Friday, December 31, 2010

my life as a failed messiah

helping other people is not as easy as it seems. every time i try, i give the devil more momentum! for example, before thanksgiving my sister called me with her woes, certainly genuine. so i send her a computer, screen, mouse, etc., etc., not realizing i'd overwhelm this 57 year old neophyte with a whole new vocabulary and way of being. add to this the ineffeciency of a particular phone company (can you guess which?), she's still not online. and my sister not the most patient person in the world.

or yesterday, i posted my blog on a photo site to advertise my friend's photos and got slapped on the hand for advertising myself in the process. boy, i still turn red with embarrassment thinking about it. and what else was there? oh, yes, two friends, a couple, came to town. we discussed our inhibitions and ambitions over coffee. ach, my big mouth, i said too much, being well-meaning and set them on edge with each other. i haven't heard back yet. did it lead to a fight between them, harsh words, a deadly break? of course not, yet i regret giving advice.

yes, i'm not exactly sure when it began, maybe when i turned forty and thought i knew everything. suddenly, i acted like a sage (as in sagebrush). that's the trouble with knowing younger people. my attempts at solving a problem she didn't ask me to solve, a friend in vancouver b.c. eventually walked off the end of a pier. this happened much later after the last time we talked, as did my friend renate's suicide in berlin, but i can't help wondering, did my helping hurt?

anyway, to make a long story short, i learned an important lesson this last week. you can't make someone over into you. your only recourse is to tweak them on their own terms. i'd hoped my sister would begin to write, blog, put songs on youtube. now i understand she'll pretty much go on living the same way, no matter what i offer. (a vacuum cleaner, electric brushes, knives, and scissors - a shopping cart, paying the electric bill, pushing her to apply for disability, which she has.)

put a person in new circumstances and perhaps they'll blossom. do so at your peril. HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS.

let me contradict myself. just posted my notes on zen theater: take them with more than a grain of thought!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

the pleasures of living in the past

sure, there's pain, nostalgia, fear, hope, all comes to the surface when your mind slips into the memory gear. that said, it's as exciting, maybe more, than anything you will do today by bravely facing the future which does not exist!

gosh, i listened to matt damon reading kerouac's on the road to berkeley. i've never been able to read it, only the lookout stuff in lonesome traveler, darma bums, and desolation angels (the last has the best account of being on a fire tower anywhere). yet given voice on the way to xmas and back, his most famous book brought up from the bog of my mind past joys.

no, not the rocking alcoholic binges, but drives across country, the wanderings around north beach in the beat heyday (1957-9), me a literary teenager and my father stationed on the presidio. commuting to berkeley, i discovered allen ginsberg when he came to class and read us part of kaddish for his mother. long sunday walks took me in and out of mike's place and the co-existent bagel shop, a big reading at columbia house, all the poets around on the balcony as we looked up from the gloom below and watched them hug each other and declaim.

true, i never spoke to any of them, very much a loner in those days, yet i absorbed what applied to my own experience and i've been writing and wandering ever since. yes, i really should have entitled this THE LAST BEATNIK, however i have bigger fish to fry.

my brother and many others counsel, 'forget the past, create a new life.' alas, a writer's life is his past. plus, how can you travel so fast and so far as in memory? hey, somewhere squirreled away in quarantine is everything you've ever done, dreamed, and far more. consciousness is only a small part of it. a novelist friend, david helton, used to relive complete passages of his past on lsd, down to the minutiae. and as we had a conversation in a cafe, we unknowingly recorded all the conversations around us.

the pundits exclaim: the past is present. on a quiet day at home i'm trying to make the most of it, pretending another year isn't almost gone.

i'd like to put a plug in for a friend's website. i find his photos of Philadelphia very moving:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

footprints on the moon

as we come to the end of another year, time to wonder what will remain. those imprints of the first walkers on our nighttime companion could conceivably last forever - that is until the exploding sun shatters us. with no wind, rain, or oxygen those imprints may be the last sign of humanity.

and ourselves? what have we created or achieved in the past 365 revolutions of the moon?

perhaps it's foolish to talk of such things at all. readers chide me for my emphasis on the transitory. the best we can do is haiku and zen, an absorption in the moment so intense grains of sand shine like diamonds. a word on the page, a gesture in the air, each momentary sign without time, would be more than a slide into second base.

last nite, i looked through artistic adventures of the past few years. things appeared i'd totally forgotten. for example, my salute to a certain period of japanese art:

and in the moment i'm looking at a book of japanese postcards of the same era, the early twentieth century. for some reason the graphic creations of these islands calm me down. (while traveling there, my friend marilyn pointed out the colors around us meant to be soothing, and the buildings lay low on the earth rather unlike our rising, screaming skyscrapers pushing us toward the stars.

i wonder what else i can find in these files? where in the distant past did i do these imitations of lunar pathways?

i really like francis bacon's description of painting: snail slime slid across the canvas. if bees can make honeycombs and hummingbirds nests, why can't we make a home for our psyches in the cosmic dust? patterns in water might last longer than we think.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

how are you feeling?

this question throws me into turmoil. yes, in my imagination and longing, i yearn for someone close to ask it. alas, when it happens, i go totally blank. i rummage around in my heart for an answer. but the question itself changed whatever was going on inside me. besides, i never really know what i'm feeling, anyway.

now, if you asked me, 'a penny for your thoughts', i might come up with something coherent, unless i'm out on a date and thinking, 'this is a disaster', or in bed with a loved one and i haven't thought about her since we climbed in, rather the question should be, 'i'll tell you who i was thinking about, if you'll tell me who you were thinking about.'

a further problem: our brains supposedly have fifty thousand thoughts a day, and every one of these charges up a feeling (and not vice-verso). good gravy, i couldn't keep track even if i wanted to.

this goes back to einstein, of course. the observer alters what is observed. the very presence of, let alone a spoken word. and what about heisenberg's uncertainty principal: if i know what i'm thinking, i can't know what i'm feeling. and if i know what i'm feeling, thinking impossible. you see how the very proposal changes the world, ie. a butterfly waves its wings in china and a politician in washington drops dead. maybe not right away, but you catch my drift.

the next time you want to know someone's state of being, inject a truth serum first, or try a bit of hypnosis. 'i'm learning this new technique for self-improvement. may i try it on you.' you can fool all of the people, all of the time. don't despair.'

still putting analogue recordings to digital. some of what's been read you can find here:

i'll figure out where to put them on the net eventually. stay tuned.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

let's drink to the end of purity!

i suppose we could drink pure alcohol and die, which would prove my point but leave no one left to get it. or we could take this ball of plutonium the size of my fist, plant one molecule in each person on earth, and celebrate the end of human kind. what if god gave a party, and nobody came?

yes, this quest for the supposedly clean and perfect, what a curse to the world it's been, at least when applied to human beings. the aryan race - what the hell is that? the person without sin, what a prig. could we really wear a shirt starched so white it could stand up on its own?

now i know i've carried this evil wish in my heart for many years: that people would get all mixed up with each other, every shade of color, belief, desire. for example, almost all the species of dogs today invented in victorian times (sex in animals obviously not verboten) and what we call a pure species of great dane and chihuahua laughable. they've been bred into phantasmagorical creatures, no more pure than a roman toilet.

a couple years, after not going to the bay area for quite awhile, i was amazed by all the 'inter-marrying' going on. any concept of race - considering we all came from the same dna primordial mother - disappearing quickly (hopefully) from the planet. and what beautiful children!

as any agronomist knows, hybrids resist diseases. as any cat owner knows, you're wiser to have a mongrel. good gravy, those calico cats spiteful as hell. what's the use of a horse with weak legs? everything, let's face it, a mix up and better for it. a diet of pure lead may have made a van gogh. alas, it undid him too.

so here's to humanity on it's way to the stars. we need a crazy species to make those colonies on mars.

i've been re-recording talks and readings done over the years. you can read the notes for one of them here:

Friday, December 17, 2010

does guilt really exist?

somehow, in some way, years ago, i convinced myself 'guilt' not really real. how i managed to do this escapes me now. but - with the help of ginkgo and a smidgen of mediation - i can recover my original reasoning.

this concerns me because i just thought of something i inadvertently did years ago, and the memory made my face hot, i blushed with shame. such a minor thing, yet it had the power to turn me hot pink. good gravy, talk about social conditioning and effective parenting. they did it, those two, my father and mother, with the help of teachers who paddled me in front of the whole class.

and i never should have skipped a grade (the fifth). from being older and wiser i shrank to youngest kid on the block, this with my first male teacher. damn, kicked off the softball team, sent to little boy's room when i'd been sucking on my ballpoint, ink like a tribal tattoo around my mouth, without knowing it, only discovering the sad fact by glancing in a cruel mirror.

i hope the point well-taken. the world worked to make me feel guilty and ashamed. ah, now i've got a glimmer. no one can actually make us feel anything! not without our doing a reverse-moxie on ourselves. even physical pain can be approached differently. my father in korea - the one who usually wielded the belt - my mother took me out into the barn and tried the treatment. i just stood there like a man, not even deigning to acknowledge the whacks across my back. my mother never tried that again. my attitude changed everything.

thus, guilt is actually a mean term for 'responsibility'. the latter i can take, if i've agreed to an oath, or accepted living by the law. punishment becomes justified and clear, however it doesn't ask my conscience to do a double-whammy on me. nor can i be controlled by false appeals to my sense of self. shame ruled out, i can resist a blush. unfortunately, you have to be lightning fast not to injure yourself, to cut off that evil messenger at the pass.

more pics:

and a reading from the german philosopher arthur schopenhauer:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

only the comedians are free

this is something my wise friend marilyn pointed out during the greatest lies of the past few years. no wonder, whenever i see her at barnes & noble, she's browsing the HUMOR section.

to me, this did seem a bit frivolous and cruel. aren't the wars and subterfuges in our day worth serious consideration? mustn't we weep for the wounded, succor the helpless, cry for the suffering? alas, that's what most of us do, nothing. we love to feel pity while reading the morning paper over eggs benedict. yes, it's very much like complaining, and complaining, and complaining, all way to the bank.

lately, it's become overwhelmingly obvious we don't know what's going on behind the scenes in the wider world. banks eat up banks, countries continue to trap other countries into wars they can't win. the real dangers hidden behind the false declarations of nation states and censorship have never been more effective and dissuading than today, despite the popularity of certain internet leaks, which so far haven't told us anything we didn't already know.

true, i've always maintained it's wise not to fret over things you can do nothing about. the cynical commentator n.n. taleb: you have a real life if and only if you don't compete with anyone in any of your pursuits. alas, nietzsche submits civilizations die without intense inner competition. it's enough to make you throw up your hands and emit HIS LAUGHTER OF THE GODS. unfortunately, human beings make very bad divinities.

so, i come back to my friend marilyn's assertion: truth can be found in the stand-ups (they're called that for a reason) and the cartoonists. kings of lear's time kept a fool close by. and why? to keep them on the beam, to reveal those who cringed and flattered. skip politics, self-improvement, the vampire novels, they only get swollen on your blood. go for a transfusion to the cartoonists.

latest photos:

and i will have more to say about schopenhauer later.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

taking advantage of chance

what a great talent this is! visiting my sister last week and walking around her town of mill valley, i realized she could strike up a conversation with anyone. that made me incredibly envious. it brought back my travel days in europe when i chased women. how did i do it?

and a moment ago, reading the haiku poet buson, i realized he and all the others of his ilk - basho, shiki, issa - opened themselves up to chance, mostly in the form of travel; they had the ability to be surprised anywhere, anytime of day, by almost anything. yes, we live by chance much more than we appreciate.

my favorite flavor of the moment, a cartoonist by the name of macleod. he's written a book called ignore everybody, and 39 other keys to creativity, a wall street journal best-seller. bored in his life of a new york advertising exec, he began whiling away the time in bars, drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. then he initiated a blog the rest is history.

one of his recommendations: find something you can do creatively, anywhere, anytime. haiku a great example. taking pics with your camera phone another. here's an event i stumbled on today while having a double espresso at barnes & noble:

when i heard the announcement over the loudspeaker, i thought, 'maybe a photo op.' and perfect since kids doing broadway songs a delight.

yes, i'm in love with my droid x. all my other cameras look like cameras, and i can't check my email or chat on them. the expensive stuff gives a finer traditional photo, however i'm tired of trying to compete with the big boys. besides, i've always like rough edges, in women and in art.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

we're all renters here

private property changed the world, that's for certain. suddenly, faithfulness in marriage and dna became big issues. barbed-wire fences, surveillance cameras, prisons, they all sprang from the seeds planted.

and it's amazing to me people buy houses with the illusion it belongs to them. first, it usually belongs to the bank. secondly, you spend enormous amounts of time and energy to build your castle or cave. the hidden expenses boggle the mind: leaky roofs, overflowing sewers, frayed wiring. then you have to furnish it, change it, furnish it again.

my mother constantly bought a new/old house to fix up, getting it cheap and blowing her life energy decorating the walls and moving sand. once she had the perfect little stone house atop the oakland hills, a fantastic view of san francisco bay. my god, i'd kill for it now. did she keep it? of course not, the money invested in a track home where she didn't have to climb steps.

she did spring from the depression generation, her desperation for solvency understandable. had she bought rentals it would have made sense. these house the sanest of us. as my friend marilyn once said, 'life is a choice between taking a trip and buying a house'. and steve martin in father of the bride loved his house so much he might have expired from the want of it after selling.

all our wealth based on this market. if you haven't seen the movie inside job, i recommend it. the last crash based on an inflated economy instituted by no money down. that plus deregulation and the bankers off and running. MAKING HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY LIKE SNIFFING COCAINE WITH A THOUSAND DOLLAR BILL. yes, the filmmaker backed up his assertion.

alas, americans, being basically gamblers when it comes to business, never seem to get upset by financial skulduggery! sexual indiscretion by congressional leaders, that's another story. we're passionate about illicit passion, maybe cause it can unseat the mighty and bring them low (down with us).

is there safety in property? that's a question you have to answer for yourself. squandering what little time we have to gain a bit of comfort, most of us can't deny it's worth it.

here's some in-house pictures from thanksgiving: