Monday, October 31, 2011

van gogh did not shoot himself?

this comes as an incredible shock to someone who wrote his first good play at 23 about van gogh and gauguin in the south of france. mainly, cause like most of his generation, he accepted van gogh as the image of christ, sacrificing himself for the beauty of art.

here's a quote from the news: In Van Gogh: The Life, a 976page doorstop published this week, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith say it's more likely that the celebrated Dutch post-Impressionist painter was the victim of an accidental shooting. The suspected perpetrators: a couple of teenage bullies obsessed with American cowboys and playing with a gun, and protected on his deathbed by van Gogh claiming an act of suicide.

oddly, in a way this makes him more of a saint, refusing to disclose the identity of his killers in order to protect them. yet, any disturbance to our view of an icon unsettling, to say the least. t0 those who wish to believe in the artist as hero, especially the artists themselves, this comes as a blow. we've always prided ourselves on suffering until dead when we're discovered.

with the myth exploded, how can we continue to live in 9 by 10 rooms, storing our drawings and manuscripts in a rented storage space (me)? true, had van gogh lived another year he'd have found himself celebrated and paid as a painter, the saintly image discarded. and who was it said, 'many have quit just as they were about to succeed?'

let's face it, the art-world overwhelmed by the productive slaving in their studios. once they could have made chairs, pewter dishes, walking canes. alas, these occupations have gone the way of horse-drawn buggies. everyday i look through design and art books at the bookstore over my cafe americano. and for all the liberation of post-modernism, the power of a van gogh and gauguin missing.

duchamp created the copy of the copy as artifact, and his command incredible prices. television cannibalized the movies and history. starting in 1950 every attempt at art a facsimile of the past. what has artistic freedom done to us? confused the whole picture!

van gogh and gauguin in the south of france:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

it's wonderful to have memories you can edit

and that was part of my original intent. we moved thirty times by the time i graduated high school, age 16.  and it included two years in the utah desert and two years in germany. this formed a habit it never occured to me to kill. i unconsciously followed a family tradition, all the while telling myself, 'a poet has to be a citizen of the world.'

we re-create memories. turns out they don't really exist. this makes having a pile of shards quite exciting. for example, the day i received the telegram telling me my father died unexpectedly. after calling my mother, i said to myself, 'i'm going to enjoy this day.' yes, we think once our parents gone, we'll be free of them. i've been wrong both times.

i wandered over to the berlin zoo. looking at captured animals in the grey light couldn't have cheered me up. and i recall a cheap eating house where clients feasted at communal tables. what i remember: the wire-rimmed glasses of the fellow sitting opposite me. actually, my stunned state didn't allow much reflection.

or the day bali finally turned sour for me. a german guy told me it would, after awhile. the ceremonies which had been bright and exotic, lost all their color. the garbage in the gutters overshadowed the kids painting florid pictures. i'd overstayed my welcome, my senses surfeited, the pimples of the populace now showing through.

i figured in old-age i'd like a lot of memories, and how true it's become, as long as i can leave out nostalgia or the desire to change anything, like the time the girl in amsterdam finally agreed to make love with me and i'd gotten so angry i took my revenge by walking out. how stupid can you be! or the bleak goodbye to renate before she committed suicide.

in a good mood you can choose the high times, leave out the turbulent stomach or the aching back carrying a pack. often i simply remember a street corner in bangkok, a weary museum guard in istanbul, the look of bottecelli under glass. each gives me a thrill. i was there. i saw it all. and with a little editing the past charmed and bright.

the planning for a trip, the memories a few days after, this is all you really want. the actual journey full of potholes. and once you get home, the photos gradually replace the adventure. yes, you traveled the world. doing it on the cheap, you got down with the people more than once too often. these aspects of the facts can be deleted. the young save up a wealth of magical details, hitching through ireland and crossing the border into guatemala, photos of wanted guerillas all over the guards' walls, as they fingered high-powered rifles, staring at you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

the myth of always taking yourself with you

finding your true self? d.h. lawrence would never agree. 'which self, i am many selves?' perfectly true, within limits. as i've stated many times before, only brain damage does our present personality in. otherwise, we tend to lope along at the same speed, especially without the intervention of fate.

everyday i get a new inspiration. i'll go back to kyoto, berlin, mexico city, and after a few peeks at travel books over coffee, i'm almost instantly disinclined. guess it's like the love mafia: once you've been disillusioned you can't overlook the pimples, bad-breath, scuffed shoes. passion now impossible in this situation.

the same with cities and countries. india spoiled me for india and russia for russia. in sri lanka i stumbled on an incredible ceremony worshiping a tree: candles, incense, singing. the next day i returned to find ashes and silence. so, when i romanticize berlin, i forget the gaffitti. in vancouver it was the claustrophobia and madness caused by the closed bay. even new york city has suffered a sea-change, the fountain of my youth.

and where i've lived for the past thirty years? that's a laugh. absolutely no romance. plenty of friends, but otherwise... i guess it's a matter of who wants to be trapped with a lover in the same town? cynical, but realistic, though reality certainly over-rated.

the palm ultimately goes to paris, the tattered cliche. i can't explain why it's worked. one morning in the 60's i did arrive on the train early, april stores opening, sidewalks being washed, the sun warm, the windows sparkling. perhaps that cast a glow. i met miriam on the plane. hand-patsy, one thing led to another, finally a hotel room with a window on notre dame. and toshiko, met in london, pursued to paris, kissed under the eiffel tower, a marriage proposal sent to japan politely refused, 'i didn't know you felt that way.'

people flirt in the subway. young ladies, gracious grand dames. you can actually talk with them.  now that i'm wrinkled and stooped, i wonder what kind of a reception i'd get? i'm cat-sitting next month for my friend Q as she flies to france. maybe she'll be able to tell me. at the very least, i won't look at guide books to paris tomorrow. i've been disappointed enough for one week. my paris self, where are you?

let's look again:

you will have to live with the pointless but powerful desire to create

as i was packing up to leave the lookout, a rather frail and thin fellow with a short, black beard spoke up from the bottom of the stairs. 'hi'. i told him the floor wet with mopping. he said, 'okay,' only he didn't go. he acted like we knew each other. who the hell?

i had planned to leave within the hour, felt impatient, yet invited him up. we stood waiting for the floor to dry. finally, i realized this the lookout who'd retired last year. we'd worked thirty years together and met but once. ah, the voice. no wonder i knew without knowing.

we got to talking. would he take his trailer south? he seemed in no hurry to leave, and i thought, 'this is very auspicious and remarkable. likely, we'd never meet again, he turning 75, me not far behind.' he pulled off the cap to his camera. i asked, 'have you gotten back to painting?' 'been thinking about it.' 'you could put your stuff on the web.' he paused and pondered. 'i can't think of why i'd want to do that.'

my god, i had a shock. doesn't everyone want their work known, to be known, to give pleasure? evidently, he created out of the urge to do so, no other reason necessary. i'd never met such a being, not in our world of celebrity and hype, not to mention my own maniacal urge to be invisible but recognized. maybe this was the message he had for me.

you don't need a reason, you're just stuck with this restlessness, get used to it. where have i said this before? i've always said everything, it led me to a dead-end and now all i can do is look at picture-books like a child. hmm,  let's ask the rabbi.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

if you saved the world, what would the neighbors say?

probably nothing very kind. gratitude doesn't come easily to human beings. imagine everyone in town shouting, 'hey, we were going to heaven, or asleep, why didn't you let the sky fall, the rains come? even god would have destroyed us with a flourish and been happy. you had to keep the same old thing going.'

this is to console myself for not having rescued humankind, much as my mother expected it of me. yes, every poet a mama's boy, not necessarily in a bad way. it's just the bar set so high. you can't just write a few jingles for soda-pop ads, no, you have to write paradise lost or king lear. ordinary rhymes won't do, you have to invent a new language, honored by the nobel prize.

trouble is, actually, everybody wants to cure the ills that beset us. even the guy who sold me my new glasses, he's studying bio-tech in order to feed the masses and cure the aids epidemic in africa. how nice to be so young! he loves math and science. i basically flunked out of engineering at university. the first semester i played games, kissed girls on the bridge over the tracks with the train howling by below. second semester i dropped off to sleep after supper, rose at midnight, studied til six in the morning, and catnapped once again, all to no avail.

if i hadn't switched to literature, i'd be pounding nails somewhere or serving up drinks. come to think of it, i've never used that college degree, not for anything practical. and i've become pretty much convinced all the diplomas in the world can't match noah with his boat. yes, that man did it, why i almost stepped on a rattlesnake yesterday and did crush a few ants.

what in tarnation makes all of us feel the tsunami has to be stopped by our bare hands? was it that story of the boy who rescued holland from the sea by sticking his finger in a dike? if only it were that easy. i suspect you'd have to invent an anti-gravity machine to propel every last dog, child, and squirrel off the planet before it implodes. fat chance.

true, i continue to draw androids, hoping one will come alive and present us (me) with eternal life.  bringing the fountain of youth back from the future. yet, my true feelings revealed in this poem: it's the call of despair from the boy who cried wolf one too many times.

Monday, October 17, 2011

what if you don't have time for it?

my friend leslie, when diagnosed with breast cancer, exclaimed, "i don't have time for this!" a potter with a new studio, she didn't want any interruptions. luckily, the operation a success and she finished her work.  my friend susie had different thoughts, diagnosed with uterine cancer, "suddenly, the passion of my life, the novel i've nursed, didn't seem important at all!" she too recovered, busy at finishing the book.

i keep ransacking my own history to find out what i haven't yet done. when i was a kid, i read a comic where the protagonist sold his time for a nice house, nice kids, nice car. suddenly, he discovered he'd little time left to trade. a very dramatic picture of all those minutes and hours flying away and the desperation on his face, it's stuck with me for sixty years.

time is of the essence. time waits for no one. a stitch in time saves nine. i can't help feeling all of us bear this burden. what cures procrastination? i suppose a close call might: accident, heart, anything threatening our physical existence.

and i'm still suffering from finding all those facts about the body: ten thousand red cells die every second, our blood travels fifty-thousand miles a day, we've ten billion plus neurons in our brain. it assaults any theory of spirituality, any belief in what we do matters. this stuff makes it hard for me to take anything seriously. let's face it, we're all tourists, and we'll visit the catacombs last.

i've just looked through a book on nevada brothels, desert rose by marc mcandrews. for some reason i've always had a fascination with prostitution. when flying to new york, a black guy sat next to me and reveled in his tales of working in a san francisco brothel. and now i can't say, 'why not?' even if i've never dared enter that world. true, working at lake tahoe above the casinos i did write a series of poems about it:

what does this have to do with the passage of time? we're physical beings, animals if you like, and freud right, sex programmed into us in a big way. when walking about we're always on the watch: is it dangerous, can i eat it, will it have sex with me? and how we deal with the opportunities, how we fulfill  the few days that are ours, to deny it seems to throw away whatever lease on life we have.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

some days everything seems revolting

alas, i've never been one to march in any cause. call it cowardice. call it rationality. not a good team player, i hate to pass the ball (or the buck). not that i don't admire the faithful. they usually react to economic injustice or some version of inequality. and it's always the rabble who have the courage to cast stones, despite bibical advice to the opposite.

unfortunately, the result depends upon several things. if it's a violent revolt that succeeds, usually a much more tyrannical system prevails. this because people tire of hardship and chaos, and because leaders who can win a war want to run a country in the same way. in violence the scum usually rise to the top. those with a desire to control and profit, the fascist crowds put into order by a charismatic leader.

germany in the thirties the saddest story. an army brat, i lived in germany 1954-56, playing in old bunkers, walking on abandoned airfields, passing holes in the middle of cities. as a teenager, all that interested me sex and girls, my ignorance of  recent history abysmal. still, something sank into my bones merely by proximity. norway invaded by germany the week i was born, may 5, 1940, and my first years spent waiting for safeway to open, people in the line holding their ration cards. i collected old tires, getting, i think, a quarter a piece.

my experience of the 60's mainly one of cynicism and fear. i joined the coast guard reserve, never called up, the boot camp experience one of the worst in my life. i remember standing watch at night on government island, watching the car-lights of freedom on the oakland freeway and listening to my fellow sufferers shouting and crying in their sleep. my father a chaplain in the army, i'd had a completely different experience of post life.

kids revolted against being drafted. that's what drove the protests. and i often felt they were self-serving. still, to live under the gun a terrible existence. yet now i do sympathize a lot more with a democratic military that responds to civilian control. and i understand every society will have those who belong naturally to the soldier caste. i'm not a fool. i know tyranny must be nipped in the bud. however, when alcibiades sent the ships from athens to italy and they disappeared in the conflict, it ended the greatness of the athens we celebrate today.

so, the leaders of a change determine the result, and the more peaceful the developments, the happier everyone will be. the dissolution of the soviet union a miracle in this regard. think what a mess it could have been, probably engulfing europe in the process. and i have to smile at those who rail against welfare and the easy life of indigents in america. imagine what eliminating social services would do. instantly, we'd live in a chaos of beggary and theivery.

without leadership, no focus, no organization, no credibility. this last important. even in the indian wars, when tribes didn't have kings and captains, washington designated leaders and dealt with them. and of the indian fighters we remember the heroes like chief joseph and geronimo, we admire the charismatic, and hopefully those we discover today will have hearts of gold, and not of ice.

here's an interesting article on the current protests. remember: democracy only lasts as long as enough people feel they're getting a fair share and have a voice.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

if you want the answer: deregulation

o no, i hate thinking about anything political. as a poet, i'm a tyrant. 'if i were running things, i'd do this, and i'd do that', all the while knowing any society manufactured by a theory ends up as a terrible dictatorship. you see, the theorists end up with all the money, the fine houses, and so on.

anything i could possibly say would end up creating a mess. yet...yet...i do think i've a few insights. see, i basically read headlines, snippits of stories. today, for example, about the president raising campaign money, hoping to hold off the billions available to his opponents. or, the story behind steve jobs' adoption and his biological father and novelist half-sister.

how could i possibly formulate any theories from such meager investigation. however, as hamlet said, 'i know a hawk from a handsaw.' and i have taken two classes in the russian revolution and one in the american. if you look at beginnings, you learn a lot. for example, the colonial 'rabble' with the help of the french, defeated the british. and the more educated 40 percent of the winners headed for canada.

doesn't that tell you something about the united states and it's constant wars? we've had one on the average every 14 years until recently. now they never seem end. can any addict stay high all the time without crashing? teachers go jobless, while soldiers get killed. the best educated nation will dominate the future, that goes without saying.

jeez, when i get polemical, i hate myself, even if it makes my evening walks go like wildfire. i'm having so many conversations with the myself, the scenery doesn't distract me, despite it's magnificence. shame, shame. and i haven't even addressed my headline.

all you have to do to unravel the present economic debacle is watch the newsreel of ronald reagan signing the bill deregulating the savings and loan companies. he gives a big smile, almost with a little dance, and says, 'we've done it! we've done it!' during his reign, the income of people went from the most equal across the nation in history - to the most unequal in history.

what's a little savings & loan crash? i think it only cost two hundred billion. more and more deregulation and the costs spiral upward. and those cashing in cry bloody murder when you try to hold them back:

unfortunately, the lesson luther learned when the princes squashed the peasant revolt: he'd need those high-powered guys to oppose the pope. you have to have big bucks coming from somewhere to promote any cause you may have.

in 1976 i celebrated the bicentennial with a work called murphy's can peruse it here and see how awful i'd be were i in charge:

Monday, October 10, 2011

my life as a poltergeist

in my early twenties i tried to be invisible. riding buses in san francisco, i wanted to watch the commoners and listen to their lingo. this material i'd turn into poems for the king. (w.h. auden said, 'every poet wishes to be an advisor to the emperor.') even today i think, 'maybe the president will call me and ask for my opinion on the state of the nation.' for better or worse, it hasn't happened yet.

when i stayed in amsterdam with geert's brother, he freaked out. he said, 'it's like having a ghost in the house.' i slept in a closet. he must have heard strange sounds, like those little noises i make without realizing it, or the shuffling of the flyers i collected at the museums - amsterdam has 42 - especially from the van gogh museum, since my first good play about vincent and gauguin in the south of france, flames will not feed us

i've always loved joyce's line from ulysses, 'hamlet was the ghost of his father.' i suspect many writers and artists come from families where they weren't listened to, in effect, poltergeists in their own home, entities which might startle people once in awhile with an unexpected cry or breaking of a lamp. remember how your parents were always asking, 'how did that happen?' for years i had the urge at public performances to stand up and shout, 'look at me! look at me!' had i done so, i might be sitting in psycho ward instead of on top of a mountain in the rain, waiting for winter.

snow, yes, it snowed several days ago, and i felt that old alienation. suddenly, the world we knew so well becomes the surface of the moon when it's full. movies like 'winter sleepers' by tom tykwer and 'the sweet hereafter'  by atom egoyan capture this alien space, as if the road accidents that happen can only be investigated in slow motion, as if we must stumble  through dense drifts. and remember the gunfight at the end of 'macabe and mrs. miller', the robert altman film, the heroes striving mightily to be real before dying?

one thing about a long life: everything vanishes into the mist and far off we hear the sounds of birds and laughter, nature hardly able to restrain itself, every bit of news we took so seriously meaningless today. poltergeists of the world, unite!

here are my visions of what others must be going thru:

and storm videos:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

it's hard not to fall for the hype

i'm finding it difficult to trust myself, when it comes to the news. for example, amanda knox. at first i fell for the sex-crazy version, satanic ceremony, and so on. gradually, the media projection my eyes adopted wore off. i read several books by people meeting her in prison, examined the evidence - the rolling stone article revelatory - and realized i'd been bamboozled. i felt as sad as relieved when she acquitted and released two days ago. it's something that never should have happened, yet look at my original response.

and now steve jobs has died. most of us couldn't help admiring him, though i haven't found apple products at all useful. his dropping out of college, seeing the symbol potential for computers, his firing from apple and the return, his wonderful commencement address at stanford available on youtube, what's there not to like? i just finished the presentation secrets of steve jobs by carmine gallo, a lot of great tips.

unfortunately, just before his death yesterday i ran across two caveats, which we should all remember when worshipping the rich and successful. the first on jobs as a philanthropist (or not): here, i think we can give him the benefit of the doubt. he died much too young (56) to begin thinking of his public legacy, though with the years of illness he had the chance.

the other bit, though, much more damning, with hard evidence. mike daisey, a contemporary storyteller/actor presently doing a one-person show in new york: it's about how apple products produced in china, the polluted villages and kids as young as 12 working. alas, i believe jobs could have funneled some of his billions back into creating better working conditions and helping the people who created his wealth.

of course, who am i to talk? i'm certainly a self-indulgent as anybody. luckily, nobody worships me or envies my success. i did run across a box of old slides the other day and posted them.  i do see a guy on some sort of mission. unfortunately, his heroes poets like baudelaire. you can see it in his eyes...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

the day the gods were bored

naturally, i've never understood the conflict between evolution and creationism. why couldn't consciousness been implanted in the neanderthals, changing them into homo-sapiens? that way the process includes a divine intervention, of some kind.

that's my theory. lolling about on olympus one fine eternal summer afternoon, those beautiful, lackadaisical bodies couldn't stand any more good weather. i mean, that happened to me. after eight months on the island of rhodes, i thought, 'this place breeds nothing but drunk swedes.' so i moved to a dark grimy basement in berlin. why should the gods be any different?

hermes, the most adolescent of them, though all could qualify, stifled a yawn and flipped a cigarette butt at hephaestus, just to get his dander up. this led to a brawl  that died from pointlessness. what real harm could they do to each other? watching them, athena got one of her brilliant ideas. she should never have been born from the head of her father.

'hey, guys, why not have a little fun? see all those stupid animals running around below? they're so predictable! all they do is sleep, grunt, and eat each other. what if we gave a group a smidgen of our intelligence? say, those apes standing upright and banging each other with bones. they'd think they were gods, having a bit of us in them, and fantastic! they can find really creative and devious ways to kill each other. wouldn't that be fun to watch?'

and so it happened long ago, just before bibical times. athena threw her javelin at the ugliest of the savage animals, and the light bounced from brain to brain, they being group-animals and primates. from this moment arose babylon, new york, delphi. the gods had invented something special, their own video game and they called it darwin.

what has this particular mammal recently posted. oh, i know, ah, the painter, the poet, the lover, the god, don't they all go together? we're flies for their sport, as shakespeare related.