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Saturday, March 31, 2012

ART IN A MARTIAL SOCIETY

     louise nevelson, sky cathedral iv

Another warm day and another forecast for tomorrow. Everywhere I go remarks about how good the weather is make me shudder. I can't say anything, because it's not Pollyanna, and it's not like I'm on tv to say anything other than, "Isn't it great, 70 degrees every day in the winter. I love it." Of course, the word when you live in tv world is it's natural, it's a cycle, it happens all the time--it's my fault I don't remember it happening before. It's my fault if I'm depressed and can't appreciate a good day when I get one. Makes me want to say, about July I'll think it's wonderful when it's 135 every day for a month. No, it's not greenhouse gases, it's not the mass of plastic floating in the Sargasso Sea the size of two Texases, and one in the Pacific the same size, plus the Japanese tsunami debris off the coast of Oregon now. It's not the wanton disregard for life by the humans on the earth, killing for the sake of killing, everywhere around the globe. The pervasive disregard for life by the civilized sector of the human species, the species that commits genocide on any other species at will for any reason or no reason, is the foundation of the imbalance that has the earth shaking, rattling and rolling like a dog covered with fleas and ticks, parasites sucking its blood, its life.


American culture is a business, corporate culture with a vast military to protect its things. So focused on money and military, we as a culture, as a society, have become like the Comanche Indians of Texas, a society entirely about warfare. They had no arts or crafts in their culture. What crafts they made were artless. You get the art among the Navajo and the people like them who preferred peace to war. Art has little to no relevance in our American society. Yet, in the 20th Century, American artists have made a serious place for USA in the international art world of the modern and post-modern periods.  Poets and writers have as little relevance in American life as artists of any kind do. Go to art school, learn to make art with computers, get a corporate job.


That's the path for the American with an art talent who wants to pursue it. Making art while having full time job, writing while having a full time job, making music on weekends when you have a full time job. That's the only way art can be made in America, and weekend artists are never respected in any field. We have tremendously huge cities full of people watching television. Very very few are doing anything having to do with art. Some are. When you get into the world of the people who are painting, making music, writing in their spare time, you find it is quite a lot, relatively. For the most part, however, I'd say at least 99.9% of the American people have never heard of Louise Nevelson. More than that. Same with Claes Oldenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Larry Rivers, Robert Mangold, and all the rest of them. Americans don't even know Winslow Homer and Whistler.


Like Ezra Pound said in the early years of the 20th Century that he writes for six people. That has pretty much been the way of 20th Century art, making it for only a few able to see what the artist sees. Everybody else is busy making money and watching tv. To get a job teaching, one must have a certain number of hours of Education courses. Art is not even a consideration. Some schools have art classes, but they don't inspire any real interest in contemporary art, or even art of the past. In America now, it's all about self-expression. Like every once in awhile I hear somebody I know who doesn't read say, "I'm going to write a book." No they're not. How can you write when you can't read? I always say, "Do it." Our education, our money making, our television watching, our religions have no place for art. My mother, an ardent Baptist, when I gave her a book of pictures of paintings of Jesus from the earliest to present, she never looked at it, never even opened it. Art. What does she care about art? If I were to dismiss a present with equal absence of interest, there'd be hell to pay. I quit giving her anything after that. No matter what the gift, indifference was her response. I doubt she ever noticed I quit giving her gifts.


America in the places people live, towns, cities, suburbs, you can't find an interest in art anywhere without knowing where to look. Might be a gallery some place, but you have to know where. I don't know but a very few people who buy art, the ones who buy mine. A big co-op art gallery in Sparta and a small private one across the street, and middle class suburban people buying summer exurban homes in the mountain. What do they put on the walls? Whatever they put on the walls they don't buy here. And in the houses I've been in, there's no art. Sometimes I see something kind of on the verge of art, flowers and photographs of grandchildren. Americans have never had an interest in art. It's not like something that went away. It's something we never had. Art is about as American as black beans. At the same time, we have big universities all over the country with art departments that teach some really advanced, interesting information about art. Get an MA in art history, and get a job in the mail room of a corporate skyscraper. Teach art history to kids taking it for an easy credit. What does it matter in America if you know the real title for Whistler's Mother is Composition in Gray? What does it matter in Venezuela or China? The same here as everywhere. Like Beavis and Butthead, they'd rather listen to Anthrax.


The only friend I had I could talk about art WITH used it to play one-upmanship games with, which took ALL the fun out of it, rendering it a subject of conversation I never initiated. Said friend I think has dumped me for not bowing down to his opinions as natural law. I can't get concerned about it. If I question the authority of one of his opinions, his ego sends up walls all around with archers all around the top of the walls ready to launch an attack if I slight one of his opinions again. What he believed I should be painting, if I'm a real artist, is what some people were painting in New York in the latter half of the 1950s. He's not aware that anything has happened since Pollack, the apex of pure art. Ho-hum, I say. What if the apex of pure art is Eva Hesse? Jennie Holzer? Agnes Martin? Carl Andre? It's only people who know nothing about art that believe they have to tell me what and how to paint. Years ago someone moved into my part of the mountain. She had substitute taught an art class once in a Florida public school. She knew all about it. Like the spirit, art is not something you know all about, even know about. Edgar Allen Poe said it, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Some people think a hillside of Christmas trees is a beautiful sight: money. Other people see cancer in the ground water when they see a hillside of Christmas trees. In about a foot of snow I see a Robert Ryman pattern of white cones on a white field.




Friday, March 30, 2012

THE SOULS OF ANIMALS

     caterpillar

Driving to town this morning I passed a loading pen with 15, thereabouts, young black cows ambling about. I noticed my heart felt a warm loving sensation. It is what I feel when I see cows, a loving warmth in my heart. It is the same feeling as when I hear my cardinal that visits the birdfeeder daily singing his distinctly redbird song. I see the same pair of downy woodpeckers pecking tree trunks the other side of the window. I can take pictures of them through the window--incentive to keep the windows clean. I have a warm feeling for the birds I feed and see every day. Seeing the pair of red squirrels darting about, I feel the same in my heart as when I look into the next room and see Caterpillar on her bed looking at me. It's the warm feeling of a friend. It's that same feeling that tells me who my friends are, the people I feel that warmth of kinship with the god (or spirit) within.


The birds, the cattle, the squirrels, the cats, the dogs, the horses are animated by the spirit within, the same as we are. We, however, have mind, which we believe makes us superior in the hierarchy of evolution to the beings without forebrains. It's kind of hard to call us superior, considering that before we came along, all the animals and birds and fish were doing fine. The Garden was self-sufficient. The hairless ape evolved a forebrain and started figuring things out with mind, which the other animals could only do a little bit, when at all. I think everybody has noticed that dogs tend not to move things. They see that objects can be moved, because they see us move and carry things all the time. But they never seem to get it that they can move something. There are plenty of exceptions to that general rule. One day my dog Sadie was chasing a chipmunk (ground squirrel) and it ran up a hollow tree trunk, a small one, maybe ten inches across.


Dog barked at the opening, clawed at it and barked. After awhile she stopped. She studied the log, looked it over. When she had it figured out, she tore into it about 3 feet up the trunk, ripped the old paper-like outside layer of the tree apart with her teeth, ripped and tore at that tree, shredding it tearing at it, spitting out wood and tearing into it again. She never found the groundsquirrel, but she splintered the lower part of the tree. Other times I'd seen her do something after taking a minute or two to figure something out and go at it. Still, she was never one to move something out of her way or for any reason. Only after thinking about it for a bit, figuring something out was the only way she could alter a situation by moving an object. In Konrad Lorenz's autobiography, he told of a Russian psychological experiment with a gorilla. They hung a banana from above just out of reach of the ape jumping for it. They put a wooden box in a corner. The ape tried to get the banana and gave up. It sat and thought a moment, stood up, carried the box to the floor under the banana, stood on the box and plucked the banana by hand.


That's awfully good cognition to what is believed generally about animals, that they're "dumb," which is only true in that they can't talk. As I've lived with animals, worked with animals, or pre-humans, I have found them intelligent far beyond what I'd been trained to believe by church, school, parents, all forms of authority throughout my life. I live in a world where almost no one recognizes that the only difference between us and them is they don't have thumbs that work like ours, and they don't have language. I've learned they have language, only our minds won't slow down to allow us to pay attention to them. They communicate among themselves adequately, yet they can't communicate with us at all. They speak with their eyes and actions. We do too, but don't notice. Language has deadened our senses to their forms of communication. We have lost the ability to understand their ways of communication. We've given communication over to language.


As I have spent my adult life informally studying my pets and the ways of animals in my world. I've learned how to connect using eye contact. I've learned the ones I live with eventually learn my mind, can interpret my sentences, evidently by seeing the images of the words in my mind. Every time I have spoken verbally to one of my cats or dogs, telling them something I want them to know, I see in a very short time they do exactly as I said. When the cats were young, a few years old, Caterpillar pounced on Tapo every day, making her mad and keeping her mad. One day, holding Tapo, I explained to her that when Caterpillar pounces, Tapo needs only to roll onto her back and rip Caterpillar's guts out with the claws of her back feet. Within a few minutes Caterpillar pounced on Tapo. Tapo rolled onto her back and tore at Caterpillar's soft belly with her claws and Caterpillar leaped about 3 feet and ran for it. It's that deal of them being ready when I arrive home from being out of the house.


All the animals that have lived with me through the years have come to know my mind. After Sadie the foxdog, Airedale mix had been on the other side for 6 years, had visited me in dreams 4 times, I met Aster. In her eyes I saw Sadie. She came to me at the very same spot Sadie came to me earlier. As I lived with Aster, I learned right away she knew my habits and my thoughts. I never had to train her to what I expect of a dog. From the start she knew my ways. I only had to correct her about chasing cars one time. Had a talk with her and she got it. The species arrogance among us humans toward all the rest of the world of the living is even worse than American arrogance toward the poor. America doesn't mind killing the poor and killing an animal is the same as digging a hole with a shovel. No big deal. I believe it is our arrogance toward life forms we dismiss because they can't talk and they don't have any money. Our species arrogance is the very same as the arrogance of the rich toward the poor. They are visible, but seldom appreciated as sentient beings.


Since I've come to see the god (the spirit) within, it's difficult seeing a possum splattered in the road, any roadkill. It's painful to see cattle in a truck on the way to market. For me, it is the same as seeing people in a truck on the way to the slaughterhouse. I see a truck on the interstate with square, single-unit chicken cages, one hen apiece, stacked high on a flatbed trailer. I call them rolling chicken prisons. All those hens have a life sentence of confinement to a cage slightly larger than her body so she can only eat, shit and lay eggs. I tell myself that in the thousand years of peace after this period of time we're in the humans will maybe come down out of the species arrogance, even arrogance toward one another. Maybe in that time we'll slow down the rate of killing and destroying we do collectively. I see the people of the thousand years of peace conscious of giving the earth a chance to heal, to allow life on the land and in the sea. To allow life. That, in itself, is the nature of peace, to allow life.


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

PORTLANDIA STYLE


     carrie and fred


Hello again. I've taken a few days off from writing you, hoping the BUGS have been exterminated in the computer program behind this new writing format blogger has put in to make things better. So far, after one sentence, it hasn't pulled any of its tricks of suddenly stopping the printing as I continue writing. The cursor mysteriously went away to some mysterious no-place. Retrieving it was another adventure. I've cussed myself into hell and back a dozen times per piece I've written since this change. Can't call it for the better. So far, the problem has not recurred. I didn't believe they'd leave it that way on and on. My complaints plus 10,000 more complaints perhaps keep the programmers working on it. The bug eradication process takes a little time. Maybe something like building a new city, then having to go through and find all the cockroaches. I'm sure it is quite an involved process. Because the bugs made me crazy, I thought I'd wait a few days and give myself a break from cussing fits to see if a couple days at their end would fix the issue. Evidently it did. Thank you, blogger computer programmers, or whatever you're called.


Coinciding with this couple days of not writing to you, I've had company from Portlandia. That's the post-hippie youth-centered aspect of Portland, Oregon, where once stood a redwood forest. Eric, my friend of 35 years I first knew when I think he was 9. When I came to the mountains and worked the farm, Eric was grandson of my employers, who lived essentially in Baltimore and all over the country with his mother, a single mom married multiple times, on the move from this husband to the next. At a certain point, Eric grew into self-sufficiency and discovered Portland, where he found his real home, like I've found my mountain home to be my real home. I suppose it could be said he tapped the vibe that is his. He turned me on to an online sitcom called Portlandia. It is hilarious. It is the present day American coffee shop set concentrated into one place, Portland. A post-hippie culture has come into being there, even post-punk, post-grunge and post-modern all the way around.


Portlandia strikes me as a culture of style, everybody having their own individual style. I'm seeing an expression of American individualism, which has been seriously threatened since mid-20th Century by trends of conformity coinciding with factory living at work and at school, another brick in the wall, another cog in the wheel. In this time that has been Huxley's Brave New World, now transitioning into Orwell's 1984, Portlandia is appearing, to my way of seeing, to be putting its roots down as an outpost for the Brave New World set. Like today we see old hippies in white ponytails, feedbag print skirts that sweep the ground, John Lennon glasses, long straight Joan Baez hair in white, tie-dye tshirts, tshirts that say the Grateful Dead, shod by Birkenstock, what you see down front at a Rolling Stones concert now. In Portlandia I was seeing hippie dress-up style as it has evolved through punk, a place and time where people who want to are free to dress up like they're going to an lsd party in their tripping outfit. I see tripping outfits as everyday apparel in Portlandia.


I heard myself say to Eric while we were watching it, "I hope the future is all of America like Portlandia." It appears that Portlandia is what the styles of the last half century have evolved to, and will go on evolving through. It's like the counter-culture's grandchildren. What was important in counter culture looks to me to be important in Portlandia. Recalling a moment in the Sparta coffee shop, a high school girl there with a bad, half-assed, not completely committed punk hairdo that merely looked like she'd come in out of the wind. She was wearing a black tshirt with a long name of a band I'd never heard of going over the roller coaster humps of her fully formed breasts. I caught myself having to focus to figure out the lettering, white on black. It took so long, I knew she'd glance over and see me totally focused on her tits, which, I have to say, rated notice. Maybe it's why she likes that shirt; makes you focus on her tits to read it. Thought I'd approach it directly. I asked her what it said. The answer was what you say when you're consumed by a television style in high school and an old turd older than your grandparents in white hair makes a remark about your style. "It's a band." Duh, I thought: Baby, your outfit is about 35 years retro, if you want to get into who is uninformed about style. So I asked the name of the band. It was a long name I don't remember. I pictured a Britney Spears with black hair and black fingernails, screaming goth punk and the band dressed in tight black leather, going by the style of the girl wearing the shirt.


She was Portlandia. A large number of people who go to the coffee shop in Sparta are of the Portlandia style. I'm seeing the Portlandia style is all over the country, even in the small towns now. Not that they're freaks, but that the people all around them in the world they live in think little to nothing about it. They watch tv too. It is becoming a television youth style. If the girl in Sparta with the halfway punk look lived in Portland, her hair would be dyed some hair-dye coca-cola truck red or dead black. Another day in the coffee shop I asked her why she didn't go all the way with her hair and do what she wanted to do. "My mother would kill me." Her mother follows the tv anchorwoman style. When I say the people at the coffee shop are Portlandia, they are what I think of as American individualists in some and American conformist in others, everyone dressed in their own style, albeit seldom "freak" style, except in the teenagers wearing 70s outfits that speak individualism in a world of conformity. I see this paradox in a lot of the young; political correctness conformity to the max, shamelessly to the max, mixed with individualism in apparel as worn in commercials, where it makes a difference if the label in your tie says Nieman*Marcus or Penny's. That's individualism today.


Portlandia is two actors, male and female, playing a couple of different Portland kinds of characters living in the world of the youthful styles every episode, interacting in restaurants, coffee shops, at work and a variety of other places in Portland where the grandchildren of the counter culture live and work and play. Here's a link to see what I saw: www.ifc.com/Portlandia  I can't say if it will be to your liking or not, but for myself, it satisfies with a John Watersesque view that makes no concessions to anyone who doesn't get it. Kind of like South Park and Beavis and Butthead, Simpsons, satires of present trends without judgment. More like using our present American culture as resources for comedy, as done in every culture. I've never been one to watch sitcoms, but have to confess, I'll be seeing some more of Portlandia, Laurel and Hardy slapstick a century beyond.


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Monday, March 26, 2012

LEGALIZE IT

              andy warhol

The race was rained out today in California. Tony Stewart won the race by being in the lead when the race was stopped. It promised to be a good one, but it didn't happen. We switched over to the UNC vs KU. About half way into the game, I said, "If UNC loses, it won't be because KU beat them." UNC beat UNC. KU just watched them do it. And we watched the last two holes of Tiger Woods winning a big silver trophy. We found Hardcore Pawn. The Jerry Springer Show in everyday life. The only thing I saw of value in it was that it showed me I'm glad I never thought of wanting to work in a pawn shop. What a horrid job. It would take somebody who gets a thrill from conflict. Arguing over money as an every day way of life I'd feel cheap as dirt. I don't mean to throw blame on the people doing that sort of work. I'm just thinking about my own decisions for myself. All that emphasis on money would leave me feeling empty inside. Over the course of years in painting, every time I started making good sales and money increased, it hung over me like a dark cloud when money eventually became the purpose. A day came when a painting has no spirit, is dead in my eyes, I realized money had moved in as the focus and my spirit left the painting. That's when I see what I'm doing and stop painting.


Finally, I have come to a place where money has nothing to do with it. When somebody asks if I'm selling anything, I say, "Art doesn't sell in Sparta." Focus on money drains the spirit out of me. This go-round, the mountain musicians period, I'm doing without any idea of selling anything. I've put a couple out on view with price tags, but certainly no expectation of a sale. If I made them $10, might sell one or two then, but I wouldn't count on it. What's really great is when you gove somebody a painting as a friend, then a few years later another friend buys it at a yard sale for $2. First impulse is to be insulted, but no need for that. I was glad friend who bought it for so little got it, and friend who valued it so little was rid of it, out of the house. It didn't even buy a pack of cigarettes. I have to paint with no thought to sales. Don't even want to sell them, but the time comes when my house that is too small already, gets smaller and smaller as I attempt to store paintings.


It's a really screwed up attitude I have toward money. Age 14, 1956, I worked all summer for minimum wage, saved $100 in a savings account the teller at me no one could take money from but me. LOL One day I looked in the savings book I kept in a drawer beside my bed, and every dollar had been withdrawn. I asked daddy what happened. He said he needed it and don't ever mention it again. At the end of the next summer, I spent the entire $100 I saved, to get rid of it so he couldn't steal it. Having no recourse, I spent it on myself so I could have something out of it instead of somebody who stole it. I never forgave him and never put any money aside after that. In my decision making at that that time of my life, I determined that I would live my life without reverence for money. I use it for the tool it is and never try to "make" money. To make money takes too much focus of attention to money, which I've seen throughout my adult life, is a false god. Using it as a tool is not using it as a god, which makes it a means of exchange, its original purpose. When bank CEOs take it all for themselves is when it becomes a god.


The pope is visiting Mexico now preaching that it's love for money behind the drug wars in Mexico, the killings. He is telling the working people of Mexico not to be so carried away over money. Like they're the problem. They don't have any money to be carried away with. The people who meet his description are not in the throngs hearing him. I felt like that was as lame as "just say no" and the politicians and evangelists demanding abstinence instead of prevention. Merely safe sound bites. The pope is surely on the road to Mexico and Cuba about money for reasons other than philosophically. He's concerned about the people falling away from the church. It's a big bureaucracy, the original bureaucracy. Many centuries ago the Roman church made the switch that occurs as a natural law: a bureaucracy is formed to benefit a given bunch of people. Invariably there comes a time the people the bureaucracy is set up to serve end up serving the bureaucracy, and that's how it remains.


I understand the point of view that the drug issues in Mexico can be cured by working people wanting money less. They wish they could. It's the same as nothing to make such an abstract solution to a problem the people he's talking to see in terms of the mafia threat: give us your money and we won't kill you. They see it in terms of artillery in the hands of young guys who don't pay attention to the pope. The people the pope is talking to are the people who live by the mercy of the war lords of Mexico. If he were serious about the drug war problems in Mexico, the pope would do well to address the American people, whose massive consumption of illegal drugs the Mexicans are supplying. To legalize is the only solution. Talk about farming coming back. Marijuana would be a bigger crop in USA than it is in Mexico. Farms would be popping up everywhere. The crop would be sold at auction like tobacco. It would be a big business like liquor became a big business. Underworld problems would go away or shift to something else, urban crime would take a dip. It would serve the need we have to self-medicate when working people can't afford psychiatric help.


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Saturday, March 24, 2012

SKEETER AND THE SKIDMARKS DO IT AGAIN

scott and edwin


willard


edwin


sandy and willard


skeeter and the skidmarks




Another Skeeter and the Skidmarks show at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. A full house tonight. Extra chairs had to be brought out. Minnie the cat was perplexed not having a seat of her own. All the regular people were there and about a dozen that have not been there before. Before the show I was talking with the man with the bald pate on the left in the picture above. He and his wife have been coming to the Fiddle and Plow shows from the beginning. He said, "There's not been a bad one." They work the concessions at Fairview Ruritan sometimes. The entire audience was enthusiastic throughout the show. The music was predictably terrific, had feet tapping throughout the audience. We who have been going there a couple years now, that's around a hundred times, are so tuned to Skeeter music that we all listen enthusiastically. New people are taken by the music just as much as the rest of us. A boy who looked to be about 15 I took to be one of Scott's mandolin students. His feet were about to jump off his legs they were going so fast. Young guys playing bluegrass want to play fast. I imagined him in his private practice place making his mandolin ring as fast as he can make it go. He was loving the music. It seems odd to see a teenager there loving acoustic music so much. He was a country boy wearing a tshirt with a picture of a buck and a big rack.


I always sit in the back so I can stand up when I need to for photographs. I can see people swaying and moving their feet, moving their hands, bobbing their heads. Almost everybody was in motion in their seats. I'd say everybody was in motion within at the place where music moves us. Faces were lit up all over the place. The music flowed with the band and flowed with the audience. It was one of those times when the music clicks with the band and clicks with the audience, such that the band and the audience become one with the music. Their approach to the songs tonight was relaxed, at home, this perhaps the sixth time they've played at the Fiddle and Plow series. Tonight, Edwin's banjo was featured. He tore the banjo up. He has an instrumental banjo tune of his composition called, Monkey Fingers. Like when he plays Groundhog Shuffle, the fingers on his right hand look like a big spider running in place. It looks like his fingers are doing one thing, and the sound that comes out of the banjo is a lot more complex than what it looks like his fingers are doing. There were times he'd be plucking the fire out of it and a melody occurred inside the wild picking his fingers were doing. I looked and looked at his hand trying to find it working the melody. I think he was doing it with the noting fingers of his left hand. Those fingers danced all up and down the strings.


Possibly Edwin's artistry is in the way both his hands dance while they're making the music. The fingers of his left hand dance on the strings, quite literally. He does some really fast finger work on the strings that looks spontaneous and free, though it's very carefully controlled, and sounds spontaneous. The fingers of his right hand, his "monkey fingers," go completely wild on the strings. It looks like his hand is out of control, like a kid frailing a banjo to make noise, pretending he knows how to play. But the sound that Edwin's monkey fingers makes is banjo pickin to behold. I close my eyes when he's playing and I hear Edwin's banjo pickin as articulately noted as Murray Perahia on a piano, I open my eyes and he's frailing the strings, hand hopping to the music with lightning control. I understood why banjo picker Lynn Worth loves Edwin's pickin so much that she said to me, "I don't want to just play like Edwin, I want to be Edwin!" Of course, she didn't mean she wanted to take over his life. She meant she wanted to be able to pick with his apparent abandon that is controlled by the music, so free and so apparently effortless. I know there is more to it from her point of view. This is just my projection of her point of view. When Edwin plays, it is like he is controlled by the music, is able to get himself, mind, out of the way and let the music tell the fingers what to do. He stands in place and gives his fingers the freedom to dance to the music.


Receiving that insight into what Lynn said, what it is about his picking that makes her want so much to find the place inside herself where she can let go of her hands and let them dance. I don't know that, just imagining it. Lynn is a good one with a banjo too. I've wondered why she feels so much less than Edwin's playing, but I'm not a picker, I don't know how a picker hears, so I don't want to presume. She hears subtleties I don't even know are there. Like sometimes listening to bluegrass on the radio with bluegrass banjo picker Jr Maxwell, he would mention something about how good the banjo was, and I couldn't even find the banjo. He heard details in banjo pickin so subtle I didn't even know they were there. What I hear when Edwin picks and what Lynn hears when he picks are as different as two different pickers. At the core of what I can feel comfortable projecting, she holds Edwin's banjo pickin way up high unto artistry. I hear him as an ear in the audience. She hears him as someone who can hear what he is doing. Her appreciation of his banjo gives me inspiration to pay closer attention to what he's doing. I can't hear what she hears, but paying closer attention I hear a lot more. Edwin Lacy's playing rewards the ear at every level of understanding, from the thrill of hearing a banjo ring to hearing details only another musician can hear.


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Friday, March 23, 2012

PROBLEMS WITH THE BLOGGER SITE

            marcel duchamp, rotoscope

I'm stuck in a corner. Don't know what to do. This blogger site has become impossible for me to write on. They've put up a new space for writing. I'm gradually learning my way around in it, but have one, no two, furious gripes. One is that the cursor quits working and I have to find it and get it back however I'm able, and then it has to go exactly to the correct pixel or it won't work. This happening three and four times to the line makes me crazy. Of course, this time it's not doing it. I'm able to write freely. On the previous one, I about lost my mind. They put a little box in the lower right corner that says "send feedback." Every day I write and tell them to please go back to the way that works. The new one does not work. The way before worked. I don't care if it's new or old. I only care that it works. And, like I said, now it's working just fine. I still hate it that the place for writing isn't wide enough. I get toward the right edge and everything jumps to the left, opening the extra inch that's out of sight behind a block of some space that is of no use. While I'm writing in a paragraph, every time I reach the end of a line, the whole paragraph jumps and then jumps back. When it was necessary to stop 3 and 4 times per line to find the cursor and fix it so the letters I type on the keyboard appear on the monitor.


Because either the first inch of the lines are out of sight on the left or on the right. When I reread, I have to run the paragraph back and forth so I can unveil the missing inch at either end. The same thing happened with facebook when they changed it for the better. They took the fun completely out of it and the fun never came back. Improving the blog site is messing up the experience of using the site. I want to change to another blog site. I'll give this one a chance to see if it can be fixed so it works consistently. Right now, all is well. Cursor hasn't vanished once. I still hate the way the whole paragraph jumps when I use the last inch of each line. I thought about not using that last inch and return to the beginning of the next line before reaching the end of the line before. All that would do is mess up everything and throw words all over the place making it incomprehensible. I'm assuming that in its newness it has glitches. Also seeing that its newness is all strange to me and I have to figure everything out. Every day I send feedback saying I hate it. They want the feedback and I want to vent, so it's a win-win.


The writing throughout these two paragraphs has flowed like it used to before the changes. Maybe they're working on glitches. I'll trust that they will have it right in a few days or weeks. The site has been good all the way along. I've been at it 3 years and have not had any problems until now. I can't write freely if I have to stop 3 and 4 times per line to get the cursor back where it belongs, or whatever this straight vertical line is called that leads the letters across the line. Can't focus. No point in attempting the writing if I can't focus. When I wrote the feedback, I wrote as to a robot. They write to me as if I'm a robot, so I write to them as if they're robots. I suspect they really might be. Like netflix is just a computer, blogger.com might be just a computer too. I really don't want to switch over to another blog site. If blogger keeps it so I can't focus, I can't write. But, this time everything is working all right. No problems. Everything flowing smoothly.


I'm glad I went ahead and started this. Don't know what made the change. All the frustration is gone. Now that I can focus in the writing, I can get used to the paragraph jumping when I come to the end of a line because of this block of useless space on the right side. I didn't want to go to bed wonderinf if I'd have to find a new blog site tomorrow.


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Real Cat Fight ( Watch With Sound)





Showed this video to Caterpillar and she didn't pay any attention at all. She heard the howling cats and saw them, but took no interest. She'd rather watch birds. I had more fun watching the video. Cats howling at each other. The cat on the right that looks like a leopard has quite a lot to say. It strikes me comic about cats that they get so dramatic that the drama seems to be the purpose. If one jumps the other and a fight actually occurs, it's usually no more than a monentary hugging with claws and they're apart and done.

This damn blogger site has me so damn mad over the last couple days, I'm about to blow a gasket. Three and four times per line the letters stop appearing. I have to find the cursor that went off someplace else and bring it back and line it up perfectly to the pixel and then pound the hell out of the key to make it work. I quit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RIGHTS


andre derain, the trees, 1906


Just now finished seeing a video of George Carlin on YouTube professing we have no rights. He told it  well. He had to throw in some vulgar language to distinguish that he was not preaching, anyway not religion preaching. He was political preaching. He talked about illusion, breaking down what God-given-rights means. He noted that this country has 10, Britain has 13, Germany has twenty-some. Then he notes most countries recognize no rights. His lesson for the day was that our government does not care about us individually. Does not care at all. Totally true. Maybe it's a surprise to somebody, but all you need to do is think about it half a minute and there it is. And, once you see it, it changes nothing. It's just another way to see something we tend never to think about, which is what he's really after. He went into an examination of swearing on the Bible in court. Like would it take if the Bible were upside down? If he held his left hand up instead of his right, would God object? He breaks it down and looks at it like examining a tradition that has lost it's reason for being, but continues because it's tradition. It's what we do.


In my own life, I've taken the Bill of Rights for granted. Who ever thinks about it? People in law school think about it. Judges think about it. The rest of us could not list our Bill of Rights if asked to name two. It's like Carlin said, he, himself, feels like he has all rights. And we do too. How that works out is consequences of actions, everything comes back. Step on somebody else's rights and yours will be stepped on in turn. I've an idea the Bill of Rights was written and adopted to save us the conflict of learning over and over what other people's rights are and the limits to one's own. Sometimes I get the feeling that the people who make the most noise about freedom want it for themselves, but not for other people. Since the beginnings of women's liberation unto today, black men, as a rule, don't believe women should have certain rights. But black men want liberation for themselves. I've never understood that. It surely has to do with culture, and I know next to nothing of black culture. I can never know black culture, because I don't have the experience. My culture is the privileged race that rarely thinks outside its own box, just like socially it is only looking up the ladder, not down the ladder.


Where the ladder is concerned, my own take on it is to stay away from the ladder. I've avoided work that is structured hierarchically. I've stayed out of social climbing altogether, since childhood where it starts. I will not work in corporate hierarchical structure like in the military. There, you address the rank, not the man. That's bullshit. It makes for good organization, but there are enough people willing to live like that, who want to, they don't need me. Also, in a hierarchical organization, military or corporate, one's rights are restricted. One signs off one's rights endorsing the first paycheck. I've never been interested in working for an employer that tells me how to live my life. Like when I stepped into the art world and became subject to all the s'posed-to mind. I said to myself, I'd rather have a job painting houses, the houses themselves. One individual who was beginning to sell some of my paintings started telling me how and what to paint. I was to paint little nigger kids playing around a schoolhouse, folk art, that's what people want. That was the end of me and her. It wasn't even the racism, but the stupid that got to me. The racism was understood.


I found that everyplace I connected with for selling paintings believed it was their Right to tell me I should paint some way other than what I'm doing. They have the right to say it, and I have the right to pay them no mind. I pulled out of the art-market world, because I'm not interested in my name in lights, not interested in fame or fortune, or climbing the hierarchical ladder in the art world. I'm no big deal as a painter. I make pictures that some people like and some people don't like. I'm ok either way. I'm satisfied that I'm doing what I like doing, what I want to do. I'm not looking to be cutting edge avant-garde, nor am I interested in imitating a certain style that is called mainstream at the moment. Accused of not painting mainstream, I always answer that when a manner of painting is mainstream, it's over. I'm not looking for a place in art history. It suits me better for my paintings to be in the homes of my friends than homes of people I don't know and don't even know who owns the paintings. I don't want my paintings so expensive only the upper-middle-class can afford them, or corporations for offices and lobbies. I want my friends to have them, people I know, people who live in my world. Like I don't like to leave the county, I don't like to sell a painting outside the county. I do, but that's just a rule of thumb preference, not a commandment.


We give up a lot of rights when we pursue money and position. I learned so early on about giving up rights pursuing money and influence, that I never developed an interest in money. I'd rather have a working class job where I can be who I am and not be expected to adjust my thinking to what is acceptable. The way I think is largely not acceptable. I see it in the coffee shop every time I go in there. I refuse to talk political correctness speak, thus get frowned at quite a lot for unacceptable speech. I don't go to church for the same reasons I go to the coffee shop less and less. I'm not submitting to expectation that I think and believe certain ways. I won't do that. I am not dehumanizing myself voluntarily for money. My own humanity is more valuable to me than a big house full of expensive things in the best part of town. I don't want to get so high up that I look down on the lowest people. The people who believe themselves at or near the top of the ladder despise it in me that I don't honor the ladder. I don't shit and grovel when they're around. They hate me to the degree they need to believe themselves high up. None of it has anything to do with me. So I pay it no mind.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

HIS MAMA SAYS IT'S RACISM



by alexander liberman


All I hear on the news of interest these days is Trayvon Martin, over and over, everywhere I go for news. I have to say it is with good reason this subject is repeated every hour. From what I've heard, which amounts to what is purported to be the collection of police recordings of phone calls from neighbors, sounds like a guy wanting to kill somebody and provoked it. It is possible. I know a lot of white men and I know that a lot of the white men I know would love a chance to kill a nigger. I know a few guys who would wait for the chance to kill anybody. Going by faces, the guy pulling the trigger is somebody I would never trust for any reason on sight. Again, going by faces, I would be inclined to trust Trayvon. I heard several people on a call-in NPR talk show, On Point, I think, and nobody said anything about people who carry a secret desire to kill somebody. That's a no-no to talk about, because so many people in America kill people, it's kind of shameful to talk about it. Reasons? Everybody can, individually, think of valid reasons until there are so many it becomes unmanageable, which is where we are, socially in America. So much hate swirling on AM radio it's like a whirlpool in a wastewater treatment plant.

This is the America we live in. White man threatened by the statistics of people of color outnumbering colorless people. White man is in process of alienating white woman in this present madness for police state, making themselves one quarter of the population; hence, hardly a political voice at all. White men in power will not let power go without a fight. White man is not afraid to nuke a gook, a geek, a towel-head; makes no never-mind. I like seeing all the attention given to the case of Trayvon's murder, which I can't help but see is murder, even if I didn't see the killer's face. Like Trayvon's mama said, if a black man had shot a white boy for walking, he'd have been arrested without bail. Everybody in America knows that. Even the ones living in denial. The cops in the Florida town, and Florida is, indeed, the South, until you get to FtLauderdale, from there on down it's the North. I don't have any respect for Al (bad wig) Sharpton or Jesse (I was there when Martin was killed) Jackson, but I'm glad to hear they're getting their names nobody respects in the mix. Just for the annoyance of it. Seems to me, every person of color and every colorless person with a conscience has an interest.

I recall an incident in this county several years ago, a decade, thereabouts, a small motel owner, who happened to be a retired X-sheriff, blew a Mexican's head off with a shotgun and was never charged. "Self-defence." I wonder if it had been the other way around, the Mexican blew his head of and said, "Self-defence," when law-enforcement arrived. These stories are not rare, which is why suddenly they're getting attention now. It has become a social issue, white men getting away with killing people of color and saying, "Self-defence." Some black men on the radio program were talking about the understanding in black families, knowledge passed from parent to child about giving no cause to be accused of resistance to arrest, don't talk back, go with it, because if you don't, you might not come out of it alive. I understood, hearing that, why the black attitude toward all white people, no exceptions, that we do not understand their situation, no matter how much we think we do. I've known black people have known that for certain all through my lifetime, but nobody ever told me what it was. Of course, I can empathize, one human being to another, but I don't have the brotherhood of the experience, don't have the experience available even to imagination, meaning I can't understand a black individual's experience. Well. They can't understand my experience, either, being of the privileged race.


Given the obvious, that we can't understand each other, why not look at some of the ways we do understand each other and see if we can work out some understanding both ways. Yeah, right. This is obviously a time for hate, with all the hate whipped up among white men by AM radio third grade drop-outs, by the republican party in the Reagan era, which looks like it is soon passing due to absence of substance. These "front-runners" all trying to out-Reagan each other are showing that that the Reagan influence is now a flat tire. The republicans did so much damage over the last 30+ years, I don't see American History ever getting over it. Their intent, of course, is for it not to. It's hard to get over a hole in the bottom of a boat. They may have sunk us yet. It's a big boat, will take awhile to fill to sinking. We don't have far to go. Don't believe white man is going to give up political dominance without an Xhibition of Power. That's just conjecture. It could go like the Ottoman Empire, not with a bang, but a whimper. White men are presently giving over power to women. Today's statistic is that
in 40% of American marriages, the woman makes more than the man. That percentage is rising as there are more women in college now than men. Evidently, it won't be long before it is on the other side of 50%.

It is even looking like men, collectively, are tired of the burden of power, the burden of having to be the family breadwinner, tired of working all the time at shit jobs for next to nothing. I have suspected for several years that men are collectively growing weary of all that is expected of us from the time we're called "little man." Over and over we see local law enforcement all over the country to be people without any education in the law. They arrest on what they think oughta be the law, then it gets thrown out in court, because it's not the law. Then it's liberal judges and liberal lawyers, where, as usual, liberal means educated. The republican contempt for liberals is an extreme form of American anti-intellectualism. An expression of the general American disdain for eduction, which goes all the way back to the cowboys and the pilgrims, to the Plymouth Rock of  our mythology. Antintellectualism devolved to anti-intelligence, to anti-paying attention, to comatose, which is where we are now thanks to so many ignorant decisions in the past by people who hold anti-intelligence high up like a winner's trophy. We'll be a long time coming up out of the educational slump since the introduction of television. By now, the people making decisions with their heads full of television cannot make a rational decision, or so experience unveils it. 
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Monday, March 19, 2012

CURTIS TURNER AND LORNE CAMPBELL




Have been in a reading logjam again. I'm in three books, all interesting, went from one to the other after coming to a standstill about half way through each. Then just came to a standstill. Wanting something to read that makes me anxious to open it again and read some more. These three just dried up on me. Finished one a couple days ago. I will finish them, just needed a break. At the library I saw a biography of early NASCAR driver, Curtis Turner, FULL THROTTLE, by Robert Edelstein. Thought I'd give it a go. First thing I did was look in the index for my friend Lorne Campbell, who knew Turner, was one of his closest friends and his legal mind. His name was not there. I laughed and sent a note to him in spirit telling him he was free. He'd told me this man Doc Morris, involved in early NASCAR, wrote a small biography of Turner years ago. He talked to Campbell about Turner and Campbell told him if he puts his name in the book, he'll sue him. His name never appeared in the book. I doubt it was a fists on hips declaration, rather a conversational notation between men who knew each other well and were friendly. Knowing Campbell, I imagine he told him he'd like his name not to be used, and to seal it with certainty, added the PS, in good humor. It didn't need to be spoken as a warning, because Morris would have known Campbell well enough to pay attention.


Lorne Campbell was a wild man just like Curtis Turner, but more in a mental way, while Turner acted everything out physically and emotionally. He had a good mind too. Campbell told me Turner was one of five conmen he'd represented. He missed them. Only one was living then, Hugh Rakes, in Floyd, Virginia. When I say represented, he was their legal counsel and courtroom representative. He had the best conman mind of them all, as he was a conman by the law. They would tell him what they wanted to do, and he would would do the legal work. Campbell made a lot of money in timber over the years. Reading about Turner's timber deals, buying a mountain of timber and selling it before the closing for double or triple what he put into it. This is how Campbell told me they operated. There is no mention in the biography that Turner was a conman. He's called a businessman. If I were writing the bio, I wouldn't call him a conman either. I don't say that in blame. Reading about Turner's charisma with other men for his rugged masculinity, and with women for his rugged masculinity, he was somebody who had to have something going at all times, several at the same time. Brilliant mind with minimum school education. Campbell only went through high school. He studied law for one year with an elder lawyer in Independence, who was also a state senator from SW Virginia, Senator Parsons. He passed the Virginia bar in the last year it could be done before a new law required a law school degree.


I had the opportunity one time to see Campbell in a courtroom. This was in his years between 75 and 80 when his driving was good enough, but he didn't have the endurance to drive all day. I drove him around SW Virginia to courthouses in the different counties where he was representing clients. In Roanoke, in Federal court, he was representing Hugh Rakes before a judge. I usually stayed in the car and read. It wasn't all courtroom. This one day he asked me to come inside and see the proceedings. It had to do with Hugh Rakes selling a mountain of coal to Exxon, which was having, what seemed to me, a legitimate dispute with Rakes. I had never seen Campbell's face so stone-like before. He looked like a marble bust of a Roman general. His face was rectangular in straight lines, deep lines like in Roman likenesses. The face never changed. It was the ultimate poker face carved from stone. He was a good poker player too. He informed the judge of this law and that law, precedents, and had the judge in his pocket from the start with the charisma of his intelligence. In the courtroom, his intelligence had a powerful charisma. It was all intelligence, too, because no charm went with it. It was the same as a speaking Roman statue in a light blue suit. He preferred to go before a judge than a jury, because a jury required theatrics; whereas with a judge, it was straight the law.


Campbell stays in the front of my mind reading about Curtis Turner. The Turner I'm reading about accords perfectly with Campbell's memories of him. We drove by a place near Thomas Bridge, Virginia, somewhere between there and Marion, where Curtis ran on a dirt track in his first years racing. We stopped at a mechanic's shop to visit an old buddy from that time, one of Curtis's mechanics. He showed me a bridge Curtis did his 180 turn on. He showed me places and told of experiences at the parties Curtis gave. It was wide open. I mean wide open by today's standard. The bio, I knew before I opened it, wouldn't go into some of the detail Campbell told me. Babes at all times. Liquor at all times. He told me of a time Curtis landed his plane on main street (hwy 58) in Independence, before they had electrical wires. He said the most memorably beautiful sight he ever saw in his life was in the plane with Curtis on their way to LasVegas, flying over the Rockies. Two horses standing on the peak of a snow-covered mountain. I think it was about age 36 that Campbell experienced the march of the pink elephants in a Marion hotel room. He'd come to his own limit. Had to cut out the liquor. But that was all.


Campbell's spirit left the body 1989, days after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Boris Yeltsen standing on a tank announcing the end of the Soviet system. He said he never believed he would live to see the day. He was at the hospital at New Smyrna, Florida, the next town south of Daytona, city of memories for him. Reading of those times at Daytona with Curtis Turner, I know Campbell was there some of the times, and this well-told account of an American life gives me a broader look into the world Campbell told me about in the hours we spent on the highways of SW Virginia. I asked him one day if he felt like he had a life purpose. It wasn't out of the blue. We talked about these sorts of subjects. He said it was to keep mountain boys out of prison; mountain boys don't belong in prison. And that's what he did. He was known as a lawyer who would "hold your hand all the way to the prison door," meaning he'll keep working every angle he can twist to keep you out, right up to the very last moment. He was good in court. His legal representation was pro bono to anyone from Whitetop mountain in Grayson County. He loved the people of Whitetop. They were his people, the people he loved in his heart, the people whose spirit he identified with as his own.

A rogue, a rounder, a lowlife to the town people, the country people loved him. I learned long ago in Grayson County never to mention his name to town people. Country people light up every time at the mention of his name. It was the country people he loved, loved them so much that in his heart he was one of them. And he was honored that they thought of him as one of them. The town people are about appearances; the country people are about who you are, your character. Rogue he may have been, but his character was exemplary. He told me, meaning it from the same place he meant he was about keeping mountain boys out of prison, the only man he respects is a man who will not rat on his friends. He said it is a rare man, indeed, who would not rat. In Abingdon, Virginia, he called me into the courthouse another time to see a man in the witness stand ratting on people he'd worked with in the drug trade, them sitting there looking at him. The man's eyebrows brooded so low over his eyes that his eyes looked out from dark shadows. It taught me much, just to see his face, what ratting was doing to him, to stay out of prison. It's mighty tempting. Campbell, when he was 19, spent 6 months in prison for refusal to rat on a friend in court.


While reading Curtis Turner's life is a page-turner, a very well written page-turner, telling about somebody who was a friend of a friend of mine, brings my friend who has been gone from this world for 22 years back to mind like I could get in the car and go over and see him right now. When it comes to character, Lorne Campbell was a model for character in my life. He had lived in these mountains his entire adult life, coming here from SanDiego when he was 19, went to jail first thing, came out and took up studying law with Senator Parsons after deciding he wanted to be a practicing lawyer. In his own mind, he was the same as the people he worked to keep out of prison. The guys that skirted the edge of the law were his brothers in the spirit. That was the road he liked to travel. In words he said to me, he believes the American penal system is cruel and unusual punishment, therefore unconstitutional. He couldn't change the system, but he could give it all he's got to keep mountain boys away from its dehumanizing intent. I mentioned this to lawyer Donna Shumate some years later and she said the rub is, it is indeed cruel, but not unusual. He thought it was unusual where basic humanity was concerned. Campbell, himself, was my idea of a full human being, one who lived his life fully.

The day before his spirit left the body he said to me, "I've been looking at my life. Half of it has been good and half of it was bad. I've forgiven everybody everything." I heard balance and knew he was on his way. The view out his hospital window was the bridge from the mainland to the beach where Curtis Turner used to race on the beach and Lorne Campbell had some of the best memories of his lifetime.



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Saturday, March 17, 2012

CUBISM AND JUAN WILLIAMS

            picasso, the poet, 1911


Little have I done today. It's been a day of rest. Turned in last night around 3 after writing about the Elizabeth laPrelle show. Wide awake, felt like writing to you. I give myself permission to follow how I feel about something. I've done for some years without much reflection. In the work world, how you feel about it isn't a consideration. There might be cases, but I can't think of any, besides some kind of sickness. I like that state employees sometimes take "a mental health day." Since I have transcended the work world, grew up through it, I don't need mental health days. I can follow my feelings. Jr Maxwell, banjo picker, tractor mechanic, sawmiller, welder, told me more than once that following your feeling is the most important. His other counsel was patience. Patience is everything. These were observations he learned along his way by experience. Now that I'm able to follow my feelings all the time, I can't imagine not doing it. But our heads get caught up in the uncertainty that comes with "making money." Smile big at the right people, the ones with the most money, power.


That part of being subservient to the need to keep enough money coming in to meet expenses, it's gone. I don't need to influence anybody into believing I'm somebody special. I don't have to be anything at all. Up at regular time this morning, saw the movie that came in the mail, Picasso And Braque Go To The Movies. Glad it was only an hour. It had much interesting information about new film making, how Cubism became like the natural next thing. I have to say it was a good film. One thing it showed me, I really don't care anything for Cubism. I look at one of the paintings, think, Would I like to try that, just to see how it's done? Answer: No. I don't care how it's done. It was something Picasso and Braque and some others were doing at the time. Great. I'm glad for them. Still, a Cubist painting leaves me feeling nothing, certainly never excited, like something by Andre Derain can excite me, or something by Robert Rauschenberg. Seeing all the Cubist paintings and listening to very interesting artists and art historians held my interest. One thing I saw was evidence of what I've seen here and there, people in the art world saying Picasso was the last great painter of the 19th Century.


It's not my concern to make those kinds of statements. Such distinctions are other people's ways of seeing it. I have to agree. They make a convincing case, especially now, looking back over the entire "modern" period seeing where it has gone. It has gone through Marcel Duchamp. Picasso had as little influence on what followed him as Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Janis Joplin had on what followed them starting 1975, punk, unto the present. The Velvet Underground is the Sixties band whose influence evolved into punk, Bo Diddley flowing through the Velvet's sound. It is Marcel Duchamp's art that flows through the experimental time of the 20th Century. Picasso was the most famous artist through the 20th Century, because his prices were out of reach, having nothing to do with the art of what he was making. His distorted faces became an idea of 20th Century art's dissolving forms, but one that goes back before 1915, the time of Dada and Duchamp.


I found a biography several years ago of Picasso, written by Ariana Huffington, now a famous liberal. Her biography of Picasso was run down by the critics, laughed at. But I thought she did a beautiful job of portraying him. She used his astrological chart, a major no-no in serious biography writing, and she wrote of him from a woman's perspective. The critics faulted seeing him through a woman's eyes, but half the people in the world are women. Why not? She brought it forward that he was mean to his women. They groveled for him. It must have been his Spanish macho need to dominate women. Through the course of his story, I came to resent his treatment of the women in his life. He had the name a great lady's man, because he was known to have had so many. That's not really a lady's man. That's somebody with major issues. An artist. Why not tell in his biography, the biography of an artist, after all, that he had some serious psychological issues? Everybody does. Artists tend to let their issues ride on the surface, while others push their issues down out of sight. It kinda makes me gag when I hear somebody ga-ga about Picasso the great. He was just a man.


After the film, I took a nap. I was ready for a nap again after seeing the film again this afternoon. The second half hour made me want to put it on hold and have a nap. Held out. Movie over, I didn't feel like getting up. Waking from the nap, I had a cup of coffee and finished Juan Williams's book MUZZLED, which I've been in for several months. Read the first half, took a break of months and read the second half. He has tapped one of the serious problems of our time. There are so many, however, this is one of many. It was such an audacious firing of him by management at NPR, I'm glad he told the story out in the open. The best was telling Williams to talk to no one but his psychiatrist about his firing. To be told such a thing is such effrontery it needs revealing publicly. On its release, Williams was on a long string of radio and tv talk shows. His story needs telling and he told it well.



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ELIZABETH LAPRELLE AT THE FIDDLE AND PLOW

elizabeth laprelle


sandy laprelle, elizabeth laprelle


elizabeth laprelle


sandy laprelle, elizabeth laprelle


elizabeth laprelle



Another good night of music at Willard Gayheart's gallery, the Front Porch, home of the weekly Fiddle and Plow show. Elizabeth LaPrelle has been singing the old songs with her mother, Sandy, since childhood, made her first recording at 15, a beautiful album, and has become one of the singers of the old-time songs of our region. I've been hearing her music since her first recording, which came out while I had the radio show where I've played her music quite a lot. I would have played the albums all the way through. That's what I did when I came upon something new from the region I knew my listeners would love whole-heartedly. Elizabeth's singing took me back to those days that I miss like I miss a good friend who died. To follow that thinking brings sorrow at first, then gratitude for the opportunity to play mountain music to mountain people in the last years of mountain culture in our county. Seeing mountain culture go away is cause for sorrow as well, another friend dying, while at the same time is cause for gratitude that I had the opportunity to live in mountain culture as it was in its last years, and appreciate it.


I'm happy we have Elizabeth laPrelle in this region of the mountains. She's from Rural Retreat, Virginia, not far from Wytheville, a beautiful part of the mountains. The Smokies have Sheila Kay Adams, and the Central Blue Ridge has Elizabeth laPrelle carrying the old ballads, keeping them alive, revealing their beauty at performances. She sang what I took to be the complete lyrics to the old Irish song, Matty Grove. I suppose it's Irish. It sound like it. That's the song Ralph Stanley recorded with a drone fiddle behind him. Her version was much longer than Stanley's. Ralph Stanley's is the definitive version of that song for me. It was all the more interesting to hear the lengthier version Elizabeth laPrelle sang. Her rendering of the song has its own integrity.


Elizabeth's mother, Sandy, sang with her about half the songs. They make a good duo. Sometimes I'd see Sandy beaming that her daughter is such a good singer and is so dedicated to the music. Over my lifetime I've seen two women friends raise their daughters and saw their maternal satisfaction when their girls grew up into extraordinary people. One of the girls recently got her PhD in some kind of advanced biology, and the other just got her MD. I saw in Elizabeth's mother the same relaxed feeling that her daughter is not living in a dump with a crackhead and babies, an ever-present danger mothers know well. In Elizabeth and Sandy I saw mother and daughter who are friends, like each other's best friend. It gives me a good feeling to see a happy parent/child relationship. I had a chance to talk with Sandy a few minutes during intermission and she seemed like one of my friends, somebody I've known a long time and haven't seen in awhile. During our conversation I felt respect for her as a woman, as a mother, as a singer.


Elizabeth laPrelle carries the old songs for her generation into the future. It's a powerful gift she has to know all the songs she knows already and the songs she'll learn in time. The old ballads living in somebody who performs them beats lyrics printed on paper, like good old hymns are so much better to hear sung than to read them. In the singing is their life. Elizabeth has what it takes to bring a song to life. She sings the mountain way, from the heart, tells the old stories with the emotion that is in the song. Like Sara Carter, Elizabeth doesn't emote to get the feeling of the song across. It's her singing from the heart that carries the song. I like about somebody like Elizabeth laPrelle that she is the antithesis to the common sayings that start, The kids these days.... Not all kids these days are slackers on crystal meth. The fact is, very few are. I've seen so many people in their 20s now in a spin not knowing what to do or how to get started at anything. Elizabeth is one of the kids these days who has found her completion, found, in fact, her way early in her life.



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Friday, March 16, 2012

WAR ON POVERTY

     ellsworth kelly, 01


Several days in a row the news report has begun with GI Joe in Afghanistan breaking into apartments in the night and killing everyone inside, 16 civilians. This thing is so out of control and over the top where viciousness is concerned, our penal system and our system of execution are not up to this guy's crime. Our penal system has become so enshrouded in draconian sentencing for negligible crimes that it becomes a question of what to do when a real crime occurs. I'd be for turning him over to the villagers, relatives and friends of the families he killed like a thief in the night, take him to the center of the village handcuffed in the back of a dump truck, dump him and drive off. Let the people who want justice take care of it themselves. The children could find several hours of entertainment with him, the killer of children in their beds at night. The latest I heard was that the "alleged gunman" is afraid for his life and for his family. Duh. A good example of absence of foresight. I'd guess by the time the interrogation boys were done with him, his face looked like it had been run through a meat grinder. Major national security problem, made us look bad. W Bush made us look bad and he's now an evangelist.


It really is time to get out of Afghanistan now. The American attitude has been that we're saving the Afghan people from the Taliban. Now the people want the Taliban to save them from American occupiers. The names of places we hear on the news, like Kandahar, is where USA has a big prison for the people of Afghanistan and other muslims caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. We've totally destroyed Iraq for the thrill of destroying a small, defenseless country. I can't blame the people of Afghanistan for wanting the end of American occupation before their country is completely annihilated. USA doesn't reconstruct after destroying a place, either. We don't have any money. The war took all our money. They're poor anyway, they're used to it. We've got War On Drugs at home from hell; occupying Afghanistan where heroin comes from, the poppy fields are left alone by the occupiers. Farmers making a living. No big deal.


We've gone from the Ugly American to killers of children in my lifetime. the country that worships youth. What do the mothers of Afghanistan, or the entire Middle East, tell their children tucking them in? Say your prayers or an American will kill you in your sleep. The muslim name for USA, The Great Satan, kind of resonates when you look at it from the point of view of the poor. I've an idea our government uses the poor countries of the world for practice with new, hi-tech weaponry, like carving a path through the poor sections of the city for an interstate. When the Mississippi flooded a few years ago, the water was directed away from the cities, the centers of commerce, to the rural areas where the people are poor and have no voice. Looking at what tornadoes do to trailer parks, it gives the appearance God hates the poor, too. Aggressive as the American war on poverty appears, by intent it is benign. Wealth doesn't see poverty. A poor country is the same as a desert, a good place to test bombs and artillery, advanced bootcamp for the troops. Poor people dying and wounded in a building bombed to the ground are justified as collateral damage, because a suspected terrorist cell dwelt in one of the apartments. Smart bombs.


We're so advanced, we're retarded. I am glad to see the waning of capitalism. I realize that the only countries socialism has really worked in amount to one city and the rest of the country exurbs. Capitalism made USA from the ground up, the root of American pragmatism, American individualism, American religion. As an economic system it worked for us, to a point, for some, not for all, until draining the populace of whatever money we can generate for the billionaire bankers corresponds with a few fisheries billionaires fishing the oceans empty. I recall watching evening news with an old Regular Baptist preacher friend, back when the Ayatollah was exercising power in Tehran. The news was showing pictures of hundreds of muslims in prayer. Preacher friend said the solution is to nuke them. That would be the end of it. I suggested it would also be the beginning of something he wouldn't want to be responsible for. Oh yes he would. I said, when nuking becomes the solution to problems and you nuke everybody, you'll be the only one left. He said, That would be all right. The very voice of capitalism itself.



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Thursday, March 15, 2012

BEYOND THE END TIME

       by anthony caro


Daffodils are in full flower, crocuses have been blooming for a week, grass in the meadows is turning green, apple trees budding, birds singing, 68 degrees in the middle of March. We have not had a winter yet. From half a lifetime of living intimately with the weather, the only absolute rule I've seen is that winter usually hits for a least a time. Heretofore. Not necessarily this year. This year is way beyond the predictable. The blizzards come in late March. I've heard prediction of a blizzard this year, but don't pay much attention to weather predictions, like I don't pay attention to NASCAR race predictions. What he's gonna do is.... No matter how finely tuned the drivers, losing traction, going sideways in the pack can take out half a dozen good drivers who might have had a chance to win. Somebody goes sideways in front of you, it makes no difference what a good driver you are, what the predictions were for this race, bang, rattle-rattle, screeeeee, bang, screeeeee, twirling round and round on the grass. Yellow flag.


Everyone around me is happy with the weather as it is. Some dread the flea population this coming summer. In a world of Baptists, it is one of many signs of the end of time, whatever that means. At once, the Baptists are republicans, who aren't supposed to believe the weather is strange--it's normal, if you believe. How can it be a sign of the "end time" if it's "normal?" LOL Whatever. Who cares? I don't know how to feel about the weather but uneasy. If anything were ever politically incorrect, it is incorrect to suggest there might be something odd about it being 70 half way into March. This is the time of winter we've had enough, enough already, of ice and cold. And we have at least another week of winter on the calendar. I don't dare predict, but can say without fear of contradiction that winter is not over yet. We may not get any more winter. As winters have become warmer, our summers have become warmer, by about the same number of degrees, by my personal observation. Scientists will say one thing; the fantasy factory will say another, none of which accord with my subjective observation. What I'm seeing is exactly what "scientists" predicted, a very fast upsurge in warming. But I'm not going to say anything. Isn't it a beautiful day.



Talking with Joe Allen Delp at the coffee shop this morning, we remembered a summer several years ago, at least 25 years ago, when we had so many beautiful days the ground was on the verge of cracking. Springs dried up all over the county that summer. We've not had one as dry since. The only way I can guess the future is from patterns in the past. The only pattern I see in the annual cycles of the last half of my life is that no two winters are the same and no two summers are the same. Every winter is unique among winters. All seasons are uniquely themselves every year. It's still weird. Maybe the spaceships will land and save us when we can't save ourselves. They might take us to an inner earth civilization in another dimension where the temperature on the surface won't matter. Do I remember something about "the fire next time." Sounds kinda Faulkner, kinda James Baldwin, kinda Bible. We have no choice but to find out. We may not have made the conditions together, but we're complicit because we chose not to spend the last half century cross-legged in a Himalayan cave. There are no more Himalayan caves, anyway. Tibetan culture has been run out of its home to refugee villages in India to contribute even more to the ocean of diversity that India is. Monks and lamas have been released from Lhasa like dandelion fluff blown free by a divine wind to land and root all over the world.


I'm guessing the wisdom of Tibet has been dispersed throughout the Eastern and Western worlds for seekers in the thousand years of peace. Tibetan wisdom has been hidden from the rest of the world until the last century or so. It has generated inwardly for a great many centuries. Evidently, it is time for nearly all languges to have books like the Tibetan Book of the Dead available, and for cities all over the world to have their resident Tibetan monks and lamas serving small communities of devotees. The Dalai Lama chose Atlanta. It's not just Tibetan wisdom being released in the world, but wisdom from every faith. It's all online. That doesn't cheapen it. It attests to the value of the internet, at least for now. It seems like the young of the world are distracted unto unconsciousness.  After whatever storm is in the blender about to break loose when the HI button is pushed, which doesn't look very far away, the people remaining will need sound, authentic, fresh spiritual vision. Whatever storm the conflict brings, we'll endure it for probably several years, one side hollering, jihad, the other side hollering, armageddon. The conflict of the Jerusalem religions. The people that never got it. All three of the religions value Peace the highest, and they're digging at the dirt in their pens like bulls, snorting to get at each other in the arena of war.


This next one is billed as the war of wars, the war so long, so bad, so deadly (remember the Pale Horse--death), the survivors will say with universal conviction, no more war. This is the beginning of the thousand years of peace. I take peace to mean no war. No wars means no divisions among the people. There will, of course, be boundaries and borders, languages and races. No divisions means, in my way of seeing, the way lutheran jazz musicians from Oslo play with catholic jazz musicians from Warsaw and Paris, protestants in New York, languages easy enough to get around. Musicians of all kinds tend to know no borders. It's the same with other art forms like theater, poetry, dance, visual art. It will be very different from now. Maybe it will be a time for catching on about some of the universal laws Jesus revealed to us way back then. We're still having a rough time with loving the asshole next door, the lowlife across the street, the bitch your brother's married to. Forgiving? Forget it. I'll do a hundred pushups. Martial arts teachers are all over the world now, in every city and now the small towns. I suspect martial arts will be important in the time of peace, a spiritual discipline. I would like to start learning a martial art in childhood for the spiritual unfoldment of it.



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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THEY-R-US



 
My thoughts have been swarming around the logjam of politicians that are not representing we the people, but representing self-interest always, the well-being of the population never a consideration. I say this as an example of how they are not representing us. Once it's written down and I look at it, there it is: they represent us by acting exactly like us. The egoic extreme of American individualism is the narcissism of the 80s, the cynicism of the 90s and take all for self in the 00s. Taking all for self is what our representatives are doing. I hear of Exxon with 28 billion profit, while the people that operate their stations make hardly enough to live on. One of those billions would give all their station managers and employees a wage they could live with. Absurd not to, but this is capitalism. Take from the working people and give to the rich. That's American history in one sentence.



The people out here in the world have become hysterical from half a century of television and a focus on money that is for money itself, like money was something besides a number. It has attached to it words like status, position, attention, nice things, satisfied desires, "the best people." Money has a lot of perks. We're a society of wanting more, can't get enough, insatiable, We've even become a society of fantasy. Nonstop talking has become so common, so American, it's patriotic. Unconsciousness is what all this points to. Unconsciousness is why the spiritual path recommends frugality with desires, wanting less. Start having more, more, more and unconsciousness sets in, due to identity with numbers and things and status. Money and things become a liability, a burden and a target. The target aspect of too much money is a serious liability. Everybody wants your money, wants it for free. They think a great big obnoxious smile is the key to your bank vault, the smile that says: I want.



Another strangeness I have that separates me from the people around me, besides not being influenced by television, is no interest in wealth. A Roaring Gap summer resident, driving a BMW sedan, is not better to me than somebody living in a trailer by the side of the road in Ennice, driving a Ford pickup. Having no interest in wealth for myself, I see the people with wealth in a very different light from what people who want wealth for themselves see them in. I tend to see them as just people, largely arrogant toward people down the ladder, nice in a way you're nice to a dog. (Good boy. Down. Stay down.) The way white people regard black people--not at all. I tend to see black people and rich people and redneck people as just people. I can't help but see us all just people, but that separates me from almost everybody else, again. I live in a world of people who hate somebody from another country, speaking another language, having a different color, different accent, religion, political party. All the people I live among call themselves Christians, and that they are.  



I was in London in 1972, continually answering to, "you rich Americans," and I'd attempt to explain that I was not rich. The answer came back, "How did you get here?  I can't afford to fly to Americer." That told me their idea of rich and mine were very different. I think of rich as a bit more than a round-trip airline ticket to London. English contempt for Americans equalled that of white Americans toward black Americans. Not long after I returned, some friends asked what it was like, they were going to London. I told them if they've ever wondered what it's like to be black in America, this is their chance to find out, as Americans in London. Upon their return, they concurred. I saw a commercial there on the "telly" of an expensive motorboat cutting a long V wake on smooth water in the Lake Country seen from above. Closeup finds Mrs So-and-So, "a rich American," prefers butter to margarine. Phew, what a complex message for a people with contempt for Americans, advertising to them using the appeal of imitating not just any American, but a rich American, Mrs So-and-So with big blond hair and big sunglasses, she can afford toys you can't have, her rubber duckie uses batteries to make it go quack-quack.



Our representatives really do represent us. They grovel at the feet of the rich. They look up the ladder, not down it. Money is all that matters. They want more, more, more. Self comes first. They talk and talk and never get anything said. If you got the money, honey, they got the time. They represent us in their indifference to us. I'm seeing that I am way off the beam when I say they do not represent we the people. They represent us completely. They-R-us. Sarah Palin is not unusual.   



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