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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WATCHING THE STREAK GO BY

    entropy



This morning on the news I heard a radio journalist say in reference to the Syrian government killing so many protesters, "Governments have a responsibility to take care of their people." A seed of NewThink. I've never heard anybody say that before today. He could get a new Commie scare going talking too much of that. He certainly did not get that idea from the USGovernment. No. I'm interpreting "take care of" in different ways. The American take care of means overwhelming the world with military might "to protect American citizens." International corporations are American citizens now. Syria is "taking care of" it's citizens. This interpretation amounts to escorting them out of this world, exit-cution. I have to say I am happy that Obama does not feel the need, or at least suppresses it, to compromise himself with hypocrisy by making an issue of the Syrian problem.



I'm finding interior ruminations these days tend to dwell on the nuisance of being expected of. What's expected is not that I spontaneously be myself, ever, but that I conform to the rules of Political Correctness. I'm not going to do it. Same as I'm not going to conform to Limbaugh mind. I'm not interested in being a parrot to any supposed-to way of thinking. It takes too much memorizing, too much self-editing. It's all about insecurity, about being a stranger in a strange land. It's an exercise in walking the Straight and Narrow, the tightwire. Walking the mental tightwire with a neon sign on my forehead flashing "approval." I have walked that wire and walked it. It's a commandment from God misinterpreted and made up by the human mind. The words in the KJV are "strait and narrow." Strait is not straight. The two words are as different in meaning as circle and square, or pour and poor. I don't believe God wants us walking a straight line without any other experience to go with it. The strait is a narrow space of water between two points of land, rough sea on one side, calm harbor on the other. He's saying that we, like ships, have to go through the strait from this rough and rugged indifferent world of waves, inner turmoil, to reach the calm water of the harbor, inner peace.



Strait and narrow is about finding inner peace as a one person at a time thing. Straight, like a ruler, and narrow, like a pencil line, is about doing what you're told. One says God is watching you, meaning watches you like a mother watches her baby in adoration and protection, through eyes of love. The other says God is watching you like a prison guard watching that you don't cross that line. You do and you'll be punished. God the Punisher is the God I was encultured to, like a hawk sitting on a branch watching, waiting for the first chance, then striking with razor talons. The God I have come to see in my adult experience is the God holding me like a baby, protecting me, forgiving me when I wet my diapers. I've heard it said that we humans treat others after our own interpretation of God. It's also said you can tell a lot about how a man treats others by how he treats his dog. Since I see the aspect of God that is unconditionally loving, I am secure within that I have good backup.



I believe I regard others openly and with loving spontaneity. I don't mean Eros loving. I mean Soul loving. It's not something I would try to do. It's just an attitude, how I feel about others. I think what I mean by openly with loving spontaneity is that I like to receive the other as who that person is. Then we bat the ball back and forth over the net like cousins who ride bicycles together. Innocence maybe. That's a tall order, innocence. Opening to innocence. Can I really do that? Dare I expect it of anyone else? It would be, searching inside myself, enlightenment. Obviously, I don't mean those words to those extremes, but with what I'll have to call basic human respect. That's good for what I mean by "openly with loving spontaneity." Basic human respect. I doubt if everybody that knows me would call it that. Interpretation again. I mean I know I do not live the ideal. In everyday life, all kinds of influences are going on every minute.



I don't feel compelled to condemn anybody for anything, given exceptions that prove the rule, preferring a free spontaneous association without games. I like tennis, hitting the ball back and forth over the net, seeing how long we can keep it going. I don't like slamming the ball with all the Chi I can focus into a single point, aiming for the other to miss the ball. I've never seen that fun. When somebody hits the ball to me that way, I watch the streak go by. I haven't touched a tennis racket since high school. Bowling, I'm more fascinated by seeing the pins never fall in the same configuration, ever, watching up and down the lanes how the pins fall differently every time. When I roll the ball, it's a game of chance; see where the ball goes, then see the fall of the pins unique in space and time. I'm more interested in aesthetic considerations, like the patterns of the pins falling, than score numbers or rolling the ball with practiced skill. I'd rather paint a picture with practiced skill. From earliest memories, I've never taken an interest in being competitive. It's why I'm no good in sports. I don't care who wins. Painting, there is plenty of inner motivation.



People I know who see God the Punisher, da Judge, I've noticed expect that I go with God the Punisher too. I've noticed ones who follow God the Punisher think I'm judging them when I'm not. Because I don't talk all the time, I'm expected to be "thinking," the unpardonable American sin, and what else could I be thinking about than judging whoever it is I'm with. I'd so much rather just listen to what somebody is saying, enjoying the music of the voice, enjoying following the other's meaning, their train of thought. I love good avant-garde theater, have come to see it in everyday life. Try watching your windshield as a tv screen to a video game called Driving In The Real World. I see it that everybody has a lot of stories in them, all the stories good ones. I like hearing other people's stories, if it's complaining about waiting at the bank's drive-thru behind somebody with so much work for the teller they should have gone inside. It's a very short short story, a familiar cultural experience with tremendous emotional tension. 


*

Monday, January 30, 2012

THE OLD-TIME OLD-TIMER

     stanley brothers band, art wooton with fiddle


Something is changing inside. I can't see it on the inside, but I see its expression on the outside. I think I'm going through something on the order of what caused me to leave the city for the rural mountain life. I feel a need to withdraw my social relations from people I am not close to, again. It seems I have to do this from time to time. It's not that I dislike certain people, but I find myself talking an awful lot to people who aren't listening. And I hear people talking to me, though it doesn't matter that it's me; it's generic chatter, not individual specific. I came to the mountains in search of solitude. Even bought a new book at the time titled Solitude. It was by somebody who doesn't think like me and we didn't hit it off. I thought his book was filler from start to finish. Or maybe I wasn't ready to receive it. Thoreau's solitude was bogus as his cabin on Walden Pond was a playhouse while he lived in the big house with his mother. He's not a source to go to for help understanding solitude.



First thing I found upon arriving in my Blue Ridge Mountain home was my fantasies of what it would be like were so without substance as not even to be a mist. I saw Walker Evans Appalachian poverty photographs and that was the extent of what I knew of the mountains. That was the same as knowing nothing, or in the minus, less than nothing. By less than nothing, I mean misleading. I have seen bits of Appalachian poverty, but it's mostly out of sight. When it shows up, it's visible. Like this old boy, Kyle Shinault, who lived out at Piney Creek, and probably is still living. He drove an old Chevy Monte Carlo painted black by spray can. He was smelly, dirt tattooed to his hands and face, big gray beard, a cane in each hand. He talked in the old mountain way of emphatic iambic rhythm, and I heard Shakespeare. This is a keyhole peep, I told myself, into how the language was spoken half a millennium ago in London, emphasis on every other syllable. It's watered down, to be sure, by a few centuries this side of the Atlantic. I'd guess the earliest people in these mountains talked with similar emphasis. I've also found the poorest people in the Appalachian chain carry the culture of the old-time ways when everyone else has let them go. You don't see a lot of new cadillacs at a fiddlers convention.



Old Kyle was one I've known who carried the old culture in himself. I call him "old" when he was three years younger than me, looked and talked twenty years older. He was not somebody that people took to. First time I met him, he talked to me for 5 hours straight and I listened to every phrase, every sentence, hearing the music that has gone out of the mountain language. The next time I saw him, I listened to Kyle for 3 hours. I never grew weary. His breath was out of this world, just like in the old days before oral hygiene. When Kyle Shinault walked into the store I had in town, opening the door it was like the door opened to another time. A man from a hundred years ago walked in the door. He played old-time banjo clawhammer style. The tips of his noting fingers had been cut off by a log splitter. He kept rubber tips over the ends of his fingers. Once he got used to it, he could use those rubber nubs about as good as fingertips.



He was one of many I loved to see walk in the door. I've had some really valuable conversations with people in the time of the music store where I sold cds of mountain music. Among the most memorable was a woman whose name I can't recall, in her 80s, telling me of going to the Spartan Theater to hear bluegrass when she was in her teens. Told me of Uncle Dave Macon of Grand Ole Opry, the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Charlie Monroe, Reno and Smiley, those early bluegrass bands of the late 40s and early 50s that traveled from town to town, up and down these Southern mountains. She became a bluegrass fan for life. Still, in her 80s, she listened to bluegrass with the same love for it she had then. I've listened to old people talk about the time in the mountains before electricity, heard them talk of the old days like it was the Golden Age. I was slow to come to believe that it really was better then. It was a Golden Age. But nobody is going to give up their plumbing and electricity to get the Golden Age back. It wasn't that good.



I had no idea I had moved to a county that was the home county of Bill Monroe's first fiddler, Art Wooten, the man who has the name of the first bluegrass fiddler. Monroe's first appearance on Grand Ole Opry was not long after Monroe hired Art into the band and showed him on the mandolin how he wanted Art to play bluegrass on the fiddle. First song they played was Mule Skinner Blues, January of 1939, marking the official beginning date of bluegrass. An Alleghany County boy. I had no idea of the musical activity in the area. Once I learned the mountains well enough to get a feel for the music, it crept up on me from behind like a sneakin' dog. Old time mountain music bit me good. There was so much I did not know about living in these mountains, I have spent the whole time here studying the culture. Now that I've learned it well enough to get around in it, it's gone. Poof.



*

Sunday, January 29, 2012

OUT OF CONTROL


     stop



The last few days have been a time of remembering my motivation 35 years ago to leave the world by moving to the mountains and working a labor job. I didn't know what "the world" meant, attempting to distinguish between the world and the earth. A meaning of the world is the globe, the earth. Another meaning of the world is the way of human desire. It took a long time to nail that distinction. There is the way of the Tao (or God's Way) and the way of desire, wanting, that is the way of the world. Once I saw that "the world" is the interior world of desire characterized by men-with-guns thriller movies, greed, pride, the list of the 7 deadly sins. I take "the world" to be everything on television, too, especially the evangelists. The world within amounts to the my own wanting, my own desires. If those magnets are not operating inside me, I'll not be drawn to satisfy a desire's craving. If I don't want anything, then I cannot be manipulated. I have somebody in my life right now getting frustrated after finding I am not available for control, on the verge of saying something I'm indifferent to hearing.



I've been through it so many times. I used to be drawn to controlling women. Right off, to be nice, I'd do as told. Then there comes the day control is established and I balk like a mule. When I have to clarify that I'm not looking to be controlled, all kinds of hell breaks loose and I'm hated from that day onward. It became so frustrating to me that I saw a psychotherapist over that question. Of course, it turned out to be Mommie Dearest. What I learned was to keep it up front that I'm out of control, by nature and by will. It has kept me free of having to figure out how to get free of control without too much hard feeling. It can't be done. Once the control starts, that's it. My alternatives are to choose to be controlled the rest of my life or have this woman hate me to her dying day. I pick being hated forever. Being hated isn't all that bad, and it's inevitable in this world. I go with the attitude that half the people I know like me and half do not. I take that for the nature of the social playing field.



It's a good insight into oneself, considering know thyself, the shortest verse in the Bibleto make a list of the people you know hate your guts, and the people you know that like you and are loyal. Just looking at the two lists tells a very great deal about self in the birds-of-a-feather way. When I look at the people I know despise me, then look at the people I think of as my friends, I'm happy with both lists. The ones that dislike me stay away of their own accord and I never have to deal with them. There's no name on the list of ones that despise me I would want to see on the list that likes me. I especially dislike being smiled at and sucked up to by one from the list that I know despises me. There is a mountain saying that when somebody doesn't like you, Be nice to them. It will drive them crazy. I do this sometimes for that reason, just to see it happen. It's not really hypocrisy, just being a bitch, giving the other something new to talk about. Another good old mountain saying, when somebody is talking about you, they're giving somebody else a break from being talked about.



People that talk about you behind your back never say anything good about you. It's to the negative and largely made up. That's the nature of our human existence. I know people who worry over these issues; hear that somebody said something unkind about them and fall into the pit of despair for days. It's the same as the wind blowing. Somebody said you're a real asshole, somebody who knows, and one more person sees you an asshole. Ok. So what. It's an aggressive act to smear somebody's name that invites aggressive action. Several months ago, someone I know who has nothing but contempt for me, called on the telephone from nearby needing jumper cables to get his car going. For the amusement of the asshole within, I went and helped him out. Shook hands, "How you doin, man? Haven't seen you in awhile. You doin all right?" I was all smiles, happy to help him out, a friend I hadn't seen in several years. I think that an aggressive act on my part. I'm sure as hell not going to be timid around him like I have nothing to say.



I found not too long ago somebody I thought of as a friend, given episodes of fickle behavior, has turned on me again. This was the last time. My attitude toward him is he's fucked me over so many times I don't miss a thing. I see him today as someone I used to know. He has a tactlessness that is based in indifference to anything outside his head. Words such as friend and loyalty have no meaning. He could pass a test defining them, but doesn't understand practical application. I find myself in a time of backing away from all but a few I think of as my friends. Again. The names in that circle seldom change, only when somebody new comes in and somebody dies out. It's not like a club. It's just particular individuals I know, most of them a long number of years, all of them people I respect. Respect has been an issue of mine all my life. People I don't respect bore me. Perhaps it goes back to, "I want some respect outta you!" My thought, unspoken, Show me something to respect. The respect I mean is more about character than accomplishments.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

A THOUSAND YEARS OF PEACE

      snow flame



Close to the end of January and we still haven't had winter. The temperature gets down to freezing and hovers back and forth over the freezing line; above during the day, below at night. However, I dare not jump to any conclusions, because the big one dumps snow on us in late March, when all the blizzards of the past have occurred. So far we've had a couple of quarter inch snows. We don't mind a mild winter at all, except wondering what lurks ahead. With oil prices ascending to out of reach, it's a good thing the winter is mild for the people on fixed incomes and working class wages, especially the people out of work.



I'm feeling a need within for a change . The change I think is staying home more. Every time I go to town, it costs money. Of course, I only buy things I'll need next week if I don't get it this week. Food, gas, utilities, etc, gobble up everything and not much is left. None, in fact, is left. I've come to where I don't even think of it as money any more. A certain number must come in so a certain number can go out. I'm just the transfer agent, a messenger, passing it from one account to another. It comes and it goes, all in the same day. For me, it's nothing. Yet, because of it I'm able to eat more than I need, drive anywhere I want, within reason, live in my house. It's always been the way. Intake - exhaust. Take the nourishment and pass on the leftover.



In my school years we had a collective notion about civilization as a great thing we held up high. By now, as a result of science, 30 years of greed cut loose, increased communication with every part of the earth, wars for the sake of wars, seeing how wealth tramples poverty, seeing how Christians don't care much for the poor, don't like them, don't want them around, don't want to see them. "Anybody that wants to work can find a job!" So afraid somebody (an African-American in particular) might take advantage of food stamp programs. Somebody poor might get something for nothing. Can't let that happen. It's their own fault they're poor. Time has come, it appears, for karmic debt collection. The pursuit of the American Dream has turned its back absolutely to the poor, pretending to be Christian going to church, smiling all the time like a Zoloft commercial, but when somebody poor walks by, nobody notices the unmentionable buried in denial. The way capitalism is going, the middle class is soon to be the peasant class down there with the working class, those people that wear white socks. I believe the karmic thing is when you got it and you overlook the ones without, you won't have it long.



The USA has been a monument to Self, self-interest held high. It's the western divide of self-first-others-last, in relation to the eastern part, others-first-self-last. I've an idea in this time of rapid change in civilization, one of the major changes occurring is the people of the east taking more interest in self, and people of the west taking more interest in others. Coming into balance. I'm seeing these changes occur collectively around the planet, watching films made in every part of the world, seeing changes they're going through in rural Italy, Istanbul, Bangkok, Beijing, every country, both urban and rural. I'm seeing that all the rest of the world is going through the same changes from generation to generation as we're seeing here in the Appalachian mountains. The old people that are in nursing homes now wore the bibbed overalls, work boots and a hat with brim all the way around. The women wore long dresses and had long hair. Next is the guys in tshirts, bluejeans and workboots, the girls in tight bluejeans Barbie girls. Next, the ones that dress like kids in California, white guys with pants slung low, looking like tv, the girls a legion of Britney Spears look-alikes. It's all around the world now.



The 20th century was a traverse through the unknown. Ever since the 1950s we've all accustomed ourselves to living in a world that can go Big Bang any minute. and the time we're in now, even more. It's like the unknown is in the past and we're off into quantum space, anti-matter, words we have no understanding of, concepts unimaginable a few years ago, entire ways of seeing changed. My grandparents grew up listening to string band square dance music. My parents listened to big band orchestra dance music. I grew up listening to rock & roll in the 50s when it was dance music. These are the changes forecast in the prophecies down through time telling of a new world entirely unlike the world before. We're close. My guess is that when the sequence of events is such that it's time to have a big clean sweep of all that went before, the event called Armageddon evidently will be the climax of the change.



After that, a thousand years of peace. Armageddon will be the end of capitalism too, because there can be no peace in the world involved in the capitalist economic system. I'd say capitalism is doomed on that alone. If we're to have a thousand years of peace, it will have to be an entirely different economic system. We'll have money, but a more realistic vision of it as a tool, a utility. Capitalism is not the god America has made itself a shrine to. I imagine in a time of peace that many years, following a time of war that goes all the way back to before we left the trees, will be a major shift in how we humans view our world and each other. I can't imagine what it will be like. People relaxed toward one another. A great reduction in population will get the numbers back to where it was before oil and electricity.



A thousand years of peace would mean tremendous collective devotion to God after having our collective consciousness raised to such a place that we who are able assist the ones unable to care for themselves, allowing them a reasonable quality of life. No need to punish them for being unable. Where'd the crime go? Empty prisons could be altered into regional art galleries, theater and dance complexes with schools for all the art forms. I imagine an art boom like the entertainment boom we're in now, a balance to this time where nobody much knows anything about art. Today on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, a Saturday radio show with people from the audience and people by phone answering questions about events in the news over the last week, the stumper was a question about the vision of the Fauve school of painting. Everybody was stumped. Nobody knew what Fauve was. Long silence. Too long for On Air. Finally, the questioner explained and gave the answer. I imagine in the thousand years of peace everyone will know the answer. The art of the 20th century will be the classical age for that time.



Friday, January 27, 2012

THE SOULS OF ANIMALS

     caterpillar



I've seen the process of older people going into a zone where they're not connected with this world any more. I don't mean like a helium balloon set loose to float into the clouds, rather an unwillingness to keep up with all the new gadgets after a lifetime of keeping up. There comes a time it doesn't matter who has a new book out or who has a new album out or what's the latest. The latest is of no concern any more. I don't even want to hear about it. This may be what is meant by the world passing us by. I recall an aunt lighting into me on the day Conway Twitty died, because I didn't know about it. Hadn't listened to the news that day. She assessed that I need to get out of these mountains and into the real world. Real world? The real world of television? The real world of pop radio? I get all that here in the mountains, and a better range of choices than any one place in the Flatland. Auntie and I had a go-round in that phone conversation. When she asked if I like Conway Twitty, I said no, but I appreciate him as a musician. She lectured me that I can't appreciate something I don't like.



Yesterday, I was asked to explain how "evolution" says we came from monkeys. I explained we're one of the great apes, our branch in the tree of evolution is between the gorilla and the chimpanzee. Then I was told it's bullshit. Whatever. I'm not arguing that one. It's like the saying, you had to be there. I've thought a little bit about it since then. The fundamentalist refusal to believe we "came from monkeys" is based in a certain belief-system's way of seeing that overlooks almost everything. In Christendom we're taught that animals are unconscious, and especially devoid of a soul. Christendom says only humans have souls. It's only the forebrain we have that the animals don't have. The forebrain is not the soul. If God is love, then the soul is love. I've seen too much love in animals I have known to say they don't have a soul. It's an absurd distinction to make. Love is love, no matter how it manifests. One of my great learnings in the mountains has been how much animals love us.



I see each of the dogs and cats that has lived here with me as a step up the staircase of learning that the four-leggeds have tremendous capacity for love, both giving and receiving. That a dog will protect its human unto its own demise is an expression of love. I even feel shame at how little I understood the animal world. I didn't have anything to go by. The culture I've lived in all my life regards animals about the same as fence posts you have to feed. When I began to discover emotions in dogs, and thinking, I felt like I was seeing deep in the unknown. Even doubted what I was seeing. I have watched both dogs and cats think. I have seen them figure things out. Sadie, the first dog, I saw barking at the end of a hollow tree trunk like a ground squirrel or something ran up there. She barked and fussed over the opening at the end. She stopped and looked at the situation, and after assessing her intent, she tore into the trunk about where she though It was hiding. She ripped and tore at the thin wood with her teeth, opening a great hole in the side of the old log.



Same dog, Sadie, I have seen stalk a groundhog that was maybe 30 feet from its hole. Dog was about same distance from hole as groundhog, a different direction, creeping in the tall grass toward the hole. When she reached the place she saw she could get to the hole before the groundhog, she jumped up and started running full speed toward the hole. Groundhog saw her and took off running toward the hole. Just before the groundhog reached the hole, dog hit groundhog with the top of her head running full speed. Groundhog rolled over and was scrambling to its feet when dog turned around and sank her teeth into the back of the groundhog's neck, picked it up, snapped its neck and groundhog was dead. Dog took groundhog to a place she knew the ground to be soft, dug a hole, pushed the groundhog in with her nose, and covered the groundhog with dirt pushed onto it with her nose. She started burying the groundhogs she killed after seeing me bury a groundhog she'd carried under the house to her dog den. She watched me bury it and from then on buried every one she killed.



Sadie came to me when she was 3 years old and already named. I didn't want to change her name, though I didn't really resonate with it. Still, it was her name. She was a mix of an airdale and a foxdog. Sadie came to love me far more than I knew. I didn't even notice it was love for several years. And I realized after she died that I hadn't even noticed her love for me. She was a dog. Dogs don't love. That was the wall, not believing it. With next dog, I learned to honor the love. With Aster, I opened up and let the love flow between us. I studied the love in Aster. She could figure things out too. I've just now been overwhelmed by emotion, remembering my friends of many years, what good friends they were. I'm like in the song about Mr Bo Jangles, "his dog up and died, after 20 years he still grieves." With every one of them, I've asked myself, would I die for my four-legged friend as readily as friend would die for me. The answer is always no. And I feel undeserving of their love.



No, it's not just love between humans that "counts." Love is love. When a child loves a gerbil, it's love. Caterpillar is the last of my four-legged friends. By now, I have learned how to receive the love, aware that love is what it is. If the soul is the seat of love in us, then Caterpillar has a soul, as have all the animals I've lived with. They didn't have any problem knowing about love. I was the one that didn't know. It must be frustrating for them to love us so much and it not be noticed. I've learned what complete "people" dogs and cats are, and by extending that I can see that monkeys must be a lot of fun to know. If we could see a monkey or a chimp from God's way of seeing, we'd be very much surprised by their intelligence and would see no shame in calling them ancestors. They lack the ego that keeps us tied up in knots and committed to self-destructive behavior. It's the ego in us that separates us from the four-leggeds and ashamed to call a monkey ancestor. It's the human arrogant expression of ego that gives the animal world consideration as commodity only.



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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WHITE MAN'S LAST STAND: THE SEQUEL

     thank you walt handlesman of newsday


We can count on Romney to make the day's news funny, funny like Laurel and Hardy, slapstick. It looks like he's attempting to one-up Sarah Palen with a new word for the dictionary: prebuttal. Unless it's in the multi-volume OED. Not only is Mitt the richer of the two, he can invent words, too, for the television audience that doesn't know an invented word from a school-learned word. Then there is Newt(er). Is this another turning point in politics led by the repubs? After hounding Clinton about whether or not he inhaled, the repubs used the partisan Supremes to usurp the Oval Office with a cocaine-snorter, draft-dodger, cheerleader, drunk driver, all in one. Now Gingrich is running with his adultery as a badge--white man Nordic wife, Aryan--and it's working. We'll be hearing more of his racist one-line jokes that get forwarded among republicans by email.



I attempted to listen to the presidential speech last night, but went to bed after about 5 minutes of Obama talking. Thought I'd listen to it in bed. It put me soundly to sleep right away. Great lullaby. I feel partial to Obama, but his speeches are so safe, so nearly irrefutable, that just about nothing gets said. He started off talking about what he wants to do. I tuned out right there. He's not going to do anything he "wants" to do. He'll do whatever works, which is just about nothing where republicans are involved. Hearing about 10 minutes, I concluded he wasn't saying anything, and if he were to say something, I'd hear it on the news all week. And I was o'ertaken by unconsciousness.



I find it funny, too, that in the same news cast as our government praising Arab Spring for bringing democracy to Egypt, we hear about Occupy protesters in American cities arrested, laws passed to restrict them. During the Bush-Cheney-Rummy-Rice Junta protesters were caged and rendered nonexistent. And oh we're so happy to be able to enforce "democracy" in Iraq after a decade of destroying the Iraqi people's way of life, killing several hundred thousand of them, when the "pre-emptive strike" had the spoken purpose of getting Saddam. They got him, and the rape of the Iraqi people in the name of democracy, "Iraqi Freedom," continued like nothing happened. Not one of the many "reasons" we were given by our government had anything to do with anything. They were not even justifications. I take it they were answers that came up at a meeting where the question went around, What do we tell them they'll believe? The people I've known who are constant liars seem to me to craft their stories around what they think I'll believe. The first tenet of fiction: be believable.



I've found about everything our government tells us is false in one way or another. Tells me our government is a serial liar. What do I think of people who only lie to me when they talk to me? I don't have anything to do with them. Somebody I can't avoid, I'll be respectful with, but won't pay attention to anything they say, certainly won't repeat anything they say without citing the source. I have become so jaded after experiencing Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush1 and Bush2, Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove the strategists with no bottom to how low they will go, I withdraw hope. The Dem strategists have a job ahead of them. They'll be up against Gingrich and Rove, two who have proven themselves ruthless and absolutely devoid of concern for We The People. Winning is their game, whatever it takes. I thought the election of 2008 was white man's last stand, but it looks like white man is about to make another stand. The white racist party has very cleverly picked the Aryan wannabe to represent party philosoph, Rush Limbaugh. If not for fear the American nazi party could slither its way into power again, this particular election process could be riotously funny. I'm curious to see how close to up front the racism will be.



  *

Monday, January 23, 2012

A POEM BY MAY SWENSON


                      

                WAITING FOR IT


          My cat jumps to the window sill

          and sits there still as a jug.

          He's waiting for me, but I cannot be

          coming, for I am in the room.


          His snout, a gloomy V of patience,

          pokes out into the sun.

          The funnels of his ears expect

          to be poured full of my footsteps.


          It, the electric moment, a sweet

          mouse, will appear; at his gray

          eye's edge I'll be coming home

          if he sits on the window ledge.


          It is here, I say, and call him

          to my lap. Not a hair

          in the gap of his ear moves.

          His clay gaze stays steady.


          That solemn snout says: It

          is what is about to happen, not

          what is already here.


                                   ---May Swenson

                                         (1913-1989)



                              *

Sunday, January 22, 2012

GUNZ

     james rosenquist


Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine has just now ended. I come away from his films in awe every time, in awe that he speaks for me and the other people who have no say. I don't care what the spin from the blockhead arena had to say about Moore. I don't care if he's had a drink or played cards one day in his life. In the time since the Supremes made it clear to us at the turn of the century that we have no more democracy, and the Bush administration set police state in motion, Michael Moore was the only voice speaking for we the people. He was discredited and given the corporate assassination of character treatment, which actually worked very well, briefly. The fiction created to discredit Moore didn't silence him, though it turned a lot of people away, the ones that didn't understand Moore anyway. It shut down the influence the film Sick-O might have had on health care legislation. It was legal assassination. No cadaver. But Moore charges on and I'm grateful to him for his will power. His audience is his own. It is not a "television audience."



He has a website http://www.michaelmoore.com/ where you can see what he's up to today. The thread that ran through Bowling for Columbine was the search by asking several people what it is that makes Americans so free to kill, when in Canada with the same gun ownership freedoms, Canadians choose not to kill. Charlton Heston answered the question with the most educated answer I heard in the film, "American history has a lot of blood on its hands." I have to say I was not with Moore humiliating Charlton Heston in his own home. He was graciously allowed to intrude and was treated very well. My political regard for Heston is opposition. But I still believe it's important to respect him as a man in his own home. Moore has his own dose of American arrogance. I don't know what it would take for me to disrespect a man as Moore did Heston, and filming it, putting it in an Academy Award winning documentary. I can see Moore's revenge thinking, which perhaps overrode his own hesitations where respect was concerned. Maybe the disrespect was his active expression of absence of respect. That's sure how it came across. I still regard Moore a very important influence in the first decade of the 21st century. He did his part.



That karma Heston referenced, blood on our hands, the karma in American History, applies to what the white people did to the Indians from coast to coast, to the black people coast to coast. American foreign policy amounts to overthrowing democracies in third world countries and putting a dictator in charge. It's about money; the canal, United Fruit Co, oil and coca cola, cheap labor. Let alone the serious crimes against nature, like the slaughter of the buffalo to starve the Indians and kill their culture, the concentration camps Indians live in unto this day called reservations. Like calling torture rendition. The people that live in the West around Indians have at least as much racial prejudice toward the Indians as the white people in the South have toward black people, and point the finger at the South for racism. But the people that don't like Indians are ok, because Indians don't even figure for liberals. I pray: May all the Indian reservations have successful casinos where the white people come from all around to give them money. Something else for the file, Theater of the Absurd in Everyday Life.



One karmic pattern I see is the contempt for the poor. As the world's monopoly super power, we have the longest war of our history each time we attack (pre-emptive strike) a defenseless poor country of colored people to take whatever natural resource we want, now oil. What's the point of having power unless you use it. The passion for killing has been an American monopoly since the beginning. The genocide was not just with the Indians, but the natural world of animals and birds as well. The Carolina parakeet went extinct right away because of its colorful plumage, easy to get a bead on, good target practice. America was settled in the belief of self as holy. There was plenty of God religion on Sunday morning, but the rest of the week was about self and money only. The Indians that kept the continent for a few thousand years with clean water and abundant resources lived their association with God every minute. They saw themselves part of God's creation living in God's creation. They were happy with the abundance. Then along came Western Civilization and made a gaping wound of an entire continent in two centuries--want creating want.



As in one individual's inner development, so it goes with the whole. The difference I see between USA and Canada where murder rates with guns are concerned, tells me the issue is not guns, but belief systems, attitudes. I don't believe it's violent movies, either. I heard someone tell a statistic on NPR I believed; on weekends when a big Arnold or Rambo type movie is released, crime rate drops in the cities where the film is showing. It suggests to me sublimation. If these films do sublimate feelings the people that see them are feeling, it tells me a great deal of anger pervades the land. These films sublimate all around the world. They play to the working class male audience. There is, indeed, a great deal of anger running through the working class, expressed best in heavy metal rock. I see teenagers with anger in their eyes, anger due to home situations, wearing death-metal, hard-core tshirts with skulls the primary image. Bob Dylan expressed the anger in the middle-class audience in a non-violent way. Same anger, different expression.



Looking at these films as collective dreams, then analyzing them like dreams, it tells quite a lot about our collective belief systems. Again, like everything else, it cannot be regarded an absolute for all. Some people like action movies overdone with killing. Some people like no killing at tall. Some people like mildly comic relationship stories. We have a seemingly limitless variety of kinds of movies for the seemingly endless range of human interest. Not everybody in America is seething with anger. But an awful lot are. We see them among the people we know. In the land of if-it-feels-good-do-it, acting out anger lethally onto others, most often family, feels good unrestrained by foresight, the American blind spot, until consequences come next.



So many times judges have heard, If I'd a-thought about it before I pulled the trigger, I wouldn' a-done it. If our murder rate by guns is a social consequence of absence of foresight, acting without thinking, the dumbing down of America has brought us to the self-destruction that follows decisions made in ignorance. Instead of looking to see what's behind the anger that has become the prevailing American attitude, hand-in-hand with arrogance, over the last half century, we build more prisons. Next, we'll have to keep the crime rate up to justify the prisons. An economic self-sustaining eco-system. Crime up, jobs up. Sounds great on the evening news.


*

Saturday, January 21, 2012

SKEEETER AND THE SKIDMARKS IN PICTURES

skeeter and the skidmarks


edwin lacy, sandy mason grover, willard gayheart



sandy mason grover and willard gayheart



edwin lacy and willard gayheart


scott freeman and edwin lacy



scott freeman



scott freeman



edwin lacy



willard gayheart


Another show of some very much alive mountain music by Skeeter and the Skidmarks at Willard Gayheart's gallery, The Front Porch, in the Fiddle and Plow series. This was the 5th or 6th, I suspect 6th, show they've played at the Front Porch in the last couple years of the Fiddle and Plow series. I know Skeeter's music backwards and forwards, and especially appreciate that every time they've put on a Skeeter show, each one was unique in the manner of how they played the songs. It all has to do with how and what they're feeling on a given night. Edwin drives a couple hours to get there and Sandy drives about that far too. As soon as the music started tonight I heard a new Skeeter vibe. It was an understated flow tonight. That doesn't say much. It was more relaxed than usual. The second time they played there, it was an assault from start to finish, on the intensity level of a concert in an auditorium. It's been different every time, and I was charmed to hear tonight a new sound I'd not heard from them.



I told Edwin and Scott after the show that they've messed up my mind. I know all the words to I Love You Nelly. I told Edwin, "It's your fault." In good humor. The funny part is I love the song now. It plays in my head, I know all the words. Just like Won't You Ride In My Little Red Wagon that Scott and Willard play with a western swing like Bob Wills. And Scott sang another western swing, Roly Poly. Skeeter's Yellow Rose Of Texas had a casual swing to it tonight. Maybe that's the word for tonight's music, casual. It wasn't casual like slack. They were right there with the music, making music every minute. When I say they make music, I mean music that's infectious, music that makes you tap your feet or move in whatever ways. It was the way they felt tonight. I love these songs now after hearing Scott and Willard play them the last couple years, as well as from the Skeeter and the Skidmarks cds, Hubbin It and Alternate Roots, both out of print. Scott put together some Skeeter songs from their 2 cds to make a 1 cd collection, a best-of kind of thing, though all songs on both albums are best of. Excellent, classic albums made in the early 90s. As fresh today as then. The Skeeter sound will always be fresh.



My feeling while sitting there in the presence of Scott and Willard's music, was I'm as satisfied hearing Scott and Willard as any music I've ever heard live. I don't need to pay $20 - $30 to hear Ricky Skaggs or Allison Krauss or Rhonda Vincent for some good music. Scott and Willard have a sound together that satisfies my ear for music as much as Ralph Stanley does. They are the equals in musicianship of people in Stanley's band. They're the equals of the professional musicians that run the roads in buses. Scott and Willard don't want to live like that. They want to make music and enjoy it, in the mountain way. Willard's singing is entirely different from Ralph Stanley's, but I love hearing Willard sing as much as I love hearing Ralph Stanley. If you're a Ralph Stanley fan, he's scheduled to play at Fairview Ruritan February 4, a Saturday.  



Toward the end of the show tonight, I was feeling one with the flow of the music. The band was in their groove and everybody in the place was in some kind of motion, especially the inner motion of flowing with the music within where we hear music, the place where we hear truly satisfying music. First, it's music that is music. I believe God sent me to them, them to me. Since I've known Scott, the music he and Willard make, then with their band Alternate Roots, now back to Skeeter, their band before Alternate Roots, back together and recording some tracks from time to time toward a new cd. I feel so privileged to be able to hear their music so much.



I feel like one of the people who lived in Greenwich Village when Bob Dylan was hanging in the Village, saw him all the time, when he wasn't heard of yet. Talented, they said of Dylan. Talented is what I say of Scott and Willard, Edwin and Sandy, too. When they get together, the sound that emerges is not the sound of any one of them. It's the Skeeter sound that happens when these four play together. One of them replaced by somebody else and the Skeeter sound is no longer happening. They're not a widely known band. They self-produce their music. Their musicianship is good as it gets, and their approach to a song is as good as it gets. Scott and Willard are the most actively creative people I know. Every time I drive home from a show at Woodlawn, I feel blessed. 
  

*

Friday, January 20, 2012

COMFORTABLE WITH WINTER

        location for the film noi the albino, iceland


This morning I went out to feed the birds, it 25 degrees. I noticed when I stepped through the open doorway into the cold, I didn't brace against it, walked into it relaxed, thinking of the people living in Scandinavian countries, not the least bit shy of cold air. In an Icelandic film, Noi the Albino, I saw a high school girl putting gas in a car, wearing a tshirt, acting like it's the same as summer, and it snowing. In Danish film, Smilla's Sense of Snow, Smilla tells of growing up in Greenland until her mother died and her dad moved back to Copenhagen, where he was from originally. Smilla could not stand the heat in the house. She lived outside the house in a tent until she became acclimatized. In The Sea, I saw a woman in mini-skirt, no shoes, lying in the snow, passed out drunk. I see those people going into the cold like we go into a summer day, here at latitude 36. Iceland is latitude 64-67. It's northern extremities touch the Arctic Circle, where it is only cold to Xtreme cold. Iceland's latitude is the same as the northern parts of Norway. For time measured in millions of years, this island in the North Sea was washed clean of soil a long time ago. Fishing is how they live, not agriculture. Rock and ice everywhere.



I've been enjoying the films primarily because they are so well made; excellent writing, excellent directing, acting awfully good, good story. Now I'm finding these Scandinavian stories are giving me new insight into winter. Before, and I mean all my life, I've braced against the cold and waited for it to leave by end of May, worn out from waiting. About mid February I am ready for winter to be over and it's just the half way point. Looking at these stories of people who live where it is cold all the time, I see them relaxed with it, flowing with it. At this time in the life I'm paying attention to my own flow, feeling my way with it, and found this morning feeding the birds and later walking to the mailbox without putting on a jacket, that I flowed with the cold, didn't even shiver like a dog when I came back into the house. The cold amounted to a sensation, neither pain nor pleasure, neutral. It never occured to me to use these films going into winter to subconsciously acclimatize self to cold all the time.



Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo, latitudes 59-61 are up there with the latitude of Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Bering Strait at latitude 65, the land of the midnight sun. Sweden is famous around the world for its suicide rate, which I've attributed to year round cold. But, here in Alleghany County, between latitudes 36 and 37, we have the same suicide rate as Sweden that is way up north. It's not the cold or the midnight sun. Possibly a Protestant belief system the two places share and a certain pride, a mixture of possible "causes." Only the individuals know the causes, and they're not telling. Twice I've been asked by psychotherapists if I'd ever thought about killing myself. I said, "Of course." Did that ever set the pens in motion. Right away they wanted to get me in treatment. I'm then obliged to explain I have never thought about it to do it, but it naturally is one of those subjects we humans think about and wonder why other people do it, wonder if there really are advantages to it. Of course I think about it. I've never met anyone who hasn't thought about it, same as we think about what it would be like to be killed. I'm not one to entertain that kind of thinking, but the curiosity has arisen. What would I say? "Oh shit." "Gawd-damn." "Fuck." I'd go into Eternity laughing like a monkey if one of these turned out to be my last word, or all of them. Steve Jobs saw the light, saying, "Oh Wow," three times. Like my friend Lorne Campbell thought it hilarious that Elvis died on the toilet. That was how he wanted to go. And he did.



I appreciate very much how seeing these films has relaxed my attitude toward the cold. I've looked up information about the Sami people, the indigenous people that live in the upper regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and over into Russia. They drive vehicles not built for speed, but for driving in deep snow all the time. They're boxes, Hummers without side windows that look like square box vans. Big snow tread tires that set the car body way up off the ground like a mud-sling pickup from around here. They look like they could climb up and over a snow drift. The Sami look like some rugged people, too. I look at the faces and see a variety, like everywhere else. Where do they get firewood? They need to keep a fire going year round. Snuggle into a bed of polar bear fur. Let it snow. The Sami would be the European continent's counterpart of Alaska's northernmost people, what we call the Eskimos. These are the kinds of places I'd have to be born and grow up in to tolerate the summers, let alone the winters. There are people who spend their lives going about in arctic water in a kayak, water so cold that if your kayak flips over, you're dead. That's dangerous water. Wait with a spear at the blow hole for a seal to surface for air, to eat its body and wear its skin. It's rugged living, but when it's been done for so many thousand years it has no beginning, it's just how we do things around here.



Actually, I had never given any thought to the weather in the Scandinavian countries, just thought of it as cold and snow. One of the aspects of the cold in these films I'm seeing--I've noticed a casual attitude toward the door like in America. In Noi the Albino, he goes in the house, snow and freezing outside, and leaves the door open. Today I saw the Swedish film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. In a scene with a little old uninsulated house with a wood stove. The Girl with the tattoo walks right in and gets with her computer, leaving the door open and it below freezing outside. I saw it another time in another film. It struck me a very casual relationship with the cold. When I saw the man carry firewood into the house, I wondered what he wanted for a fire. Three little logs that wouldn't last an hour in a house that had been vacant that it would take a few days to get the walls warm. That little bit of wood he put in the stove wouldn't put a warm spot on any wall in the house. That I took for something a director decided not to waste time on, getting a good fire going and heating the place well.



Evidently, the people of those latitudes up north experience the cold very differently from how we feel it where winter is not with us all the time. I can imagine the coldness would get old to the point of acceptance and go on being old. Yet the people that live in it seem to have no issue with the weather, the same as we don't here, except for complaining about its extremes. I'm glad every day that I've pursued a Scandinavian film festival from netflix. It used to be Bergman was the only Scandinavian film maker I knew of. Now, I see he is one of many. One of many truly Xcellent film makers.  



*

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A WORLD SAFE FOR GIRLS

     joan mitchell, sunflowers II



Hearing a woman talk on a radio talk show, On Point, I think is what it's called. She'd written about making a world safe for girls. She had a host of interesting points. Mostly, it was in relation to boys, who are like dogs (my word, not hers), predictably out of control. The woman who was with the interviewer several times had to bring up that everybody is not just alike, that not all girls are raised in pink bedrooms. Throughout the hour, I was puzzled by this woman's one dimensional vision of life in this world. Without meaning to be, she was thinking via corporate packaging in terms of a society where everyone is just alike, has the same opportunities, etc. My mind kept finding exceptions galore. A young woman I know, 29, brilliant mind, PhD, gentle, loving, caring, beautiful human being. None of this is exaggeration. I know a guy, 29, brilliant mind, HS, rough, loving, caring, beautiful human being. He came from such a dysfunctional house, his mind couldn't focus on school, on learning. He learned well, but not with the ease and uncluttered mind of someone else, who was raised without hitting or berating.



No matter how much we try to be Barbie and GI Joe, some girls just don't have blond hair and some guys don't want to be killing people. All the time I was coming up through the 1950s, the rule was boys are supposed to be interested in sports and the glory of the Army. I didn't give a shit about any of it. It's not like there are other possibilities. It's a minority of the high school boys that play football and basketball. Most of the guys don't play sports and don't want to. But they don't even figure. In high school, I liked going to football and basketball games, but didn't want to be in them. I hated playing basketball in gym class. Liked football and baseball as things I wouldn't be doing by choice, but are ok when you have to. I had no influences coming in from outside the working class baptist world of a few people who believed they had something nobody else had. All I could see they had was poverty and egoism. By the time I emerged from high school, family and church, and started going about in the world, I had no idea what any of it was about. School doesn't teach "real world." Church doesn't either. Parents insulated themselves from it, because they didn't get it. Rock and roll was my only other influence, and it certainly didn't teach living in the world, that is, with any sort of inner balance.



Much of the woman's talk on the radio tonight had to do with protecting the girls from the boys. It tells me the boys need some reining in. The whole of American society gives the high school athlete privileges the other boys don't have. The college athletes are shamelessly privileged and exploited. They are the university's big money ticket. Tom Wolfe's novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, gives a good view of how ill prepared some young girls can be for the cut loose jocks who have no boundaries where how they treat the little girls is concerned. It is a truth that the girls need protection from the boys. But not all boys. Only certain boys. Not all parents know how to teach their girls how to live safely in a world where boys are not trained to decency. It's the warrior culture where boys are given privileges because they'll be going to war soon. In war they will learn discipline, leadership, and a lot of them will die or be physically or mentally broken for life. Like boys have to put their lives on the line at a certain age, meaning it's ok for them to ramble and throw liquor bottles out car windows. Again, it's only a certain percentage. It might be up around 30%. Less than 10% the Henry Rollins / Ice T testosterone expression. They're mostly in the military or prison.



Girls do need protection from boys. And boys do need training. Our society doesn't do well at training boys. Boys are brought up in the society's belief system about boys. The rooster syndrome makes it very difficult for one man to train another outside a military, mass, shared experience. One man tells another what to do and you can be sure that's the last thing the one told will ever do. It is so easy to see men as roosters everywhere you look. I see myself and friend I wrote about in OVER LUNCH a few weeks ago, at lunch, across the table from each other like roosters, neck feathers sticking out, necks taught, feet ready to spring with the spurs, beaks ready to bite, chickens playing the testosterone game, squaring off. I would so happily be the rooster not looking to fight, but about any rooster I know has to play the testosterone game in one way or another in varying degrees. In the working class, I can kick your ass. In the middle class, I know more than you do. In the ruling class, I have more assets than you. Hippy being a middle-class phenomenon, the hipper-than-thou game was a de-intellectualization of the I-know-more-than-you-do game. Lunch friend plays both. He helps me appreciate my friends who don't play rooster games.



I suppose what some people are looking for, the ones that believe we're one large mass of the same thing in multiples, is a solution that will calm the stormy sea of humanity. Who knows how to make social changes that would protect naive girls from predator boys? That's a tall order. I can't help but think it's one of those aspects of living in this world we have to learn how to live with. First, have to pay attention to it. Awareness is the first step to solving issues that need changing. Always something is needing change, and I can't help but see that a good thing. Keeps everything fresh. Though, at the same time, it makes a traiditonal society seem awfully refreshing where the people have believed the same thing on the same land in the same way of life for multiple thousands of years. Given that we humans have lived tribally a lot longer than we have lived in the lonely crowd, it's something like our foundation. The distribution of the world's population today is people leaving traditional societies and going to the city where they can make money and party.



When I think about waking up somebody's baby to be raised as their child sometime in the next 20 years or so, I tremble in fear. The baby of a teenage girl in Milwaukee date-raped by a guy home from the Army on leave. Everything is possible. I don't even think about it. It can make me afraid of dying again, the fear of coming back. Do I want to do this again? Hell no! I don't ever want to go through the confusion of the first half of this lifetime again. It was like a pinball on its own particular path from bumper to bumper, driven by gravity, rolling on chance. A flipper sends the ball back to the top where it bumps its way back down the playing field, another slap by a flipper back through the minefield of bumpers and lights rolling with gravity toward the hole, end of game, and a flipper sent the ball rolling back to the top to bump through the minefield of bumpers, dings and lights, and then the flipper was too late, the hole snatched the ball. Boing. A new ball in the playing field.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TO LOVE: POEM BY NIRALA (1899-1961)

meher baba, by nad wolinska
    

            TO LOVE


           While finite nature still lay in the trance

           of Infinity you, beginningless,

           were only darkness, until perverse creation

           stirred by its own desire alone was set

           once more in motion. Fruit of delusion, you

           descended then into the world,

           kindling the lightning's magic in the breast,

           ever transforming mere sensation into

           substance, as waters turn to mist, then clouds.

          Attired in the brilliant raiment of desiring,

          creation became temptation. Forms, locking

          their arms around each other, surmised, "Now we

          have found it!" But then alas, bodies trapped

          in the small errors of their judgment, they
    
          both understood: love it had never been

          but the shadow of love.

                                                 Yet love shall always be

          the unstrung chain of diamonds on every breast,

          though tangling every soul entangled never,

          but ever the sovereign power.


                                                   --- Nirala
                                  (tr by David Rubin)     
                          

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE SEA THE MOVIE: DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY REUNION




The film of the day is THE SEA, an Icelandic film directed by Baltasar Kormakur. It's a story of a given family's dysfunction best symbolized in a moment toward the end when grown daughter tells aunt, who is also step mother, to get her a cup of tea. Auntie says, "You're no guest of mine." An hour before, she would have done it. The story begins with man and woman on a plane flying to a little town on the eastern shore of the island, the opposite end from Reykjavik. He is an Icelander and she's French. They live in Paris. He's going home for a few days because dad called the 3 kids together from their different places. In the plane, she said she's looking forward to meeting his family. He said, "Just wait til the monsters start crawling out from their hiding places." She said, "After living with you, I don't think there's many things that can surprise me." This was the beginning. In the climactic blow-out scene near the end, she held her face in her hands, surprised and then some.



Before the plane touches ground, we understand we're in for a dysfunctional family reunion called by the old man for reasons only he knew. He was a moderately wealthy fisherman who had grown his business into a factory operation, sent two of his kids off to university in Europe, paid their ways through school; whenever they drop by Iceland, it's to get some money from dad. We get to know everyone individually, each one a sympathetic individual, and when they get together, they don't make any music. Dad being the root of the family dysfunction, the one everybody has problems over, is a sympathetic man. His case is as valid as anyone's, perhaps more so. Like everybody who supports someone else, he's a bit frustrated over absence of expressed gratitude. Though from the point of view of the grown kids, they've got it coming from all he put them through as children, every kind of abuse there is. The youngest daughter, living at home, half-sister to the brother living in Paris, is crazy in love with him and they get together in private when they can. It's them in the picture above.



We are told at the beginning, by way of the son from Paris telling his girlfriend that what we're about to see is Iceland, laying its soul bare for the world to see. It makes me wonder if the film freaked the Icelandic people like Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint freaked American Jews for all that it told about the culture from within. The girlfriend from Paris is of a gentle nature, a flute player in a symphony. She is the audience in one person. She learns what we learn as the story goes along. She has the misfortune of being intimately involved. She's looking at her own future. She's pregnant; therefore, committed. Not so easy to back out now. The daughter's husband, who I took for Swedish, was familiar with the family psychology, and not engaged. He knew before they arrived that it would be hell to pay before the return home. Their teenage son wandered about in the film like an American teenage slacker.



Three generations are represented in the film during this time of rapid international change away from traditional cultures into a common culture of various languages. The old man worked hard all his life. First, a fisherman in the North Sea, rugged work. He was a worker and it paid off for him. He drove a new red Cadillac. His fish factory was a major business in the town. He noted about changing times, walking through the factory where several Chinese people were working, saying it's looking like an international airport in there. His generation was the original Icelanders, Scandinavians on an island for several centuries, hard working fishermen. In the next generation, the daughter went to 8 years of film school in Poland, paid for by hard working daddy. The son went to school in Paris, paid for by hard working daddy. The third son stayed home and took care of the fish factory, but not well enough to suit the old man, of course. We only see the three children of the son who stayed on the island while they're watching tv, and once looking at their mother lying in the snow in her party dress drunk.



The eye of the storm was the old man's wife, Kristin, if I recall correctly, the observer. She sees and hears, but stays out of it. None of the kids liked her and she was not overwhelmed with enthusiasm for them. The old man was her husband, her lover, the man she lived in the house with, the house that was suddenly full of takers, who only showed up when they wanted to take something, like money. She knew beforehand what we learned about the visitors, that they only regarded the old man as money bags. Her reticence throughout the story is explained by the end, when seen alone with her husband again, happy to be back with her man, minus all his loose ends flapping in the breeze. And more than likely happy she'll see none of them again, before the funeral.



It turned out to be one of the family reunions of volatile temperaments that explodes with the energy all the elements brought to the explosion. Only grandma, who watched tv with headphones, came through the ordeal without a scar. They were all weak and of no account to her. She was the old Icelandic culture, a shell of it washed up on the beach. Occasionally, she'd make a comment as a detached observer from the old world. In her words, she was only half alive. The old man's complaint, which she would have seconded, was that none of the younger ones had ever worked, had any sense of what work was. Their complaint was that they do work, just not in fishing boats. Everybody focused on self, no one willing to bridge the gaps between themselves and the others, ended up with everybody estranged from everybody else, like usual. Everybody went home wounded in one way or another, each in his and her own ways, the Parisian flautist in shock.



*

Monday, January 16, 2012

STAY OUTTA MY FACE

     caterpillar lioness


Wondering what it is about cats and dogs, pets, that is so satisfying for me all along my way. In childhood, I had dogs, cats, chickens and caged birds (canaries and parakeets) for pets. I've never been one to sit with a dog or a cat and tell it my troubles, or anything. I think of them living without words, so I prefer to communicate with them without words, learn their silent language and interact with them learning from them how to communicate without Sit, Heel, Roll Over, Shake hands, Play dead. I've never wanted to make a pet into a circus animal, though I have loved seeing shows of dogs jumping over backwards, jumping through a ring of fire, etc. What happens with me is I fall in love with them, they fall in love with me and we develop an inseparable relationship, such that if I were to die on Caterpillar, there's a good chance she'd die of grief soon after. When I lose one of my non-verbal friends, I feel the same grief as when a human friend dies.



About a year ago I read something that said pets are often surrogates for absence of human relationship. Maybe it is, maybe it's not. Sometimes when I hold Caterpillar and tell her I love her, I'll question if I'm playing surrogate. It always comes back, no. The human psyche is too powerful for me to attempt to live with another person's energy, psychology, control issues, needs, demands, wants, deception. Married, I would have to be one of those men who has his own space with a locked door that is off limits to kids and wives. Being honest with myself, I have found from experience that I don't do well living with somebody else. I get accused of not talking. What happens is, the other becomes so predictable she turns boring. This is what happened in the marriage. She became boring to me, because I knew in advance her response/reaction to anything I might say, so I wouldn't say it. She grew frustrated, because I talked so little, and I grew frustrated because she was too predictable. She had an endless list of wants that meant debt I couldn't stand living with. I felt lonely married and have never felt lonely unmarried. I feel lonely if I don't have a cat or a dog.



That's another marriage issue. "You love that damn dog more than you love me." It is so tempting to say, "That's right," but I know what comes next. Hell to pay. Like daddy telling me when I was 14 that he'll kill me if I join the Communist Party--this was back in McCarthy times when the government had the populace freaked over Communism, like they do over terrorism now. Then I hear, but terrorism is real. It's real only as a reaction to American aggression against poor people of color. The end of American aggression would be the end of terrorism if it weren't so convenient for population control, a shared enemy, a bad to contrast against our own good. Being told I'd be killed for joining the Communist Party set off an alarm. I'd never been interested in Communism before that moment. After that, I was looking for the recruiting station. Suddenly, I was sympathetic with Communism without even knowing what it was, except the preacher at church said it was bad.



I tried to look at Communism like something I'd like. I read about Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky, and said this was even worse than home. Hitler was home. Stalin was worse. Mao was worse. I was looking for an antidote to living under fascism. Finally, there came a time I realized, after much denial, that there is nothing desirable about Soviet and Maoist Communism. Wasn't anything desirable about Hitler either. Even though our American democracy is a matter of pretend, we white people, nonetheless, don't feel directly oppressed the way people in the Soviet bloc and mainland China felt it. Communism turned out to be a very dark, brooding cloud that controlled people by fear. That wasn't for me. That's what I was objecting to at home with parents, that dark, brooding cloud, control by fear. There's an old saying, nobody's happy when mama aint happy. It applies to daddy as well. Daddy's dark cloud brooded over the entire house. The tension in the house felt like something you had to cut your way through with a machete. It was the same dark brooding as I felt in Xao Xingjian's novel, One Man's Bible. Mao must not have been very happy; he kept his entire nation in brooding despair.



I dislike that oppressed feeling. I feel I understand it, somewhat, in the black people. It is a dark cloud the black people in America live under. The same can be said for Hispanics, anybody not white, except the poor. I'm privileged with whiteness, something I see in the white people around me that no one seems to get, that white people in American are privileged and take it for granted, same as the rich do with wealth. In most intimate proximity with another human, like living together, tensions grow and the feelings from my developing years trigger the feeling of oppression when I've got somebody I once thought something of yelling in my face telling me what's wrong with who I am. The next thing that happens is I'm gone, no turning back, no reassessing relationship, no apologies. The first time I showed this aspect of myself in married life was at a table playing bridge with X and her parents. I, a beginner, made a bad move. X across the table exploded into a rage at me for being stupid. I rose from my chair and announced, I will never play another game of bridge. Game over. That was it. I hate that shit. When I went out the door forever, it was after a shouting in my face experience when I told myself I do not have to live like this. I do have a choice. 



My dogs and my cats are good company. That they don't talk is a lot to be said for them. I don't like to talk either, so we have good relationships. I have to watch the use of that word relationship. Since about the 1980s it has meant fucking. Like now, dating also means fucking. "We've been dating (fucking) for three months." When I say I have a relationship with my pets does not mean we're fucking. I think we have the original meaning of relationship. We care about each other, we live in the same place, I never yell at them, they never yell at me. I am so bad about being yelled at, that I have walked off jobs over it. I don't accept such behavior from anyone for any reason, no matter how close, no matter my vulnerability. When somebody believes they know me well enough they can yell in my face, is when they find out they don't know me at all. That individual dies to me. They actually die before my eyes. Not like fall down dead in imagination. It's like the person I once knew, I don't know any more. Whatever the nature of our relationship, it's over, totally. I figure somebody that needs to talk to me yelling and accusing is somebody who doesn't want me around. Dogs and cats don't tell things behind your back. They're not fickle and they don't deceive. I don't think of Caterpillar a surrogate of something I don't want. I think of her as my friend.



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Saturday, January 14, 2012

SCANDINAVIA IN MOVIES

     geiranger fjord


I've taken an interest in having a look at Scandanavian cultures, from Finland to Iceland, to Greenland. These are the descendants of the Vikings, or so I suppose. Getting some understanding of what it was about the Vikings, the Nordic wild men who wore helmets with bull horns sticking out of them. I've heard about the Vikings all my life, but knew little about them except they were from Norway, I supposed, and that was about it. Snow and ice everywhere all the time. I've been curious about what the fjords are like. Fjord is a word I remember from learning it in school, what an odd word it was, like when I learned island, that it was not is-land, but I-land. First grade. Substitute teacher that day. I thought it interesting that the coast of Norway had fjords all up and down it. Learned that Nazis used fjords for submarine hiding places during WW2. Norwegian skiers are consistently great skiers in international competitions. It's a country of mountains and snow. What else would you do there, besides ski and ice skate? One thing, you could work your ass off on a farm among rock cliffs a thousand feet high all your life in a dysfunctional extended family, fish and dream of America.



In the time of the Vikings there was no America. It was Turtle Island then, though the Vikings surely did not know it by that name. Danes settled Iceland, Greenland and probably over into Nova Scotia. I believe it's in Massachusetts that evidence of Viking visitors was found. Here, in our county, in Piney Creek, Phonecian markings have been found on a rock. Just because those people didn't have satellites and atomic bombs, it doesn't mean they were mindless. A dozen or more guys set out with oars and sails, an understanding of the night sky in relation to the earth. I see the fjords in movies and get a feeling for what they are and what they're like to look at from a boat in the water between rock mountains and cliffs both sides. People live in them. I look at the map of Norway and see fjords penetrating over a hundred miles inland, the western part of Norway stripped to bare rock by millions of years of wind from the North Sea up there where the Atlantic current makes the turn from going north along Greenland and Iceland and having to make the turn, like a U-turn in a river or creek, the water eats at the land until only the rock remains.



The satellite map of Norway looks like a large rake went over Norway, left to right. As long as the land masses of earth have been in the configuration they're in now, the constant wind and surges of storm, the wind full of water, most often ice, beating at the land until only rock cliffs are left, 500 ft to 1000 ft high, immoveable objects in relation to irresistable forces. The fjords are now veins running deep into the country, boats the form of transportation, boats for fishing, probably the way of life all up the coast to Trondheim and over the top of Sweden to Finland, where ice never thaws. Mountain people have the name world-round of being tough people for work and fighting. I'm beginning to have an idea that fjord people would make a good match for mountain people. What I saw in the film, I AM DINA, by Dane director, Ole Bornedal, made in a Norwegian fjord somewhere in the Bergen region, told me life in the fjord villages was intimate, extended family. Everybody hard working. Women had their hard work and the men had their hard work. The religion was absolute.



I've been paying attention to the architecture in Oslo I've seen in a few films, HAWAII, OSLO mostly filmed in the old parts of the city, and TROUBLED WATER in the newer parts of the city. I've gone to google maps and looked at Oslo from above. It looks like what I think of as bastions everywhere, buildings that look like their walls are 3 feet thick, like if a dump truck loaded with gravel was to hit one at 100mph, gravel would have gone everywhere, the cab accordioned to about a foot thick and not a dent in the side of the building. Might scratch the paint, but no more. Makes me wonder about the nature of the Norwegian people before Oslo became a city, in the time when they lived by fishing along the coast of fjords. Inland was mountains. It suggests to me that all along the history of people in that land now called Norway have lived in the face of the storms of the North Sea. I imagine the wind flying through those fjords for dozens of miles, icy wind raging through the wind tunnels. Surely, the people who settled along the fjords knew the best places to be out of the worst part of the wind. Generation after generation of people in direct relation to the North Sea where the landscape of Norway turns the ocean current all the way around. It seems natural the architecture in Oslo would have the power of presence of the Rock of Gibraltar. It looks like no force of nature could overwhelm the buildings of the old part of the city, like the cliffs along the coast.



If the Vikings consisted of people from Norwegian fjords and the Danes, who also face that North Sea, but without the mountains. These would be people whose lives had been lived in boats fishing. Taking off in a sailboat with a dozen or so others, they'd have no problem going anywhere they wanted. Fish were all around them anywhere they were. Take a horde of men from the fjords in boats with oars and sails, whose arms and legs are pure power, them going at it with axes and spears against Scottish and Irish, also people of the North Sea, shaped by the wind. I'd say it would be a formidable battle. It must have sent terror through a coastal village when the Vikings landed. Maybe. I don't know. Mind going off into imagination. The root of it is the people who came up in the Norwegian fjords would be formidable people. Much like mountain people in that what happens in the fjord stays in the fjord. And, like in the Appalachians, a similar culture all along the chain.



One thing I see, Norwegians are familiar with living in isolation. Though a day trip by boat to the next village couldn't be too bad. They live in a world of water and boats, fishing, familiar with silence and solitude. I see a certain comfort with silence in what films I've seen from Norway. The people are not chatterboxes. Surely, Oslo has its punk set trying to be like on tv. I see a Protestant stillness in them, not a stillness from within, but a stillness from culture, like in the American old-time Protestant culture. From earliest childhood, one is taught not to fidget, to sit still, no frivolity, only straight-faced sober demeanor. I think of imagining living among Norwegians. I'll never get there in this lifetime, so I can see these places in films made by some of the more interesting directors I've seen. Erik Poppe of Norway, Ole Bornedal of Denmark, Bille August of Denmark, and a string of satisfying film makers. Since I discovered not long ago the Swedish influence on my nature from the preacher in the church I grew up in, a Swede from Minnesota, I am seeing in films from Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo, that I feel very much at home among the Scandinavian people. I'm loving my tour of Scandinavia through some of the finest films I've ever seen.



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