Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I've seen Patti Smith twice in the Seventies, once at a student-run music club called the Back Door at San Diego University, and then about two years later at the Civic Theatre in the Downtown. A shock was what it was, like sex for the first time, scraping guitar, rudimentary drums, one-note bass lines, and Smith's incantations, yowlings, caterwauling, and proclamations, channeling Jim Morrison and Blake. It was static, feedback and backbeat fused with Smith's flailing rag doll dancing and howling, hardly refined but sublime. I told my date in the middle of the Civic Theatre concert that I wanted to climb on stage and fuck Smith. My date, a demure young woman had a look in her eye and whispered in my ear "So do I..."Patti Smith may be many things, but she is not a phony, and neither was Allan Ginsberg. Full of themselves, perhaps, and a shade pretentious but this is what it takes to an artist in America. Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Kate Braverman, Ann Waldman, Truman Capote, and John Irving are no less fixed in their public identities and self-images of being people with words that cannot be denieddenied

Writing is not for modest people; but none of us have to live with these folks, just read their books and find what value there is to be had. Real emotion, insight, poetry, things that resonate with you despite the writer's quarrelsome personality. That's why you read them. Patti Smith I think is a fair- to- mediocre poet, but she was an excellent rock-and-roll artist; I have a firm rock-and-roll aesthetic and consider her best work to be on record and on the stage, in front of a band, and it is here where I think she taps into something larger than herself. But again, whatever she is, she's not a phony, whether you like her. I like some of what she has done and I admire her gutsiness to invade a male bastion and make rock-and-roll something women can find a primary place in. For Ginsberg, I would say he stopped writing good poems thirty-five years ago, abandoning his Blakean visions for a Buddhist practice of a direct transcription of his thought processes--no editing, "first thought, best thought". The result has been an awful lot of wasted paper. Still, when all is said about by professors, acolytes, and sycophants, there remain the great poems he wrote back in the day, mainly because "Howl", a certifiable masterpiece. 

There are several other Ginsberg poems and volumes that likewise ascend to the sublime, and when it all is said that there is to say about him, the writing that is actually good is what I return to, again and again. I worked a poetry reading he gave eleven years ago, and he was a crab, but he was also a man in a hurry; he knew he was dying and was dead about nine months later. So I will forgive his affectations and will be grateful that he lived long enough to write a handful of the best poems written by a post-war American writer.I wouldn't say that Ginsberg is a great poet, only that he has written some great poems. A great poet remains great over a longer stretch of their career than AG did; he ceased being a poet and became instead a celebrity. 

His great work, though, remains great, and that, for me, mitigates somewhat the ensuring mediocrity and cult of personality he cultivated. I would say Smith's arrogance is precisely what her rock-and-roll performance style require, and I found it exciting when I've seen her in full throttle. Personally, I don't mind arrogance in an artist if there's something there to back it up. I admire writers Norman Mailer and Camille Paglia, two strong personalities who back up their bluster with strong and eloquent word-smith-ing. The distinction between the gifted egotist and the blustering pretender would be that the gifted egotist's personality receded after a while and a reader confronts their assertions at face value.

 The pretender's disguise merely dissolves like spun sugar against a wet tongue. Smith, in a more limited sense, is akin to the aforementioned two; she is not a writer, really, but a performer tapping into energies made real by her immodest assertions. In a rock-and-roll context, I think it's riveting, and there is a strong DIY appeal here. She's marshaled her limit assets as a singer and musician, and even as a poet and transformed everything into a perfect rock-and-roll concept, where rough-hewed elements and qualities of the self-taught are deathless assets. If arrogance and extreme self-confidence are, of themselves, qualities one objects to regardless of the work produced, there's nothing I can say to change your mind.

Mark Conway's "Tarot Card of the Dreaming Man Face Down"

The tragedy of someone's death isn't that someone is no longer with us and that it's a sad and unjust matter of the universe that such a rich
life force is now extinguished.

No, it's not that, no matter our intense desires to fetishize the dead with praise of genius, great qualities and fantastic deeds. Those who have died are merely dead, after all, they've ceased feeling pain and mental anguish, they've gone beyond the nagging anxieties that makes Life a blood pressure reading we must keep our eye on. For all the hosannas and energized grief, for all the post-mortem reviews that might catch God's passing ear and perhaps persuade Him to allow the spirit through the improbably crafted gates, we are , in effect, frantically flattering ourselves for having had the acquaintance, claiming acquisitions of knowledge, wisdom, beneficial examples with each chat and shared drink; it's subterfuge, after all, and we pad the walls of our psyche against the irrational, powerful, consuming waves of rage and grief.

It is the living who are in pain, in various stages of mortal panic, it is the living who have to yet again close another house in their neighborhoods of the familiar and realize again, and again that those who are leaving this terrain are dying not through accidents or natural disasters, nor from age much in advance of their own, but from a mortality that wears a face much like their own. There is no longer distance in the deaths of those one knows, it is no longer a distant reference abstracted through complicated strings of association and family ties. Each passing leaves a tangible space next to you; you feel something gone, a wind blowing through an old house. We attend memorials, we go to services, we bring flowers to the grave site, we cushion ourselves in ritual acts and pro forma talk regarding death and dying, and yet still there is panic, anger, roiling, seething grief, a rage that remains. Mark Conway's poem Tarot Card of the Dreaming Man, Face Down gets to that tertiary layer in the geology of the soul and, I believe, gets it right when his narrator begins to admit that the rituals are not enough to handle a close death; he bites his lip and allows the thoughts to form, hard, bitter language, caught half way between poetic expression and stammering rant.

Then it was gone, the beatitude
of your body,
specifically there,
black, black, blue, heavy
as a dead dog, the back
of your legs
looking plastic, looking extra, trailing
behind the rest of you
like a mooch, like a goddamn moron and you
barely there,
already caravaggioing your way
through the light
and dark, mouthing the prime numbers
of eternity .

The memory of someone's entire lifetime is reduced to ritual and ornate templates of otherworldly inevitability, and this something that suddenly seems cheap and besides the point. Conway's narrator speaks for anyone who has the conflict during memorial services of thinking that the extended and costly protocols of death and burial being false and morally repugnant and yet sitting through it all, choking on combinations of tears and sorrow. One wants to be like Lear and tear off their clothes in the rain while excoriating themselves for their purchase of such now-conspicuously shabby delusions of order and purpose, yet one keeps their seat, ultimately uncertain of what lies beyond the last breath one takes and the last beat a failing heart manages. There is only the chance to live in that uncertainty, leave the ritual be, and acknowledge anger and selfish rage in the deeper recesses of the soul where true feelings reside in unthinkable cohabitation.

Where you are, slipping
through the monstrous
inner membrane of the world,
you see how it works.
I, like a mooch, like a goddamn moron, live.

We waited for you. Two or three days.
Then an old man came and prayed

Searching for words, Conway's narrator attempts the elegant and the poetic to make his ambivalence ironic, to create another kind of distance between his emotions and his constructed equilibrium, but what comes forth is only confusion. Conway's poem works for me because it is not dense with literary or to the cultural references, although the piece cites them. Conway goes past the dictionary contextualization, or the gnomic referencing;he does not pull an Ezra here and drop obscured names and terms into a verse without pause to make them emotionally relevant. Our narrator seems tongue tied, between a cultivated voice that makes easy resizing of responsive emotions, the other wholly inarticulate. What happens are high cultured points stripped of their critical trappings with their naked appeal to emotion bared yet again. Something tangible in Caravaggio's dark paintings is revealed when his name is here used as an adjective. The poem is a elliptical account of the inner struggle to regain composure and the overwhelming desire to collapse under grief's smashing weight.

The inexpressible cannot be written or spoken into being; the truth that does arise is the insoluble fact that goes on, life is for the living , that goodbyes must stop and one's shoulder must return to the wheel one is obliged to push through obligations. One needs to stop dreaming of a visit from an gone soul and learn to live in the spaces formerly occupied by another.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The Castle in the Forest
by Norman Mailer (Random House)

Norman Mailer’s new novel, The Castle in the Forest, to be released on his 84th birthday on January 23rd, is an eccentric imagining about the young Adolph Hitler, narrated by a top lieutenant of The Devil. Mailer's novel is study in three generations of dysfunction, with the young Adolph being the cold sociopathic fulfillment of Hitler Family Values. In incident after incident, ranging from his father Alois's incestuous infidelities to the youth's rapt fascination in a village blacksmith's theories on how a "Will of Iron" is galvanized only through relentlessly consuming fire, Mailer's use of the narrating demon is, in fact, a inquest into why and when the worm had turned.

It's an audaciously seductive saga exhibiting Mailer's verve in full force. Among Mailer's lifelong themes have been examinations of power as well as the consequences, political and spiritual, of how power is used. This theme, Mailer’s central obsession in his fifty years of authoring books, is obvious in such varied novels as An American Dream, the punch-drunk fiction that has an alcoholic writer and television personality murdering his estranged wife from intuited instructions from the moon; or in Ancient Evenings, where reincarnation and sexual domination are the means to control and manage one’s journey through history. The first person memoir of Jesus Christ in The Gospel According to the Son, where we witness the bizarre difficulty of being half man and half divine in the exercise of godly powers with a very mortal sense of weariness and exhaustion, while within the generational CIA novel Harlot’s Ghost Cold War intelligence gathering becomes akin to religious practice and operatives must ironically acquire the capacity for amoral application of trade craft to preserve the rumored good of their cause. We have in this brilliant and contentious series of novels characters who give themselves over to impulse, obsession and a sense of greater powers instructing them to follow vaporously suggested agendas. These are acts of faith without promise or proof that the demonstrations will come of any conventionally desired good.

Diverse though the settings and eras are, Mailer’s fiction all have a similar existential notion, whether his protagonists take responsibility for the actions given them by respective flights of intuition, voices from ashen moonscapes, or the whispers of ghosts and spirits. Mailer has defined his idea of existentialism as the practice of taking risks and accepting challenges without regard to trying to control the results. It is only in the pure state of happenstance that real and authentic choices are made, with the manipulation or denial of the requisites ending badly, in disease, disaster, war, lost hope. The Castle in the Forest’s imagined portrait of a world scourge emerging from a festering mess will give one something to ponder, perhaps in a pause of action when one is deciding whether to be a bastard by exacting a revenge for a slight, real or imagined, or mature enough to let the irritation fade and thus not make the world a more sour place. The beating of butterfly wings indeed; our good works, enacted in good faith, has an effect on how history turns out, but the sad fact is that our worst deeds seem to swell faster and sweep aside all good intentions in their tsunami like rush.

Our narrator, a lieutenant of Satan going by the name DT, or Dieter, here tells his tale in elaborate detail, extended digressions, and anecdotes about what it’s like to work for such a horrific employer, and characterizations of the small nuances of the war between heaven and hell. Young Hitler is nudged, whispered to, exposed to various stimulations, excitements and harsh experiences, made to witness great spectacles and various forms of cruelty and abuse.

Worse, perhaps, DT gives the young Adolph’s ears the speeches of vain and minor men and women speaking volumes about their best intentions, only to have their asides and instructions and philosophical squibs given the lie by crudity and violence. The petty vanities of Hitler’s parents—a preening brute of a father, a doting and emotionally confused mother—and their sustained failures to be ballast for their children gives us a portrait worthy of Faulkner of a family held together on delusional applications of bad faith. Adolph is lied to, pampered, ignored, humiliated, praised and damned; we are given DT’s chronicle of how he had subtly, quietly created the conditions under which the youth who would personify unrelieved grief. This is far less the creation of a merely immoral person, but rather the formation of a collective world view; young Adolph's experience in a world where every adult action is justified by transparent prevarication forces him to organize manipulative techniques that will in turn help tap into a country and culture's bounty of stored frustration and rage.

Adolph fantasies of himself as master of the world who will forge it to perfection, or destroy it in the attempt, and the delusion becomes an ideology, a cause, a death wish that engulfs the world. Mailer’s writing is sure and vivid, showing again his ability to assume voices quite unlike what we'd consider his elegant, wild and rolling style.

Insinuating his ideas in the idealized cadences of Marilyn Monroe , an ancient Egyptian King and Jesus , Mailer's bold empathy with of their respective struggles helps him in find a mortal ,human center, divided between polarities of the All Good and All Evil. The human soul has equal capacity toward the saintly and the unspeakable, and it is the center the pragmatic mind assumes. Both tendencies are balanced for the individual to live creatively through a life of unexpected results, but it is DT's assignment from Satan(whom he refers to as "The Maestro") is to usurp, subvert and stunt charitable inclination and curtail the capacity for more nuanced world view. The aim isn't pragmatism, which allows a man or woman the capacity to make decisions and take action without a guarantee about the results. DT's interventions make the young man's mind a reactionary, solipsistic mess. What would have been a better nature in less obstructed circumstances become a roiling mass of impulsively destructive delusion.

The goal isn't the greater good, but the greater chaos, and the reason, offered by DT with barely concealed glee, is petty and judgmental, to embarrass the Lord God for all His pomp and humorless instructions to humility and selfless works. DT is a demon who loves his work, but work it is no matter how he relishes the resulting chaos, and for all the information about the conduct of the war between Heaven and Hell, the social strata of rank within The Maestro's army, and the alluring description of tricks of the Devil's persuading trade have Wildean jadedness, a sharply articulated sense of professionalism that has become mere expertise. DT, albeit untrustworthy, is bored and frustrated with his Master's assignments. Something is not revealed here, and DT's evocations of how young Hitler's psyche was polluted by engineered bad luck and circumstance are told with just a hint of sympathy for the boy's eventual fate as destroyer.

The scenario echoes old Flip Wilson jokes about a felon explaining in his crimes with "the Devil made me do it", but the dashed expectations, engineered disillusioning , and endless witnessing of adult duplicities wedge the youth into a sphere where moral choice is impossible; simply, there are no genuine virtues to learn, no moral behavior attending all professing and philosophizing. DT's ministrations to his client aid him in achieving true pathology. The world and its people is something either to endure or to master with the mightiest force imagination and will is able to muster. Unreflective, unmoved by incident, we experience a malevolence slowly layered and nuanced with conflicting impulses and desires, warring instincts one resolves by unleashing violence onto the world.

You detect a sigh of Hell-born despair between the demon's measured words. He is at once sympathetic, vain, a wit and a confessor, is ambiguous and seductive, no a being to be trusted no matter the smooth surface of his speech. You read and you empathize with DT's workload as he details the limits of his abilities and lays out his frustration and then remember the roiling rage and devastation that are his stock and trade. Civilized, intelligent, sophisticated beyond imagination, this is merely a sleek glossing over a face that can only corrupt and undermine all forms of good will. Confusion, chaos and the spread of falsehood are the end-all qualities this curious entity exists to perpetuate.The peculiar mix of historical detail and shrewdly outlined characters gives the readers something that is better than formal history or History; it is Hitler as felt presence, a monster raised from circumstances not much different from our own. Mailer’s Hitler is a palpable presence, fully and masterfully realized, and the demon’s nonchalant, jaded recollection makes this book a chilling exploration into the imagined limits of historical record.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Regular readers doubtlessly have had the old URL link to some old pages of this blog and wonder where the recent stuff has gone to. If you've found this page, please note that the new address is, and this
is the result of an experiment with the New Blogger formatting; needless to say, I couldn't change back to the old address, and now feel like I'm on cold Arctic island.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A rant, and then a true story

Plagiarism seems a sociopathic activity, like other forms of theft, petty and grand. The thief, due to whatever contorted world view, finely ratcheted system of rationalization and a dependable lack of conscious that they're doing any something wrong, will merely take someone else's writing and assign their name to it, no problem.

The only labor involved was the discovery of the writing that's about to be absconded , and whatever effort it took to cut and paste the material. What is especially aggravating isn't the big names that have been caught pilfering from other authors--Goodwin, Ambrose and Haley can at least fall back on laying the blame on harried research staffs--but rather the thievery of the truly mediocre scribe who continually gets caught using other people's writing as his or her own, and yet continues to claim authorship for the work of others.

I ran a poetry series for years in the seventies and eighties, where open readings were featured, and among the other poets, good, bad but definitely original in their work, where three regulars who read Dickens, Blake, Eliot, Marvel and Johnson , each of them claiming to have written the poems they just voiced. Others in attendance at these readings couldn't believe what they were witnessing, but no one said anything, fearing a fight or some such thing, until finally I cornered one guy, a forty year old, at the end of the last open reading I would MC. He'd just read a thick, awkward Canto by Pound, and I could see a dog eared copy of Ezra's poems crammed in his backpack. He taken the time to type out what he was appropriating , and introduced the poem as "the hardest thing I've ever composed..." I told him he has to stop taken credit for poems someone else composed. Not blinking, he stared at he, zipping his backpack shut, obscuring the Pound volume I conspicuously made note of. "Fuck, you man," he said,"language is free and genius isn't understood
in it's lifetime."

"Ezra Pound is dead for decades" I said,"and I still don't like him. But you gotta stop saying his stuff is yours."

He walked out, the cafe owner turned out the lights,
and I stopped hosting poetry series that night onward, and that is precisely the reason I'm still able to write and read poetry without losing a lung in coughing disgust.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Children of Men

Children of Men has been ruthlessly compared to Ridley Scott’s moody tone poem Blade Runner,a disservice to both films. The comparison is thus: both are most likely (to my mind)the best movie evocations of a dystopic future, and it is there that discussion should stop. What works particularly well in Children of Men is the rapid pace, aided by Cuaron’s decision not to belabor the audience with an excess of expository explanation. It accelerates briskly, convincingly, from the disruption of Theo’s getting his coffee, to the bomb explosion occurring when he’s about to spike it.

The viewer catches on to details rapidly enough, a little here, a bit there, something like catching passing comments or pieces of conversation when one is in a hurry. This film is an odd blend of action/adventure and parable-like think piece; it’s film making at precisely the right pitch. There’s a manic urgency here that stays just this side of panic, abetted by Cuaron’s amazing controlled fluidity of his camera angles and editing–there are tracking shots here that are uncommonly subtle and integrated into the movie’s framework, not mere DiPalmesque show pieces–and Clive Owen’s quizzical performance as Theo.

He’s in something of a daze, a once committed activist gone made mainstream, cynical and alcoholic, slowly drawn back into the action by a variety of circumstances, off on a series of extraordinary labors where he discovers the foul agendas of rebel forces and discovers within himself a core value that leads him to do an unselfish thing. It’s a marvel to behold in a film studded with razor sharp performances.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

White Knuckle Sobriety is Good For You

The last book to help me in a profound way was Alcoholics Anonymous, also known in AA as "The Big Book". Other books preaching pop psych and spiritual cures , ale Peck, Chopra and Dyer depend on the authors convincing their audience that there's something amazingly and incredibly wrong with them and that their respective series of books are the ways to rid oneself of the troubling psychic clutter and then engage the world clearly and fully.

The success of these cures isn't easy, however, ala Peck, Chopra , Dyer and their smooth-talking ilk always have yet another book for you too read, some essential follow up on the preparatory text you've just read, all of which is followed by yet increasing numbers of follow ups, work books, versions for teenagers, young moms, desperate dads, grand parents, gays, business men, and so forth.

Curiously, all these treatments are geared toward people who have nothing physically wrong with them, and who have been convinced by these glorified motivational hucksters that there is something dreadfully askew in their life, something dysfunctional in the soul that must be attended to by constant confession and self-examination. This is the curse of having too high an income, too limited a library, and too much spare time; being merely bored with life isn't good enough but now has to be dignified by being called a disease. It's a rather bizarre way to get feel better in your own skin, and an expensive one too.

I'm a bookseller in my secret life, and I've been selling these self help tomes to an endless stream of Pilate-addicted cellphone moms and dim wit weight lifters who want to ponder something spiritual that contains no greater message other than it's okay to wallow in self-regard and pointless material accumulation. There is a mania behind many of their eyes, always wide with incomprehension, that suggest that every circuit in their brain is overloaded and we'll soon have a cortical short out. Ouch.

The benefit of being an alcoholic, if there is one, is that you pretty much know precisely what your problem is; once you figure that out and stopped blaming your consumption of mass amounts of Vodka and whiskey on parents, the government, aliens, or the bus driver who looked at you funny, you had a very good chance of beating the odds. Alcoholics Anonymous, put briefly, gave me a way of doing things , and doing them consistently well, that kept me distracted , let us say,from taking that first drink and helped me climb from the wreckage of my all-thumbs approach to life so that I could have a life that was worth sticking around for.

Yes, yes, I know, it's written in dated variety of English prose that sounds quaint, and there is an insistence in the book that one must come to terms with a Higher Power (or "God") in order to stay sober, but these are things of small concern, "small beer", as it were. I wasn't depressed, in a bad mood,suffering extreme forms of ennui and other mutations of existential misery. I couldn't stop drinking of my own power, and AA and its Big Book offered me a way out. I gave it a half-hearted try, and eighteen years of continuous sobriety later, it's a very pleasing state of so far, so good.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eric Paul Shaffer v. Rod McKuen

Eric Paul Shaffer's "Sitting in the Last Sunset, Listening to Guests Within" is exactly the kind of poem I continually tried to write when I was fifteen and sixteen, when I had a teen obsession with the free form kitch of Rod McKuen and his carefully cultivated image of being A Man Alone.

I loved it all, it made me want to have "poetic experiences", it made me want to catch it all in words as McKuen had done; foghorns, waterfronts, grey mist on dark downtown streets, some nameless other in the shadows catching my eye, she gives me a wink, a tilt of the head, and with little transitional problems, me, the hero, walking alone again down dark and empty downtown streets, nursing a apt melancholy, thinking thoughts of supreme heaviosity. Lucky for me that I
discovered the Beats and Eliot and Wallace Stevens and WC Williams among others whose works disabused from trying to compete with schlockmeister McKuen on his own turf. Poor Eric Paul Shaffer--can we ever trust a poet with three names (William Carlos Williams excepted)?-- gets in the ring for at least this poem, and leaves the arena seeming less a writer firm in what he knows and more like bad actor auditioning for every role beyond his grasp.

Eric Paul Shaffer, off by himself, having a reflective moment as the sunsets, too busy mentally redecorating the world around him with limp literary language to have actually seen anything at all. If this poem weren't so earnest and non-ironic in its detailing of a sensitive soul parsing his surroundings and friends it would be a snapshot perfect caricature of a young writer attempting to convince himself that he has a vaster experience than he actually has. The writing is very writerly, cast in the hopes of coming up with fine language:

" The stars are far, the moon far from full, yet even alone
under these old stars, I'm not alone".
Self consciousness plagues this verse like an obvious head cold; it sounds stuffy, congested, it makes the voice sound callow as it makes a claim for a small truth that lies submerged in this fussy diorama.

All my friends are in the kitchen now. Dinner is done, the sun set,
and after our muted admiration from the yard, by ones and twos,
they rose beneath a sky gone dull and turned to the house for wine

or coffee and pie. Plates clatter, and cabinets bang, and the spigot
gurgles in the sink. I'm alone on the last step, watching universal
blue darken the mountains and the sea.

This is a lot of writing to set a mood with, with the sole purpose of introducing the narrator as someone apart from the collective; we are meant to glean some less than graceful suggestions of melancholy, of psychic isolation, and for all the descriptions of the constructed world of dinners and washing plates and the natural world of stars and tides, the situation is unnatural, contrived.

How utterly film-like and subtly dramatic, the hero, the one with the soul of a poet, easing off to dwell on deep words in a world that remains silent to his yearning. How completely superficial, fake as Nigerian money orders. All that remained was for a young woman, slim, red haired and holding a long stemmed wine glass, to come up behind him while he mused and offered a penny for his thoughts. Cliches are fine for poets to play with, but the point, I'd think, is to subvert them and make the language do other things, catch the reader by surprise. Not, as Shaffer does here, offer them as fresh, original.

Monday, January 22, 2007

I am not a philosopher, nor do I play one on TV

I am not a philosopher, nor do I play one on TV, but I have a couple of degrees in literature, I read alot, and I have a blog, meaning, of course, that I get to ramble, rant, wax and whine as long as this peculiar technology holds up. Or until I get bored, die mid-sentence, or secure a real hobby. Or date more often, God knows.
Anyway, these are some random notes on isolated matters gleaned from some conversations. The serious reader will note, no doubt, some spurious assumptions as to what I think the forthcoming names are talking; again, I am amateur, the worst sort of hobbyist at this game, but I don't think the paragraphs are bereft of worth. Ideas for essays I'll never get to writing, perhaps. Sigh...


Nietzsche Apollonian drive is a desire to find order in a confused, chaotic, and cruel world. It is the mother of all control issues, an insanity of over organization that compels the spirit to quell the spontaneous spirit and instead attempt to keep everything in its assigned place.

Half the work is creating categories and new places for the finite groupings of worthy things and excluding newer, suspect ideas, ideas and tendencies unproven and likely to be fraught with danger. Risks not worth taking with what works are avoided, efforts to expand beyond the granted wisdom is suppressed. It's a conservative notion that argues that civilizations are built upon the foundation of unchanging truths about the nature of man, and that the culture that's been created is an accurate representation of everything that is best in our nature. It denies change, and it is an institutional inclination that seeks hegemony in every aspect of life. Order must be maintained regardless of everything. Nietzsche found that life and faith in this state of affairs was the worst sort of slavery.

The Dionysian drive, desires to break down that artificial order. Nietzsche had great fondness for those institutions that reinforced what he felt was the codified falseness of culture, but he was inclined by instinct to favor the Dionysian impulse to make the old order a smoldering ash heap, at least metaphorically speaking. The Dionysian drive was an attempt to describe what instinct must be present for a human being to free themselves of lies, babble, cant and religious and political crudity and position themselves to witness truth, and create meaning relevant to their existence. It is
an impulse to take something very orderly and beauty in all it’s unmarred elegance and
then destroy it, smash it, make it as unappealing as aesthetic object as it was in its formalized existence.

Herbert Marcuse was a Hegelian who had an idea of the movement of history toward some great purpose that was only being gradually revealed to us. Not exactly the Dionysian sort, which is a spontaneous effect occurring among individuals. Nietzsche had little patience for the fate of masses of people, or to restoring them certain rights and qualities liberal philosophy argues are universal; these are sham arguments, he argues, and focuses instead on the sensual experience of the individual, unbound by convention, living beyond the narrow view of existence and possibilities in it. Nietzsche's is a precursor to much contemporary existentialist thought, and his cranky and provocative views makes him a hero of libertarians, who habitually regard themselves enlightened beyond the comprehension of society. Stalin was not a Dionysian; neither was Hitler. They were monsters.

Does Marxism and Communism, with their materialism and anti-intellectualism arguably "Dionysian", or at least anti-Apollonian, the same thing? No. What Marx has in common with Nietzsche is a dominating idea that the way things are in the world are false and oppressive, and that there needs to be a radical change of venue in order to attain a natural state of being through which individuals can fashion themselves , unencumbered by creaking hegemonies. Beyond that, similarities fade. Marx did foresee a withering away of the State, it was only through a long period of presumably enforced reorientation through the dictatorship of the proletariat; in any event, this meant consolidation of power, economic strength, and coercion of all kinds.
Marxism as theorized is rich in insight, and offers a cool sociological analysis to material relations better than breathless Idealist philosophies, but as an applied political method, it became a cumbersome, slow moving contrivance that could not accommodate social experimentation or diversity. Free market systems , I think, are closer to being Dionysian in nature. Ruled by an instinct for profit, it is about as anti-intellectual force that you might mention, and in fact seems to thrive on creating chaos, and like creating order from the mess that it cannot help from making. Nietzsche , Classicist he is, insisted that a balance between The Dionysian and the Apollonian was what should be achieved and maintained, a conservative, disciplined instinct blended with an spirit of adventure, innovation, self-definition. The superstructure of one makes the experimentation of the other possible, workable.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cocktail Jazz

A true story of what this life used to be like.-tb ____________________________________________

 " Fuck me, I want to play " said Spank. He sat straight up in his seat and rattled a finger tip drum solo on the small table where he sat, in dark cocktail lounge on a cul-de-sac near the down town airport. He and his friend Slake were in the rear, and as Spank stared toward the front of the room, he could barely make out the musicians on the bandstand, a sax, piano, drums, and bass combo who were blurred by the hard, red burn of the lone stage light and the thick curtain of cigarette smoke that hung in the air like frayed curtains. But even with his vision obscured by gleam and gauze, Spank could see that the hand members were engaged in a mission that obliterated the reality of the dive bar whose leather cushion booths had been slashed with knives, spoons, or forks and had been mended with seeming miles of grey duck- tape, whose patrons were naught but arms holding drinks latched to torsos whose faces and gray, withered lips sought the &anonymity~ of the darkness above the scant glows of the lounges discreet, lighting that revealed traces of a once gay-colored carpet that bared witness to years of endless trips to the restrooms, empty tables covered with smeared glasses where thousands of memories had been forgotten and recalled again, and particles of dust floating unfettered, swirling streams that made the room seem positively air tight. Spank was still tapping his finger against the table, bobbing his head, squinting to see the combo as it rumbled on. The blues they'd been playing, slow and churning, had been going on for what seemed like the longest traffic light Spank had ever sat for, but the musicians kicked up the tempo. Hand over hand, the drummer slammed his Sticks on the skins hard, like someone banging on a locked door, the bassist accelerated the blood pulse, and the pianist and sax player played a: twisted melody in frantic unison, a race to the last bar. Spank thought he cold feel a breeze in the room. Something seemed to disturb the curtain of listless smoke. He took a wobbling glance at Slake, who was reclined against his chair, taking a slug from his long neck Bud. He looked back to the bandstand. The sax player was in the center of the platform, completely still as though bolted in position except for the streaking commotion of his fingers over the keys. A deluge of notes filled the room, every honk and squeak a cry of escape, a gasp for breath, a memory of fresh air. " Oh God, Slake " he said, leaning over the table, " This is it, man. These guys have struck the lode..." Spank paused and wrapped his hand around his Scotch rocks. " .. .This what we've looking for all afternoon. I wanna play... " He put his glass to his lips for a swig, but all he could taste were the slivers of melting ice that dissolved instantly on his tongue. " Where's our waitress " he demanded. Slake put his bottle on the table. " Can't say where she went " he offered, his gaze divided the bandstand into shimmering half frames that danced with each other. the bandstand and Spank, who's tapping had become arrhythmic and fidgety, " But that shouldn't matter too much now, Spank, you're about two and half sheets right now, and any more would just ruin a good buzz. " Spanks' finger stopped tapping, and his hand unfurled in the, inches from Slakes' chin, as though asking for loose change. " C'mon, Slake " he said, his voice a whine, " just when the getting' good. We've been looking for some music, some seen like this... " Slake rubbed his chin and watched the path of his friends' hand as he moved it away from his face and made a slow, sweeping gesture to indicate the lounge, the " It " he was signifying. Slake laughed. " Tell you, buddy, we've been driving since one this afternoon and we've been to six bars- all over the place, from La Jolla and into the Valley, and now we're here near the airport, on a dead end street in a dump where A.A. should have a recruiting table, and you're telling that this is the place? Slake was still smiling and looked about the room and could see details Spanks' hazed vision couldn't: six drinkers, all men, sitting at the bar whose once rich mahogany had had-- its grain insulted with many smothering of varnish, faded and ripped travel posters hung on the walls with a Sixties Pan Am jet flying over the Taj Mahal, Big Ben and Diamond Head, the bandstand where the combo played looking pathetic and rickety, -covered with an--- - incomprehensible variety of carpet samples fused together with duck tape probably snipped from the same all purpose roll, the musician~ themselves very old in a loud polyester ensembles ; shirts and flared golf pants, hunkering over their instruments, looking not at all transfixed by the spell of the music they played, but tired, with their concentration fading. The combo closed the number in irregular jumps and starts; somewhere in the upped ante of tempo they'd lost the thread of the instrumental dialogue. They spoke in tongues they couldn't find the words for the , sounds of the body beating its limbic memory against the keys and the animal skins, seeking passion, heat, fire in a cave. Sour notes, clashing pitches. Spanks' hand dropped to its side, and then his arm fell toward the floor. He felt dizzy. " Fuck me" he said, "I wanna play ." " You can find someone else to fuck you, pal, but I will say this: two- for- one specials will make you pay the cost for being the boss in half the time ." Slake looked at his watch. " Ready to go? " he asked. Spank was seeing Slake in double vision, and was ready to admit defeat when what he'd been doing all afternoon caught up with him. Slakes' smile shrank when he saw his friends' Cheeks swelled to the size of water balloons. Then he saw a jet stream of lumpy puke burst from Spanks' mouth. Slake had the sensation of being stricken with a small fire hose. The saxophonist was wiping down his keys with a dirty rag when he looked across the room to see what the commotion was. He saw one guy standing up, dripping with puke, trying to get rid of the stuff with desperate snaps of his arms, yelling "You fuck face, you goddamned alike, I can't take you anywhere" while his buddy was face down on the table, nose in the wretch, moaning in a way that begged for a bullet. The saxophonist perched his instrument in the stand and nudged the pianist, who was yawning and cracking his knuckles one by one and savoring the snap each joint made. "Who are those two? " he asked, "never seen those two before." The saxophonist gave a laugh that was brisk and snorting, contemptuous. " More tourists " he said, , shoving his hands into his pocket," and its a good bet one of them just had a religious experience. .."

Two act comedy

It's a scene any introspective sort will recognize or feel empathy for; one is alone in a cold, dark room, staring out of the window, gazing at the stares and the spectral clouds passing over the face of full yellow moon, contemplating what there is beyond this existence. Is there something one goes to and finds an ironic eternity tailored by one's decided deeds on earth, or is there only dust, silence, a blank slate of non-being? This isn't comedy for self-infatuation by default, but exactly the kind of exercise the mind plays at when there isn't the opportunity to engage with the world beyond one's own skin, and it's not uncommon to wonder, once one is done with the cerebral gymnastics to sort through their obsessions, loves and losses, to finally ask the variations on The Question: when does this all end? What will I say if there is someone /something waiting for me? What legacy will I leave? What will the consequences of what chose
to do and refused to do?

One wonders, one pauses to refresh themselves, one ponders, one writes a poem , one dreads, one begins a hundred different projects for fear of wasting what time remains on the Big Stop Watch.Thanatos brought to the personal level, where it hangs alongside the day's activities at work, lovemaking, paying bills, visiting museums and playing with grandchildren, is that chill one cannot shake from the bones. It is a tone in one's voice that one cannot rid themselves, it is a low grade depression that lingers no matter how hard we laugh. Death doesn't so much stalk us as it waits,in an inside coat pocket as an envelope we cannot open , containing the expiration date of our lives. The sum of many a man and woman's life has been how well or how badly they've adapted to the knowledge of the inevitable deletion of their life force; literature, in it's limitless styles, rationales, intentions, aesthetic rules and origins, chronicles to greater and less greater degrees how well one lives with the sour taste of their own death forever under the savoring of each bite of food and drink.

Death's Doorman by David Bosch, turns this theme into a two voice theater piece, and it works, surprisingly enough, for such a gimmick-tending conceit. I well imagine the introspective sort I described earlier in the bathroom, late at night (although a sunny mid afternoon would do just as well) staring
at the mirror , envisioning all sorts of after life scenarios, asking every question , poetic or merely dumb, that he or she can muster, trying to arm themselves with a knowledge where an unavoidable fate can be made
tolerable. It's as if the interlocutor is trying to reserve the best seat on the last plane out of Hicksville. What returns , we see, are one word answers, like echos coming from a long , deep cavern, warbling refractions of what he or she had just asked, the keywords distorted and changed.

Would this be ambience, or atmosphere?

I hadn't expected such an emptiness!
An empty nest.

Do you open up before or after a good pandering?

Book, Web site, infomercial. Edginess must be catching.

So let me be the first to congratulate—
Too late.

What is it people seek in your utterances?
Other answers.

You knew Mozart. Before he decomposed—
He composed.

And Freud was your plumber. Conscious or unconscious?
Kein Anschluss.

But have you ever crossed over? You know, necrophilia?

This becomes a brief and bitter comedy, and is something Samuel Beckett would have written as one one of his radio plays, the usual scenario of a character frozen in habit or ritual , redundantly trying to revive some earlier sense of coherence from situations or things. Bosch's second voice offers no inside information, provides no clues, but rather deflects the inquiries with accidental puns. This is a piece that doesn't so much ends as it does stops , cold. It's seems that this inquiry could go on indefinitely, right to the grave, as the
peculiar narcissistic loop provides just enough variation in the malformed responses, the echos, that one can proceed with it forever as if they were indeed closer to a Big Secret. Bosch is wise to leave the scene when he does, leaving us with a funny , if minor dramaturgy . One can, of course, seize upon any of the questions and their responses and find layers of implication and hence unearth every deferred meaning, but I think that's part of what makes the poem work so well. Bosch plays on the human brain's insistence on making utterances contain more than surface references, and it is a nice trick he's pulled. The character, the interlocutor , is trapped in infinite regress with his questions, and the reader, as well, might be compelled to parse each pun and skewed return. This might ,then, be a comedy with two acts performed simultaneously.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Flaneur trips over his show laces

Yet another poem about poetry, a category Slate poetry editor Robert Pinsky shows a personal powerlessness to leave alone. And once again the self-reflective twitch proves to be an ideal way to fill a page, a monitor, a notebook with a series of eccentric line breaks. In this instance, Campbell McGrath's"Lincoln Road" offers a twist and merely uses the meta poetry index as a means to jump start a verse:

Browsing, before dinner, at Books & Books,
checking out the new poems
in the new journals, the vast glass panes thrust against
by shoppers and gawkers on Lincoln Road
emit a particular cautionary hum
as they insist upon delimiting inside from out,
tongued and grimed by the fingerless
gloves of the homeless,...

Irritation is the mood here, a man of ideas focused on the latest missives from the competition, seeking either pleasure or taking notes on what
the hot first lines are, when the bustle and commotion of the rude public interrupts him. Damn, I hear him think, now I have to slip into my flaneur costume and observe the cursed details of things in the city and the population who negotiate the hard corners of sales counters and intersections! Damn it all! The descriptions, following suit, are fussy, crabby,too full of small digs and dimunitions of character to seem at spontaneous. There isn't, of course, any further mentioning nor obvious dwelling on the entwined poetry or being a poet, but the tone and pace of the poem, the leaden use of "literary" words to describe banal
circumstances, bespeaks a boredom. This doesn't have the virtue of the boredom become genuine ennui, a variant of despair, a quality that at least might inspire sharper language that bypasses the rote literacy of McGrath's ode to his
prowess as an observer.

...the splash
of modest fountains
in common space, a baby
in green hip-harness
staring back at me goggle-eyed, recording it all
like the tourists with digital camcorders
pre-editing their memories
and the ringing of cellphones broadcasting
a panegyric of need
with whichever hooks and trembles
we have chosen in the darkness to answer.

The problem is tone, of course, and none of this convinces me that what was described was actually seen . Suspension of disbelief comes into play here, since this particular list attempts to get across what was observed in a hurry, while browsing, on the fly, it needs to suggest something fast, mercurial.

You'd think, really, that this sort of matter should catch the rhythm of things that are fleeting, and are fluid. The people, places and things should be made to seem that they have lives or conditions of existence apart from the frame Campbell places around them.The effect in the poem, though, is static, like butterflies ethered and pinned some eccentric's collection. There is a surface beauty to the poem, but all these people, those who've interrupted our narrator's browsing, are stick figures all. Campbell's descriptions are worked over, padded with overly precise detail that sounds mechanical, unnatural. Attitude as well ruins the mood, with the asides about tourists with their cell phones and cameras seeking an unnatural process of memory preservation belonging more in a reckless, full tilt rant rather than a poem that at best would claim to be a skillfully rendered sketch. We have a here a poem that at the least offensive sounds like lines that have been saved and taken out of a drawer.It satisfies as nothing at all, and the material is so dry that these lines could be used as kindling.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Bob Seger v Bruce Springsteen

Why Bob Seger isn't as highly praised as Springsteen is worth asking, and it comes down to something as shallow as Springsteen being the cuter of the two. In areas where we all say it counts--talent--Seger has it over Springsteen by considerable margins; he's a far better singer (one of the most underrated in rock-and-roll), and he's a superior songwriter. It's not as if Seger hasn't had his dalliances with fads and pretentiousness because I have enough old Seger albums to testify that his worst music is as misguided as the grimmest rock music ever released. But he's been a trouper, a constant tour-dog, a tireless professional and eternal journeyman who has always added more tricks and licks to his repertoire. The longer he played, the better his singing and songwriting chops became. Springsteen isn't a phony by any standard, and there's something likable about the man, although I think his music is so much less than rock critics find it. 

His lyrics are occasionally an interesting stew of impressions that are more muddle than the atmosphere, or even mood. For all his musical fanfare, for all his verbosity and blaring dynamics, Springsteen has always seemed like someone who was at the brink of saying something memorable, only to choke. Seger, in mid-career, dropped any ambition he had to become the next Dylan and Beatles and developed a lyric style as natural and sweetly clear-eyed as anything Chuck Berry himself could have worked out. Seger continued to suffer from lapses of taste and inspiration--remember that he never transcended his journeyman status--and produced some albums where he was witlessly trying to rewrite "Night Moves" over and over, proving nothing other than extended bouts of introspection didn't serve Seger well at all as a songwriter. It's not unfair to say that even with his aggravatingly erratic output, the best of Seger's work in a spotty career surpasses Springsteen's consistently middle-brow musings.
Seger did write "Hollywood Nights" in what sounds like a deliberate attempt to write in Springsteen's drive-all-night style, and it displays Seger's fatal flaw of trying to write in a voice besides his own. It sounds like The Boss and likewise sounds crammed with so much pop-culture mythos it winds up being mush-mouthed like Springsteen's grander attempts at significance.

Springsteen, though, has fared better when he pares back his excess and gives us some tub-thumping rock and roll; "Born in the USA" is a great song because it works on a strong backbone of a relentless beat, and The Boss sounds righteously pissed off; "Seger's epochal "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" is the model for this, and I know other Seger songs --"East Side Story", "Persecution Smith", "2+2=?"--were on Springsteen's mind when it came time for him to write a song that was topical and pissed off. Seger hasn't been the most consistent songwriter of all time, but his best work--and there's a lot of it-- easily bests Springsteen's work for economy, punch, grit. Seger has often equaled the genius of rock and rolls masters Chuck Berry and John Fogarty in writing what constitutes the life pulse of rock; short songs, spiked and fine-tuned rage in the lyrics, and credible, riveting beats to make the two or three minutes memorable, cathartic, and infinitely re-playable. Seger's strength as a lyricist is that he's not introspective and that what he has to say isn't hindered with club-fingered attempts at metaphor;unfortunately, Seger attempts poetry repeatedly, with laughable results, but his ability to recover these gaffes places him over Springsteen, who has not reined in his grating habits of poet-speak. Bruce takes too many paragraphs to say "ouch".

Each of these songs, rockers, and ballads, are notable for their lack of padding, filigree musically--there are no footprints of "grand music" here--and lyrically they are keen examples of the sort of lyrics Seger writes best and straight talk, unmarred by any reach for metaphysical density, in a voice that is something similar to what William Carlos Williams had in mind when he spoke of the American voice. Again, I've already spoken to Seger's faults and inconsistencies as an artist (bloat and bad poesy have visited his muse more often than I care to admit). But he's been superb much more of the time in his four-decade career, and his best work trumps Springsteen's output, which to me is the essence of poltroon mongering.

Where the trend had been for codgerly rock stars to give their careers, a third act with the issuing of albums wherein they croak their way to The Great American Songbook, graying Blue-Collar Hero Bruce Springsteen goes the other way and releases an album of old folk songs. The search for authenticity continues, and the plain-spoken Springsteen--remember when each of his lyrics were interminable operas of an intemperate desire?--sings it plainly, clearly, simply. No swelling melodies here, no subtle segues or seducing counterpoint. The new folk album, some have said, is suitable for Bruce, as he was never a great melodist anyway when he was doing the songwriting. I'm not a considerable fan of The Boss--it takes too much work to reissue the same objections, and after twenty-something years of bitching and groaning, I'm willing to maintain he's done music I've liked without embarrassment. Bruce Springsteen isn't Duke Ellington or even Burt Bacharach as a melody-drunk composer, but that was never the point of his work since his sound is big, brash and in-your-face rather than, catchy, seductive or otherwise subdued with subtler chord selection. His music is equal parts rhythm and blues, Phil Spector, British Invasion and folk rock, with generous portions of Kerouac, Dylan and a wee tram of Whitman stirred into the mix. For the blue-collar exhorting he does about love, death, being broke and struggling for a better future, Springsteen's melodies are exactly as they need to be; at their best, they work any of anything a popular pop-poet has done. When his work is contained and crafted, sufficiently edited, he's easily as good as Dylan as a melodist, the equal of Seger, the equal of John Lennon. I have found too much of his music overworked, grandiose and cluttered with the kind of business indicative of someone who hasn't found the central theme of what they're writing about; we see this in poets who compose at length, leaving no trace of a parse-able idea behind them, and one can witness it as well in novelists--Franzen, D.F. Wallace--who haven't in them to cut away the excess, so the art may show. Springsteen has this problem, a habit of overwriting, and the effect in his longer, louder pieces is a little Maileresque, circa the mid to late Sixties, where he keeps preparing to say something profound and yet, the message is deferred. I prefer the punchier, grabbier, riff-based rockers he puts forth, or the terser, grainier ballads. The big band material he comes up sinks as fast as any Jethro Tull concept album has in the past. It's about songs, not the arrangements.

Springsteen singing old folk songs and protest songs interests me not, although it might be a means for him to ease into the writing of decent material for his next great period. Dylan landed into a profound late period, as did the Stones and the quizzical Neil Young. Bruce would be a dandy addition to the grand pantheon of old guys. Productivity isn't, by default, a desirable trait. Talented artists can dilute their impact and lessen the esteem they've held in with the rapid issuing of mediocre, substandard or half-baked albums. Costello and Dylan are prime examples of this, although both songwriters frequently rebound with strong albums after some artistic lagging. There's an appeal for artists who aren't rushing to release product--I am a fan of Paul Simon's solo career (not crazy about Simon and Garfunkel music, which hasn't worn well) who has released albums at a snail's pace over the last thirty-plus years; he's a careful writer, and his body of work is therefore rich with strong, moving, intelligently evolving music. His musical ideas work more often than not. We may say the same for Steely Dan, a band I've always admired for their consistent excellence in melody, production, oddball melodies and especially well-crafted lyrics. Being slow to release albums of late places Springsteen in honorable company.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007


No poetry, music or movie have popped up this far into 2007 for me to get into a lather about, so here is an odd story I wrote a year ago. It's a bit of anarchic weirdness, and if there's a message, it might be about the anxiety an artist would feel if Art, capital "a", fails him as badly as he or she feels God might have. --tb
I was in the living room with the TV on C—Span that afternoon, waiting for the Furies to visit, when one fly, and then two landed on the rim of my glass of orange juice.

This must be it, I thought. On the screen was another panel discussion by some dais of experts summarizing what they hadn't found out after years of drawing substantial salaries. The flies skirted around the rim, stopping occasionally to inspect a shred of orange pulp that had been congealing for an hour since I last touched the glass, and then skirting around again.

One fly took flight abruptly, performing miracle circles and dives through the depressed haze of cigarette smoke, while the other remained on the room, seemingly entranced by the pulp. I looked at the screen again and listened to a man at the podium who looked to be in his fifties drone on in a voice that was as lifeless and dry as chapped lips pressed against sand paper. Balding, his fringe flowing over his ears and the collar of black shirt, his face oval shaped, his suit an orchestration of wrinkles and color blindness, I had him pegged: a soft boiled egg after a thrift—store binge. I scratched my nuts and then my scalp, thinking that I ought to take shower, as the smoke was no longer covering the body odor but now mingled with it after the while, creating an ambiance that was double the funk.

One fly remained on the glass rim inspecting the texture of the orange pulp while the other one was gone all together. I lit another cigarette and listened to the TV.

"Well, " said the speaker., who was sweating huge globules from his lips, "I was going to address to the problem that Rock Criticism is no~ facing in light of recent advances in digital technology and the emergence of non-white cultures in a main-stream genre which, ironically, was the creation of a vital American subculture. These, among other developments in international popular culture, poses some interesting problems for a generation of mostly white and middle-aged and male rock critics ~who, unless they get with the program, stand to become the next generation of reactionary commentators who, strangely, will relinquish their claim of progressivism and in turn become protectors of aesthetic standards that, in the long view, never in fact existed. BUT--"

The speaker looked up at the audience, stared straight in the C-Span camera, and gave a grin that was roaming all over his doughy, chinless face. He picked up the pages of his prepared talk and flung them in the air. One hand grabbed the podium while the other wrapped; around the microphone as though it were a gun. The pages fluttered downward around him.

"-—BUT--" he continued, his voice louder and animated now, nearly slurred as his syllabic went free—lance, "BUT.. . I've been in the hotel bar since I 'ye checked in this morning to consider the talk, and damn that bartender Jorge has a heavy hand on the pour, and I gotta tell ya I managed to stack a perfect pyramid of shot glasses, and I considered this thing here called rock criticism, and I'm pretty god damned fucked-~ right now, and so I have preface all coming comments by saying that this a pretty fucking lame way to make a living, the other people who're gonna talk are buncha Lit. Crit. drop outs who get their insights from a dime bag and a bong rather than a knowledge of The Unities, and frankly I think it sucks that I'm an assistant professor at Buffalo, NY junior college where the average humanities student LeRoi Nieman is too abstract and that a 7 and 7 is a mans' drink. Whatta bunch of limp dicks! You guys are a bunch of fuckheads because you're paying an asshole like me to tell you something. Have a drink, you fools. Hah! But on with the topic. Let's see, let's talk about blow torch wielding nuns storming the Abbey for a slice of that Communion waifer..."

At this point, the camera cut to the other panel members, who were sitting along a long, battered folding table that was draped with a white, coffee stained table cloth, three white males in grey business suits, carefully cut long hair, and wire framed glasses. While two of them remained shocked and ducked under the table, the third arose and walked of f the stage. The camera remained on the man at the podium, who was waving his arms as though signaling planes to land. He had stepped away from the podium, and was screaming at the audience.


I grabbed the remote control and after flying through the channels, came across one of those half-hour advertisements for a questionable product that's pathetically disguised as a talk show. I turned the sound of f and pulled my harmonica from my back pocket, but became frustrated when the middle notes of my brilliant improvisation came out sounded flat and atonal, a spike in the ear. I buried the harmonica under the middle cushion of the couch, and decided to get out of the house. I pushed the cocktail table out of my way, upsetting the orange juice glass. The fly was gone, though. He didn't want to hear about television, taxes or poets under suspension bridges either. I was standing in the middle of the room.

"Okay, I give up" I said.

Then I sat on the couch again, picked up the remote control and turned the sound back on and watched this guy and that guy and that woman (who I imagined seducing) all take turns at the microphone talking their share of nonsense for hours and hours and hours.