A SCOWL in the Night: Anonymous Poet Bemoans the Self-Inflicted Demise of the OC Register
This week, an anonymous source sent the Weekly a poem called "Scowl," which appears to be a riff on Allen Ginsberg's famous and similarly-titled manifesto of 1950s beatnik angst, "Howl." The poem also appears to be written by someone intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Orange County Register, which has laid off dozens of staffers this year, destroying itself-- to paraphrase the Vietnam war scorched earth strategy of sweep and destroy--in order to save itself.
The repeated references to "Blackstone," the investors group whose stock interests have driven the layoffs, takes the place of Ginsberg's vaguely biblical reference to the soulless demon "Molloch," the military industrial/consumerist society that Ginsberg depicts as devouring America's youth. The "Boogergate" scandal is an obvious reference to a recent KOCE program where a Register employee who had just received his layoff notice was caught picking his nose onscreen while his colleague was being interviewed, an event widely perceived as a fuck-you-very-much gesture but which the Register tried to pass off as an innocent cameo.
We don't know who wrote the poem, but it's proof that there is talent at the Reg, despite what often ends up on the printed page, and that spoken word is alive and well in Orange County.
Here's the poem:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by downsizing, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the blogosphere at dawn looking for a reader or two,
angelheaded printsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the core reader,
who overcaffeinated and underpaid scribbled in the half light,
who crazed from overwork pissed off a parking lot ledge hoping for an angry buyout,
who lurked behind a standup with one finger up his nose making an unintentional exit with his own wild Boogergate scandal,
who bolted for the darkside when the Irvine Company or UC Irvine came calling,
who made publisher of the year and then got shit-canned three months later,
spectacular were the comings and goings, spectacular were the reasons for the layoffs of copy editors and news clerks and pencil sharpeners and writers – NO!_-- content providers
ah, fellow scribblers, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now we're really in the total animal soup of time—
with the absolute heart of this poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.
What sphinx of cement and aluminium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Blackstone! Blackstone! Nightmare of Blackstone!
Blackstone the incomprehensible prison! Blackstone the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows!
Blackstone whose mind is pure machinery! Blackstone whose blood is running money! Blackstone whose fingers are ten armies!
Blackstone! whose love is endless oil and stone! Blackstone! whose soul is electricity and banks! Blackstone! whose poverty is the specter of genius!
Blackstone who entered my soul early! Blackstone! in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Blackstone! who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Blackstone! whom I abandon! Wake up in Blackstone! Light streaming out of the sky!
Blackstone! Blackstone! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals!
They broke their backs lifting Blackstone to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They pissed off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street – Grand Avenue!
Tonnie Katz! I'm with you in Montreal with your fiddle playing hubbie,
Robin and John, I’m with you in your quest to kill every last snowy owl in east cupcake Oregon,
Scott Duncan I’m with you looking at paint chips to pass the time while your wife counts her interior-designer money,
Rich Nordwind I wish I were with you at the LA Times where the paychecks if you’ve still got one are much, much bigger
Dan Froomkin, I’m with you at the Washington Post where you’re finding brave new ways to get on the nerves of your colleagues
I’m with you all, you refugee scribes
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears of joy to the door of my beach cottage in the Western night with good news: Google wants us all!