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Reboot America

by Paul Isthmus 

Posted: 07 November 2006
Word Count: 1617
Summary: Been writing this at work bit by bit. Is unfinished but I thought I'd post it anyway.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

America has crashed.
You scroll around and wonder what’s going on and why,
And wonder how much longer it will be before
it reaches where you’re sat.
The unseen administrators have frozen the seas,
Taken the planes out of the air and placed them on the ice.
Now they’re down in the server room,
Crying hot tears and pissing themselves
As they wrench out circuit boards
And cut their hands on border controls.
You look at the transatlantic window
At jpegs of dollar signs corrupting into digital mess,
Bright white light burning brown, bubbling holes in the stars and stripes,
like a frame of stuck film.
And the old code that has been slowly removed
Kicks in a moment before
the foundations are ruined, and for a moment everything seems ok -
freedom and liberty restored,
A frozen image of a redwood,
The Grand Canyon on a day of big, blue sky,
The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights,
The whole Constitution, loading matrix-like,
Backed by golden California valleys before the place
became unreal,
Then a blue screen,
Darker than the real sky ever was.

Reboot America.
This land was once ’ď is now America.
The Eiffel tower with giant Golden Arches perched atop it.
Grease from steroid distended beefburgers lubricates the elevator
Smoothly up to the top where just in time you turn and look with a toss
Of your plastic coated hair, lush and beautiful,
Because you deserve it, you’ve worked so hard,
At a firework explosion of the stars and stripes
Glorious in the dark sky of Christmas.
Franklin walked here. Pleasure and happiness.
Wealth and Power.
The God that conducted lightning and gave you your country!
If you don’t like it, get out of the country!
A lightning flash mistakes the camera night for day,
The round face of Big Ben is a Pepsi logo,
A blue and red hand click together on 12, pointing to the stars,
In ello America! a chime a happy voice says
’úH The time sponsored will be with you shortly by Pepsi’Ěstead of
And on a giant screen on the side of the Houses of Parliament computer rendered Penguins skate
around an ice statue of Tom Paine's prodigious head
on a winter landscape, giving each other fizzy drinks.
Inside is a sex club for the highest earners of the new virtual economy,
Downloading animations of threesomes and orgies,
Silver dishes of digital cocaine,
their avatars, frozen, or stuck in only three frames of their thrusting, snorting loop, or dismembered by lines of lost code,
Devastating their bodies like cancer, zeros where once
There were faces,
And their owners somewhere in their dressing gowns,
Unshaven, fat, unwashed, watch in frustration,
Cocks and dildos and mice and keyboards at the ready,
spliffs in ashtrays curdling their pungent smoke into the still, screen-lit air,

Millions become disembodied cameras in a fragment of war, a middle-eastern town adrift in cyberspace, but empty ’ď no guns, no avatars, no flashing dots on the maps where the terrorist team have to plant a bomb, no headshots through sniper rifle sights, just invisible cameras who cannot sense each other, who fly far away and look back round at the whole town and the blackness that surrounds it, a town with no markets, no bedrooms, no dreams, an infinite blackness, where the depressed forward key doesn't seem to work or move you forward anymore.

Reboot America!
Let's get this show on the road! You’ve got to pick a side so
Pick America. Full Spectrum Dominance, cocacolafreedomfries in the Sky, Sex Space Stations Orbiting Weightlessfcukinganalsexmilfbigcockinterracialbangmywife in the heavens!
That’s what we want, we’re animals of love! The holy ’ėthe one’ relationship conversations over lattes in Americas across the world and holy land! Holy America! Song of Myself Whoresensitiveflorencenightingaleeffectyoungmeninloveglisteningbeardsoldierfuck, Holy Road! Hollywood! Onward talk into the night of business and tea and the continued Americaversion of Buddhademographic capture! Enlightened Guru! Transrelationalsensationalgreentea in the Bay Area! PoetYEAH! Slammin’. Post-modern consciousness, problems thereof: radical vocabulary ’ď Hella yeah! Therapists and the most exciting goodfood city in New York ’ď Have you been to Chanterelle? Sex in the City EMPOWER PUSSY. Shopping Downtown.

Shopping. Bombs go off. The bitmap of the explosion freezes over Times Square. People there can only see a bright light. Sound fails.

It’s in you! There’s no dogma! It’s all in YOU! YOU have the power to control your destinyveteransagainstthewar!

And in the quiet you can stop by the woods
On a snowy evening,
And you can take out your cameraphone
And send a photo to your lover,
Or if you’re single
Or you can’t get a signal
you can stand and watch
The stars wheel in a grand arc,
In wool and ice and vast coldness,
Miles to go before you sleep.

Hey! He’s taken a line from a Robert Frost poem,
Sort of, that famous one, whatsitcalled,
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening I think,
Google it quickly’¶ ah shit, the internet’s still down. Jeez, now this guy is evoking the critical voice within the poem, as well as taking lines from another, which is known as intertextuality. These are typical characteristics of Ismism. Ismism is when you start talking about Ismism and become fucking idiotic because you’ve become totally desensitised and travel down prefabricated lines of thought and bust them out because you’re so fucking bored. Ismism always ends up with the creation of Ismism again in a loop of really very boring thought that does nothing for anyone and manages to disconnect from .

Hey let’s teach the kids it! Yeah kids. Check out Ismism. Let’s put it on the curriculum! Entire Universities filled with students drinking and talking about Ismism and fucking! Fuck yeah! Hey! I invented Ismism. You like that? You like that, yeah? Yeah. Yeah. Yeahhh. Yeahhhhh. Yeahhhhgghhggh Yeahuh ugh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh ughhhhhhhhhgggghhh! Oh yeah. I’m going to write an essay about ismism eroticism, pornography, or ’ėporn’ as it’s more commonly known, and female desire in the Ism. It’s going to rock. And I’ll take on this kind of impenetrably pretentious intellectual tone throughout and try to disguise the fact I don’t know what I actually think or whether I believe in what I’m saying. Do I? Well who knows. Writing the Self in the Ism. I love that shit.

God, it’s dark. I can’t _see_ anything.

Well, while we wait we may as well have some more poem. Where the fuck is it gone?
Shame, this one started out really good as well, with some real provocative imagery. It made me think about how much time I spend online and how we’re becoming a kind of monoculture based on illusion ’ď it's, like, so ironic. But also the allusion to Franklin and France shocked me in that our cultural heritage, in all cultures, has been moving towards a kind of Union for ages. What’s the Union now? Hey, isn’t that what that Hegel guy wrote! About the absolute? Fuck yeah! Let’s bring in a bit of old Hegel while the lines are down.

(Clicks on talkinghegel.exe)

Hegel: You fucking swine. Don’t you dare mention me. You haven’t read any of my actual work, only the Wikipedia entry. You completely simplify and misunderstand my thought. Just like that fucking Karl Marx. Fuck YOU!

Yeah but Mr Hegel’¶

Hegel: Call me Heinrich.

Heinrich? Is that your first name?

Hegel: I don’t know. Why don’t you Google it you fucking piece of shit.

Touche. I can’t at the moment, the internet is down. The thing is Mr Hegel is that your dialectical theory is in itself open to its own powers, so the theory in itself is a thesis open to a kind of synthesis, causing a kind of implosive drag which has, in my opinion, impacted upon uhhhh..

Hegel: Go on.

Upon uhhh Mass Culture. Implosive, self-reflexive, unsure of its own values.

Hegel: You are a fucking idiot. Why don’t you do what you’re best at and go and get laid and pissed and all that shit that you do. All this theory stuff is shit. Life is about relationships, learning skills, contributing to society, not some fucking dumkopf theory, doing good work and having a family, that sort of thing. Being useful. God knows that’s what I should have done instead of writing impenetrable prose that nobody, including myself, really gets.

Yeah I read you were hard to read. That’s why I din’t bother.

Hegel: Didn’t. Didn’t bother you fucking cretin. FUCK! I hate this. I can’t believe I’m a computer program in a poem.

Is this still a porm? I mean poem? I though it had kind of degenerated. I don’t really know what it is. I know, I’ll review it. I reckon I’ve got far enough through it so that I can review it.

’úReboot America is a kalaidescopic journey through the melding of the cyberspace and real world’¶" man that’s a shit start..

Hegel: You’re writing as if you’re trying to ape what you see on the back of books. You’re being a quote whore. You just want to see your review on the back cover.

No I don’t.

Hegel: Yes you do.

Shut up. I’ll shut you down.

Hegel: Please do.

’úReboot America is a postmodern epic that stuns you and leaves you lost in a the remains of the real world whose inhabitants have become so attached to the virtual that upon its collapse they find that’¶’Ě

Hegel: That sentence is already far too long. I hope you’re going to finish it soon.

(right click on talking Hegel, close)

There is nothing in the house
That you can just unwrap and eat.

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Comments by other Members

Xenny at 18:45 on 07 November 2006  Report this post
Are you okay?

(joke (well sort of))

I think it's really good that you've posted this as it is. I've written quite a lot of things that get all caught up in themselves (and sometimes just turn into a stream of swearing and random hammered keys (axzcvxvdfgnbassansasmksadmsa sort of thing)), and I've contemplated posting them because they reflect a sometimes desperate struggle to get at the truth, and there are always flashes of truth in them. But the only one I did post I modified quite a bit (a lot) and changed it to the third person! So I find this encouraging in that respect (though 'encouraged' wasn't exactly the overall feeling it gave me, unsurprisingly. There are some incredibly bleak images here).

I don't know if you're really after advice but for what it's worth... I think you should keep spilling out whatever you need to of the self-critical/analyitical/referential stuff but don't let it stop you with the rest.

I thought these three lines were cutting and excellent:

And their owners somewhere in their dressing gowns,
Unshaven, fat, unwashed, watch in frustration,
Cocks and dildos and mice and keyboards at the ready,

I particularly liked the combination of 'cocks, didos, mice, keyboards'. Very clever, and it says a lot.

Oh and this bit!

And in the quiet you can stop by the woods
On a snowy evening,
And you can take out your cameraphone
And send a photo to your lover,
Or if youíre single
Or you canít get a signal
you can stand and watch
The stars wheel in a grand arc,
In wool and ice and vast coldness,
Miles to go before you sleep.

Most especially

Or if youíre single
Or you canít get a signal
you can stand and watch
The stars wheel in a grand arc,
In wool and ice and vast coldness,
Miles to go before you sleep.

What are your plans with this poem? Are you going to try and shape it into something else or are you going to let it be as it is?


DJC at 18:46 on 07 November 2006  Report this post

Blimey. What a piece!!! I'm going to have to give this a bit of time, as it's rather dense and jumps around all over the place. Was it written stream of consciousness, or has it been evolving over time? I'm very very intrigued.

It reminds me of the sort of depth of work an alumnus of this group used to write - only this makes perfect sense in a fragmented sort of way... whereas his didn't.

I'll be back.


Nell at 09:10 on 08 November 2006  Report this post
Hi Paul,

This is a difficult poem to come to grips with - I think impressions are the only way in, at least to begin with.

This reads almost like the tracking of a nervous breakdown, or at the very least overwork and lack of sleep, so my first reaction was echo Xenny and ask if you're okay. It begins with those thoughts, those images - an overload, like America itself, yet completely coherent. I loved the Robert Frost stanza; moments of quiet point up those first images as the beginnings of a nightmare.

What follows made me stop to wonder if you'd written yourself to a standstill but had to find some way of going on. Then perhaps, you read through again, thought, 'Maybe I've got something here, something different, let's go with the flow.' The poet's talking to himself, and still with us - it's when he splits and becomes both himself and Hegel that I fear for his sanity. As an experimental piece this pushes boundaries, and you ask the question I'm asking at this point: ...Is this still a porm? I mean poem?... before going on to review the work so far - an extraordinary device. I can't help asking myself what our ex- Seminar member S.F. would say about this piece - he's probably better-qualified than I to offer feedback.

Interestingly, in spite of the seeming SOC diversions, you've kept a grip on the computer idea throughout, and that makes me wonder how deliberate, how controlled you've been from the start to the last line.

This will follow me around all day - will return if any more thought occur. Brave or self-indulgent? Not sure - some good things here though.



Typo alert: thoughts...

Paul Isthmus at 11:44 on 08 November 2006  Report this post
Hi everyone,

I am intrigued myself by this piece. First thing to say is that I am fine! But I am trying to skate close to what I feel is, basically, insanity. I think that the domineering, assimilating and sociopathic Western culture that is essentially coming out of America is, basically, insane.

And that is very, very, very worrying. I think society is becoming increasingly mentally ill as a result - individuals are becoming mentally ill. I went to a talk by a guy called Oliver James the other day, at the RSA in London, about 'affluenza' - how materialism affects mental health. He's a clinical psychologist turned journalist and his talk and the data in it were compelling. There's a book out which I intend to read, recommended by him, called The High Cost of Materialism, by a guy called Tim Kasser. Check it out on Amazon.

One of the things that troubles me is how this attitude affects the creative process and the idea and reality of art. The postmodern movement, despite its beginnings as a radical political movement that sought to deconstruct the intellectual power base of the establishment that had presided over 50 odd years of war and economic collapse and exploitation, become nothing but a self-referential load of bollocks. My time at university was extremely disappointing due to the self-reflexive, inward looking and disengaged forms of thought that were going on due to the hegemony of postmodern discourse, basically philosophical fluffing. I was not the only one, many of my fellow students were of the opinion that the education we were receiving was utter bollocks, confusing rather than clarifying, disabling rather than enabling, limiting rather than expanding.

Why has this happened? It's complicated, of course. I believe it comes down to two things - one is economic, the other cultural. Economically, the wests' riches, which are basically the spoils from exploitation and what amounts to economic sanctions, have made us fat and lazy. This is criminal, but we are not able to connect very well with what we are doing other than through outward reasoning. We don't feel it in our bones as our doing, other than through a sort of general feeling of malaise that we can't quite put our finger on. The old bread and circuses maxim - so we have our bread - and our circuses, our popular culture, I view as spiritual suicide/genocide. Popular culture is so little rooted in the overall spirit of the human story, so disconnected from the past, that we are stuck in the hegemony of the current moment, with no active referential power other than to other such moments. The past becomes a nostalgic bauble, commodified, its spirit drained, the spirit in it that connects it with now, the onward march of history and the spirit. It loses its reason. When the past ceases to mean anything other than its outward forms, when it stops being part of the human story, the individual is cut loose in history. What with the metaverse of the internet, with its million truths and commentaries.

Of course, what I am actually doing by providing this explanation - and this is the really disturbing thing - is perpetuating the self-reflexive discourse that the spirit has got into, the thing that is being critisised in the first place. The criticism of the situation is in itself a reference to itself. It's bloody awful. So the best and most eloquent way of combatting this situation is to simply say of the whole episteme - "it's a load of bollocks".

So what then? There's a silence. You're not engaged. You can fill it up with stuff - shopping, sex. That's the spirit now. It's a problem.

The only thing I can think to do is to follow natural curiosity about the past, the riches of literature and history, and in doing so locate the spirit again and give birth to it again in the present through creativity - rather like feeling back along to where we went of the rails and then picking up again from there and rooting the spirit to the present again as best as possible. I believe there is a movement, which is essentially in political terms the struggle between the power of democracy and the power of capitalism, or the power of money (force) and the power of the vote (people's hearts). The fact that most people think we live in a capitalist-democratic society, as if the two ideologies are harmoniously unified, is a huge illusion and diffuses the spirit other than in spontaneous reactions, like protests, which disperse without being part of an overall powerful movement. The history of the Chartists is very illuminating on this - I recommend The Vote by Paul Foot.

But I don't actually think it's that big a problem really. The illusion of thinking it's a problem is the main problem. There's plenty of people who are engaged with the past and the spirit. But there is a kind of cultural vortex around these days, and it has to be kept in mind. And I think the people driving culture are not engaged in the spirit. I think they're engaged with money and with prestige and all that stuff. On the other extreme are the religious fundamentalists, who instead of trying to move the spirit on, try to destroy the present reality in order to fit the spirit of the past into the present. Rather like hammering a square peg into a round hole. I think that the postmodernist movement is in a way trying to do the same thing - dissolve everything, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as it were. The way to do it is rebirth, in my opinion, not destruction (although creative dismantling of damaging structures is not precluded by rejecting destruction).

Anyway, I've gone on too long. As far as the poem goes, I am going to keep writing it. I think it will probably split into sections and, eventually, become a story. A narrative will emerge, there'll be a strong spirit that emerges and begins to drive it. There is a way out of it. But I think there's got to be the breakdown first. I'm not sure if it's extreme enough yet. It hasn't completely gone yet. I have been going back to edit it - it's not completely stream of consciousness, though sections do emerge from working with that. I know there is a lot of untidiness about it, but that is partly on purpose. I want to go for some really tight formal stuff later.

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Will keep updating it. Would really appreciate any more thoughts or responses.



Apologies for the half-finished sentences and dodgy syntax above - am writing at work, so rather hurriedly and looking over my shoulder half the time - which is how I wrote the poem too - very influenced the shaping of it I think!

DJC at 11:53 on 08 November 2006  Report this post
Woah! There's a lot here, Paul. I remember my time at uni, and felt the same way. What you say here is very relevant today. My only concern is that, if we try to tackle the big things head on in poetry, we end up sounding a little pretentious. I know - I do it all the time and am trying to consciously guard against it.

For me, poetry is about the minutae. I start small and work out from there, like beginning with a close up then panning out. If you start big, as I think you do with this poem - the first line a classic example, you are in danger of not really saying anything meaningful - or rather anything which a reader will be able to latch onto.

What you've done is brave, but does it make it good poetry? I'm not sure. If you take Prufrock as an example of modernist angst (as opposed to the postmodern angst you show here), he begins with an evening, with the fog, with Prufrocks utter inability to cope with the niceties of day to day life. He doesn't begin with big, important comments.

I'm sorry if I sound a bit harsh here, but I know you can take it. Be careful about 'going large' - as you can end up tying yourself in knots.


Paul Isthmus at 14:08 on 08 November 2006  Report this post
Hey Darren,

You're right I think, in terms of poetry being an appropriate form for what I'm doing. But at the same time I think that maybe we are lost in this 'going large' - that that is what is happening.

I want to go smaller, and more specific with this, but after this horrible grotesquerie. Re-reading it this morning made me feel quite queasy. I know it's not 'good', it's not really even poetry. But I want this to come first - the rebirth, after this, the coming to terms and the engagement has to come from the individual, from the small.

This is basically the first section of a longer piece, and the direction it's taken so far is from the huge to the small, an overall breakdown. I've just been reminded of a hilarious bit in the film Adaptation, in which Nick Cage's character is trying to overcome his writer's block and write a screenplay - in his desperation he starts with the earth four million years ago and pans in to today - then realises it's shit. But it still stays in the film, and it says something. That's what I want to do here, although I am slightly uncomfortable with leaving something that is a bit of a mess in order to express messiness - that can easily be bad, pretentious, lazy art, like a theatre piece about boredom that has a bored person sitting in an armchair onstage for three hours occasionally saying 'I'm bored'. That sort of stuff I think is just pretentious crap. I don't know if that's just what I'm doing here. But I do feel that the battle to not be a pretentious bastard is definitely more of a danger in talking about what I'm doing than in actually doing it I think! I hope you don't think the poem is pretentious. I have a few ideas of how it's going to move on from where it's at at the moment. With this in mind, what do you think I should do? Scrap it or keep it? And if I keep it, what works here and what should be cut, or what should be re-worked? Maybe I should finish the whole thing first though.

Thanks. I really should do some work now.


Xenny at 14:40 on 08 November 2006  Report this post
Hey Darren and Paul
(both of you because I'm replying to Darren's reply too)

Darren I do agree with what you were saying in a way. And I'd thought a similar thing while I was reading this - wondering if a different approach entirely would be better. But then I think there are times when we need to put all such thoughts out of our minds and just write whatever we need to at that moment. So what if it comes out pretentious or crap (not talking about your poem now Paul!!) or fails altogether - it's still part of the process of finding ourselves/our poetry, and sometimes it just needs to be gone through before something else can form.

But I do feel that the battle to not be a pretentious bastard is definitely more of a danger in talking about what I'm doing than in actually doing it I think!

I think it's a danger in talking about anything to be focused on what you want <i>not</i> to do.

Good luck with finishing it


DJC at 18:06 on 09 November 2006  Report this post
Paul - you're not pretentious, you're brave, as this is a very difficult piece to even write in the first place.

I want something concrete at the beginning, like this:

The Grand Canyon on a day of big, blue sky.

I just really like this line, and I think it could move forward from here.

Hope this helps!


ps. Adaptation is a great film! I think it is Spike Jonze's best.

paul53 [for I am he] at 13:33 on 10 December 2006  Report this post
To be perfectly honest, I have read this piece, but not everyone else's comments, so excuse any repeats.
This will be a large and important piece in your poetry canon, if only that you can sustain the ongoing theme through the entire length.
There are great parts in here - which others have already doubtless pointed out - but there is rambling links as well.
The hard part now is to turn killer - to go back to your beloved work and commit murder upon it. Be ruthless and destroy anything unnecessary [say, a tenth of its volume]. Tighten it without losing any of it. Throttle any beloved lines; make it ring.

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