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Thursday, September 30, 2010


The foreign film of the week is Blood and Bones. Japanese, the story of a Korean peasant family that left Korea for Japan when north/south tensions were boiling, fascism vs communism, the story beginning with the crowd on the deck of the transport ship Koreans were taking to Osaka where they believed they'd find their fortunes. We follow the story of one man's family, Kim something or other. It turns out he was the kind of person summed up by his son at the end of the story, he was here for nobody's pleasure but his own. He was severely cruel to the people closest to him, at home, like his wives, one at a time, his kids, making all their lives miserable. Some people killed themselves and attempted it because of his behavior. Everybody whose lives intersected his suffered. He started a small factory, made a bundle of money working his employees too hard, paying too little, violent temperament, carried a club with him all the time. He became a loan shark and was ruthless. His wives tended to die. He only raped them, beat them, berated them. He ended up dying of old age in his own bed, mutual abandonment by the various members of the family. One of the boys went back to Korea never to be heard of again.

I saw it because the man was played by Takeshi Kitano, the director who made a string of excellent films. A feeling that the director of this film, Blood and Bones, must be on a par with Kitano for him to be a leading role in this director's film, Yoichi Sai. One I saw yesterday that Kitano directed, Scenes At The Beach was the same as a silent film. It was the story of a young guy whose job was trash collection, he's deaf and finds a broken styrofoam surfboard. He takes it home, fixes it and sets out to figure out how to surf. At the end of the movie he wins a trophy at a tournament. He has a little girlfriend who goes with him everywhere he goes. He can't talk. He can't hear and it is nearly a silent movie but for the sounds of the ocean. No soundtrack, just silence. Sometimes you hear people talking, but little of it is necessary but as sounds going on at the moment. Beautiful, quiet film. Surf about like the South Carolina coast. The most interesting part about the film was having no soundtrack or dialogue by its characters. A very great deal of communicating went on in that silence.

In the midst of my own private film festival of Kitano films, I like everything I see by him. Each one is off the wall in its own way. They tend to be way off the wall, like out in the middle of the room. He plays lead role in several of them, usually a man who is something of a loser, sometimes a yakuza mobster who goes too far, a loose cannon who tears up everything and in the end himself included. His one film that stands out from the others is Zatoich the Blind Swordsman. A Japanese samurai legend figure like Hopalong Cassidy is in television culture in America, though nothing similar as characters. Zatoichi is a blind man who has advanced senses as a result of his blindness. He was a humble man, always saves women, children and old people.

He has extrasensory knowing is the only way I can define what it is he has.

Zatoichi is the origin of Stephen Seagal's character who continues from film to film, usually with different names. Seagal, like Zatoichi, never loses. When I saw the connection, I understood. Seagal grew up in Japan with American parents, school there, his life there, then they moved to LA when he was 18. He studied martial arts since childhood. Zatoichi was a weekly television show when he was a kid, like the Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers here. Seagal understands Asian ways. He brought the legend of Zatoichi to America with him and has given it now to all the world. He doesn't kill anybody not trying to kill him. Leave him alone and he goes in peace. Pull your sword on him and you're dead, that quick.

Kitano made a good Zatoichi. The other actor in Japan who made a Zatoichi film is just as good as Kitano's version, in its own way. Both of them beautiful films that happen to be samurai films. I don't remember the name of the other man who played Zatoichi, but he also played him in the weekly television series Seagal grew up seeing. The making of them was at as high a level as the making of the film. They might have inspired Seagal in those years to take an interest in film making. They stood out in their time, certainly for television. Beautifully made, and a man of action who has the uncanny ability to disappear. Some of his adversaries call him the Ghost. Seagal's character is also like Zatoichi's in that he is portrayed as a devout believer who visits temples. The monks and other believers are his people. They're home base. Out on his travels by foot is where adventures flare up. Seagal's character works out there on the fringe when he's with The Company where something happens to him they never heard of him. Men with guns. Men with swords. Roosters with spurs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


little richard 1956

Driving in the light fog tonight coming up the mountain on the gravel part of Brown Road, what we used to call the Pine Swamp Road, it became disorienting. The sides of the road were not clearly visible in the fog. Sometimes it seemed like a big space and no road, driving over barren ground. Up the hill toward the stop sign at Air Bellows Gap Road seemed about double the distance as otherwise. I knew to stay away from the right side of the road because it dropped off pretty steep. Hugged the left side of the road almost too close sometimes. It seemed so much longer than usual I began to wonder if I was really where I thought I was. I might have come home another way and be on Bullhead Road, but knew better. Once I found the stopsign it was like finding home after being lost.

Driving down the mountain earlier in the fog I found myself a bit disoriented going down Wolfe Road from Pine Swamp Road to Mahogany Rock Road. Turned there automatically. Recognized all the houses along the way. When I pulled up to the stop sign, a sign across the road looking at me in the fog said, Mahogany Rock Road. In my mind I was on my way to Tedder Road. What the? How did I get here? I looked to the left and saw the familiar new Camaro and knew this was the right place, but where was Tedder Road? Duh. Turn left,the other side of the Camaro, left again, like always. The fog changed everything.

Rain is wetting the ground after what some weather people call a drought. I tend to think of a drought as when the ground cracks. We're nowhere near that. The rain is a soft, quiet rain that soaks into the ground, refreshes the roots of everything growing. 55 degrees outside the end of September. Yellow leaves appearing in some of the trees and some rhododendron leaves turn yellow too, before falling to the ground to add nourishment to the tree's own roots, and the roots of others nearby. In a few weeks recarpeting the forest floor will begin in earnest.

Just before I started writing, I watched a 9 minute video by George Clinton with the Funkadelics performing Atomic Dog. "It's nothin but the dog in me." It was great music, but boy was it elemental, down to basics. That's what they do. I believe there's something incredible going on with that band. They've been at it since the 60s. George Clinton is a cool old man. He's somewhere around 70 now and still funkin up audiences everywhere he plays and every recording by Funkadelics and Parliament, the same band, just different names with different labels. I saw them play in Boone 6 or 7 years ago. It was a concert to behold. He performed the concert in his pajamas and his voluminous head of dreads was wrapped in a rag that came undone a little bit as the concert wore on. They're the masters of funk. Prince in there with them.

On YouTube I've found some film footage of Little Richard in 1956 singing Long Tall Sally, those songs from that time, Rip It Up, The Girl Can't Help It, Lucille. That's when I was listening to these songs on the radio and buying 45s to play on my little box 45 player. My parents drew the line at Little Richard. I couldn't help it. It really wasn't parent defiance. At the time, I felt like it was an unfortunate consequence of something I can't help but like a lot. They disliked it a lot. I could only play Little Richard in my room down low. When I was 14 he was playing at an auditorium downtown Kansas City. I knew how to get there by bus. I wanted to go really bad, but I'm not much of an adventurer into the unknown.

The city was full of teenage gangs and hoods and knives, etc. It was the time of James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause, Marlon Brando, On The Waterfront, Mamie VanDoren, ducktails that hoods had. Elvis imitated hood style with his duck tail. Collar turned up. Zip guns, bicycle chains. It was the time of Juvenile Delinquency. The Fonz isn't even close. I knew a little bit about what was going on in those ways and hesitated to enter the unknown of a sea of probably black kids just a couple years after integration. Racial tension was sky high. 1956. I didn't feel like playing target. Then, I believed there would be no trouble, and have believed it to this day, but was too young to be certain of it. I've learned by many experiences later that I've been able to go into racially charged atmospheres and do fine. I go in peace. It works. Turns out it's a martial arts principle.

I did get to see Little Richard preach. I'd been in the mountains about a year when he turned up at Winston-Salem State Auditorium. He was good. He prowled like a jungle cat, a black leopard, wearing a black suit, back and forth along the lip of the stage like one of those cats in a cage. He has a tremendous charisma. When I was looking at his early videos, I came upon one of him at the Grammy Awards show with David Johanson (New York Dolls early 70s) in 1988. Little Richard took off making a joke, "and the winner is...ME" and laughed at his silliness. He took off talking to the audience, you never give me any awards and I'm the architect of Rock and Roll. The audience jumped to their feet to applaud him. He ended calling himself the originator. He is. There's no two ways about it. The audience knew it. Everybody knows it. He sobered up and went to open the envelope, the winner is, and he bent over in giggles like he couldn't believe what he saw. He said, Me, and broke loose laughing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


adrian kosky

Adrian Kosky is an Australian musician who plays American music rooted in blues with stretches into country and various styles of playing. Four years or so ago he traveled around America getting acquainted with acoustic musicians along the way. The picture above was made in 2006 at Cullowhee NC at a dulcimer workshop. He doesn't play a dulcimer like anybody you see at a fiddlers convention playing dulcimer. He plays it his own way. He goes at it like you would a guitar or banjo, though holding it on his lap. He finds new sounds, new ways of playing it.

A year or less ago he found my blog online in Australia. He wrote and introduced himself. He is a busy man. He has created something of an artist colony for musical and visual arts. It's in south central Australia. We wrote back and forth a bit. I recently found one of his cds called Dirty White Blues and like it. It's playing now. Finally, today it occurred to me to look him up at YouTube and there he was, playing dulcimer, taking it seriously as an instrument, making it sing. I could see him at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn on a Friday night. Scott could work with him musically very well. Australia is a bit of a journey to make for gas money. Hearing so much live music in these mountains I've come to appreciate musicianship more and more as years go by.

This evening I searched "galax banjo" at YouTube and listened to all of the top 10 bluegrass banjo pickers this year. All I could think was I'm glad I'm not in a position to judge them. They all sound equally good to my untrained ear. It seemed like #8 was a perfect match with #1. The one I enjoyed the most was #4. Stevie Barr was #1 and he was awfully good. His performance was flawless. The music flowed with him. All I could figure on why none of the others got first was probably a missed note or loss of the rhythm for a split second. I tried to listen to why Linwood Lunsford got #8 and didn't feel like #2 was really better than him. But I don't know what judges listen for, and I hope all judges are musicians. I listen to music uncritically now.

I listen to musicianship, which is good in everyone in these mountains who dares record. When I say a band is among the best, that's what I mean. In every region there are the better musicians who tend to play with their equals. In these mountains there are so many good musicians it's hard to say good, better, best about them unless it's somebody like Benton Flippen playing a fiddle. It's easy to say the best about him. But every region has its equal to one of the best in our area. We have Richard Bowman, Jacob Bowen, Eddie Bond, Lynn Worth, Thornton Spencer, Kilby Spencer, Wade Petty, Jeff Michael, Henry Mabe among the fiddlers of our region. I can't say one is better than another. Maybe they could, but I can't.

I hear different styles of playing, and that's what I listen to now. Mountain music has improved my ear for all other musics I listen to. I appreciate musicianship more than ever. I live among so many people who are such good musicians it's humbling. I'm of the notion that mountain music is of the spirit of these mountains, of the old ways people lived before electricity. Though the culture may fade away, the music will be carried on for probably a long time to come. As long as the music is alive, the spirit of the mountain way of life continues, and much of it is recorded.

I love it when I discover new (to me) music. Josh Willis, whose parents live in Winston-Salem and own the next farm, the Willis Farm in Air Bellows, was passing through here last week on his way from a couple years in Philadelphia where he played open-back banjo and bass with a band called TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb. You can find them on YouTube. He also made a cd of his own band he calls Jubel Jenkins. It's on YouTube too. fHe left a cd with me of each band. What I hear of what he's doing is interestingly understated. He doesn't put his banjo out front, uses it for melodic rhythm. Josh is a good musician.

He's on his way to New Orleans via Chatanooga to see his brother, Hank, then to below sea level to the city where he spent a couple years before Philadelphia, after Katrina. I think he wants to be a part of the new music scene that starts up in New Orleans after the city was swept away, people shipped to other states, the music world there history. It can never be the same, because the elements that made New Orleans a music capital are not there anymore. Some of the musicians are coming back and new musicians are coming in. I think Josh feels some interesting musical energy generating there. I wish you the best, Josh.

Monday, September 27, 2010


lucas pasley, fiddle; chris johnson, banjo

Rain all day today, rain awhile and let up, rain awhile and let up. Fog all day with it. Not an outdoor day for cats. At the computer I wrote Sparta NC in the search box at YouTube and found a drive through Sparta from beyond the old pipe factory water tower into and through town all the way through almost to Blevins where the bypass comes in. It was called Main St In Sparta NC. It's worth the visit for the fun of it. A ride we know so well, everything familiar along the way. I like that smooth curve the road takes from the old pipe factory down and a curve to the right, then left to cross the bridge, then KFC and the smooth curve to the right. It has a nice flow through there. Actually, come to think of it, the road through Sparta has a smooth flow all the way through, up and down to Gap Civil. The traffic moves fairly well along there too. Except for Friday afternoons. It takes as long waiting to make a left turn onto Main St anywhere but at a light as it takes in Myrtle Beach to get onto hwy 17. A hundred times more cars there, but waiting for an opening with 4 lanes each way takes no longer than in Sparta.

Also found of local interest the Junior Appalachian Musician program band Borderline 3 years ago. They played Leather Britches and did a respectable job of it. When the audience caught on that these fellers were about making some music, the whoopin and hollerin started and then it settled down and everyone listened to these kids a-layin it to it, and roared for them when they were done. Chris Johnson, banjo, and Justin Willey, mandolin, got with Lucas Pasley, fiddle, teacher at the high school, and Justin Willey's dad, Jerod, who plays bass. They've gone on calling themselves Borderline. I've put up about 5 videos of them from a concert in the summer. I headlined it Borderline Old Time Band because there is an infinite list of things called Borderline. This title goes straight to it.

Lucas Pasely is a fiddler with a long list of fiddlers in his genealogy, a great-great uncle was Guy Brooks of the Red Fox Chasers, the first musicians from Alleghany to record, back in 1928.
Brooks was a preacher, I've been told, probably Regular Baptist, and was given his letter by the church over a record he made with the Red Fox Chasers, a comic kind of thing that was funny in the Twenties, the guys in the band talking like they're drinking and having a good time with some mountain liquor. It's still funny, today. But it didn't set too well with the people in the Association, the preacher making a record about being drunk and talking about drinking. Whether he took a drink (inhaled) was neither here nor there. That must have been why he moved to Wilkes County and wasn't heard much from anymore, as far as I know, which isn't much, and probably inaccurate. Lucas Pasley, whose grandmother was a Brooks, has that natural ability to pick up a stringed instrument and figure it out right away and has the intelligence to hone his playing to mastery. It's good for him to have some teenage energy pushing him to make that fiddle bow do its thing.

Borderline is already a band in the county. There is the Jubilee band, Rise and Shine Band and Town and Country, where some of the better musicians in the county are playing. I believe Borderline has played at the Jubilee a time or two. Being young musicians, they're given the stage quite a lot and by now they've played about everywhere around here, and always to a happy crowd. When they come out on the stage you see a bunch of kids. When the music starts, it's just a few seconds into it you know this is going to be some music. They have drive in abundance. These boys are going to make some excellent musicians. They already are. It's fun for me to see a band in its early years and watch them mature. It's how it was in the old days, people paying attention to a young fiddler or banjo or guitar picker and watching them over the years at fiddlers conventions, watching them go from #10 to #1 over a period of years, watching them mature and become known as one of the better ones around. I've listened to some old men in their 80s tell of watching such fiddlers as Thornton Spencer and Jeff Michael improve over the years to where they've become masters.

The music at the Front Porch Gallery is good as it gets every week. I don't know how long it will last into winter, and feel like I don't want to miss anything, because there's no music better anywhere around. May be the equal, but none better. Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart put the show on each week and have a guest artist they accompany as needed. When Johnny and Jeanette Williams played there, it was on the moment they hit their first licks. Using a 5star rating system like netflix, I'd give all the bands that played there 5 stars. Scott showed a list of who will be there over the next month and it's more of the same, music as good as it gets. It's curious to all dozen of us who go there regularly why there are never more than a dozen or 14.
It can only hold about 2 dozen comfortably. We who go regularly are happy as kids for 2 hours every Friday night. We've come to know each other and it's turned into a house party. The musicians love to play for a small crowd like that. It's intimate the way music is shared best.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


september goldenrod

Rain today and temperature down to 60. Good day for a sweatshirt. Spent the day napping and painted a few hours. The rain is good sleeping weather. Light fog with the rain.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


scott freeman layin it to it

When my mind has been functioning today it has been puzzled by the dive civilization is taking. In my earlier years, college years, last half of the 60s, when I was becoming aware of civilization, it seemed like there was a bit of hope possible then, that we're improving, becoming a more humane society. What I didn't know then, and I suspect many others didn't either, was the momentum of nation building had come to a halt in the time of the Kennedy assassination and we didn't feel it yet. By now we're seeing and feeling what followed, and I don't feel any hope for civilization and can't say I know anybody that does. Surely some do, but I don't know where. It would have to be pre-school. The upper-case Bank (corporate takeover of all the world's governments) might fulfill the prophecy of what's to follow global business and government.

It feels to me like we went over the top in our collective American wheel of fortune. Fortune got better and better with us. We were at the top of the wheel about the time of the Kennedy assassination. From then on it's been downhill and since 1980 it's been a downhill run. This is why I don't believe a recovery from this "recession" is on its way. It's more like the beginning of a gradual decline that becomes steeper and steeper. I used to think Obama might turn us away from the momentum of the last half century, but don't see that anymore. Like Ralph Nader gave as his reasoning for consciously taking votes away from Gore in Bush's favor, he said the Republicans will get us "there" faster. There, I take to mean to the breaking point when our government turns away from the people and the people see the need to rise up. Though with all the divisive propaganda we've been receiving for the last 30 years that's been working, we're most likely to rise up in civil war, one bunch of ideologues against another.

My solution is to forget thinking any good will come from our government to the American people from this point on. I used to believe our government had our best interest at heart, and have seen throughout my lifetime it's true, if you're a corporation. If I can get it out of my head that keeping up with what they're doing in Washington DC this year is about the same as reading about any year picked from the past, 1813, I'd maybe read more history. It's only aggravation I feel thinking about those people I believe to be traitors, in that they say I'll do this for you to get your vote, then when they've got it, never heard of you. What'd you say your name was? Remember elections in high school? Suddenly whoever is running for election is glad to see you suddenly after never seeing you before. A guy I went to school with in Charleston had business ambition and political. When he was doing very well in his business a state politician took him for a huge amount of money, lost the election, no money to pay you back with. Sorry. His health broke down and he died not long after. Betrayal. That's why I don't honor politicians. Part of why. Every one of them meets the description of John Lennon's song, Nowhere Man, esp Lyndon Johnson who was president at the time of the song, lying us into the war in Vietnam and everything else. I was glad to see him go out in disgrace. One of those moments where Justice seems to work.

The news is good entertainment, nonetheless. The soap opera for men. Daytime soaps advertise washing machine detergent. The story line goes nothin aint never right, ever-things always bad as it can get. Evening soaps advertise soap for shaving. Tune in tomorrow and see more action of US troops bullying the poor people of the world, System Of A Down pounding in their headphones patrolling with machine guns. We're Number One. Numero Uno in case you don't know English. On NPR it's the same without the slide show of a few seconds of action shots, a tank shooting its big gun, moslems praying, homes broken into at night by troops with flashlights on their guns, barking in English, a useless language except for tone of voice and body language. We get a chamber pot full of propaganda in the face telling us it is necessary for our "freedom" to destroy what's left of a helpless country, then leave with a chip on the shoulder saying clean up your own mess. It's your fault. I can hear that mess now and laugh at it. Because I can't change the course of anything beyond myself.
I get brief lectures from people who want me to believe I can change things. Look at biographies of people who changed big things with an idea. I don't care enough to spend the rest of my life in court. Cindy Sheehan is still beating her head against a concrete wall. I prefer to stay at home and paint, write to you, listen to good music and watch good movies. I don't have a lot of time left any way you look at it, and see no reason to spend my later years in aggravation over what a bunch of certified frauds are doing and claiming it's for my benefit. I'll stay at home, tune them out, watch movies, read good books, and practice allowing--allowing all others to do whatever suits them to do and allowing myself the same. I'll practice living like the Bible recommends, giving no importance to the temporal. I kind of tend that way anyway. Now is a good time to take it further, get closer to it. Still, it hurts to lose a friend and a pet.

Friday, September 24, 2010


      mike gayheart, bass; jimmy zeh, bluegrass banjo

Tonight was Jimmy Zeh (pron: zay) playing banjo at the Front Porch in Woodlawn, Virginia, with Mike Gayheart (son of Willard) playing bass, Willard Gayheart, guitar, and Scott Freeman, mandolin. Everybody sang, Willard mostly. Jimmy Zeh and Willard have been with the Galax bluegrass band, the Highlanders, 40 years. Tonight was like a Highlanders get together for them. It was a good band for a couple hours of music. Scott's artistry with the mandolin is like the waves on a lake the moonlight dances on. As usual, I leave the house with expectation high as the sky and come home satisfied every week. Jimmy Zeh wasn't one to put himself forward and be the star of the show. He made music with the other musicians, the four of them a quartet.

He's a good entertainer and a good banjo picker and everything about his demeanor says he's a good man. His wife was along. She was so comfortable with him it told me he's as good a man at home as he appears out and about. I had the feeling loud and clear that what I was seeing of him is who he was. The man inside is the very man on the outside. He was interesting to me in that way, a man open and friendly other people tend to like, and it's all from who he is, not what he thinks he ought to be or putting on fakery. His wife sang a song with him and when they were singing she was looking at her best friend. I felt good for both of them. They seemed truly happy they're together. I can't help but admire what I see as genuine love between two people who have been mates a long time. It's not particularly common. Or, anyway, it's not common in my experience.

As I'm painting Willard now, I find I'm thinking more about what Willard has done musically in his time in Galax. He's made several albums with the Highlanders, 2 albums with Skeeter and The Skidmarks, 4 albums with Alternate Roots, 2 with Bobby Patterson of their duo. He's done countless performances on stage, has been a bluegrass singer all the way along. He writes good songs. All these bands have a foundational sound that runs through all of them that is the Willard Gayheart sound. Willard and Scott, his son-in-law are intuitional partners in music. Most importantly, they inspire and encourage one another, make music together as one. It's family music with a guest artist each week.

Next week is Butch Robbins, from Pulaski, Virginia. He's played quite a while with Bill Monroe and is one of the better respected bluegrass banjo pickers up there with Terry Baucom, meaning he's that kind of good. Getting Butch Robbins there is as good as getting Jeanette Williams there. These are people who command pretty fair rates for musical performances. They play at the Front Porch for gas money. It's a fun jam with good musical friends who play so well it's a joy to make music with them. All the musicians who have played there love making music with Willard and Scott, because they're such seasoned musicians, so good at making the music flow, and so generous musically in that they support the guest artists, not outshine them.

Good show tonight. It felt like a band playing tonight. They made good music together and worked well together passing the music from one to the next. I took Josh Willis along from the Willis farm next door. He's passing through on his way from Philadelphia to New Orleans via Chattanooga to see his brother Hank. Josh is a musician with an old-time banjo and a bass. He came away from the music tonight saying it inspired him. I'm willing to spend my gas money to drive to Woodlawn and back every week to hear this music that is among the best in the central Blue Ridge by musicians playing for gas money. There is something very real about this music and the people that make it.


Thursday, September 23, 2010


robert mangold

In case you're wondering what this image is about, earlier I was surfing YouTube looking for videos of shows by particular artists I like a lot, but don't get to see much of. Mangold I went to first. Then Barnett Newman, who largely painted vertical stripes on a field of a given color, and the vertical stripes will be of a given color. Example: In the modern art museum in Amsterdam was a Newman something like 15 feet long and about 7 feet high. At least this size. The surface is painted a gorgeous red the likes of which you only find in China where they really know red. A vertical stripe on the left side in blue, maybe 7 or 8 inches wide. On the right side a vertical stripe of yellow maybe a couple inches wide. It was heralded as one of the great pieces of art of that period of the modern era. Some mentally imbalanced mess, no doubt a drug casualty, walked the length of it with a knife slicing a gash all the way. A glitch in civilization. Art restorationists have never, as of the last I read about it, years ago, been able to bring it back to the original luminous color. I think it died.

Last time I was in NY, a long time ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the 20th century area with a friend who knew NY. She freaked me out. We came around a corner and stood face to face with an upright slab of steel standing straight up without visible assistance, maybe 7 feet wide and 5 feet high. This is memory coming up with these measurements. I'll have to say it's ballpark, approximately, margin of error, 30%. It was attributed to Ellsworth Kelly, an artist I think a very great deal of, a very great deal. She set out on a harangue about expecting her to believe that's art when it's nothing but a slab of steel. It went on and on. I went and sat before a Pollack that knocked my sox off. Another harangue, it's nothing but slung paint. Anybody can do that. My thought response I kept to myself, then why isn't anybody else doing it? We didn't have much fun that day. I wanted to go to the Egyptian section and see sculptures and one thing and another. She'd wait outside. She's Jewish. Egyptians are enemies of the Jews. Ok. Whatever. They're also the source of Western Civilization, but what does that matter? It was good to get back to the mountains. That's my Ellsworth Kelly story.

Found a video of Barnett Newman, the one who does vertical stripes, the 12 paintings of his in the National Gallery in DC called The Stations of the Cross. They were mostly vertical white canvases with a vertical black line on it, different places on different ones, then a wide black line and a narrow black line on white. Then it went to a canvas of off-white paint with a white vertical stripe. Then one with 2 white vertical stripes. I've stood in that room, a whole room devoted to these paintings, next door to a room full of Mark Rothko paintings that glowed on the walls. I remember those two rooms and forget almost everything else in there except a Robert Motherwell Ode to the Spanish Republic, big black forms on white, and a thing by Robert Rauschenberg that looked like a small cardboard box, maybe a foot and a half square, memory dimensions again, smashed flat and hung on the wall. That's exactly what it looked like because that's what it was. Until I looked behind it and saw it was made of clay. I went back to look at the front and it was still a cardboard box. I think 2 of them hung side by side.

I found a video of an exhibition of color field artists, including all I've mentioned here and several others. I knew I liked this kind of painting an awful lot, but never saw a show of several, just one in art magazines at a time or art books. It's not like I have access to museums, so I'm finding YouTube a magnificent resource for art of the 20th century. I've just begun to tap it. Looked up some RB Kitaj, too. In fact, it was a show of his at the Met that my friend and I went to see, because she wanted to see it, likes him a lot. It was incredible. Until I wanted to see some more abstract sorts of things with the abstract expressionists and minimalists. I suppose I had her along as an anchor to keep my feet on the ground instead of having an ecstatic experience surrounded on all walls by art I love in a great big way. Kelly most often puts two colors in relation to each other. He uses shapes like circle, rectangle, triangle, square, vertical lines, horizontal lines. I was looking at a few places on YouTube of exhibitions of Kelly that I can only say moved me emotionally. An intake of breath and a feeling of joy looking something like the one above by Robert Mangold, whose work isn't a whole lot different from Kelly's and at the same time very different.

After that, I swore off going to museums any way but alone. I'd had other museum experiences with somebody along that were never satisfactory. I don't even like to go to movies with somebody any more. It's fun to take a kid to see Ninja Turtles 1, 2 & 3, or watch Weird Al videos with kids. That's a lot of fun. Kids get tickled at funny skits or whatever and laugh like crazy. Now with netflix I don't have to miss everything. I heard this morning or yesterday on the news that Blockbuster has declared bankruptcy and netflix stock is going way up. Last time I was at the video store in Sparta, I brought one back one day late and had to pay over $5. I could have walked out the door, because it was my first thought when he told me that. He looked like maybe 17 in a heavy metal tshirt, a bit overweight--sign of a video game nerd. Maybe 2nd or 3rd day on the job. When I paid it I didn't want to say anything dramatic like you'll never see me in here again, though that was my meaning when I said, "Netflix is gonna put y'all out of business." "Huh?" "Never mind." When they sell out here, I'm not going to go looking for bargains on dvds. They've never had much I wanted to see. Bruce Lee about covered it for foreign films.

In many ways I can call this the best period of my life. Free to paint as I want to paint now that I know what I want to paint. Netflix for movies I love, nearly every one. All my adult life I've loved what are called foreign films. This doesn't mean I don't like any American films. It only means I like foreign films, movies in other languages and stories in other cultures, as well as my own. I've heard it enough times in response when I confess I like foreign films, What's wrong with American films? Like this is the Rush Limbaugh show, Wimp! Whatever. It's like that country song from some time ago, If you don't know, I aint a-gonna tell ya. From now on it's up to you, baby. Today's Kitano film was Kids Return. I'm glad I found Kitano. I like every one of his films. That can be said of many others, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, too many to list. The joy of it is films from everywhere in the world; Senegal, Thailand, Denmark, South Africa, Brazil, just a few in a very long list. Painting what I want to paint as I want to paint it, seeing 2 and 3 movies a week of the best films I've ever seen, hearing whatever music I want to hear, writing to you every day, reading what I want to read in my Blue Ridge Mountain home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010



Today's film was Dolls by Takeshi Kitano, Japanese, 2002. Kitano is one very interesting director. This film opened with a Japanese puppet show of a man and a woman in some kind of drama. It's a professional puppet troupe, masters at handling the dolls telling the story by their movements in relation to one another. Someone sings the story and someone plays a shamisen, something like a 3 string Japanese banjo. After the puppet dance came the a story acted out by two people in a kind of complex relationship. They were in love. He promised to marry her, then turned and went to marry someone else. Girl 1 attempts to kill herself. It didn't take, but left her in a vegetative state. Boy feels terrible, goes and takes her with him. He tied a red rope around each of their waists and they walked dragging the rope that allowed 10 or 12 feet between them. They spent the entire film walking. It became a film of beautiful clothes they wore, different from scene to scene, and colors of the seasons. Not much goes on. They just walk.

About all the time not watching the movie I was painting. Smearing paint onto a 2'x2' canvas covering it up. I'm feeling good about the direction it's taking. That's a good sign. It's becoming quite colorful. The colors bring to mind RB Kitaj, though only the colors. That's because I tend to primary colors like he does. It feels good painting with zeal, wanting to, In this one the figure is almost life size so the folds in the shirt are long and casual, fingers more manageable. All I want to do now is paint. It's fun playing with colors. I need to find sleep. Will end here for today and go lie down til morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


As promised, I've put on Einstein On The Beach. It's something I love I play very little because it is 3 cds long and requires stillness on my part the whole time. Sitting here looking at the monitor wondering where to start, I remembered yesterday's promise to listen to Einstein On The Beach this time. See what happens. It was recorded 20 years ago and has not dated the least little bit. It's reminding me I don't listen to Philip Glass enough. I have a lot of his music and seldom think to listen to it. YouTube has a lot of short scenes from the performance, which is so expensive to produce I think it's only been put on in one place. I'd like to see a film of the whole thing. Surely it was filmed or there wouldn't be YouTube excerpts.

It's one of those stage productions that is site-specific NYC. It's one many reasons I've wanted to live in NY in the past. It's a city that has some of the benefits of a city, a lot of art in every form, to balance the horrors of living in a city. But it wasn't in my cards, it's not in my nature, obviously not in my karma. Big consideration: why live in a target? Why be a target for random violence? I'm too lazy to live in a high energy place like that. The lonely crowd comes to mind. It would be like living in a bee hive. I'd have to make a lot of money and have a lot of free time for all the reasons I'd want to live in NY. If I did live there I'd probably not do 1/100th of what I'd want to be there for. So I live on Waterfall Road with netflix and YouTube supplying my desire to see performance art, great films from all over the world. When it comes to blessed, I think of the Friday night music at The Front Porch Gallery, the best music in the area, and netflix. For somebody who loves a good movie, there's no better deal than netflix.

Josh Willis called from the next farm. He's in transit from Philadelphia to New Orleans, after being in Philly a few years after New Orleans for a few years after Katrina. He says he loves New Orleans and is on his way back, stopping here at the farm for a vacation where he intends to teach himself trombone anticipating playing it in New Orleans. I went over there and we talked over a couple of bottles of wine until it was late. It was fun talking with somebody whose only experience is city. It's a different culture all together from country culture, let alone mountain country culture. I was listening to somebody talk who the mountains have not yet put in his place, as Ralph Stanley said of the mountains. They do put you in your place. They put you in proportion to the bigger picture, by which I mean God, not Big Brother Government or whatever is presently correct.

Josh played some interesting jazz from the fifties, Zoot Sims and Duke Ellington. We talked of this and that. He swore he was going to get me on Ira Glass's This American Life, which made me laugh out loud. I laughed and he was serious. I'm of the mountains where words don't mean antyhing until action bears them out. He's of the city where words are everything, meaning not much. Yet he's a guy of meaning, so it makes me not want to write him off as absurd, though that's how I receive it. I've no interest in being on tv esp on This American Life, the freak show. It's the kind of thing where it sounds like he's serious, but I hope it's bullshitting with a head full of wine, "I'm gonna." Anyway, we had a good visit once we got off that subject. Somebody trying to talk me into something I'm not going to do, like go to New Orleans, like I gotta, and I had to say I don't cross the county line without knowing I'm going to be back to sleep in my own bed. I'm not going to New Orleans. it takes people a while sometimes to catch on that I'm a Taurus, I really am. You don't know what stubborn is until you set out to get me to do something I'm not going to do. My attitude is I'm in control. If I'm not going to, I aint gonna.

I'm so much a Taurus that just reading the general description is me specifically. We were sitting across the table, wine glasses between us, him telling me I'm going to New Orleans and me letting him talk. I'm not flying anyplace and not driving that far. My reason for flying is not fear of dying, but refusal to subject myself to fascism in airports. For all I know, I'm on the no-fly list. I ought to be just because I believe they're the enemy, making me their enemy. The time in the Navy threatening to blow the hell out of Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, another helpless nation for the bully superpower to attack, because Communists were a problem. Communists in Latin America. Unthinkable. Not permitted. 57 Communists in Washington DC, 57 Communists in Chapel Hill, 57 Communists in High Point. Are they the same 57 or different 57s? Now we have terrorists undercover FBI men fire up to make some revolutionary statement on tape and zap them into prison when they were no threat at all. Just the thrill of putting somebody away. All of which is to say, I aint going to no damn New Orleans. I have all I have to do right here where I belong.

Monday, September 20, 2010


little waterfall

Hearing the so-called news cracks me up any more. Got into a day of several hours before a canvas getting a new one going. NPR talk radio on, Diane Rehm, World Have Your Say, The World and some others I didn't pay much attention to. The soothing quality of white noise, human voices talking nonsense syllables in the background, what I'm doing with the brush in the foreground. So far, it's ok, but it needs a lot of work. I laughed like it was comedy central. The recession, the worst since the Great Depression, is "officially ended." My first thought: is this the next Mission Accomplished? Makes good tv. Except nobody who works for a living believes it. Because it's so difficult to believe I suppose they had to give it the label, "officially." Thus Spake Propaganda Central. If you believe this, it doesn't really matter if you do or if you don't, I tell myself, it's a leap of faith. And I don't have that much faith in the people who make such pronouncements we're expected to believe just because They said it.

Often today I heard the word change batted about like a tennis ball. Much of it had to do with democracy Iran. The various people talking, "activists," in Turkey for democracy, fighting for democracy in anti-democratic places, they'll be beating their heads against prison walls soon, questioning if it was, not to mention worth it, anything other than stupid. I expect in a Turkish or Iranian prison as a political prisoner they'll come to the conclusion they were stupid before the end of the first day. I don't get this notion that Democracy can be enforced by military take-over against a people's will to the point the people become the enemy, especially when it is the anti-democratic forces back home in the US of A that are spreading Democracy by killing as many people as possible, calling people fighting for their own country insurgents and terrorists. It's become something of a b&w John Wayne movie with a heavy metal soundtack. Talking about change. They want change. Change is good.

I'm hearing "change" more and more from people talking in the news. This is how it happens. When the need for change reaches the point of civil unrest, the measure of the given dictator is recorded by what comes next. Whichever way it goes, it's change. I am in the midst of a culture that has faded away before my eyes, and I see that all over the world. In Mongolia the people that herded sheep, camels and lived in the grasslands, one place in winter, another in summer, in balance with the natural world, have had to move to the cities, because that old way of life doesn't work anymore. But the cities don't work either. Desert is taking over Inner Mongolia under Chinese supervision. Plenty of change there. I live among people who don't want change, who want to hang on to the old ways that were moral where people seemed to have some use for one another, very different from the culture that is moving in, changing the culture such that kids dress like California kids. Walmart. Corporate culture informed entirely by corporate sponsored tv.

Another news item that held my attention, a prosecutor someplace charged with texting the wife of the man he was prosecuting, "Meet me at an autopsy wearing high heels." That's not all, just the one that executed his credibility. Either the guy has a zany sense of humor or he's severely twisted. I'm inclined to suppose the latter. Things are changing fast in his life about now, caught being stupid. A couple days ago I saw on YouTube a scene from an elevator camera of a young Asian girl with a backpack getting on and punching the button for her floor. A guy comes running and gets in just in time. When the elevator arrived at her floor and the door opened, he punched the button to close the door and set about attacking her with rape his intent. She pummeled the hell out of him. When the door opened he scrambled to get up and out of there. He ran down the hall. She ran after him. One of the many great YouTube moments like the dog dancing merengue with a smile on her face the whole time, doing what she loved doing most, dolphins blowing bubble rings, the Rolling Stones doing King Bee live, Joy Division doing Transmission live.

A lot of talk about the internet making changes, because an individual voice has great possible distribution, talk about the democracy of the web. So one side of a given argument can be presented well on the internet. It's counter argument has the same forum. Where is the advantage? It strikes me as the ideal entertainment. I can fuss with it for hours, watching something 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and the time goes by. I find comedy on there almost as funny as the news. You can see Lyndon Johnson lying with a straight face to the American people about the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident. At least he left office in disgrace. I think when I paint tomorrow I'll play Philip Glass's Einstein On The Beach. I heard enough news to last me awhile. It was a humorous day, laughing at the lies I'm expected to believe, lies I would make myself believe if I were on the climb, but I am comfortable with no status and surely don't want to get in the climb up the assets ladder where everyone is known by their net worth and pretend self-image. Like David Bowie said in a song, "Gonna be some strange changes." Things are changing so fast now I don't know what to but hang five and see where it's going.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


fallen tree

Nothing comes forward today. Been sitting here waiting for so long there's nothing to do but shut down and read. Spent most of the day in bed. Wake from a nap, take another, wake from it, take another. This has been such a busy week I've got little of my own work done. Go here and there, meet here and there, something every day. None of it objectionable, just that there's so much of it. Every day. Today, Sunday, was shut-down day. I didn't do anything today. A few emails and that was it. The only thing my mind is doing today is looking for the composition of the next painting, the size I want to use, setting the figure in the frame in a way that makes an interesting picture no matter who the figure is. Of course, it's about who the figure is, but if there comes a time it turns up at the Hillville flea market, I want it not to matter who it is, for the picture itself to have its own value.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


scott freeman (fiddle) & michael fox (dulcijo)

The last of last night's videos from the Front Porch is uploading onto YouTube now. Two of Michael Fox's story-telling tales I recorded and uploaded. One is him telling (reciting doesn't sound right for how he told it) the Stephen Vincent Benet poem, The Mountain Whippoorwill,
the other his story of why he calls his "ducijo" his "green banjo." At the end of The Mountain Whippoorwill, Scott Freeman joined him with fiddle and they played Hell Broke Loose in Georgia, the tune the hillbilly boy played in the Benet poem. I've read it over a couple of times now, and have listened to Michael telling it, in awe of Benet as a poet. He gets inside the fiddler's head while he's fiddling. He gets the rhythm of the tune going with words, phrases. It rewards a good reading.
Also uploaded 4 songs by Michael and Donna. I had one of Donna singing by herself an old song called Little Margaret. For reasons "unknown" it didn't take at YouTube. It does that from time to time. I have no idea why, and when I've tried uploading them again, they don't take again, so I wasn't able. I made the pictures with a zoom from the back of the room, which emphasizes my trembly hands, and I found the big chrome mic with the long chrome stand caused the automatic focus in the camera going all the time. When it is in the central region of the frame, the auto focus goes crazy. Donna's mic had a black stand and the auto focus didn't change with her. On Michael it was all the time, because he used the big chrome mic. I've wondered before why the focus changed a lot sometimes. It read distance by light somehow. That chrome stand play havoc with the auto mechanism. Everything from last night is up now on YouTube. Write in the Search box hobblealong1 and last nights entries ought to be at the top of what comes up.
I bypassed the Mtn Heritage Fest in Sparta today. There were bands I wanted to see. I had to go in to town to the library and Halsey Drug. Went in the back way. Cars parked everywhere. The library parking all filled up. Every parking place was filled up. At Halsey Drug the parking lot was full, both sides of the street between the PO and Ed Adams lined with cars. I went back out 18 north and re-entered Sparta by the street next to the bowling alley. I wanted out of there. Turned left on 21, drove out to the Circle L and had a good lunch. From there I came home. I wanted to spend the day getting those videos uploaded, wanted to plan the composition of the next portrait of a mountain musician, wanted to see a Takeshi Kitano film, Kikujiro.
I've lined all his films up at the top of the Q at netflix, giving myself a Takeshi Kitano film festival. He makes zany, off the wall kinds of films. Today's was himself acting a man of such an unpleasing personality he kept everybody at a distance, yet he's an interesting kind of guy at the same time. He and his wife, who nags at him all the time for being such a worthless slug, are friends with a boy's grandmother who is keeping the boy. The boy's mother lived some distance away in another city. The boy wanted to go see his mother, so the man's wife sent him with the boy to help him get there and back. They make the journey and the story is their adventures along the way, comic goofball kinds of adventures that are more adventures of the mind than physical adventures.
A little bit of me wanted to go to the Mtn Heritage Fest in Sparta, but the immensity of the crowd intimidated me. I wasn't going to buy anything. And I'm not one to shop just be to be shopping. I felt good for the people who put it all together. It was a good enough crowd they didn't need one more, esp a nonpaying one. I was advised at the library that I should paint scenes on circular saw blades---I'd make a lot of money. I oughta get a job if I want to make money. What I really ought to do is go up to the Air Bellows Outdoor Art Museum and make a contribution before winter. That's more my speed.

Friday, September 17, 2010


michael fox and donna fox

Michael Fox is somebody Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart have known for a long time, though haven't seen a great deal over the years due to distance. The Foxes drove to Woodlawn from Hickory, NC. They come to the mountains as much as they can to make music and be in the midst of mountain music. They keep a good highway car for the road. Mike, I think he goes by, started the program with a recitation of Stephen Vincent Benet's poem, The Mountain Whippoorwill (Or, How Hill-Billy Jim Won The Great Fiddler's Prize). It can be found online using Benet's name and/or the title, The Mountain Whippoorwill, ought do it googling. It's the story of a hillbilly kid who takes his fiddle to a fiddler's convention. Stephen Vincent Benet appreciated old-time fiddling. He cut loose telling a fiddle tune in poetry as it's happening, and he got er done. By the time he finished the story it had the power of the fiddle tune Hell Broke Loose in Georgia and Charlie Daniels fiddlin with the devil hisself.

I was thinking I've not given Stephen Vincent Benet any attention heretofore. Already, I've looked up some poems of his while looking for this one, and read a stanza or two, sometimes a complete one. One I particularly liked was The Innovator. I heard the director of the film Replacement Killers say of making his first film, if it doesn't make it, he'll be dragged through the mud and a career is over making feature length films at the start, but if it succeeds, he's on his way. Somebody applauded too soon for genius, in Benet's poem, like the guy who falsified scientific findings to do with cold fusion. He was made out ready for the next Nobel Prize, until the tests others ran of his findings didn't work out. Everything fell down on him. Credibility over. No second chance. Don't let the door hit you in the derriere, dearie.

It was a moment like when Buddy Pendleton started playing his fiddle I'd never heard before, it wasn't but a short ways into the first tune that I was thinking, I've never heard any fiddling like this, ever. Every fiddler has his own style, and Pendleton's is wonderfully unique. Michael Fox got my attention that quickly when he started telling the Benet poem. When it got into the different fiddlers at the fiddler's convention and how they played, then the hillbilly boy from "up in the mountains where it's lonesome all the time," laid the bow to the strings on his fiddle cutting loose with Hell Broke Loose In Georgia, I was blown away that Benet appreciated mountain fiddlers. I got video of it and will put it on YouTube tomorrow. Fox brought the poem to life simply letting the words do the telling. He just remembered all the words, quite a serious effort, especially to tell it with the music that is in the words and the lines. He told it as if it were his own. It was the same as singing an old ballad a capella.

The man can make some music too with 3 strings on his instrument he calls a dulcijo. It has the 3 strings of a dulcimer, a long neck like a banjo with a smaller banjo head. He is a master of the instrument. He was all over that thing and making some music while he was at it. It was beautiful music he made with it. Some videos of him playing will be on YouTube before end of weekend. Included is Donna, who plays bass to accompany him, but chose not to bring it so far on the road. She brought a guitar, an Irish drum and a washboard played with an old-timey hard bristle scrub brush. She made it sound good. She sang some good songs. I was well entertained musically every tune. He has a tremendous amount of music in his picking. With that 3-stringer he kept the music rolling.

Scott joined them with fiddle a time or two and Willard too. As always, the music from start to finish was a hundred percent satisfying. The whole hog. This music tonight was again such that I could want no other in its place. Hearing Keith Richard and Ron Woods jamming with acoustic guitars would be pretty dynamic, but no better musicianship than what we hear at the Front Porch, and that's not taking anything away from the 2 Stones. They are incredible musicians. And so are the people that play at the Front Porch. It's generous of Scott and Willard to give their time and energy to this project. It's certainly not about making money at 5 bucks a head. I'm aware of their generosity every week. For them, it's an opportunity to make music and give other musicians in the area a small, intimate stage on the same level with the audience, the kind of venue musicians like to play for so much they'll do it for gas money. It's mountain tradition. The musicians who play there love to make music with Scott and Willard. When they all get going it's mountain music Central Blue Ridge style.

I'm grateful I lost, albeit temporarily, my first digital camera and needed a replacement. The new one did things I didn't know anything about and all I wanted to do was take snapshots. Found it does video and have been making videos of these shows since discovering the feature. It does the sound well and the visuals well. These shows are so incredibly good musically, I feel privileged to be there in the first place, and all the more to be putting them on YouTube where they can be appreciated beyond the moment. In a minor way, I think of it as archiving. That the music is so good is, of course, the reason for uploading it, and the music itself makes them nice videos when all I have to do is hold the camera still as possible without jerking it too much, or coughing, or thinking about something else.

Thursday, September 16, 2010



Just now heard Etta James sing, I'd Rather Go Blind. The woman could sing a song. YouTube is an amazing thing. I even found a b&w video of Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Recently on NPR was a human interest story of the writing of that song. The lynching happened in Indiana, yet the song starts, "Southern trees bear strange fruit," the strange fruit being black bodies hanging from ropes. Here's a lynching the other side of the Mason Dixon Line then it's told as a Southern lynching. I can't help but bring up a statistic I read in a historical journal of a lynching in Missouri. In Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia the population was half black, half white. Of the lynchings that occurred in those states, one of ten was black. This says 90% of lynchings were of white men, maybe some women too. This tells me lynchings were a populist way of dealing with crime in a time when law enforcement didn't have much of a budget. It looks to me like more heaping blame on the South from outside the South where people know nothing whatsoever of what's going on in the South.
A week after this news item about the song coming from Indiana, something came up about the song and they played a few lines from it, leaving out "Southern trees" and starting it with, "bear strange fruit--blood on the leaves blood at the root." I appreciated that conscious decision on someone's part there at NPR studio leaving out Southern trees. I still like the song. I still have a problem with the South labelled a racist black hole. There was that and there is that, though less as time goes by. The same applies to the North, the Midwest, the West. A quotation applies here I found recently from Welsh poet Dylan Thomas that a drunk is somebody you don't like who drinks as much as you do. Racists of the North point their finger at the South to deflect the attention from themselves. Three fingers point back at the pointer. So our great grandparents and great great had slaves. Slavery has always been and is even today an African institution. It was Africans selling Africans to slave traders. White slave traders were justifying slavery by the Bible, the same as the genocide of the Indians was justified by the Bible.
I see all of it pitiful and regrettable, but have to accept there is nothing I or anyone can do about the past. Receive it as it is. The South is the South. The real South is not a cliche, it's a culture that is its own. It is a good and beautiful culture. Like the other American subcultures, Southern culture is being broken down by the California-ization of America via tv. This is why I don't partake of it directly except at other people's houses. From the perspective of being outside its direct influence, propaganda, sophisticated mind control and subliminal mind rot, I can see from outside its direct influence what it has done to group everyone together as the masses to be controlled and dealt with in a police state.
I am under its influence indirectly, because I live in the culture of people who are informed by tv. They are the context of my life. I'd really prefer something like tv never happened, but that is simply a stupid way to look at it. That leaves out: it is as it is. When I reach the place where I can accept what is without any will to change anything, seeing everything is in place and in flow, I believe I'll find happiness, like living at the oasis. Allowing what is may be a direct line to seeing the flow, experiencing it. I've an idea if I can get to the place within that I allow everything around me to be as it is without regard for what I want it to be, then it's like seeing the wind in the leaves, hearing the wind chimes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


late summer flora

It's a time now of wildflowers yellow, white and purple, the same as the colors of spring. The colors that are first in the blooming cycle are the same as the last in the cycle. Looking at the blooming cycle as a circle, the two ends meet as half the circle while mid summer flowers make the other half. Watched a Japanese samurai film this afternoon that only had on actual sword fight. It wasn't a slasher samurai extravaganza with blood spewing on the camera lens. It was a love story that took a very circuitous route, speaking of circles. A coming back to the beginning in a new way, setting out at the end on the next cycle. Beautiful Japanese interiors of vertical and horizontal lines, exteriors that flow with the landscape in color and design. The Japanese artist's eye is very different from the Western even doing the same things, like visuals in Japanese films, like abstractions, and colors, there's nothing like the colors Japanese artists find. Like Jr said of Earl Scruggs, he could find every note there was in a banjo. Japanese artists consistently find new tones of colors never seen before in the West.

For as long as I can remember I've been attracted to the Japanese eye in art. American art goes back a few hundred years and it's a step above stick figures. Japanese art goes so far back we have to ally ourselves with European art to have a history that goes that far back. When they join their Asian origins with China, it goes back to the pyramids, as does Western art. Then there was the Asian art from India to Persia going that far back too. Different cultural origins that weren't aware of each other for a very long time, and then only slightly, Marco Polo's Italian interpretations of what the Chinese were about. I believe he was in the time of Kublai Khan of Coleridge's acid poem. What I think I'm getting at is back at the origins of the various directions visual art took throughout the earth were very similar in their origins.

Folk music, the real old-timey kind barely remembered from all around the world sounds awfully similar all around the world. First time I heard Greek folk music, there it was. Not too far from American old-time. Egyptian. I have an idea the music played to King David's hymns (psalms) wouldn't be as foreign sounding to us now when we hear music from all over the world if we want. Egyptian and Ethiopian were the musical worlds of perhaps his people as they came to Egypt slaves from countries south of Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia. My guess is the music as it was played then in and around Jerusalem, just a few generations after leaving Africa still had plenty of Africa in it. This was Isaac Hayes's point with Black Moses. Moses was an African. His people came from south of Egypt where the roots of their music would be too.

Scholars know what the instruments were in that time, and whatever they were, there is something the same or similar played somewhere in Africa today. A one-string violin, and people who played them became masters in their old age of manipulating the sound with one string. The rhythms would still be African. Their caravans went back and forth to Persia and India. I suppose caravans in the desert navigated by the stars as mariners did. They had a lot of cultural interaction. I remember the scene in the whore house with Mary Magdalene and all the men of different races, languages, cultures going by what they wore, in The Last Temptation of Christ. Jerusalem as a place where caravans came and went had every kind of people probably from Africa to Asia this side of the Himalayas.

They didn't have suburban middle class laws about getting drunk. These were tough people and among them bandits and thieves galore. It was wild times. Look at the parties King David threw for his men after a battle. I'd say it would be a good guess that they had drums going on too with black men playing them. The girls would be every race and nationality from Marrakesh to Calcutta. There would probably be several dead of various reasons in the morning. These are guys good with knives. Drunk. Stupid. The knives come out on Saturday night. Celebrating surviving another battle, something not everybody does, and there's no knowing going into it who may return. I doubt the wine they drank was 10%. I doubt a movie could be made to duplicate the scene. The smells must have been overwhelming. BO from hell, literally. I don't think they had locker rooms then with showers for after the game. Everybody smelling so bad nobody notices. When we from tv world go to places on the globe where deodorants aren't quite the vogue they are here, it gets our attention.

In that place and time after all day on the battlefield, hacking, stabbing, spearing, shooting arrows, probably covered in blood something like a pickup after a mudsling covered in mud. And the babes love it. Harley men without restraints. Telling stories all night long, drunk, of Bruno getting his head lopped off, Igor run through with a spear, and the guy whose guts fell out. Everybody laughs. The hos in awe of these Arnold / Rocky / Chuck Norris bad guys that kill for the thrill of not being dead. Get stupid til you drop and wake up on the floor around noon. It would make Las Vegas look silly, prim and ridiculous. We tend to think of the time and place as Bible Times, therefore really special, God's chosen people on a serious killing spree like Genghis Khan did later, destroying population centers, doing like the ones with the most powerful armies do in all times, destroy defenseless villages and towns and have a party afterward. They destroyed all that went before them.

Genghis Khan destroyed and looted from Mongolia to Afghanistan with an army no army could defeat. Men that rode horses all-out day after day, lived their lives on their horses. It was a very different life from the American soldiers in Iraq doing the same thing, big superior Army destroying a defenseless country, and then we'll leave, except for bases set up all over the country, that our troops went in to establish. We don't do slasher war any more. We do video game war. Push a button in the video game in your tank and shoot a direct hit on another tank over the horizon out of sight. Those drones they nab the enemy with that direct a missile to a specific spot, like when Ahab is sunbathing on the flat roof they have where it doesn't snow, somebody can be operating the drone from a computer anyplace, Memphis, FtWorth, Anchorage, doing it like a video game. That's really weird.

If you're still with me, you're as surprised as I am at what a turn this took, Surrealism in everyday life. Good. I've been wanting to be able to skitz off into the unknown and see where it went. I tend to want to anchor myself in what makes sense. That was fun to just let go and see whatever happened. I hope it didn't bore you too much. I haven't read it yet and probably won't before it's posted since I'm so often drained by the time I'm done writing these entries, I just spell check and wait til morning to see if any sense was made. You see, what I'm doing at this end is having a ball. That's why I give it 3-5 hours a day. It's my time to dance the only way I know how. I write about my experience because it's the only experience I have access to. I don't care anything about writing fiction, because even a direct account of an experience is fiction. It's told from one perspective of many possible, interpreted, filtered through mind and personal associations, comes out in brief paragraphs devoid of context.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


ralph stanley and the clinch mountain boys at fairview ruritan

This afternoon I applied name to the Ralph Stanley painting. After the name is on it, I don't do anything else. Whatever flaws or flubs are on it when the name goes on remain. The most important result I want from a painting is that it have life. The people seem to be breathing. It's also important to me that when Dewey Brown, the fiddler, sees it he won't be ashamed and wish he never saw it. I wanted every one of them in the band to be as close to his likeness as Ralph, as he might like to see a picture painted of himself. One thing about it I like is what I think of as my flaws turn out to look like a style. That's convenient.

When I see this or that detail a little bit off, somehow it sets off a visual strobe effect, subtly, of course. The eye knows the shape of a perfectly round banjo head, so when it's a little bit off, because I only do circles free hand, the eye sees that and the mind's eye sees what it thinks of as right roundness, then the outer eye sees the slightly off round, and it goes back to mind's eye. It keeps on going like that. When there's a bunch of those slightly off places scattered about more or less randomly, it seems to me to give it apparent life, makes a subliminal sense of motion. When I sit back and look at it, paying no attention to flaws I found too late, receiving it as is, finished, the best I can do, the parts where I felt like I didn't quite get what I was after vanish so I can't even find them. It looks like somebody's style, I like to believe.

This is how I justify not seeking "perfection." Like Henry Miller said of enlightenment, there's nothing left but to go on and leave the body, there's no use for it here on earth. People who reach it don't make sense to people this side of that divide. Besides, once one has reached perfection, whatever that is in anything, that's it. Maxed out. Like when To Kill A Mockingbird was your first book, how do you write something else? Perfection is not my goal. I want my people to have the illusion of living beings in motion. I don't mean like you can see them move around. Something to make the first time viewer double-take subconsciously. There again, that back and forth subtle strobe effect. I might be making much of very little, but I have become convinced enough of it to use it when it's needed.

I find I like a sense of flatness on a 2-dimensional work, flatness like silkscreen. I also like roundness, and a sense of depth. I like both at once. That, too, gives me that back and forth visual tension. Today I looked at Robert Motherwell's Ode To The Spanish Republic, abstraction with black forms, my inspiration where composition is concerned. Google him and click on images for a treat if you like abstraction. Whenever I've seen one of his works in a museum, I've felt awe, inspired in the sense that I breathe inward a refreshing oasis kind of breeze for the tired lungs. A rush of oxygen to the brain that wakes up to see it as it really is.

Consciously left out all the microphone stands and wires. They are so incredibly distracting at shows. I don't like painting long, narrow straight lines. The image is about music and the joy in the music. A fence of straight lines all the way across the front, crossing each other at sharp and pointed angles that I take visually for expressions of anger. Anger is often expressed visually with pointed straight lines. I don't want to put a barricade of straight lines and sharp angles across the front of the band. At a concert they're necessary, but in a 2-D image when there's no sound, mics are not needed. It feels to me like the people on the stage are emitting a happy feeling to the illusion of an audience. I don't want to fence in that joy. I want it to go straight to the people listening without filtering. At a concert, the band connects with the audience through the mics, but in a 2-dimensional silent situation, seeing what we hear, they're not part of the picture.

Maybe this could be called a tribute to Ralph Stanley. It's a reverence for Ralph Stanley. It's music that connects with my heart, because that's where Ralph Stanley sings it from. I like to believe I paint from the heart. Searching for a likeness in a face I have to go way deep down inside and pull it up, like diving to the bottom for the oyster with the pearl, digging it out, taking it to the surface. It is definitely a sense of going deep within, searching for the life force I want, look at the eyes until I see how I want to in a way that you can't really see the eyeballs, but the eyes see. That's what I dive for. I do the same writing, looking for the right word, the right image for a given feeling. Go in, look at the feeling and find a way to define it in a way that it feels. Somehow. I suppose everyone who paints or writes has his/her own way of finding feeling going within. Maybe it could be called an inspired, or inspiring place, because when it's found it's accompanied by that inrush of a breath sending oxygen to the brain to get its attention.

I apologize if I sound like I'm bragging. I don't think I am. Just trying to find ways to help you see what I think I'm up to. It gets into subtle stuff going inside looking at feelings, like looking up words in a dictionary. It's a whole lot of fun to paint pictures. I used to want my painting to be "contemporary," go along with the mainstream of the moment. A fabric artist friend in Miami told me easel painting is not mainstream. I said, Good. By the time a style or school or whatever of painting becomes mainstream it's over. Something else is going on. I live in the mountains, paint for the mountain people, want to make paintings to honor mountain people, painted in such a way they believe they understand what they're seeing, someone they know. I'm not interested in putting a nose on one side of the face and eyes on the other side. That can make an interesting image, done right, but it's not what I want to do. I want to spend the rest of my days uplifting the self-esteem of the mountain people, my way of thanking them for letting me live among them as happily as I have, and for all I've learned from the people I've known.

Monday, September 13, 2010


planet earth (detail)

Tapo has clung to me since the dog went away. She snuggles into the crook of my arm when I'm reading, on my lap watching a movie. She waits while I'm on my feet for me to sit down. Here she comes. Caterpillar has wanted more attention too. She's become quite vocal, which she's never been. I'm beginning to think I did all the communicating with TarBaby. She's opening to communicating. We had to learn how. Now we're getting it. Tapo too. With TarBaby not here, they both get more attention. Martha still comes by during the day, but they're not afraid of her any more. They're used to her being around. She's not a threat, but I don't want the cats to let down their guard where dogs are concerned. Martha is all the dog I need. She's around during the days. This is her hangout place.

Saw a documentary film today by French director Louis Malle, And The Pursuit Of Happiness. It was a series of brief interviews with immigrants to America; Vietnamese, Laotian, Iraqi, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Egyptian, Ethiopian, what have you. It amounted to looking at why different individuals came to America. Often they don't like to think about where they came from, because they are here now. They like what we take for granted. There was a Vietnamese doctor in a small town of western Nebraska. We went into the home of General Somosa of Nicaragua, which seemed to be in Los Angeles. He did not look like he was particularly happy about gringos in his house filming him and his son who did the talking. His wife seemed nervous and his son seemed nervous. It felt like major reserve with a film crew in his house not knowing what was going to come of this project. He looked wary as a cat with a dog in the house.

One of the themes of my life has been making sense of America, the whole hog, what makes us the way we are as Americans such that Europeans say they can spot an American a mile off. It's the way we walk. We waddle. It's called the American Waddle. I saw it in the Charlotte airport after returning from a week in Europe. As soon as I left the plane, everyone I saw was waddling. Everybody. Curiously, we walk on sidewalks like in Greece. We tend to walk in lanes when it's busy and we watch where we're going. London sidewalks are mayhem. Somebody in front of you will suddlenly stop. Everybody it seems is in their own little world of themselves alone. In America we're very much aware of the people around us. We're so social we run our mouths nonstop when we get together. We don't like to bump. It's such a bother when we bump cars, police, insurance, estimates, getting it fixed, so we tend not to bump into each other walking either. Same with grocery carts. We'll do anything to avoid bumping. When we do bump, it's followed by apologies from both sides.

I've even become emotionally involved in issues American, politics, and have followed politicians with skepticism until by now I don't trust any of them. I don't know if it's because I've paid enough attention until I came to that end, or if it's because they're so much more transparent now in their self interest. One thing I've found in examinations of my homeland is we are the most racist people in the world, maybe next to the Chinese and Japanese and all of Africa. The whole world is racist. We are too. We pretend we're not. Ban a word and everything is ok. There's no reverse racism. Only racism. I trace it to our egoic need to be superior to somebody, especially when we can't do it by merit. It doesn't just run white to all races. It runs all races to all races. American Indians don't have a great deal of use for white people. White people don't have much use for them. We keep them in concentration camps a century after Sitting Bull was killed. If it weren't for the liberals in the cities back east, the Indians would have been wiped completely out. It was genocide, period.

I like living in a place where racism isn't an issue except where political correctness is concerned. People have their own beliefs about race. But there are no issues here. No black part of town no white anybody dares enter, ever. No gang violence here that's out in the open yet. It's the South. I have no argument with the South as itself. Yankees are every bit as racist as it is in the South. Not everyone in the South is racist, either side of the color line. Look at all the great Southern writers of the 20th Century, Faulkner, Welty, McCullers, Penn Warren, Ransom, Tennessee Williams, and the list goes on, none of them racist. They wrote about racism, because it was the world they lived in, but they didn't write about it as racists. I've known a great number of non-racist Southerners. Personally, I don't care if somebody is a racist. I'm not totally free of it, myself. If I were cocktail party talking, it would be, I'm no racist. But when I pay attention to myself, I see I have some. No big deal. I'm not ever going to disrespect somebody over race or nationality, ever. Or so I intend. I don't know that I ever have. If so, it was unconscious. I do a lot that's unconscious. So far I'm keeping it in the road.

I think what I'm getting at in a digressive sort of way is my study of the USA has come to a place where I'd rather not concern myself over it politically any more. I can't concern myself with so much that's "out there" anymore. I want to pull my attention more "in here." At home. Where I live. The road I live on. The roads I drive. The people I know. Daily social interactions. These are the places I want to put my attention from here on. The experience of the world I live in, which is the people I see in the course of a day, has become the extent of my concern. I don't mean to say I'm withdrawing from civilization. The people we live among is civilization as we know it. Mine is a very different experience from someone in Burma. I can't concern myself any more with laws in Arizona, executions in Texas, preachers on tv, who wins what election, or even whether or not 911 was an inside job. The news is for other people to wrangle, fuss and have opinions about. It's got to the place when I think to turn on the news, I pretend to barf and don't push the button. I hear some of it, but it doesn't move me one way or the other. I'm at home in my peaceful mountain schoolhouse in a world of people I care about personally. Please don't misunderstand that I mean anything absolutely. I'll listen to news from time to time. Just not like before when I cared about it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


air bellows barn

The barn in the picture was built by Tom Pruitt. Cut the trees, hauled the logs to Whitehead to old man Richardson's sawmill that Jr Maxwell was operating. Tom cut the wood. Jr sawmilled it, and Tom built it. Barns all over the mountains have fallen down. This one continues to stand. It's a good place for the cats. I keep the doors firmly closed. There is nothing inside that hasn't already been taken. What's left is old wood. The upstairs would make a good meditation place. It's a special structure for me. Two men I've known well enough that they told me their lives over time created this little barn. I've felt partial to it because Tom built it, and then all the more when I learned Jr sawmilled the wood. These men were my teachers who taught me the culture and Jr taught me a great deal about the music. Neither one of them knew they were teaching. They were just talking. I was paying attention.

Yesterday was cold and wet, today warm and clear. The cats spent all day outside. I don't know where they go, but it's not far from the house and not far from a hiding place. I don't know what kind of catfood to get for them. Whatever I put down, Caterpillar will go to it, look at it and walk away. In the night when she's hungry and can't hold out being particular any more she'll nibble at it. It's that way with wet or dry catfood. Her weight testifies that she's eating something. Last week at Food Lion I was talking with a woman at the catfood display. I asked her if her cats were peculiar about eating. Lord yes! We exchanged stories of how our cats turned peculiar at the same age. Her cats were 13 yrs old too. She was doing like I do, buy different varieties, but nothing satisfies them.

They don't even catch mice any more. Tapo and Caterpillar have come into a wary stillness since TarBaby has been gone. After he'd been away a couple months there came a day they realized he wasn't coming back. I could see their sorrow in the way they walked and looked at each other. Going outside for them now is an adventure in wariness. Only a couple days a week are free of a dog or dogs the other side of the door. On a day without dogs they creep outside and disappear all day. On days with dogs they stay inside all day and go out at night.

I'm in a time of realizing I'm getting older, infirm, not as able as before for just about anything.
I'm learning why older people drive slower. We don't want to drive too fast for our slow responses. Sometimes I'll be driving along and 50 will feel on the verge of out of control. There are times it feels like it takes all the attention I have to keep it in the road. I saw a billboard years ago on the interstate around Spartanburg announcing to drivers that your guardian angel isn't watching after age 65. I didn't believe it then. Still don't believe it. But something does happen around that time where driving is concerned. For me, it's like having to pay much closer attention than before. I paid attention before, but now it takes double the effort to have the kind of attention I had before. It's all right. Natural process.

My guardian angel hasn't gone away. I feel closer to God than ever. That far outweighs faltering attention, forgetting, seeing a thought fade away. My mind is relaxed, my heart is weak yet overflowing. This time of looking at mortality in the mirror is perhaps the most interesting time of my life. I never know if I'll make it through the night or through the day, and prefer to live as if it's not an issue. In the passing of spirit from body, I feel like that will be so interesting I won't even think of coming back for any reason.

Once that line is crossed it won't matter if I take medication on time or avoid huffing and puffing. It won't matter if vegetarian or carnivore. It won't matter if somebody pisses me off or if I piss them off too. I suspect crossing that line will be like opening a door, seeing brilliant inviting light and perhaps a host of angels. Gloryland. When doctor talks to me about avoiding death, I understand what he's saying, but come away thinking we have different ways of seeing leaving this world. This world is not the ultimate, the only, for me. It's a schoolhouse for learning. Avoid learning and you miss much that this world has to offer. Like Jr said, It aint the world that's crazy. It's the people in it.