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Tuesday, August 30, 2011



This evening as light was turning to dark I went with Justin to put out corn and apples at two sites where he keeps some high-tech infra-red cameras attached to trees, triggered by motion. He saw a new buck today he'd not seen before. No bears today. Evidently the bears are rambling. He gets the same bucks and does every time he checks, except for today's new buck, a 5-pointer with a black tip on its tail. I have to confess to some ill ease assisting a hunter on my land I've allowed no hunting on the whole way along, until Justin became a hunter. By now I have learned it's silly not to allow hunting. Personally, I don't like killing. That's my own thing for myself. Justin is not somebody who will kill a buck, cut off its head and leave the rest to the dogs and other night critters to feast on for awhile. He goes all the way, butchers and fills the freezer with good deer meat. He likes deer jerkey.

We sat in his truck, smoked a cigarette talking, I got out and he drove on. Walking to the house both sides of the stone walkway are thick with waist-high jewelweed (touch-me-nots the old-time name) in flower, little orange orchids made for hummingbirds. When I walk through there after a rain, the legs of my pants get soaked. I don't care. It's summer. Wet dries fast. This evening walking to the house through this great bed of jewelweed, I said out loud, "My Blue Ridge Mountain home." When I step into the grove of trees around the house, the first step beyond where the car parks, I see my trees, feel the peace I love inside my little forest beside the road. It lightens my heart to make that walk toward the house coming home from somewhere. Sometimes I speak to the green things all around me. This is my own little personal preserve. I'm the guardian for this plot of ground. It belongs to the Creator, and I let it be what it wants to be.

It always feels good walking to the house along the stone pathway to my Blue Ridge Mountain home. Not long after I came here, I found an album of Dolly Parton with her song My Blue Ridge Mountain Home. Quite a beautiful song. It was true and full of meaning. That was my beginning. By now I have evolved to the Carter Family, the source, and Ralph Stanley whose new gospel album should be in the mail this week, A Mother's Prayer. He is the voice of the soul of the Southern mountains. The collection of the Carter Family songs is the songbook of the mountains; their gospel songs are in the hymn books. AP Carter was a songcatcher; he drove all over the central Blue Ridge looking for songs, an early folklorist in that way. They sound as contemporary as you might hear at a music place in the mountains. And they are from another world. They were from the time only a few people had radios. Neighbors would gather at the house of someone with a battery-run radio and listen to the Carter Family live.

I am happy to find the mountain religion, the old-time religion that goes all the way back, that the others broke off from. I am happy I found the music of these mountains, the people of these mountains, the roads of these mountains that hold your attention, the relationships in community where everybody knows people of all ages. When you get a divorce and your X was related to half the people in the county, you go about imagining half the people in the county know all your weaknesses and hate your guts. I don't have a problem with gossip. It's a community's way of keeping up with each other. It triggers imagination that the people around you know more about your life than you do. A lot of people leave because they don't like everybody knowing their business. Everybody has their own way of living in a world of gossip. Some, like me, never hear any and therefore never pass any on. Exceptions occur (shit happens) from time to time, but not in a passing judgment kind of way. I'm always the last to hear anything, so it wouldn't do for me to pass anything along, because everybody already knows it.

This morning I woke late and missed an appointment. When I woke, Caterpillar was on the floor looking at me like to say I've been in the bed long enough. I looked at the clock and I was already late. Sigh. I made a call and explained, arranged for another time. I'd already planned in my mind that I was having morning coffee at Selma's, so I drove to town and had some French-press Kenyan. It's the same as honey to my palate without the sweet. That kind of smoothness. It's not as thick as honey, but it has the same fullness. If that has any meaning. I must go to the coffee shop at least a couple times a week, to see Selma and whoever is in there at the moment. Today it was Joe Allen Delp, one of the regulars I like quite a lot. He has health issues around cancer that keep him rather debilitated much of the time. He likes to tell stories from his drinking days. They're always funny and he's always lit up in good spirit telling them. He's a regular at the Jubilee too. Seeing Selma adds a certain light to the day for everyone. Again, I thank you, Fidel, for running Selma out of Cuba. I'm happy her parachute landed her here. Sparta is fading all around her, but her place has people in and out all day every day.

Monday, August 29, 2011



I had put aside the history/biography The Killing of Crazy Horse just before the time came when the Army soldier following orders so shamefully bayonetted him in the back twice. After he had been promised six times he would not be arrested when he was invited to the fort for a talk. He had his feelings and his dreams that told him in advance, but he went by a white man's word. I'd been reading in this beautifully written history. Fascinated as some people get with a Patricia Cornwell story, when it came time for Crazy Horse to be betrayed the last time, I thought I'd take a break, get into something else, Inside The Neolithic Mind. Read half way into it in full attention, every page a treat, I felt it was time to dive back in and see what happened to Crazy Horse, how the historian writing it, Thomas Powers, would find completion for this great big story he told of the Indian Wars from both the Lakota side and the USArmy side. He told the killing in You Are There detail pieced together from newspaper accounts and diaries, one of the diaries by the soldier whose bayonet did the trick; he never felt anything but despair over what he'd done all the rest of his life.

I have a liking for books about the Indian Wars like some have about the Civil War. And my interest in the Indian Wars was with the Indians. My interest in the Civil War was with the South, but that just generally. It was the Indian Wars that interested me all my life. When I first found out about Indians I wish I had been born an Indian. I felt like they were my real people and I'd been born with white skin; none of my people would recognize me now in the skin of the enemy. That was that. I never made any attempts to connect with any Indians. They have their own world. I feel tremendous sorrow for their circumstances in concentration camps policed by the FBI over a hundred years. Then I wonder if the Indians now are the souls of the people that were in on the killing of their ancestors. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse I have held up high as long as I've known about them. They were warrior chiefs, Sitting Bull also a shaman, who held out against the white tsunami to the very last. Sitting Bull wanted it noted for the record that his rifle he was turning over was the last rifle taken from a Lakota.

Robert Utley's biography of Sitting Bull brought him so much to life in my imagination that I felt like I had known this man well. His values were my values. That's where we connected. He could ride a horse as good as a horse can be ridden. In warfare, he was fierce and fearless. He had wounds all over his body. He had a limp from being shot in the foot riding his horse full tilt. He could ride his horse into a herd of stampeding buffalo, riding bareback, no hands, and shoot a running buffalo in the right place to make it fall in place. To fall off your horse in such a moment is death as soon as you hit the ground. He was one rugged individual. He'd done the sun dance several times. A short time before he was killed, he was out walking in the land beyond the concentration camp of log cabins the Indians were living in outside the fort. Out there under sky from horizon to horizon in all directions, Sitting Bull heard a meadowlark singing and interpreted it that the bird was telling him he would be killed soon by his own people. They were scouts for the Army sent to arrest him. Bullhead shot him in the chest and almost simultaneously Red Tomahawk shot him in the back of the head. I doubt he felt a thing.

The deceitful ways they were killed was in proportion to the regard the generals and soldiers had for both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. They hated them unto death. These guys were a dreaded enemy, powerful influences on their people. Much as I have low regard for the killing of both these men, I'm also glad they both were not allowed to grow old. Pictures of Red Cloud in his old age are images of despair. When I ask myself the question I never ask myself, what historical figure that I know of do I look up to as a man or as a woman with full admiration? Sitting Bull is the automatic first answer. He's a man like in the Bo Diddley sense, that's spelled M - A - N. He was a good hunter, a good warrior, a man of wisdom. He was something of a Robert E Lee of the Indian Wars. By the end, Sitting Bull had become the hub of the remaining Lakota. He was also untameable as mountain lion. He might go to New York and Paris in a Wild West Show, but when he returned to his land, he was still part of it.

Crazy Horse was a wild man on the battlefield too. They were not the only warriors with SuperBowl rings. They were 2 warrior chiefs among a great number of them. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull became legends because they were the hardest to catch and held out the longest. They were my childhood heroes that continue as heroes of my lifetime. Both have become even moreso after reading well-researched and well-written biographies of them. They were what I call true human beings. That's not to say they're the only ones. There are many true human beings about. I read of these people and the people they lived among, their women, their tribes, their families, their way of life, and feel respect all the way around. They didn't leave a lot of trash. I'll go on now and read what happens after Crazy Horse was murdered, or assassinated. I think about a letter to the editor April Holcomb Joines wrote some years ago likening the wave of people from Away moving to the mountains and pushing the mountain people out, to the white take-over of all the Indian land. Then, it was done with guns. Now, it's done with money.


Sunday, August 28, 2011



Good race at Bristol this week. No wrecks. A few yellow flags, mostly debris on the track. Bristol is a tight track, not very wide and only half a mile. 135 or so is top end on the straight away where you hit the gas all the way, then hit the brake for the curve. The track being so narrow, not much room was available for passing somebody. 2 cars side-by-side were difficult to pass when they didn't want to be passed. In this particular race on this particular track it looked like all the cars had the same capabilities, and it looked like just about everybody held their position after a certain point early in the race, and holding your place was the best could be done. Out in front, the front 5 changed positions a little bit, but not much. Jeff Gordon was out in front, then a pit stop put him back to third and there he stayed. He couldn't get by one and two.

Next day, talking with a friend on the phone. Before I mentioned the race, I knew there would be some kind of block-headed opinion to counter it. He's also a contrarian, couldn't agree with you if you had documentation to prove what you're saying. He retorted, "I don't like racing. People just watch racing to see somebody die. I don't approve of violence" Phew! That was a bucket full and running over. Knowing the professor had spoken and there's no going back on adamant opinions, no point saying anything, really, I went on and said, "Nobody died in the race. Drivers don't die in races anymore. They wear seatbelts. The cars are constructed to prevent fatalities as much as possible." I was talking to the wall. Like Bobby Allison got hit broadside in his door at 200 mph. It addled him in a big way, but he survived. Friend has a long, long list of buttons that release opinions like a toy for a 2 yr old--push the cow button, it says, "moo," press the sheep button, it says, "baa."

In my younger years, I made a vow to myself I would never be of the mind that starts sentences, The kids these days.... I caught myself starting a sentence that way somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago, stopped myself and gave myself a talking to. At lunch last time we went, I listened to much about "the kids these days," they're just alike, and it wasn't just some, it was "all of em." I'm thinking: the girl in the 11th grade reading the Iliad and the Odyssey for fun and the boy who quit school after the 9th grade because his probation officer recommended it. (What kind of probation officer would do that? If you knew the boy, you'd understand.) Just alike. The one who read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the 11th grade got her PhD at Berkeley this year. The kid on probation will have been in prison probably several years by the time he's the age of the girl with the PhD. Just alike? Saw a commercial of Michael Jordon on a plane and a dorky white guy saying to him, "We're just alike," and every time he said it, Jordon said, "No we're not." The boy on probation and the girl with the PhD are about as alike as a gas and a solid.

These are just two cases from "all of em." However, if I were to bring this up at the table, it would be out of order. I'd be contradicting an opinion. His opinions are the foundation of universal truth. Gold plated. That's ok. I'm a moral relativist and he won't have it that morality is anything but black and white. "You'll never have me believing morality is relative!" And I didn't even try. Talking with him has become like talking with a man of my grandfather's generation when I was young. I'm sorry to see friend has succumbed to that way of thinking about himself, and glad to see I have not, or anyway not entirely. Have to allow for unconscious behavior my inner editor misses. This is somebody who calls himself so liberal he's a "revolutionary." That's his word for himself. He put a flower in a National Guardsman's rifle barrel during a demonstration at U of Tennessee "back in the day," when friend was a hippie, a drug addict and a revolutionary. I'm so happy I went to a small school and couldn't pretend any of that nonsense. I wanted to badly, but it didn't take.

So there is not only watching friends and peers die out as one grows older, but watching surviving friends atrophy in the mind starting about age 50 or before. I do not enjoy sweeping statements about the kids today. I've always kept it in the foreground to have young friends, to know some kids. They're not all alike. They're what the older generation shapes them into, and their world is largely so boring--school, homework, television--there comes a time paying attention falls away on its own. I happen to know some young kids very well educated, who pay attention in school and have their own interests. And I know some it would take sticking a gun barrel in their faces to get them to pay attention, and then only for as long as the gun stays cocked. And there's everything in between. I'm glad to say I've come to a place in my advancing years where I don't feel the need to tell younger people how to live. I don't even know what to tell myself how to live.

I look at some of my younger friends, two couples age 28, thereabouts, different cultures, and I see very different people. I don't think one is better than another. I find when I'm with Justin and Crystal I feel no need, even the remotest, to give them any advice on anything. Hail far! It would be more their place to advise me. When it comes to getting along in this world, both of them, individually, have left me way back in the dust. They've already got a few laps on me. I look at them with admiration. I think they have it so together compared to myself at that age, or ever. Then Meredith and Greg have me completely blown away that I even know people so far beyond me as they are. I see them all people with brilliant minds and they're using their minds well. I think, very well. These are kid's I've watched grow up. Whenever I'd start to think a sentence that starts, the kids these days, Justin and Meredith would come to mind and that would be the end of it. I say kids relatively. I could be their grandparent. Better, I'm their friend.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


arman, viola d'amour

Meeting someone new here, I'm expected to know as little about the place as the one here less than a year, which makes for delicate tiptoeing until I'm at a place where I have to explain that I don't go certain places and don't know certain people for reasons of my own, what we call history, and everybody who lives around here has their own circles and their own histories. Somebody comes in new and sees none of the network that would look like spider webs going everywhere that the people who live here see as clearly as yellow lines in the middle of the road. I'm recently in such a situation again. Yes, again. So many agains I'm used to it and have learned to address it as soon as possible before it gets into misunderstandings. The deal is, it starts out with misunderstanding, and it's really something to handle, about like a basketball made of jell-o. I do the best I can and let it go. If I piss somebody off, I piss them off. If I don't, I don't. It would not be my intent to, but sometimes it happens, so, whatever.

This never happens when I meet someone from here I didn't know before. Right off we find out who we know in common, who to go to for references, Hey man, tell me about so and so. He's cool. He used to get some of  Johnny Wayne's old lady. Oh him! Hell yeah, I remember him. Bout got his ass killt. No shit, he come damn near it. When it's somebody from off the mountain new here, they know people in the church they joined to get to know people. Discovering this, discovering that. Wanting me not to miss out on this great whatever it is, can't be missed, I gotta go see it. There is all this great stuff going on out there in Sparta world I'm missing, wonderful people I need to know, until my mountain back starts going up and I start snorting like Taurus the bull. It closes in on me in a claustrophobic way, pressing in on my space, getting in my face. Then it's time to announce that I am not here to party. I know a lot of wonderful people, I have wonderful friends, I have so many good friends I don't need more. I'm not that brutally abrupt. But I have to be straight forward about it, or it doesn't take.

I have to explain that I came to these hills not knowing where I was going. I was getting away from the past more than I was going to the future. The past was everything that went before, from birth to present. Confusion all along the way. Stepping forward to join the middle class and make a respectable living, I found it was a world I did not want to live in. My resistance to temptation was weak, and I was thinking if I went to the wilderness for a few years I could get in tune with my inner self and live my spiritual path consciously. I came to the mountains to have a go at solitude. In the beginning, it was crazy-making. I couldn't stand too much solitude. Needed knowing people. Needed to work. It took a great many more years for getting in tune with inner self. I don't want to say it if it's not so, but it feels to me over the last few years my inner self and outer self correspond as one. I am happy on the inside. It helps to only see people I particularly enjoy seeing, not just anybody. I don't like being around people who like conflict, or major drama, or being down all the time chanting aint it awful. I don't need any of that in my life. Have had plenty of it in the past. Didn't need it then, don't need it now.

As I've lived on my mountain 35 years, my home has become my spiritual retreat where I stay all the time. I don't need to go someplace for a retreat. It's right here where I am. With my painting, writing, movie watching and having coffee at Selma's, I feel a good balance. Painting and writing is done in solitude. I'm not sure I'd call watching a film solitude. So many films I see as something the director has to say that's worth me paying attention to. It's a kind of communication through an art form. But then, reading is something done in solitude that is the same kind of communication, just another form. Anyway, my social life is at Selma's about twice a week. There, I visit with educated middle-class people from away and many of them read books. Very enjoyable people I like conversation with. It's a different kind of conversation than with my mountain friends. I like both equally.

This last run of inflation with gas prices advancing toward $4 has cut into my essentials. There's not enough to make it all the way through the month now. So I'm having to cut out 4 roundtrips to Woodlawn per month, $15 for gas a trip, $60 for the month, which I need in the last half of the month for groceries. If I can get my trips to Sparta down to two a week, I'll be progressing toward the goal of solitude, plenty of time for painting. Not that my painting is anything special except that I do it to honor the musicians of the area. That's important to me. I'd like to get as many done as I can before it's my time to go with the angel band on their snow white wings. I don't have to even think about somebody carrying it on when I'm gone. What I don't do won't get done. That's ok. This doesn't mean I have to be in a hurry. I want to get more distant from the news, from the way of thinking in the media, from that belief system. It makes a lot more sense to put the time I spend hearing the news into reading scriptures. That is a wholly different feeling. I listen to the radio less while driving, not from willing it, but from not wanting to hear it.

I find I like silence more and more at home. Silence is coming to me on its own instead of me willing it. I like lying in the bed at night with nothing in my mind. I don't have worries that I'm aware of. Of course, there are some, like when am I going to get county taxes paid? I don't worry about my heart, don't worry about 2012. I worry about the republican party having power, taking power again. But not too much. I've become so disillusioned over my adult years, beyond disillusioned, way beyond it. Some people call it cynical, but I see the cynics the people playing the system, George Bush 1 especially. He used to make my skin crawl with his obvious lies, then puking on the Japanese Prime Minister's lap! It's on YouTube if you want to see it. Write in the box: BAD SUSHI. It will take you there. Another of our Texas presidents. YouTube is a gift from above. I am amazed every day at what all is on YouTube. Good reason to stay home. Wanna see Bo Diddley in concert? It's a long list to pick from. It's so much more fun than living to other people's expectations. You know what? When you stop being concerned about other people's expectations, they quit expecting. It's a natural law, like if the cat doesn't run from the dog, the dog won't chase it.  


Thursday, August 25, 2011


marcel duchamp, mile of string, 1942

The night before an opening of a modern art show in New York, 1942, Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton went in and strung the place with a mile of string. Duchamp was more an artist of the mind than one to make things. His activity was playing chess. At the time of the end of WW1, he put aside what he called "easel paintings," using brush or pen to make a likeness. He started finding what he called "ready mades" like a bottle drying rack, a bicycle wheel, a snow shovel. A porcelain urinal was one of his most famous ready-mades. He entered it into a show of modernists knowing if he put his name on it, it would be accepted into the show automatically. He wrote a name R Mutt on it and it was rejected. Now the urinal with the name R Mutt and the story is the work of art. Mornings, he would stand on a short stool, hold a meter length of rope, drop it, and the shape it made on the floor was his work of art for the day.

I have forced myself to contradict myself in order
to avoid conforming to my own tastes.
--Marcel Duchamp

For artists that follow, Duchamp opened the door to seeing art more for the essence of what art is than for making things. At the same time he freed the artists of the world he also presented an advanced challenge to see art in a whole new way. He seems to me like a soul sent to earth to give the artists a new way of seeing, non-retinal, as Duchamp called his way of making art. It's tempting to say his art is an idea more than an object, but when he presents an object, the object itself is the idea. He came to New York to get away from the German invasion of France, where he stayed the rest of his life. The generation of American artists following the abstract expressionists, like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and others, found him and spent time with him, learned from his presence what they could. Anyone who played chess was welcome.

let's play chess

In my own art form, I make art the "easel" way. I've been maligned for it by artist friends all the way along. "That's not mainstream." My answer to that is once a thing is mainstream it's over. What we call modern art has changed fairly rapidly as it has progressed from Impressionism to Conceptualism and the Post-Modern. I've been told by a guy who painted colors that idiots paint realism. Other friends tell me abstraction is where it's at. I like abstraction a lot. It really is my favorite form of painting. I like realism too. I like everything in between and beyond. I happen to like painting realism. The part of the world I live in, the mountains, realism is what they appreciate. That's ok by me. If I lived in an urban pit I'd probably paint abstraction. I think of abstraction as urban painting. I live in the country and I want to paint by a country aesthetic. I'm not interested in having shows in California or anyplace. That part of art making doesn't enchant me. I don't like being the artist at the opening, sucking up to the rich, talking about myself like I'm something besides a Joe living in semi-poverty in the mountains.

I don't want to climb the ladder of gallery shows, sales, and all that. I want my painting to matter where I live. Beyond where I live, I don't care. I have a natural talent for portraits, so I'm painting portraits of musicians of this part of the mountains. It's my way of pointing the finger at them, saying they're worth hearing. They are artists who make their art relevant to home, to where they live. I want my art relevant to home. Like a mountain musician, I figured out my art form instead of learning it from teachers. I reckon I'm what's called an "untrained" artist, a folk artist. Maybe so. That's as good a thing to be called as any. Until the time I started painting mountain musicians I felt like I was practicing, teaching myself by doing. Now I want to make my paintings a community service somehow. Not for the money. I want them to stay in the county as much as possible. I feel like I'm honoring the musicians and the tradition, saying these people rate notice. At least that.

I just now went off into a reverie of explaining how I arrived at painting the lower part of the background of the Ralph Stanley picture a soft yellow. I remembered talking with Elizabeth Davis, an artist I knew would understand a visual subtlety. The white between the white hats was a darker shade of white than the white between the black suits. She knew exactly what I meant. It was refreshing to be able to talk about something like that with somebody who gets it. I try explaining the same thing to somebody else and their eyes glaze over and they're sawing Zs within. Remembering how refreshing it was to be talking with Elizabeth I'd been wondering if we'd ever meet. I've been waiting for years to tell her I love her abstractions. Finally got it said. She is quite a respectable artist. I look forward to seeing her again at Selma's. It's a curious thing about Selma's, the people drawn to the place, it's like something in a European city. In Sparta. It flows perfectly with Sparta. Enough people are here now who like to sit and talk with others about whatever comes up and sip good coffee in a happy place. 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011



Listening to somebody talk about dissatisfaction with where they are. I understand. But I'm happy to say I'm not the one saying it. The remark took me on an inward journey looking at a few of the aspects of where I am that satisfies me. The image above is one aspect. This curve, with the house my friend Jean used to live in out of sight on the right, the beautiful Primitive Baptist church house with shadows of the maple leaves projected onto its white screen. The car I'm driving treats me very well. It's my friend just like any human I would call a friend. The world outside these mountains has almost ceased to exist for me. When I drive out into it, I'm in a foreign country where I don't know the language, the ways of the people. Finding myself in a city situation from time to time, I sometimes have told myself, "Don't make eye contact with anybody." It's hard for me in an airport lobby with hundreds of people to ignore that these are individual psyches, every one with a lot of good stories, all of them with full lives, each very, very different from any of the others.

I like to think about the time 500 or so years from now, when I have a feeling the people on the earth will be friendly with each other. You don't have to watch your back. I'm seeing a world of religious belief that all of us are holy. The time of war our mythology over, into the time of love our mythology. Capitalism and Communism in the ancient history books, or kindles, a period of time the humans went through that in many ways was from hell. How many centuries of ongoing war? All the way back to the Amazon where the men of a tribe sneak up on the neighboring tribe, kill the men, take the women and kids. To the chimpanzees where a couple of males will go into the territory of a neighboring tribe, find a lone male out looking for something to eat and kill him. It's in us all the way back to bugs, bacteria. It must be in the nature of life itself to dislike neighbors. When God comes along and advises to love our neighbor as ourselves, that's the hardest of all. We're disposed from all the way back to regard our neighbor as adversary. It's a bitter pill. The Bible advises love your neighbor as the most important of all, and everybody ignores it. "It has a spiritual meaning. Doesn't apply to this world." "It means the brothers and sisters in the congregation."

Hearing today on Fresh Air a woman talking about a fundamentalist outfit that is spreading the gospel that the Democrat party is full of demons and Muslims even worse. Given absolute power, we can see who their targets would be for genocide. They're doing it for Jesus. They're clearing the world of dead souls so they can love their neighbors without interference. Talking about they love you, but hate what you do, hate what you believe. This is the mind I ran for my life from. When I was finally away from parents and could make my own decisions, I quit going to church. To appease parents somewhat, I started going to a Unitarian church, that I found the same as nothing. Stopped that after a short time. For years and years and years, every time I talked with my mother on the phone, before she would say goodbye, she'd say, "Have you found a church yet?" No, I haven't found a church yet. "I wish you'd find a church." I know you do. This went on until it was difficult to pick up the phone to call her. Finally, one time I said, "No, I have not found a church and will never find a church. I am finished with church for the rest of my life. In the first part of my life I went to enough church for 10 lifetimes, so this lifetime is paid in full." That was the end of it. I thought: Wow, I could have said that years ago. That was all it took.

I actually am afraid for our country in every way when I hear Fundamentalist Christians talk. For one thing, I have a hard time calling them Christians, but they've changed the meaning of the word to include whatever they want it to be. It's become a meaningless word anyway, so there's no point making distinctions about definitions. From my experience on the inside, I have seen how absolutist they are about what they believe they're supposed to believe. There is just one way, and that's the way of the preacher's uninformed opinions. I hear about politician Rick Perry and his fundamentalist smug manner. I know what's behind him: No-two-ways-about-it. It runs a shudder of fear through me to think of a serious possibility he could become the next president. He has Karl Rove behind him. Rove got Perry the governor of Texas job like he got it for W. Rove has no bottom for as low as he can go. With Rove and the Supreme Court behind him, anything can happen. My rational mind says, No way is it possible. But American politics doesn't do rational. 

I'm having a hard time with all the hatred that has come into our politics since 1980. Ignorance has entered the political arena as a strategy to trump intelligence. It works. Over and over. If it is true that our representatives truly represent us, and if it's true we get what we deserve, after 60 years of television our representatives have become a pool of ignorance, and what we deserve appears to be the same. Not one shows an interest in We The People like we have little to do with anything besides crime. I wonder if we're going to have a civil war as a result of Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh stirring up ignorance into hate into power in a time when morality is dead in those circles. It's worrisome to me, especially with police state in its early years. It's a popular police state willed by people who don't want to make decisions anymore, wanting to live in the mental wonderland of television belief systems. It might not be what we want, but as long as anti-intelligence rules us, we collectively become more and more ignorant. When it's got to where fundamentalists are listened to like they have some sense, even taken seriously, ignorance rules.

I laugh at myself. I came to the mountain years ago to get away from the political world. And here I am in the best place on earth for me, the sound of katydids in the air with open windows and door, Janacek piano on the radio, a good combo. I paint by day, watch movies, read and write to you. Music of my choice any time day or night as I choose. There is no way I can play it loud enough for the nearest neighbor in either direction to hear it. Maybe somebody driving by in a car, but everybody keeps their windows rolled up for heat in winter and AC in summer. I am free to walk naked through the woods if I want to, but I'm saving that thrill for the Alzheimer's years. I have a good life. Good friends. Good people all around me. Buoyed up by them, in fact. And I listen to the news every day, keeping up with the daily soaps, checking in to see who's killing who today and the latest report on Sarah Palin's tourbus. I live in a beautiful place and let that swill into my head like it's important. It's time for me to do some serious head examination to look at how much I feel I really need all this news, most of it fake, done for the news. It's a good time to give that some consideration. Do I really need that world of lies in my house, in my head?


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


lisa lozano, you are here

All day yesterday the news went back and forth, the rebels are taking control, no Khadafi's supporters are taking charge, no, the rebels.... This morning rebels broke into Khadafi's compound and tore it up. No Khadafi. They don't know where he is. He may turn up in Venezuela. Who knows? Who cares? Now, a revolution that started because it started, a popular revolt without leaders that set a momentum going and stayed with it, assisted by Europe's military, and prevailed. Evidently the revolt was spontaneous and no one was seeking power. It will be interesting now to see what comes up as a new governing body there. With the "help" of European and American power telling them what to do. It's a very delicate time there. Circling buzzards in the air, power plays on the ground. I don't know what it is about this Lybia ordeal that makes it feel so internationally important.

Heard some good news yesterday. In Afghanistan a couple of Taliban guys with guns took a man age 60 for a collaborator. He said he was applying for medical attention. The shot and killed him. The man's son and some others beat the Taliban guys to death with rocks. It put me in mind of the movie Legend Of The Fall I saw Sunday after the race. Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. Father and son, another son and 2 ranch hands in Montana had taken all they cared about taking from county law enforcement. They shot them down to the ground, buried them in a secluded place and got away with it. They had good reason, like the guys in Afghanistan had good reason.

In today's mail was a movie from netflix, a documentary of Brazilian artist Vik Muniz working on a project involving the "pickers" at the Rio de Janerio dump, the people who go through the trash picking up recyclables. It's a good paying job. He made portraits of several of the workers using objects found in the dump, like bottle caps, every kind of thing. They made beautiful portraits. He made 4'x6' photographs of them and sold the photographs for $250 thousand, the money went to the pickers in Brazil. Vik Muniz hoped his project would improve the lives of the pickers, giving them a boost. With that and some other money from surprise sources involving the pictures, the boosted self-esteem of the people concerned, they turned the job of picking up recyclables from the trash into something organized and respectable. The film is a tear-jerker from joy.

In Selma's coffee shop today talking with Selma and a few others. Artist Elizabeth Davis came in. I'd never met her, but have known her paintings for several years. I've seen a show by her at the library and several things at the art shop in town, something here, something there. We had a few moments of good conversation. I like her abstractions quite a lot. She largely uses the colors of autumn; browns, yellows, reds. To my eye, her painting has an Eastern European feel about it. At Selma's I have had conversations with people that make it hard for me to believe we're in Sparta. That's what I and the others like about the place. It's a happy, feel-good kind of place. Hard feelings belong outside the door. I find I think in terms of "we" about Selma's coffee shop. We who go there regularly, everyone who stops in there. It's an atmosphere of people together, enjoying conversation and good coffee. And the best part about the place: the right people don't go there. I'd never go there if they did.

Driving home from town I heard about the Virginia earthquake pulling into Food Lion parking lot. When I emerged from the car I saw Liz Dalton and she mentioned it. In the store I heard people talking about it. Driving home, it's all they were talking about on NPR radio until I turned it off. Grew very weary of NPR people talking with the fake excitement of Fox News and the British tabloid press, on and on about something very few people noticed. The ones that did notice were carried away with excitement and drama. It grew so tiresome listening to the exaggerated efforts to make something big of it, something that happened for about half a minute, if it lasted that long. The way they talk about weather now, like 2" of snow is a blizzard everybody will be snowed in indefinitely is part of a new take on the news to tell it with drama. Be afraid, it's telling us, be very afraid. You're so much easier to control when you 're afraid.  


Monday, August 22, 2011


sons of the confederacy

Dropping sexual assault charges...Syrian security forces...Human Rights Council...rebels defeated by forces loyal to Khadafi...gunfire in the background. This is serious business. The News of the day. Before the news came on I was hearing about women with AIDS in Africa. Demonstrators killed in Syria. Russia hasn't been in the news for awhile. Seems they're due a bomb in a subway or a political scandal. What's weird is to be in Europe or anyplace in the world and watch the Evening News, in whatever language. To see how USA is represented would make militarists proud. I had to stop myself from knocking a man backward off his bar stool in a London pub some years ago for talking about the South, cued by my Southern accent, like he knew all about it, and he was talking television--slavery, all the cliches. It would have been so easy. I had to pull myself together and walk away, not wanting to spend the rest of my life as the American in an English prison. He made me plum hostile with just a tone of voice. I was told afterward, "He's just an asshole, don't let it bother you." Don't let it bother me! He was talking about my Mama!

The South really is peculiar, and nobody from outside the South knows the half of it. The South has a history quite different from the history of the rest of the country. It is the only part of the USA that has had war fought on its land since the Revolution. It is the only part of the USA to have been defeated by a much bigger force, and once defeated, driven into the dirt by Sherman burning the major cities of the South. The South shut completely down. And no help to get back up. USA is an unforgiving victor. The culture in the South since the Depression after the war lasted on into the 1960s when the New South began to emerge. The South has evolved its own culture over 150 years in poverty. All Southerners had a common enemy, Yankees. My memory may have it wrong, but I think it was Charlie Daniels sang the South is gonna do it again. I hear Yankees saying, "But the War is over." The Southern boys were defeated in the battles, but it hardened them as Southerners. The South still has a ways to go to get over the trauma of that war. Indians on reservations have a ways yet to go, too, to get over their culture's trauma. To tell a Southerner the Civil War is over is the very same as to tell an Indian the Indian Wars are over.

In the time of television kids grow up all over the country dressing in the same styles, and now in the time of facebook et al the style-conscious youth are doing the same trends around the globe. The young coming up on communications media, step by step as it comes along new, there is not much connection with the South or anywhere historically. From television on has been a culture vacuum. The idea was to have one homogeneous American culture, and what have we got? Guys sitting in recliners watching sports with beer and potato chips. Driving cars with 140+ on the speedometer and speedlimit 55, 70 max. We make and buy cars like the world is a racetrack. What I'm getting at, is we're out of proportion with the world we live in, don't even know it is a world we live in. The roads run through it. You have to go through it to get from one place to another. If it's not on a video screen, it's not real. That's where reality has shifted to: the tube. Now about everybody I know is carrying a telephone that is also a computer and a camera. They interact with it regularly. It calls with every kind of auditory possibility from the Tarzan ape call to Prince singing Why The Doves Cry.

I find it amazing what this rush of new communications gadgets is doing to us all around the globe. I don't mean doing to the bad, just doing. It's changing everything in a high speed train sort of way--a straight line full speed ahead. The whole 20th Century was about breaking down traditions all over the world, all traditions, everywhere. It's time to start all over. What that means I don't know, but what we're seeing is certainly the nature of it. I don't see it as something to like or dislike, worry about, or think I can control in any way. It's where we are together in a collective raising of consciousness since Prometheus was unbound and brought us hairless apes the gift of electricity. All that went before has to fall away, get out of the way, because over the course of a couple centuries everything in the world changes utterly. By the time we run out of oil, maybe we'll be advanced enough in electrical technology we won't need oil anymore. Just remember, whether you believe in God or not, God loves us.


Sunday, August 21, 2011



This evening after sunset I pulled into my parking space at home, turned off the motor after listening to its smooth idle a minute, opened the door and the air was full of katydid and tree frog trills. I said out loud, "I'm home." Heard myself say it and was conscious for a moment of how happy I am that my home is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NW North Carolina. Very happy of that. I love the mountains themselves and the culture of the mountain people. I'd just arrived home from an afternoon and evening and Justin and Crystal's and baby Vada in Glade Creek. We watched the race, a good race, no wrecks and only a couple of caution flags on account of debris on the track. It was a well run race all the way through. Justin and I go on pulling for Jr Earnhardt who hasn't won in over a hundred races. Today he came in eleventh or twelfth. Several years ago we got free tickets to the Charlotte 500 and Earnhardt blew his motor half way into the race. I started the race pulling for the M&M car because I liked its colors, and it was the first one out of the race. Shifted my pulling to Earnhardt, then his motor blew. I decided to pull for none of them, not to curse any more of the drivers.

There's no way I believe I was psychically instrumental in those two cars getting put out of the race. At the same time, it looks mighty suspicious. In case there is something to it, which I don't believe there is, I don't pull for a given driver any more. That felt too spooky to me. And like I say, there's no way I had anything to do with it psychically. The place was a human bowl of a whole lot of thousands of people, a lot of psychic energy concentrated in that circle. Whatever psychic energy I was projecting was neutralized by probably the ten nearest people to my seat, the whole place radiating psychic energy like the upside down bowl of intense air pollution above the bowl of the spectators and the race track. The pollution is so incredible at one of those races that if somebody from Sierra Club or Greenpeace could lower themselves far enough to go to one of those races, they'd press charges and make a big news spread of putting an end to this intense pollution. The smell of burnt rubber, burnt high octane fuel, the exhaust noise of 43 cars without mufflers, big motors that burn large amounts of fuel, rubber molecules flying off the tires continually. When somebody hits the brakes and spins around a few times, the smoke of tires, brakes locked down, billows up around the car until it's lost in the cloud.

The smell of burnt fuel and rubber so intense in the air made London's air seem clear as on an atoll in the South Pacific. But nobody is complaining. The smell was as highly charged as the sound that was like 10 rock concerts in volume, the music the pure raw music of near-perfect machines trying to outrun each other. Car racing is a Suthun thang like bluegrass that gradually became mainstream all over the country. Today's race was in Michigan. They race all over the country now. And the racing now is not like it was when it was only going on inside the South. The early tracks were half mile and plenty good for cars that might top-end at 100 or so in the straightaway. The newer tracks are bigger, like 2 miles, 2.5 miles, wider, better constructed. The cars are running in the 190s in the straightaway. A half mile track doesn't give them a chance to wind it all the way out, but it's in the short tracks that you see the real racing, drivers slugging it out for position.


Saturday, August 20, 2011


vik muniz, cloud cloud manhattan

vik muniz, earthwork

I have just come away from a video I found on YouTube, Vik Muniz: Art With Wire, Thread, Sugar, Chocolate. Vik Muniz flows freely through the art of the late 20th Century in his mind games that become art. He's an abstract expressionist, a pop artist, minimalist and conceptualist in one. Both of the above images attest it. Much of what he does is temporary and he makes a photograph of the image, then the photograph is the work of art. I'm guessing he hired a pilot familiar with sky-writing to make the outline of a cloud over Manhattan. He got photographs of it from the ground. His work is truly original while referencing other artists before him, like Christo made his life as an artist wrapping things, which Man Ray had done back in Surrealist times in Paris.

Vik Muniz follows Robert Smithson and some others doing earthworks. Smithson used the timeless universal symbol of the spiral making the Spiral Jetty, which is now underwater still visible from above. Muniz uses things like the lines of an envelope, a paper clip, scissors in his earthworks, things everyone on earth connected with civilization recognizes. He is dedicated to the art in the mundane like Claes Oledenberg, who made sculpture of a giant pair of pliars, a safety pin standing on its head at least 25' into the air and the pointed end sticking out at a 90 degree angle, a giant clothespin standing straight up. Vik Muniz works with the familiar objects in the spirit of play, like Oldenberg in that way too. While Muniz is referencing these artists before him, he has his own eye, his own mind, his own humor, his own spirit so uniquely that none of the referencing is copying. At netflix I found a film called WASTELAND made either by Vik Muniz or about him making art from things found in the dump in Rio de Janerio in Brazil, where he's from, though living now in New York. Wasteland should be here one day next week.

Today's movie was a documentary, The End Of The Line, having to do with the earth's oceans being fished out. What I learned from the day's viewing is the race to catch the last fish is happening all over the world. It's not far off, either. Cod have been fished down so low they can't come back. A kind of manta ray is becoming thick in the area, because the cod ate them. Now the rays are the crop. Due to the end of the cod, lobsters are coming in thicker than ever, increasing the lobster business. Bluefin tuna are now gone. Remember Charlie the Starkist tuna? He's dead. The people studying the rate at which the oceans are being fished out are saying 90% of the oceans fish have been eaten by us. Only 10% of the underwater life is left. Ten more years and we won't have any more fish. That is, if it keeps on going like it is. Nothing, no power, no government can stop the fishing fleets that are largely pirates. When fish become rare, prices go up, fishing increases going for the big bucks. We can hunt individual fish now with hi-tech sonar, so the last fish is a near at hand likelihood.

Things, however, have a way of changing. Maybe if we have a financial meltdown all over the world, fishing will decrease. It's quite amazing to see the gigantic trawlers that scoop up huge nets heavy with wiggling fish. Like everything else in our civilization's excesses, it doesn't seem right. It's like the Christmas tree business here; everybody knows why our county has the highest cancer rate in the state. Nobody does a thing about it, because a handful of men are making mightily multiple millions on Christmas trees at everyone else's expense, poisoning mountain spring water at its source and fouling the landscape. That's the way it is with the fishing industries around the world. Billions are made all around the globe on fishing the deep blue sea. A dozen or so billionaires around the globe aren't going to put an end to the source of their wealth until there is nothing left. Now we have an unbelievable number of frozen bluefin tuna warehoused toward the time when the ocean is fished out, to be sold at highly inflated prices to people able to pay it. A whole new business. At whose expense is this? Everyone on earth, including the people doing it.

We've come into the time when all our dues are coming due at once. I've been seeing it in my mind since the 1960s that we humans on earth are collectively in a big jet plane flying into the side of a mountain at full speed. It seems by 2011 the nose-cone is making contact. The plane being the planet itself, it makes the calendar year 2012 look like a pretty good guess at when the humans render the planet unable to take care of us any longer. It could be ugly. I'm not going to play prophet and make a guess at a possible scenario when many are possible, and at least one it will be, probably a conglomerate of all possible. The Age of Oil has brought us to this. I have an idea that something will happen to save us from certain extinction. Maybe after this time of the plane hitting the side of the mountain will be the time of melting down military equipment, tanks, ships, guns, and making farm equipment toward mindful crop growing. No more Capitalism. No more Communism. Living more altruistically, looking to the well-being of all concerned, including self. The Age of All For Self didn't last very long.


Friday, August 19, 2011



Skeeter and the Skidmarks played at Woodlawn tonight, but I stayed home. I didn't feel like spending $15 for gas. I don't mind the length of the ride, and hour each way, because the music at the other end is worth the drive. This most recent surge of inflation following the lead of the oil corporations has stripped me bare. I hear people from all around me talking about this surge taking them under. This is where the trouble starts. What our republican representatives don't seem to get is putting people into poverty creates crime. Of course, they don't mind, because prison construction stocks continue to rise. All the more justification for police state, which the republicans step-by-step have taken us into, with intent. Police state isn't because of terrorism. Terrorism was the justification, not the reason.

I stayed home this Friday night for free, though talked on long-distance phone for probably what it would have cost to drive to Woodlawn. Earlier, I painted khaki long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants on Cleve Andrews playing a fiddle. Maybe about half way into the khaki part. Khaki is a very odd color. Mine is not exactly khaki, but khaki comes in about 30 shades, at least, so I made one of those shades, maybe. Doesn't matter. It looks like khaki and that's all I care about. I'm thinking of this painting as my Vuillard. The background color suggests Vuillard to me, makes me want to make a wall paper with a repeating pattern like Vuillard and use his approach to the clothes. I like Vuillard's painting an awful lot. They're easy to overlook, but they reward a good look. Working on Cleve's shirt and pants, something about the way I was making folds felt like Vuillard.

Here comes Caterpillar. When I'm sitting still watching a movie or talking on the phone, she is off in her sleeping place. When I sit at the computer, here she comes, wants to be on my lap, wants both hands on her, one on her head, one on the back of her neck. She likes me to hold her face in the palm of my hand with my fingers over her head like holding a baseball with ears. She only likes it for a certain amount of time. Beyond a certain moment it goes from comfort to threat. The first slight move indicating she's ready for me to let go is when I take my hand away. If I continue to hold, she'll get anxious. Here she is now, tugging at the leg of my pants with one claw, the doorbell. Let me in. She's appealing to me with big eyes, "hold me," and I appeal to her to let me be, both hands are busy. She tugs again. I reach down and rub the top of her head with 2 fingers for a moment. She has become jealous of my time at the computer. I can watch a movie all day and she'll never offer to get on my lap. Sit at the computer and here she comes. I pick her up. She doesn't ask a lot.

Earlier in the day, I was sitting watching a movie and a big jet, sounded like F15 or F16, flew over so close to the ridges that if I'd been outside I could have seen the pilot. It was loud like a clap of thunder close by. Caterpillar was on my lap, her head jerked up and eyes got big. She has known the sound all her life, but we don't usually hear them this close to the ground, so loud. I'll never forget the time at the Circle L having lunch with Jim Winfield. A jet flew over, I said, "The sound of freedom." He barked fast as a knee jerk, "No it's not!" I confess I love it when a jet like that flies over. It's thrilling. A thing that can fly that fast I can't help but be in awe of. And the pilot I'm in awe of. The people designing it, the people that made the parts, the people that put the parts together. These jets are awe-inspiring machines. I'm glad I don't have to jump into a hole in the ground when I hear one.

Consistently, I'm meeting people at Selma's I like. A couple days ago I enjoyed getting to know Edita of Gdansk, Poland. She's been in this country long enough to know her way around, raise some kids, know the language well. We talked at length about the comfortable air in Selma's coffee shop, agreeing it was Selma, herself, who generated the atmosphere that filled the place such that I feel it walking through the doorway. It's like outside the door I'm in the world of hard edges. When I go through the door into Selma's, I'm passing into a world of soft edges. The people on the inside are friendly, which is not necessarily the case outside the door. The air inside is welcoming. Anyone who wants to come in is welcome. I'm seeing a variety of people gather there. One thing I see that runs through about all the ones I know that go there, a certain degree of mindfulness, people largely self-aware. I'm not saying everyone is any one thing or way of being. Each one is uniquely who that individual is. The atmosphere in the place allows expression of who you really are. They all strike me as good people. We of the county are fortunate to have Selma among us.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


the last note ~ thornton spencer

Palestinian militants from Gaza...Israeli gunmen incredibly tiresome, and USA formally telling Assad to get out of Syria for killing Syrians. What a joke. Who in the world stage of politics and war has the moral authority to censure anyone else for any reason? In that world, there is no moral authority. British prime minister accusing young Brits of having no morals for reacting to the news of English police killing an innocent young guy. Of course prime minister makes no mention of WHY the youngsters lacking morality reacted. I would rate Cameron's morality quotient below that of the lowest of the rioters. USA has no moral authority over anything or anybody, making this daily news of Hilary Clinton telling Assad to step down the laugh of the day. She's been saying it for weeks, and every time it's told like it's the first time. I don't think there's anything to any of it. She's making those statements for the international news services, and Assad is going to do whatever a middle-eastern monarch will do with a substantial military, wealth and power he's not going to let go of because the Great Satan is making sound-bites that sound big. 

Our evening news is the daily soap opera for men. The news advertises shaving soap the way daytime soaps advertise washing soap. I think of it as the Evening Soaps. Tune in tomorrow and hear what happens next...don't miss's what's happening in the world...this is real...your world is not real because it never gets on tv and if it does, it's not about you. I'm wondering if the news is our contemporary mythology like the Old Testament histories. Strange to have 3 of the world's major religions based in warfare of genocide, open season on people of polytheistic religions, God on our side cheering them on, kill all the dogs and camels, don't leave anything alive. If I have to believe it that God was directing the Hebrew genocide of everybody not them, then I have to believe that God was directing Genghis Khan, who destroyed civilization all the way across the world from Mongolia to Eastern Europe, plundering for riches, creating the Silk Road to carry their bounty back to Mongolia, along which caravan route the Black Plague was spread from China to medieval Europe in fleas on yaks.

Jewish merchants along the caravan route got the plague first leading the Christians to believe the plague was coming from the Jews, and they had another exclusion of the Jews, God's chosen people and Christendom's most reviled people. I say "most," because Christendom reviles a lot of people, not just Jews. The religion of love. Bang-bang, I'll shoot you down / Bang-bang, you'll hit the ground.  I love you, but I don't love what you do, what you are, who you are. Qualified love can stretch all the way over into hate and decorate itself with the word love carrying no more meaning than the word peace on a Christmas card. It appears it would be inevitable for Christendom to become militant, basing itself in the Old Testament of righteous slaughter of others. Half a dozen or so years ago, some zealous Baptists asked me if I'm a Christian. I said, Christian has become a political party and I'm not a party member. When we got it straight I'm not answering their cliche question with a cliche answer, I said, When it gets down to aligning myself with the way of love, I can say yes, but only in that way, no associations with religion of any persuasion.

Perhaps, for me, the most interesting part about this time we're in is that right and wrong are suspect as issues, because everything is relative between the two poles. Suppose I'm drafted, sent on a patrol in Baghdad to an address of terrorists storing guns, break down the door, spray the interior with lead, and it turns out to be women and kids. No problem. A mistake. Line of duty. Following orders. Orders based on bad intel. Oh well. Then I have to live the rest of my life with that room full of dead women and kids replaying in my mind every day and night unto the grave. I can look at it like none of it was my doing, drafted, given orders to follow or else. Nonetheless, my subjective self registered itself as the one pulling the trigger. Absolved of guilt by official proclamation, how does one go on living with those images in the head? Tom Berringer's Sniper movies, all 3, deal with this issue. He is a soldier in a purpose far greater than himself, good at what he does in kill or be killed situations, and he carries every kill in the front of his mind day and night. This is not peace, it is the history of men in civilization.

The question, is war our mythology? looks convincingly like it might be, in every way I'm able to see it. It was the myth that guided the Europeans that came over to the New World and the military sweep of the original inhabitants off the map. It was the very same as if aliens in flying saucers came from outer space and started killing the American people from East to West, coast to coast, made treaties and never honored a one, killed with impunity, genocide the purpose, and even with our massive redneck arsenals from coast to coast, the rule of thumb that the side with the most advanced technology always wins, applies. The white European take-over of the North American continent was certainly of mythic proportion. Spaceships wiping out the population from coast to coast for a place to put their people whose planet just died from pollution, we'd see in mythic proportion the way the Indians see the mythic proportion of what happened to their ancestors. USA cannot point the finger of morality at anyone or anything without the 3 fingers that point back at the one doing the pointing. All the rest of the world knows it. The American mythology is war.

This is where secular history and religious history interweave in a braid and become the same. One could not be without the other. War for our living mythology makes us self-righteous in the extreme unto arrogance without self-awareness. The attitude toward the world of the untamed is they are the same as nothing. It was easy to kill the Indians, or want to kill them, because they were untamed, the same as a raccoon, or a wolf or a bear. Kill ever one ya see. With killing as the mythological foundation of our country, it's only natural we'd have way the highest murder rate in the world amongst ourselves. You piss me off: bang, you're dead. You broke the law: bang, you're dead. You fucked another man: bang, you're dead. You're not me: bang, you're dead. I can't live with my mind any more: bang, I'm dead.

Seeing killing so deep in our national roots really gives us a respectable place in the world. French colonies. Dutch colonies. Belgian colonies. British colonies. Spanish colonies. They all did the same thing we did. Killed "not us" people all the way along and thought nothing of it, not even as racism. It's the same as shooting bottles. They're heathens. Nothing. They're dead already. Just getting them out of the way, like burning the vegetation off Caribbean islands to plant them with sugar cane, making money. My lawyer friend Lorne Campbell told me the march of history is up the staircase in army boots and down the staircase in silk slippers. Over and over it goes, round and round, a slinky lurching down a flight of stairs. All this on top of worrying about paying bills. It's time to put on some music by Whitetop Mountain Band and feel happy about everything in a very few minutes. We're just human beings on earth doing not necessarily the best we can, but getting along somehow. Every once in awhile God has to rescue us from ourselves.  We get good parenting, love without condition, not even judging us for fighting amongst ourselves all the time. Loves us anyway. With so many kids, what else can you do?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


by anselm reyle, 2009

I've just returned from seeing some news articles and videos --- man-eating bull shark ate a man at a resort beach of the Seychelles Isles, evidently a vacation resort on an island in the Indian Ocean, several miles north of Madagascar not far from the equator, hot-hot-hot. On  honeymoon. Wife watched her husband consumed by a shark from the beach. I saw a video a few weeks ago, a documentary about sharks by a guy who swims among them. The guy caught today by a bullshark was splashing with flippers and blowing bubbles with a snorkel. According to the guy who swims among sharks, that's not the way to do it. The bubbles puzzle their senses and attracts them. The flippers look like a seal. The article said a week before a French guy was taken by a bullshark. They assume the same one. Somebody, an authority, said when a shark tastes human flesh and loses fear of humans, they become killer sharks. Somebody else came on to say they'll find it and kill it. I say humans don't belong in the ocean. Even though humans have depopulated the ocean dangerously, everything in the ocean is looking for something to eat. It's not somebody's backyard swimming pool.

In the documentary about sharks, the guy making the film, Sharkwater, said when a shark bites a human it's a matter of curiosity, something the shark doesn't recognize, and the shark uses its teeth to feel what the curious object is. The leg feeling something jerks and the shark's teeth pointing backward clamp down and the leg can't get free. The frenzy and the blood excites the shark, then there's hell to pay. The guy swimming among sharks doesn't thrash his flippers. He swims smoothly like a fish using the flippers as a fish uses is tail to propel it through the water, arms at his side, not blowing any bubbles with his snorkel. He could swim with them and pet them. He also had to take some time to let them see he's not a threat. He's too big to eat. He said they can feel, sense fear and it attracts them. He could swim among them because he'd studied them and learned before he went into the water with them to feel no fear and show no aggression. Go in peace, essentially. Teaching himself to feel no fear made a great difference in his life, too. It strikes me odd that I see this film and over the few weeks between then and now I hear of two shark attacks in the news. Neither one sounded like benign mistakes.

I can't help but wonder about the ocean exceeding its banks in tsunamis all over Asia as the ocean reaching up a hand and slapping us, saying: Stop it! I'd like to wonder if the shark attacks represent the other creatures in the ocean by biting a human for the underwater world. Shark poaching for shark fin soup all over Asia has brought down the shark population over the last 10 years by 90%. Could the remaining sharks be striking at us saying: Stop it! I read in the back of a Newsweek a few years ago of a small island in the Southeast Asian archipelago where bulldozers were taking out the forest for lumber. They'd taken about 3/4 of the island's trees and tigers started attacking bulldozer drivers. It might not be, but I can't help but see these kinds of things as the earth slapping us like a mother, saying: Stop it! There is a point we can plunder and pillage to that Mother Earth will allow. Beyond that point, and I suspect we're at that point with the entire planet, there is hell to pay.

On the news today a repbulican running for president, Romney, said he doesn't believe global warming. It's just a theory. That's good republican party line talk, but I doubt he has much of a chance against Rick Perry, who is coming on calling himself a new Reagan, just like W did, the magic name for republicans. I don't get it that half the American people believe what they're told to believe to be a republican. No wonder it's the party of the so-called christians who are dead set against doubt. Don't doubt the leader. The no two ways about it party. It's Jesus or hell. They focus on satan so much that I'm sorry for them. Why not try loving your neighbor as you love yourself instead of wanting to set up a police state to patrol the non-believers and force them to submit the way our government forces places like Iraq and Afghanistan to take up democracy. You be a democracy or we'll kill ever dang one of ye.

What arrogance. Talking with someone yesterday of the arrogance of Americans, the arrogance of the English, the arrogance of the French, the arrogance of the Chinese. Then look at the human attitude toward all the life forms we share the planet with. To be killed at will. They're here for us to kill. How arrogant is that? Our arrogance as a species is commiting genocide on the other life forms of our home planet. I heard a man once explain that in the Bible God gave man dominion over the animals. He interpreted dominion the right to kill. That rattled my head a moment. I didn't let on. I wasn't going to argue something like that. It's just another possible interpretation. For me, dominion means the responsibility to take care of. I live in a world of people for whom the right to kill is sacred. Ever since childhood I didn't like that. I've never been comfortable with our human arrogance over all other life forms. I've a hope that after the Age of Oil the earth will come into balance again.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011


by joan mitchell

Following 3 days of painting nearly all day, a day today social from 30 minutes after I woke until 6 when I came home and put on the movie of the day, Goodfellas, the 1990 Scorcese gangster film that is one of the great gangster films with Miller's Creek, Once Upon A Time In America, Godfather. I didn't recall seeing Goodfellas, but there was one scene I remembered, only one. The guy Tommy, I think his name was -- so many names to keep up with, they all ran together like French words in a sentence -- getting in Ray Liotta's face, "You think I'm funny? You think I'm funny? What's funny about me? What's funny about me?" That was the only scene familiar. Liotta's wife seemed familiar in her role, but only distantly familiar. Now I'm thinking I saw it something like 10 or 15 or more years ago when the first corporate video store opened in Sparta. That, I think, was first chance to see it since it came out in 1990. It was several years after it was new. Now, 21 years later, it's easy to say the film didn't date one minute. It is as fresh today as it was in 1990.

If I had to pick a favorite among American actors, it would most likely be Ray Liotta. He has a style. Not many white men carry style like he does. He's almost Latin in his awareness of style. He's a good actor too. In Something Wild, with Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith, Liotta took a good movie to greatness. That movie brought all three of these people to my attention. Jeff Daniels has been a disappointment ever since, and so has Melanie Griffith. She made a few semi-good movies, got her lips puffed up, made a few ordinary movies and vanished. Like Patti Smith, her best was in her beginning. Ray Liotta I've seen in several movies since, and he's a satisfying actor in every one. He brings a character to life. He becomes the character like only the best actors do. Robert deNiro playing alongside him was a good equal for him, actors sparring verbally like martial arts sparring between Steven Seagal and Anderson Silva.

Toward the end, when Liotta's character, Henry Hill, was on the stand in court testifying against his gangster colleagues, it brought back the time I watched a man rat on his drug world partners in a courtroom in Abingdon, Virginia. It was some time in the late 1980s when I was driving Independence, Virginia, lawyer, Lorne Campbell, around SW Virginia from courthouse to courthouse. In Abingdon I was sitting in the car reading while he was in the courthouse. He came out to the car and told me to come inside. There was something he wanted me to see. It was a man ratting on his friends to send them off to prison and keep himself out of prison. What I saw was the dark shadow his eyebrows made over his eyes, dark, dark shadows, the shadows of internal despair. I resented our government for the phony drug war, which Gore Vidal rightly called the war on the American people, putting American citizens into such fixes they hate themselves the rest of their lives for what they were tempted to do and took the bait. I felt sorrow for the man testifying and equally for the ones he was testifying against.

I've never forgotten their faces. I saw what Campbell wanted me to see. Liotta's eyes had the same shadow of overhanging brow as the man I saw on the witness stand in Abingdon. Campbell had the same regard for a rat as a serious criminal has. He was a serious criminal. He used the courtroom to do his criminal work. Did it by the letter of the law. When he first came to these mountains, he was 19 and went to prison in Wilkesboro 6 months for refusal to rat on a friend in court. He told me the only man he respects is the man who will not rat on his friends. He said there are very few. He was talking real manhood talk, manhood from the world of people with prison credibility. His life purpose was to keep mountain boys out of prison. "Mountain boys don't belong in prison." He saw himself a criminal just like the men he defended. He decided to take up law while in jail. There was a time he was legal representative (mind) for 5 different con men in SW Virginia. When I knew Campbell, only one of his con man clients was living, and he was in his early 90s. Campbell was in his late 70s at the time, able to operate in court, but unable to drive all day.

He taught me respect for the criminal mind and to leave it alone. I see these guys in movies bossing each other around in a hierarchy like the pecking order among hens. I don't have criminal mind and am glad I don't. People of a criminal mind right off see I'm not of that mind and they don't offer to take me there, because it's of no interest to me. But I have some friends of a criminal mind I admire and appreciate. I feel like I understand why in many cases. In the mountains it comes from a culture of poverty over a few centuries and having their only way of making a living rendered illegal by liquor corporation lobbies. You kept your mouth shut and didn't rat. Rats tended to have a short life span. It wasn't d-con that did it, either. This is pretty much the law of the mountains. No rats. It's serious business, too. This whole movie, Goodfellas, was focused on rats by threats, by paranoia, by revenge. In Scorcese's if-it-bleeds-it-leads style, rats usually got their blood sprayed over the wall, the furniture, the floor. I'm glad I saw it again, especially because I didn't remember it. It was new twice.


Monday, August 15, 2011


arturo herrera

I been through it and come out the other end.
                                       ---Wiley Maxwell, Jr

Much of today was spent with Cleve Andrews playing fiddle and Jr Maxwell pickin banjo in silence. Painting a likeness of these musicians from a photo taken about 1960 in the living room of Jr's house that burned to the ground in the early 80s, maybe 1981. On the radio just now I heard Tom T Hall singing I'm A Coal Mining Man. Hall lives over near Bristol and participates in the music of the region. The song sounds like it was written by and sung by an aging coal miner. That was WBRF. I thought I'd put the radio on some classical music. Big orchestra sound. It didn't feel right. Clicked 3 on the preset and some bluegrass guitar was doin it to it. That was it. Banjo and fiddle came in, vocals and I was on the right station. Next came, I'm a coal minin man / four miles underground. Hall also wrote Big Country Bluegrass's recent number one hit The Men In Hats And Ties.

It must be from visualizing fiddle and banjo music over the last 3 days that bluegrass is my musical satisfaction this evening. Sounds like the Delmore Brothers singing I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll. Sounding so much like the Everly Brothers, I'm a little bit overwhelmed that the Everly Brothers were so in the tradition. Then the dj, Jay Allen, said it was Gillian Welch. Whoa. She's changed. Or my memory was a false memory. Possible. That song was impressive. It's on YouTube if you want to hear it. I don't usually listen to bluegrass while writing you, because it distracts me completely, makes me stop and listen. A vocal, a banjo, a fiddle, a mandolin, a resonator guitar, a guitar, a lyric might catch my attention and I'm gone. So many possibilities that distraction is a certainty. Like just now is a fiddle, banjo, guitar and bass playing Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss, layin it to it. All the musicians are among the best. The Mount Rogers Ramblers. They have one video at YouTube, listed as Soldier's Joy. They actually play two tunes, Sally Ann, then Soldier's Joy. It's a good example of their sound. Good fiddler. Happy music.

I just now said to myself, muttering, not quite out loud, "Isn't it weird being a human being on earth." It just now occurred to me that I say this to myself quite a lot. I say it while driving, or anything. It comes forward when I'm thinking about something especially wonderful I'd have missed living on another planet. Like the Mount Rogers Ramblers. Sometimes it can be over something truly absurd like post-Reagan America. Hearing news about people in a place and time acting out the worst humanity has to offer. At the same time, the best in us is acted out every day. On the front page of the paper, if it bleeds it leads, a Canadian woman killed on her motorcycle in Sparta. Later, a letter to the editor, an open letter to the people of Sparta from her man, telling of new friends, bonding with the community for all the help received. He said he will return to visit new friends here. What's weird about being a human being on earth is the variety of possible responses or reactions that would vary from one individual to the next. That's a lot of possibles. His letter came from the heart of the one chosen by the white marble of fate.

All varieties of human nature, each one so incredibly unique that we're known by the people knowing us by our personalities, that endless checklist of characteristics, easy to get along with or overbearing, characteristics that are put together like in an astrology chart, and add up to who we are individually. In my way of seeing, just that is one of the weirdest aspects of being human on earth in any time over the last 50,000 or more years. The time we're in now will be told in history books two thousand years from now in the way Romans are seen now, Xtreme hedonism. Til the end of time this time we're in today, the Age of Oil, will be told as the worst time of all to be living on earth, the time when all those beasts of the Revelation roam in the saga of the evening news, and we live our lives subject to all of them. The darkness is so dark now, I can only hope it's the dark before dawn. It has to be. If it gets any darker, we're in for it. It feels like it won't be much longer we'll have to wait.

It's also the time of the return of the Avatar. Jesus was fond of prostitutes and thieves. He didn't say, I love you, but I don't love what you do. No qualifications. Jesus came in a time of Xtreme hedonism. Maybe he'll come again in another such time. I refuse to anticipate or expect any interpretation of how the Return will manifest. I figure we'll know it when it happens. That's all that matters. Or not. I've an idea it has something to do with a collective raising of consciousness, after which we will be very different from the people that went into it. We already are and evidently have a ways yet to go. I can't help but think that living one's life by spiritual principles helps, such as paying attention to what we're doing, keeping the attention focused on now, the moment, the place, the people, the absence of people. Keep my attention closer to home and let Washington DC, Tehran, Pakistan, Baghdad, London and New York take care of themselves. If they don't, that's too bad. I can't help any of them. They wouldn't listen if I tried.

I can stay at home and paint pictures, hold Caterpillar, watch movies, have coffee at Selma's, love God and keep my attention on where I am. As long as I have peace in my heart, where I am will be in peace. That's the closest I can get to the meaning with words. It is that simple and it is not that simple. It is what it is. When I can get there (here), full acceptance without judgment, who needs to worry about 35 people killed by a suicide bomber in Kandahar? All the karma involved is someplace else on the globe, a long ways off. The only karma of my concern is where I am. I'll be happy to reach that place where my focus is on here and now. It takes a real stillness, an inner stillness that wouldn't ring the first note on a wind chime.