Saturday, November 28, 2009

stay away from imaginary places

my last trip to greece ruined me for greece. ah, i could cry. my time on the island of rhodes in the sixties a mythical experience. you can see the novel here:

and my trip to russia extinguished its dream:

it wasn't that i didn't have lots of luck and a great time. the cabin of peter the great, the homes of dostoyevsky, rimsky-korsakov, pushkin, chekhov, pasternak, a visit to the hermitage and the moscow art theater. everything fell into place. prostitutes wandered in and out of the hotel next to red square. i roamed the kremlin (how cramped the churches inside).

yet the reality harsher than my adventures in russian lit. yes, i'd read everything. almost all the novels of dostoyevsky, the plays and stories of chekhov, gogol, pushkin, tolstoy. the list is endless and the fascination lasted for years. alas, reality destroyed it all.

the same happened in india (i didn't have a camera with me). true, indelible scenes imprinted themselves on my brain. i made it to the taj mahal, then to nepal after thailand and sri lanka. a friend once said, 'we travel to see ourselves in a place.' all too true. unfortunately, we'd better go to places we've never romanticized. india the actual obliterated the india of my imagination, all the stories i'd read, the history. garbage replaced the pristine fantasies.

actually, i'm looking a tiger in the eye right now, one from bandhavgarh national park, india, a bengal beast. it's a screensaver that opportunely popped up. how magnificent it is. the real thing would probably leave me cold.

yes, matisse always looks better to me in books, and the paintings of bonnard worse. only picasso seems to reproduce easily, his work illustrative, the colors not complex and the lines strong. so, go see the work of the last two in paris - it won't disappoint. avoid the work of matisse. he always looks more pallid than his reproductions.

someday i want to write about the lady of shallot. transfixed by images in the mirror, she had a vibrant life. running after the actual sir lancelot, she died a miserable death. don't take the risk of making certain dreams come true. pick and choose.

here are the pics of the chico dance theatre run-thru before thanksgiving. this reality will definitely be better than the dream:

and i've re-worked some of my native-american collages. i'm not sure they aren't more intriguing than any photograph. these last often tell you more than you want to know.

and many of you have already seen the pictures of the blue room fall ball:

yes, it is embarassing, but i've also posted pictures of the production i directed several years ago, 'incorruptible':

Monday, November 16, 2009

look into the abyss

and the abyss will look back at you!

that's one of my favorite sayings from nietzsche. what does it mean? who knows? guess you have to experience it to understand it.

a couple years ago i read an article by hugh macleod and now he has a book you can pretty much get the gist from this web-page. i've been browsing the book at barnes & noble.

and what strikes me most is how doing some kind of odd artwork can lead you out into the world, but 'successful beware.' and i especially like 'Dying young is overrated.' true, i have wandered in and out of keats' house on hamstead heath and the room where he died by the spanish steps. gazed up at the blue house in oaxaca where d.h. lawrence wrote 'mornings in mexico.' the fanatic, as he lay dying his wife had to grab the pen out of his hand.

this reminds me of my world-traveler companion, berta gardner. she would never part with her pack anywhere. the damn thing must have weighed sixty pounds. as she lay dying in the hospital, her sister finally convinced her to let her take the pack out of the room. and that was the end.

the moral from macleod: "You are responsible for your own experience.' if you tempt the abyss, have your passion and the proper tools to deal with it. and "Nobody cares. Do it for yourself."

have you ever sat in class or in the theater, looked around you and thought, 'none of these people will be here in a hundred years?" i have, and maybe that's the abyss. the artist francis bacon thought of himself as a snail crawling across the canvas and leaving slime. hmm, being francis bacon he may not have been being hard on himself after all.

hugh maintains if you've got the creative urge you're stuck with it. compassion, not pity, my friends. if you've seen ben allen's performance of 'johnny got his gun' at the blue room, you know what i mean.

new photos:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

purity is not an option

germany invaded norway the week i was born. my first memories: newsreels from battlefields, burials at sea, a hospital-trained dog searching for wounded soldiers.

later, from our home in a converted barracks (my father joined the army as a chaplain just before korea, where he served - he died of a heart-attack a few weeks after returning from a year in vietnam), i could hear machine-guns chattering on the practice field.

ironically, as berta and i took a side-trip to sri lanka on the way to india, i had no awareness of their civil war. going thru checkpoints and abandoned villages in the middle of the night, i wondered what the hell we were doing. at 26 i lived in a half-basement room, learning to be a poet, in berlin, not far from the gun-towers and and the wall.

on the presidio of san francisco at 16, i wandered thru the halls of letterman army hospital, selling the chronicle to waking patients with hollow eyes and burned backs.

in college i attended courses in the russian and american revolutions, and realized violent upheavals create a violent society. that made me a temporary pacifist. eventually, i understood the reality, you had to nip aggression in the bud. instead of stopping the serbian tanks roll into croatia, the europeans let that war drag on til bill clinton got them to bomb serbia. once the serbians couldn't act without being hurt, it all stopped.

alas, not everyone learns the lesson. if the battle comes home, the attacked may very well lash out (pearl harbor and 911). i loved being an army brat and living on bases. i hated coast guard boot camp with a passion. it's taken me a long time to appreciate a restrained military, responsive to civilian control. yet now i do.

that said, i've just come from a performance of johnny got his gun by dalton trumbo. the monologue of a soldier, a basket-case in a hospital, no arms, legs, eyes, ears, or jaw. he's completely isolated in his mind and memories. the cost of war borne by many warriors, in the past and currently.

oddly, the play a hymn to life. i came out simply happy to be able to walk and see and breathe the night air. unless a country gets hurt, it sees today's war as a video game. that remnant of a reptile tail remains in all of us. as elie wiesel said about the holocaust:

"Those engaged in its practice (murder) did not belong to a gutter society of misfits...Many held degrees in philosophy, sociology, biology, general medicine, psychiatry, and the fine arts."

if you can attend johnny got his gun at ben allen's performance riveting. pics:

and for an example of what you may have to fight to protect, in more ways than one, look at the final critique session of chico dance theater in preparation for the fall concert, dec. 4-6.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

love slobs, or 'floundering profoundly'

that title came from a wonderful dream last nite. my best inhabit a mythical new york city, one with hills, open doorways so you can wander into different scenes: a crowd where i shouted out 'congo lines', meaning hair in the armpit, and everyone picked it up as a chant. in another i worked with a bunch of theater people on 'love slobs.' i liked the title so much i made myself wake up and write it down.

i collected rare books, almost walked into a plate-glass window, invaded the lobby of a elegant cruise ship travel agency. all in all, i loved it, and felt sleeping not wasted on oblivion.

yet self-forgetfulness what i seek these days, the days of transition, unemployment, the freedom to choose how i spend the day. it's overwhelming. i realize i traveled so much not to fill a void, but to see myself as a poet, someone learning about the world, absorbing events and people unconsciously, sights and sounds. it gave me a sense of purpose, what a writer must do.

since switching to photography, it's been a different ballgame. to merely be a tourist isn't interesting. i have to photograph what i love. a small town, theater, the lookout life. and i can trick myself into believing i'm finished, done it all, why bother.

yet i do find things new. berkeley, for instance:

and when i think i've done everything, i put a flash on the camera and come up with shots i really like: i love actors and they surprise me every time.

the seasonal life, the task of eternal renewal, teachers face it, gardeners, field hands, farmers. not always easy in the transitions. we get used to one way of life and it changes. that's the challenge. after work or freedom, it's hard to switch places. i suppose the fairy tales of the past carried the idle through the winter when they'd rather be out rustling in the corn.

i could have titled this blog love and alcohol. the two get all mixed up for me and confuse me about what's going on. the psychologist jung said in romantic love we seek the divine, something to take care of us and which we can worship. alas, in the everyday human world this task fails and we take to alcohol to dream and feel good in our bodies (the one continuum in happiness).

or we fall in love with actors, characters on the stage, larger than life, and simpler than real people.

i have to remember what i really want: a state of meditation. i can get it by spending a few minutes in the huge local university library (why i moved to this town), even though these days i smile as i pass the rows of books, thinking, 'it's all guesswork!!' or, 'human beings have to occupy their minds, otherwise they go crazy.'

yes, a visit to the tomes has always relaxed me. and i have to remember to knock on my head three times to short-circuit negative thoughts. (for me, it works). as the sculptor henry moore said, "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you can't possible do."

i haven't found any better answer.