Thursday, March 31, 2011

"you write like someone who's never been hit"

damn, i should be in bed. it's late. the workers will be here again the morning to bang and rip the stucco off the outer walls of my room. i had to spend the whole day away. did one of my rituals, getting take-out egg foo young and picnicking at the local forestry tree farm. that lifted my spirits a bit, those haunted, broken limbs. unfortunately, the meal didn't settle too well, too much salt.

sure, i should be sleeping by now. and i would be, but i got pulled off track a little while ago. since i've bought a blue ukulele i've been trying to learn how to play without practicing, looking at books, listening to recordings. osmosis usually works, though not in this case, so far.

you cannot imagine the number of uke groups in the world. youtube's overflowing. it's an incredible feast. tutorials, flamenco, rock and roll, you name it. i keep going back for more. except tonight i wandered off into the performances of janis joplin. i'm still thrilled. again it proves i shouldn't listen to anybody else. the san francisco chronicle writer ralph j. gleason put her down as a screamer. and a girlfriend in new york who had dinner with her said she ate like a pig and spit on the floor.

very well, that may be. lately i've been going back to blues roots, a big fan of the recordings made in the 20's and 30's. patton, johnson, blind willie mctell. used to be i had dozens of recordings and i'm collecting them again. i'm not a big fan of bessie smith or the later chicago blues. that's where janis comes in. she's really a blues singer out of that tradition. and she did grab hold of me tonight.

where did my title come from? a poem called the girlfriend's train by nikky finney. it gave me a shock when i ran across it at the bookstore.

that black woman who came up to her after a reading, using the phrase above (i've changed it a bit in order to relate) and showing her own scars. i hope the poem affects you as much as it did me. i can remember being hit lots of times as a child, yet at most i'm an entertainer, unable to open up and really sing the blues.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the railroading of amanda knox

the american student convicted last year for murder in italy. google her name to refresh your memory.

i'm not often shocked and ashamed of my own ignorance, but i should be. i discovered soon after high school american actions against indians and citizens of other countries had been completely whitewashed. for example, the 45 caliber pistol developed against phillipine rebels trying to kick the yankees out after the spanish-american war. the native fighters tightened barbs around the leg so tightly they could feel no pain when bullets hit them. the 45 so powerful it blew them apart and backwards. so much for helping peoples rebel against tyrants.

and i really should have no illusions about the u.s. press. gore vidal said he'd never read anything positive in our newspapers about another country. and look at the slanders against the french for not invading iraq with us. irony, irony, now the french have drawn us into helping al queda in libya.

instances of injustice abound, of course. take roman polanski, the polish director who had sex with a thirteen year old. he confessed enough to go for a psychiatric evaluation among known killers. the judge, however, worried about the press, decided to pursue him into prison anyway. the film-maker fled abroad for good reason, yet pilloried in this country ever since as a renegade. i dare anyone to watch the documentary
and still believe he got a fair deal.

or take the novel by phillip kerr A Quiet Flame: A Novel (Bernie Gunther Novels) where i felt sick at the end. the argentinians built gas chambers and killed thousands of jewish refugees escaping from germany. (you can watch the play magic fire about a jewish family relocated to buenos aires and the threat of death they ran into. a very moving piece.)

yes, i should not be surprised by the afterward to the nonfiction The Monster of Florence by douglas preston and mario spezi where the authors reveal the desperate, dirty shenanigans of the italian prosecutor in previous cases, the knox case not even gone to trial. and the whole frame-up even convinced me she must be guilty, to my utter shame. the story so vividly presented i wanted the girl convicted.

now i have to back-up and assess my own guilt. innocent until proven guilty, the rule still holds long as presented in the constitution (or is it not in that document?) if not in the media.

Monday, March 28, 2011

communities pulled apart by surface tension

Freud again: the strongest urge to join a small community (200 or less). think about it. those old groups had to hunt and graze. no land supplied a large amount of fodder. besides, should the ensemble grow larger, some people start thinking they're better than others!

my thoughts on the subject revived while taking pictures of this co-housing's fifteenth milestone celebration. . and remembering those places i'd been where for a moment people unified in a common endeavor. early in the seventies, all those young lookouts drove once a week for hours to get-together, roast corn, and sing songs. here's a piece of one i wrote:

I like to lay around in the sun,

even if my work doesn't get done,

sip my beer through a straw,

i even eat my beefsteaks raw.

Lethargy, lethargy,

good old fashioned lethargy.

not great literature, but fun at the time. (lyrics have to be loose to allow music to enter in.). and it probably fit those twenty-somethings back from the peace corps, or just out of college, waiting for life to begin. alas, that did happen. they drifted apart with the wind into babies and houses and substantial careers.

at the university of california santa cruz, one particular class held together by theater, dance and music. graduation and they headed for seattle and new york, fortune and fame.

or the sixties expatriates in lindos on the island rhodes, drinking kos wine, making love, dancing. mail shouted out at the post-office. ROBIN QUEST. JUNIOR MOTTA. HEATHER GORP. ah, but we all grew tired of too much beauty. i headed for a dark apartment in berlin. so much for swimming naked while the phosphorescence flashed around us.

pieter bruegel captured it with his icarus crashing into the sea, everyone oblivious and working at their everyday tasks. without even knowing it we find a home only to leave it not much later, our wings melted by the sun.

Friday, March 18, 2011

playing chicken with history

i guess it's inevitable. watching the japan tsunami roll over houses and cars, i'm struck by how all our most precious possessions turn to junk. (lenny bruce said it first.) and that drowned man lying on his stairway, surrounded by broken objects, what am i to make of him?

looking around my room, i want to weep for my guitar and ukuleles, things built with care and by hand. the electronic stuff doesn't much matter, the erasing of my last words on the hard drives i hope i'm not around to observe. i still nurse myself through this existence with hopes of fame.

maybe like a mammoth, i'll be preserved in ice, discovered by the new strains of brainy creatures on the planet. unfortunately, my glasses will certainly be shattered, and my poor shoes - i have a real sympathy for soles, how they've carried me everywhere. i wonder at what time my watch will have stopped? will those aliens looking through our ruins understand time and its measurement, how we judged everyone and everything by whether it could measured, especially by money?

we'll probably appear a bit feeble. as they put calipers on our brains and strange rulers on our bones, they'll certainly realize we didn't think much, especially of ourselves. what possessed them to heat their homes with deadly radiation? what stupid chances they took. ah, but that's in the nature of things, my friends of the future. you too...

maybe i'm being too gloomy. in the short run this room might be preserved as others i've visited: rimsky-korsakov's, dostoyevsky's, strindberg's, carlyle's, shakespeare's. you've made a pilgrimage to at least a couple dozen. there's einstein's patent on the wall, not to mention shelves of books owned by kazanzakis, ibsen, freud, ad infinitum. a temporary immortality would be better than none at all.

here's a collection of poems to be shot off in the next spacecraft:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

plutonium rain (one last song)

sitting by the seaside
waiting for the rain
exactly what was it
humanity didn't learn?

years ago during an anti-nuclear evening , i gave a speech, at one point raising my fist and saying, 'a ball of plutonium this size could slay every human on the planet. all it takes is one molecule each.' needless to say, my warning went unheeded, and today, march 13, 2011, after an earthquake in japan a plutonium reactor in danger of exploding and releasing a death cloud.

if this happens, will the northern hemisphere be toast? given the wind-directions, after the sea-islands, california would be the first to be visited. good gravy, should i buy that ticket for buenos aires now, and turn it in if my alarm unjustified? or do i wish to go with those i love?after all, i've had a good life. when all your friends are gone, there's no one to laugh at your jokes. alas, your story's already been lost.

of course i could put my fears on the internet, send them around the world and get everybody north of the equator upset. no, i won't do that. remember, you've always been apocalyptic, waiting for the sky to fall. evidently my mother walked into my room at midnight without knocking one too many times. every time i've tried meditation, the slightest sound jerks me out of my revery.

yet, there's a saying, sometimes paranoia is justified. Cuban missile crisis, 1961. your passing through hiroshima, 1985, and walking for days around nagisaki, melted bottles and watches on display at the epicenter. we did have drills in grade school, hiding under desks. you did live on desert chemical depot as a teenager, surrounded by old -barbed-wire and gun towers from ww2, not to mention playing in old training fields at fort lewis, washington, while listening to machine-gun practice from the front living room.

ah, and gloria, my first psychic, said i helped invent the device that blew up atlantis. there's the clincher.

time to hide my head in the sand,
maybe only my bottom will burn.
yes, i'm like everyone else,
with way too much left to learn.

read all about it:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

catching up with the life i missed

or going to seed before i bloomed. aye, that's what i get for being a snob. wedded to literature, and especially the classics, i didn't watch tv after my 17th birthday. i figured, you either stay glued to the tube or do something else with your life.

hah, now i've become addicted to netflix. all those wonderful movies, the outrageous times in music, the gleanings in outer-space. last nite i watched exile on main street, the rolling stones making of that album. drug-sodden, playing in a basement in the south of france, they cut an album which couldn't have been more american, based on the blues and what they called hillbilly music. never having been a stones' fan - except for 'i can't get no satisfaction,' of course - i failed to join them on that rocket-ride. what fun!

and speaking of forays into the future, i knew nothing of the space station. watching a documentary about it, i marveled at how it held together by chewing-gum and gaffer's-tape. i had the same reaction to the control room on the queen mary parked in the san luis obispo harbor. this magnificent and huge tonnage guided across the atlantic by tricycle wheels.

no doubt, the more i find out, the more i'll be flabbergasted at what's happened and how we got here. rockin' at the red dog revealed san francisco psychedelic music jump-started at a saloon in virginia city nevada, the very place that inspired me to write a play called the clown at about the very same time. travelling on parallel tracks, never the twain shall meet.

and tiring of taking pictures, i've resurrected my love of delta blues and appalachian twangs. alas, not all of these musings happy. last of the mississippi jukes, land where rock and roll born, the home today of massive casinos sprouting in cotton fields, filled with ersatz music and the ching-ching of minds trying to hit a row of cherries in an electronic sky.

thank goodness, we have records of these lost, dim days. it's either my fortune or failure to see and hear all the things i've never done. at least i don't have to blow my circuits with the roiling stones. and yet... and yet...

you can read my short play the clown here:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

blaming teachers for puberty

yes, yes, if they had just taught me right i'd be a millionaire now. nor would i have been so embarrassed on my first dates i couldn't even talk to a girl much less charm and kiss her. (that only happened through a game of spin-the-bottle.) thank god, my fellow students were so nice to me. they chased me in gangs after school and beat me up on the playground. those where the real lessons learned.

i remember when the class bully started pounding me in the hall before homeroom. where was the teacher when i needed her? and as for educating me, damn, i learned to add up my expenses and write checks. i learned to read those boring great books of literature. they alone kept me from getting to the top by presenting examples of folly and fame i couldn't emulate.

and the cadillacs and mercedes the professors drive, not to mention their maids and butlers. when they climb out of their limousines in front of the little brick schoolhouse, i become green with envy. even before i paid taxes i hated paying taxes. how dare these people take my nickels and dimes. shouldn't they be doing something useful, like digging ditches?

and look at how happy and free those poverty-stricken, uneducated societies are, drinking and dancing and playing music just like the slaves on the old plantations before the south went to wrack and ruin. yes, yes, the intelligent people without schools rise like scum to the top. we don't need police either, or politicians. why don't we all drive on any side of the road we want and make u-turns on a whim?

obviously, infants out think adults. and the worst educated society will do all the important work of the wealthy countries like washing clothes and cleaning floors. why don't we just go back to the good old days before computers which merely confuse us with their demands? after all, THE ENLIGHTENED CULTURE GETS THE WORM. and those with the best schools merely spend summers at the beach and eat beluga.

shoving us all into the trenches to turn us into americans, they should be ashamed.

here's one account of a terrible experience with the school system:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

national brain month giving me a headache

had i only not known about it. no such luck. a table at the bookstore announces it with a spread of books. and so many brainchilds appearing, i feel like i'm a rat in a maze.

of course, it's my own fault. at eighteen i felt we're controlled by chemical emissions and every body's jumping on the bandwagon as i read the female brain. yes, these books have something to tell us, but where do you draw the line? this sounds like determinism. not that of fate where we've an individual destiny, rather like lemmings leaping into the sea.

hopeless, however, it is not. the man with the highest measured IQ in the world uses his brain like a neanderthal. lacking the opportunities for social skill and interaction with fellow brainiacs, he feels his one brain better than all the lower level intelligences around him. unfortunately, that's not so intelligent. culture and science the sum greater than it's parts. you need minor deities to raise the greater to the heights. everyone is the product of an age.

no, i do not want my IQ measured. i know it's a helluva lot lower than i think. (pun intended.) right now i'm worried about losing what little wit i have. i figure the best thing i can do is read shakespeare and the poets. this is brainily incorrect, as the author daniel pink says the gold medal will go to the right brain thinkers. but what if we can't read and don't know what words mean? we've already lost history more than a week old.

see the big picture, yes. all these rantings against government workers takes no account of how much our society depends on them for safety and structure. lay them off and increase the ranks of the unemployed. boy, that's smart. a fellow at thanksgiving dinner a radical in the 60's and presently a tea-party member. nothing's changed, both groups anti-government, noisy, and simple-minded.

what a time! if i could trust my noggin i might feel a bit better. now i need oxytocin therapy to increase my compassion.

poetry my only defense against madness and alzheimer's:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Faking an Orgasm, the history of Hollywood

i stand corrected. friends assure me there's a six second transmission delay during the academy awards, where any illicit word can be expunged. in fact, i wouldn't be surprised if all four letter (and other colorful and overused) words not programmed to automatically die.

ah, the smart actress must have realized how to make history. she didn't have to assassinate a famous figure, or pour gasoline on herself and strike a match. no, all she needed to do was open her big mouth. i'm very surprised no one had thought of doing it before.

yesterday, i objected to hollywood scream sex on the grounds it's phony and athletic. i'd also say the same for hollywood violence. certain directors know you have to blow up a gas-station or shoot a dozen people dead in the first five minutes. (last year's award winner: no country for old men.) admittedly i don't go to such films these days. as a kid i did, a steady diet of war films and film noir twisted my soul for life. and i loved it.

why, cause they gave me the pain and suffering only sex can bring. that's the secret of the movie industry. a special effect can create a sympathetic orgasm. unfortunately, as woody allen has maintained, sex and death go together. every parent experiences this conundrum. we're all laughing on the way to the graveyard.

celebrities identified with this mythical existence. and movies the epic tales which unite americans. as much as the french, we go to the flicks to talk about them later. it's as universal as the weather and more interesting. and every ad and bookstore flaunts a fake blond like marilyn monroe. as degas said about painting, 'you have to use the false to depict the true.'

what still stopped me at this year's awards: the sudden influx of shots from foreign films, so real they disturbed the fantasy. i would argue the optimism of ignorance what has kept america the idol of the world. and visitors can't help but be disillusioned. i myself love living in mythical pasts. i've had many of them in india, eastern europe, russia, and native-america. alas, having exposed myself to the realities of all those places my imagination shrivelled up. guess i'll have to go back to the science fiction of my youth.

here's my proposal for honesty in media. give it a browse: alas, i'm really an entertainer myself and find fiction more fun than reality.