Friday, August 30, 2013

Are Andy Warhol's 15 minutes over? |

Are Andy Warhol's 15 minutes over? | Art and design | 

The idea that Pop Art was, in fact, Capitalist Folk Art, a form natural in its development as artists, naive in the most intelligent way, intuitively understood that the iconography and discarded wreckage was a form of art. French critics and habitual theorists have witlessly obfuscated this point, to the point that the actual no longer exists, and now there are only unceasing replications of a vague idea of historical imagery and design. I always preferred Walter Benjamin's essay 'Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", as I think the same ideas are explored earlier in the age, with a cheery optimism and mystical poetics that is hard to resist.Benjamin was romantic enough to believe that art was a good thing for the individual and for the culture as a whole. He was convinced that the mass-reproduction of art images was necessary for a beneficial, if violent transition. Art revealed to the many empowers those multitudes to dream of possibilities and the methods of fomenting the change.

Benjamin believed that art's principal function was to produce joy, which one could consider to be a heightened sense of awareness. Warhol reflected this, though he wasn't a polemicist or an activist. He was an artist who liked things from pop culture and things that are thrown away. He was interested in how factory goods looked when they were tattered and torn around the edges. He was in love with the imperfection of the much circulated meme as it went from one copier to the next. While Warhol's art did make me aware of how much economy, finances, and manufactured consent shaped my tastes, one wonders at Warhol's refusal to lecture, to say what he thought, and to say what he thought. He was a serene Buddha who gave us a mirror of our consumption who revealed, without rant or rhetoric, what's consuming us.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wood Allen's "Interiors" and critical revisionism

Woody Allen’s Interiors: Revisiting Allen’s first Ingmar Bergman-inspired drama. - Slate Magazine:

Woody Allen's new film "Blue Jasmine" has been getting some of the best notices  for the director's late-areer efforts, a fact that justifies, perhaps, a reexamination of some of his other less fondly remembered, less discussed films. Allen, more than any American film maker, deserves a retrospective. Slate has argued that Interiors, his first straight on drama , no comedy, and a stylistic tribute to his hero Ingmar Bergman, actually rises above its reputation as a stiff and shallow presentation of depressed , well read white folks and is , indeed, a serious, inspired drama. Reading the article convinced that there are indeed nuanced themes that course through the decades of films Allen has written and directed since the  60s, and that growth from being an inspired slap stick comic with a library card to a more verbal, nuanced, cerebral film maker leads inevitably to a film like" Interiors".

 Still, I don't think it's anything near Allen's best work. In this case, the general consensus I read among long time Allen fans is correct, that the movie is a paceless, stationary    bore. The irony is that Woody Allen has done inspired parodies of other film directors through out his professional life and his mitigated his penchant  for genre tributes with a Burlesque crudeness,a low wit , that kept him from taking himself so seriously. At the end of the day it could be said that "Interiors" succeeds in being Allen's parody masterpiece,  mimicry and mockery  so dead on target that you mistake it for being the real article; it would more credible to argue that Allen's real intention with this film was comedy of the most subtle and perverse type, that which imitates the pervading , saddening stylistics of Bergman's  movie introspection to an obsessive degree, producing an effect of unreality, a critical distance that prevents the audience from engaging characters who really comprehend the psychology that motivates the shuffling movement.

This leaves the audience in a bewildering state of nagging "what the hell?", wondering if they should laugh or be moved by what they've seen. The joke , of course, would be the theories film goers would construct to make sense of the time they spent in the dark, growing listless, watching actors stare past one another. Even if this were the case, I prefer the simpler explanation: "Interiors"  was an important  transitional film for Allen to make, but that does not remove the fact that is a dull  transition that fortunately led to better work to follow.

Monday, August 26, 2013


 (What I should make clear is that I am not a practicing Christian , have the mind of an agnostic, and haven't much faith in theologies that pretend they have knowledge of what the end of history is like. I do appreciate the poetry of The Rapture concept, though, and meant only to create a "what-if" scenario, such as what would be like if this event occured in one of the many neighborhoods John Cheever might have attended cocktail and wife swapping parties at.I'm agnostic toward religion, not God. I've done my seeking and have found what I've needed. Needed today, to be even clearer.
A usefully spiritual life is a day-at-a-time thing, and this day, this morning I'll seek guidance for the day yet to come. Plainly, I don't think God is much concerned with getting the lot of us into Heaven as He is living good, useful , creative and and kind lives in this life, on this planet. If God is all wise and all knowing, He hasn't the time nor patience to set up our existence like it were a Game Show. -tb)


The mailman drops his parcels and
falls to his knees in the middle of the street
as a light comes through the clouds and
makes the commotions of the city radiate
gold tones like the frozen poses
of ancient photographs
found under the stairs of every parent’s house
that aging children have to close.
You see the mailman on his knees and wonder
why he’s praying, hardly aware of the increase in light
or the music that blares all the big band music of
trumpets and saxophones that disguise the grind of
passing cars, it’s such a shame that religious fanatics
are hired to deliver the mail, you think, so much depends
on what comes through the System, envelopes full of
what’s owed and what’s not covered by any plan
that can be written down; you run the water in the sink,
 you wonder where did the clouds go? 
There is no rain anywhere,
says the radio announcer,
and the light is tremendous all over the globe,
there is not a dark corner
 in any corner or nook on the earth,
And then the radio gives out to static, and the TV
releases itself to snow, the music in the street is very loud
and swinging hard to the left and the right and then right down the
middle as all the notes scurry brilliantly through the hedges
and up the driveways, into the homes with each reed instrument
improvising disembodied melodies that form their own sheet music,
That is a very loud set of speakers in that passing car, you think.
and the radio announcer cuts through the music and says something you
hear as that millions of people all over the world have just vanished in
plain site under bright light and big bang music, gone in a wisp and puff of smoke,
You look at your watch and note that it’s time for lunch,
the clouds have fallen over the city again, the sky darkens,
the shapes of the neighborhood take on their deep hues again, saddened
with history, dense in dumb witness to what never ends,
You stop, look out the window; you turn off the water you ran,
in the middle of the street, by itself, flat on the cement,
The mailman’s bag and his clothes,
topped by his hat,  kissed by a cool breeze.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wow--Moby Grape
Their first album, Moby Grape, is on generally considered one of the best albums done by a Sixties American band, and with good reason, but I've got a soft spot for their sophomore effort, the much-maligned Wow. It certainly deserved some critical slamming sit received when it was released in 1968, as the band and producer had a batch of solid songs they wanted to gussy up, festoon and otherwise psychedelicize in the trend of over-produced pop wrought by Pet Sounds and Sgt.Pepper. Large parts were literally unlistenable--at the time of release, the band killed the "news-tolgia" fad of the period that not only had one song written and performed in the 20's style but which also required the poor stoner to get up and change the album speed from 33 and 1/3 to 78 rpm. The results were not amusing. Some songs come out unscathed, though, as with "Motorcycle Irene", "Murder in My Heart for the "Judge","Can't Be So Bad". At heart a good band gone bad from drugs, ego, and mental illness, but what they had, briefly, was terrific talent. Jerry Miller was one of the best blues guitarist of the period, bittersweet, and fluid in ways Mike Bloomfield never quite realized, Bob Mosely was a natural blues belter, and Skip Spence was an American Syd Barrett, fried before his time. Needless to say, I'm burning a disc of the best tracks and jettisoning the artsy remainders, which are unsustainable and hopelessly junked up with effects.

Tom Cruise autobiography: His recent movies Oblivion, Rock of Ages, and Jack Reacher. - Slate Magazine

Tom Cruise autobiography: His recent movies Oblivion, Rock of Ages, and Jack Reacher. - Slate Magazine:

It's not so odd that a number the plot points in Cruise's movies echo themes that appear in the confounding mythology of his religion. Certainly one could also harp on the Catholic themes in the novels of Graham Greene and yield a bounty of evidence ; we don't, however , tend to get bent out of shape over the religious overtones of the novels or their more sinister implications and instead prefer to enjoy a good yarn. Greene was good at writing good yarns. The main concern with Cruise isn't whether his movies have a subtext endorsing a controversial cult, but whether Cruise is consistently adept at choosing good movies to star in. Like anyone else in the public eye and who stars in movies, his track record is uneven, although his batting average is better than Nicholas Cage's. For Cruise himself, he is a puzzling man in terms of his public persona, but my principle concern is whether the movies he elects to make and release for my consumer consideration are the fully realized entertainments worth the ticket price. Or the rental price, for that matter.

Visionary Bombast

like the idea of Vachel Lindsay rather than the practice of  reading his work, or even listening to it, the often made apology of some of his defenders who maintain that his works are meant to be performed, not scanned in anthologies. As Lindsay was entranced by song and its subversive adeptness of slipping past a censoring intellect and infest and infect the soul with all manner of radical and subtle emotional stirrings, his work was meant to be exclaimed and dramatized for their power to be fully felt and fairly surmised. 

Fair enough, I say, but too often what I find in his work is the cadence of a creaky gate swaying in a steady wind, or a swing rattling on its chain. He seeks to grasp the moment of when he discovers the unchanging difference between right and wrong; he wants to create an emotional response in the reader that will not tolerate injustice nor stand for suffering; he wants the poetry of the period to influence the listener to cease with their odious doses of bad faith and to instead live genuinely, fully, not taking a breath nor another life for granted. All this is well and good, but to me it is hokey. His task was to  grant everyday things and ordinary lives a dignity they hadn't been given before, but in doing so he manages to add yet another thick layer of metaphorical tonnage that keeps us further from the metaphysical presence he is longing for.

 I have a difficult time even considering his writings the evidence of a fevered imagination setting up and alternative universe, of a sort, in his quest to unearth and reveal the true nature of the everyday. The Congo, I think, is racist bombast, pure and simple, an example of a well-intentioned progressive in spirit trying to pay homage the culture of a people whom whites kidnapped and subjugated with slavery; he comes off as condescending and half baked. I think he only added to the problem he wanted to remedy. There is a difference between VL attempting to write something he called a history of the negro race and Duke Ellington, a black composer and intellectual, taking ownership of his own ancestry , traditions and , most importantly, the stereotypes of his race and culture and creating some astounding art. Good though his intentions were, VL's poem is paternal , presumptuous and racist by attitude and application; there is the fundamental assumption that Africans and those of African descent were incapable of telling their own story. Ellington, along with a good amount of the work of Langston Hughes coming out the Harlem   Renaissance redefined the terms. VL's attitude is simply hard to sit through without a session of exaggerated defenses and hearty condemnations. Spirited debate is fine, of course, but it seems to me that Ellington's "jungle music" is the superior work of art becomes the genius, verve and timelessness of the composer and his singular orchestra's work puts one in the center of the music, not a field of footnotes and gutter sniping. The seeming irony of a black artist using the world "jungle" to describe his own music seems irrelevant at best.

I understand the interest Allen Ginsberg had in Lindsay, since VL would, at the time, be the closest America had to a William Blake. Blake, however, gave into his visions to the extreme and allowed them to cohabit with him in his daily life; there incredible things he maintained in his public life about his visions and his dialogues with angels that he spoke of  as a matter -of -fact.

The further evidence is Blake's work which is truly unique, ungainly in syntax, but completely unforgettable as to how the universe was structured, at the core, rubbing against the flesh of the god or gods that created the heavens and the earth. Blake zipped past the clichés and ready-made paradigms that available to him and created something from whole cloth. His work broadened and became denser as he grew older; he wasn't much interested in getting others to change their behavior so much as he was in creating a vivid sense of what it is everyone man, woman and child will have to face. 

He considered himself a poet of the Inevitable. Lindsay, of course. An intriguing intersection of influence and cross influence; you can see how Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were attracted to Lindsay not just as a public poet , but a public visionary, someone who could capture the public's imagination with broad , sweeping movements of image and colorful narrative. Lindsay did, of course, argue through his career a series of conclusions informed by a firm sense of what was right and wrong in society and wrote in such a flamboyant fashion that he might seduce, persuade, cajole those attracted by his theatricality to change the limited way they came to regard the world. He desired to instill in his listeners (and readers) the notion that everyone has a humanity that cannot be reduced by economic oppression or removed by harsh laws. It was the idea, a powerful one, that the morally upright thing to fight for--fairness, justice, equality, democratic virtues--were self-apparent, or would become so once the best case was made with the most persuasive language only one who is touched by the muse can write and recite, compose and exclaim.

 Dylan and Ochs perhaps had an easier time, being songwriters connected with a host of progressive causes--civil rights, anti-war movements largest among them--and it was their skill at composing brooding, simple, compelling melodies to hammer away at their inspired rhetoric that kept their songs, their lyrics in the public mind. Much of the oft repeated support of his work, even at its most anemic ,is the puffery one suspects zealots contrive in a mission to raise the importance of a hero they've embedded deeply into the soft tissue of their consciousness. This is something that we find with writing about Dylan--so many elaborations and comparisons that the apologies are more nuanced than Dylan's actual work. All the same, there is a strong connection, an awareness, a deliberate alignment on Dylan's part with a tradition other than rock and roll. The claims that Dylan was influenced by Lindsay, the Beats, Whitman, or "the usual Modernist suspects" are far from fantasy. The influences are traceable, noticeable, conspicuous in a great many songs, like "Desolation Row", "Visions of Johanna", "Memphis Blues Again", "Gates of Eden"; surreal though rock and roll geniuses Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley may seem and have been in their work and personas, the aforementioned songs definitely came from exposure to a good number of modern poets, ranging from the Symbolists through Whitman, Eliot, Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg. 

Those influences are in Dylan's work; how much he absorbed of what he read is the wrong question, but rather how well. Dylan, as any good artist would, took what he liked and what he found useful in musical styles and literary modes and made them his own. Dylan’s accomplishment, his singular bit of real genius, was blending Chuck Berry with his personal version of street level surrealism. Nothing like it existed in lyric writing before it--and I am not insisting that Dylan is the one who made song lyrics poetry, a notion I've railed against for years--and to diminish or dismiss literary influences in the creation of this body of work is, I think, short sighted. This is the kind of ruthlessness of the creative process no one really likes to talk about--it is the cliché of the amateur borrowing as opposed to the professional, who steals, who literally talks ownership of what he came across. VL is part of the circle of influences, more for inspiring a public persona and purpose than for direct influence on the work. Like it or not, VL did set the groundwork for what a public artist with literary/musical inclinations would be, and Dylan is among the generation of songwriters who adopted JL's conceit for their own purposes.
Along with Ginsberg, who desired to become a the voice of a perceptions that found expression before a conservative superego diluted whatever power might have been had in the first thought, songwriters who had grown up with Lindsay's work were inspired to write about things that were meant to resound beyond the music hall, wrote for his audience, which is valid on the face of it, but his temperament is closer to that of a songwriter than a poet on the grandest scale. It was, for Lindsay about what would sell, in a manner of speaking; his is also a cautionary tale against pleasing an audience too well, as there is the threat that will not let you change. And that is the frustration that kills a talent that has the potential to evolve.

Friday, August 23, 2013

22 things I forget to mention

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 lasped, 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.

Hair cut, short, bristles. Cold wind cuts through the spikey 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 spikey, 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.

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.

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 superbs 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: Cloud Clearing Joy
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,
I say, sometime before falling into dreams and in the half waking hours before the sun hits the roofs and sneaks through the folds of the drapes to fall on the bed where we pretend to be rested, our feet emerge from the end of the bed covers, a wind has found a crack somewhere in the insulation and sends a breeze through the room, words slur with the narcotic of nodding,
"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.

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 aparatus 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.

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…

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...

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

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.

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.

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.
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.

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?

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.”

Paragraph for lovers

There's nothing worth in noting that neckties and indexes of how swell the economy has gotten leaves us with nothing but a bad after taste of a hard sock in the jaw because the eyes drifted and lingered on anatomy that didn't belong to the head that was until the delivery of five in the fangs was craning its neck the way exotic birds with long legs do, averting the gaze so that nothing in the give and take and progressive accumulation of moments that keep on piling enough  until it all goes to waste will be set withing boundaries suggesting a frame, or   demand that the world get square and predictable, like a paragraph with an overkill of punctuation or a boy friend who was never quite a husband or a good lover but was keen to have around when the talk got serious like bent silver next to chipped plates.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A definition of ostracization

a definition of ostracization

I’ve been listening to Xenakis while half asleep against the grain of concrete walls. Louis Kahn had dreams of
flat surfaces grey or ashen and hard like leviathans guarding coin less realms of knowledge resting on a cliff,
facing an ocean that goes on until it pours off the edge of the earth. There are many railroad yards to travel through  before all the cement in the Midwest rises over the hills and minor cloudbursts along the interstate.
What streets of crushed rock and sand are those far beacons shining on.

Xenakis explodes on the faint threats of the avenue because there is  nothing there  until you drive into the
tall wall of seamless concrete grey as the fog that hides it. King Crimson chews up unlimited amounts of architecture that was stripped of every filigree and garnishment until only steel beams and poured cement remained to tell us how to live in the world we made false homes out of.  John Cage finds a penny, he hits it with a mallet, he smiles, he grins, he sits in front of the piano, prepared for anything clothes pins could dampen.  i am half asleep against the    Le Corbusier's worst mood, every false turn a right note as Mingus would play it.

Ornette Coleman drags himself from his chair to the microphone and. lifts his plastic saxophone  begins to play an alien chaos that makes the atoms of the tempered glass window separating the control room from the sound proof suffering  spin even faster and then melt quite suddenly, leaving a hard, globular bit of bad attitude as Coleman finishes his run through the Scream Machine. 

New York has a skyline that was once   transcribed as music to crane your neck by. John Cage glides over the blades of grass , silent as shade on an alley wall, and appears suddenly and hungrily in a doorway at the top of a stoop. Over the rooftops there is construction everywhere, under the roofs are fights with knives and celebrity chef spitting contests.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"True Blood" licks up a lumpy gruel

'True Blood' or bad 'Blood'? The campy vamp show isn't what it used to be -

The only thing that make me like this show again is for GOD HIMSELF to show up and bitch slap these vamps, fairies, changelings, werewolves and the like with dead, cross -eyed mackerel and so make them aware of what a, humorless,  inane gathering of jerks, liars and layabouts they are. The show has jumped the shark, but the shark leaped from the water and chomped this vapid projection of bad taste in half. The show is so tasteless that the shark spat out the chewy viscera and binged watched The Banana Splits to crowd the memory from its primeval memory.  The show was marginally interesting at the start and was genuinely funny and sexy, but now it has gotten so absurd that you wish the characters would just pop a vein and croak right there on the street before they have the chance to utter the next insipid line of tripe that passes for dialogue. I am sick of sexy vampires. 

Author Elmore Leonard dies at 87

Author Elmore Leonard dies at 87:

A major loss for American literature here; Elmore Leonard's crime fiction were marvels, character studies of folks at the margins of society who , we found, had personalities more complex and subtle than he we might first suppose. His writing was clean, uncluttered, moving with a virtuoso's ease through the wonderfully engineered ironies and odd twists his strange world forces upon its self-directed inhabitants. No one wrote funnier, wittier, more natural sounding dialogue than Elmore Leonard, and no one could tell a tightly plotted thriller as well as he . His genius lay in his ability to become invisible as an authorial personality while his richly askew crime capers unfolded. After reading novels like "Pagan Babies", "Get Shorty" or "Rum Punch", I would at times stare at the print on the page and just appreciate the absolute brilliance of a master at work.

Friday, August 16, 2013

poetry makes you punchy

I recall a frustrating  "conversation" with contributor to an online poetry forum who was, to put it nicely, determined beyond all sane measure to say naive and empty headed things about poets and their poems. His resilience was the only thing that was remarkable in this intensely retrograde chat, as  no matter how severely he was corrected, ridiculed,  verbally stomped, even caught and prove to be a plagiarizer, he just came up with more inane platitudes and thefts from other writers. He wouldn't admit when he was incorrect or mistaken ,he stuck to his guns, and something in me rather enjoyed t his man's willingness to be a gadfly for every tired trope and generality he through into the conversation . You know the sort, the little man with the steroid ego who for reasons only God or Homeland Security understand has a habit of internalizing every truism, cliché and new age adage they come across, creating a moldy stew of babble they might think they can get loose women with. It's crazy making. Lately he's said this:

To be a Poet, you must be a Dreamer, for Poetry is the product of our hopes and aspirations.

To be a poet, it helps if one stops making Absolute Statements about what a poet must be or what one thinks is required for a poem to be valid. Above remarks like that make you sorry that anyone spoke highly of Universal Literacy. All a poet needs is a talent for the craft, an interesting way wit the language, and an openness to let the poem they're writing assume a form that is not strained, or made to conform to some specious and dubious requisites ; poetry made to do so is often turgid, vapid, bombastic, myopic and finally gutless when it comes to delivering the goods that the results of good poetic art should, that sound of surprise, the unexpected perception, that inexpressible feeling caught in terms of the unforgettable. It helps as well if one who desires to write good poet not address themselves as Poets, with a capital "P", lest they mistake themselves for priests, seers, mystics, oracles and all other manor of shaman whose existence is of use only to comic book writers or fakes and layabouts who find the personage a handy way to circulate their malarkey for yet another go around. It's my belief that artists, while engaging their muse and expressing the rush of inspiration through their art, do indeed bring together  unlike things that make for a heady  set of discussions among readers and critics as they try to unpack what is beneath the surface, but it's also my thinking that such artists, and poets in particular, are as clueless as to what the subtler elements of their work means when considered together, or even how they found     their into the work to begin with.  I rather favor the idea that interpretive criticism, the sort of digression that brings art from it's theoretical justification and makes it relevant to otherwise  undiscloseable experience.

There came a question during one of those distracting and always fun bull sessions about matters a particular klatch has a passing knowledge of as to whether contemporary poets are more interested in the eccentricities of the page appearance rather conveying a discernible message. A wide open topic, choice for PBS talk radio shows where a host tosses out one broad thesis after another, letting the dogs sniff it out and tear it apart. Among my group, the wear and tear on the intellect was a minor concern; this wasn't lifting weights. The gentleman who posed the question wasn't a reader of poetry, at least not for pleasure; it was a field he perused so he can gather examples of lexical sin against an enemy he's constructed. Some folks just can't have enough straw men in their lives. Good writing is what I needed to be engaged, I said at last, but the problem was really in the expansion of what "good writing" is. It's not a template applicable in all circumstances, without change. There are infinite variations on a common ground.

There are writers whose works are stunning to look at as a kind of typographical art, but reading them winds up being an insufferable experience, unpleasant not so much because the poems are difficult but more because the writing is just plain awful, being either willfully obscure to disguise a lack of any real feeling toward their experience, or, most typically , for exhibiting an inane, unoriginal and cliché choked sensibility that would never have gotten out of a junior college poetry workshop.In either case, the visual look of a poem is a distraction from the mediocrity of the piece being read. Good writing always matters, and there are many , many wonderful poets whose works have an originality achieved through a mastery of language that fortunately leads us away from the nagging dread that a tactless and unschooled Avant Gard has completely overtaken the conversation.

Good poets , I assume, should in some way be interested in the language they muster up to convey the usually ephemeral essence of their muse; it's the art's stock and trade. Language made fresh, reinvigorated, reinvented-- I have no arguments with anyone who earnestly attempts to make language convey experience, ideas, emotion, or even the lack of emotion, in ways and with techniques that keeps poetry and poetic language relevant to the contemporary world, the one that's currently lived in, but there is a tendency for a good many young poets , fresh from writing programs, to repeat the least interesting ideas and execution of their professors and to make their work obsess about language itself, as a subject. The concern, boiled down to an unattractive absolute, is that language is exhausted in its ability to express something fresh from a imperialist/patriarchal/racist?/individualist perspective, and the only thing that earnest writers can do is to foreground language as their subject matter and investigate the ways in which proscribed rhetoric has seduced us and made our work only reinforce the machinery that enslaves us.

This kind of stuff appeals to the idealist who hasn't had enough living, not enough bad luck, not enough frustration or joy to really have anything to write about, in large part (an grotesque generalization, I know), and it's easy for someone to eschew the work of absorbing good poetry -- Shakespeare, Stevens, Whitman, Milton, Blake, O'Hara-- or learning something of the craft and instead poise their work in non-sequiturs , fragments, cliches, sparsely buttressed inanities, framed , usually, in typographical eccentricities that are supposed to make us aware of the horrific truth of language's ability to enslave us to perceptions that serve capitalist and like minded pigs.

More often, this sort of meta-poetry, this experimental notion that makes a grinding self-reflexivity the point of the work, reveals laziness and sloth and basic ignorance of the notion of inspiration-- the moment when one's perceptions and one's techniques merge and result in some lines, some honest work that cuts through the static thinking and makes us see the world in way we hadn't before. I speak, of course, of only a certain kind of Avant Gard, one I endured in college and have since survived when I found my own voice and began to write what I think is an honest poetry. With any luck, some of these writers will stop insisting on trying to be smarter and more sensitive than their readership and begin to write something that comes to resemble a real poetry that's fresh and alluring for its lack of airs. Others might do us a favor and get real jobs. Others, I think, will continue to be professional poets as long as there's grant money to be had, and will continue in their own destruction of forest land.

It's useful for the poet to remember that what he's experienced and how he brings order, sense, and irony to their stories is better grounds for poetic inspiration than "hopes and aspirations" , quaint and gutless talking points that, truth be told, a reissuing of the lamest and most vulgarity retrofitted cliches. You feel, at times , that the low standard the beginning bard aspires to reach is a matter of law. A surfeit of mediocrity and third rate thinking about the state of the art and and the fuzzy-lens blather that passes for an aesthetic philosophy in it's regard can make you paranoid , if just a little. Too much abstraction might make you assume the universe has switched alphabets on you, while a drought of more challenging work creates a sense that powers behind the scenes have organized their resources to keep the collective intellect on low boil.

The real work of poets is to bring their skill as writers to work through the contradictions, u-turns, diversions and unexpected changes they experience while on their way to achieve their ideal circumstances. The poet desiring to write better verse should ignore advice from poetasters and instead improve their writing. There are no short cuts to becoming the poet readers will continue to read, although that doesn't stop those who know this, myself included, from trying to slide up the banister to greatness. It's a lesson again and again; when the giddiness of the experimentation goes away , one confronts the work with the knowledge that one has written below one's abilities , which leaves only two choices; rewrite or toss the effort out and start over. Poetry is process.