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Monday, August 31, 2015

GENTLENESS WORKS

jenny chews a carrot
 
The chill of winter creeps in the open door after sunset. It approaches in the gloaming. The gloaming is the time of day between sunset and dark. No distinct shadows, the entire sky the source of light. The clouds change colors, make a slow light show in the sky. I looked up gloaming in the dictionary and found it to be Old English from the word glom for twilight, akin to Old English glowan, to glow. This is what I like about the gloaming, it's glowing quality. I looked at synonyms and found most of them had to do with dark and shadows, shade. Not my association at all. I had to think about it and remember the latter part of the gloaming fades into dark, but it is a short time. The glowing sky appeals to me about the gloaming. Outside that time of day, a pink cloud will catch my eye and I'll think, the gloaming. Edgar Allan Poe liked the sound of murmur. I like gloaming. It has a similar feel, less French, more English. The g's at both ends are very soft.
 
jack chews a carrot
 
I continue to feel sorrow over the family of sister's boy. Inside myself, I see no constructive purpose in hitting a child, despite all the justifications. The kids I've seen grow up who were never hit by parents have no anger in them as adults. They're gentle, sensitive, intelligent people with unlimited potential. One went through Berkeley's PhD program. Another is in Philadelphia doing her internship with two more years to go. Two of the most balanced, intelligent people I know. Others I know whose parents vented their frustrations on them, calling it discipline, have high blood pressure from anger, an out of balance life full of conflict drama. I have raised several dogs and cats without hitting them or scolding them. They were more obedient than obedience training could accomplish. I treat them right and they want to please me. Kids want to please parents that treat them right, and kids want to annoy parents that don't treat them right. It's karma. You get what you give. It's also a basic law of physics, action > reaction. 

jenny's Cleopatra eye

I never hit, scold or talk down to my donkey friends. I feed them snacks, talk to them in a friendly way, touch them gently with no intent to control. They regard me the same. I have no concern about either one of them kicking me. They would not kick me, because I am only gentle with them, because I am their friend. I have disproven everyone who has told me the donkeys will kick me, I need to carry a stick. Maybe with donkeys I don't know, but not my donkey friends. I would be hesitant around a donkey I don't know. They're fast. They react quick as a cat. With a donkey I don't know, I'd approach it with arms down at my sides, not moving them. I'd want some carrots. Without carrots, I'd talk to the donkey. I have found with animals I don't know that they listen when I tell them they have beautiful eyes, beautiful fur, beautiful ears, beautiful nose. Donkey Jenny melts when I tell her she has beautiful Cleopatra eyes. They are groomers. They're vain about their appearance. I tell them they're beautiful, that I adore their eyes, their smooth fur, their tails. I become for them a human who notices them as they want to be seen. They don't forget. Next time I see them, we know each other.
 
caterpillar's eye
 
The four-leggeds seldom meet a human who connects with them as conscious beings. They want this connection so desperately that when they get it, they cherish it. It's how I instantly become friends with dogs and cats I meet. Years ago, one day walking in the woods on a snowy day, a tan and white pit bull came bounding through the trees at me, barking furiously. I had no gun, no stick. Against a dog, I was totally defenseless. By then I knew dogs well enough not to be anxious. Dog stopped about ten feet away, to check me out, smell, measure and weigh me, assess whether I was a threat or a friendly. I spoke to the dog. How you doin, dog? Told him I liked his colors, said he looked like a big, powerful dog. Dog walked toward me. I didn't move. I let the dog sniff legs and feet, hands. I talked, told him I was impressed by how fast he could run. Next, he was asking me to pet him. I pet him some, talked some more and the dog proceeded to walk with me. Some new people moved into a house nearby, dog was out exploring its new territory. The dog and I were friends from then on.
 
jenny's beautiful nose
 
 
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Saturday, August 29, 2015

NO WAY OUT

 
jenny
 
Sat down a little bit ago to start writing, the phone rang, youngest sister in Wichita, Kansas, the city and state owned by the Koch brothers. She called to tell that her boy's kids were taken away by Social Services over him spanking one of them, turned in by a teacher at school. This strikes me so fascist it throws me into the slough of despond. I recall propaganda from the past telling us Nazis turned children against parents, Communists turned children against parents. It's in Orwell's 1984. I don't know what is behind the story. First thing I see is the ongoing assault of the American judicial system on the poor. The poor have no recourse. Easy targets. I don't know what is behind nephew's case, but it is common slang among lawyers to call Social Services "baby snatchers" and "elder snatchers." I've been under the watchful, threatening eye of SS that kept me a nervous wreck helping an elder friend stay out of a nursing home. Hospice, thankfully, removed the SS threat and gave assistance. I never understood why SS never offered help, only threatened and inspected. I understand that it is an agency of a fascist government and that's all it's necessary to understand. The problem is, I don't get it when it's called democracy, and do get it when I call it fascism.
 
jenny
 
I felt sad for nephew's family. They're good people. He was born with everything against him and has lived to age 40 with everything against him, considering a serious intelligence quotient issue. These are people I don't know how they live, but they do. They need help. The worst part is, they will need to pay a lawyer a substantial fee to get the kids back. This is why I call it an assault on the poor. If the family were middle class, it would never have come up. It's a hell of an expensive hassle in a country that calls itself Christian and hates the poor. It's what poor people go though in America, threats, blame and punishment. In nephew's case the punishment is several thousand to a lawyer, court costs, etc, the trauma of kids separated from parents and each other. Both parents working full time on minimum wage, five kids, living in poverty, they don't need a multiple thousand dollar expense dropped on them in punishment out of the blue. I could not be a lawyer, because I could not take their money. I have a few friends who have had issues under the threatening, controlling, eye of SS. They were all put through the wringer unconscionably over nothing, but needed lawyers and courts, money they didn't have to cover a new mountain in their debts, worry, days off from work, because America actively hates the working poor as much as the out-of-work poor.
 
jenny
 
It's a dark cloud I have seen sweep over my country while the population was asleep in television and consumerism, everybody having a great day on Zoloft and the legion of other mood enhancers. Though when a mood enhancer fails to profit Big Pharma, it's illegal. Hence, the War On The American People that started under the smokescreen of a "war on drugs," gets more militant every year and will continue. Prisons for profit and arrests for revenue. All of it targeting the working poor and the out-of-work poor. There is nothing I can do to change the situation. USA has more people in prison now than the Soviet Gulag did in Stalin's time. The American people have abandoned American principles as effete intellectual piecrust made to be broken. The process that has begun and progressed unto moving of its own momentum will play itself out unto its destructive completion. I have finally learned not to get emotionally tangled up in these processes I see in play that end in destruction after leaving a trail of destruction like a big-ass-tornado of fire. We've come to a place where American denial doesn't work anymore. The rug is not big enough to sweep all the dirt under. Time to buy a bigger rug. I'm glad I'm old. Every day I am grateful to be old.
 
jenny
 
A big sorrow overcame me with the word of nephew's new problem. I'm sure the child is all right, except for being taken away from mama, daddy, sisters and brothers, the guilt of triggering the whole mess, not knowing what she was doing. I don't know what happened. It could have been really bad, but I doubt it. Doubt it from a lifetime of experience seeing social changes, seeing how the legal system over-prosecutes and sweeps the unawares into nonexistence. I don't like seeing nephew caught in the spider web of Social Services. Once they've snagged you in their web, there is no getting out. I don't even register with the old people's center in town because it's associated with SS. While my own personal experience with SS has never been unpleasant, I've seen much that was severely unpleasant. What I've seen is their solutions to problems turn out far worse than the original problem. Reason has nothing to do with it. Compassion has even less to do with it. Laws are made by politicians for lobbyists. We the people have not a single lobbyist. Our government has turned on us and we have no backup but each other, which amounts to nothing, propaganda through corporate television keeping us divided. My sorrow is for nephew as one of hundreds of thousands, into millions, of working poor being traumatized by the justice system as easy kills, drone targets. I'm not saying nephew is innocent, only that the punishment for punishment sake went way into overkill, wrecked an entire family, threw all of them off their tracks, set them into deeper poverty. Because it's what's right. Another American Kafka nightmare.    
 
jenny
 
 
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

DO ABOUT WHAT?


andy warhol
 
What are we going to do about gun violence? A question I hear repeated again and again, every time we have another public attack by somebody frustrated unto suicide, so mad he wants to take everybody/anybody with him. Reading or hearing the question, I answer in a comment box of the mind, Nothing. Nothing at all, according to pattern, tradition. Every time the question pops up, What are we gonna to do about it?, what gets done consistently amounts to nothing. A run of articles, anti-gun people use the moment to advertise their agenda, make a lot of noise. It's like the question of capital punishment that surfaces from time to time is never resolved. The question, whether or not guns, is only answered with blame. Black people in church killed. A white boy done it, blame the whiteman flag. Easy target. This new one, black man killing white woman and white man on tv in Roanoke, looks more like he went postal from the frustration of being let go from a job. They say he had a bad attitude and deserved to be fired. Maybe so. But it's not how he saw it, like the post office employees who "went postal" out of frustration over losing their jobs in a time of republican downsizing post office staff to set USPO up for corporate takeover.
 

andy warhol
 
I tell self it doesn't matter to me, what I think about it is of no relevance to anyone but myself. It is other people's karma someplace far from where I am. The only part that matters to me is hearing the same old question every year of my life, What are we going to do about it? The only thing I've ever seen happen is the next crisis to come along replaces last week's old crisis. The question about guns is forgotten until next made-for-tv slaying by gun. It's talked about by talking heads with renewed urgency for a week, replaced by a smokescreen politician who said something notably stupid. What are we going to do about it? Nothing. What are we going to do about racism? Blame the South. Nothing. Blaming American rednecks and banning a flag increased sales of the flag by double, affirmed the white American working class identity with the flag and recruited for the Klan. Nearly everybody guided by propaganda through television, the tv renders everyday life insignificant, dysfunctional, a waste of time to notice. Homeland terrorist slayings are television. Racism is television. Police brutality is television. Let television settle it with guns and explosions. Television doesn't worry over logic or good sense in settling issues. Guns settle things on tv, the real world in America/Oceania. It naturally follows, guns solve problems in the unreal world of everyday life.

andy warhol
 
"Click and Share if you care." Thus concluded a brief video I saw not knowing what it would be. A white guy in plaid shirt and ball cap on backwards, I felt like it might be at least funny. The occasional redneck rant that appears on facebook is indeed funny. I don't share the politics, but I do understand their point of view and believe it valid. This guy was funny and not. He ranted about guns saying he was being practical about them by teaching his children, a boy and two girls, how to shoot a gun. He had the boy shoot a replica of a movie pistol, an air gun. He was being practical in a gun culture. I felt he was sensible. In the working class, everybody has guns, and I'm with them that it is important to teach the kids about guns before they find one and do something stupid with it. He talked about gun control as teaching the kids to control a gun. I, as myself, think it's nuts, yet I understand we live in a gun culture. When daddy has guns in the house, it is better for the kids to be taught to respect them than it is to label them taboo. I appreciated that he taught the kids with an air gun, comparatively harmless. Though he was a bit much of a Fake news enthusiast for my appreciation, I respected his point of view. I live in a world of people like him and know them to be good people. I could see in him if he lived in my community, he is what I'd call a good man. In the way I call Frank Dillard a good man, Randy Hampton a good man, Joe Willey a good man, three of many, only the first ones to come to mind. He ended his rant, "if you care, click and share." I didn't care enough to share, though I obviously cared enough to think about it after it was over and share my thoughts with you.

andy warhol

Thought about sending it to a friend for its comic value, but it felt too much like demeaning its purpose. The man had something to say, something he had reasoned out for himself, and I felt very well. I could not demean him so. He was doing something about gun violence. He was teaching his kids to be responsible by way of the gun for example. He was doing his part concerning an important issue that can only be dealt with one individual at a time. To see on television one side make noise and the other side make noise, it amounts to no more than a racket. I do my part by not having a gun and not intending to have one. I think they're cool for somebody else, but not for me. I don't like that I like the feel of one in my hand. They fit the hand like a glove, made for the hand. I feel like guns attract guns. They also get stolen. It would not do for somebody, whose aim is to live as close to the heart as can be done, to have at hand an object with only one purpose, to kill. I am not about killing. I don't even want a rabbit running under my tire. My path is love, not fear. I can't deny a gun's necessity to somebody else, anybody else. For myself, I see a gun illegitimate power, power I do not want. As a conscientious human being, I do not allow myself the right to kill, not even the dog that killed my cat.

andy warhol
 
 
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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

HAPPY DAY ~ NEW BATTERY

air bellows drive thru art museum
 
Yesterday I did nothing, yet accomplished a very great deal with the help of others. Took public transportation to Winston-Salem, Wake Forest hospital, to have defibrillator/pacemaker replaced. The battery in the previous one expired. Since they have a new model, the whole thing was replaced. The process of replacing it was perhaps the most relaxing part of the day. Being fussed over relaxes me. Sitting in the barber's chair having hair trimmed relaxes my interior such that I feel a bit wobbly standing up when it's over, like stepping outside in the light after seeing a matinee movie. Before and after, much activity and inactivity. A little over an hour in the van with Larry Cole driving for Alleghany In Motion, so grateful not to be driving, and grateful, too, the driver was someone I know and like, whose woman is someone I have a great deal of respect for. He let me out at the door. Next was morning exercise walking down a long hallway, up a flight of stairs, another hallway, follow the signs to the device clinic. Instructions said go to Admittance, but I had no idea where it was in the infinite labyrinth of white walls and ceilings, gray floors. I was carrying a copy of George Orwell's, 1984, for waiting periods.
 
air bellows drive thru art museum
 
In the elevator, G is the first floor up, M with a star in it is ground floor. Instead of the M button being under the G button, it's over to the side. Two columns of buttons zig-zag back and forth, rather than directly up and down. It has taken me several trips there to get it, thinking I may have got it this time. Though by next time it may have wiggled down the groundhog hole of memory loss, again. At Device Clinic, I was told to go to Admittance. Where? I was given directions, turn left, turn left, turn left, long crooked passageway. By the time I was out into the hallway, the directions were going every which way in my head and I turned left. Turned left again. Took elevator, turned left, long passageway, but it wasn't crooked. I asked a woman who worked there. I was at the far end of the building. She was going that way and led me to it. Thank you. In Admittance, I sat and waited, opened the book, read four pages, rereading a few paragraphs from inability to focus  in a big room with people in motion, people sitting, a tv going. I folded the book. Too much distraction catching my eyes and ears. Decided to sit and watch the activity in this room so huge people in the distance were small.
 
air bellows drive thru art museum
 
A woman my age came to take me to next stop in a wheelchair. I said I'd rather walk. Need the exercise. She weighed half as much as I do. I could not feel right taking the luxury of a wheelchair ride with her pushing it. It was a long walk, we talked, became acquainted pleasantly. Wait. Tried to read Orwell again, but found it hopeless again. Sat and watched the people sitting in the waiting room chairs. The old boy with round belly, plaid shirt, bald head, round face, the corners of his mouth pointing straight down. I thought, head full of anger propaganda from the Fake news network. His daughter was with him. Another man reading a book. He seemed to be having as successful a time as I had. My turn. A good nurse I liked was my guardian over changing into hospital skimpy, wheeled to the operating room, spread out on a comfortable table, legs strapped down, interesting pillow to hold head in place. Doctor had to cut open the pocket opening, take out old device, unplug it, plug in the new device, reinsert it, then patch up the slice in the skin. Local anesthetic, Novocain. The most it ever hurt was like taking a cat claw in the arm when putting Caterpillar down and she hangs on with one claw.
 
air bellows drive thru art museum
 
I was so relaxed throughout the process, it almost felt like on some painkiller. My feeling is the doctor and everyone concerned can do their work better if I'm relaxed with a clear mind. Sometimes it hurt like hell. I stayed calm like a good hillbilly and said to self, I can take it. When it comes to physical pains I've endured, this was nothing. It was better than working in a patch of briers with a scythe, raking one across the face. The pain was never more than a cat claw puncture. From patient etherized upon a table, wheeled to the waiting room where I was to rest connected to a blood pressure and heart rate machine. The nurse in this phase was my favorite, a beautiful, round-featured black woman named Tabitha, a beautiful human being. She was so charming she made this part of the day fun. Everybody, all along the way, made the stay a pleasant one from start to finish. Every one of the nurses was pleasant, fun company, as were the ones I asked for directions. I saw a lot of beautiful black people. Since cell phone videos have exposed police brutality on black people that has been going on all along, my heart opened to every black person I saw and met. I viewed every one with the highest respect. I feel deep empathy toward American black people. I always knew the black experience in America is unpleasant, but did not know, before, that they all have relatives and friends killed and brutalized by police, and fear for their children's lives. I felt happy comfortable with all the black people I saw, because my heart opened and I saw each one with a prayerful compassion. I felt impulse to bow before every black woman, man and child I saw. Justin drove to W-S to give me a ride home. I told him about the joys of the stay. The experience of the whole trip, from leaving home to arriving home, made a joyous day.
 

air bellows drive thru art museum
photos by tj worthington



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Monday, August 24, 2015

GROWING OLD WITH CATERPILLAR

 
caterpillar
 
 
A low thunder rumbles in the distance. Cat meows for my attention. Katydids and tree frogs sing the music of the twinkling stars in the bowl of night. The rain has begun, a light sprinkle. Late August. I feel the first chill of autumn in the middle of August, consistently on the fifteenth or sixteenth. This year it was the fifteenth, a night when the temperature drops into the low sixties. I put on a sweatshirt. It's slightly too chilly for short sleeves and not quite enough for long sleeves. I'd rather arms be warm than cold. Must rise early in the morning, which means get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight, set the alarm and see if sleep will o'ertake consciousness.  Sleep usually eludes when I have to get up and go someplace in the morning. I don't want to wake up late, so I have a hard time letting go of consciousness, apprehensive that I may not hear the alarm, the alarm may not go off. The way it works out, if I have to be up by six, sleep occurs around 5. Doesn't mean it has to be this time. Something has recently changed in my sleeping.
 
 
Caterpillar has taken to sleeping with me and I like it. Since the fur has been shaved from her skin, she freezes at night. I took her to bed one night and she was snug, warm and happy. Slept all night without moving. She does not move in the night. I'm the one that sometimes crushes her by rolling over on top of her unconscious.  She doesn't even squawk. I wake up right away, the unconscious knows the lump in the bed is cat. I jump awake, move, apologize. Cat doesn't mind. Or, anyway, never lets on. She is plenty warm all night under the covers, wakes in the morning a renewed cat. She did not want to get up this morning when I did, so I let her stay under the covers. Some hours later I went to take a nap. She was still sleeping. I woke her and slowly lifted the cover so she could see. First thing she saw was time of day by the slant of the sunlight in the window, mid afternoon. She did a cat double-take. Her eyes were quickly alert. I could see her thinking, It's late. I've slept too long. I have things to do. And she wanted up right now. She went to the water bowl and drank like a camel, to her food bowl where I'd just put down fresh food, and out the door with determined urgency. She'd missed her morning sunning place and the early afternoon sunning place. She'd missed half a day of sun.
 
caterpillar before sheering
 
I first took Caterpillar under the covers to keep her shaven hide warm in the night. It has been a couple weeks and we're both comfortable with it. She likes sleeping next to her human and she likes the warmth under the cover. She likes the absence of light. She's eighteen now, a crone, and a bit more needing attention than ever before. She has always liked a daily assurance from her human that he's happy to have her here, that she belongs here, this is her home. She's outlived her siblings and the dog, she's loved by her human the same today as every day of her life. She needs to be held more now. Upon request, I'll pick her up and hold her a few minutes, she'll snuggle up against me like a baby and purr. I put her down and she goes outside ready to get on with the next part of the day. I don't know where she goes during the day, but do know she has places she likes at different times of day for the sun. I only know where she is when I find her by chance while I'm doing something besides looking for her. She has places where she likes to be still, watch the birds, the chipmunks, the squirrels. She doesn't catch them and eat them anymore. She likes to watch. She has become an observer in her advanced years.
 
 
Caterpillar has never been one to sleep on the bed with me. The other cats, Tar Baby and Tapo, slept on the bed nearly all the time. I like cats on the bed. A morning when Caterpillar was a year old or less, she was sleeping on the bed at my feet. Cats learned right away stay away from my feet in the night. Caterpillar had not slept on the bed enough to have learned yet about the feet. This one particular morning, in a dream I was startled by something that grabbed hold of my ankle, something like a small octopus. Dreaming, I tried to shake loose whatever creature it was. I woke simultaneously to see my leg kick to throw off the threatening unknown. It was Caterpillar lying across my ankle. I saw her fly through the air backwards, eyes big as sunflowers, hit the wall with her back about three feet above the floor, and fall to the floor. Caterpillar flying backwards is an image tattooed on my mind. Of course, I jumped out of the bed and picked her up to apologize. She didn't care to hear it. She wanted down. I put her down and she was out the door. I suspect she was so rattled she needed time to pull herself back together. Never jumped on the bed again. We're old now together and value each other more than ever. We communicate like never before. I feel like the distances of consciousness between us have narrowed considerably over the years since Tapo and TarBaby left us. I feel like I'm learning to understand Caterpillar. Love is the WiFi that makes understanding possible both directions at once.

caterpillar one year old
by tj worthington 1998
 
 
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

SEEING SHANGHAI TRIAD THE MOVIE THE FOURTH TIME

 

Saw one of my favorite films again, Shanghai Triad, by Zhang Yimou, starring Gong Li. It's the story of a mafia boss and his girlfriend, Bijou, in Shanghai, 1930s. We see what a fourteen year old boy sees. The story begins when he arrives in Shanghai from his rural village. His uncle works for the Tang Triad, found the boy, a Tang, to work with the Triad as servant to the Boss's girlfriend, Bijou, a nightclub singer played by Gong Li. The Boss only trusted family in his Tang organization. The boy, the nephew of the Boss's fourth cousin, just happened to enter the story as a story behind the scenes, out of sight, was on the verge of rising to the surface. We see the boy's first week, one day at a time, learn what he learned about the world he fell into, and see him begin the process of becoming that world, himself. He is in a kind of shock by the end that we know he will recover from as he acclimatizes to the world of hard core gangsters that mean business. The boy entered the story when the Boss knew about his girlfriend's infidelities with his partner in crime he called his blood brother, who the Boss knew was plotting to kill the Boss and take over his role as Boss. The story we see is the working out of the Boss's trap to set up a moment to ensnare traitor and girlfriend together on a small island in the big river where Boss could off them and no traces be found.
 

the boss, his blood brothers and bijou
 
Just a week seeing the Boss's plan play out, not knowing this is what is happening until near the end when he sits down friend-turned-enemy and girlfriend-turned-enemy, explains to them how he found them out and how he set them up, how he lured them to the island they would never leave. I like about the story telling in the film that it tells the story seen on the surface, then retells the story by way of the undercurrents invisible from the surface. A gang war is way below the surface, another Boss is conspiring to take over the Boss whose story we are following. They tried to kill our friend the Boss, but he survived. Luring friend and girlfriend to the island was a part of his bigger scheme to undo the Boss attempting to undo him. He told friend-turned-enemy he would arrange it so it looked like the other Boss was responsible for his disappearance. This would undermine the other Boss, and be instrumental in his fall. By end of story, the boy's uncle is dead who brought him into the Triad leaving the boy with revenge in his heart. All he had witnessed in his first week was so extreme, just knowing what he saw drew him into the Triad, as he could not leave the Triad knowing what he knows. He committed to a world that is upside-down in relation to his life at home in the village. The boy is last seen hanging upside-down from a sailboat's mast, seeing the world upside-down. In the words of the Boss, he was being trained, like a dog.
 
uncle, the boy, bijou
 
The story has layers of stories going on that are connected by being the same story seen from different points of view at once. This was my fourth time seeing it, and I remember from every viewing, toward the end, when we are finding out what certain people in the story knew all along, how surprised I was to see people I felt were background characters turn out to be foreground, even contributors to the underlying stories. The people involved, from both factions, are merciless people, merciless in a particularly Chinese way. This brings up another aspect of the film that draws me to it, that it is a peep into Chinese culture, Shanghai in the Thirties, customs, beliefs, issues such as trust, loyalty, commitment. The story was made from a contemporary Chinese novel, made by a Chinese director and film crew, Chinese without Western influence in story-telling, no sense that the Chinese are inferior to whites. Plenty of Westerners were in Shanghai at the time, but they were peripheral to the world of the Chinese in their own city. I like a story from another culture told from the inside, from the culture itself by people whose lives are the culture.

gong li as bijou

Recalling the boring WW2 movie, Red Tails, about a squadron of black pilots. They acted like white guys, talked like white guys, obviously the screenplay written by a white guy, who had no sense for black culture, no appreciation. It was a bunch of white guys in black face to such a boring degree it killed the movie for me. I'd rather see a Chinese film made in China, a total Chinese production. Recalling Diary of a Geisha, good film, Japanese story, the actresses mostly Chinese playing Japanese, the novel and screenplay written by Anglo Americans with second-hand knowledge of the culture. Shanghai Triad is core Chinese. Zhang Yimou, the director, has made half a dozen of my favorite films. His films are so visually stimulating that last night, while watching it with friends, Lucas and Judy, Lucas noted a couple times that each second in the film would make a beautiful art photograph. The beauty of the production, interiors, exteriors, cars, clothes, Gong Li, atmospheres, were bathed in light that glowed, gave every scene an aura of light. Even in the night, light defined the dark. The quality of light and the beauty of the photography took the edge off the sinister goings on behind the scenes, such that the final deed was all the more shocking in its soft surroundings.

zhang Yimou
 
 
 
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Friday, August 21, 2015

THE AIR BELLOWS DRIVE THRU ART MUSEUM


air bellows drive thru art museum
ABDTAM
 
For a number of years I've been making photographs inside the tunnel under the Blue Ridge Parkway at Air Bellows Gap. The walls were plain concrete since the beginning of the Parkway until one day somebody wrote something on a wall with spray paint in the 1980s. Then another and another until the inside was covered with graffiti  by winter. The next season, more writings and images. Then, of course, a middle-class Flatlander objected, called the Parkway office and pled a prosecutorial case about it being offensive. Parkway maintenance painted the walls an ugly brown, covered the beautiful growing abstraction on the two walls, about 30'x10'. I loved it when the new markings began to cover the brown. A few years later, somebody complained to the Parkway office again and they painted it over again. It was covered up in a year. Then came the Reagan Revolution and transferring money from the Dept of Interior budget to the military. Hence, minimal maintenance since the 1980s, large sections of pavement needing repair. They seldom mow along the sides of the road anymore, which is ok by me. I like to see grass grow and go to seed.
 
ABDTAM
 
As a result of the budget cuts, the Parkway painted over the graffiti no more. It grew and became beautiful after some years. Then one of my neighbors caught a kid adding to it. He knew the kid's mother, called her, got the kid in trouble with a zero tolerance mom, who got with the Parkway office and they had the kid paint the interior of the tunnel gray. I was so irritated with my neighbor I never said anything about it, because I could not address the subject without getting red in the face and a bit aggressive in tone of voice. What the hell. A fresh canvas. Nobody has painted over it since. Maybe it has been ten or more years that the colors and lines grow on top of themselves, colors galore. Writing on top of writing such that new things appear on top of everything else, then new words and colors appear on top of that, on and on until colors and lines become an abstract canvas. It has no plan, no design, no unifying anything except the space, itself. The patterns are purest chance. Somebody goes in there with a spray can, chooses a spot, scrawls whatever comes to mind and leaves in a hurry to avoid getting caught.
 
ABDTAM
 
The place seems to me an important spot for the community of the county. Teenagers have no voice in adult society, are paid no attention to. They are nuisances, because adults don't want to be bothered by them, certainly don't want to listen to them. So kids evolve a culture among themselves that concerns offending adults. Pink hair, turquoise hair, tattoos, music adults can't tolerate, graffiti,  slang, sharp sticks in the eye of disapproving adults. I see the impulse to scrawl words and lines on the wall in the tunnel a small gesture of defiance, a rebel gesture, shooting the bird to adult society, the people that look down on them, talk down to them, pay no attention to them, dismiss them as irrelevant. Of course, this is not all the kids. It's largely the outsiders and the ones that feel left out. Only a few can be star jocks and cheerleaders, the only ones with any significance in and outside the school. It's like Miss America. One winner, forty-nine losers. The kids left out listen to hard metal music or punk and wear the most offensive tshirt images they can get away with. The style image is aggressive offensive. The graffiti is another expression of this attitude. Like John Lee Hooker sang in his song, Boogie Chillun, It's in him, it's got to come out. I feel like a localized spot for graffiti functions something like a pressure release valve.
 
ABDTAM
 
Almost two weeks ago I parked off the road outside the tunnel and went inside to get some photographs. Beautiful walls, but I was not satisfied with any of the pictures. I try to compose them by colors and find compositions of lines in relation to the colors, yet am unable to catch what I see, or what I feel. It finally came to me that what I love about the walls is the spontaneous random chance of every jotting, an abstraction created by pure chance. Cy Twombly is good at making a canvas that looks like chance. These two walls are composed by chance itself. No one artist's mind composed it. It simply happened. Finally, it came to me to make photographs in the tunnel by chance. I drove through it yesterday. Opened the camera ready to go, held it pointing out the driver's side window without looking at the image. Driving slowly through the tunnel, I clicked the camera over and over until I came to the end. Got five images. The images are here, from top to bottom in the order they happened. These are the most satisfying images I've recorded in there. Before, I was looking at it with mind. Take mind out of it and I enter the spirit of the thing itself. I do feel like these five images capture the spirit of the place like no other photographs I've made in there. In a way, I feel like I've found the spirit of the place. It has a spirit I feel driving through it, for me a happy spirit. I don't look at it with judgment and desire to punish. I'm happy it is located so close to my home.
 
ABDTAM
 
 
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BIRD IN THE HOUSE

morris graves
 
A bird flew through the room a little bit ago. I saw a dark blur streak through the room in a straight line like an arrow from the open door to the door opposite to another room with a window. It was such a faint blur that caught the corner of my eye, I wasn't sure if it was a figment in my eye or actually a bird. Didn't hear it hit the window, but had an idea it would be there. Looked. Sure enough, a young thrasher with a mix of baby feathers and adult feathers. Sometimes birds are easy to catch in a window and sometimes not. The screen door was half open for Caterpillar to come and go. I opened the screen door all the way in case I could not catch the bird, to give it a way out when I scared it and it flew to the next opening the bird saw. It turned out to be an easy bird to catch, perhaps for being so young. An open hand on either side of it, I gently closed in on its frantic fluttering in the window's corner, embracing the bird rather than grabbing it. One of its wings was off to the side between two fingers. I opened the hand enough to give the bird a chance to pull the wing to its side. I did not want to hurt a wing. Wing in place, hands closed in around the beautiful bird with such a long tail, held it loose in the cups of both hands, a small sphere the bird could move easily inside and not feel the panic of being grabbed, caught.
 
morris graves
 
I closed fingers in front of the bird so it could not see. Birds calm down immediately when they can't see. This includes chickens. The bird settled right down while I walked it to the open door. I stepped outside and opened my hands. Bird flew in a beautiful straight line out of my hand. I was happy it was such an easy one to catch. An experienced bird will not let me close enough to it to reach it with hands. It flies to another window or something up high it can land on, like a picture frame. I close the entrances to other rooms, leaving only the door to outside open. I will keep the bird in motion with a walking stick or broom handle. Either right away or eventually, the bird will land in a place where it can see the open doorway. The door standing open closes the sight of the opening to half the room. Bird in a good place to see the doorway, I leave it alone, let it sit there, let its blood pressure settle, wait for it to calm down and assess its surroundings. Once I feel like the bird is situated in its mind and calm inside, I clap my hands once. It flies straight out the door.
 
morris graves
 
In my early time here, a bird came into the house and I felt like I had to catch it. What madness that created. I'd keep the bird in motion until it wore itself out, flying from window to window not so energetic, then capture it in a window corner. I tried letting them find the door on their own, but they don't. They hunker down in a place they feel safe and stay there. I also learned the longer one stays in the house, the greater the risk of a streak of white bird shit down a painting on the wall. It better be cleaned up while it's wet, too. The first attempt to catch the bird doubled as a gesture to set it in motion if unable to capture it. I don't like to stress them too much and really don't want to hurt one. Over time, I've learned the easy way is the best way, and the easy way is to understand, first, the bird is conscious, it has a mind. Now, when I can't catch one, I gently assist it, allowing it to use its own mind, give it time to figure things out, let it read the room and find the open door. Just a clap of the hands, something to startle it into motion, it makes a bee line out the door.
 
morris graves
 
My hillbilly grandmother taught me about birds all through childhood. She kept a beautiful male canary songbird in a cage by the window. She loved canary song. And she loved her birds. She had an especially good male singer and she borrowed a hen canary from a friend of hers and a larger cage for them. They mated and we watched five baby canaries grow up. She gave me one I named Chi Chi, she kept one, the one with a weak leg she called Spraddle,  and gave the others to her friends, one to the woman, Mattie, she borrowed the hen from. Parakeets came along and she kept a parakeet in a cage too. Then I had to have a parakeet. Named it Davy Crockett, the coolest kid show on tv. My mother grew so weary of hearing the kid say Davy Crockett over and over trying to teach the bird to say its name, she made me change the name. She could not hear Davy Crockett one more time. Grandmother kept chickens too, Cochin banties, and I made pets of them. Walking home from school, I'd call to them from a block away. The whole flock ran up the street to greet me. I had to pick them up, one at a time, on the way to the house, gathered around my feet, hopping up and down, waiting for their moment to be held. I feel fortunate that grandmother passed to me her love for birds. Now, I live in the cage and watch the birds outside.      
 
morris graves himself
 
 
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PATRIOT DIVIDED

george segal
 
I saw a picture of a cop dressed in orange, charged with sex acts with a two year old. News items tend not to get me emotionally concerned, but sometimes they do, like the Sandra Bland story. It makes me want to be the one to deliver karma in person. Unrealistic thinking.  This guy with the two year old, just seeing his face and the headline caused my whole being inside the ribcage to want to explode in rage. I thought of my baby friend, Vada, who is four now, but I loved her when she was two as well as now. It's a protective and a giving love, not a taking love. I couldn't even say something to Vada to hurt her. I see news photos of a Palestinian daddy carrying his dead baby two years old, him splattered with her blood, and I think, How can you live with this, man? To myself I say this is half way round the globe, another world, another culture, another language, another way of life, none of which I understand, leave it alone, it's not mine. Mine is here where I am, my world. My impotence to help in any way makes me sad and callouses my heart. I see myself carrying baby Vada covered in her blood, dead, age four, and I want to deliver karmic payback with my bare hands.
 
george segal
 
I remember my friend Chad, when he was fifteen, his mama's husband beat her mercilessly, Chad stood him up on his toes and told him if he ever hit his mama again, he would beat him to death with his bare hands. Chad could do it, oppressor knew it, his mama was never hit again. I respect Chad for doing what he had to do, that's a hard decision for a kid. I told him of my respect, congratulated him on having what it took to do it. I don't see Chad a lot, but when I see him, I see somebody I respect in a big way. If a smart-missile from an American military drone in this time of police state were to kill Vada, and me near enough to see it, I would lose it for the rest of my life. I would join the forces that oppose American military involvement in my homeland to become an active enemy with purpose. My life would change that instant. I would be a warrior rebel from that day onward. I imagine a large part of the purpose behind the missiles is to create new enemies and to harden old enemies to keep never-ending war going, corporate profits up, shareholders paying their bills, the politicians in the right country clubs, the stock in mood-enhancers rising steadily.
 
george segal
 
It tears me up, with Vada in my life, to see a child hurt or killed in news photographs. It's what emotional news photographs are meant to do. Nonetheless, I know several people loved that baby with all their hearts the way I love Vada. And they're the people left to bury the baby. I don't like that the government of my country is killing babies all around the globe, even at home, creating such intense misery for corporate profit. It tells me the human condition in this time is the ethics and morality of money, God is dead. Not that God can die, but the American way of life that truly worships money acts as if God were, if not dead, absent. Conscience is something to laugh at now. War is evil. It's obvious. Seems to me a country with an economy rooted in war would, itself, be evil. There is no indifference like the American so-called Christian indifference to the poor and the down and out. None of this is new. It's been like this throughout my lifetime, different faces and names in the news along the way. 
 
george segal
 
American wars are geography lessons in locating the poorest countries on earth with the least defenses, to rob their resources and destroy them further. Shameless is what it is. But it keeps the economy going, the television flickering, the smart-phone charged, the laptop open, our inebriates available, gas in the car. Now it's looking like a necessary evil. Who is going to give up a cell phone, television and computer to stop American jets from bombing more Middle-Eastern defenseless cities? In the poorest parts of the world, my country is known as death from the sky and death squads on the ground. I've not been able to find a way to look at this aspect of America with anything but shame. I can feel pride in American art since the 1950s, pride in American rock n roll, pride in American poetry since Ezra Pound, pride in American writing, in a country where none of it is honored. Maybe it's best that way. Keeps the sentiment in greeting cards and television, where it belongs. I can be nationalistically proud as one of the American people, who are an incredible people. However, our government has turned on we the people, and I can't find nationalist pride in that. This explains why Bernie Sanders appeals to me as a candidate. He appears to have the potential to be a Little David kicking Goliath's ass again. We'll see.  
 
george segal himself
 
 
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Monday, August 17, 2015

MEETING UNCLE ROSCOE'S NEPHEWS

roscoe holcomb
by john cohen
 
The donkeys fell into braying just now. I looked up. A white car went down the road. Soon after Jenny moved in with Jack, Justin came by a few times close together with hay in his white pickup. They would bray every time his truck went up or down the road. They went to braying at every white car that went down the road, which they still do after a couple years. They always bray when they see my car. I honk to them to bray back, also to help them associate the sound of the horn with the car, with me. It turned out to be good training yesterday for an assist to distract them from following a distraction. They're like devoted television watchers, they drift from distraction to distraction, following one distraction to the next. This so characterizes American conversation now, I avoid conversation anymore. I'm talking with somebody, a distraction comes up and their attention is gone. Sometimes a cell phone, sometimes somebody they see, an interruption, anything. I used to wait for the distraction to subside to get back to the conversation. I've learned there is never anything to go back to. Now when I'm talking with somebody and the cell phone rings or somebody interrupts, I say good-bye and I'm gone. "This won't take long." Gotta go. Nothing can make me feel more stupid than standing around waiting for somebody talking on a cell phone. I walk away. And nobody notices. I, too, was a distraction.
 
by john cohen
 
The American people have devolved so far into unreason throughout my lifetime that by now I find donkeys refreshing, intelligent company. In the time of my store, on Mother's Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend, sometimes a PhD married to a local girl visiting her redneck family, getting out of the house, checks out the music store, disappointed it was all hillbilly shit. I could see them get out of the car in the PhD uniform sport coat, PhD trimmed graying beard and PhD anonymous newish car. I'd think, O shit, here comes another one. The pattern was the same every time. He walks in, glances around the walls, sees nothing of interest, engages the proprietor in conversation, nothing to do in this hick town. Every time, the conversation became an oral exam testing my level of intelligence. Seeing the game begin, I'd use them for those in a sentence, he'd judge me a redneck moron and was gone. I loved it. They were so predictable. And so boring. I had hopes for better than this of PhDs. They think they're the intelligent ones. And I do know exceptions. It was like shaking the bucket of grain to distract the donkey's attention, works every time.
 
roscoe holcomb
by john cohen
 
Recalling good conversations with people in the time of the store, the best ones were with the least educated people. I'm seeing a time in the front of my mind of the day two guys got out of an old dirty car and walked toward the store like they were coming in. Mechanics clothes, grease on faces, arms and hands. Rough looking guys. My first thought was to go out the back door and leave it to them. They came in, drifted about quietly, looking at the bluegrass and old-time. One noticed a picture on the wall of Kentucky banjo picker, Roscoe Holcomb, and exclaimed, "Where'd you get that picture of Uncle Roscoe?" In his excitement, he said to the other guy, who turned out to be his brother, "He's got a picture of Uncle Roscoe!" Both were amazed. I told them it came among promo posters from a distributor. I'd cut the picture out of the poster and put it in a frame. They were equally amazed I had two cds by Uncle Roscoe. The other one found a book of photographs by John Cohen that also had pictures of Uncle Roscoe in it. They were guitar players, one bass, in a gospel band in Wilkesboro. Two of the gentlest people one could meet looked like they were coming in to rob me.
 
hazard, kentucky
by john cohen
 
The one who found the book asked if I'd seen the film by John Cohen, That High Lonesome Sound. I said I had. He said, Remember the little girl carrying the cat? Yeah. That was aunt Louise, if my poor memory is correct. The man coming home from work in the coal mine was their grandpa. The boy at the table in the house was their daddy. They were from Perry County, Kentucky, Hazard the county seat, known to be the roughest place in America. I can attest from having been there. A liquor store with a sign out front advertising what's on sale and how much, on every corner, on every corner for miles in all directions. Banjo picker, Lee Sexton, was their uncle, too, lived in the next house down the road from Uncle Roscoe. He told me a scene with chickens was in front of Uncle Lee's house. Them was his chickens. We talked for quite a long time, until they had to leave to get back to work. I took the picture of Roscoe Holcomb down from the wall and handed it to them. They couldn't believe I was giving it to them. I felt like it was more necessary for them to have it than for it to go on hanging on a wall where Uncle Roscoe was merely decoration.  
 
uncle roscoe
by john cohen
 
 
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