It comes back to you. This ball is your education, your job, your career. In the course of your life you may drop this ball several times…you change jobs, you advance, you are laid off, you go back to school…it is constantly moving in new directions. So do not overly concern yourself when this ball drops. It will retain its resiliency and everything will be fine.

Suppose now you drop the wooden ball. What becomes of it? Well, it’s a bit noisier, true, but in all likelihood, it will become scratched, perhaps chipped. In time, after a few falls, it may even take on a new shine. This is your health and your spirituality. It changes, constantly. It evolves.  It will not look the same today as it will tomorrow. That is its nature. Be mindful of keeping this one aloft, but do not distress if you drop it from time to time. It, too, is resilient and in the long run, it endures.

But what then of the third ball? The crystal ball? What happens if you take your eye from it for a moment and it hits the floor? What becomes of it? Of course, it shatters. It will not return to you for it is utterly destroyed. This ball is your relationships, your family. If you drop this ball, no amount of effort will repair it. It is lost forever. For this reason alone, you must be acutely focused on keeping this ball in the air, at all costs.

As you juggle life, keep this lesson in mind, and keep your priorities likewise aligned.