"Fuck ‘em." Shortest prayer in the world.
But [a philosopher] never confuses his purposes with those of a state, or with the aims of a milieu, since he solicits forces in thought that elude obedience as well as blame, and fashions the image of a life beyond good and evil, a rigorous innocence without merit or culpability.
— Gilles Deleuze on Spinoza. (“a rigorous innocence without merit or culpability” … Holy shit.)
As long as thought is free, hence vital, nothing is compromised.
— Gilles Deleuze on Spinoza (Cf. Nassim Taleb’s idea that you’re free if and only if you own your opinion.)
I played GONE HOME two nights ago. It is a gorgeous, tender game. My wife and I emitted a near constant “awww…” while playing.
Playing GONE HOME is simple: You walk around, flip on light switches, and examine stuff. The plot is simple, too: You’re the older daughter in a nuclear family of four, and after a trip across Europe you arrive home to a partially ransacked house. You’re left to figure out where your little sister and parents are.
GONE HOME’s prime tension comes from exploring empty spaces that creak and flicker, but the tension isn’t answered with deadly thrills. Dark rooms are full of inert stuff, emotional notes, and everyday objects, not monsters or corpses. Secret passageways turn out to be safe connections between bereft sections of the large Northwestern home. Your family is weird, but weird in ways so familiar that they gave me chills.
I won’t recap the specifics of GONE HOME’s central mystery, but uncovering your little sister’s whereabouts was the most emotionally impactful and intriguing journey I’ve taken in a video game in a long time. In about two hours, GONE HOME presents human relationships—loving, conflicted, kind, cruel, doomed, and vital—that are more interesting than entire AAA games.
I feel honored to have played GONE HOME. I can’t say that about 99% of the other video games I’ve played. Can you?
how do you feel about rob delaney becoming that guy selling his new book on here?
Imagine being so beholden to alcoholism that you can work a marketing job without acing yourself. Imagine getting so drunk that you drive your car into a wall. This wreck smashes one of the bones in your arm so badly that, to this day, you have a metal plate screwing its pieces together. The wrist on your other arm is also broken.
After coming out of the anesthesia from your surgeries you’re allowed the marginal pleasure of learning you didn’t kill anyone. But immediately after this you’re swept off the table where normal people live, down onto the floor of the world. In rehab, the stigma of having failed at life pushes the baited hook of your addiction all the way into your mouth, all day, every day. For months, you learn to live with that hook in your mouth, slowly—slowly—coming to realize that the slightest swerve from a tightly defined vector of recovery will sink that hook, make its line snap taut and haul your body into a darkened corner that no one ever leaves.
Imagine putting one foot in front of the other for months on end. Imagine forcing yourself not to hope for anything except one more day without drinking alcohol. Imagine the fear of having to go back into a world where advertising sells beer by envisioning it as an unstoppable silver freight train, barreling past the crystal clear streams of the Rocky Mountains, down Fifth avenue and straight into your mouth.
Imagine strapping those spurs onto your calves that linemen use to climb power poles. Imagine driving in piton after piton and ascending a leg of the table whose edge you drove off. Imagine getting to the top by a superhuman feat of endurance. Now imagine that that’s just the start of the struggle. That baited hook is always right there, swinging back and forth at the edge of your vision. Imagine that the best you can hope for, for the rest of your time on Earth, is to have this thing making its lazy arcs on the horizon of your life. Imagine that every time you get angry, every time you feel stupid, every time you want a reward for doing something unpleasant—it’s right there next to you, bobbing at head-height.
Imagine starting to live again. Imagine getting really good at making jokes. Imagine taking that talent you always had for being the center of attention, for being quick on the draw, and taking it apart. Learning the limits of talent and the usefulness of craft. Imagine making a joke no one thought was funny and the pleasure of knowing how to fix it.
Imagine getting married.
Now imagine that you get your old job back. You work it like a farmer before steampower. You do a pointless and trivial job as well as you can, not because you love it or because you believe in it, but because it is an anchor of your sobriety. All day, every day you work on the problem of selling different teenagers the same old acne cream. Imagine coming home to your family. When you sit down to dinner, you see your wife and kids lined up around the table like little Norman Rockwells and—in that moment where all your anchors are right there in front of you and are pulling in unison—the baited hook is as far away as it is possible for it to be.
But now imagine you’re Rob.
You don’t get your old job back. Instead, you force yourself into a occupation where every time you do your job, there is a bar in your line of sight. A job where, if you fail and are publically humiliated for being boring, you are in the same room as shelf upon shelf of alcohol. A job where, even when you succeed, there’s an endless line of half-drunk gladhanders who would love nothing more than to buy you a drink.
Imagine threading that needle, night after night.
Now imagine that someone gives you the chance to tell your story. Imagine that someone wants to pay you actual money you can spend on your kids in exchange for a book that says: “Crippling alcoholism isn’t a terminal disease!”. Imagine that they want to buy advertisements on busses to promote that message. Imagine that your big, grateful face is beamed into millions of houses as you say this to talk-show hosts. Imagine that you’ve been given the chance to make the tenacious fight for an ordinary life seem like just enough.
What would you do?
I would hire skywriters out of my own pocket to sell this book.
I love both of these men.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. After the twenty-week ultrasound, a doctor came in and said our baby had a kidney disease and wouldn’t be able to breathe. When the diagnosis was confirmed, my husband and I looked at each other and knew immediately abortion was the only thing to do. Why give birth to a baby who will die? In Wisconsin, you need to sign a form that says you’re aware that the fetus has a heartbeat, fingers, and toes. After I signed, my husband took the pen. They said, “No, only the patient needs to sign,” but he said, “I want to.” The public university where we teach offers insurance affiliated with a Catholic hospital. We had to submit our case before an ethics committee of priests who would decide if insurance would pay. Otherwise, the procedure would cost us $25,000. The priests decided I had to deliver the baby. I was so upset I couldn’t talk. Later it turned out the state would cover it. They induced labor and offered me a Valium. It doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t want drugs. For weeks, I’d been holding my breath when trucks drove by, for my baby. The next night, my son was born into one of those hats that catch urine. It’s not how your baby is supposed to be born. My husband sang him “Thunder Road” and told him that Achilles was the greatest hero ever to live, which is ridiculous. We held him until he got cold. We named him Isaac. We didn’t tell anyone what happened, even my parents. We just said we lost the baby.
—from My Abortion
I grew up with parents who have stayed married for over twenty years. They severely—i.e. sometimes to their detriment—love each other. So I had that example, which I’m sure formed some deep bias in me.
HOWEVER: I don’t have a horse in the race for Marriage, so to speak. I’m not religious. I have plenty of friends who are openly against the institution. I’ve often agreed with arguments that claim institutional marriage strengthens bureaucratic channels and some nasty cultural privileges. That said, after knowing and loving Aviva for five years, I had an epiphany in the shower one day—a sudden, molten conviction: I HAD TO MARRY AVIVA. That if I were to get in a wreck on the 405 or something, just the concept of the infinite regret I would feel in the seconds before death for not having done THIS MOST OBVIOUS AND VITAL THING would make me haunt the asphalt forever. Marrying Aviva suddenly felt gorgeous and unavoidable. It was a moment of pure, almost terrifying conscience. Like a knock of lightning: I need to marry Aviva; I want to marry Aviva; I will marry Aviva.
The timing worked for us, too; I got really sick three months before we were scheduled to be married, but we had already shared the cathartic shift from “a couple” to “an engaged couple”, which buoyed us during the tests of infirmity and caretaking and near-death and blah blah blah. I got better, then we got married. I have never felt happier and more satisfied—i.e. ecstatically and peacefully good—than on my wedding day.
That said, when you get married, you get doused with a lot of the ossified/cliché shit that is 100% gross, like the pressure to have kids and an ecologically disastrous wedding, as well as the assumption that you’ve bought into psychologically deficient values (e.g. HUSBAND MUST BE MACHO AND JEALOUS WHEN WIFE TALK TO OTHER MEN or WIFE MUST BE SASSY AND CLOYINGLY PAMPERED, etc.)… It’s sort of like stumbling into a stale-aired basement in the midst of some staler-still comedy routine—"Marriage! Isn’t it craaaazy?!"—which, you know, sucks.
But the daily/personal/private part of being married is wonderful. Or it can be. In other words, it can be as wonderful as you make it. Being married, to my wife and I, feels like having a superpower; we were committed to each other before we got married, but now we feel as if we can go out into the world—i.e. get shit on over and over again—but still maintain an invulnerability because we can return home to a person that encompasses, accents, and—fuck you, Jerry—completes us (hence: the ring on your finger). It is thrilling to know that you can—every fucking day—make your love and devotion to another person EXPLICIT TO THE WORLD. In this way, marriage can be punk rock.
THAT SAID: My wife is a child of divorce, too. Neither of us grew up believing that to be satisfied one must marry and have children. It was only after I asked and Aviva agreed that we realized we had both consented to deepen our relationship in every way possible, and that this was a fun thing to do that might finally be considered the most fulfilling thing we—both as individuals and as a couple—had ever done.
This message is too long. Sorry. But yes: Marriage can be wonderful. Distilled:
I hope this helps. Do what you feel is right, and fuck the rest.
* p.s. I also know married couples that openly fuck other people! And it works! And I know couples that tried it then exploded in spectacular, bitter flames! So who knows, is what I’m saying.
I’m editing EarthBound. While reworking a section near the end of the book, I wrote this summary of the section’s paragraphs so as to not lose the thread of my argument because I am dumb and need help. Considering this summary, art feels like law, but fuck you anyway, Bismarck:
We consume, produce, and reproduce too much.
This scientist agrees: “If we don’t do something radical, we’re fucked.”
Doing something means reproducing less and consuming less. But it also means making less art and making simpler art.
Lately, people have made “new” art out of extant art by transforming it then re-presenting it.
It’s easy to make “new” art out of extant art. We need to stop making complex art, but our desire to make art won’t lessen. These pieces of “new” art made from extant art are a step toward making simple art.
This complex art-maker agrees: “The argument that you choose life or you choose art is false. Life is the art. Making complex art products is harmful. We shouldn’t make products. We should all make simple, ephemeral art.”
What about games? Going back to “vintage” video games is not enough. Maybe we go back to the earliest board games. No: We go back to games that require nothing but ourselves.
p.s. Don’t listen to anyone who seriously compares editing a book to working in a coal mine.
To know me, mix then consult at whim.
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Passion According to G.H.
The Angel in The Dream of Our Hangover
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
There Is No Year
The Big Lebowski
Children of Men
Eyes Wide Shut
The Myth of Sisyphus
Confessions from a Dark Wood
About A Mountain
The Collapse of Complex Societies
The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
The Thin Red Line
How It Is
Say, Cut, Map stakes out a literary terrain that so far has no name. Its constantly shifting cartography is made up of severed hands, premature burials, hospital wards, and fragile families. This novel of compounding mysteries redraws itself from sentence to sentence, while still relentlessly propelling the reader through its pages. Ken Baumann has constructed a dazzling mirage that pulses with real emotion.
—Jeff Jackson, author of Mira Corpora
out via Blue Square Press, bookstores
& thank you.
In ascending order of pleasure:
2. hot showers
3. the internet
4. printed books
In descending order of utility:
2. hot showers
3. the internet
4. printed books
In descending order of my willingness to give them up:
1. printed books
2. the internet
3. hot showers
In ascending order of hypothetical problems incurred by giving them up:
1. hot showers
2. printed books
3. the internet
Omitted due to the obviousness of its power and goodness: