Sunday, December 30, 2012

The signature is really a scribble

Writer -Director Tarantino jumps from genre to genre, I think, to disguise the fact that his interests are limited and that he is , in truth, making the same movie over and over. Some directors are stylish and have the skills to apply their particular signature touches to films without smothering the narrative in an excess of director personality, but QT isn't one of them.
Image result for TARANTINO
 His last three films, "Death Proof", "Inglorious Basterds" and now "Django Unchained" don't even rate as examples of Excessive Stylization; they seem, rather, to be successive durations of "signature touches". He reminds of myself as a kid when I bought the new Marvel or DC comic and skipped all exposition pages and skipped straight to the fight scenes and the inevitable destruction of Manhattan as heros and villains slugged it out. Skipping ahead, though, sacrificed coherence and grace, keystones to creating narratives, visual or otherwise.

 Tarantino's flaws are compounded with the surfeit of "good stuff" he  cannot keep his hands off of.We have nothing compelling, enticing, even vaguely interesting here. Despite some good scenes and the occasional flair for comic situations--QT's talent are for smaller, funnier, tighter scenes, not epic revisions of durable genres-- you anticipate not plot developments or character conflict but wonder when the next "signature touch" is going to bludgeon you with it's ham handed homage to directors who took their work far less seriously.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tarantino Unpacked

"Django Unchained   " is a listless bore. Save a couple of genuinely funny bits, this movie continues Tarantino's delusion that his style of hasty cross-referencing film genres, regardless of the kind of film he is attempting to make, is revitalizing, hip, and slick. This sloppy, pace-less, talky attempt at ironic effect.QT is a one-trick pony. You can not even say that he has a style; what he does seem more like a grab bag of shticks sewn together like Frankenstein's monster. In this case, what is on the table remains a dead heap. It's no good to blame the messenger for QT's latest venture in cinematic tedium. I wanted to like the film very much and kept waiting for some convincing, if stylized, storytelling. The principal fault was pacing, which was pokey and slack. Although his dialogue may appear on the page or the computer screen, Tarantino doesn't seem to have learned that film dialogue, even the conversation we consider "literate" or "bright," requires a ruthless efficiency.

The constant references to the cheesy tics and tacky tropes of old exploitation movies in Tarantino's work passed the point of being homages, tributes displayed in new films that, in themselves, are legitimate extensions of the durable genre. Cringe as he might, Tarantino has created his own kind of formalism, a post-modern template in which the borrowing of elements from other films is no longer a clever, brilliant, and innovative method of transgressing boundaries and revealing but has instead become what seems a knee-jerk response to a challenge to make a certain kind of movie. I agree with the assertion that there is a certain clubhouse knowingness about his films that distance the typical viewer from enjoying his films; the genius of genres is that the true masterpieces in Western movies, war movies, crime dramas, et al., is that they go well beyond the expectations of hardcore fans and appeal to a greater audience that recognizes something more significant than the mere satisfaction of genre expectations. The cliquishness is a buzz-kill and is, I think, more than cynical in attitude. All this mix and matching, bric-a-brac, and pastiche mongering assume, by design, that surprise is no longer possible with film narrative. The effect is like a bored six-year-old smashing once-loved toys to bits with a big, fatal hammer. That is not my idea of a fun date.

 The characters here, especially those played by Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio, chatted up considerable dust storms of hyperpolarization that would be the dialogue equivalent of a jazz soloist improvising for too long. This is at the sacrifice of momentum, a quality that isn't achieved in "Django Unchained"- try as I might suspend my disbelief, I was never convinced that the inevitable reckoning would result in the catharsis that even a hipster variation of a Jacobean revenge tragedy requires as a matter of form. Humanity and all its layered awfulness--lust, greed, avarice, revenge, slavery, racism, all those rotten instincts that create tension within individual characters who try to abide by codes of honor, decency, and respect which then are transformed into something much uglier and wrathful--are summarily smothered by Tarantino's heavy hand and instead used as premise-giving props as the writer/director hits all the generic marks. In doing so, QT seems like a less than agile man learning how to dance, following the shoe prints laid out on the floor, ", two THREE, one, two THREE..."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


It might be said that was impossible to make anger a boring subject for a poem until Aliki Barnstone tried her hand at it. "Anger" is set in situation a good many --too many-- of us recognize as awkward, strained, thoroughly unpleasant, a dinner for two who, sitting presumably at opposite ends of the table as they cut and chew their food with controlled strokes and grinding, manage a language in which they put each other on trial. Each has a turn to outline their argument , to make their case, the casing of civility chipping away with
every stroke of knife and stab of fork:
Yet we sit together at the table, each to serve
the other artfully poisoned morsels, point a fork,
and go on and on, watching the widening distance.

This would work, perhaps,if this were a fresher take on a soured relationship, but the poem treads territory that is too familiar, and Barnstone's greatest mistake here is over writing the scenario her template provides. The poem reads like a set up for a knockout punch that does not materialize from the corner she's trying to fight her way out of. It goes on too long, and the device of comparing this meal and its discontents to a trial is less a metaphor than a reason to write further , to add stanzas.
You say, "You should have listened to me,"
and, "But you had to be you, didn't you?"
Then I become the witness who testifies against me.
We deliberate all night, inventing counterpoints,
narrowing our vision at spears of candlelight
and we go on and on, watching from a distance,
as we appeal, go back to discovery, retry, seek
sympathy by recounting suffering and history,
though this defense may deliver the verdict against us:
The prosecutable element would have worked  if it were brief, even fleeting, and if it were a means to segue into something else about the world this couple thought they were living in contrasted the world they now perceive as they relationship, presumably, slowly grinds to a stop. Barnstone might have managed something genuinely poetic if there were a sign , in images, of how the reality has changed. Rather, "Anger" reads as if Barnstone were too fascinated with the mechanics of making her -trial conceit work; the poem is damaged by repetition, needless volume. It is a mistake of perception, the assumption that the length of a piece is a measure of it's value.
This length equals a long wait in a doctor's office.
Grating as well is the last stanza, where Barnstone's woman character, the "I" narrator, has a failure of nerve and instead wallows in the misery she and her husband/boyfriend make for each other:
our embrace will pull us down
through the shades, and we'll hold on to our grievances
and go on, too watchful, unable to get some distance,
reading and helplessly rereading the sentences against us.
Who amongst us does want to yell "get your ass out of there"?Barnstone clings to the relationship less for affection than for a reason to continue writing poems like this one. Poems written in bad faith about bad faith give evidence not just of bad, self-pitying verse, but gives obvious clues to an underlying disorder.I prayer is that Barnstone gets a relationship that is everything she desires it to be, and writes a poetry that doesn't reinforce a pathology.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blues shuffle for a Happy Holiday

I stopped writing letters decades ago, a long time complain from ex girlfriends and college buds who think it a rude practice, or lack of practice (as the case maybe), but whatever the case in terms of  personal feelings,  it is safe bet, you betcha, that I likewise no longer send Holiday greeting cards. Being single might have something , or a lot, to do with my lack of communication, via card or actual letter, via our postal system; if I were cursed with the delusion that I would someday have a posthumous edition of my collected correspondence appear between hard covers and critics would be dissecting the personal peeves, bitches and irritations of an obscure poet and make believe grouch, I might have kept up with my missives. But no,  I just let the words pour forth, as they do on the Internet, in this blog or elsewhere online; those who care to tune in and gauge how sour my tone or exaggerated my hyperbole have become are welcome to drop in, strike up a chat, or surf elsewhere. Anyway, here is a greeting card of a sort, a nice blues harmonica solo Improvised the other day to a trusty blues backing track in A. Damn, there is some slick playing. I hope you all have the bet of Holidays and find something to enjoy here. My best to you all, always.

Bullets and bombs

There is no telling how  much the world will  become until enough political will is exerted to  bring an end to the terror easily acquired assault weapons bring to daily life. I had mentioned to a friend in passing conversation that my  favorite film of the year is the Brad Pitt crime drama Killing Them Softly, a dark, moody  tragi-comedy in which , yes, guns and death are central to the plot points and building tension among the fictional particulars. 

What wasn't fictional was my friend's response, a dedicated cineaste,  who indicated that the day he planned to see it was the hellfire events of Newtown, a fact that quelled whatever desire to see the film , let alone venture into a the public sphere. So we ask, when will America sicken enough of being made afraid by amoral powers that be with boundless cash reserves and demand that their representatives clamp a tight, effective and permanent lid on combat weapons finding their way to our streets, schools and church yards? 

The long term effect is frightful, a country staying away from sports events, concerts, movie theatres, restaurants, public schools,  polling places on voting day , staying in doors and hoarding their basic needs and amusements rather than take the chance a purposeful, unexpected execution at the hands of the angry, the mentally ill, the malignantly disgruntled who got their hands on guns ,  guns, fucking goddamned guns as the means of making their presence known. 

The Poetry of  Bombs
 What kills mearen’t the guns
you tote but your thinkingthat’s  in the chambers
and clips, the magazinesno one else can readbut still dread on hearingwhat they report. Language created the worldwhere tools can be made,and now language lives insidethe spare partswhose instruction manualsare a poetry of rage and revengetranslated into an idiom oftechnology that surveys theoutcome of anotherkind of  Big Bang Theory.. It’s not about beingleft alone any longer,your message, inscribedin manufacturer’s short handon casings spent  faster than
a drunk’s last dollar,
 Bullets whistle
the language
of your rightsas they pass thoughthe skulls of anyone who happens to be there, expecting nothing but the  light to change and cold meal warmed later in a microwave. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

2 old rock guitar albums

Bug Alley
Gary Hoey
This guy can play, but with the unusual twist of knowing what to do with his technique. Nice reworkings of songs, especially a trebled up rendition of Bach's "Jesus Joy of Man's Desire", where the rotating theme is insinuated between perfect barrages of notes and multi-tracked harmonies. Also, "Black Magic Woman" gets an adrenalized face-lift -the truth of the matter is that I'm as sick of Santana's version as I am of "Stairway to Heaven"--and he does a punchy reading of Dylan's judgment day blues "You Gotta Serve Somebody", recasting Mark Knopfler's recasting of Albert King in ways that maintains the searing , wailing ostinatos with the clipped rapid fire note clusters that bring Gary Moore to mind. He even does "Wipe Out" as if it were a jam to die for. Smarter than Steve Vai, a major player: refreshingly musical.

Monsters and Robots

I just popped Monsters and Robots out of the CD player, and the effect is exhilarating  There's some kind of fractured genius going on here, with all the metal / fusion/ funk / bluegrass cross over the boundaries so easily, and Buckethead's super-velocity guitar work punching up the action in ways that are sonic and lethal. Wow.  If Ornette Coleman were a shred guitarist, this is the full-kerang sonic scraping he’d give the world that braved an audience with him. Transmutation Live is a must have, based on this. There's a strong suggestion of Capt. Beefheart, with it's disconcerting sci-fi lyricscape and self-mythologizing, but this is the evidence that skilled pastiche is the dominant form at this point. Buckethead slices and dices the elements so well together that the channel-surfing dynamics make sense when the bits are linked, stitched and seared together with the speed-genius of the fret work.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Notes for an epigraph

Sometimes I wonder if I was born or merely set aside in another dimension of newspaper grey , launched into this world because what ever the case was running low on the premium designs. There is only a bit of eccentric preferences  is something I imagined being whispered before the precise time of my first curtain,  even if there is only the generic personality with him going into this  game, perhaps experience as he acquires months and then years will ignite original, something as forgivable as a personality. Then he may either shine upon the existence he has, or he can merely glare in the corner of the room, from the ceiling down.

It's a habitual thought, a shudder of doubt when staking hands or crossing streets or visiting people who and which are so familiar, to complete in intimate nuances and shared knowledge that they seem alien and strange, like specimens under glass in a museum I keep visiting for a lesson that just keeps turning the corner to the next gallery when my hard shoes hit the tile. Everything I look for is just out of focus, short of the designs I see and have drawn. 

As the case may be, I was fascinated by the notion that what was really happening amid all the bustling hustle of the life lived fully was going on off stage; I am not the only  one who has thought this, as there are Twilight Zone episodes and the like where a citizen happens upon a group of stage hands setting up the next scene in his life. It's a writer's conceit, I know,  and it smacks of all the obvious tenets of self-reflective, a literature that draws attention to it's own narrative artifice. It is , perhaps, because I am closer to the the punchline than I am to the day of my birth that makes me wonder whether there will be laughter, applause or groans and    tears when the last of me releases the grip . 

Believing the world is seeing beyond the box scores and trusting what it says on the certificate; the biography has already been started, a page of facts that have gotten absurdly complicated, in love their own inventory of details that are pressed now in their uniqueness, creased and pleated, ready for rough waters I imagine await at the end of the map, where boats fall off and drift with sails full of solar wind until I wake up and yawn and scan the items on the table, the newspaper, the dirty bowls, someone else's pack of Marlboro 100s. The universe is reassembled, seamless as death itself. 

Years ago I wondered if there was life on other planets precisely at the time when she left me, or asked me to leave, I wondered who else in this darkness knows this hurt as well as I?, and I stared for hours at her apartment as if trying to make the walls fly away, to lift her off the sofa, away from her meal , and bring her into my arms where I stood in the dark, next to a payphone, with out change to call out far enough to the wilderness where there is only wind and tall grass, maybe houses at the bottom of canyons that you see from jets leaving your home town before you enter the clouds that will drag on the wing span, I would stare and the walls would stay where the carpenters intended them to remain, there was nothing to see, but I stared harder, right through the building, to the stars I knew were there, receiving radio waves, TV shows, thoughts of strong desire translatable only by action, hear me, hear me, who else shivers in a dark corner in unique misery, genius of articulated regret, who else speaks when no language gets the purity of the idea right, just right, thus forcing one to live in craziness, at the end of the alley, drinking from bottles I've pealed the labels from? 

As usual, the stars don't answer, they don't say a word.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

22 Short Pieces

one:Nothing yet to be made of the day but some wet hair clinging to the nape of the neck, coffee that's too hot to power down, a groaning neighbor regretting last night's play-making. I type a bit, reach into my pocket and come upon a to-do list of things to finish. It was folded a dozen times, it seems, each crease deep as wrinkles in an experienced skin.
I made the list a week ago.
Every deadline has lapsed, every task is incomplete. I hate myself for some minutes, sip at the coffee, cringe at the cold hair teasing the wet locks adhering to the back of my neck.
Time to go.
two:Hair cut, short, bristles. Cold wind cuts through the spiky clump like a lawn mower taking out a large section of unruly grass. Chill of the night as the night sky falls over a line of roofs that vanishes against a black tarp of starless sky, replaced with strings of lights that burn like the head lamps of stalled cars on a strange road that curls around a mountain range no one has seen from the air.
Why did I get a haircut. Yeah, that's right. That woman on the bus asked me if I watched Jerry Springer.
No, I said, I don't.
Well, she said, breathless, breathless, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I got on the bus and you were sitting there looking out the window and then you turned around and I said Oh My God, there's Jerry Springer.
I'm better looking, I said.
And my god, she continued, you look just like Jerry Springer, and I'm looking for cameras and a microphone, but you said you don't watch Jerry Springer...
I've seen it once or twice, I said, but no, I don't watch Jerry Springer...
But I said, Oh My God there's Jerry Springer, but you said...
And so the woman who cut the hair wrapped the towel around my neck and asked me what she could do for me.
You know the kind of hair cut middle aged guys get when they're trying to hold on their fleeing sense of youth? Short and spiky, almost punk rock...
So you don't mind if it sticks up?
Nope, I said, let's bring it on home.
Number three clippers?
And a fine hair cut it is, I thought outside the store, feeling the bristles with the tips of my fingers. Strange to the touch, soft, and grey. Grey as the sky was that day. Wet. Drops. Rain. A downpour. Rain.
three:Tapping a finger on a hard counter top does make time move faster, nor convinces others in line that your cause is greater than the needs of the others in line. He looks at his watch, the third time in under three minutes and ponders what is at stake as the bank line crawls, inch by aggravating inch, toward an open window. Everyone seems calm, collected, even the children hanging on to their mother's hands are quiet , eyes wide and seemingly transfixed on a puppet show that is playing for them in a dimension on their eyes uncover. Tapping the folded paycheck and deposit slip against the watch he just looked at makes matters worse; now he knows what time it is, too late to ditch the line in order to be in the office on time, too late to even call a taxi , too late to do anything but wait.
four:Down time, and she thinks of the city that unfolds before her from the hotel window, and thinks of all the people and all their histories in the buildings she can spy from the writing table she sits at, people with families sitting at desks of their own or standing, running between rooms with important papers or calling some one with news of either business or of home life or maybe even plans to be made for when ever leisure time evinces itself, she thinks of lives trapped in jobs in careers or marriages or cars on the freeway going to the suburbs after five or to the center of the insanity near the break of day, when the sun is still cold and the coffee is too hot to sip without a burn on the tender upper or lower lip that quiver at the thought of another day smiling to clienteles that are themselves people trapped in their concentric circles of routine, longing for a time when they might only have to stare from hotel windows in a city not of their residence, abstracting the lives of residents and keeping them at bay, at once, in the distance of a long fog that circles around the end of an imagined peer while small white and yellow lights illumine what remains of a visible coast line, vanishing toward Mexico, ah , she thinks, it's time to leave, ah, she thinks again, adieu, farewell...
 five:On most nights after most days I stay sober long enough to make it without a drop to midnight, when the whole thing starts again, though I might nap for three or four hours about things that fill the emails and answering machines with an unaddressable fear of what waits beyond the next recognizable landmark, a school or burger franchise, a dread that creeps up behind the words and sends a tremble through the hand either holding a pen or motioning over a keyboard, a panic takes invades the language we use to tell the world, our friends, our bosses and lovers that we are ready, that I am ready for what  intensity this day and this day alone brings me,

"This machine never sleeps, it's all waiting, again, the sadness and stresses of the bad coffee and miscounted change for the pastry, the news about all the missing children after bombs change the face of cities that don't have a chance against the results of advertising, there is no sleep, I think I would be thirsty but for..."
But for other dreams, perhaps, that I have where I am drinking all the time from endless streams from silver faucets, and I only become thirstier, hungrier, more aware of a world that still spins and complicates itself."
I don't know what any of that means, but this is another morning, it seems a good time to put on a shirt, clean socks, pants that still have a crease, thinking through the shave and the ride to work and the endless faces with an infinite selection of expressions to match the bottomless contents of their respective packaged miseries, of your face alone at home in a light that makes your entire head a sphere of such cloud-clearing joy that all such hours of slog and trod are worth the hassles with price checks, gift certificates, phone calls from amnesia victims , you offer me a soda and a steak, a kiss, something like that, that's what I think when I don't drink,
 and I find that I miss you all the more.
six:Joe Lavano and company are playing a sweet set of notes on the player, linked saxophone choruses that skip beats and chase rhythms that crack and break and then regroup in a wonderful, witty, winsome apparatus that configures each grunt and growl through the reeds into a continent of pitches, dialects, musical communities that keep their accents while the borders stretch and the dialogue gets more exciting, profound, the differences falling aside like clothes that are useless in the hot climate, where only similarities are noticed, distinct, memorable, a democracy of crazy time keeping.
seven:I like my coffee in the morning with a newspaper from a work before. It's so stimulating to be always catching up with the news, to stroll up to head line rather than have it run me over with an urgency only neurosis can sustain. I drink the coffee, I rustle the pages, and find something satisfying that what I'm reading is no longer news, but history, over long enough to make sense in a world where mornings are an hour of warning shots saying beware of the day ahead, go back to bed, go back, go back…
eight:Good morning, good morning, ah silly me, yes, a newspaper that is a week old, how quickly, how fast the days are enshrined in foot notes and commentary, our Instant Boswells have entombed is in print that is already fading and turned brittle to the touch, the microfilm is cracking as I turn the wheel in my memory of the graduate library looking up the major incidents of Bernard Shaw's great New York City adventure, I was yearning for coffee while in the stacks, a newspaper that at the time would have been one from the same day I woke up, that, a cup, a paper , and table on a patio to read and sip and opine into a nearby wood on a vacation that doesn't have a calendar to contain it, no work, no phones, just me and a cup, a paper and clear skies, and I might as well say, some birds to fly over head to cry out and leave their mark as my mind attempts to unmoor itself and drift with the eddies of current events, I wake up, yes, startled, an electric jolt, and shake my fists at the birds, five clenched fingers against the clouds, no good, I wish she were here, I look for a phone book, a phone, I wonder how it is she can get on with her life after the history we've had...
  nine:Sometimes I wonder if I was born or merely set aside in another dimension of newspaper grey and was launched into this world because what ever the case was running low on the premium designs.
Its a habitual thought, a shudder of doubt when staking hands or crossing streets or visiting people who and which are so familiar, so complete in intimate nuances and shared knowledge that they seem alien and strange, like specimens under glass in a museum I keep visiting for a lesson that just keeps turning the corner to the next gallery when my hard shoes hit the tile. Everything I looking for is just out of focus, short of the designs I see and have drawn.
Believing the world is seeing beyond the box scores and trusting what it says on the certificate; the biography has already been started, a page of facts that have gotten absurdly complicated, in love their own inventory of details that are pressed now in their uniqueness, creased and pleated, ready for rough waters I imagine await at the end of the map, where boats fall off and drift with sails full of solar wind until I wake up and yawn and scan the items on the table, the newspaper, the dirty bowls, someone else's pack of Marlboro 100s. The universe is reassembled, seamless as death itself.
Years ago I wondered if there was life on other planets precisely at the time when she left me, or asked me to leave, I wondered who else in this darkness knows this hurt as well as I?, and I stared for hours at her apartment\ as if trying to make the walls fly away, to lift her off the sofa, away from her meal , and bring her into my arms where I stood in the dark, next to a payphone, with out change to call out far enough to the wilderness where there is only wind and tall grass, maybe houses at the bottom of canyons that you see from jets leaving your home town before you enter the clouds that will drag on the wingspan, I would stare and the walls would stay where the carpenters intended them to remain, there was nothing to see, but I stared harder, right through the building, to the stars I knew were there, receiving radio waves, TV shows, thoughts of strong desire translatable only by action, hear me, hear me, who else shivers in a dark corner in unique misery, genius of articulated regret, who else speaks when no language gets the purity of the idea right, just right, thus forcing one to live in craziness, at the end of the alley, drinking from bottles I've pealed the labels from?
As usual , the stars don't answer, they don't say a word
ten:In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,
Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends out of the town, in the back of the truck, it’s broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches my newspaper to the roof, again, it’s business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.
Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, blurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?
Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it’s orderly progression.
eleven:Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me let go of things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.
twelve:My tie cuts off the blood to my head and my socks have holes in them that are as old as toe nails that continue to grow years after clipper ships found new shores to set foot on, you imagine water everywhere along with the music of pipes ringing during hot showers, you hear the streaming sirens of lost songs glide along your body, slide down your breasts, your hands find a motion that is fine for trilling along the unsaid syllables that fill the room with steam and then you discover and are dumbfounded by the fact that your panty hose vanished during the night and there's no telling where it went, now there is steam coming out of your ears, come, I say, and let's have our usual breakfast, black coffee and two cigarettes, any style.
thirteen:Morning light crawls over the street as the fog recedes back to the corners of the earth that are invisible in the glare of spring and summer days.
"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" is song I hear coming from the next room.
A devastated newspaper is spread over the breakfast table.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs" I say, and this gets your attention. You're walking around in your underwear, toothbrush in your mouth, feeling around the lunch counter for a pen so you can write a check to the School District
 to cover the cost of a class field trip to the Zoo. You tilt your head, and try to grin around the tooth brush.
"Nothing beats a great pair of legs except maybe a full house" and you laugh; grab the first pen that appears from a layered surface of bills and memos, and then yell "Emily, turn off the TV and put on your shoes, I have the check and I'll be ready in a minute."
The TV doesn't go off, and you go into the other room, and the yelling commences again, more threats, tears, the beams of the pitched roof raised with threats of no desert, movie or field trip if Mr. Rogers doesn't vanish from the TV screen, Emily stands her ground and you pull on a skirt, a hand made shirt, two shoes from the prop department, you're ready to go.
"Won't you be my neighbor...?"
Emily turns off the TV and sings to herself as she readies herself for school from a time zone only six year olds live in, she sings lyrics that have never been written and won't be sung again, she abides by rules that are correct, substantial and relevant only to this instance and then no more and never again, I can hear you drumming your fingers on the door, I can almost hear you tap your toes in those drama department shoes that are too small even for your ballerina feet.
I'll be at the hotel all day, answering phone calls from all over a shrinking world where everyone says hello and good bye in accents that sound like their ducking gun fire in towns baking under cruel desert suns or from penthouses or office towers that try to reach the sun and conquer it with incredible piles of theoretical money that catch fire in the glow of hubris,
All I can say is "One moment please" and connect everyone to Room Service, House Keeping, The Bar on the Roof, rooms where the guest hasn't emerged from for three days, or, sadly, tell everyone who wants to stay that we are sold out, every room has a paying customer, so sorry, no please don't threaten me, sorry, I cannot take your money, please understand, the rooms are all occupied, so sorry, please don't threaten me, lower your voice, sir and madam, please stop screaming,
I realize my joke has it wrong, so wrong, a full house never beats a great pair of legs.
 fourteen:Too many minutes have dropped off my watch in line at the movies buying tickets.
So many minutes are lost as the microwave beeps along it's growling, turning, chirping away, turning the food inside into something that's hot as guns in Duck season but unrecognizable as anything I'd want to put in my mouth.
The library shelves bear their spines with titles that allure and beckon from under their fine dust patina, but all I can do is wave them on, bid them goodbye, there is not enough time left in the week after all that fast food and instant coffee, so many rapid distractions keep me on my feet, spinning in the spot where I ought to be sitting, passing out when I ought to be absorbed in small print, foot notes, facts that didn't exist until I read them, but there is no time left after doing all the things that save us time, This is an affliction I don't have time for.
Could I have THE 24-hour flu instead?
fifteen:The lust of italics is obvious, the wake of roses taken seriously, off-kilter are the fingers making a path through your hair, a new part where a comb finds the soul under the brain that keeps you wondering about the world,
Those nights, half asleep, a small fist raps your back, you say it wasn't you, but floorboards groaning the way they do in old houses that sag in fall, swell in summer, contract in winter, and all that's left for spring is laughter and fear when everyone goes out doors again after dark, testing door knobs, it wasn't you , you say, only the house or some such thing,
Shared chills or beads of sweat, the double “s” molding prevailed, every position and posture on the mattress a buried language of what wasn't said any of those times when working was more heartache to keep for an idea of love that seems to choke because nothing seems funny anymore, nothing weighs less than an unwanted ton, we change positions as if speaking too fast for court reporters,
"I hope I don't dream" you say. " or if I do, let it be of a big black wall with nothing on it, just blackness, blackness..."
The apartment is so quiet that it is the refrigerator that sings us to sleep, a high and ghostly whistle coming from it's deep frozen stillness. We drift off as headlights flash across the ceiling and car radios play music pulled from the air from other states, we drift off while the house sinks deeper into an earth that wants it all back.
sixteen:She crosses the street after standing at the corner for minutes that seemed nothing less than hours. He watched ,thinking of lyrics to write. She stood at the corner, jabbing the button of the pedestrian signal box, looking across the street as if to see if perhaps a store she wanted to get to before they closed might have flipped the sign over in the door, from "open" to "closed". As if she could see through all that traffic.
I know, he thought, a song about a guy watching a woman trying to cross the street while he tries to imagine a lyric he might or might not write. The irony, he thought, or was it just laziness? All these bagels are cold and hard as tile. He lights a cigarette, dumps the match in his ash tray. The woman is across the street, and vanished into a parking structure.
"May I have another Latte?" he asks a passing woman carrying a tray to the cafe service station.
"I don't work here" she says without breaking her stride.
seventeen: Your tastes are sweet and deep in the dish of everything a library shelf can give you, yet there are no poems nor pieces of prose that tell you the elusive truth that someone else has walked over that same patch of ground, that same square of cement where you felt the ache of falling in love quite literally, off a cliff and into a void that seemed a swarming mass of mist moving in gyrating tirades of insanity as your head just spins with a name and the blurred countenance of hair, lips, eyes, pouting lips streaking by like finger paints left in a drizzle, your heart just fizzles and calms down, it rests a beat after so much running up and down the same stairs where to visit and leave the footprints of where you've been, yes, it seems no  else has walked in shoes quite your size nor entered the stream in precisely the same spot where you might have slipped on the rocks and seen death in a flash of melodrama that the same cartoon we remember seeing when mornings were merely black and white TV and screaming clowns pouring glasses of milk for a silent, frightened room of children who were mystified why anything like this was happening to them. 
eighteen:You and I have watched lightning exploding silently behind the dress grays of twilight and we’ve kept on saying that the world just doesn’t work anymore and then laughed, drank more rum, sang an atonal riff before a garbled, tongue clucking solo, and then watched the lightning again for hours while it lime—lighted the small patch of trees and the few blocks of curving intersections you and I called home and thought diseased when we had a good buzz while walking past displays windows in shops we couldn’t afford to browse in on the blocks getting torn down, buildings coming down and nothing left standing but firewalls and brick chimneys, the world didn’t work anymore around the sidewalks we walked, you and have stood in the rain nursing paper cups full of Pepsi and Meyers, sad to see the neighborhood go because some one was getting rich while we were getting drunker luxuriating in the melancholy that the turf no longer reminded us of why we were angry about being cheated and being different from the rest, our misery was a shadow that followed us that even the lightning couldn’t cut through and remind us again what it was we were drinking to forget.
nineteen:There is only the other side of the road when you come over, the other side of the tracks even though we live no where near a train yard.
I bow to your good looks and great legs and the meals you’ll make before you even notice that You’re tired of the sound of my voice on the voice getting real close to the speaker, becoming a grainy whisper alone the wireless sky,  “Maybe we should keep our apartments” you say, “just so that both of us have some place to go, you know, if all this turns out be only a mess, a mess...”
You drop a fork in the kitchen sink as the water runs over the lettuce, birds alight and fly toward the sun that is going away, “I give in to you’re wisdom” I tell you, “Whatever you think is the right thing to do...”
Across the street is a million miles away and the bedroom doesn’t exist at this precise minute, my magazines stack higher than any man’s ever seen,
But not every night is heaven when there some things missing from around the house when I look around,
This side of the street seems to be sliding off the face of a cliff that is losing the earth that gives in a severe inch with each storms that comes from the south or the north, each blast of electric guitar, every plane you took up to know when there is only me in an empty room older than I planned on being, more alone than what the law allows.
 twenty:What I’m not saying is that you ought to park campers on your front lawn, tire tracks deep in the mud that is slowly becoming merely mire with each rain that happens by.
Nor do I endorse leaving old couches and refrigerators in the alley three garage doors down or dumping in on empty lot where combinations of abandoned furniture and appliances can stare at the world that passes by them, mute as if in unending astonishment that anything comes to a finish..
What I am saying is that you don’t have to give away all your clothes because churches don’t fill the pews as do movie theatres or ball games during a series where so much depends on ball being hit by a stick that might fly over the cheap seats and into a window, into history that is.
Religion hasn’t been as good as the movies in decades anyway, and those kinds of ball games are rare , being , as it were, miracles true and factual, the only place where prayer makes sense and the game is more important than what any man or woman wants to with their appetites.
Find yourself a face to kiss and leave the Laundry undone just for day, wait until the net day off to sharpen the knives for battle (while I pray that day never arrives for that reason), stop for a moment and think about what you’ve been thinking about.
and when you’re confused enough, come see me, when I’ll put on some coffee and we can read each other from any book the house, my treat.
Twenty one: Lawn
It is just another day of lawn mowing in lethargic shoves, sweating under the arms under the sun's smarmy glare while the blades stroke and grab and cajole armies of sodden leaves to relinquish their height, their standing, their destiny for the good of the land, the glory of the hedges.The smell of cut grass piled up becomes the legacy of the day, futures are based on what aromas filter from the back of the garage where blades of another kind turn to compost, break down into their essentials compounds and trace results, energy dons a new suit of clothes and leaves a trail for more life to come.
I stop pushing the lawn mower, lean on the handle. Pretty girls in summer dresses of bright, corpulent patterns walk by, hand bags and head phones waving free.
Part of me wants to wave back; part of me wants to be left alone.
The kid next door works on his car in the driveway. Engine parts are strewn about his feet.
The oil stains soak the cement. The leaves on my crescent hedge are turning brown as mud.My mouth is dry and I crave water.It's astounding what can happen when nothing is going on.
That's why I am not a painter; I never developed the art of not-getting-it-right. Rather, I'm still amazed of things in and of themselves, doing nothing, undressed of human perception or ideas, things just falling apart of their own accord unburdened with conceits of glory, glee or horrible, terrible, inconsolable sadness and terror.An uncle of mine worked a farm his entire life and all I remember were several generations of farm machines left out in fields or behind sheds, rusted out and useless years after they rolled from the factory, and when I asked him about what he was going to do about them, he just laughed and said he planned to do exactly nothing because there was nothing to be done, no emergency to attend to."Those parts aren't hurting anything where they are" he said," I have a farm to run, not a garage.
My job is to make things grow, not go..."
Our fathers and their fathers knew something about things in this life running down, new things appearing as if out of the ether.
Swallowing hard, I push the mower onward in the path we've been blazing through the deep, molding grass. Onward, says the general, to where the sky kisses the edge of the earth/
twenty two:Just tell the band to strike up a song that blends well with the color of a crowd whose faces blur in swirls across a whirling ballroom floor, high hats and tom-tom drums and cowbells filling the city blocks with locomotion that doesn’t stop until the clock hits the last minute of the last hour.
Everyone stops swirling to get their coats and then their cars to return to their homes and apartments that stopped seeming so extraordinarily alive with the things they brought to the rooms and hung up on the walls.
The music stops at midnight and the only thing you can think of now is how your feet hurt, how many hours to sunrise and the start of your term on the clock and in the customer’s face with service you know you wouldn’t hand your dog after the biggest mess he could produce on the rug you brought home from an enclosed mall.
But it’s late on the road, rain falls with an even temper, small fists bang the roof since the start of history, there are fields of applause your going through in the city on this drive, you drum the steering wheel as she leans against the glass, humming lightly, racing drums and quicksilver trumpets grow winged feet and chase one another from station to station to station on the AM dial.
She starts to sing something you don’t understand as the wheels seem to hydroplane over the asphalt, saxophone blasts a whole in the clouds and the moon is on you as you slow down the car coming to the apartment house,
Love seems to lasts forever in ash-silver light, you think, coming to the garage, the music cutting out and static going off like firecrackers on a string under the stars of a night full of train wheels singing along the rails with steel wheels
Clouds meander over the moon once more, the light is gone, there is only a garage full of tools and dirty boxes of unpacked stuff you never want to find.
Her eyes are closed, her head against the door, oh, to dance across the city in top hats, long sideburns, and long white gloves like we used to dream it would be always, this is what you’re thinking,
She sings a song without the words, nonsense syllables filling in spaces where lyrics used to be crooned,
“Do you know the words”, she asks, “do you know the name of the song?”
“Sure do” you said, switching off the ignition and tapping your forehead, “it’s up here somewhere, lost forever.”

Search for the perfect umbrella

Jesus of Grunt.

The difference between religion and philosophy is that religion tends to be a closed system of faith that postulates a cosmology it insists is true. While there may be traditions within particular religions of theological debate regarding the interpretation of a religion's tenets, these matters, however subtle and finely reasoned they may be, have limits as to what can be said and done. Religion is a matter of faith, without material evidence, regarding the state of all existence that beyond the limited interpretation of a finite set of core beliefs cannot be questioned.

 For the worth of religion in material terms, I subscribe to the elegant qualifications William James laid out in Varieties of Religious Experience, crudely paraphrased as being that if a set of religious convictions provides a community with values, ethics, and the moral basis for fair laws that allow the members to usefully and creatively cope with life's circumstances, enables them to cooperate and share in enterprises that are beneficial both themselves and to the whole, can empower the members to be generous, kind and responsible so that a community is strengthened with a generally understood purpose greater than the petty desires of the individual, that is justification enough for a person's belief in invisible forces. This sounds sane and, I think, fairly reasonable. The comedian in me, though, also remembers poet John Ashbery's sentence from his introduction to the collection he edited about Avant gard art, "We would all believe in God if we  knew he existed, but would this be much fun?"  

 Organized religion purges those clerics and theologians whose ideas go too far off the reservation and undermine a faith's fundamentals. Philosophy, though related to religion in the sense that it grapples with large concepts and abstract notions, has, at its core, a notion that skepticism is a virtue and has a methodological rigor that questions, tests, and interrogates propositions, ideas, concepts; philosophy preceded science as an intellectual endeavor and it was from philosophy that early scientists got their discipline, the constant testing of their ideas and theories.

 Religion, I'd say, refines itself through theological sophistry to adapt to whatever historical moment the institutions find themselves in; that is, they change according to current fashion. It's not a stretch to say that the basis of the practice is to continue to seem relevant in light of a world that becomes more complex seemingly as research forces the formerly mute, mysterious, and unknowable essence of reality to yield yet more of what is behind the curtain; the matter goes beyond merely being fashionable. It has everything to do with power, as those who have the power to explain the universe to populations have the power, ultimately, to keep them ignorant, afraid, and vindictive or free them from mendacious superstition.  On the other hand, science changes its thinking based on verified facts: If new facts don't fit a theory, you change the theory, not ignore the facts. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Chinamen Jump" by Frank O'Hara

As we love at night
birds sing out of sight,
Chinese rhythms beat
through us in our heat,
the apples and the birds
move us like soft words,
we couple in the grace
of that mysterious race.

O'Hara comes as close as anyone I've read to the sound of a speaking voice in his poems  and still create a heightened language. This is the sort musical ear that makes for memorable images and declarations in a memorable poem. O'Hara's  opting for the everyday, the simple utterance, and the plainly and exquisitely rhapsodic is a reversal of sorts; instead of the poet comparing the joys of the senses to the condition of a Heaven one must live righteously to enjoy , if they wish, after an dreary and dry death, the poet says that heaven is more the state of being that  is needed here. There was no need to wait for joy; mouths were made for more than hurling curse words and insults, hands were made for more than forming fists and grabbing weapons.

At night Chinamen jumpon Asia with a thumpwhile in our willful waywe, in secret, play

affectionate games and bruiseour knees like China's shoes.

He is, it's always seemed to be, always in some state of love, all the joy and agony and humdrum inbetweens of being enrapt in another person. Or en-rapt by his passion. Energy and elation are what O'Hara's constant themes seem to be, and what he has over his peers is a zaniness to treat the world as if it were a cartoon.

The birds push apples throughgrass the moon turns blue,
these apples roll beneathour buttocks like a heath
full of Chinese thrushesflushed from China's bushes.

O'Hara, art curator and critic, a City Poet who embodied the idea of the urban center being the place where a population gathered and traded their art as well as their goods and services, writes here as man living in a city full of surprises, intrusions, movie marquees, galleries, relentless hustle and bustle. There is the loud blaring of music, movie soundtracks, news stands with screaming newspaper headlines, unending traffic. New York, the town he wrote about, is all chaos and bustle that nothing implacable unless one goes for the flooding of their senses.  This is the murmur of lovers in doorways after a late dinner at a nice restaurant who at first seek to get out of the rain but then, as they huddle in each  other's arms, find themselves falling into the  depths of their senses , the smell of hair, the scent of after shave, the touch of a unspoken fabric, where heaven on earth is created less as mists, clouds and music from far corners but rather as that safe huddle, the embrace that is a barrier against pleading car horns and angry drivers cursing each intersection that stops them with nothing but colored lights and book of laws they haven't read. Nothing matters in this city poet's metropolis when the authority of the senses are engaged and heeded and the newspapers all suddenly become written in punch lines. This is a life that is meant to transform the brutal material of the sidewalk and the cement and steel of the skyline into punctuation marks for the river of moods shared imaginations unleash. The only way to leave this city was by laughing out loud.

As we love at nightbirds sing out of sight,
Chinese rhythms beatthrough us in our heat,
the apples and the birdsmove us like soft words,
we couple in the graceof that mysterious race.

Here we are treated less with an accurate description of making love than an evocation of the experience itself, a billion China jumping at night to move the earth and Frank O'Hara and his partner rocking their own world with their own kind of rattle and hum, with Chinese jumpers, birds and fruit coming to mind as things that move the irreplaceable O'Hara to new states of desire

Sunday, December 2, 2012



Dolphy was goosing the low end notes from his bass clarinet , a solemn, fluid tone that swam between the other fragments of drums, bass and teen-dream pianistics, a pulse that made the speaker cones rattle and the juice in the glass Blue poured form himself to shimmy sensually in the water glass that held it. Blue needed to go the store for some birthday candles because his girl friend had the idea that if they burn down the house with a simple incendiary device, a short candle in a roll of toilet paper in the hall closet where the hand towels and cleaning products were stored, they could collect the money from the insurance money she thought Blue had taken out on the four poster disaster where she slept next to him every night in a room with no windows, on a mattress with no springs. The sagging in the center of the mattress meant backaches by the boatload.
 Blue, though, didn't buy any fire insurance for the house, thinking it was silly to do since neither of them smoked. He was in no mood to be yelled at , though.

 He turned up the Dolphy record, scraping guitars and abbreviated saxophone copulated in every molecule the room contained, his head was swimming in terms that amounted to wishful amnesia. He would go to the store and get the birthday candles, they would set up the incendiary device and the house would burn down, a glorious blaze that would light up the night air in this criminally inane neighborhood, and then he would tell her the truth, point blank, blunt and cruel, honey , I never bought insurance for this house and there are no checks coming our way. But on the way to the store he stopped by the Velvet Hammer lounge for a quick snort, maybe two, two that became twelve ; the next thing he knew he woke up behind the wheel of his car, which was going near 80 miles an hour over the Mission Bay bridge.

They found his car in the bay later that night, but they didn't find him. He was never seen again. "All he did was play that atonal shit" his wife told police when they talked to her. She showed no emotion. "I said either this shit comes off the stereo our you hit the road. Dumb fucker."

Nothing in the store was over five dollars

Nothing in the store was over five dollars , so Brake thought nothing of it to get a bag of cell phone cases for a sweet deal of a buck and a quarter. He gave the cashier a five, pocketed his change as he released a satisfied snort , and walked out of the store.

Then he remembered he was still in Clairemont, at an intersection that had chain coffee shop, an adult continuation school and Church full of garble tongued snake handlers on the other three corners. Just beyond a grove of dead crab apple trees he could see the High School Science building roof, a bleak and dreary twp story slab of flyweight construction from which the American flag was seen caught tangled in the chain and pullies of the flag pole.

The flag wrapped around the pole as the wind made sharp corner of the item flap listlessly like an animal caught in a trap who's reflexes spasmodically twitched and pulled against the inescapable of the steel tooth device. Brake thought of Thanksgiving dinner and dropped his bag of cell phone cases, remembering he had no cell phone and no phone number either.

Killing Them Softy: great crime drama

The conventional wisdom regarding Brad Pitt's new film, Killing them Softly, is that it is an abomination because it had a pathetic box office yield in its first weekend . Such are the fortunes, I guess, when how little a film makes over rides the critical concern of how good a film is. Killing is my favorite film of the year , adding more evidence to the notion that Brad Pitt has handily transcended the curse of being a Ken doll to being a versatile film actor; his portrayal here of Jackie Cogan, a cynical, methodical hit man who is called in by Mob higher ups to investigate a robbery of a Mob protected card game and then extinguish the lives of those responsible as a means of warning other street punks from attempting the same gambit, is subtly detailed and nicely mannered depiction of a character who has a grasp of what he is , a contract killer, and the world he lives in, an America where everything is a brutal business transaction. 

Cogan, a lean presence, is the only one in the Game, this particular crime environment, who hasn't addled his senses with drugs, booze or the destructive reaches of delusional rationalization. In a dark,rainy, cold, urban terrain l of decrepit side streets, ratty warehouse districts and freeway overpasses , we witness a noose composed of criminal short sightedness slowly tightening around the necks of petty hooligans and thugs as their sloppy , double-crossing plans to a quick and easy provide the means of their eventual , violent deaths. "Killing them Softly" has the inevitability of a great Tragedy--American crime fiction at it's best , in the guise of Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson , James Ellroy and Cornell Woolrich, delivers the same bleakly poetic warnings against untoward Pride as does Euripides, Shakespeare or O'Nell-- and Cogan is the only one who understands the situation and certainly the single personality with the focus and method to do what needs to be accomplished. Indeed, this merciless, pragmatic hit man is the only one who understands the terms of this convoluted gaggle of greed and stupidity. Cogan dispatches the elements that have disturbed the city's criminal equilibrium with a perfected mechanical precision. Erratic  punks  creating more ruckus than  riches are not long for this crime world where mob bosses, like any succesful level of management, prefers profit tGo see this film.o employee quirks. Dead problematic thugs cease to be a problem.

 Beyond the oddly  alluring industrial grit of the  crime story itself--a revealing series of conversations where the quirky fuck ups reveal the poetic and vulgar limits of their world view--there are intriguing backdrops that offer themselves up as a critique of the culture at large, particularly the 2008 Obama/McCain race for President where we see, on newscasts observed on televisions in various rat hole brass, the political parties making promises to help the working man while we watch working men, cheap, minor gangsters, struggle , hustle and screw each other for whatever advantage they can get. All this said, Andrew Dimkins, writer and director, has done a superb job with this film, in the overlapping of the three principle story lines that merge at a credible expedient pace, and with the photography, which fashions a dark, noirish feeling in the perennially raining darkness of this film. Superb performances as well by James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta as well.