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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


     pussy riot

There are moments that I look at myself with a cold eye and feel like I've wasted a lot of time, didn't take making a living serious enough, could have done better. That thinking doesn't last long. I remind myself that I have chosen time over money, not because I had something particular to do, but because I did not want to be a part of the rat race. Money the goal? That's not good enough for me. It could have been the overwhelming amount of attention paid to the preacher in the Baptist church, fundamentalist Southern Baptist, preacher so austere who went his own way that the Southern Baptist Association rejected him for membership year after year. He was a devout Bible scholar, self-taught. Scandinavian austerity characterized his life in the fields of the Lord. He was a powerful influence on my thinking. He made a good example for me of a man living his own integrity. Possibly it's from him I came to understand the importance of living by one's own integrity. It's from him, for sure, that I never developed an interest in "the world." That is, the world of commerce.

It was several years searching for a definition of "the world" that satisfied me as something that fits. Also, by now, I'm not so sure it is all that necessary to avoid "the world," to have a spiritual life. Interpreting "the world" as gambling casinos, beer joints, liquor stores, dance places, the easy ones that get focused on the most, I wanted to know what it really meant. I tend to think of the Bank as the world, wanting is of this world, and, of course, the 7 deadly sins. The greatest reason I can see for, as they say, turning one's back to the world, is so one's dying will be easier. I'm thinking as we study the ways of the spirit and live for inner satisfaction instead of body satisfaction called pleasure, when it is time to pass over to the other side, we're already in tune. It won't be such a big transition suddenly going from ego to spirit. In the place I'm at now, I feel like there is no difference between in the body and out of the body, except presence and absence of the body/ego. For somebody whose whole identity is in the ego, it can be a major loss to see it fall away. It's the spirit that travels from lifetime to lifetime, not the ego. The ego is particular to the body and its experiences. The body gives the soul a home, like a conch shell. The ego identifies with the body. I suppose it could be said the soul animates the body the way a hand animates a glove.

The ego and the soul make an interesting divide. If it is a divide. I suppose when the soul leaves the body, it leaves ego with the body. The soul gains its experiences through the ego. I, personally, don't have a problem with ego, in that I allow and guide my ego the best I can by my own ethical standard. We have varieties of ethical standards from person to person. Every one of us lives by our own. Some are developed, some are not. We're all mixed together of various and opposing ethical standards. Putin opposed the ethical standard of the Pussy Riot girls and they opposed his ethical standard. He has power, they do not. He's letting them wallow in the mud of understanding he has power over them. They do not have power over him. Naive youngsters who think outrageous is chic went a bit far challenging the power of a macho man thug with absolute power over them. He's of a generation that does not embrace rock, esp punk street protest rock in church. Of course he does not care anything for church, but his power base does.

What I've come to see is that "the world" is inside self, not outside, like a "house of sin." I recall from the documentary of raising a baby chimpanzee in an American suburban family to see how it developed. NIM. It's the saddest story of any I know. The "psychologist" behind the study concluded after treating the little thing like an object that when it learned sign language, all it did was say, "I want...." Whatever it was, spontaneous I want. Sees something, points and says, "I want..." By the end of the film I had nothing but revulsion for the psychologist. He was so involved in the trees he lost the forest. I've been watching a baby waking up from birth on to 14 months old and walking. Baby is paying attention to words and sounds, sees everything, likes to watch the wind blow through the trees. Baby wants everything she sees. She wants to hold it and look at it, see what it is, what it does. Without using the two words, she tends to start intent for a sentence with I want, either by gesture or vocal appeal. That's the beginning of the ego, I want. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. The first 30 years of our lives are about developing the ego. Ego works like ballast in a ship, keeps us grounded, keeps us upright.


Sunday, July 29, 2012


     store window

I'm seeing now the mental invasion of what is called long term memory, remembering back into the years I never wanted to remember. Yesterday a kid from the neighborhood in childhood came to mind I've not thought of in many a year. Ray Neinmeier. I'm not sure about the spelling--phonetically it is nine-my-er, accent on first syllable. He was 7 years older than me, and a hotdog in football at Argentine high school in Kansas City, KS, when I was in 4th and 5th grades at Franklin. He was good to me. When a bunch of kids would get together to go on a sledding expedition in winter, Ray would take me along. When kids would get together at the football stadium, a block and a half away, to play touch football, Ray would include me, a shy little kid. After high school he went into the Army or something and was sent to the Korean war. He survived, came home, married and disappeared. I don't recall that I ever saw or heard of him again. Ray's mother and dad, like my grandparents, were old country people living in the city where the work was.

One interesting aspect I've found in that early part of the life was a knowing without knowing that my adult life would be one of many changes. I wanted to be open to the changes, whatever they might be. I came to believe that so much, I possibly made it happen because I believed it, or simply foresaw it, I don't know which. I've no idea what made me think that, but I wanted to live my life open to change, open all the way. I believed having a mate would be a hindrance. Suppose I suddenly need to move to someplace else and mate has a good job and can't leave. It's one of those decisions I probably made at age 8 that I live by. Brings to mind a woman I met in the coffee shop from Raleigh; Krakow in Poland before. We talked of Roman Polanski's film, The Pianist, and how Poland has been the historical battleground between western Europe and Russia. She had an 8 year old son. We talked of how Polanski's parents were taken to concentration camps and he escaped when he was 8. He lived as he could, involved in the resistance until 12 when the war was finally over. She mentioned living on decisions we make at that age. I confessed I live by decisions made then. It is not an idle age.

As I'm driven by a natural process that has only to do with the physical, atrophy of the brain, it looks like there is no way around diving back into childhood, looking at those stories I've turned my back to because they are from a sour time in the life. Suppose I resolve to myself while looking into that time to look at the happy memories, not the sour ones. They'll come in too, but emphasis will be on the memories I like. Like going into downtown KC by bus with my grandmother Brink on her day off to see a movie, like Betty Grable in Big Top, the woman with million dollar legs. I was 4. She had a good time showing off her grandbaby and I had a good time being with grandma, her all dressed up and it just us, nobody else. Perhaps my earliest film experiences with her made a movie theater into a kind of cathedral of love. The stories we watched were about love and I loved grandma. From the church angle, going to movies was a sin. So was living your life.

I imagine it was around that age of 8 that I came to understand a fundamental truth on my own. I didn't think it in the words I think it now, and don't recall the language I thought it in, except American English. It was the absolute subjectivity of everything. I saw that there is no objective except in the mind. I valued that thought I couldn't talk with anybody about. Adults couldn't talk about such things, the adults in my life. Kids couldn't talk about it. I kept it to myself as something I knew that nobody around me seemed to get. I had quite a lot of knowledge in that time that I knew not where it came from. Now I say it is knowledge from previous lifetimes. Whatever it was, I lost it. School, church, home, television was all about the objective, like only the objective is real. Maybe that's why I took to rock and roll so strongly. It was not objective. Maybe not believing in the objective was behind why I did so poorly in sciences in school. My conscious mind forgot over all the years of education the reality of the subjective with too much emphasis on the scientific method, which, nonetheless, is important. I see the objective as a way to separate a tree from the subjective forest to identify it, to learn the nature of the entire forest by studying the trees. I can't say if it's good or bad. It is what it is.

Another of the questions I had during the time of psychotherapy in my 50s concerned something important I knew in youth that I'd forgotten. Didn't even know how to look for it, having no clues to go by, only something forgotten. So it wasn't an up front question to puzzle over, but one that swam in the back of the mind, always there, searching like a catfish, wondering. Finally it turned up. I have no recollection of how, but the answer was: the absolute subjectivity of everything. All the way along I've been taught from every direction that the objective is what's real. Objective study of a dragonfly doesn't get even close to who it is. Someone is there, a consciousness. Studying how it flies, how it lays eggs, etc, seems like nothing much, but then, like the way fiction builds, more and more information is gathered objectively, making it possible to connect the dots and get some idea of what a dragonfly's subjective consciousness might be like. Each dragonfly is a particular individual, like us. Now we can read their DNA. Science has studied behavior of insects for so long that the ways of the insects are very well known. The movie ANTZ was a subjective story depicted by what has been learned of ant behavior through years and years of meticulous objective study.

It is tragi-comically funny that a couple centuries of objective study of the earth we live on and with, has come to an entire political party, a quarter of the American population, following a doctrine of anti-science by denial. Not education, but denial. Deny it and it ceases to exist. I've an idea the republican party learned this process when they started luring the working class, the baptists with racism. The whole South switched to republican the way you switch churches because democrats let the niggers in. So don't tell me republicans are not about racism. What person of any race looks at a black republican with respect? Automatically, we know it's a man lacking integrity. Clarence Thomas was hired to be the 5th republican vote among the supremes. He brazenly shows that to be his only reason to be on the court by openly sleeping through the sessions. He doesn't have the brains to prove himself of value on the court for any reason other than a parrot for a solid republican vote. Thomas made political gain with republicans by being a black man against Affirmative Action. Research discovered rather easily that he had gone through school on Affirmative Action. He held firmly against it. I'm thinking he knows himself to be an example of what Affirmative Action produces, a man devoid of personal integrity. I wonder if, when Thomas was 8, he saw himself asleep in his recliner during supreme court sessions, thinking, that's easy living. Pays better than snoozing under a shade tree at the fishing hole.       


Friday, July 27, 2012


andy, the double tambourine picture by nat finkelstein

Sitting here looking through a book of photographs by Nat Finkelstein called ANDY WARHOL: The Factory Years, 1964-1967. Finkelstein was a photographer in New York when the Warhol Factory was happening. He saw right away this was something that needed recording. He was thinking of some of the photographers of the day making picture books from New Guinea and other remote places. Finkelstein saw that the Warhol bunch of "superstars" were as remote as someplace uncharted. He said he felt like a spy photographer. He was not one of them, but he moved about among them freely. His text is as good as the photographs, full of insightful humor about the people involved. They were largely upper middle class drug addict runaways. People with absolutely no inner resources posing for cameras and being in the scene. What they amounted to, simply, was junkies. Warhol was not a junkie. He was a manipulator who used everyone around him.

Finkelstein said of Edie Sedgwick of big California money, a vacant twit who lifted into the air for a moment of stardom when Vogue photographed her, but there was nothing to follow it up. For a moment, she was the next new thing in New York. "She was a representative of something so selfish and so superficial that the only thing she was able to destroy or change was herself. Her life is a pop tragedy, a manufactured, superficial tragedy. American society produces disposables, Edie was not Bionic woman, but Disposable woman." Edie had a period of time as Bob Dylan's lover, who hated that she hung with the Warhol crowd. He wrote LIKE A ROLLING STONE about her. Once upon a time you dressed so fine, you threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you. People call, say, beware doll, you're bound to fall, you thought they were all kiddin you. You used to laugh about everybody that was hangin out....

Several years ago I found a paperback biography in the grocery store, EDIE, the story of Edie Sedgwick. Expecting it to be boring, I started in the middle when she got up with the Warhol crowd. It turned out to be so good that I went from the last page to the first page and read up to where I began. Pathetic individual, the kind you're glad other people know. A film turned up called CIAO MANHATTAN, showing Edie after she fell through the bottom in New York when she was living in the deep end of the swimming pool at home in California with a tarp over it to keep the rain out. It was her room. The drain took care of the rain water that came in at the shallow end. It was a totally cheezy film, but it was interesting as a companion to the biography. Her story paralleled Janis Joplin's in that both were junkies who fell through the bottom and died. Only Edie had no talent, no mind, nothing at all but looks and money. They bought her a place near the top when she appeared in New York, but she didn't have what it took to sustain it. She was a definition of a shooting star. She didn't even give off much light, just fizzled.

Finkelstein goes on about Warhol, "Andy was a hunter-gatherer. Edie was one of the things that he collected. He toyed with her, played with her, just like a child plays with a watch, destroys it and throws it aside. Everything became Andy's material. All the casualties that came around him...none of these people were really important to him. They each were searching for self-importance, but never realized that they were only raw material, that's what destroyed them." I've had this book for several years, c1989, have looked through it several times, looking at the black and white photographs that are awfully good photographs. This is the first time I looked at the text. I tend not to read text in art books or photography books, because it's not what I want. I want the image. I'd rather look at Robert Motherwell's Ode To The Spanish Republic than read about it. I don't care about the private life of an artist. It's the work I prefer. Though a good biography of an artist is good reading, like Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Whistler.

I've read I think three biographies of Warhol, saw a couple of documentary films about him, saw some of his films when they were current, have a book of his works, a book of his photographs called AMERICA, a book of black and white photos by Billy Name in the Factory. I regard him an artist of tremendous influence when it comes to his place in the art world. He thought his name and art would fade away like Dale Evans, but I don't believe it's going to be like that. Freak that he was, and he really was a freak, he made American art all the way. He illustrated American glitter. The glitter was his subject. Funny thing is, he got it right. America is glitter. We're not aware that in quality of life we figure way down the list in countries of the world, because it's glossed over with glitter, television glitter. Warhol, who, himself, was nothing more than a shell of an individual, like nobody home, surrounded himself with people who, themselves, were vacancies. They kept him going with ideas, distraction, labor, "actors" in films. They were his volunteer staff.

Then one day, a shit happens moment occurred when this man-hating victim of a son-of-a-bitch daddy, Valerie Solanis, shot Andy Warhol because he would not make a film of her screenplay. She had a lesbian society called SCUM, Society for Cutting Up Men. She was the only member. Saw a fairly good film made of her life, I Shot Andy Warhol. Well made film of the life of somebody from the bottom. They have valid stories, too. When Andy hit the floor, the Factory, the way of life, the friends, the distractions all came fluttering down like falling pixels to the floor around him. It was all over. He survived, but only slightly. He didn't trust people so much anymore. He started aspiring to the upper class New York jet set where he would be taken in as the token artist at the cocktail parties. I still have the clipping from the NY Times of the Warhol shooting. As they would say in his crowd, he was a sick bitch. Gauguin was too. Dali was too. Who isn't in the world of art? You have to be a sick bitch to have an artist eye. It's about inability to do anything else but make art, whatever the form. As an artist, himself, Finkelstein had the good fortune to recognize something was going with Warhol early on, and filled the need for a photographer to make reality of the ongoing party.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


     eva hesse, fishing nets

It's been wearing me out thinking about my mother's adamantine opinion system in relation to me. In relation to everybody else, I don't care about. I've known all the way along what would happen if she ever found out I don't see religion like she does. I've always let her believe I see it just like she does, because that's the only way to peace with her. I wish you'd find a church to go to. I know you do. It doesn't matter what I say. I will hear that remark every time I talk with her until I get with her and tell her to stop bringing it up, because I'm not ever doing it. Like the instant I'm out of high school, When you gonna get married? When you gonna get married? When you gonna get married? Ok, so I get married and shut her up. Next: When you gonna have a baby? When you gonna buy a house? Later, after the divorce, When you gonna get married again? When you gonna get married again? Finally, a couple years ago I got her off of, I wish you'd find a church to go to, and now I've started it up again. Now she's wanting me to believe in Satan. I don't believe in Satan enough.

Sorry, mommy, that's the tipping point. Years of relentless, focused interrogation that never ends was over and I got it going again. Now it's worst of all. I don't believe in Satan enough. Controlling others comes from the mind, not the heart. All my life, she's believed she has controlled me, because I allowed it. This comes under teaching me to lie. You agree with all the nonsense preachers put in her head and she leaves you in peace. To stand up for self even the least little bit is reprehensible, subject to punishment. In this couple weeks of articulating the patterns of her control, I've learned quite a lot and liberated myself somewhat. Back in the 1990s when I went to a psychotherapist, the primary purpose was to find out what it was within that attracted me to controlling women. Time after time I'd get in with a controlling woman. I felt like I knew how to handle it; agree and go my own way. It doesn't always work out that way. I found that when I allowed a controlling woman to believe she controlled me, there always came a day she would push me further than I was willing to go. When I balked, all hell broke loose. The mule. End of relationship or friendship or acquaintance. I've learned now to let it be known up front upon getting acquainted; if you're looking for somebody to control, don't stop here.

I learned that it really does work when I note first evidence of intent to control, to put a stop to it at the start. No, I am not available for control. That's it, cat shit. No more problem. The deal then was that I found myself attracted to a particular woman for whatever the reason, I'd see she needed to take control and would let her think she was in charge of me, until one day the mule sits down. Not taking your orders anymore. Had enough. Then it's, you're this, you're that, the blame game. Since I've learned how to steer controlling women away from me, I live in much greater peace than before. When one signals that she wants me under her control, I let her know in one way or another suitable to the circumstance, I'm not a subject suitable for control. I've got my own ways, I'm a stubborn taurus ass, I don't do what I'm told, don't perform PC, don't follow the crowd, never fulfill other people's expectations, don't give a shit about appearances. I follow my own light, and that's it. I let her know if she wants to control me, she's in for more than she's up to. I've been through so much punishment that threat of punishment makes me laugh. I'm so alienated from mother, who has spent her life pushing me away, threat of alienation means nothing.

In that way, I feel liberated. Threat of punishment means nothing. This must be why I was brave enough to let it be known I don't see it her way. Now that I see the problem is not that I don't believe in Jesus enough, but that I don't believe in Satan enough, I am really out of control. Like I told her in my reply, I'll leave the devil to you. She also confirmed what I've known without fully believing it, that her control issues don't come from above, but from below. Her emphasis on Satan is shining through. It confirms what I've known about the Baptist belief system, that it is more about the dark side than the light side. It's about division, not unity. They look at people the same way black urban gangstas do, as mushrooms. If they're not saved, they're the same as already dead. If they are saved and they don't go to your church, they're about the same as not saved. If they're of another religion, they're the same as dead. "A dead substance." Like the silly preacher from Louisiana saying he went to heaven and didn't see any Asians except for Asian babies from abortions. That is the ignoramus level of the Baptist belief system I cannot go with. I can take much more, but that degree of ignorance is insulting to anyone who hears it.

It feels odd at 70 to be fussing over mother issues like on the psychiatric couch. I've an idea it came up because I needed it to come up, to clear it out, be done with it, tie up loose ends inside myself. I feel that aspect of it working. It is articulating a lot for me. I've realized in the last couple weeks that I've been afraid of mother's reaction to being disagreed with. That would, of course, spread beyond her into a pattern inside me that would cringe from the reaction of disagreement. I pretended to agree. Now she's found out I don't revere Satan as much as I'm supposed to to be acceptable to her preacher, somebody I don't even want to meet. Last time I met one of her preachers I didn't even talk with him. He didn't show me anything as a human being. He was like a salesman or somebody working in a corporate funeral home. He already knew from my mother I was intractable.

I let myself be the elephant in the room, the son that lived someplace else and doesn't go to church enough. I found right away my presence made him uncomfortable, so I let him soak in it. He symbolized so much for me that I dislike intensely, about all I did was sit and glare at him, not in the obvious redneck way, but the way that said I'm looking at you, but not seeing you. Now I'm not only damned from above, but damned from below too. I hear D-generation wailing NO WAY OUT. Well, there is a way out. Walk away. Blame and punishment, bring it on. I know where it's coming from, that it's egoic nonsense projected onto the blank screen called God. What ever.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


     photograph by robert mapelthorpe

Having myself a rock concert at home. I've not sat and listened to any rock albums in several years. I tend now to want to hear Kyle Creed play banjo and Willard Gayheart sing, Alternate Roots, bluegrass, old-time, mountain music. Turning inward to home, focusing on the music as it is made in the immediate world I live in, the culture of this spot on earth. It pulled my interest away from rock, as I knew it would. My first discovery of old-time in 1977 was so dynamic, I knew if I started paying close attention, I'd lose interest in rock. Punk had just begun in 75 and it was gradually trickling out into the world at college radio stations, and that's it, for about 25 years. Sixties rock (classic rock) was not played on the radio stations. Sponsors wouldn't have it. The radio played Motown and disco in the time. Off the radio, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & Holding Co, the Velvet Underground, Cream; none of them would ever be heard anywhere around where I lived. In mid 70s came a big sound of the next generation, like Ted Nugent, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon. They were big on the charts, but I'd already been there, done that. These bands made Sixties rock into pop.

Punk happened in 1975 and, again, no radio stations played it but college stations. Punk became a culture different from the pop mainstream, which was just starting to get used to the Sixties sound of the slower rhythms that can't be danced to (except hippie dance), sit-down music; then punk happened with high-speed rhythms like old-time fiddle tunes. It's stand up and jump up and down in place music. For the next quarter century I was listening to bands nobody around me had heard of, like Generation X (Billy Idol's London band), Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nina Hagen, Joy Division, Patti Smith, the Clash, the Damned, et al. Earlier this evening, while writing the first paragraph, I was hearing ARTIST IN THE AMBULANCE by Thrice. Had to crank it way up. Finally in the later years of my life I have the ideal sound system I've waited all my life for. It cranks way up and delivers satisfaction. Caterpillar went out the door. Now it's Patti Smith's RADIO ETHIOPIA that was new when I went to my first fiddler's convention. In Patti Smith I heard an artist making rock the art way. This album did very poorly for the band. Critics didn't get it and it was such step off the edge of pop culture into art that it left its audience. It probably defined for the band the line between what works and what doesn't work with the people who became fans by HORSES. A demanding audience. How do you follow one of the great albums in rock? And it your first?

     patti smith group

Lenny Kaye's guitar is one of the great ones in rock, too. Plays a Fender Stratocaster. He may not be a big name in the pop world, but I'd guess in the rock music world he's very well respected. PSG, Patti Smith Group, continues in my ear to be among the very finest bands in rock where musicianship and and plain all out rock and roll is concerned, done in a new, artful manner. I'd say they could raise an audience into ecstasy. I've not had the opportunity to get to a concert, because that meant going to New York and one thing and another, several hundred dollars out of pocket per day, 12 hours each way. Not me. I don't drive to NY to hear some poet, say Molly Peacock, read at some intellectual hangout. Alas, all the art in New York has to go unseen by me. Photographs have to do. And that's ok. I can't see Patti Smith in concert. But I can see Burning Spear in concert at Ziggy's. That's worth a lot. Winston-Salem and Charlotte have a lot of rock venues. I can see anybody I want. But it's not that important. I'm happy hearing Patti fill my head with vibrations I like to hear in the familiarity of home.

Radio Ethiopia is going now, ten minutes of Lenny Kaye's guitar, JD Daugherty's drums, Patti's voice working with Kaye's guitar. It's been a very long time since I've heard Radio Ethiopia. It is still as great as I heard it in 1976. This screeching of guitar strings, doing it something like Velvet Underground could have done it, is what ran off their sales. Velvet Underground was an art band, not a pop band. So was PSG. When I heard it, I didn't know anything about critics and sales. All I knew was Patti Smith had a new album and I needed to hear it fast as I could get my hands on one. I felt like the entire album was an excellent next thing after HORSES; they'd followed their artist ears and reached out into fusion of poetry and sound. It helps to be one who appreciates poetry itself and can find it in unexpected places, like punk rock. Rock is the popular poetry of our time, and I have to say, there are some truly superb poets in rock. I'm looking at a Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan if he doesn't die too soon. He may not. Possibly when he puts out his apex album. The last four of Dylan's albums I can't help but think of as the best Dylan I've heard all along the way. And I've heard him from Man of Constant Sorrow on his first album with just an acoustic guitar. Every one of his albums is as much a work of art as a book of poems by Wallace Stevens.

Patti Smith has the name of the first punk rocker, the definer of punk, whatever. Nina Hagen is called the Mother of Punk. She says in one of her songs, "I'm the mother of punk! So what the funk!" Nina Hagen was another one who was out there on the edge making art rock. Punk is not one sound. Punk is your own sound. Punk is the music you want to make. We tend to think of the Sex Pistols and the Clash as the definition of punk, but it's not like that. I've put on Nina Hagen's second album UNBEHAGEN (translates: restless). She's playing African Reggae, a great reggae song, anyway in my way of hearing. It's not Black Uhuru, for sure, but it works. It's punk. Nina Hagen is somebody you either get it or you don't. Like the Tao te Ching in that way, though different. Nina Hagen cannot be explained. Her albums always have artist musicians, mostly German, They never hesitate to rock. Caterpillar came in for a morsel of catfood between albums. When Nina started, out the door Caterpillar went. She's not used to this kind of thing happening here. TarBaby loved it. I could play Rocket From The Crypt really loud and TarBaby would be lying in front of a speaker happy and comfortable.

Nina is singing in German on her first albums. I don't mind not understanding the words. I've never paid a lot of attention to the words. Most rock is sung such that I can't make out words. Like THRICE. Also THE USED. I don't understand any words from the Thrice album. Didn't understand any words at the concert. The twenty-somethings around me were singing words like those were words the vocalist was screaming. Oh well. I read words to a song I don't understand, if they're included in liner notes, and am satisfied not understanding them. I've found pop lyrics largely boring. Then you get people like Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Siouxsie Sioux, Lou Reed and a very long list of others, who write lyrics that equal contemporary poetry. I'm not one who thinks of rock a "lower art form." Rock is where theater and poetry have disappeared into. The rock concert is contemporary theater. You say there's no story. We don't need a story now. We do anecdotes now. Quips. We don't live stories anymore. I tend to think of this album I'm listening to now by Nina Hagen the same as reading a dozen poems in a book of poetry by somebody like Philip Larkin, Ron Padgett, Elizabeth Bishop. The guitar at this moment on Hermann Heiss Er, is great as a rock solo gets.

     nina hagen band

I've needed this. It's like a cleansing of the spirit. This is music I love intensely and have loved for the second half of my life. Have not given it much attention over the last dozen or so years. Maybe this is return of long-term memory coming back. Like first time I heard Patti Smith's HORSES. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Not long later I'm hearing Nina Hagen's Superboy and TV Glotzer, delighted to hear somebody tearing it up in rock again, this time in a new way. Nina Hagen Band is there with Patti Smith Group in the realm of great rock and roll bands that applied the cutting edge. This album Unbehagen is as current as Five Finger Death Punch, minus the rap influence. It was from 77 or 78. I've never had a chance to see Nina perform live, though would have loved it. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. It's just another experience with the music. They're finishing up the album with No Way, an instrumental of how punk rock is played by musicians who don't let up. I've never had the chance to see The Who, another band I'd have loved to experience from the audience. They were said to play at the loudest decibel level of any band. I heard the Cars and wondered if the Who could actually be louder than them. Who knows? Who cares?

Caterpillar came back in.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012


      ilya bolotowsky, tondo

This crazy deal with my mother enforcing fear takes me back to childhood home where the house was ruled by fear. And almighty guilt. I had not thought much about the gulf between myself and my mother spiritually. I know it is a deep and wide chasm, but never think about it. From out of the blue, it turned out she's more concerned that I believe in Satan like she does than believe in Jesus like she does. I knew she had a close relationship with Satan, because she speaks his name so frequently, considerably more than she uses the name of Jesus. Jesus is inert and Satan is active. It's like John Milton, whose Satan was far more interesting than God. The God and Satan of Milton's Paradise Lost is my mother's cosmology. After leaving that cosmology in my past, I despised Milton's Paradise Lost in college, where God is the same as dead, giving credence to Nietzsche. It is that vision of God Nietzsche was saying was dead. Milton's vision of the devil is a cool guy with a life. The Miltonic vision of the light and the dark is the same as I grew up being taught to believe, God with long white hair and beard, the white-robed patriarch judge slamming down the gavel, saying: Guilty! Go directly to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

No wonder she believes so much in fear with such a cosmology. I could not live with a God like that. My vision of God is more like a baby than an ancient patriarch. A fun baby with clear eyes devoid of judgment, eyes that love shines through. Efforts to control others in the name of God are the very most heinous forms of control. I was never able to go with a God about judgment and fear. That doesn't compute with "God is love." Doesn't compute at all. I didn't realize how important fear is to my mother. It answers a great many questions of why living was so difficult in their house. I was kept in a constant state of fear by daddy directed by mommy. Church five times a week. God the judge said everything about me was wrong. Then, secretly with myself, I'd say "God is love," like what a mystery that is. Love doesn't hit. Love doesn't berate. Love doesn't control with fear. Nothing connected for me. Scripture said one thing, Baptist dogma said something quite different. None of the adults saw any inconsistencies. I was in the wrong place. That's why everything about me was wrong.

In the Seventh grade, in a Health class, the teacher, a coach, was talking about hitting children, 1954. He asked how many in the class were hit once a month. About half raised their hands. Once a week, just a few. Once a day? I was the only one. Until that day, I thought it was normal to be hit and berated every day. Even today, I can feel what I felt then at the surprise that I was the only one in the class hit every day. It didn't seem normal half the people in the class were never hit. And the ones that were hit, they only got it once a month with a couple of once-a-week exceptions. I was also the shyest kid in school, far and away. My mind was twisted up in a knot, my emotional self a complete wreck. It was another time I longed for notice. Like, Help! And none was forthcoming. In kindergarten, early in the school year the school nurse examined all the kids with the teacher. When it was my turn, the nurse told the teacher "He chews his fingernails. It's a sign of trouble at home." Little 5 yr old was crying inside, begging to please help me get away from the insane monster at home. But no help came. Observation only. I didn't know yet, but was learning parents are always right and kids always wrong.

Inside myself, I knew better, but the world all around believed adults knew what they were talking about and kids did not. It's still that way. Only difference is, I don't fall for it. Having lived among adults as one of them for half a century, I have learned that it's the other way around: adults do not know what they're talking about. Kids get shut down because they're little and have no recourse. That was the part I hated about childhood, that I had no backup, no one to take my side. It was the very same as locked in prison. I couldn't escape (run away) because a kid out of school during the day is truant, suspect, arrested and returned to parents. No regard for the kid whatsoever, a criminal skipping school and making parents worry. Throw the kid back into the cauldron of hell he ran from. It's the same as shackled, except the chains are invisible. It looks like the Ozzie and Harriet Show on the outside, while on the inside lurks a hell for the kid that nobody else can see, except the school nurse.

A black and white photograph comes to mind. Kid sitting on long-legged stool getting picture taken. Big smile like a kid is supposed to do. Looks relaxed. Upon closer inspection, both legs are wrapped around the stool's legs like vines. They were the only foundation the kid had. Daddy looking at him through the camera, kid screaming inside, paralyzed by waiting for daddy to click the button. I hated for that expletive to even see me, let alone look at me. Curiously, the kid's head is in the center of the photograph like in a scope. Looks like there were murderous thoughts running both ways in the taking of that photograph. The big rooster and the little rooster. The little rooster found that murderous thoughts didn't work on the giving or receiving ends. Nothing to do but wait for time. Paying dues. Getting so twisted up inside from living in the church wing of the insane asylum, there was nothing to do but cry myself to sleep at night over the apparent accident of birth to strangers. It taught me not to gamble, because I draw a losing hand.

I made my final payment on dues for being born the day discharged from the navy. I love it, discharged. Like guns discharge bullets. In my heart I left the navy fast as a bullet when time was up. First thing to do in my life under my own power was to get an education. The 2 years in navy I used learning how to read, preparing myself for an education experience. In college, I never intended to use the degree as credentials for a career. I wanted nothing to do with that insane world. After education, I went to the mountains for healing. In the mountains I learned it was not so much their world that was insane, but that daddy, himself, was so self-centered as to be a mental health issue that was never addressed, just got worse with the idea of authority, somebody who outside the house had none. Mother hanging on the best she could with her own mental health issues, like something in her own childhood that hadn't oughta happen to little girls. Daddy was a hay-wire gene that runs through the Worthingtons and pops up once per generation. My youngest sister has it.

Looking at the years of mental health issues lashing in all directions at all times, living the emotional and mental response to it, even unto today, and to see that it was all genetics, gives it a whole new perspective. Genes. In the education years I learned it was the craziest member of a household who ruled. And there's mommy trying to hold it together with the Ozzie and Harriet look. George Carlin said, Women are crazy and men are stupid. Women are crazy because men are stupid. There it is, encapsulated like a message in a fortune cookie, the meaning of life. Maybe it's time we start educating boys. It's no wonder that war is the constant activity of humanity. Men are stupid. Who are the devotees of Limbaugh mind? Largely not women and children. Mommy trying with all her denial to make their world the way it's supposed to be, against all odds. Trying to do what's right by husband, by kids, by church, by mother-in-law, wanting so much to do right it evolves into need for control, using an idea of God for control, pushing away the ones she wants closest, for their own good.


Monday, July 23, 2012


My head has been infected again by my mother's belief system. She sent a Fw: email that looked to me like she appealed to her church for prayer that I'd get right with Satan; I'm not afraid enough of the the dark side to suit her. She wouldn't think of it as the dark side. Her terms are hell and Satan. I don't even feel right writing those words, just because naming gives power. One of the church parrots sent her a Fw: email to forward on to somebody they don't even know, something to convince the infidel that if I'm not sufficiently afraid of the dark side, here's something that will put the fear of the devil in ye. Too boring, too long, and I'm not interested in reading a silly fiction about Satan's power, especially the fundamentalist version. It was to the affect that on my Judgment Day, the Trial will be overseen not just by God, but Satan too. Ho hum. This is from fundamentalists. Kansas Baptists. Creationists. I couldn't read the thing. Skimmed it and about puked. If I didn't understand that she's on automatic pilot and can't help herself, I'd be pist off at the affront to basic intelligence. She's a missionary at heart. It's her duty to browbeat.

My experience in the fundamentalist Baptist religion went from 1949 to 1960, ages 7 to 18. Even then, I was wary of too much emphasis on the dark side. I've seen since then the political stirring up of cement-head religionists by the Reaganista dark cabal increasing emphasis on the dark side among the Baptists. I maintain that when an entire religious sect approves a guy shooting a doctor through his kitchen window with a high-powered rifle because he performs abortions, that religious sect is quite obviously influenced by the dark side. And I believe that comes from so much emphasis given to Satan. I don't recall any emphasis on compassion when I was in the church back then. I wondered why all the emphasis was on YOU BETTER NOT, rules and regulations. I found a place where Jesus said to forget about dotting the i's and crossing the t's. It's not about punishment and walking the tightrope of misinterpretation of a basic English word that's in every dictionary, strait. It aint straight. Jesus talked about love and forgiving, the spiritual path. The Baptists I grew up among were about punishment, guilt, you-better-not-or-else, control, emphasis on fear, and browbeating others. Love was a four-letter word, best spoken in quotation marks.

It's fear mommy is afraid I don't have enough of. Her church made an atheist of me. What more can I say? Flushing all that mess out of my head over a period of 15 years, I saw religion was about the few controlling the many, the way of the "World." That secularizes it for me. After the great inner flush I was clear enough to be able to recognize that I had never dismissed Jesus as the Christ. So I wasn't an atheist. It turned out to be the starting point of my spiritual path independent of religion when I had an experience that made it clear to me that God indeed Is. Once I saw that, there's nothing to do but live what I know. It doesn't mean go to church. This is not between me and the produce manager at the grocery store who called himself to preach; it's between me and God, if the word between applies. I'm on my own spiritual path, which is not about the mission field. In my belief system, words are cheap to meaningless. I trust my actions to tell who I am and what I'm about.

I've learned by this time in my life only to hear someone's explanation of self, defining of self in a getting-to-know-you situation like at a cocktail party or first day on a new job, without giving it much importance. Getting to know new people, I pay attention to them, allow them to be themselves, be it pristine or awkward. I tend not to ask questions, except I commonly ask people where they live or where they are from. I'm of the belief that I really only want to know about a given individual what I see and what the individual wants to tell me. I don't want to know other people's secrets or even the gossip about them. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt until taught not to. My approach to others is allowing, not controlling. In reply to mother's email, I noted that I don't need the devil in my life, she can keep him to herself. That is my meaning in the fewest possible words. I'm not interested in empowering the dark side with my attention, especially fear. My way is my own spiritual path, which is within, like the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm not interested in the gun rights argument the same as I'm not interested in capital punishment issues. Capital punishment is set and gun laws are set. It is a truth that the American passion for guns is a bit out of balance, but then so is everything else. Now the guy in the movie theater playing dress-up in a SWAT outfit walks into the movie theater and blows away as many people as he can in a given time. How American is that? It happens here so frequently, it has become a particularly American "crime." Who is surprised anymore? If the American populace were aware that there is a valid world beyond American borders, we'd be collectively ashamed. But who is? A lone gunman who doesn't represent anybody but himself. Whatever. I can't argue with the availability of guns and ammo. Guns are American as Barbie.

I've wondered for a long list of years about American collective karma, like what is the return on the wholesale slaughter of a continent of people? What about the return on the slaughter of the buffalo? What about the return on willful ignorance? What about the return on the collective attitude---if it's living, kill it? What about the indifference of the corporate world in the well being of the peasantry? What is the karmic return on white people keeping black people down? These random public shootings by frustrated people strike me a return so particularly American as to have a great deal to do with our collective karma. I'm thinking these particularly American crimes against humanity have their collective return, like identifying the natural world with the devil, looking at everything living a target. The return would be particularly American too. And the arrogance of the white man? What kind of return does that bring to the white man? Contempt from other races, for sure.

In 1972, I was riding a train through (then) Yugoslavia, (now) Bulgaria, the only American, and behind the Iron Curtain. Pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. Sometimes, people in clusters talking a language I didn't know would sometimes say to me, "President Nixon," and everybody laughed with derision at the American stooge. They were not friendly. Not hostile either. I realized they were subject to propaganda through news media just like we are. It would not have done me any good to say, and have translated, that I dislike him more than they do, for what he's doing to my democracy. If it were an American train and a Russian who didn't know English, I've an idea he would have been outside his comfort zone too. Such experiences are memorable. There is nothing like being looked at with suspicion by two Eastern European men in dark olive green coats to the floor, black boots, green hats and a red star on the forehead, black gloves. Kinda intimidating. They meant no intimidation. I was an outsider passing through.

It was inwardly exciting to me riding a train across a corner of the Iron Curtain that was once the Ottoman Empire, the only trace I was aware of being the scent of Turkish tobacco in the air from Trieste east. From Trieste west, the scent in the air was Virginia tobacco. I knew very few people who had been behind the Iron Curtain. In the time of the Cold War, it was not a fashionable place to go. It was a part of the world with a history I knew nothing about. The signs were in both Yugoslav and Russian. It was the most foreign environment I believe I've been in. Mexico is awfully foreign, but in a familiar way. Those people were not allowed guns and they lived in a police state. We are allowed guns and we live in a police state. What's the difference?

Americans are held in contempt all over the world now. In the Fifties, we were the Ugly American. Since then, we've gone through the hideous American, through the Reagan era of starting civil wars in 3rd world countries to keep them under control. CIA ops all over the world have grown into what we now call "terrorism." Poor countries with minimal resources and no defense are reduced to the civilian population becoming militarized. We drop bombs from the sky and that's called a good thing. They make IEDs, plant roadside bombs and that's a bad thing. What do we do? We go on watching television and wanting more things. A war on the evening news is essential for keeping the right wing pacified, has been throughout my lifetime. Our passion for guns is turned inward on ourselves. In Michael Moore's film, Bowling For Columbine, he asked some Canadian teenagers why they supposed the murder rate by firearm is so incredibly much higher than Canada's. One boy said, "Americans must not like each other." That rang a bell.

I'm recalling a visit with someone I've known a few years. His living room window overlooks Main St and a big parking lot. Periodically, he'll complain about people making noise at 6am or some odd time. He makes a mock gesture like with a high-powered rifle, a sniper to take care of the problem. I mentioned a couple of good Tom Berringer Sniper films. He said, "No, man, I'm not into violence!" I had to laugh. I said, "Every time I'm here, you talk about sniping people making noises at odd hours. I thought you were ok with violence." I don't think he's seen himself get into a minor emotional passion acting like he's sniping offenders. He's not the only one. It's become commonplace to exhibit intolerance toward anyone not self. How quickly we call somebody an idiot or stupid for something so minor as to be unworthy of notice. In America, the right wing has been so provocative over the last 30+ years and so divisive, so intolerant of anybody not a Limbaugh devotee, they're activating the people they hate into hating them in return. Karl Rove's Alice's Tea Party is division for the sake of division. The right wing is so aggressively fascist that sometimes it looks like civil war is where we're headed. Why? It makes good tv.  


Saturday, July 21, 2012


harrol blevins

willard gayheart

Harrol Blevins and Willard Gayheart played at the Front Porch Friday night. Donna Correll, bass player with the Wolfe Brothers old-time band, wife of the band's fiddler, Jerry Correll, played bass. I've come to think of the times Willard picks and sings with whoever he's with, most often Scott Freeman, tonight Harrol Blevins, as the best music that happens at the Front Porch. Harrol and Willard play very well together. Harrol plays lead guitar with Willard, who plays rhythm. Both sing very well and do good harmonies. Donna kept the bass going good, harmonized some on choruses. I watched with eyes open most of the time, though sometimes I watched with eyes closed, listening with the same intensity I watched with eyes open. It's good with eyes open, but closed, the sound comes through without the visual distraction. Their two guitars sound much better in the dark. It's actually mildly shocking how much the sound is different with eyes open or closed.

 I didn't make any video tonight because the computer is full and I haven't yet figured out what to do about it. What I've found thus far to do costs more than I have at the moment. I'll just have to be on hold in the video department until I figure this thing out. Different people give me different information. I've become indifferent. Maybe I will get it done someday, and maybe I won't. I know what I'll do! I'll talk to Tim (the Techman) Sizemore next time I see him at the coffee shop. He will give me the straight scoop. In the past, other people have told me to do this and that for a given computer problem. I talk to Tim, and he has the answer that is not anything like what I'd been told by the ones quick to know the answer. One time, listening to friends who "know," I spent 3-4 hundred dollars for nothing. Tim's answer: buy a laptop.

The pictures above were taken in May when Harrol and Willard put on a show together. I got some stills, but the computer won't accept them. Ten new people in the audience tonight. Recently, the show has been included into the Crooked Road tourism deal on Hwy 58 in largely SW Virginia. 58 goes all the way to Richmond (I think) and maybe has music venues along the eastern part too. Anyway, the western part is the only part of interest here. It includes the Carter Fold at Hilton's, Virginia, across the state line from Kingsport, Tenn, a ways beyond Bristol. It's close to where Jimmy Martin came from and Earl Taylor, too. Seeing the words Carter Fold bring up nostalgic memories of the time I went there with Jean when Alternate Roots was playing their last concert. That was the night I bought my Carter Family tshirt. It's my anti-cool tshirt. Next time I go to a rock concert, I think I'll wear it. Not that anyone but me would know what Carter Family means. Surely there would be half a dozen others in a crowd of a thousand. I'd never heard of the Carter Family at age 21.

Harrol Blevins sang While The Band Is Playing Dixie, a Carter Family song. At the Albert Hash fest last year at Whitetop, Dale Jett, grandson of AP and Sara Carter, sang the song. I'd heard it before, but heard it the first time when he sang it there. He sang it so right, too. Jett doesn't sing "like" the Carter Family. He sings with a reverence for the song, itself, like he believes it is such a good-worded song he wants to share it with us. While the band Is playing Dixie, I'm humming Home Sweet Home. Willard and Harrol sang it nicely. It's such a good song that just playing it is all it takes to show its beauty. It doesn't matter whether it's done well or not so well. The song is so beautiful, it takes care of itself. Like Leonard Bernstein's Maria. That song cannot be sung poorly. Everyone who sings it, sings it beautifully, because it's a beautiful song that can't be ruined. It's the same with the Band Playing Dixie; It has a feel similar to The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down. Deep, strong Southern feeling, down there in the heart where the South resides in Southerners, where Southerners are kin, where the live oaks are still draped with Spanish moss.  

I just now went to YouTube and found Maybelle Carter and Sara Carter singing While The Band Is Playing Dixie. I wanted a refreshing on the words. Evidently on the other side of the ocean, the songwriter heard a band playing Dixie and caught himself humming Home Sweet Home. It's like some of the old songs of missing the South, or one's home state in the South; Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia. The yellow Rose of Texas beat the belles of Tennessee. Missing home, sweet home. Whatever that home might be, My Old Kentucky Home. Sara sang, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." My home is this house on Air Bellows mountain, where the Part 2 half of my life played out. Taking liberties with the song East Virginia Blues, I was born in California, to North Carolina I did roam. There was never a time in the first half of my life that I ever imagined living in North Carolina. In college time, I had an unrealistic desire to go to Chapel Hill. Upon arrival in the mountains, I learned Chapel Hill is where the communists were located. Also learned there were 57 communists in High Point.

As usual at the Fiddle and Plow shows, Willard's picking and singing characterize the sound of the place. Willard's persona, his presence, who Willard is, is central to the atmosphere of the place, which by day is Willard's frame shop where he has his drawing shop in the basement, or the ground floor, since the frame shop is actually the second floor, though it seems like first. Like in the Carolina Lowcountry, the basement is above ground. It is a different band or individual guest every week, and Willard is the constant. He's there to introduce the guest and often accompany. He's so personable and at home that it doesn't even figure that he is, in my way of seeing, one of the more important men in the world of SW Virginia traditional music, there with Bobby Patterson, a singing partner. I'm floored every time I hear a long list of Willard's contributions to music in SW Virginia and Galax. It's my buddy Willard, not a bust on a pedestal.  Like I feel privileged going to the Fiddle and Plow shows, I feel privileged knowing Willard, somebody I look up to as a musician and a human being.

mark uzmann, winter oak


Friday, July 20, 2012


     eva hesse, untitled

          IT MAY BE

          It may be that a strange dream

          Seized you tonight,

          You thought you saw an angel

          And it was your mirror.

          In her flight Eleonore

          Undid her long hair

          To rob the dawn

          Of the sweet object of my desire.

          You should think no longer

          Of some faithful husband.

          I am the lover, I have wings

          I will teach you to fly.

          May the muse of falseness

          Bring to the end of your fingers

          That scorn which is but a dream

          Of the shepherd prouder than a king.

                             --- Max Jacob (1876-1944)
                            tr by Wallace Fowlie, 1955


Thursday, July 19, 2012


       annette messager

Every day I hear the news and every day I mourn for the human condition. Assad in Syria slaughtering the defenseless Syrian population. Now the population is developing defences and beginning to make some offensive gestures. This is the end of Assad. He has turned his defenseless population on himself by forcing them to defend themselves by striking out at their oppressor. The corporate media in the USA is not allowing any news of the Occupy resistance on the news. Not even NPR, which, again, is not liberal. A tremendously huge number of people gather to protest our citizens' treatment as criminals by our corporate government. The only thing the Occupy movement is accomplishing is individuals involved getting themselves tagged as disobedient. Bad name to have in a police state. Baptists say God sends the disobedient to hell, and we all know corporate government sends the disobedient to jail. How does corporate government arrest so many? We'll soon find out. FEMA camps, hundreds of them around the country, completed, ready to go, are waiting for the 99%. So what if it costs more to keep the peasants in prison. In prison they're contained.

It makes me crazy to see how all races of working men and women in all forms of labor built the USA as a democratic ideal where white men are created equal. Then came the liberation of the black portion of the population, by law only, and the liberation of women, as long as they keep it to themselves, and then the Reagan Revolution rolling back to before these liberation movements when white men ruled absolutely. The Reagan republicans have been systematically undoing every benefit to the human condition that arose since the Depression. The supreme court is stacked in favor of the oppressors of the peasant class, the 99%. It may not be known before justice Roberts publishes his memoirs why he went against his corporate bosses to let something close to reasonable health care happen for the peasants, those loathsome no-neck, thick-fingered, gum-chewing fat-asses without position or status, without taste. I'm ashamed of the American government. I believe Uncle Sam is too. The republican party that represents greed and ignorance has passed now from passive contempt for the peasants to active contempt. Roberts broke rank. He'll pay dearly. Very dearly. He knew it before he made the decision.

Throughout my lifetime any progress toward the good of the peasantry has been beaten back by government, consistently, all along the way. A government for and by the people is completely stacked against the people manipulated into believing their vote decides a matter. When the vote doesn't go predictably with the propaganda, we are shown the voting is just a bunch of shit, by having the supreme court reverse the decision of the popular vote. Lesson learned: we oughta pay closer attention to the propaganda, be less disobedient. We're learning. We're systematically being taught the best thing to do is get over democracy and get comfortable with poverty and martial law. The Robber Banks have impoverished hundreds of thousands of middle class families by robbing all of them overnight. Their money just went away. Makes me suspicious of how well this accident was orchestrated. Right after 911 when propaganda had the whole country ready to kill Ay-rabs, the Patriot Act appeared, a thousand+ page book, already written, already published, already in boxes to be delivered on cue, an emergency that needed to be passed before anyone had a chance to look at it. It was ready to go, waiting for Emergency 911 to kick it off. I wonder how they knew in advance, since it was towel-heads in a cave half way around the world that brought the towers down with cell phones.

Won't it be interesting in history courses of the future, studying the rise and fall of the very brief American Empire. War after war, subduing the poor, killing the defenseless, not even counting the dead. This is what our tax dollars do. Our government is such as to embarrass any person who has any sort of ethical foundation. The people appearing for the Occupy protests are expressions of that embarrassment. Michael Moore is an expression of that embarrassment. The anesthetized populace, happy on prozac, zoloft and a cornucopia of happiness pills, watches the news one night and it has no relation to the news of the night before or the night before that. It's about something new every night. That's why it's called the news. Can't keep up with all of it. It's right to be patriotic. Never question. Never doubt. America number one. Keep your foot on the throttle and your eye on the prize. Go in debt for more junk. It turns out the Bank is our enemy, and has been all along, but what can we do about it? Agree and go on. Our government has turned against us and what can we do about it? We assemble in embarrassingly large numbers and corporate government won't allow news coverage by the corporate press, NPR included. Obama is not in his chair to serve us. What a laugh to even imagine that he might be. He's serving a very few cell phone numbers he has memorized, each with its own ring. And they're not calling from caves in Afghanistan.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Found Katha Pollitt's column in the July 2/9 Nation. She writes about the curious phenomenon that almost half, 46% of Americans surveyed by a Gallup poll, believe "creationism" (religion and republican party) as opposed to Evolution (science and education). I had to laugh with recognition when she said, "After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things---like where Iran is or when WWII took place...." It has come to the place where somebody says he is a "Christian" is to say he refuses to use the brains God gave him. The more vocal ones have made it a Christian creed to reject the scientific method. The republican party is appealing to the least educated half of the population for easy manipulation, which is visible everywhere. The "Christian" rejection of the evolution process has become a problem for everyone. Teachers in public schools have a great number of parents who adhere to ignorance in the name of Jesus. The republican party has validated the ignorance as ignorant enough to make a good republican. A couple weeks ago the top dog of the county's republican party shook my hand and hugged me like I was his best friend. I knew he knew otherwise, making me suspicious, very suspicious. I think he was mistaking me for an Obama fan, showing me republicans can cross-over too. Whatever it was, I don't care. It gave me the willies. Yet, what I believe was happening was him telling me that though we are of different opinions about the police state we're in, man to man we're ok. I gave a hug in return because I was saying within, the god in me greets the god in you, politics aside. I hoped he was too.

My problem when I am around republicans is the issue of raising ignorance to the highest good, which is, actually, American as it can be. Anti-intelligence has been the American way since the beginning. It is a conscious preference for ignorance. Brings to mind someone I knew in college years. She was in my Shakespeare class. A year or so after we were both out of school, we ran into each other and were talking. Something said reminded me of something from Shakespeare. I said, "Do you remember in the Shakespeare class...?" She retorted in a tone of voice to be certain I understood her meaning, "I forgot everything about Shakespeare when the exam was over." I thought: Wow. An unforgettable example of willful ignorance, the kind I grew up in, the kind I was trained from my beginning to become. The place where I fell down in church was Jesus kept harping about love, love your neighbor, love, love, and the preacher never noticed. He wanted to dwell in the OT. Being a kid in school who could read with minimal attention span, I couldn't help but think I got it when Jesus said "the kingdom of heaven is within." Why was everybody talking about beyond the clouds, out in the universe, out beyond the universe? It is not Out-There, it's In-Here.

In the time of the music store, a man and woman with white hair, living here about a year from Pennsylvania. We had very pleasant conversation. I saw right away they weren't going to buy anything, just seeing what's in the place. They weren't interested in mountain music. I didn't care if they bought anything or not. I enjoyed talking with people who came in. After we'd talked awhile, very pleasantly, here it came, "Are you a Christian?" I thought: Aw shit! Ruin a good conversation. I thought fast to find a way to put an end to this before it started, in a friendly way. I said, "Christian has become a political party and I'm not a member." Meaning, I am not a republican. Of course, next thing, "What I meant was, are you saved?" I wanted to say, What's it to you? That's my business. You see, they thought I was nice and couldn't stand to think of me going to hell for eternity. I thought: leave that to my mother, she's concerned enough  for you and her both. From then on, our conversation was awkward, explaining and explaining. I wanted them out the door. I didn't want to have to explain in a nice way that the scientific method really does have something about it to recommend itself. Like that car you're driving, the synthetic clothes you're wearing, your cell phone. I have a hard time when I am looking at an advanced adult and expected to talk to a child, all of a sudden. My head became occupied with editing everything I might say to suit a ten year old. My head became logjammed with sentences I wanted to say, but the editor within recommended against.  I became bored and they became restless. Soon we parted.

Back to Katha Pollitt, she tells about a biology professor at Brown University, Kenneth Miller. He's a Catholic and says, "Those of us in the scientific community who are religious have a tremendous amount of work to do in the faith community." Asked, Why bother? he said, "There's a potential for great harm when nearly half the population rejects the central organizing principle of the biological sciences. To have a near majority essentially rejecting the scientific method is very troubling." A republican in the Virginia state legislature made the claim, "Sea-level rise is a left wing term," and successfully had it changed to "recurrent flooding." Wouldn't he shit if he ever found out we wouldn't have television without science. He'd deny it. Left wing term? What left? There's no left wing in America, unless it's the half of the population that doesn't vote. And they don't care anything about sea-level rise or recurrent flooding or any of it. If republican agenda is to deny sea-level rise, it seems odd that the mountains are being inundated by what I call the White Tsunami, white republicans. Reagan republicans have been moving to the mountains in swarms until the republican "economic downturn" slowed them down.

I have to agree wholeheartedly that such willful ignorance is dangerous. Willful ignorance lost us our democracy. Willful ignorance is bringing on police state and happy for it. If you want to find out what we're headed toward in a police state, read some contemporary Chinese writings. Fiction tells it as well as non-fiction. USA has a lot more people in prison than China does. And China has a lot more people than USA. It seems to me a major shame that this is what the American experiment has come to: popular police state, ignorance the rule, the news media the propaganda wing of the police state. I've seen a convincing case made for ignorance as evil. While I complain about the Reagan Junta breaking down government, breaking down economy, the ruling class taking everything from the peasant class, I am distressed to see it all breaking down around me. However, I'm coming to see that this is the end of a belief system about government for the rich against the working people. We have become the working poor. It has to break down before it can be replaced by a better economic belief system. Like the way an old building needs to be torn down to make a place for the new building. The republicans are tearing down their own belief system with ignorance. As I watch ignorance devour the republican party from within, I'm willing to accept the economic downturn as the end of republican rule by ignorance. That can only be a good thing.   


Sunday, July 15, 2012


Back in 1971 I saw Michael Caine's film, GET CARTER. By then, the theater in Charleston that showed foreign films, The Arcade, had closed because the European films were rated X in the new rating system. The owner of the theater would not show X rated movies. They started showing drive-in type movies and shut down. Another theater that had shut down was showing black hit-man/drug-dealer films and Hong Kong kung fu movies where they jump up in the air, twirl and land on their feet. It was the only operating movie theater in the city at the time. The movie theaters all went to the suburban shopping malls. I developed an ironic liking for these truly cheezy flicks, the lowest budgets ever. Occasionally, one odd film would appear, like Marlon Brando's BURN, a "western" on a Caribbean island. Brando made some cheezy films. He wasn't always Stanley Kowalski and Captain Kurtz. I think he was some kind of sentimentalist for authenticity when he was allowed to make his own films. They came across about like Steven Seagal films in the wild west of guns, horses and whips. GET CARTER was one of the the films that came to this theater while it was showing low-budget black hit-man flicks. It was a shock to see what to me was an art film among made-for-drive-in blood-letters.

I had heard nothing about the film. My friend who kept up with movie reviews had never seen any mention of it. I went and was floored by what a great film it was. It was one that belonged at the "art house" theater, which wasn't available. Next day I told my friends who loved good films about it, saying, "it's a sleeper." I wondered how one of the best films of the year got buried among the worst. The corporate world doesn't know the difference. That's how. Over 40 years later, my only recollections of the film were that I liked it a lot at the time and hadn't seen Michael Caine in a better role since. Before, he was in ALFIE, where he got his immediate fame. Watching the film through last night, I noticed when it was over that it had commentary with it. Today I watched it again with director/writer, Mike Hodges, and the photography man, an east European with an amazing eye and a name I can't remember. I looked it up, feeling like he deserves for me to look up his name. First name was Wolfgang. Last name, Suschitzky. And Michael Caine. The visuals held me in awe from first to last. Scene after scene was beautifully conceived and captured.

In the commentary, the director and Caine were saying that it was taken by critics to be too violent in 1971. The critics steered the public away from it. Caine said it was put on the American drive-in circuit where they made their return on it. Like Caine said, it's not that it was too violent; it was not flashy violence, but violence exhibited as it happens out here in the world, making it feel dangerous. Of course, by today's stnadard, the violence is Mickey Mouse Club. During that year or so of watching hit-man movies, I developed a liking for them. One I especially remember, this one in black and white, maybe. The visuals in my memory are black and white. The actor who was the butler or whatever he was on Magnum PI, the tv show. He was the hit-man, and a memorably interesting one. I wouldn't mind seeing it again if I can figure out what it was. I can find the actor's name easily, then look for him on netflix. John Hillerman. I can't find anything about it on his website or wikipedia. This was the time of SUPERFLY and SHAFT with Isaac Hayes singing Theme From Shaft. He did that song right on his album, Live at the Sahara Tahoe. I just now took that down from the shelf to play later. It's one of my all-time favorite albums. It's from the time Isaac was wearing chains. Black Moses.

In GET CARTER, Michael Caine was from Newcastle, England, though in the London mob. His brother in the Newcastle mob turned up dead. Carter goes to Newcastle to find out who did it and to balance the score. He was mad. He found people, one at a time, interrogated them in no undertain terms, learned what he needed to know and went into action. With one guy, you knew before Carter caught him he'd be dead before Carter was done with him. While Carter was interrogating him, saying, "You know that if you don't tell me the truth I'll kill you," the man on his knees said, "I know." This guy was in the homemade film Carter found essentially raping Carter's teenage niece, his brother's girl. It made him even madder. There was no way this guy might survive his encounter with Carter, not even begging. Carter went through the Newcastle mob, one at a time, taking out the ones involved in the homemade film with the girl, and the ones involved in the murder of his brother. Caine kept a straight face throughout the film, allowing us to see his feelings and thoughts very slightly in his eyes. He was mad and he was getting even. He had a good notion he wouldn't make it back to London alive, and didn't care. He did what needed to be done.

While Caine appeared to be emotionless, he was a volcano of emotion. It went off when he used his gun. It went off when he hit somebody to encourage them to talk. I'm not a follower of Michael Caine films, though appreciate him a great deal as an actor when I see him. GET CARTER especially. I felt like this was a tour de force for him, the director, the photographer, the entire production. Caine got his name in ALFIE just a few years before. I don't remember anything about it but that he was in it. He became Alfie. I got it from the commentary with GET CARTER that Caine is noted for becoming the character so seamlessly it's not like he's acting. My memory of the film was not near up to what I saw this time. I'd given it 4 stars on netflix as a movie I'd seen before. Went to netflix today and gave it 5 stars. I loved it that much as a beautifully made film I can see again and again, enjoying more each time. Not many movies do that to me. I love it when it happens.

The film did not age at all. The clothes the lead actors wore work for what people wear today. Much of it was filmed in public places like pubs where you see local people coming and going, living their lives. Only fashions have changed since then.What the majorityof people wear hasn't changed much at all. The film had a good depth of field about it visually, and the story, itself, had a depth of field. It seemed like it could have been made more recently than 40 years ago, though it is a good example of the better films from that time, like BLOW-UP, A MAN AND A WOMAN, THE CONFORMIST, the brooding Russian KING LEAR, same period. Some great films were made in that time of late Sixties, early Seventies. GET CARTER was in there among the better of them. It broke British stereotypes so brazenly that it is contemporary to now when those stereotypes are over.

just before the final scene


Saturday, July 14, 2012


     butch robins

     edwin lacy and willard gayheart

Butch Robins played bluegrass banjo Friday night at the Fiddle and Plow show in Woodlawn. Edwin Lacy was there with his open-back banjo playing it clawhammer style. Willard Gayheart played rhythm guitar and Marvin Cockerham, of the Highlanders, played bass. A couple hours of music that reached the ideal of music from the start. Robins is perhaps best known as a banjo picker with Bill Monroe, who lasted probably longer than anybody with Monroe who was ever in his band. Monroe was known as about the most difficult man on earth, confirmed by Robins in his tales of Bill Monroe, evidenced by the continuous turnover of band members. This turned out to be a good thing, however. For Robins' generation of bluegrass pickers, having been a Bluegrass Boy was the best credentials a bluegrass musician could have. Monroe served bluegrass of the future with his ill nature.

Robins talked between songs about Monroe, experiences in the band. He could imitate Monroe's talking so well it was like listening to Monroe himself. He called Monroe, "the old man." And he was when Robins knew him. I felt like it was with respect Robins called him the old man. A parental respect and respect for his experience. I had the impression that it was not a matter of whether or not you liked Bill Monroe. Few were able. But respect overrode feelings. When it comes to a banjo, Butch Robins can pick. Edwin Lacy accompanying him clawhammer made some interesting sound not heard very much, bluegrass and old-time banjos playing together, something like two guitars would play together. They took requests from the audience, which turned out to be all Bill Monroe songs. He played mostly instrumentals. Willard sang a few. First request was for Uncle Pen and nobody knew all the words. All knew some of the words, so they played it through putting in the words they could remember. It was a casual show, the relaxed showmanship working best with a small audience of twenty. I can't say I could pick one or two of the tunes they played for my favorite. Like a good album that you like from start to finish, their music was totally satisfactory to my ears, such that no one tune stood out from the others, because it was all so good it couldn't get better.

The pictures above are not from last night's show. My computer is so full of pictures it won't take any more. My job now is to start putting them on dvd disks and get them out of the computer to make more room. Cheaper than buying a new computer. That would be like trading in your car for a new one because the ash tray was full. The picture of Robins came from his show October 1, 2010. The picture of Lacy was from his show the 29th of January, 2011. I continually feel awe that I have this privilege of knowing about the Front Porch Gallery, Willard, The Fiddle and Plow, Scott Freeman, Edwin, all the people connected with this weekly series of some of the best music in SW Virginia and NW North Carolina, musicians who live inside a couple hours driving time. In these later years in my life, I'm finding myself discovering the world I live in almost like the first time. Perhaps first time with new realization. The new realization may be putting away my mind of everyday familiarity unto boring where I pay less attention. Now, I can be driving down the highway, day or night, looking at my familiar world and say to myself, This is my world. Meaning: Thank God I'm not in some city. And Thank God, literally, for this particular spot on the earth to be my world, the place I call home.

Hearing musicians, who, like Robins, have picked for 50 years, or any number of advanced years, the music is truly from musicians, people who make music and make music only. In the old-time way, music lovers watched young musicians come along, have their favorites they hope to one day see winning fiddlers conventions, paying close attention to see who is coming into the fold next. One thing they know is not to get emotionally invested in one's success, when the kid might go to prison at age 16 for doing something stupid. From a lifetime of experience, the old people knew that anything can happen to anybody along the way. Somebody who was a great fiddler at 20 might be dead before 30, or quit playing, or lost interest in it. One banjo picker here in high school picked with a friend who played mandolin. They were coming along good. The mandolin player died in a car crash. The banjo picker has not been able to play a banjo since then. His family and friends try to encourage him to pick again, but he can't do it. He's tried a few times to see if it might take, but it didn't. This is a fluid world, not a gear-grinding world.

In the old culture where people paid attention to the world they lived in, instead of the television and other tech distractions, they knew that the future is uncertain for everyone, young fiddlers included. The musicians on the stage last night are like salmon that made it upstream, past bears catching them, fish hooks catching them. Like Mamie White said, of Boone County, West Virginia, Only the strong survive. Lots of white in the hair on stage told that these guys are the survivors, musicians who have not died young or quit or become disabled in any of many possibilities. All are musicians serious enough about their art form to master one instrument or more. Everybody on the stage I'd call a master of his instrument without hesitation. I closed my eyes several times during the music to hear it without visual distraction, like on the ideal sound system. That was when I really marvelled hearing their music. I could see in my mind's eye who was making what sounds, hearing it raw, fresh from the source, banjo picking, guitar picking, bass picking that wove together into foot-tapping good vibrations. Like Zen art, the complexities in their picking sounded effortless. I like to watch them play, to see what they are doing to make the sounds they make, the music.

Earlier, after writing the second paragraph I went to YouTube and watched Rage Against The Machine do Testify live in LA. Tom Morello's guitar I respect for musicianship to the same degree as the musicians last night. It puts me out there in orbit by myself as not many people are able to make the conceptual leap from pile-driving rock to masterful bluegrass picking. I don't see it a leap. It's the same to me. From old-time to the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers came country music. From country music came bluegrass. From bluegrass and country came rock and roll mixed with blues. The blues came from old-time, took it's own route to "cross-over" in the likeness of Chuck Berry. I see amazing progression in the evolution of pop music that parallels our evolving way of life. Old-time music changed over time. It was a pop music of the time before electricity. It changed as life in the mountains changed. It started with a fiddle. Then the banjo came in from black musicians. The guitar came in later. And the bass after the guitar. First time I heard old-time was in 1977, after I'd been listening to punk a couple years. There it was: acoustic punk. Where rock is now has evolved from fiddle and banjo tunes. In present day pop culture, it's like the Rolling Stones say, "It's the singer, not the song." In the old-time way, it was the song, not the singer. Both are valid in their own times. I love both in a way that they are not both, but the same. I can groove to the Jim Carroll Band the same as to Bill Monroe. That's something else I'm grateful for, to be able to appreciate the whole spectrum of music as music.

Butch Robins website: