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Monday, December 31, 2012

DRIVING ON ICE IN THE MOUNTAINS

     mark tobey, 1957


Yesterday, next to the last day of the year, I started on the road to visit friends and watch football, the Redskins and Cowboys. It's a 23 mile trip by highway and 15 by the Parkway. I decided to take the Parkway, not thinking about ice or any possible reason not to go that way. Starting up Air Bellows Gap Road, I saw the last half mile uphill toward the Parkway was sheer ice, the slickest kind. Front wheel drive and new front tires, I was feeling like I could make it. The best word I know to describe driving up that long hill of ice, a drop-off nearly straight down on the left side of the road and a ditch on the right, was "techous." That's mountain for touchy, like "tejus" is mountain for tedious. It was both techous and tejus. I made it to the Parkway. The gate to the Parkway had been closed, but the lock was missing, so the gate was hanging half way open. I stepped out, opened the gate, looked at the ice on the Parkway and thought: I can make It.

As soon as I started driving on the Parkway's ice, as glass-like slick as ice gets, the kind of ice you have very limited control on, I read the ice and saw I was in for it. Also saw I was not going to go back down that road to the Parkway. On front wheel drive, the rear end is bad to swing around going downhill on ice. I assessed I had a better chance on the Parkway. Going into the first curve opposite the Air Bellows Overlook, the road slanted toward the ditch from the centerline for runoff, and that little bit of a downhill grade to the side took my traction. About 3 seconds of sliding sideways toward the ditch, traction took hold and I kept it in the road. There I got my learning: do not trifle with this ice. Coming out of that curve I saw the pavement was dry in places where the sun hit the road. It was in shady places with a wall of mountainside on the south side of the road. That told me where I would encounter ice all the way to where I intended to get off, maybe Mahogany Rock Road (Cable Car Road), but it is a very steep downhill grade leaving the Parkway there and I wasn't so sure I wanted to attempt it. It would be ice at least half a mile and the last 4/5 of that half mile spinning around and around and brought to rest by a tree. I thought I'd take it all the way to 21, then get on Glade Valley Road.

Several long patches of ice to deal with never got any easier from one to the next. Mostly the ice was in curves. One long stretch that was semi-straight and a pretty good grade downhill was so long that I stopped before entering it, assessing how to handle it. I went slow as I could, keeping foot on brake just enough to keep the momentum from carrying me away, never enough to lock wheels and lose traction. The stretch of ice was so long that the momentum took me past what I could control with the brakes and the car started moving along. Too late to put it in a lower gear. Ride it out and do the best you can. The dry pavement arrived just at the time I could see I'd be losing traction very soon. What a relief that pavement was. Then I had a series of curves to go through with mountain on the south side all the way. The downhill grade was not steep enough for gravity to take control away from me. Between 5 and 10 mph. Lots of holding my breath unconsciously. A few times I reminded myself to breathe. I wasn't afraid of tearing up the car, because at most it might get a dent in a corner, but no big deal unless it broke a headlight or taillight.

The worst would be to get stuck. No cell phone. I'd have to walk five miles home, much of it on ice, in cold wind. I didn't aim to do that. Not an option. Coming out of the last curve before Mahogany Rock Road, I saw the gate was closed and locked. I looked to see if I could drive around it. No. Only one thing to do. Turn around and go back over everything I'd been through and do it again. Driving uphill on the ice was so much easier it was almost like there was no ice. Driving back, I entertained a dread that Parkway rangers might have been by and repaired the gate with the missing lock at Air Bellows before I made it back. Slim chance on a Sunday, but freakier things happen. Driving around the curve at Air Bellows Overlook was the worst ice of the uphill run. That was the place I lost traction on the first run. The hairpin turn leaving the Parkway was sheer ice and the drop-off at the very edge of the road. I recalled a time I was leaving visiting friends on a night of pea soup fog. I was warned, "If you don't make that turn, the rattlesnakes will eat you up before you get to the bottom." I remember that sentence every time I go around the curve. I've done it so many times I wasn't concerned about making the turn. The worst of going off the road there would be bouncing from tree to tree like a pinball to the bottom or until wedged. Again, not an option.

From there I took a brief tour through the Air Bellows Outdoor Art Museum of Spontaneous Teenage Angst. It's the tunnel covered with spray-can graffiti that goes under the Parkway on the way toward the downhill grade on the ice I had dreaded since realizing the necessity of turning around. I did not want to do that. Inside the museum, maybe 20 feet long, the pavement was free of ice. I paused, calling upon mindfulness, and set out on the slickest ice I'd been on, downhill; the slant of the entire road for runoff leaned toward the side that went straight down again. More rattlesnakes and pinballs. I stayed on the upper side with left tires off the road on the side of the ditch. Traction. I made that stretch without losing traction. Next, the road took a steep downward direction with a curve at the bottom, ice slicker than on the Parkway because it had been driven over so much, telling me, for one thing, I could make it. From a dry spot in the road at the top of the downhill run where I stopped, I saw a car sideways in the road about half way up the hill. I saw that it would be a good chance of hitting the car if I made the attempt. He had front wheel drive too, but not new tires. I always go into winter with new tires on the front. They matter, especially when you live at Air Bellows.

A man standing outside the car. I pulled as close as I could get on the dry place and stopped. He and I talked. He was with his wife. Thought they'd drive on the Parkway and look at the scenery. I told him he doesn't want to do that. I was thinking, but couldn't say it, If you get on that Parkway, your wife will be cussing you for the next week, even if she's a good Baptist. I recommended when he got going again turn around and go someplace else on a state road that's maintained. I told a little bit of what I went through, the ice, the ice, the ice. He said somebody living nearby had gone to get a shovel. That didn't make any sense to me--a shovel and ice? I don't like to question other people's reasoning. I didn't have any sand or salt or even a shovel. I saw I could get around his car by leaving the road on the left, which I knew to be firm ground under the ice, a place I could keep traction through that difficult spot. He wasn't sure I could make it, but I knew my car, the road and myself. I was actually glad I had to drive around his car uncertain if I could make it through that particular grade without losing traction. I would have gone down it with left wheels off the road anyway.

I came out of that curve and the road was clear from there on. Great relief. I went over the decisions I'd made that in hindsight looked retarded. I told myself I should have turned around when I saw that hill of ice, the first place to freeze, the last place to thaw. It told me what the Parkway was, and I knew I could make it. Any degree of foresight would have told me the Parkway gate would be closed at Mahogany Rock. It never entered my mind so caught up in the present moment. Driving on ice is totally a present moment experience. Mind dares not waver. Mind pays total attention or you're lost. Thirty-five years experience driving on ice, every kind of ice there ever was, even ice under several inches of mud, I looked back over the day's experience as a driving rodeo. Didn't get stuck, the main thing, didn't hurt the car, only lost traction once, used every skill I'd developed over the years. I came out of it feeling successful. I had tested my skill to the very edge and it held. The mountains do indeed teach the people of the mountains how to drive.




Sunday, December 30, 2012

HENRY MILLER AND JACK KEROUAC

        henry miller, untitled


Have just now seen a half hour video of Henry Miller talking at dinner in his last year. It took me way back to the time of my life I was reading Henry Miller in awe, the way I later read Tolstoy and Patrick White. Henry Miller wrote a long list of books besides the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn that just about anyone who has heard of him knows him by, in other words, misinterpretation. In his book Big Sur he tells about living remotely at the time at Big Sur in California, people looking him up because they took him for an important figure in the sexual revolution because he wrote the Tropics and they had the word fuck in them, censored in America until a supreme court decision in the time of the Warren Court. Miller was a writer, not a sexologist, and for the rest of his life was taken for a sexologist because he was the first American writer to use the word fuck. Big deal. It was as stupid then as it is now to be freaked over one of the oldest words in the language. Everybody who has ever spoken the English language knows the word. It's just that the working class uses it freely, thus making it unacceptable to the middle and ruling classes as they don't want to do anything that gives appearance of working class.

This film of Henry Miller talking over dinner I found at UBUWEB, it's ubu.com. They have a long list of hundreds of video interviews or talks by so many people I recognize the names of only a few. I'm going back there to see what I can find. If the others are half as good as this one, I'll be having a good time and spending a lot of time. They have Viking Eggeling, a Zurich Dadaist from Norway, French poets Rene Char and Henri Michaux. This could turn out to be a terrifically interesting site. It looks mostly French. French writing in the 20th Century is some of the best. For the modern French poets, Arthur Rimbaud was the great French poet as Walt Whitman was the great American poet. Rimbaud wrote his entire works in two years, two books of poetry that were not received at all in the world of poetry at the time. He quit writing when he was 19. Died not many years later of a disease caught in Africa. Later became the greatest French poet that ever was and ever will be. Like vanGogh, who never sold anything while he was living, died not even heard of. Now his paintings have values in excess of a million dollars. The Miller conversation reminded me somewhat of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, sitting at the table eating, commenting on the food, talking about artists and writers.

One of the many places I connect with Miller was when he was talking about how he is a composite of the influences of people he has known, writings he's read, as much as by experiences. I flashed on people I've known over the years I've learned from and held high with respect. I think part of what I learned from Henry Miller was to value friends. Miller valued people he knew along the way, neighbors, more than he valued famous people he knew. Writers' biographies tend to be lists of famous people they knew and consorted with. Miller had friends nobody ever heard of. He taught me to value character in people I know. He taught me that going your own way in Amerika is possible. He was one of the writers in my first years of reading who taught me how to read. Today in the coffee shop, a teenage boy to my left had a paperback copy of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, and a teenage girl to my right had a copy of Animal Farm. It seemed odd in a county where I've only known people to watch tv, at one time, on either side of me was a teenager reading a book I'd read. I spoke to the girl briefly, asked how she's liking it. She'd read it in Jr hi and decided to read it again. "It's about dictatorships." I decided not to go there. I felt compelled to say if you'll pay attention to the news you'll see it happening here, but I couldn't do it. I was curious about the boy reading Kerouac half a century later when it's history he's reading. But I wasn't sure he'd know what I meant.

It's not a kids-these-days thing, but I look at myself at that age and remember how totally inarticulate I was and how terrifically uninformed I was, thinking I knew it all and everybody else was dumb. The arrogance of youth. I chose not to enter that zone. Just looking at myself inhibited entering their beginning minds. They are at the beginnings of their perhaps intellectual development, and I am near the end of my path, which started out where they are reading now. I thought about mentioning to the girl about police state, but I didn't know that stuff then, and don't know that I'd have welcomed an old white-haired turd telling me about police state, and beatnik times with the boy. They don't care any more than I would have then. Though, then I would not have been in a coffee shop even if we'd had them. It did grab my attention that in the last years of my trail through life somebody was on either side of me reading a book I had read in the early years of my own inner development. It did catch my attention, especially because you don't see people with books here. Even among the new people from Away. To see two people of the post-literate generation reading books I read at their age just twisted my mind until it couldn't twist any more. It wasn't a times are changing vision. It was more like, What are the chances of that? Like taking dice and rolling a 5 three times in a row. It's an I-don't-get-it response that doesn't even question. There's no legitimate question that can be asked. How did it happen? Who the hell knows?

I came home and found this video of Henry Miller, a writer from the next step in my reading development. It was in that time I read the Tropics. A friend had given me a paperback copy of the Tropic of Capricorn, which I read like I'd read any other book. Parents had no interested in books or anything I was reading. I was told, "If you have time to read a book, you have time to wash the car," mow the grass, whatever came up to fill in the blank to complete a wise crack. So I had to read in private when they couldn't see me, like after they'd gone to bed. Otherwise I'd be assigned a chore. It was not permitted in the house to threaten to be smarter than daddy. Daddy didn't read, so the young rooster reading was a threat. I might learn something he didn't know. I wanted to read because up until age 4 when daddy came home from the war I'd been read to every night before sleep. I loved mommy reading to me. Daddy came home and mommy couldn't read to me any more. I had to wait til I was in the last year of high school before I could start reading on my own, when I took the garage for my quarters. Television went on all the time. We watched all the westerns, because that's what daddy liked. By the time I got away from them, I hated westerns and still do. John Wayne makes me puke. Had to watch tv with daddy; that's the family thing to do. This is the origin of why I have never had a tv since leaving them. Today's experience took me all the way back to 12th grade reading On The Road, the new paperback, 1960, cool new beatnik drug behavior, by the cool new Jack Kerouac. I didn't understand a word I read, but felt like I was being cool reading something cool. When you're totally not cool, any kind of disguise will do.


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Saturday, December 29, 2012

RACISM AND EGO

lawrence ferlinghetti, summer happenings



It feels good to drive with firm brakes again. I like a motor that will go and brakes that will stop the car as needed. Went to the tag office today to turn over my papers and money. When I go into such an office, I just sit down and relax. I refuse to think about how long the people ahead of me are taking, so long that I'd be embarrassed holding up the people behind me so long. I don't get anxious if somebody gets ahead of me. I settle in for the duration. When it's my turn I get up and go to the window and speak with a meat robot. I don't ask them to talk, because they act like they're not getting paid enough to talk too. I handed over everything needed. She handed me my new papers and I went out the door and stuck the 2013 sticker on the tag, being sure I put it on the correct corner of the tag for fear of arrest. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. There are so many laws even lawyers can't know them all. How can we be aware of all the laws? That's neither here nor there. It's a matter of black and white, not a matter of the spectrum between the poles. True or false. Either/or. Best thing I know to do is what I've practiced all my life. Stay out of sight of the Law. Do not attract the attention of the Law. Once they get a bead on you, you're surveilled all the time. Like somebody moves back to the county after being in prison several years, they keep an eye on him and keep him knowing he's being watched.

One of the frustrations of my life is that I have serious issues with the Amerikan penal system. The sentences are draconian. Somebody kills his mother and gets 8 years. Somebody sells an ounce of reefer and gets 15 years. For young black men prison experience has become a passage, like the Marine Corps is for white guys. It's become a tradition in the world of black people that the men go off to prison. Held down in poverty in every American city by a racist society, hopelessness sets in and kids growing up know they don't have a chance even if they make all As. Even if they do have a chance, they don't know it. The gangs are where the money is at. Nobody will hire them because their hair is sticking out all over in tight braids, tattoos cover arms and neck, love and hate prison-tattooed across the upper fingers between the fist knuckles. Pants half way down his ass with polka dot underwear, big stolen Nikes hanging open, eyes of a man who has killed, Radio Shack isn't going to hire him to work the register and deal with the public. Rap is an endless list of cases of hopelessness, people the Climb is not available to. Even making a living is not available to many. When you're held down by racism, intense bitterness comes next. In prisons the race wars are raging. It still holds that white people like black people who dance, talk dirty, play sports and make music--others need not apply. That is gradually changing, though the racist party has been holding the black people back for the last 30+ years, keeping them in stasis. Some have moved into the middle class and on up, though a separate middle class.

It frustrates me that my race is holding the black race of people down, always has and looks like always will, if given the option, but I don't believe it always will. We're at a place in our national democracy that the Deep South states were in at the end of the Civil War when more than half the census was black. It scared the whites that the blacks had equal power in a democracy. Then as now, the South would rather have racism than democracy. But not entirely. That is changing. The new breed of young people coming along are not so inclined to racism. Some are, some are not, though racism appears to be a little bit less every year. The republican party's racist attitudes toward Obama are only acceptable to some white men, not all by any means. Racism is all over the country, not just the South. The South is just a good scapegoat to point the finger at for distraction from self. The republican party this last election counted on racist white men outnumbering everybody else. This is what Limbaugh was saying after the FAIL, "We're outnumbered." Now they know that every immigrant from south of the border is one more for the side of the coloreds and the turncoat whites. Every black baby is one more possible voter. The white men who identify with their pigmentation will be getting more and more desperate as time rolls on.

White men are wild and crazy. For one thing, it's white men doing the massacre shootings, not black women, not chicano women, not white women. I'm wondering if these shootings could be an expression of a psychic panic running through white men in this time of census crisis that sets off the ones with the least mental balance like strings of Chinese firecrackers. We have our racism issues in abundance. However, in India the Hindus and the Muslims go on killing rampages with machetes, axes, knives, fires, pitchforks (guns are illegal) and anything else at hand (pitchforks don't kill people, people kill people). Over religion. Muslim Pakistan hates Hindu India with a passion beyond racial hatred in Amerika, even considering some fundamentalist preachers in Kansas. Like Ronald Reagan summed up his administration at the end, "It could have been worse." W proved him prophetic. We have laws against expressions of racism that keep them minimal and hidden, that control behavior to some degree. Laws against it doesn't change it in the hearts and minds of people who need it. As long as they do no harm, they can think and feel however they think and feel. That's the basic, understood, tenet of civilization that makes it desirable. Only outward expression can be controlled, and that not anywhere near entirely. It's education that diminishes racism, not legislation.

Racism in India is as powerful as it is here, even moreso. The Hindus are mortified of eating meat, bad karma, but jump to it when a chance comes to burn down a house with a muslim family inside and laugh at them screaming. We do some bad shit here in USofA, but here we do it with multiple shot assault rifles instead of machetes and fires. The American way, with guns. In Africa, Idi Amin ran out all races from Uganda but black. Indians who had lived there for generations had to leave. Africa has plenty of its own racism. Every race has its own internal racism. Racism is ego, like everything else we do, say and think. I've found in myself that paying attention to ego as the motivator of everything about myself, individually, I'm overwhelmed with helplessness. When I educate my ego with understanding, things change. Understanding makes a difference. It's at the ego that we have to collectively find our understanding if we want to make the ego less a problem. It never works to go against the ego and try to shut it out. That's the Fall of the House of Usher syndrome. I only know to flow with it, allow it, teach it what my higher self wants it to know, teach it respect. Not by coercion, but by convincing evidence. I can teach the ego to be less demanding, but don't dare push it so far it creates a backlash. What I've learned over the years of how to handle my own egoic matters and the egoic matters of others in my world can be put simply: don't worry, be happy. Just don't worry about it. Let it rest.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING

     martin uzman, winter oak



The brakes on the car went out today at the most opportune place and time it could happen. I thanked God for it in a conversational manner, like, Thanks. I'd gone to see Chuck Billings the mechanic to get an inspection before I get a renewal on the tag. As I pulled up to the door at his garage, pushed on the brake pedal to stop, it stopped then the pedal made a soft popping sound and went to the floor. We looked and just inside the left rear wheel on the ground saw a circle of wet brake fluid. A rust spot in the brake line gave out. It happened to the brake line on the right side in July a couple miles from his shop, making it easy to get there with what little brake I had left. Today it was as I pulled up to the door. I can only take that as the Divine hand saying, "Howdy," letting me know He has His eye on me. It's not a critical, judgmental eye, but a helping eye, loving assistance, the kind of assistance I couldn't live without. I saw on facebook a picture Milly Richardson put up with a saying in it, I think they're called memes, maybe--pronounced meems. It was an Einstein quote saying there are 2 ways to view life. They are, #1 as if nothing is a miracle, #2 as if everything is a miracle. I thought when I saw that I'm of the latter mind. I see everything a miracle in that way of being guided by God, by the Flow, and protected too. When I allow. I've come to see that allowing is an expression of love. When I allow somebody to be who they are without me feeling I need to change something about them, that's a love expression.

This is something I've found important in my everyday life in the last few years. I have a friend I have watched grow up from a baby who has turned out to be the closest friend of my life. We are different people in a lot of ways and we understand each other. He's 30 now with wife and 3 kids. I do not for any reason correct him or try to change his thinking. He doesn't do that to me and I don't do that to him. From an old people perspective, I call it allowing. I allow him to live his life as himself without any attempt to control or manipulate. In a way, a big way, I think of not talking to him the way older people talk to younger people (you oughta, you needta, you gotta, you should) as a love expression. It's my way of saying I trust you to understand your life and your decision making. I don't need to be telling anybody how to live their life. Too many older people allow themselves the impulse to tell younger people what to do, because we see it from a perspective of a different kind of experience. I heard myself start a sentence twice in my fifties, "The kids these days...." I told myself there will not be a third time. On 60th birthday I went to see Papa Roach at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem. With the same purpose, a decade later reminder, I went to see Thrice in Charlotte on 70th birthday. In a crowd of young rockers I see the kids these days are cool people. I have nothing to teach them. I need to learn from them.

It was several years after I fell in with Meher Baba that I could entertain dealing with love. I'd grown up a Kansas baptist in a severely dysfunctional home (normal), no experience with love or compassion. Love had been shut down in me by age 10. When it came time to get married and reproduce I had no love to call upon. It wasn't about love. I thought love will come later. It didn't. What I thought of as falling in love was falling in heat. I had an argument with Baba for some time about love. Like I don't get it. I was looking for a way to tap into love realistically, not artificially or playing pretend. It seemed like a closed door. One day driving to Sparta, coming out of the curve after Deadman's Curve, heading into Thompson Flat, it came to me that I had read in Baba's discourses that understanding equals love, they are the same. Great flash. A welling up of joy inside, I said out loud, "I can do that!" Understanding was my doorway to love. It wasn't long after that moment, in years, I fell in love with all the people of my world, the people I see every day and the ones I don't see, the ones I like and the ones I don't like. I felt I understood them and forgave them everything that annoyed me before.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

LIKE A ROLLING STONE

     edie factory girl by nat finkelstein


Bob Dylan's song Like a Rolling Stone stays in my mind today. Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you. People call, say Beware doll you're bound to fall, you thought they were all kidding you. You used to laugh about everybody that was hanging out. Now you don't talk so loud, now you don't feel so proud about having to be scrounging for your next meal. The arrogance of youth and wealth brought down by junk. The song is an appeal to Dylan's then girlfriend-interest, Edie Sedgwick, a rich California babe who arrived in NY with a splash, a spread of photographs in Vogue as the hottest new item in NY society. From there her descent was a straight line downward. She hung with Andy Warhol's Factory bunch of hangers-on junkies. They kept her high. She was also Bob Dylan's sometimes girlfriend who would go with him for awhile, then she'd drift back to the Factory and the drug euphoria there. He struggled with her trying to get her away from that crowd and the junk, but she was on the downbound train and reversing her direction was not a consideration. She'd been her daddy's sex partner since she was a child. She didn't have a chance in this world. Even her daddy's wealth couldn't save her.

Edie Sedgwick's story is told in a page-turning biography, EDIE: AMERICAN GIRL, by Jean Stein. Edie's story is almost a parable. But there are so many junkies over the years who have taken the downbound train straight down, and one generation doesn't learn from the generation before. Nothing is learned from generation to generation, because the people who start using don't know anything about its history of destroying everyone who takes to it. They've heard legends and know the dangers, but believe they're immune. It rendered the Clash's drummer incapable after a certain number of years and the band died on account of the drummer going under. Many a band went under as a result of discovering junk, the ultimate temptress. The punk scene in both London and New York went under soon after junk was introduced into the scene. Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols had a John & Yoko type love affair with fellow dingbat junkie Nancy Spungeon of the film SID & NANCY. They went through the bottom together and he ended up stabbing her to death with a Bowie knife on a NY hotel bed. He went to prison a short time, got out on bail and OD'd right away. With no direction home. Like a complete unknown. Like a rolling stone.  

According to Edie's biography, Dylan had serious antipathy for the Warhol crowd for the fools that the lot of them were and for their hold on Edie. Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse, when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. The biographer tells of a visit to the Factory by Dylan, evidently cajoled into it by Edie's influence, to sit before a Warhol movie camera for a given amount of time. Dylan was boiling inside. He saw a stack of Marilyn silkscreens leaning vertically against a wall. Dylan pulled a pistol out of his pocket and shot a hole through all of them, a half dozen or so, before he left. Warhol raised the price on them and called them Marilyn with bullet hole by Bob Dylan, probably dated on the back. For about a year Warhol's glamorous Super Stars, junkies with several drag queens among them, played pretend fashion publicly, poseurs of the absurd anti-strutting about, being seen. They were fun. The films were stupid and fun. Chelsea Girls. Lonesome Cowboys. So terrible they were NEW. They were Art. The Super Stars created a sensation in the art world of New York, showing up at openings and the right bars, being seen. They, themselves, were Art, junkies playing pretend they were on the way up when they were on the way down. Like the Bob Marley song, you think you're in heaven when you're really in hell. Then Warhol was shot; his castle of pixels fell to the floor with him. When he came out of the hospital, all that illusion of the Factory junkie scene went away as fast as a breath on the wind.

It was the time of Pop Art in New York, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselman, Robert Indiana, Marisol, Warhol and others, at the same time that Minimalism, too, was branching off from Abstract Expressionism of the Fifties. The public responded to Pop shows at NY museums like to Star Wars movies. The spirit was festive among the people milling about in the museums. It was new, it was art, and it was something people who wanted to feel they understood art could get their minds around without having to be an Art History major to get it. Viewers feel like they get it when they see a Claes Oldenburg large soft sculpture of a pie slice or a hamburger. Oldenburg is a wildly imaginative artist. You had the Warhol entourage weaving in and out of these art scenes at gallery openings, affecting spectacularly bizarre, getting their kicks from a stoned confidence they're shocking the people seeing them, when the only thing anyone who saw them thought was: you see everything in New York. Edie Sedgwick, little miss Like a Rolling Stone, wove in and out of the New York society scene with famous Andy Warhol at her side, Andy adoring his vacant new Super Star who'd been featured in Vogue and came from big California money, was glamorous and played pretend well. Aint it hard when you discover that he really wasn't where it's at, after he's taken from you everything he could steal. Just like a rolling stone.




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WE THE MEAT PEOPLE

      antony gormley


Christmas is over. It was an interesting low-key type of Christmas. There was a time I suspected the rarity of decorations on houses this year could be attributed to Fox so-called news stressing War on Christmas. There's more going on than fewer outside lights tell. My feeling after some time has passed and Christmas has passed is that this was a subdued, quiet Christmas. Nowhere have I seen any zeal about Christmas this year. I hear shopping was down this year, which may or may not mean something other than the Depression we of the working class have been in for a decade. That's not new this year. The television commercials have been full volume and constant. Merchants were desperate, pre-Christmas sales, whatever it took to get some business. More and more Christmas business goes to the discount box stores with sweat-shop factories in Asia destroying communities there like here, just in different ways. Online shopping must have been moving in on the shopping experience. I don't hesitate to go online for something instead of a store. If it's a local store, a store in the county, I'll buy there first, even when it costs more than driving 30 miles to give my money to the Waltons of Arkansas, who live underground with guard towers above ground because they're afraid of the meat people.

Anyway, I stay out of Walmart until it is something I can't find anywhere else that I don't want to buy online. Dollar General in Sparta is good enough discount place for me. Laundry soap is much less there than the grocery store. Cat and dog food and supplies cost the same as grocery store. I have certain items I get there every month, as do many others. It's a booming place, always busy at the register. For clothes items, Gil's Jeans n Things in Sparta is a good discount place for clothes. Gil came here by way of Hong Kong where he gets a lot of his clothes that are factory seconds with a flaw that didn't pass inspection. Gil is clever like that. He delivers good clothes at a modest price, and being Asian, from Poona, India, originally, he'll haggle with you and arrange a new price if you want. His store is a little spot of Asia in Sparta. Inside the place, it is packed, stuffed with stuff. Behind the counter he has his cubbyhole with newspapers and television on CNN all the time. Gil keeps himself informed. He actively sells clothes too. When I go in to get something, he will show me something else along the line of what I'm looking for at a very reasonable price and I buy them both. He doesn't stop until you tell him to stop. The way he does it is not objectionable, in your face at all. It's conversational. He'll put his hand on a stack of sweatshirts and tell something about them and the good price. He's good. He raised several kids and put them through college on what he's made at his little shop on Main Street with the year round liquidation sale.

Small town businesses are especially feeling the Depression, because what business there is goes to the discount box stores. Inflation has taken another big surge while wages have stayed the same since 1980, the kickoff of the Reagan Revolution. By now, 32 years later, inflation has impoverished us, the people who work for a living. We're being brought consciously down to the level of the Third World so we can get jobs back in America when we'll work for $2 an hour just to have a job. Obama can't save us. The republicans are pumping up the pressure of the backlash that feels like it's on a verge. After 30 years of guerrilla strategies attempting to put the democrat party out of existence, it's looking like a backlash of karmic return. The republicans have made it clear they are not going to let us out of the economic Depression they put us in deceptively and are keeping us in with deception. Their mascot animal is far better the Fox than the elephant. They insult an elephant. They insult a fox too. George Orwell nailed them: some pigs are more equal than others. A big pink pig raised for the slaughterhouse with Rush Limbaugh's face. It befits their collective character better than an elephant. Jackass is good for the democrats. They had their period of time doing what the republicans have been doing over the last third of a century. They were the racist party for a long time. In the Sixties the shift began away from racism for the democrats. The republicans lured the racists dissatisfied with the new democrat party and GOP became the racist party.

Sparta is not going to pick up business and it is not going to thrive. The big box discount stores are in the five surrounding counties, a five-pointed star with Sparta in the center, 30 miles in each direction. In a county of people who need discount items, it's looking like only discount stores are going to be left before much longer in the long decline of this republican Depression. They are systematically taking our power away from us, the decision by the Supremes that corporations are now people instantly stripped us of any power. We are now the meat people. Starting now our future is peasants, slaves, beasts of burden that will be happy to live in cardboard slums like in India and Mexico, skilled in varieties of theft. The prisons will get worse and more crowded. Again, Obama is not going to be allowed even the illusion that he could help we the meat people. The corporate people are making laws now having the Occupy movement declared terrorist so they can start arresting the demonstrators and putting them in the FEMA camps. The corporate people are systematically shutting down the meat people, using the easily manipulable among us to bring all the others down. The crabs in a bucket syndrome.

I am not the only one thinking these and similar thoughts, all of them from different vantage points and manifold reasons, all pointing to this "economic downturn" created by republicans and now held down by republicans. We the meat people are targets. What is being done in marketing now is called "targeting." Every one of us is being targeted. Targeted to get our money. We're tin cans on fence posts. I'm happier than ever that I am unplugged from the television influence. I'm glad I don't have enough money to be able to afford anything they advertise, so none of it is tempting. I can't even think about having a new Lexus. Watching football on weekends with friends, I can enjoy the visuals in the commercials that are mini-films, half-minute films, like the babe in black on the motorcycle riding all over USA. Beautiful short film. Monster pickup truck ads with big four wheel drive splashing mud and pulling manhood maneuvers like climbing a rock pile to Bob Seeger screaming Like A Rock. I don't want any of those pickups. I couldn't even afford to buy a license tag for one or pay the insurance, let alone make monthly payments for ever how many years. The big tires are expensive. I couldn't pay the county taxes on one. I don't want a ratchet set with a twisting handle and a bag of fittings for 19.95 plus ten dollars shipping. I don't even want a Papa John's pizza or a Red Lobster special-all-you-can-eat. I don't want a Big Mac.

It makes me happy to see I'm disconnected from that mind. I live in a world of people connected to it, meaning I am the same as connected because everyone in my world is connected. As the television becomes the culture of everyone I live among, it becomes my culture too without me even watching it. No matter how one sees it politically, we the meat people are in a pickle. Our power has been taken away from us by the corporate people. There has been a coup. They won. We lost. We didn't even know it was happening. It was done in deception behind closed doors like a cat creeping up on a bird. These are my thoughts on the malaise I feel in the Christmas spirit this year. Not everyone sees what I see. Each one, each belief system sees this "downturn" in their own terms, in their own interpretations. Though we're all seeing it from different points of view, we're all seeing the same thing, like we're standing in a circle around a big hole. Everybody has their own ideas about why and wherefore, but none of it changes the hole inside the circle everyone is looking into. I can talk with somebody I know with totally different political points of view and be in agreement that the standard of living for us is going down fast. It's the mentation around the questions of why that we can't talk about; we silently agree not to talk about it. Otherwise, both our backs will go up and we'll get louder, then somebody will get pist off and walk away in a huff plotting revenge, or kick somebody's ass.








 

Monday, December 24, 2012

BOB DYLAN AMERICAN POET




Tis the day before Christmas and all through the house the buzz of the refrigerator motor and the ticking of the battery-run clock on the wall blend with the rain dripping from the edge of the roof into small puddles in the stone pathway. Now the kerosene heater's fan joined the trio to make a quartet of the sounds of my silence. In my head is Bob Dylan singing Soon After Midnight, "A gal named Honey / took my money." This new Dylan stays with me like in the early years his album The Times They Are A Changin. At his beginning was Mr Tambourine Man, Blowin In The Wind, even making Man Of Constant Sorrow his own on his first album, and Like A Rolling Stone. I can't think of any song that could top Like A Rolling Stone as a song beautifully conceived, composed, written and performed. I have a Rolling Stones album with Like A Rolling Stone on it; Jagger made it his own, blues style. In youtube parlance, he owned it. All the way along, Bob Dylan has been a Star to me. But since his last five albums he has gone beyond to the place where I hold an artist like Harold Pinter, Constantin Brancusi, Larry Rivers, Marcel Duchamp, Patrick White, William Faulkner, John Berryman, Mona van Duyn. Dylan is in that level of my respect for artists. Others I read and see with appreciation and sometimes awe, but with these people I am in the presence of something so great, great in immense vastness, that I am in full appreciation of everything by these artists and several others, too many to list, Chinese writer Gao Xingjian among them.

I find when I hear Dylan now, after listening to him all my adult life, I am hearing the poet, who to my way of seeing is a great poet and songwriter in one, the great American poet, the Whitman of his time. Sometimes at the end of the day when I'm done chasing the moon, I'll click the remote to start the Dylan album. It has stayed in the cd player since the day it arrived in the house. I'll sit back, turn out the light and hear every word of the whole album like watching an audio movie. I hesitate to call him the great American poet, because it sounds like nonsense, like The Best, Number One, a Ten, unless it really is the case. Calling Whitman the great American poet sounds right to my ear. I try to think of another for that position and can't do it, unless it might be John Berryman, but that doesn't fit somehow, yet. It may in the future. But it fits Dylan at least as much as it fits Whitman. A new Bob Dylan album is the same, to my mind and ear, as a new book of poetry by Robert Lowell, great poetry. Lowell's book of poems, Notebook 1967-1968, is one I must sit down with again in near future. My first time through it, I read it front to back like a book of prose. It scorched the tips of my hair almost as much as the first reading of Robinson Jeffers' Selected Poems. Yes, Jeffers. Jeffers blows my mind with poetry the same way Bob Dylan does. We have a lot of great American poetry.


 


I have loved about Dylan from the beginning that he is writing poetry in the song form of the day, rock, which Dylan kicked off. Before Dylan went electric it was called rock n roll. From Dylan on, it was rock. His poems are contemporary concerns, everyday life observations, stories both nonfiction and fiction. I imagine a future where the collected Dylan songbook is firmly in the American tradition like the Carter Family songbook for traditional musicians of the mountains. Dylan will go through time with a name up there with Shakespeare, Mozart and Tolstoy. Dylan's integrity has been a model for my own, like Gore Vidal has been in another vein, politically. At the same time I make these lofty exclamations about the artist still known as Bob Dylan, it's totally without concern about his private life, people he's shit along the way, women who divorced him, his junkie son, or even his spiritual life. I don't think if we met there would be any more to it than a handshake and a how-ya-do. That'd be it. What can I say? Yer really cool, man. I'm a nutcase living out in the mountain; he's a multi-millionaire businessman in charge of a tremendous staff of musicians, roadies, managers, recording studio, accountants, gofers, hangers-on and probably in his mind an infinite list of responsibilities and obligations when all he wanted to do was make music. With all that, and it compounded by the major trials that go with tremendous wealth and international fame, he continues to write songs that get better in a stairstep climb, much like Harold Pinter's plays in that way.

It doesn't seem far-fetched at all that Dylan needs the Nobel Prize in poetry, not for his personal sake, but for balance in the universe. Even better is to be with Tolstoy and James Joyce, distinguished for not winning the Nobel. How many poets have people wearing tshirts with their pictures and names on them? How many poets can fill a huge auditorium for a reading? How many poets sell millions of copies of every new book? You say he's a songwriter, not a poet? I say nearly every, if not every, living American poet is influenced by Dylan's writing in varying degrees per individual under 70. He took poetry back to music where it came from. Chinese poetry through the centuries was written to traditional tunes. The French poet Apollinaire wrote his poems to what we call classical music. Read his poem Zone slowly in the flow of Pachelbel's Canon while listening to it. Dylan gave his poetry to a world of people who don't read poetry anymore, except a few here and there, like a few people here and there like to listen to old-time fiddle and banjo music. That's how it is with art forms. Art goes unnoticed in pop culture but by a few unafraid of being regarded retarded by the tube-gawkers. A poet I would call Dylan's equal as poet is Louise Gluck, though she is speaking only to some of the people who read contemporary poetry. I believe I could read different poems of hers as frequently as I listen to Dylan songs. Her poem Averno I could read happily as many times as I've heard Like A Rolling Stone.


walt whitman
 


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Saturday, December 22, 2012

NRA AND TERRORISM

 
 


I've been laughing all day, every time I hear the headline news at the top of the hour and every time it comes to mind: the official NRA solution to school massacres. Every school have a hired gunman, or, I suppose on huge campuses like UCLA it would take an entire police force of plain-clothed gunmen, all of them so obvious they're the same as in uniform. My laughing doesn't go very deep, because of what's behind it. The most powerful lobby in Amerika, the lobby that pays politicians well, the lobby that makes politicians quake. Our nation of citizens raising their voices by all the variety of media in the air and cable waves, and the politicians neither see nor hear a thing. They have pledged to cronyism to destroy American democracy from the inside, to nurture the cancer of racism, the cancer of gun madness (rage unto insanity), the cancer of ignorance, the cancer of, the cancer of. Our round the clock ongoing media of every stripe is making a difficult gauntlet for American democracy to stumble through. It may not survive the Reaganista assault. Limbaugh, the philosopher of the republican party is getting paid four million a year to capitalize on the ignorance of uneducated white men, as Capitalism is about doing. Limbaugh and Fox "news" has made the American working class man an unfit subject to live in this world, a threat to everyone around him, women, kids, black people, people of any color except pink, people of other religions that don't believe in Jesus Christ. Onward Christian Soldiers.

I learned today a certain phenomenon has a name. Stochastic Terrorism. It is the use of mass communications or social media to incite individuals not directly tied to the source to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. Like it is predictable now statistically that we will have more mass shootings in schools and other public places. That has been predictable since the 1980s. I saw something that said a public "mass" shooting occurs every 2 weeks in America. That's predictable. It's unpredictable who will do it next, or this month or next. Even considering only the ones reported, I have to say USA is under terrorist attack from the inside. The preaching of hate by radio to American white men has become a serious national liability. Whether or not the shooters listen to hate radio and tv, we live in a society of people who actively listen and pay close attention like in church. Politically, the Fox spokespersons incite hate. Here in the USA so much hate is going around, it's about to get physical. Possibly this thirty year internal terrorist assault on USA that is statistically predictable and individually unpredictable might be burning off some of the hate that is going around in America. It surely is an expression of hate.

Now that these surprise school and public shootings have become predictable, they have a new name: lone gunmen. I'm hearing them consistently called lone gunmen on the news these days. That's new. I suppose it's been so long since the other "lone gunman" massacres, the two Kennedy's and Martin Luther King, it has lost its associations with that time. This time it really is a "lone" gunman. In those previous times, the lone gunman was the patsy for a coup. This time it really is a lone gunman and they're everywhere. Just the ones told on the news make a long list of people who have taken serious weaponry against anonymous people, emphasis on children. Considering this has become American predictable behavior, it says an awful lot about the American character in this time. That's the dark side. The answer is, of course, more enforcement, more laws, pre-emptive arrests, more guns. I'm still of the mind that it isn't guns that kill people, it's people that kill people. Guns are a tool. Put multiple versions of this tool in every home where the only source of information is the television, where killing is the ultimate solution, the ultimate entertainment, the ultimate. You say, "Nobody in their right mind would do something like that." That's right. We have a very poisonous atmosphere for anyone to grow up into in this time.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

END OF THE WORLD AGAIN


mark tobey, fire dancers, 1957
 


Tonight is the Eve of the End of the World. 2012. 2000. 1984. This end of the world has nothing whatever to do with Mayan anything, although it is the parallel Dec 31 of a calendar of 5,000+ years, and next day is Jan 1 of the new 5,000+ year calendar. It is not called a year, though it does have a name of its own that I don't remember. The need for Apocalypse in Christendom evidently has its beginnings in the Revelation of John the Revelator. Yes, it's the end of the world as we know it. Every day is the end of the world as we know it. You-can't-stand-in-the-same-river-twice. In the time of Y2K the zeal for apocalypse in Christendom was silly, yet at the same time made me wonder where this mania for destruction of everything came from. It's evidently as American as it is Christian. People I've known who have been zealots for apocalypse, the destruction of everybody but themselves, tend to be absolutists, wingnuts, people who think of everybody else as in their way.

Then we have the pop culture fear products from Hollywood of computer enhanced destruction of cities by tidal waves, earthquakes, volcanoes, explosions galore, buses flying through the air, end over end, cars tumbling over each other, people screaming, pavement cracking, skyscrapers falling, the metaphorical end of the world. A woman I never suspected would be concerned about the end of the world on the 21st told me a couple days ago about her fear of what will happen. I had to double-take, but she meant it. I attempted a brief explanation that this movie 2012 is computerized fiction, a fear-based product, a marketing device. And if you want to believe something is going to happen, it's not going to be anything like in that movie, not in any way at all. I did my best to explain that it's the same as going from Dec 31 to Jan 1. Just a turn of a calendar page. The Mayan wheel is not a prophecy. It is a calendar. A calendar is not a prophecy. It is not woo-woo. It's an invention of the human mind to have a collectively agreed upon accounting of days, such that everyplace in the world calls Dec 21 this year Friday. Whatever cultures might call it something else are not in touch with our civilization yet. Maybe people on a small island of the SE Asian archipelago no white man has set foot on, people that shoot arrows at single-engine planes.

I'd like to be able to just think of it as a kind of New Year's Eve, the Eve of a much bigger cycle the annual cycle is inside with all the other cycles, from all the way around the zodiac in one year of months, each month with four phases of the moon, cycles of weeks, the weeks seven cycles of the earth's rotation, hours, seconds, nanoseconds. It can go in the other direction, macro, as infinitely as it can go micro. We're used to cycles. It's no big deal. It might be worth pouring a drink over. A sweet justification to have a taste of some fine liquor. I talked myself into it. Them that refuse it are few. I'll hush up my mug if you'll fill up my jug with that good old mountain dew. That's a good one to hear Grandpa Jones pick and sing. The song Little Maggie comes to mind; when Tommy Jarrell sings it, Maggie is sitting on the beach pickin a banjo with liquor bottles all around her. What a great scene, a hillbilly girl drunk at Myrtle Beach, off to herself sitting in the sand pickin a banjo, drinking her troubles away, liquor bottles all around her. Except today she'd be arrested. For certain when they found her .44.

It is 12 o'clock, straight up, at this moment. Happy new whatever-it's-called. I'll have a sip to that. If the world ended, it hasn't got here yet. Or it means something else. Or it's nonsense played out. Like Y2K. Bogus nonsense. Playing fear. I'd like for it not to be overcast, raining and cold wind so I could see the planet alignment in the sky. The Peggy Lee song comes to mind, If That's All There Is, we'll keep on dancing. I wonder if these fears of collective apocalypse, the harvest, amount to a longing to not have to go to work tomorrow, not have to pay any more bills, no more nagging wives, no more bullying husbands, no more impossible parents, school's out forever. I've an idea it has something to do with fear of living more than fear of dying. Dying is ok if everybody dies at the same time. It's individual dying, then, that's scary. Anyway, apocalypse is not a fix-it device. Apocalypse in the Revelation has, as my old preacher friend Millard Pruitt said, "a spiritual meaning." If the people anxious about the end of the world in one big explosion would study the spiritual meaning, they might learn something. But learning is out of the picture. Not an option. Another apocalypse dream that went poof.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THE WORLD


 
       robert motherwell



Today's NPR broadcasting was almost entirely the shooting of the kids. Big questions being asked, which I have a hard time taking seriously. Do something about guns? No. Do something about the mental health disaster in the country? No. A lot of people talking about the complex web of what is behind guys taking guns and blowing away several people, then, most often, themselves. Nothing substantial is going to change about guns. A bone will be thrown to the people making the most noise; magazine clips, or whatever they are, may be outlawed. NRA taking a Time Out to figure how they'll face this one. So many people calling for ACTION where gun restrictions are concerned that have already been necessary several decades. They'll come out with a "Plan B" like Boner that will be nothing more than a punch line to guarantee a laugh. They'll talk it to death and never get an understanding of what they're talking about. A committee will draw a few conclusions, announce their conclusions and it will be over, after they're paid several million as consultants.

The Oklahoma City bombing didn't change anything. Our politicians are afraid of the NRA. The American people seem now to be addressing the politicians at their most inept time in the history of the country demanding they stand up to the NRA, which they're not going to do. Why is it after more than a century of the science of psychology, the only social benefit to come from it is manipulation of the masses by politicians, corporations and military? Commercials on tv are the most practical application of what has been learned from over a century of study. We have psycho-pharmacology for mood-enhancers to put smiles for no reason at all on faces. Behind closed doors, "What're we gonna do, fellers? The natives are restless. We gotta give em somethin. Who we gonna sacrifice?" Every kind of game is being played somewhere on the globe. I'm glad I'm not involved. I'm happy for the sound wisdom I've been informed by, to be in the world not of it. It's one of those sayings that never gives us a reason why. We have to try it to find out why. I've never thought of it as a means to an end, but it has guided me, something I have chosen for myself without a notion of it having a benefit other than being disconnected from the urban maelstrom.

Living in the country is as much in the world as in the city. The world is a belief system. I've come to see it as the climb up the ladder of assets, seeing self in relation to others, ambition, status, position, importance. Even believing I can make a difference, however small. I take being in the world like everyday life making a living, living one's life without longing to be rich or important. Living one's life in relation to the context of being surrounded by people who believe in the Climb, believe it is getting them somewhere with more money, higher status, higher notion of self-worth. And then you die. That's what it is about the world. Like when you get to the top of the ladder of success, like Joseph Campbell said, you discover you climbed the wrong ladder. In a recent Bob Dylan song, he says, 'You find when you're at the top that you're really on the bottom.' If ambition is for the top, then it amounts to ambition for the bottom. Tiger Woods, for example. He worked his way to the top and the media took him to the bottom. Lance Armstrong, too. Too much in this world is fickle for it to appeal to me. I've found as a rule of thumb for myself that the higher up the money ladder you look, the more fickle people become. I've seen that to where I take it for a truth. I stay away from people whose self-worth is their assets.

That's how I interpret, of the world. Of means connected to by attachments. Belief systems can be attachments. We look at some people who don't believe what we believe, and they're wrong. And from their side, we're wrong. No two ways about it. Both wrong. I'm wondering if it can be said that anything that can be divided into one right, one wrong, turns out to be both wrong. Probably not. The World, the actual world itself, is within. It's attachment. It's the need to be connected to something, not to be alone. Desire is a connection, a strong connection, the mother of attachment. In desire, in wanting is a hook in Of the world. It gets subtle. It gets so subtle, I don't see any need to go that far. I use it as a rule of thumb, not an exact science. I live in the world just fine, knowing good people I enjoy knowing, seeing movies I enjoy, reading books, painting, writing, driving a 93 Buick that runs as good as new. That's my In the world. And Caterpillar my friend. Being Of the world is being invested in it, having something to gain or lose. Being In the world is no investment. It's living day to day having a good time. No worries about losing or gaining.



 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

GUNZ IN AMERIKA




Saturday night I rode with friends to look at Christmas lights for the kids. In the vacant lot across from Glade Creek School is a computerized light show set to the sounds from an FM radio station. Everybody loved that. The surprise was so few houses lit up for Christmas. It makes me wonder, since 75% of voters in this county vote republican. This tells me 75% of the county's population pays attention to Fox "news," Limbaugh and the rest of the wingnuts of the right. Makes me wonder if the absence of Christmas lights has to do with Fox's War On Christmas. They rant and go on about a war on Christmas by liberals (of course) and at Fox they're the only ones doing it. Fear being the product Fox pumps the American working class up with to keep the working class passive and working against itself politically, brings me to recall a quotation from William Casey, CIA director with Reagan in 1981, "We'll know our disinformation campaign is complete when everything the American people believe will be false." We're half way there, the republican people in lock step subject the rest of us to their parrotry like there's something in it besides disinformation.

Again and again we get more news about somebody deranged shooting children in schools. It's become such an epidemic I've wondered if this has something to do with American karmic payback after slaughtering the continent's population with guns, disease, and serious, relentless oppression of any kind, and don't forget the near extinction of the buffalo to white men's rifles. Now that the surviving native population is subdued and corralled in concentration camps over a century, policed by the FBI, extinctions continue at as alarming a rate as gun violence in America, 10,000+ deaths this year by handgun. Every year. I can't help but see our national murder rate as anything but karma for how this continent was taken from its people. The background is the arrogance of the white man. And we American white people have become the most arrogant people on earth. The French once claimed the title, and the English. Now it's our turn. I have to say that in what time I've spent in Europe, I learned what it meant that an American can be spotted a mile away. It's in how we walk. We waddle like penguins. Europeans lean slightly forward when they walk. It was really strange returning by the Charlotte airport, a huge public place filled with people doing the American waddle. The arrogance comes next after you see the waddle. It's the We're-Number-One television football mind.

The arrogance evidently comes from our popular isolationist mind jacked up by military conquests, albeit over people of color in impoverished, defenseless countries. Self-examination is restricted to what Nixon and Agnew called the "effete intellectuals." Nobody watching television pays attention to the intellectuals, people with their noses in books, people who think about something beyond paying the month's bills. The Charlie Rose show where he interviews people who wrote books is late at night on PBS, "educational tv," an oxymoron. In this time when we perform for others instead of think within, anything with subject matter that requires paying attention is boring beyond tolerable. The American inability to listen has become as epidemic as the arrogance, may be a symptom of the arrogance, which, here in America, we direct at each other. I can hear someone I know saying, "I'm not like that!" Exceptions abound. I'm not talking about every individual, but social trends I've noted in my lifetime that became ways of life. I say 75% of voters in the county vote republican. On the other hand, 25% don't. I'm one of the 25% and some of the people I know are too. Not all teenage girls affect the Britney Spears, Barbie, look, but enough do with pride to make it a notable trend.

Every time I say something about "we Americans" I rebel within, but choose to override it for the sake of brevity. Our social influences tend to be toward sameness, and expectations lean toward sameness. Yet we tend to be radically different individuals huddling together in small groups of people we talk with and live our lives with, afraid we're crazy, because we're "not like everybody else." Beyond our small immediate circle of family and friends, we enter the world of the unknown, all those people doing the best they can, not to bump into each other. Then we get breakouts of somebody on a rampage to hurt, kill and create mayhem. I hear people talk about our psychiatric system, how it needs some attention. In the early 1980s the Gipper, the great icon of republican chicanery, cut out funding psychiatric help for the poor, creating overnight the American phenomenon of homelessness. It's the people who can't take care of themselves put out on the streets, because our society has no provision for them. So-called Christians hate them. All that little bit of funding went straight to the Pentagon. In the guns and butter likeness, we're way overdone on guns and the butter gets thinner every year.

We the collective American people have a cancer that is becoming fatal. The cancer is racism. I've been seeing quotations from Lincoln on facebook saying USA will only be broken from within (not exact words). We're braced against any possible external enemy. We don't want that energy turned inward. No force can put a stop to a surprise mass slaying by seeing it in advance. Not in Japan. Not in China. Not in Norway. We can call it a sick society, but that doesn't answer anything. It's a free society with a whole lot of people and a whole lot of promotion of killing on tv around the clock. And everybody has guns. How do we stay free and brace against surprise hits from within? It looks like these insane suicides are being done by otherwise intelligent, seemingly somewhat rational people. That one guy in Colorado who shot up the movie theater didn't even kill himself. I know he wishes by now he had. Who knows? Maybe he gets off on the fame. Surely his biographer has appointments for interviews. I'm actually afraid for the United States of Amnesia, as Gore Vidal called it. Our government doesn't solve social issues, ever. The churches don't care. Individuals send money, but it goes to somebody's bank account of free money, or keeps charity bureaucracies funded. We're at home and at work, powerless to help or change any of it, the news driving home our absence of individual power every day.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

THE AGE OF ABSURDITY

     arata kato



Saw the Good Soldier Schweik, Part 1, this evening. 1956. Part 2 will be here Monday or Tuesday. In between is Baaba Maal playing at the Albert Hall in London. Baaba Maal is a musician and singer from Senegal. The first African album to really catch my attention was Baaba Maal and Manseur Seck playing guitars and singing in their language. I've been curious to see this performance. I recall seeing a film he sang in the soundtrack, might have been Blood Diamond, an awfully good film worth seeing again. Haven't listened to Baaba Maal in awhile. It will be good to hear his voice again. Africa has a long climb up out of the ditch colonialism put the whole continent into. More than likely the period of colonialism was transitional from tribal situations to the modern world, which evidently all the world is being brought into through a century of major wars and brushfire wars. Electricity changed every place around the globe. All the world is being changed by electricity, culture changing with it everywhere. The world economy flows everywhere now. The Bank robbing us is also robbing the people of the rest of the world. And the ocean is rising faster than anticipated. Only a collapsed world economy will save what fish are left in the ocean for the near future. Not that I am wanting to see it or live through it, but it looks kinda like it's on the horizon coming our way.

But it's not here yet. Who knows? The Lord may come again, in just the right time. It's looking to me like he's already too late. Maybe he's been here and gone. Maybe all this absurdity that goes with the present generation of the Reagan Revolution, the Boner and the Albino Turtle, is part of the Divine Plan. More than likely is. So the post-Eisenhower republicans are operating for God the Destroyer. It must be that time, time for all to fall down. It won't be so bad. People will be using their yards for gardens. Hardware stores will flourish again with no more box stores after they took all our money and moved underground in Arkansas. Who knows what the future brings? It's looking like gradual decline for the American Empire, closing down infrastructure maintenance before closing down military bases around the world. We the American people figure last. The "defense" forces are not about us. We're the herd they get soldiers and money to operate from. I've done my "duty" succumbing to involuntary servitude for God and country. I never made a good soldier. I was like Schweik, hip-hip-hooray-let's-go-to-war and walk down another road to pick a flower.

This film made in 1956 of the beginning of WWI in Czechoslovakia, presumably Prague. Schweik was a simpleton who did what he was told literally and made slapstick mistakes that landed him into absurd situations. It was written in the time of Kafka when a literary movement was brewing in Eastern Europe, the Absurd. Jaroslav Hasek wrote the story in the absurdist vein of the time and Schweik became the Czech national cartoon figure. Like Schweik, the Czechs couldn't figure out why they were involved--they didn't do anything wrong. Good Soldier Schweik was an anti-war novel, one of the better of them. It's a fun read. The film is fun in the same ways. Part 1 is all in the city during preparations for war. I don't know the city. Presume it is Prague, but that is merely assumption going by seems-like. It was filmed like a stage play, every scene a set the characters ineract in. Stage actors of the place and time, again, presumably Prague. The actor playing Schweik took a little while for me to get used to, then he became Schweik himself. It's a comedy with an edge that tells something what it was like subject to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Schweik, like a Kafka character, bobs around from scene to scene like a silver ball in a pinball machine kept in motion by flippers, bumpers, targets, lights, one thing and another. He falls down a hole and pops up again into play. Kafka was comedy in that time, too; though he's not any more and hasn't been funny in a long time.

Watching Schweik, I was flashing on my term in the Navy with military absurdity all around, engulfing, swallowing me like Jonah, but for more than 3 days. That's what it is about our bizarre government. It has become like the military. Joseph Heller's Catch 22 is the American version of Good Soldier Schweik, a story of the absurdity of war from top to bottom. Militarism where the absurdity really emits from was the same as it is now, just different according to time and place. Our government is a mega bureaucracy, hence doing everything the bureaucratic way. It's become a way of life we're expected to conform to. And we do. By now the absurd is our everyday way of life. An hour of network tv is a waltz through absurdity. The absurd is our humor. We are in the age of the Absurd. A century of playwrights have shown the absurd can be fun. It makes good slapstick like YouTube FAIL videos. I remember one of a teenage boy doing a belly-flop dive off a 2nd floor landing to a mattress on the parking lot below. He missed. He smacked his head on the pavement and couldn't move. The guys with the camera were laughing so hysterically they couldn't stop laughing enough to notice that it might matter if the dude holding his head and moaning needed medical assistance. That's absurd.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

EAST AND WEST

 
brice marden, couplet IV



When the white page appeared to be written upon, these lines came to me from Louise Gluck's poem, THE WINGED HORSE,

     Here is my horse Abstraction,
     silver-white, color of the page,
     of the unwritten.


Yes, I'm getting on the horse Abstraction and heading into the unknown, going with the horse to see where we go. The flow. I like starting on the white page with nothing in mind. In my early years in the mountains I knew a Regular Baptist preacher well enough that over a period of several years he told me his life, one of my great experiences in the mountains. He told me that in his way of preaching, he approaches the pulpit with nothing in mind. He doesn't study for a given topic to preach on, nothing. It's all about being a vessel for the spirit, keeping mind out of it. It's a gift to be able to speak from the heart without interference from the mind. They say it is the Holy Spirit speaking through them. I watched it for years trying to figure out where the "in the spirit" talk came from. Everything I thought about was not it, until I finally saw that it was exactly as they say, from the Holy Spirit. In the case of Millard Pruitt, his only subject in the pulpit was love. Outside the pulpit it was a word he seldom used; it was a four-letter word, making love. Old country beliefs. But outside his mind, love was all that came through. It was ok when the Spirit talked about love, because then it is only one kind of love the Spirit means. Out here in the world, things are carnal. It's different.

I use that principle when I jump on the horse Abstraction, not because I believe the Holy Spirit will speak through me, because I don't. I won't even go so far as to say my Higher Self comes through, because I don't believe it does. Yet, sometimes I have seen it peep through, though not with my intent. I'm not channeling. I'm having fun. Writing these almost daily entries is the ongoing project I started when I wanted to find a way to stimulate me to write something every day that might be worth reading. The ones I feel like are the best are the ones where one sentence comes at a time and I don't know where it's going, what it's about, the why of it, and when it comes to its end I click the orange publish rectangle and am done with it. It was like walking through squishy mud. A couple weeks later I go back and look at it and it is one of the more interesting ones. To my way of seeing. All this is about my way of seeing because I believe the only reality is subjective. There is no real objective that we live with. Objective needs a lab with set conditions that can be repeated and give the same results. We don't live like that. We live as a self swimming in a sea of other selves, each one the center of the universe. The trick is learning how to live with each other.

In the West, Europe and the 2 American continents, we are born bad and learn to become good. In Asia we're born good and learn to become bad. In the West, self is first, all others last. In Asia, others are first and self is last. The difference between Buddhism and Christendom. In myself, in my adult life I have consciously sought how to become in myself a blend of East and West. First, I have the Western way as my own, because it's the world I was born into and have all my experience in. I wanted to ease that off a bit. When I fell in with Meher Baba and began to be able to understand scriptures of the East, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim, I came to see that Jesus was Eastern too. He didn't ever talk about me-first-everybody-else-last. I'm not a Paulist, but one thing he said I like, Run the race with patience. Hurry slowly. I see Paul pulling the teachings of Jesus back into codes of restrictions and privilege. Anyway, I wanted to become a blend of East and West. My only access to the East was through reading, also my only access to the West. I spent several years reading discourses of Masters from India, Buddhist writings, Buddhist poetry, scriptures, until I felt I had a fair enough understanding that it was familiar as the Western vision.

First reading Meher Baba's discourses and writings about him I discovered he was saying the same things Jesus said. In fact, when I found myself checking Meher Baba's sayings with the sayings of Jesus, I found them the same. Jesus spoke in parables and Shakespearean English, Meher Baba spoke(or signed) in prose. I like about Meher Baba's prose that he explains what certain spiritual principles mean in practical everyday life ways. The part that brought me out of my slumber was when I saw I was reading Baba in relation to Jesus in my mind when I believed I didn't believe Jesus was the God Man. I saw then I had successfully discarded all the unnecessary belief systems built around the words of Jesus by centuries of theologians thinking up as much nonsense as can be thought up, and kept the words of Jesus. Soon afterward, a year later, when I came to the mountains, my nearest neighbor Tom Pruitt turned out to be a Regular Baptist who had left the church several years before. His Bible was a New Testament and he only read the red letters. That was the only part of interest to him. The red letters are also the content of the Thomas Jefferson Bible, which he reduced to the red letter words. I thought it very interesting I had fallen in with someone who saw it as I saw it, each in our own ways, which were very different, though the same. Jesus was every bit as Eastern as Krishna and the Buddha. They all say the same things, just in different words, languages and images for different cultures.

A Jesus who looks like James Brown is no more inconceivable to me than a Jesus who looks like Willem Dafoe. My guessing of how Jesus looked was a dark Middle-Eastern or North African look. The Hebrew slaves in Egypt in Pharoah times came from South of Egypt. Nubia is South of Egypt. Ethiopia is South of Egypt. Isaac Hayes was right: Moses was black. Five thousand years ago, there weren't many white people in that part of Africa. I feel like Andre Gregory's portrayal of John the Baptist in The Last Temptation of Christ was a good portrayal of a fair likelihood. That part of the world in Bible times was very different from portrayed in Bible movies. The parties in King David's time after a battle, I don't even know if they've been attempted on film. Three thousand years ago everything was so different from us conceptually we can't even imagine what those people were like in the part of the world that is now Iraq and around there, and North Africa. They weren't like Americans is all I can start with. Though my guess is to sit in a coffee shop in Cairo today would not be a great deal different from three millennia ago. Conversation would be the same; names would be different. They still use donkeys in parts of the city.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

HEART AND MIND

       robert indiana


Since I have fallen into a relaxed way of living my life, it's been smoother, nearly no anxieties, no concerns about anything that I don't want to be concerned over. Nobody paying me to do their work for them, expecting of me, expecting, expecting. I don't honor expectation anymore. Anybody who takes an interest in expecting one thing or another of me that I haven't agreed to will be disappointed. Like when somebody expects you to stand up straight and is pist off all the time because you have a relaxed semi-slouch. They don't tell you, so you can't put on a show for them, like stand up straight when they're around if you care enough. The middle class belief that it is essential to sell self at all times, present a smiling, happy product that never says "no" and never lets slip a dirty word, performs in everyday life like in a sitcom on tv, commercials (for self) included, indicates to me absence of culture. Unless denial can be called culture. In this time when two working class people, both working full time, can't afford to live any way but in poverty, it's redundant to say something is wrong with this picture. Over 30+ years of wages frozen in place and inflation running wild all those 30 years, the working people are up against it. The people who take all the money to themselves, the 1%, don't give a shit, and if somebody in the working class rebels, he's thrown in prison. Prison has become a rite of passage in the world of black men, whose only collective heritage in America is bottomed out self-esteem.

Some several years ago I was reading in discourses by Sri Upasani Maharaj and paused when I saw a sentence recommending against ambition. He said have no ambition. Sri Shirdi Sai Baba recommended letting money flow through my fingers. Meher Baba recommended following the religion of the culture I grew up in. All Maharaj did was affirm for me that I was doing all right having naturally no ambition. Sai Baba affirmed for me that it was ok to go on letting money flow through my fingers, not be grasping. I already had both those virtues. Following the religion of my culture was quite another thang (Southern for thing). It was Christendom that made an atheist of me. Why would I go back to a religion that spit me out and I spit it out simultaneously? All I was able to see of Christendom was the negative, the false. Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war! With the cross of Jesus going on before! On Meher Baba's recommendation I spent 14 years in a mountain Regular Baptist church, loved it (the people) very much, but there came a time I couldn't go any more with a Christendom that hates the poor, hates black people, hates criminals, hates queers, hates foreigners, and ultimately hates all but self. And alas, unbeknownst to the hater, hates self most of all. In the name of JEE-ZUS!

I cannot turn my back to an old black man in his dementia whose land surrounded the church, who grew up in the church back when it was a black church, who wandered into a church meeting in his dementia. I cannot turn my back to him. I could not turn away from him and everyone else in the church did. I saw Jesus himself (the least of these). I didn't realize it at the time, but that gesture stood for all of Christendom in my heart. It was so symbolic it was metaphor. Basically, I lost respect. I couldn't talk about it. It nailed me to the cross. I never knew what to say or do after that. The people around me in the church turned hollow. My feelings for them dried up. Everything was different after that day, it just took a long time to see that was the kick-off moment. By the time I stopped going, I couldn't push the screen door open to leave the house for the car on Sunday morning. My parting was not particularly gracious, nor was it ungracious, but clumsy, not well thought out, hurt a lot of feelings. But I had to be honest. I told when I started the church there'd come a day I would leave. It was acceptable as a way to get me in, but not as a way to let me go. I saw the church something I would be growing through on my spiritual path and to see why Baba recommended going with the religion of my culture. I think I got a fair enough understanding. And I'm satisfied I gave it my all and remained true to who I am. It was of my own volition. Didn't have to. It was incredibly interesting until it died. It was a good foundation for understanding the culture I live in.

All through those years the preacher and I had an ongoing in-fun argument going that was never resolved. He told me it was my duty to go to church. I told him I don't do duty. I am not here about duty. I go to the church because I want to. When I stop wanting to, I'll stop going. That was not acceptable. It was my duty. No it's not. All through childhood I went to church by duty. I know what that means and I know what it's like. I don't do anything that's around God by duty. God is the life spirit itself. The spirit is not about duty. Mind is about duty. And duty for what? Put money in the collection plate? But Regular Baptists don't pass the plate. The point is, I can't accept duty in matters of the spirit. Of course, that goes against how many centuries of monastic tradition. I still maintain duty is of the mind, not the heart. The Old Baptist word for my way of thinking is Bold. Before the Age of Electricity I would have been heretical. I would not have spoken these thoughts. One more thing Meher Baba recommended that I fell in with automatically was to be unconventional, go your own way. How can one be in the world, not of the world conventionally? I don't need a preacher telling me what I'm doing wrong, disapproving. That kind of independence is not just bold, it's how it is. The most overlooked verse in the Bible: God is love.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

A SAFE ZONE FOR BIRDS


            red squirrel

This evening's film, Jane's Journey, put me in a somewhat pensive mood. Wanting to get to some painting, wanting to open the laptop and write to you, needing to get up and refill the cup with Kenyan coffee and put a bowl of dry catfood outside the door for the possum. Possum comes by after dark for leavings. Initially, I put Caterpillar's unfinished "wet" food of the day outside next day for Martha the dog or Posie the possum, whichever found it first. If Martha didn't drop by during the day, Posie found it after dark. A gravel parking place across the road I shower with sunflower seeds in the mornings for the crows and whoever else wants them. By the end of the day the seeds are all consumed; at night Posie goes about eating the shells the birds discarded for the seed inside. A pair of red squirrels, also known as pine squirrels, live in a white pine close to the house. They run the ridge of the roof to a pine limb, then another pine limb, down the pine to the ground by one of the birdfeeders. I throw sunflower seeds on the ground for the squirrels so they won't have to raid the birdfeeder. At first, I wanted them squirrel proof, but found if I feed the squirrels too, they don't raid the birdfeeders. Originally, the birdfeeders were closed up by a plexiglas storage bin for seeds that the coon, whose territory includes my space, would break into at night, throw the roof off and get the leftover seeds.

Seeing there was no way I could keep the coon away except by trapping it, not an option, I decided to forget about the feeders holding several days of seeds, dismantled the seed bin and left an open space with the tray at the bottom to put two kinds of sunflower seeds in every morning, enough for the birds and the squirrels to consume in one day. Every morning the 2 birdfeeders are empty and I don't have to latch the lids anymore. I put hooks at both ends of the roof to keep hard wind, coons and squirrels from throwing it off so much. Wind is the only force the hooks work for. Squirrels and coons have no problem with hooks. They have hands like ours with claws for fingernails to help them climb trees and fight. Between the birdfeeders is a huge rhodedendron where I throw a fistful of seeds as high into the air as I can throw and let them sift down through the leaves to the ground. This gives the bluejays, the bullies of the birds because they're the biggest--the law of the jungle, a place to peck around on the ground and let smaller birds have the feeder. And the other way around; when bluejay is at the feeder, smaller birds peck on the ground. None of them are particular about feeder or ground for picking up seeds; the seed is all they want. Also, the seeds are spread evenly over a large enough area under the rhododendron that several birds can peck about and stay out of another bird's pecking range.

So it costs me a little bit a month for the seeds and allowing for the "mauraders" who are not bandits if I put something down for them too. About daily, a red squirrel will step inside the birdfeeder shelter, sit there with tail curled nibbling at the seeds. This happens after the seeds on the ground have run out; they're available to the birds too. This miniature forest out my front door between the house and the road has enough small trees with branches and rhododendron growing that hawks don't have a chance. I saw out the window a Cooper's hawk fly to the ground and stand surveying with a hawk's eye the obstacles for big wings that inhibit maneuvering. Another time I saw a beautiful gunmetal blue sparrow-hawk fly into the wooded zone and sit on the ridge of one of the birdfeeders, it too surveyed the obstacle course. The hawks flying into this zone cannot fly with abandon, it slows them down and distracts their focus of attention. The birds feeding all fly away the moment a hawk enters the wooded zone. The small birds can fly through the tree limbs with ease. All escape.

I love to watch them out the window, especially knowing my birds and squirrels are safe. I love having a pair of squirrels that amount to the same as hawk fodder, a lifespan of about a year, because hawks evidently get them all. This pair of red squirrels live successfully inside this zone that's hawk proof. It's been a year that I've been seeing them. I understand the environmentalist principle that feeding the critters influences them away from the grains they'd otherwise eat. It also turns out to be responsible for bird overpopulation of a given area beyond what can sustain them without people feeding birds. It's not like the birds are immortal. The seeds I feed them are healthy for them, seeds they can't find in their "natural environment." What about all the birds in the days when farms grew fields of grains to feed the horses, picking up the remains of the harvest from farm to farm? Following farming used to sustain huge bird populations, though the way monoculture farming is done now, it's death to the birds with chemicals that poison the bugs the birds eat. I'm not doing that. In fact, I'm not unbalancing anything. Even here in the mountains the human element is eradicating the birds as fast as it can be done. That doesn't strike me as natural balance.

The so-called natural world is so far out of balance that giving birds a safe place to have their choice of two sizes of sunflower seeds puts a miniscule spot of the planet into a little bit of balance for a short space of time. The more they eat here, the less they'll eat in the christmas tree fields 2/3 of the way around our safe zone. They sing to me spring and summer. This spot of ground was not a good haven for birds before I let the seedlings grow into saplings then trees and planted rhododendron, small ones dug up from the woods years ago. The so-called natural world is under assault by the human population responsible for a high rate of extinctions hourly around the globe for more than half a century. Assault is a gentle word for what is happening to the critters and to us, we the meat people.  Is that a healthy planet? Duh. Is that even a question? When everything living dies off, it will be too late to build a rocket to some moon of Saturn or into another solar system. The part I really don't get, and am afraid of going so far into a jaundiced point of view to get it, is why the human people who have been to college (corporate execs in skyscrapers = ivory towers) keep on with the destruction. The answer, though, is obvious as 1+1, even if you want to make it 11. Money is the only purpose. The only. It's gone so far by now the evidence is everywhere it's too late to turn around the mega-force in unstoppable motion until the house of cards skyscraper, after taking over our government, collapses of it's own too-big-to-fail. What comes next we've yet to see.

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