Sunday, January 21, 2018

'i saw the news today, oh boy'

& i thought we shall never have it as good as we had it today
for the shit is getting thick
& will get worse
destabilized climate
wealth inequality
surveillance state
AI & automation
the soon-to-be refugees by the millions
maybe we will have a few good
days months or years
maybe we'll get it together
come to love one another
but in the meantime
let's party like it's 1347
let's live as if we are already dead

Thursday, January 18, 2018

for the love of god, montressor, watch this brilliant performance of pigs by roger waters live in mexico city


Monday, January 15, 2018

shetland [2013 --]

anna introduced me to this excellent BBC police procedural featuring DI jimmy perez, magnificently assayed by douglas henshall,  and his colleagues investigating and solving murders on the beautiful, rain and windswept scottish islands of shetland.  together we watched the first two seasons, and a season in BBC terms usually is a two-hour episode.  then i went on to watch other things while anna finished the series.

but then again i caught up on the wonderful TV series this weekend.  i binged all the available episodes in three-nights.  the series is based upon the novels by ann cleeves.  the first three seasons are taken directly from cleeves' novels while the fourth season takes perez and co. into new waters and the city of glasgow over the course of six episodes as perez takes a deep dive into murder, rape, drug running and organized crime.

sounds bleak, no?  it is but there is very little violence and bloodshed.  rather, perez is a calm, collected intellect who knows how to ask questions with such precision that it often disarms the suspects.  that mind makes this series such a satisfying viewing pleasure.

and yet i would be remiss not to mention that utter, jawdropping, beauty of the shetland islands.  located in the north atlantic these are spits of land with lots of rain, sheer cliffs dropping to the sea, and cold.  this series is a perfect antidote to a summer's day.  it might be well over 100 F outside but watching this show will cool you down for the viewer is replenished with a land that the average summer high hovers in the high 50s F.

that temperature is the average of a northern california winter's day.  to make the cold that much more authentic for my viewing experience i would open the windows to the cold, foggy, air to make it cold, but not freezing, as if i was on shetland during its high summer.

oh, and if you are wondering how a scotsman got the name of perez, well, watch the first season.  he explains the history of his name.  which makes me feel that much more close to him when people ask me how i got the name of lopez.  and when perez explains why he stays in shetland he gives the usual reasons of family and history.  he also says, crucially, that sheltand is just the right size for him.  the same goes for me when people wonder why stay in my beloved city of Sac.  because it is just the right size for me, in addition to family and history etc etc.

is that too much self-identification with a fictional character?  yes it is.  and yet, we watch/read/listen our favorite pieces of art for differences, and for similarities.  i like jimmy perez because i can relate to him.  he is a thinking human being, and a devoted father to his daughter.  indeed, the creator of perez, ann cleeves, was, in the writing of her character, speaking my language.  what more could we ask of art. 

Sunday, January 07, 2018

a creeley weekend

ever wake up with a particular someone or something on your mind.  a someone or something that you haven't thought about in a long while.  but when you look up that someone or something you rediscover why you had fallen in love with that someone or something in the first place.

i awoke on saturday morning with fragments of some very vivid dreams.  i took notes on one of these dreams because i think it might be significant tho i can't articulate why i might think it important since i rarely write about dreams, and i go so far as to deny dreams their importance upon my thinking.  let's just say i've been reading/watching a lot of science of science fiction and my dream about looking thru a telescope to neighboring galaxies, then individual planets, when i knew should i continue to look i would find evidence of life, even intelligent life, might be important to help frame my thinking of late.

but even so, i also woke to the name of robert creeley.  i have several of his books.  i even have that biography by ekbert faas that was published in 2001 that was so awful, so mean, i didn't finish reading it.  creeley was also an early adopter of the web and his 2002 Best of American Poetry anthology is the first, or one of the first, collections of poetry of its kind to take online publishing seriously.  yes, even in the early days of dial-up internet service there were robert creeley videos up on the interwebs.

i wondered if creeley would have embraced social media.  would he have published his poems and essays on a blog/facebook/twitter?  a prolific letter-writer he embraced email and in a 2002 interview recommended an audio streaming site for listening to his beloved jazz.  i can only interject my own preferences.  i do see the flaws and dangers of digital life but i have used the internet as a platform for my own writing.  i long embraced email as a transport of correspondence.  and now that i have a smart phone i have adapted to a media landscape that includes newsfeeds and texts.  i am a social creature.  when i got my phone i emailed several friends and invited them to text me if they have means and inclination. 

but my enthusiasm for digital life is not a complete endorsement of it either.  we are all terribly aware that social media can be used for evil.  it stokes are basest needs and desires.  but i think digital media can be a force for good.  what tool in our human toolbox is not used as a weapon.  a hammer has killed people as it has made new houses.  digital media is a human tool, neither evil or good of itself.  it is only as bad or as good as we make it.

what does that have to do with robert creeley?  well, like i said, creeley was an early enthusiast of the internet.  i feel a certain kinship with creeley.  he was a brilliant poet and mind but a diffident student.  he knew he wanted to be a poet but was impatient with academia, even if he spent his whole life in the academy. creeley dropped out of harvard.  then he taught classes in his own way at black mountain college without a degree.  when charles olson, who was rector of black mountain, awarded creeley a BA he said, about creeley, if he can teach the subjects he certainly is qualified to be awarded a degree in those subjects. 

and later, when creeley needed an advanced degree to continue his teaching, pursued his MA at the university of new mexico.  later in life, he was awarded his MA.  but most important creeley wrote his imitable poetry.  that was the most important to me when i started to read creeley in my early 20s.  i had no idea that i would go to college.  given my background finishing anything much less college would be a miracle.

still, at the age of sixteen i knew i would be a writer.  later in my 20s i discovered the importance of an education.  i was a diffident student too.  not brilliant like creeley --who is? -- but a human being with a passion for language and poetry.  i remember buying my first robert creeley book, windows [new directions; 1990].  i carried that book with me everywhere.  i don't think at that time i read creeley's anthology poems.  i didn't read a lot of anthologies in my late teens/early 20s.  and yet, his abilities with line, breaking it often on an article like 'the' or 'a' or 'an' was electrifying.  i didn't know you could do that with poetry.

later did i learn about robert creeley the student and man.  oh, the portraits of the man had an effect on me too.  a man with short hair, grey beard, glasses [i'm talking about the photos of creeley in later life], his left eye socket sewn shut, reverberated thru me because i was born with a foot defect that required two surgeries, one when i was a baby, the second when i was 19, that left me feeling like a, well, freak.  the loss of an eye or having a ruined foot is not, by example of robert creeley, a scene of diminished humanity but a sign of human beauty. 

that is what we do as human beings.  we find our fellows that make us feel human.  that was what robert creeley, with the loss of his eye, his fractured education, his warmth and humor in his poetry, as well as his friendships in the art of living and poetry, made me feel human.  that is what i woke to on saturday after my explorations of nearby galaxies.  for i have a life-long relationship with robert creeley and like every long living relationship, it ebbs and flows.  but the beauty of these unions of ours is that we fall in love all over again.  i busted out my creeley books and reread some poems.  i pointed my browser toward creeley videos which exist, thank god, in abundance, and i reread that 2002 interview published in the print lit journal bridge [fall/winter 2002; volume 2, number 1].

'drive, he sd,' is not just a command but a way of life.  but for me i think i've accomplished more in my life by staying still.  i never had a grand need to discover myself by traveling the world.  my traveling had been thru poetry.  by reading/watching/listening.  if, as frost tells us, 'the best way out is always thru', and if as thom gunn tells us, 'one is nearer by not staying still', i counter with the best way out is sitting, and one is nearer by staying still.  even so, i have traveled far by poetry.  robert creeley's poetry has been a special fuel in my travels.  he said drive, and by his words i have piloted my craft to the unknown country.  even his language, with the elision 'sd' for 'said' is a rocket ship.  one that i boarded a long time ago.  every now and again, i have to remind myself that i am still on board. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

a new year

only humans mark time with a numerical value and give that value significance.  a solar year is a matter of physics.  how humans mark a solar year is discriminate.  we can start from zero if we wish.  or we can found a new calendar and call the years something different.  for it makes no cosmic difference if we call the new year 2018, or 18, or 3018.  the universe does not care how we measure time.  only we human beings care about such values and labels.

2017 was a punch in the solar plexus and a kick in the teeth.  2016 seemed pretty bad too.  but '17 was awful.  name your poison, and you'll find it in abundance in '17.  now we face a new year.  who knows what the fuck will happen in 2018.  more extreme weather events.  a hotter earth.  economic volatility.  tumult in our politics.  these are happening right now.  if 2017 taught us anything it is that predicting the future is a cod's game.  we do know our politics are fucked up.  and we have destabilized the climate. 

but now is a moment of reckoning.  perhaps my vision is blurred by the chaos of our society but i don't see shit getting better.  i may be wrong.  i hope i am wrong.  and if i am wrong then i am happy to admit to it.  however, we are living in extreme societal, economic and climatic upheaval.  the times are a'changin'.  AI and automation are only just beginning to change the economy.  you think shit is bad now, wait until you are outsourced by an algorithm.  think i am joking?  look around you.  look at the device you carry in your pocket.  think about how futuristic sci fi that phone is.  if someone told you 20 years ago that you could talk to your device and have your device talk to you in return you would've shit your pants.  what kind of technology do you think we will have in another 20 years?

still, we are human.  and we are a cooperative species.  2017 was rough.  2018 might prove to be rougher.  it may not.  but at any rate, i wish for you and your loved ones a happy new year.

i found this cartoon tonight penned by the great gary larson.  it encapsulates my own philosophy about the meaning of the universe.  because the net sum is zero we are free to make our society in to whatever we want.  let us hope that what we want is, in the immortal words of nick lowe, peace, love and understanding.

peace love and understanding, brothers and sisters.
  

quote unquote [how to live at the end of our civilization]

 Everybody’s going to burn,” Mabel said. “That’s what I see now.” She was looking at the very dry, late September hills near Highway 80, just east of Fairfield. We were on our way back to the Rumsey Wintun Reservation, where Mabel was living at the time, after she’d given a talk to several students and faculty at Stanford University about her doctoring and basket-weaving. It was late in the day, early evening, and the thick autumn light had turned the hills ocher red. The ocher red color no doubt called up her Dream. She’d talked a lot about her Dream lately, and I knew enough to know what she was referencing: her vision of what would happen near the end of the world as we know it. “‘Everything’s going to go dry’, Spirit said. ‘No water going to be anywhere.’” “What can we do?” I asked. “How do we live?” Mabel began laughing, chuckling to herself out loud. “That’s cute,” she said, then, mocking me, repeated, “What do we do now? How do we live?” I was used to her making fun of me, of my countless questions — as used as I was to her talk of Dreaming. “No, seriously,” I countered. “If the world’s going to dry up and burn, what do we do?” She turned to me, took a moment to make sure she had my attention, then she answered, plainly, “You live the best way you know how, what else?”

--greg sarris [mabel mckay: weaving the dream (quoted by john b-r in an email)]

Monday, December 25, 2017

happy christmas!!!

i am not a believer in JC but i do think his philosophy of forgiveness, charity, love for everyone, the meek, the poor, the down&out, and his loathing of money and money-changers etc etc. is a pretty solid philosophy.  let there be peace on earth.  peace won't come but we can agitate for it and we can, in spite of our bloody natures, practice lovingkindness.

these are serious times but we can be un-serious too.  so here is a christmas movie that i grew up on, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians [1964], a deliriously goofy flick that simultaneously tests your patience and cranks up the awe when you consider how this film got the greenlight in the first place.  but hey!  this movie cost about a buck and a quarter and all it required is that no one laughed during production.  i'm sure that laughing their asses off on set was hard to do.

by that measure of keeping the art of laughter alive in these fucked up days i present this movie.  i wish you a very happy christmas.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

catching up on blogs and twitter feeds i have the TV on in the background and my attention returns to the movie total recall [1990] starring arnold schwarzenegger, sharon stone and michael ironside, and directed by paul verhoeven.  this flick is the best of the bunch for schwarzenegger.  a serious mind-fuck of an action film we are tasked to ponder the human mind as it perceives time and space.  this movie asks us to wonder what is real, what we remember or what we do.  i think camus would've shit his pants at the thought of this movie.  for schwarzenegger's character, douglas quaid, is asked by the leader of the mars resistance, are we not what we do rather than what we remember?

and as i type there is that scene where quaid uses a hologram to trick the bad guys into thinking they are shooting at the real quaid rather than a reproduction of the character.  the scene is set and we are left without a firm answer.  what defines us, action or memories?

could it be both?  the brilliance of this flick is that we are never given the answer.  played for a roller-coaster ride the action feels oneiric.  we are in the liminal space between waking and dreaming.  what is real?  riddle me that one, batman.

i took a catnap this afternoon.  my dreams were quite vivid, but not interesting enough to record.  indeed, i have long thought that dreams were the fictions created by our mind to work out issues that exist in our waking life.  but the content and substance of the dream is of little consequence.  like this afternoon.  i knew i was dreaming.  i can't tell you how i knew that i was dreaming.  but i was able to step outside of the narrative, as if i could edit a piece of writing.  even if i could not shape the story i knew the story was not my waking life.

but the shape, feel, texture and taste of my dreams did follow my waking life.  much like this flick that i am watching now on TV.  we are the dreamers of the dream.   we can shape our stories as we are shaped by them.  especially at the end of this film where the action concludes with the thud of a fist landing on a chin but is shaped by the cloudiness of the dreamer of the dream.