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The Lost Generation

"A prose-poem in the style of Gertrude Stein, comparing the 1920s to the 2010s."

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The Lost Generation By Captain Midnight
In the style of Gertrude Stein

A prose-poem on what our generation faces as compared to the generation of the Jazz Age and beyond.

You are part of a lost generation.

By shuffling you round and round and round and round
The powers that be have stripped you of much of your identity.

By giving you standardized tests the powers that be devise
Row upon row
Of square pegs in round holes that can be packed up like
Traveling chess sets
And opened up at any time to show you in position
For the powers that be
To plug you in for the next move.

But this chess set is all pawns
And the powers that be play Pawn Wars
Ad the games ends as soon as they have one pawn clear and then
When it is about to promote they shake hands
And call the game and start anew.

Or if they maneuver without imagination
The pawns all butt up against one another
And none can move forward or capture
Or pull back to fight again
Because the law says that pawns only move forward.

And even in those cases where a pawn is noticed
It takes something unusual
Such as Alex Karras getting to say his most memorable line
"Mongo only pawn in game of life"
But in order to get to that point in the movie
Where he could say it he first had to flatten a horse with one punch
Which is not only unusual but rather dangerous
Especially for the horse.

You are all part of a lost generation.

The first Lost Generation came after the first War to End All Wars
When all ideals up to that time battered themselves to pieces
On the shoals of bad judgment and countless lives lost
And war debts that translated into dollar bills
Would tether the Earth to the Sun.

That Lost Generation split six ways from Sunday
With so many viewpoints at odds with each other
That you could hardly tell who believed what.

The Classicists went right back to what they were doing
Except for warning against new ideas
And taking the Red Scare so seriously
That some of them wished the Red was out of the Red White and Blue
Because The Beastly Hun had turned into the Beastlier Bolshie.

Another style called themselves the Hypermoderns
And brought the heavy pieces out on the board early on
Like the big cannons they had seen on the field of battle
So the Bishops were the long range protected guns
And the Rooks were the tanks
And the Knights were the scout soldiers
And beware the unlucky pawn
Who stepped out too far and left open space
Behind him so he could be shot at from all sides
Like a foot soldier in a sniper's nest.

And then there were the Dadaists who for art's sake
Would swipe a urinal out of Grand Central Station
And put their John Hancock on it
And display it in a gallery
Just because they could
Do it and not be prosecuted for a very odd version of petty theft
Because it was Art.

The Dadaists often loved chess
And were interested in the possibilities of the 64 squares
And multiplied 64 by 63 and the product by 62 and the product by 61
And so on down to 1
Which gave them a truly awesome number of possibilities
Which could never be solved by a natural human
And had to be proved or disproved
By silicon chips and programs and other things
Even they didn't dream would exist.

And sometimes they used Chess and Art together
And for film they played games on a rooftop
And suddenly a burst of water came down from the sky
Like it was poured from the world's largest bucket
And obliterated the game and the players
All for Art's sake.

And then there were the Systemists
Who had been so thoroughly beaten in the war
They had to start over again from the ground up
And rebuild their society
And since it is easier to build a chess board than to build a tractor
They tried mastering chess first
And then they gathered all the best minds
Remaining in their world and threw them together and told them
The ones who came up with the best chess systems
Would glorify the system of Lenin and Stalin
And they would be rewarded accordingly
At least until their political mentor was shot or sent to the Gulag
Which was very bad for them
Unless they were so good another mentor was assigned to them
And if they were really good they might get a pat on the head
And still be pawns but at least shiny polished ones.

You are all of a lost generation.

And then there were the Revengers
Who would have pumped the ocean dry
And poured the water out onto the land
In order to bring everyone down to their level
And who invented the term "blitz"
Not only for speed chess but
Also for speed war to hit fast and hard
With all their army and were told to Hold or Die
And usually held and died in order to
Take out as many so-called enemies
As who fell into their grasp.

You are all of a lost generation.

Now you sit before a table and face a screen
And silicon chips trace pathways
That would confuse even Scrat the prehistoric squirrel
In his quest for the perfect nut
As he climbed to the top of the highest tree because
The silicon chips would tell him his way is not good
And he should take this branch
Rather than that one and not to trust his instincts and blindly be guided
By guides who have no interest in why he keeps on his path.

Now the computer instead of helping you think tell you how to think
And if you click wrong with the mouse
Or pencil in the wrong bubble on the
Scantron sheet you are wrong and you can
Hardly figure out what is right.

And creativity and imagination though not banished in the short term
Are only encouraged as long
As they yield a possibility of turning a profit
And after that you are encouraged to be a pawn on a peg
And fitted into the traveling chess set by Those Who Know Best.

You are all of a lost generation.

Gertrude Stein used the title in a comment to Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s.

Stein was opposed to all punctuation except the period. The line breaks are my form of setting clauses in sentences apart from one another. Due to space limitations, I added extra line breaks to my original, which was typed in a smaller font size.

I've never read any of Stein's works through, but she liked to jot down sentences about her thoughts at the time and preserve them.

The reference to Alex Karras, an American football player turned actor, was inspired by his recent obituaries -- all of which mentioned the comedy
Blazing Saddles and his memorable scenes in same.

The Dadaist chess references are based on Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who participated in all the art stunts mentioned in his section and was also a player of master strength, sometimes filling in on the French Chess Olympic team. He lived in America after the Nazis conquered France, and composed the unsolvable problem for a greeting card he sent to patrons of one of his exhibitions.

The John Hancock refers to the first signer of the American Declaration of Independence, who purposely wrote his name large "so fat George in London can read it without his glasses," the story goes.

The words Those Who Know Best and their capitalizations are taken from a story by Truman Capote (1924-1984), an American author who was a keen observer of life and very anti-conventional.

For Scrat the prehistoric squirrel, rent any of the American Ice Age movies and settle in. He's usually the comic relief when the films get too heavy.

Please let me know if I missed anything.

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