Tuesday, July 26, 2011

i've lived in such luxury few people can imagine

yet that has to do more with luck than money. true, i knew to have a family meant being broke all the time. in the montana parsonage it meant closing off all the rooms in winter and sleeping with a warm brick. in germany we didn't have money for a candy bar. my poor working bachelor uncle in indiana, walter pease, footed a lot of the bills.

as for houses, my god, it's not the payments, it's the broken sewer lines and leaking roofs. you never know what's going to happen. so i decided for a shiftless life. fifty years ago i entered the invisible profession of fire lookout. i'd hiked to one in pinnacles national monument at age ten. the view of the salinas valley took my breath away and the lookout had a ham radio. my god, up in the clouds and able to talk to the world. that was for me. eventually one fell into my lap, bunker hill.

taking a two year break on a greek island, a berlin basement, and an oxford rented room, i returned to california at the behest of the coast guard reserve. i fell into a fun half-time job with arts and lectures at uc santa cruz. those were certainly my most sensual days. summers i returned to the towers. 

luck, i mean it. europe a bargain in the 60's, yes, on five dollars a day. santa cruz almost a slum when i arrived, later one of the most expensive communities in the country. since i live off the interstates in a college town, i've had lovely rooms with trees outside. and during this time travelled the world before gas prices soared. 

i just watched a video on a lookout for rent in montana: 

strange to see it near one of my many childhood homes, once a bevy of small towns now a booming ski-resort country. how amazing to have kept ahead of the trampling herd. and i really am grateful. for a couple days i've created designs for fire prevention posters. my hope, the forest service will pick up the ball. they've a PR goldmine in fire towers which they've never exploited.

see them here: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/poster

Monday, July 18, 2011

crime with a higher purpose

i've gotten into a strange habit in the last six months. probably i can blame it on my friend dennis palumbo, whose thriller mirror image arrived on the shelves a while back. he's such a fan of the crime novel i figured they must have something special. (he's got another coming out this fall.)

this, i must confess, against my own instincts. as a teenager i read a lot of the nero wolfe stories - and ultimately found the whole genre depressing. the mystery may be quite an adventure, yet at the end the hero rarely gets the girl and it's a matter of stopping something that shouldn't have happened at all (rather like standing up against a government out of whack). lying, cheating, stealing, i've tried them all, my father caught me filching candybars at the local grocery and pouncing on the collection plate sunday evenings after a service. i guess those lessons must have sunk in. if i'm not honest, i feel lousy about myself.

so, if it's dostoyevsky, crime and punishment, or the brothers karamazov, i can see the point of the whole endeavor, larger metaphysical issues at stake. that was until i listened to a few contemporary thrillers on cd while driving back and forth from the mountain. michael criton's next, frankly hilarious, especially read aloud. a send-up of genetic engineering, the real topic.  and the forgery of venus by michael gruber,  fascinating in its details of how to fake a famous painting, and the hero actually flashes back to being valazquez. 

then the dragon tattoo girl came along. the first movie craven compared to the actual novel, the violent deaths emphasized over larrson's real motive - he wanted to call the series crimes against women. yes, i actually read the first volume. afterwards, to get the whole pie, i speed-read the next two volumes, going for the story, skipping a lot of the subplots, sitting in my bookstore cafe and watching the plot pass as though i were watching a movie.

thus came about this bizarre habit of reading thrillers this way, and discovering i like the ones that do more than solve the specific villainy. of course, nazis and wwii a fairly easy mark, though stephen kerr in the berlin trilogy and follow-ups makes the most of it, revealing gas-chambers for jews in argentina, for example. and in his futuristic novel a philosophical investigation he questions genotyping of individuals.  gradually the themes of these writers have gotten more interesting.

one of my favorites is the devil's trill by gerald elias where a blind, irascible violin teacher exposes the forcing of young children to practice until they can win contests, yet fail in life. yesterday,  one of my two hour jaunts with james patterson and liza markland in the postcard killers  where they examine the carrying of art to the extremes of murder, the victims posed like paintings. (damian hirst, you can run, but you can't hide.) 

these don't depress me like the mundane examples of the genre cause they serve a higher purpose, interesting larger violations of humanity.

more androids: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/android and more fake matisse's: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/matisse 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

what if my life is a dvd?

that thought occurred to me long before the technology existed. when i was 14 i realized a god wouldn't be necessary if there were no beginning and no end. in other words everything goes in circles. like a laser beam my consciousness travels along a groove. 

this does play into the old saw of predestination. well, let's say i'm a stack of dvd's, one playing now, another later. theoretically i'd have many cross tracks, new music constantly created from the old matter. and, of course, 5,999,999,999 other tunes would be in progress, and that's what makes the planet pretty messy. 

however, let's simplify: one disk at a time. here i am a story recorded on hard matter. my thoughts travel in familiar territory (deja vu). if the boom box big bang working correctly, i could be re-started anywhere, beginning wherever my mind happened to land. thus, time as we know it, doesn't exist. it's not time-travel, it's my-travel. as you ask, is there any wiggle room? does the disk get worn out, played over and over? can it crack? 

hmm, maybe that's a way into the problem. no, that assumes time exists. time only exists if there is a beginning and an end. our humanity based on an error, in that case. we suffer not knowing we'll never be born and never die. alas, this flies in the face of science, it throws us back into a cyclical view of the universe. am i discovering already known moments! can we really say the film can't be played backwards? i keep asking myself the most obvious questions. ah, i'm already leading a virtual life.

more androids: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/android

Monday, July 11, 2011

courage is the first virtue, without it you can't practice the others (samuel johnson)

                                               from: http://www.pbase.com/wwp/laugh

i've carried this aphorism around for years. tough to practice, as by nature i'm a wimp, non-confrontational, get along, don't make waves kind of guy. i can only think of three times in my adult life where i may have practiced it.

the first shouldn't count. i joined the coast guard reserve to avoid being a foot soldier in vietnam. arriving at bootcamp on government island , alameda, california i had no idea what i was getting in for, not until i reported to the duty desk, lowering my arms to rest them, when the second mate yelled, "get up against that wall, face it! stand at attention and don't move until told to do so."  during the next three months i learned what it was like to be a convict and a slave. a very valuable lesson, and maybe a bit of courage did help me get thru it.

the second rather tame by comparison. the first time i landed some unemployment compensation, my girlfriend said, "get some therapy." i didn't have to ask why, i already knew. okay, i picked a name out of the phonebook, and as i stepped across the threshold, i said to myself, "my god, i'm actually asking for help." that first session disappeared into limbo, but not the feeling in my chest when i exited. i realized i was experiencing fear and that it more than likely had been with me my whole life.

the third example also a false one, perhaps. in 1995 i felt isolated and at loose ends. what could i do to get out of myself and rejoin humanity? theater, of course, came to mind, my second great love, yet i hadn't practiced it in a very long time. CITY OF ANGELS, PREVIEW TO AUDITIONS. that notice at the university kindled a bit of a spark. so i went, listened to the director and his assistants outline the musical and the process to be.  INTERMISSION. i walked out on campus, under the moon and trees, and thought, "i can't do this." but for whatever reason i re-entered. actors practiced the songs around the piano, and a miracle happened. bill johnson, the director, strode up to ask who i was and struck up a conversation. little did i know, of course, he wanted some old guy to lie in an iron lung on a big stage in a 1200 seat theater, which i ended up doing. this led to another bout of theater for twelve years.

i just watched this video:   

Friday, July 8, 2011

i like description more than conclusion

maybe this has been my greatest weakness? hah, with so many flaws how can you give one pride of place? okay, okay, just for this morning let me enjoy this particular error.

and as i was saying, i love process more than finale, i'd rather see a dress rehearsal than the full-blown show, then i'm part of the creation. often i prefer a reading of a play to an actual production, left to my own imagination.

here's the beginning and end of a poem by juan ramon jimenez:

Among the clouds the moon is
A shepherdess of silver
Who, through a pathway of stars
Drives her white gleaming flocks.
The moon goes by slowly,
Naked, lovely, in ecstasy
Singing to an unknown earth
Along her highways of dawn.

in between she finds 'smooth-worn cattlepaths' and 'backwaters of eternity'. i'm given nothing but a progress, and i begin dreaming aloud.

that's it, of course, my whole life one long day-dream. i'm the kid who sat in class looking out the window and who found a way to do this for a living for fifty years. if a smoke comes up, it sets off an inner alarm. i leap to the firefinder without knowing it, the microphone in my hand, no fire the last, just a step to the next.

very entertaining, yes, i've been entertained by the whole show, a permanent tourist, a born buddhist, sighing a times for the transitory, yet indulging it as much as i can. this means imperfect creations, faulty poems, off-kilter songs, unproduced dramas. even if i've directed a few, performed a few, the main audience has been myself, hoping a bystander might get a laugh or shed a tear.

a friend, director/choreographer sue pate once pointed this out. she goes for the finished product, usually with beautiful results. 'you like the process too much,' she said. alas, i have to agree. even today i feel what i do in this moment is all that exists, the rest is fantasy and theory. to quote steve hagan, We've formed many a theory and belief, but as we look about the human world, it is clear that nobody actually knows what's going on. i suspect this is the only "conclusion" i will ever come to.

a new set of doodles, crime scenes: www.pbase.com/wwp/crimes

more of matisse look-alikes: www.pbase.com/wwp/matisse

and an endless parade of shadowy androids: www.pbase.com/wwp/android

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

the media loves drama, not the truth, truth doesn't sell

yesterday, a young mother acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter. the outrage on twitter amazing. the public, for the most part, wished her hanged. it must go back to the days of the guillotine. the convicted rumbling through the crowd on the back of a cart. catcalls from the audience. a sigh of wonder as the blade falls and the heads drop into the basket. as one twitteree wrote on the present acquittal: the only good thing the jury did to keep their own names hidden.

actually, this kept the story from ending as expected, a boon for the newspapers. endless razzmatazz follows. long ago, after reading the classic the image by daniel boorstin, former head of the library of congress, i couldn't even watch the evening news on national public television. boorstin right, 80% of what we call news "speculation"  about what might happen now. in other words it's all fortunetelling foisted on an unknowing public. and i have to say, professional experts from universities most often  wrong, while writers of books tend to be the most reliable. 

all this brings back childhood revelations. a movie called the big carnival (ace in the hole) which i watched in 1951 at age 11. a seedy newspaperman exploits the tragedy of a man trapped down a mine, creating a whirlwind media feast at the scene. the man dies, the reporter stabbed by the dead man's wife. - i'm a kid raised on film noir! - and a couple years earlier i remember listening breathlessly to radio accounts of a three year old girl trapped in a well. alas, she died too. the recent Chilean miners luckier and the news hopping up and down with delight. 

all this comes to mind reading the latest rolling stone account of the amanda knox trial in italy: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-neverending-nightmare-of-amanda-knox-20110627 what's so sad about it, it reads like a henry james novel. the young naive american girl goes to europe, expecting the best of everyone, and gets taken for a ride by a devious european lover and society. try wings of the dove, a moving story on this theme. in amanda's case a prosecutor raised on films like halloween 3 at first concocted a savage sex ritual, setting the tone for international coverage. unfortunately for her, the judges in italy like to keep on good terms with each other and it's "speculated" she'll get a reduced sentence like the actual murderer, rudy guede, of 16 years instead of 26.

every hot story should be labeled: THE RUSH TO JUDGEMENT. yes, drama triumphs over truth every time. we've got more than one war to show for it.