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Thursday, July 31, 2014

AFTER SEEING ENDGAME THE MOVIE



Have just now finished seeing a film, Endgame, of South Africa in the time of the transfer of power from Botha to deKlerk. A kind of bio-pic with handheld camera, often with the feeling of seeing the visuals by way of surveillance cameras or somebody wearing a lapel-cam. Very much a feeling of you-are-there. Mandela in prison, Thabo Mbeki negotiates with negotiators from the government. It showed the threats, the near-misses, the valley of the shadow of death that Thabo Mbeki walked through, and everyone concerned in the movement walked through with him. Many didn't make it. It was similar to the American civil rights movement. Martin Luther King walked through the valley of the shadow of death and didn't make it. Lone gunman again, and again.  The film was acted well by good actors, directed five star and photographed the equal. I felt the immediacy of every scene filmed as though we're overhearing private conversations from both sides of the fence. The walls had ears was known everywhere we went. Very little went by unseen. Often it felt like seeing the scene through a surveillance camera in a tree or planted out of sight in a room. It gave a sense of danger from both sides. "If you'll stop your terrorism we can talk peace." "If you'll stop your police brutality we'll stop our terrorism." Negotiations were stuck throughout Botha's administration. He had a stroke and exited the story. DeKlerk came next and agreed to ANC's will, let Nelson Mandela go free to be swept into the president's office of South Africa. He was about as welcome to white South Africans as Obama is to white Americans. The slur-words are taking over. No danger of it there and no danger of it here. The propaganda of fear was thick in the air.



The film gave a sense that it was put together by an investigative reporter who spliced the scenes from surveillance videos into the story told, scene by scene. I was especially interested in its historical value, seeing visuals of what the news was telling and not telling in that time. I've seen several films, both drama and documentary, read of that period in South African history, the end of the apartheid system, freeing Nelson Mandela.. This one tells a serious story, like the others, though in such a visual presentation it gives a subliminal experience of how it feels to know you're being watched everywhere at all times. A spooky film in that way. This one, Endgame, I could watch again for the visuals without sound. I don't recall seeing anything like it. I'm glad I wasn't put here with Nelson Mandela's mission. He was a soul of deep wisdom. In the turn of the century, Time magazine made much of Man of the Century. It seemed to me Mandela did the most powerful deed by surviving 27 years of hard core prison as a political prisoner and a kafir; he ruled afterward a compassionate leader for the whole country. Of course, man of the century went to a white man, whose name is synonymous with knowledge, not a black man discredited by the press as a communist, that convenient word like terrorism, so easy to discredit somebody with. For Time magazine to name Mandela would have brought a heap of criticism from power circles and a change of staff. I was seeing Mandela in terms of democracy and the future of the whole continent of Africa as well as South Africa. From the American Empire's point of view, Africa is for exploitation only, not democracy. I have no argument with Einstein. After all, his mathematical discovery changed everything, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That's remarkably significant. Power.


I believe I can say in truth that Nelson Mandela is the only public figure of any country, that I've known of, I have respected in my lifetime. Nobody in Europe. Nobody in Asia, Nobody in the Middle East. Only Nelson Mandela in Africa. I put my finger on Mandela for his true public service as opposed to self-service and service to power and money. People like him are not appreciated in circles of power and money. Alas, they serve the enemy of the power and money set, the rest of us, the pitchfork army. People  in the political world who actually serve the people run the risk of assassination. It often happens. Mandela anticipated every day his last, as did Mbeki. It was PW Botha to die of a stroke first, his death opening the door to democracy in South Africa. I'm recalling a reggae song from the Botha period by Bunny Wailer, President Botha is the mosquito who annihilate Africa...with the deadly bite spreads the disease of apartheid. Mandela became president, though white wealth maintained power. Like Obama the American black president is powerless at the table of white wealth, Mandela was too. In the end, only appearance and propaganda changed. I grew up in a world operated by a belief system that only white is all right, held to as jealously as there's only one way to the pearly gates. From earliest childhood I can recall having empathic feelings toward people of other races, the huge majority of people on earth, because the people of my world looked so far down on them. I was three when I stayed with my young mother not long out of high school in a vast trailer park at Camp Lejeune for the returning troops with wives able to visit them upon return from the Pacific war (an odd oxymoron). Two black women took care of house cleaning in the trailers. They were the first dark skinned people of my experience, including porters on the train who were friendly mysteries. These two women were attentive with the little kid and the kid loved seeing them. One night the shed they kept their cleaning equipment in burned down and I never saw them again.



I can remember mother and grandmother talking down about them like they were about the same as children and I was disappointed they didn't understand these were wonderful people. 1945 was a long time before civil rights consciousness. My parents' racism was polite, not vehement. A lot of white Southern kids and white kids all over America in that time were questioning the black people being kept down when they were good people. Pushed down into poverty, street crime pops up, a good public relations excuse to push them down further and round them up into prisons, the American version of concentration camps. Racism never made sense to me in any phase of my lifetime. In childhood I was taught to fall in line with the belief that black people were the bottom class of people, American untouchables. I didn't know any black kids until 1954, the seventh grade, when black kids were made to leave their schools and go to the white schools of the district they lived in. Black kids were scared and white kids were scared. Jocks and toughguy white kids threatened the black kids causing them to stay together in gangs for self-defense. Then, as gangs, they became aggressive and back and forth it went. The white nerds without jock protection would be bullied by the black gangs as well as the white jocks. The black kids not inclined to gangs had to go with them anyway for their own self-defense. All the parents were scared for their girls. Martin Luther King and forced integration did not end racism in America. Nelson Mandela could not end racism in South Africa. As things are going now, it looks like it will be a long time in centuries before racism is over. Things have a way of changing unpredictably like the wind.      
 

 
 
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

FINDING LEO TOLSTOY


 

henry miller
 
Driving home from seeing the race Sunday, the history of my life as an employee came forward and I followed a thread that runs through all the work life that started a long time before I started working for pay. It started in childhood seeing daddy laid off during Eisenhower recessions, and during union strikes. He worked for GM in Kansas City as a "ding man," he smoothed the bumps on car bodies in the assembly line. Every recession, every strike he found whatever work he could, driving a milk truck, this and that, awful jobs that paid little and frustrated him along with everybody in the house. The guy he worked for driving the milk truck loaned him money to buy a used 51 Oldsmobile, a beautiful car, yellow and white, and repoed it when daddy couldn't keep up with the payments. That really was a frustration. Next was a big Nash tank that had a similar "modernistic" body style. It was parked in the street in front of the house one night during a storm, an electric wire fell onto the car and toasted it. I swore to myself for the rest of my life that I will never work for a big corporation. I set as my life purpose to only work for individuals or very small businesses. This meant a lifetime of minimum wage inspiring me to determine that I will always live on very little. I must learn frugality. It's not that frugal is in my nature, so I taught self over a long period of years. A guideline I carry in my head from artist Marcel Duchamp, "It's not what you earn ; it's what you spend." I've learned along the way that desires are expensive, wanting is expensive. I've trimmed my desire for a new black Ferrari down to wanting what I have, a 93 Buick Century that runs perfectly with a classic motor that doesn't even burn oil 21 years later. Things go wrong, I take it to the mechanic over something rusted away almost regularly. That's ok. It's better than payments. It helps keep a man working for a living in his own business at home where he wants to live, and each repair improves the car. Win-win. I drive on the interstate and see thousands of new cars with the unconscious thought: everybody has a  new car but me, weep weep. Next thought: everybody is making payments but me, tee hee.
 
alberto giacometti
 
Even though the Kansas Fundamentalist church I lived in throughout childhood filled the child's mind with so much contradiction and general obvious falsehood called dogma, I did get a spiritual education. It took fifteen years to reason it all out of my head. I had to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It took fifteen years to find the baby. I've spent my life reasoning away the nonsense. What I found fifteen years later was I had actually exempted the words of Jesus from everything else I'd thrown out, because they bore out. As was said of him in his day, he spoke with authority. He knew what he was saying. It wasn't just that he was smart; he was way beyond smart, in another league. I didn't know I was testing what he'd said, holding it up to the light of experience, but the whole process ran its course and left me with the words of Jesus. I don't' recall a time I did not question in child's mind why the preacher was always talking about Jesus and love, but nobody in the church liked anybody else in the church. And they sure didn't like anybody outside the church. I asked somebody once about love your neighbor and was told it has a spiritual meaning that doesn't apply to this earth. I thought: What? And left it there. All the kid's real questions were passed off with equally vacant knee-jerk nothingisms to the point I quit asking adults anything that mattered. The people in the church didn't get it. The people outside the church didn't get it. Teachers didn't get it. Parents of friends didn't get it. Parents didn't get it. If we're bowing down to Jesus to pray, and avoid each other, and control each other, what's the use of going to church or bowing down to Jesus if you aren't going to get your heads and hearts out of the Old Testament? The moment I left parents' house I ran as fast as Usain Bolt from church mind. It was slow in receding. I find that in the subconscious I carry a moral code for my life: always do work that benefits humanity, not takes away. I saw GM and the other mass corporations taking from us, depleting us, spoiling our planet of its minerals and gold so a few can live in uber-luxury and the many can work for the very least allowable by law, and that struggled for by labor unions. 
 
alberto giacometti
 
A friend told me about a job opening at a shoe store. He got the name of the store wrong, but I didn't know it. I went where he told me and they, too, had an opening. I felt like shoes are a necessary item for us in civilization. Selling shoes gives rather than takes away. I wanted to experience face-to-face with strangers, people I'd never seen before all day every day. I was the shyest kid in school all the way along. I was shy of everything and everybody. I wanted to learn to speak freely with people I did not know as with people I knew. It made a difference; I look back in gratitude to the man who gave me the job in good faith that a kid just out of high school could do the job. It was a great learning at the beginning of my life. From there on, I could enter the world "out there," anywhere, a passport. The high school graduate was in a state of confusion that could have broke-out of a straightjacket like the Hulk. All kinds of shit that happens to the ignorant jumped on me like fleas on a stray dog. I jumped in a bucket of shit way up over the top of my head and did like the frog dropped into boiling water, got outta that shit right now. Thank you, God, for the US Navy. It rescued the clueless kid of my tailspin life for two years. I hated it for that. But, it took me out of my life at a time an escape hatch was necessary. I went into it knowing I needed an education. The reason I wasn't able to get going with advanced education was I could not read with comprehension. I used every minute of free time reading, remembered the titles of the books taught in Senior English, a class I didn't dare take. It involved a lot of reading I couldn't handle. The day before leaving for the airport to go away for two years, a few years after high school, a kid, a senior in high school, a friend of somebody I knew, handed me a copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger to read on the plane. By this time in the life I can see that kid as an angel unawares. One of many I suddenly see, now that I've noticed the pattern. I don't know his name, couldn't pick him out in a lineup.
 
alberto giacometti
 
The Navy was good practice in doing what I did not want to do. Going by my anti-authoritarian interpretation, it was not to the good of humanity. It was to the worst. I had a hard time committing to a role in a death machine. Couldn't do it; never advanced, never took it seriously, only wanted to read. Every port we stopped, up and down the East Coast and the southern Europe, northern side of the Mediterranean, the others looked for bars, I looked for bookstores. The very last thing in the world I wanted was to be carried back onto the ship. I wanted peace, not mayhem. Found Henry Miller's Colossus of Maroussi in Athens, Greece, 1963, so glad now I wrote the place and date in it. Colossus, like The Stranger, was one of the great books of my life, great in that they spoke to my soul like Ralph Stanley's music. Like Camus, Miller woke me up a step further. I'd read a fair amount in those two years, mostly French Existentialists, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone deBeauvoir, Camus, French underground resistance fiction and plays I felt at home in, resistance the key word. Even crawled my way through Heidegger, even getting some of it, a spot here and there, but followed it. His appearance was toward the end, a kind of graduation test given self upon entering the college phase of  my new life making my own decisions. Again, an angel unawares had confidence I could work in his bookstore. The years in the bookstore, side-by-side, interwoven with the years in school educated a major dummkopf to satisfaction of what I wanted from college, a further understanding of how to get along in this world. Every summer I dove into a stack of books. In the summer I read way beyond what we were reading in school. Like Great Gatsby didn't impress me at all, still doesn't. Even movies of it don't. It was good writing. There is a lot of good writing. A whole lot that I Iike better, like Patrick White, Tolstoy and a great long list. I read War and Peace while school was going on. Couldn't stop. He held me like Stephen King holds his readers. Once I found Tolstoy, this was what I was looking for. Have read several biographies, one by a daughter, one by a son. In this house I can actually put my hands on two volumes of his letters. Henri Troyat's biography brought Leo to life. Why am I not reading Tolstoy now? I'm reading Henry Miller now. Like when reading Tolstoy or Patrick White, Naguib Mahfouz, I don't want to read anything else until I feel like a change. These four are people who illustrate an interpretation of great minds. They were benefits to humanity in their time, and in all time, like Sophocles and Harold Pinter. Nelson Mandela comes to mind.
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alberto giacometti
 
 
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Monday, July 28, 2014

BABY DOLL AND THE BULLDOG

vada, 3

Went to Vada's house Sunday to see the race on tv. I had not seen her in four weeks, maybe five. They returned day before yesterday from a week at Myrtle Beach, Vada looking like the Coppertone girl. Crystal said Vada spoke to everybody on the beach. Crystal's attention drifted and she found Vada talking with some people nearby, eating a cookie they'd given her. Everyone told Crystal Vada was the cutest thing there ever was. I said, "She is. They recognized it." Vada is a spirited child; life energy beams from her laughing or crying and every emotion in between. She cried several times today, not getting her way. She's pushing the envelope, stepping over boundaries, asserting herself. I picked up Baby Doll and said I wanted to play with Baby Doll. Vada snatched Baby Doll away and said, No! Another time I said I wanted to play with Baby Doll. No! A little later, I told her again I wanted to play with Baby Doll. OK. Dadu and I bent over in our chairs cracking up. This child has a natural-born charm. When she misbehaves and is spoken to about it, she can charm you into getting over it. I don't mean to imply other babies are not so cute. This is the baby I know in this time of my life. I walked in the front door upon arrival. Vada was standing beside the coffee table, looked at me in puzzlement, staring like she didn't quite know what to do. At the moment I didn't get it, but see it now that my hair has grown out and my chin has a goat beard since she saw me last. She's only known me with short hair looking like a retired cop. She stared like she was stuck in place. Dadu said, Aren't you going to say Hi to TJ? Vada ran to me, I picked her up and we hugged. I told her I love her. She held the hug for a long time, relaxed into it and I held her until she wanted down. It was an endearing moment, one of many with my real live baby doll.    
 
vada examines baby doll's toes
 
 Jeff Gordon won the race straight up and smoked a few thousand dollars of Goodyear tire rubber spinning black circles on the track. He made a lot of noise arousing the crowd to ecstatic cheers as loud as his roaring pipes. We watched golf awhile. Justin is a golfer. He is studying while he watches the pros hit the ball. I'd brought Melvin with me. He lives nearby in Whitehead, his truck isn't working well at the moment, inside a week he'll have a replacement. I went by and picked him up on the way to see the race. Vada loves Melvin like she loves me. I said to her when I put her down, Melvin's here. She ran to him, he picked her up and held her for a long time. He is round and roly-poly. He's a big teddy bear that hugs her in turn. Melvin's wife, Ellen, works at a daycare place. Melvin said when he picks her up after work, he goes early, sits on the floor and plays with the kids. The kids love him. Melvin is free enough inside himself to adore kids and they adore him back. I saw his other daughter, Hailey, 13, same age as Beth, before we left the house. She was wearing a tshirt that said, LIVE YOUR LIFE. I thought: the gospel in a fortune cookie. Later, when I took Melvin home, his girl, Beth, came running out the door as soon as he stepped out of the car. She jumped on him, gave him a big hug. She'd been away with a Girl Scout adventure for a week at the coast and returned while he was gone. She's a charming girl with fire red hair. He calls her Pumpkin. Melvin is somebody who becomes more interesting for me the more I know him. I've seen along the way there are people who seem interesting at first, but as you know them they diminish down to nothing. Others, who sometimes don't give any appearance that something is going on inside besides tv, turn out to be more and more interesting as time goes by. Every time I'm around Melvin I learn something new about him that blows my mind. He comes on like somebody who is neither here nor there, doesn't seek attention, comfortable in the back seat.
 
vada's little mermaid sunglasses from the beach

Justin, Melvin and I go to the basement to smoke cigarettes, or outside on the porch, to keep the house free of cigarette smell. Crystal would prefer her house not smell of cigarette. We respect her. Crystal, who does wedding photography, had a shoot on Sunday, which she often does, leaving Vada with Dadu, her baby name for daddy. Vada would play with Baby Doll nearby, sit on the laps of each one of us, attracted to our circle of attention, us sitting in the mancave corner laughing at funny stories we'd take turns telling. In a time when Justin took Vada upstairs and was gone for a spell, Melvin and I talked. High school came up and he said he had a good time all through high school. He said, "I was the mascot," explaining why he had privileges in school. I asked what he meant by mascot. My first thought was something like the San Diego chicken. He said, "I lettered five years in cheerleading." That one really took me by surprise. The team was the Bulldogs. He dressed up in a bulldog costume as part of the cheering squad. I did not see it coming. I lit up, wanted to hear more. Melvin is short and stocky; it wouldn't take much to make him into a bulldog. He said the other kids, the teachers, administration, the jocks, all thought he was the coolest guy in school. He said, "I didn't have any enemies." He had privileges such as freedom to skip class if he didn't want to go. His name those five years was Bulldog. Even the teachers called him Bulldog. Everybody called him Bulldog. He said he had a Nissan station wagon with big speakers in the back seat area, "You could hear me comin." The car had a foot-wide stripe of primer paint along both sides. A friend painted "Bulldog" in the primer stripe on the fender. He said, "My car was Bulldog too." 
 
vada's tongue
 
Melvin wears tshirts in this time of his life announcing he's proud to be a redneck, keeps a calendar on the kitchen wall of the tv show Duck Dynasty. Middle class people like to look down on the Duck Dynasty characters as obnoxious pigs, but in the working class they're comedy, like Larry the Cable Guy, Rodney Carrington and the other blue collar comics, who are really funny when you understand the culture's humor they appeal to. Many times in our mancave retreats Justin has put on Rodney Carrington cds for us to bend over laughing at. Not many of my middle class (more or less educated) friends could sit through more than two of Carrington's stories. I can watch Duck Dynasty with Justin and Melvin and laugh like crazy. To one part of my mind they're upper middle class actors making a lot of money from a successful gig, celebrities in a society that honors only celebrities. It worked for them. The other part of my mind thinks they're hilarious in a redneck humor way. I applaud them. I don't share redneck political mind, but it doesn't stop me from allowing them their own minds. Their show is a present day I Love Lucy, but funnier. They're playing bulldog for the rednecks. Middle class tends to look down on rednecks, finding them disgusting. I have redneck creds to some degree, in that I appreciate the people, their lives, their culture, their humor, their absence of pretentions especially. It's the rarity of pretention in the working class that appeals to me in a big way, makes me prefer the company of the working class. Some of it is a bit beyond my reach, like there is a criminal element, as in every culture of people living in poverty or on the borderline. I'm not particularly attracted to the criminal aspect. It puts a lot of them in prison, makes them angry people who lose faith in the society they live in, making them all the angrier. Lots of anger issues in the working class. I feel it, I live it, I understand it. I appreciate them. I have learned to regard people I know who have been in prison with the highest respect. Few I know believe I respect them, because nobody else does. For that, I respect them all the more.
 
vada's defiance
 
 
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

RETURN OF ALTERNATE ROOTS

 
alternate roots
 scott freeman, mark freeman, katy taylor, tony testerman, willard gayheart
 
alternate roots

Friday night, the Fiddle And Plow show at Willard Gayheart's gallery and frame shop in Woodlawn, Virginia, the core of the band, Alternate Roots, played a reunion. Plus Scott's brother Mark, who came to hear the show, had a banjo in the car, and Scott asked him to join the band. He's a good picker, plays in the Freeman brothers band, Pathway, a bluegrass band emphasis on gospel. Alternate Roots started in the 1990s with Scott, Katy, Tony and Willard on their first album, Tales of Love and Sorrow. They added Randy Pasley on dobro, who appeared on their second album and the others following. Steve Lewis came in next with bluegrass banjo and lead guitar for their third and fourth albums. It became a dynamic band. The show Friday night seemed like a combo of the full orchestra that Alternate Roots became. After the fourth album, Planted In Tradition, the band went away, their last show being at the Carter Fold off hwy 58 a half hour or so beyond Bristol, VA/TN. I made several photographs and a few videos of the Friday night show. Caught myself while holding the video camera singing along and had to be conscious of my own unconscious singing. I've not been there in probably seven to eight months. Stopped going in winter when the dark came early and Galax headlights made my eyes crazy at a time everybody is going home from work. I fell out of the habit of going, and missed several shows I might have gone to, but let them go, dreading the drive. When I saw that Alternate Roots was playing, I made it a point to be there. It was good to be back after so long a break to see familiar faces who go every week. My friends visiting from Atlanta, Lucas and Judy, intended to go, but Lucas had a spell of not feeling well, so Judy went along and had a stellar musical experience.
 
katy taylor, tony testerman, willard gayheart
 

katy and tony
 
Katy and Willard did most of the singing. I always like hearing Katy and Willard sing. I know all the songs and sing with them inside my head. Tony plays a bass with quite a lot more going on than just keeping rhythm. He keeps the rhythm so well the musicians don't have to think about the rhythm, and he plays it in such a way it enhances the song flowing with the melody as well as the rhythm. He is not a thump-thump bass player. There were times I would like to have heard just Tony's bass, not necessarily a solo, but to hear better what he was doing with the strings. We tend to think of the people who keep rhythm as secondary to the band. But they are as integral to the band's sound as the banjo or fiddle, lead guitar or dobro. Willard's rhythm guitar playing is amazing picking when I pay close attention to what he is doing. He does not strum. He picks two strings, individually, each swipe of the pick. His noting fingers change chords without thought. He's 81 and been picking since childhood. Katy picks a good rhythm guitar too. Katy's delight was visible having a chance to pick with Willard. She told me some years ago she loves making music with Willard. There were times I saw her watching Willard sing like she was in awe. And for good reason. She hears Willard. Willard's singing and picking do not draw attention to themselves. He sings a song to deliver the words. Pay close attention to Willard's singing once and you'll always pay attention thereafter. Willard has taken the Hank Williams song, Mama Tried, and made it his own. To my ear, he has made The Yellow Rose of Texas his own. Before I heard the words Willard goes by, the original lyrics before it was changed to be the Texas state flower, I wondered why old-time fiddlers of the past liked the song. It makes a beautiful fiddle tune, and with Willard's lyrics it makes a beautiful song.
 
willard gayheart
 
willard  a-pickin and a-singin
 
Willard sings in the mountain tradition of, it's the song not the singer. In pop music, like in the Rolling Stones lyric, it's the singer not the song. In hillbilly music the singer delivers the song in his own style of singing. Being true to the integrity of the song applies to vocals as well as to the instruments. Willard sang lead vocals with his Galax bluegrass band, The Highlanders, over forty years. He sang with the bands he and Scott made together, Skeeter and the Skidmarks and Alternate Roots. He likes Texas swing, too, makes good music with Bob Wills songs, Take Me Back To Tulsa, Little Red Wagon. Scott likes Bob Wills, says his dad played Bob Wills all the time he was growing up. Willard and Scott play often and have recorded some Texas swing. Scott does a good version of Bob Wills' Roly Poly, and makes it his own, to my ear. Scott and Willard don't slow the Texas swing down, either. I used to care nothing for Texas swing, then heard Willard and Scott playing it. At an Alternate Roots show in Jefferson, the next town to the west of Sparta, I heard Willard sing Catfish John. They never put it on a recording, but that night Willard brought Catfish John to life for me. Katy's vocals gave Alternate Roots its own special sound. Her first song at the show was the John Prine song, Hello In There. Katy makes that one her own. I've heard John Prine sing it, and it's good. But after I've heard him sing it once, that's enough. I can hear Katy sing it over and over. It is on Alternate Roots first album. She sings it like a gospel song. Come to think of it, Katy sings everything with the reverence given a gospel song.
 
katy a-pickin and a-grinnin
 
katy a-singin
 
I was glad my friend Judy had a chance to hear Katy perform. Judy played guitar and sang in her school years and let it go preoccupied with being a wife and mother while having a full time job. Now that her baby is grown and gone with a baby of her own, Judy has retired from her work and needs something to occupy her attention. She is taking up the guitar again and singing. Katy was an inspiration for her. Judy was appreciating her singing to the full. Judy bought Alternate Roots first album, the combo that played Friday night, and spoke with Katy some about singing. Judy is a good singer. I'd like to see her bring it out in the open again. So what if she hasn't played and sang in over thirty years. Tommy Jarrell and Pop Birchfield, both by different circumstances, stopped playing fiddle for forty years. When they took it up again, they were the great fiddlers of their time. Evidently, not playing for such a period of time must be to the good for the individual musician. I'm thinking of an experiment where one participant threw a basketball at a hoop half an hour a day for a month. Another threw a basketball in his mind at a hoop half an hour a day for a month. At the end of the month, both had improved the same. It tells me Jarrell and Birchfield played the fiddle quite a lot, probably every day, in their minds while working in the fields, making liquor, whatever they were doing. I imagine Judy has continued to play in her mind. Scott played the fiddle and the mandolin. His brother Mark played Scott's mandolin some while Scott played fiddle. They grew up making music together, they play in a bluegrass band together, they know how to flow together making music. It was combo music the band made, relaxed and flowing free, music made by people who have flowed together musically for a great many years. 
 

scott freeman and mark freeman
 
scott and mark
 
 
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Friday, July 25, 2014

GREAT SPECIAL EFFECTS


alice neel
 
Waiting at the bank drive-thru today, I was looking at the meadow across the road from the bank, about an acre between the post office and the house on the corner. The meadow was alive with Queen Anne's lace, the flower. Did not take camera, so I sat there and memorized the meadow, and now it's back in my head alongside an auditory memory, Neil Young singing, Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies. Mother Nature, by the twenty teens, couldn't run fast enough. International corporations that (who?) answer to no one have declared genocide---that's Christian for jihad---on Mother Nature. This new century we're in, depicted in sci-fi as futuristic, unimaginably advanced, is looking like the trend is going the other way, deconstruction of the renascence of the Twentieth Century. It was called the Reformation after the Renaissance, and the Dark Ages after the Classical Age. The present reformation was begun by the Reagan Revolution, which really was a revolution. It turned our direction away from the Progress of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, to dismantling, step by step, the social advances of the time, erasing Roosevelt's existence. Lord, how the John Birch Society hated Roosevelt. It would have been all right if only white people benefitted from the social advances of the 1930s and 40s. But somebody black benefitted. Unacceptable. The Reagan Revoution is characterized by the systematic deconstruction of every social program that benefitted black people, first, then went after any benefit to working class white people. The falsehood of trickle-down was used by way of propaganda to justify it; war on the poor is how it worked out.  
 
alice neel
 
I've been remembering a Hollywood movie of the mid-90s, Independence Day, with Jeff Goldblum and other familiar faces, the blockbuster of its week in the lights. It concerned several space ships, each fifteen miles diameter, here to scoop up the earth's surface for its minerals. They zap big cities about the same as with an H-bomb. They want to kill every living thing and take the crust we live on. I'd remembered this much about it, and recognized at the time, in its first weeks in theaters, its emphasis on what the international corporations were doing to the crust of the earth under our feet, corporations "too big to fail," too big to defeat, like the alien space ships. I ordered it from netflix and saw it two evenings ago with friends, Lucas and Judy, visiting from Georgia, their cabin across the road among the trees. Just a few minutes into it, I was ashamed I'd recommended it. By the time it was over, I saw my credibility for movie suggestions take a nose-dive, crash and burn. Again. Remembering the time I suggested they see Ernest Goes To Camp. After Independence Day, I suppose I have no credibility left. It was cheesy. It was Hunt For Red October cheesy. The president flying a fighter jet shooting down alien fighter jets, the mad scientist in Area 51 killed by the tentacled alien he kept alive to study. It was Charlie Chan and early Jane Fonda movies cheesy. It was a children's film with adult actors playing children. Befitting the cheesiest of movies, Jeff Goldblum's character is named David, emphasized several times, Hey, DAVID. His name was spoken as through a megaphone until the last dim-witted one in the audience got it. Oh yeah, David and Goliath, little man, big space ships. Duh. David is the guy everybody in the office was bored with for reminding them to put their empty soft drink cans in the recycling receptacle instead of dropping them on the office floor like they do by habit. He was also a mathematical genius who figured out how to defeat all the big spaceships at once before they destroyed our heroes the camera was watching.
 
alice neel
 
The movie started with hearing REM on the radio, It's the end of the world as we know it. I got the feeling it was telling me this could be a fairly cool movie, opening with REM. It wasn't long before I realized that was a false reading. It just happened to be REM singing that song. The Bee Gees would have been more suited to the movie. REM gave false hope. The wave of the movie's rhythm went from corny to really corny. The genius's eureka formula that defeated the impregnable amounted to a glorified third grade science project. The drama wasn't even gripping. It brought to mind a movie I made the mistake of seeing with Jon Voight, Anaconda. It was so blatantly corny that when Anaconda struck, I laughed. It was too ridiculous to regard in any way but hilarious. Independence Day was not quite as bad as Anaconda, but they are in the same bottom league. David saved the world by slinging the stone, planting a virus, and killing Goliath with one rock, and taking down the whole fleet of evil space ships with one virus. David had to fly a jet into the computer system of one of the devil ships, assisted by Will Smith piloting his jet. Responsible white man with genius mind and responsible black man with genius skills save the world, the white president and first lady, too. The story involved the white house, military planning spaces, hundreds of televisions with graphs on them, a general standing around looking authoritative. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, each had a love interest that gave them hope when there was no other to be found. Goldblum's white girlfriend wanted with a Protestant zeal to be hyper-successful, advisor to the president. Goldblum had to outdo her important role by saving the earth and humanity with it.
 
alice neel
 
Will Smith had his babe he gave an engagement ring to, Vivica A Fox. They had an uncanny way of finding each other when they needed to. One time, she was in the ruins of zapped LA, dragging her little boy around, son of Will Smith, the actor, running from ruin to ruin looking for her man, and found him walking on the salt flats of Nevada. Oh, there you are, baby. Thought I'd never find you. Often, I felt like the movie was about to break out and reveal its true self, a John Waters film. The cast was familiar from pop movies, though I could only name a few, the ones already named. The general, an actor I've seen a dozen times, the stereotypical general, turned out to be the shortest person in the movie. I started noticing him early in his appearances that he seemed awfully short. He looks like he is at least six feet tall, when he may be no more than five feet. It came to the place for me that every time he was in a scene I was looking at all the other people in relation to him, assessing his actual size. In his  uniform surrounded by short people, he looks like a big man. In the same movie with Jeff Goldblum, basketball player height, the actor playing general, whose name I have never known, looked almost like a midget among the other actors, even with Goldblum when he was sitting down. It seemed somewhat jarring to realize this cliché general I've seen at least a dozen times was so short. These were the kinds of details that occupied my mind for lack of anything else to pay attention to. About an hour into it, Lucas got up and went to bed. Judy and I elected to see it through, laughing at ourselves for wanting to see it through to completion. The greatest laugh of all came when the town drunk, who flew a crop-dusting plane like a cowboy, was seen flying a fighter jet. Major transition. Mister Common Man sacrifices his worthless life that others might live, saves the world by flying his jet into the space ship's vulnerable spot to make it explode. Or something. The film was interesting only as an allegory, and one very poorly realized. I couldn't help but think of Fifties sci-fi movies like This Island Earth or It Came From Outer Space. Independence Day had the same quality, but with great advances in filmmaking behind it. It was a movie that about all anybody can say of it would be, great special effects, like was said of Jessica Lange's King Kong. The substance of a Tom & Jerry cartoon drama. 
 
alice neel herself
 
 
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

TAO TE CHING 23


eva hesse


          TAO TE CHING 23


          Express yourself completely,

          then keep quiet.

          Be like the forces of nature:

          when it blows, there is only wind;

          when it rains, there is only rain;

          when the clouds pass, the sun shines
                                                        through.


          If you open yourself to the Tao,

          you are at one with the Tao

          and you can embody it completely.

          If you open yourself to insight,

          you are at one with insight

          and you can use it completely.

          If you open yourself to loss,

          you are at one with loss

          and you can use it completely.


          Open yourself to the Tao,

          then trust your natural responses;

          and everything will fall into place.


                     -----tr by Stephen Mitchell

 
 
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ALTERNATE ROOTS THE BAND

 
scott freeman and willard gayheart

Yesterday, Tuesday, I learned the band I love beyond all others will be playing in Woodlawn, Virginia, this coming Friday, Alternate Roots, a regional bluegrass band. Four of the band members live in Ashe County, NC, two live at Woodlawn, VA, and one in Alaska. Like other great bands, Jane's Addiction and Rage Against The Machine, they made four great albums and disbanded due to circumstances. Bands breaking up is as intimate to members as a divorce. It's rough on everybody concerned and they don't talk about it. I learned never to ask why a band broke up, because nobody can give an answer that matters to anyone outside the band. Like after a divorce, it's hard to explain beyond a few words, a nutshell assessment. But the rest of it can't be told. It's too intimate and often too irrational to attest to. The band goes back to my time in the music store, Backwoods Beat Music, in Sparta that lasted four years. It is a rule of thumb in Sparta that if a business lasts three years, it has a good chance of lasting awhile. Finally, downloads happened, gas prices went up appreciably, work became harder to find. My local customers didn't have pocket change anymore and they were half my business. The other half was people passing through, visiting family, touring, driving, new people to the mountains. Gas prices shut down tourism in the mountains and real estate. Then in January of 07, radio and television news told every day for two weeks that the cd business is over. That was it. Shut it right down. Doctor told me I had a heart attack, though I had no recollection of it. He said it could have happened while sleeping. I don't know if that was it, but something changed. I had fallen into a state of watching the store go away, so without humor I was glad to shut down, box everything up and go home. I had achieved my purpose. I'd put thousands of copies of mountain music into the sound systems of a lot of people, spread the gospel of hillbilly music at home. Made it available to the people who love it and people discovering it.
 
scott freeman
 
It was during the first months of the store that Scott Freeman came in one day and asked if he could use the space to give music lessons one afternoon a week. I was all for it; this was what I was there for, to advance the music in whatever ways I could. I couldn't charge him rent. He drove from Woodlawn, an hour drive one way, and didn't make much from students. This was somebody giving himself to advancing the music. I felt like we had the same purpose. How could I charge him rent? He was making little and dependent on what he made. I couldn't take anything from him. Besides, he brought life into the place. I felt like I ought to pay him. Scott played mandolin and fiddle with Alternate Roots and sang. He's as good a singer as a musician. Scott I call a master musician without fear of contradiction from any musician in the region. He is an artist more interested in his own musicianship than being popular. He has written so many good songs, really good songs, and recorded them, he could be called a "singer-songwriter," though he thinks of himself more a musician playing in a band, or, in his case, two, three and four bands at a time. Like me, he makes no effort toward self-promotion. No self-advertising. He wants his musicianship to carry him, and it does. In the time of the radio show I had a computer I could make cds with, and made one with I think 18 songs on it, all songs written by Scott and performed by him with his bands and solo recordings. It made a great album. I gave it to Scott, as he had never put them together on a disk. As an artist, he is one who lives in the now. Whatever band he's playing with is where his focus goes. He worked laying cinderblock several years until he hurt his back and couldn't do it anymore. He makes his living teaching kids to play old-time and bluegrass all day every work day. He's as good a teacher as a musician, too. At a certain point in their training, he puts some of them together and teaches them how to play in a band. They give themselves a name and he teaches them how to make a recording by doing it. He also gives them experience playing for an audience.
 
willard gayheart
 
His number of students in Sparta dried up about the same time the store faded away, and soon after, the radio station shut down. I gave my collection of regional music I'd collected by way of the store to the library. Now they have a good collection of regional music. With both store and radio show in the past, the core of what they were about continues for the community. I feel like the store and the radio show were a success while they were happening and continue by way of the library to be a success. Neither one failed. It was circumstances coming in from outside that shut them down. Why did I start a business in a working class mountain town three years into the Bush-Cheney Depression? I did not believe it would get better any time soon, only get worse, as it did. I was jumping on the last chance to do what I felt I had to do and could do: remind the county of its own music, which was being quickly forgotten. My feeling was that people come together in community during hard times, and hard times is a-comin. When the poorest people are unable to pay electric bills or phone bills anymore, the music will thrive. Can't play country or heavy metal cds anymore, but we can make our own music. In the old days it is said on a Friday evening you'd hear a banjo ringing somewhere in a holler and people started walking to it, some with instruments. A band and dancers just come outta the woodwork. The old people I knew who are gone a long time now all said, without exception, the hard times were the best times. They were happy. Early on, I suspected different ones of looking back to the Golden Age, like the past is always better. I became convinced they knew what they were saying after several years of knowing several people, all of them in agreement that the old days of carrying water in a bucket, using outhouses, eating year-round what you grew in the summer, heat from a wood stove, men hunting rabbits and squirrels. A great old-time song comes to mind, Squirrel Heads And Gravy. My favorite title of old-time fiddle tunes, that often have beautiful titles, is Grasshopper On a Watermelon Vine. I can see a fiddler practicing his fiddle on the porch or someplace outside, sitting on a stump where he split wood by the barn, the garden close by, working out a new fiddle tune he had in his head. Having a hopeless time trying to  think of a title that is right, not good with words, eliminating everything that came to mind for one reason or another. Gazing off into space, playing the tune, looking inside his mind, distracted seeing a grasshopper land on a watermelon vine and stand there. The rhythm in the fusion of these words might have sounded just right with his tune as he heard it in his fiddle.
 
scott freeman
 
It was becoming acquainted with Scott that I learned about Alternate Roots. Kept their cds in the store. When they recorded what turned out to be their last cd, Planted In Tradition, I put ten copies in the store on a table. When somebody asked, "What's the best?" I'd hand them a copy. "This is it." To my ear, it is a magical album. Scott said they just threw it together, didn't get anxious about it, just let it happen. He was thinking it was their worst, and I was saying it was their best. I'd put it on now and play it, but I'd never get anything written for listening. It would take me over like Prince or Patti Smith. I checked amazon and found all the Alternate Roots cds are available either new or used. I asked Scott by way of facebook if Randy, the dobro player living in Alaska now would be there. No, he won't be there and Steve Lewis, banjo and guitar, won't be there. That's ok. Willard Gayheart, guitar and vocals, Katy Taylor, guitar and vocals, Tony Testerman, bass, and Scott Freeman, mandolin, fiddle and vocals, will be there. I call Alternate Roots my favorite band and Katy Taylor my favorite bluegrass singer, not exaggerating. A moment came to mind, possibly ten years ago, I had been visiting friend Jr Maxwell after work, was leaving to come home. Turned on the car, the radio came on, WBRF, the Galax station. A song I knew was just beginning, Out Of The Blue. The female voice was familiar. Rhonda Vincent? Almost, but not. Allison Krauss? Almost, but not. I could only think, Who is that? I know the voice, who is it? I couldn't think of any female bluegrass singers it could be. It almost could have been Vincent or Krauss, but it was not. I puzzled and puzzled with it, listening to a song I knew the words to. At the end of the song, the dj said it was Alternate Roots. I knew the song better than I knew any song by Vincent or Krauss. I'd been to fourteen AR concerts, had all their albums, listened to them, played them on the radio show. It was Katy Taylor singing a song Scott wrote. I was looking in my mind for Nashville bluegrass names, never thinking local. Nothing about the band sounded anything short of Nashville musicians. It was that moment I heard Katy and Alternate Roots the first time without associations of knowing them. In that moment I declared Katy my favorite bluegrass singer. Katy, to my ear, was the same as any that might be called the best, though with her own voice, her own way of singing. I so look forward to hearing Katy, Scott, Willard and Tony play Alternate Roots songs again.  
 
scott and willard between songs
 
 
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Monday, July 21, 2014

IN MY OPINION, BUT GRACIOUSLY

alexander calder
 
It's early Monday morning, first light. An appointment to repair a brake line in the car that has a rusted hole in it. The fluid in the left front brake holds enough to operate brakes enough to stop when necessary. I carry a quart of brake fluid for this purpose. The line broke Thursday. No problem staying at home. The appointment is for ten o'clock. I have an affliction that makes me worry about getting up on time when I have a morning appointment. I can't get to sleep the night before. The alarm system on the clock radio is so complex I've never attempted to figure it out. Went to sleep early last night to insure I'd get up early. Often when I lie down too early, I'll be awake all night. I turn the radio on down low and let it play while sleeping. I hear BBC news that is mostly African in the night, Nigeria and Kenya, the British colonies. The volume is down to where I can only hear what they're saying by listening closely. Mostly, it's just white noise. I use it when mind is racing. The white noise acts as a scrambling device for mind's ongoing activity, thoughts quit attempting to compete with BBC, mind shuts down and here comes sleep. I'm reminded of a quotation I wrote down from a utube interview with artist, Agnes Martin. She said, I don't have any ideas of my own, and I don't believe anybody else's. That leaves me with clear mind. I say, thank you, BBC, for clear mind. I've come to get used to hearing news from Africa. Like news from everyplace else, it's about killing. This bunch killed that bunch. And that bunch killed this bunch. African killing is up close, in your face with machetes and machine guns mounted on the beds of Nissan pickups, operated by hyper-stoned pre-teen boys. It's a totally different attitude toward life and death from mine. American news comes from a different attitude toward life and death from mine, as well.
 
 
alexander calder
 
That's a presumptuous saying, implying I know what my attitude toward life and death is. I ask self what I mean and get no answer. Even implying I know what their attitude is toward life and death. It's just different. Maybe the difference can help me to define my own. Like it takes darkness to define light and the other way around. Duality. Warlord mentality is medieval. Kings and castles of old Europe were warlords. China before unification was six provinces ruled by warlords. It looks like Africa is attempting to bridge the gap between the medieval and the post-modern world in a few decades. It's six decades after the civil rights laws in USA, and American racism has not diminished the least little bit. It went underground. Nothing like a black president to surface the racist submarine. American racism is out in the open where it can be dealt with out in the open. The black people are hunkering down, keeping a low profile, flying below the radar, staying out of white man's cross-hairs the best they know how. Many are not successful. Here, concerning my attitude toward life, racism never made sense to me. I came up in a racist family in a racist white baptist culture where racism was a natural law, like gravity. I learned in the Navy and from then on that regarding black people with the same respect as white people makes me a nigger-lover. Oh well. I'd rather be a nigger-lover than have a white robe in my closet for special occasions. I can't help but think the shrinking globe of our time has something to do with the clash of cultures going on all over the globe. Also, the USA has its tentacles in every country on earth, and the world is turning against us for it. Even Germany is now insulted by American arrogance. My attitude toward life does not want to dominate any country. It doesn't want to dominate anybody. I asked my friend Pat, who goes to Costa Rica for a month every year, how Costa Rica can exist without a military to protect itself at least somewhat from USA. She said Costa Rica has nothing USA wants; no oil, no minerals, no gold. They have nothing to fear.
 
alexander calder
 
One bit of sound counsel came to me from daddy in childhood. Because he barely made it through school after the sixth grade, he told me, your education is one thing nobody can take away from you. Last week I was asked why a man would want to take philosophy courses in college, you can't do nothin with it. A volcano of wind exhaled from my lungs, "For your life!" It can be very important in your life. I know a guy majored in philosophy at Chapel Hill working as a welder. He also has a fairly even temperament because he's a thinker, even reads books. He's not jumping up and down inside, waiting for the chance to fight somebody that looked at him wrong. Nor does he carry a "nine" in the back of his pants in case somebody who wants to kill him turns up. I can't help but feel like one's attitude toward life is a basic driving force. I've used my adult life to improve my own. Early on I had a fairly sour attitude toward life. Therefore, what I gave out was sour and what I got in return was sour, reinforcing what I believed about the world around me, a projection of myself. As my attitude toward life changed, the world around me changed, the people around me changed. My attitude toward life includes compassion and kindness in these years; therefore, I have plenty to draw from when needed. I've honed it down to what I call the gospel in a fortune cookie: Love God and treat others right. My next art object will have these words on it. My personal interpretation of others includes non-human others; the four-legged, the winged, the six-legged, the no-leggeds. When I treat others right, including donkeys, others tend to treat me right. I've "trained" the donkeys not to kick me by their own will, not by fear. I treat them right; they treat me right.

alexander calder
 
In the column of quotations on the right is one I hold to myself by Meher Baba as a reminder: (I paraphrase) Opinions reside in a superficial layer of the mind, having no affect on the core of personality, wherein resides one's attitude toward life. I have opinions, though I do not regard them truth. The Worthington coat of arms motto: In my opinion, but graciously. It reads like something in my horoscope. This was back when the name was in northern England, before anybody crossed the Atlantic. John Worthington, the original one to cross the water in my line, lost eight kids and his wife during and soon after the crossing. He had an inn in Philadelphia and a cattle ranch outside the city, in the same time Ben Franklin was there. He was a Quaker exiled from England for his faith. He found a second wife and raised several more kids. I didn't know any Worthingtons of the past, not grandfather, greatgrandfather, not even cousins. Of the Worthington third and fourth cousins I've met, I can see "in my opinion, but graciously." I can see it in photographs of distant relatives. It's a firmness in the face like standing on both feet, yet not aggressive. About ten years ago I met a 4th cousin at Ninemile, Tennessee. On sight, he said, "I can see the Worthington in you." I believe it is that attitude he saw in the set of the face, the eyes. I saw it in him too. For my part, but graciously amending in my opinion says I do not take my opinions for natural law. They grow out of my limited experience. I don't have a problem talking with somebody whose opinions are different from mine, though find few able to do the same in turn. It's like the old country sayin, Opinions is like assholes; everbody's got one. An attitude toward life I'm glad I entertain is that everybody has their own way of seeing by way of individual experience. No two can be alike. It's how it's meant to be. It's in the very life force itself. I feel much better about self when I fall in line with understanding we all have our own experience, our own minds, our own selves. The beauty is, like shells on the beach, no two are alike.   
 
alexander calder himself
 
 
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

GRUMPY OLD BASTARD HEARS THE RAIN

 


Another all day rainy day. Sprinkles, nowhere near a gully-washer, a soak into the ground kind of rain, the kind that waters everything gently and raises the receding water table. It's a beautiful day with the leaves everywhere glossy reflecting silver sky. The wild violet stems extend straight up, leaf open to receive the damp air, dance when struck by a drop fallen from the tree above. Trees soften the force of the rain hitting the ground like they soften the wind and summer sunlight. I must live at least near, preferably among trees. I've never understood the determined American genocide on trees. I do, but also don't. Money is the answer and the passion for money disregards everything else. Mammon is not a benevolent god. I must go to netflix and bring up that Jeff Goldblum movie, Independence Day. I remember being disappointed by its Hollywood silliness, but also remember it had quite a lot to say. Big alien mining spaceships were killing off everything living and scooping up the earth's crust for the minerals. We  had no defense. They were scooping up everything, already had half the USA and heading this way. Koch Brothers. Exxon. And a long list more. They have the money. They control the economy. The Appalachian chain, source of water for the eastern half of the continent, is being fracked from one end to the other. Our continent is being made into a desert under our feet, the politicians advancing the desolation kept popular among the people by propaganda. When Yellowstone blows, the western half of the US continent will be rendered desert. The eastern half will turn desert without water. No force is powerful enough to reverse this momentum. It will be known on maps as the Great American Desert. Too many people controlling so much money they have bought our government and turned it against us. We'll soon see the military, too. It's documented in the news every day, we're all watching helplessly, hopelessly, not wanting to admit it. Take another happy pill. Burn anothern. Thank you, Jesus.
 
 
I really did not want to go there. It's so ridiculous now, noticing the obvious is called liberal. Pay the least attention to the obvious and you're a liberal. Liberal, BR (Before Reagan), meant something. Left meant something. AR (After Reagan), liberal and left wing mean, admits to observing the obvious. Conservative and right wing mean, buys hate propaganda. Neither side of the artificial divide created by propaganda has anything to say for itself, but plenty to say about hate for the other side and everyone concerned. The economic depression is artificially created. Major corporations are expatriating themselves, like Walgreen moving its offices to Switzerland, to evade paying US taxes for soaking us. The one percent are talking about the ninety-nine percent coming to get them with pitchforks. What arrogance. Delights me that the Worthington coat of arms has pitchforks. Now that we have a party for teabaggers, why not a party for pitchforkers. Only problem is, I want simple, not complicated. How about no party at all. How about I just stop paying attention to the irrelevant. The American political system has rendered itself irrelevant. So why pay it any mind? Why reward ignorance with attention? I can't stop them, can't change them. They have all power over me. So the Supreme Court appoints Sarah Palin president. What can I do? Watch it on tv. I have no power over them, not even recourse. Best thing for me to do is hunker down at home and feed carrots to donkeys, amen. I must clear my head of the garbage. At the same time, the world around me is crumbling, falling apart, breaking down. How can I ignore it? It doesn't touch me here at my donkey meadow, yet. I go into town and see a few people I know and we speak for a few minutes, friendly.
 
 
I remind self the people I live among, the people I know, facebook friends, are my world. The rest of it is a mental construct in my head built with imaginary Legos of false information. Why occupy mind with false information that is propaganda anyway. What do I lose by withdrawing my attention from the false? Nothing. What do I gain from more attention to my immediate surroundings, to the people in my life, to cat and donkeys? Everything. My life. Among the people I know, on my mountain with cat, donkeys, facebook and blogger is where my attention belongs, not feeling hopeless and helpless witnessing democracy go away out in the open and its demise be a popular thing. The water on my mountain has been poisoned by Christmas tree cultivation. The native trout that survived Waterfalls Creek being fished out and DDT runoff several decades ago have been wiped out at last by fake notions about the Christ. What can I do but laugh and go on? I'm glad the water table went down from subdivision use; it dried up my spring so I can't drink poison water from it. The water I drink now comes from a well, a few layers of rock below, but poison nonetheless. They ask why so much cancer is going around, blaming everything except that the water of the eastern half of the USA is poisoned at its source, the springs in the mountains, all up and down the Appalachian chain. Poisoning the water has too much money invested in it to stop. I find it heartening that I don't have a great deal longer. In Homelandia, as it is becoming with our ethical foundations being swept away by the television and affection for money, together, adding up to a great black hole of emptiness in greater American culture. Why do I feel so compelled to pay attention to the false workings of the Death Star that are false at the core? Drama? Am I afraid I'll miss something? Am I seeing history unfold? It's engagingly interesting to look at it as history, though the line must be drawn and adhered to, to keep emotion out of it. How do I do that when I think I care? Educate myself to uncare? Yes. What is it to care about? It doesn't care about me.
 
by constantine manos
a greek portfolio
 
I was trained from childhood up to care about America the Democracy, not Homelandia. Now I have  nothing where my-country-tis-of-thee is concerned. The feeling is something like it must have felt to be Hungarian when the Soviet Union incorporated Hungary. How could Hungarians care when missiles, tank cannons, an entire army and air force were aimed at them? No recourse. Hunker down, let it be. Follow Voltaire's counsel, mind my own garden. I'll shepherd my own flock, tend my donkeys, visit with friends, stay home and pursue my art interests, hold Caterpillar, go on doing what I do, but keep my mind out of the swirling cesspool of false values. Why not give more mind to thinking about the nature of God? It's a subject infinitely interesting, something like sailing; no matter how many years you've done it, how much or what kind of experience you've had, there is always something new to learn. I must lift the sights of my interior world, raise self above paying attention to ignorance, read in scriptures instead. Wouldn't that be a good exercise. Keep a Tao te Ching at hand to open it when I feel the impulse to turn on radio news. Read a verse from Lao Tzu and dwell in it for five minutes. I daresay it is a tempting exercise. It could be done at first when I feel like it, then maybe as an exercise for a day, kind of like stopping smoking a day at a time. Let go of paying attention to propaganda called news, clear my head of it a day at a time. Let it go like a helium balloon, watch it shrink to a pinpoint in blue sky and vanish. What do I care about current history anymore? I'd rather read Henry Miller's Rosy Crucifixion. I'd rather look at pictures in a book of photographs by Constantine Manos, A Greek Portfolio, photographs of rural island people who continue to live the traditional ways. People living so remotely they don't know what is going on in Athens but through rumor, changed to unrecognizable by the time it reaches them, and they really don't want to know. That's what I want to be, a donkey herder in the mountains. I must let go of the interest that holds my ear to the daily soap opera from the dark side and tune attention more to the light side, to poetry, good writing, scriptures, music, rain.
 
color photos by tj worthington
 
 
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