Wednesday, December 31, 2008


2008 was a suck-ass year but it also was at times very good. some of the very good things is hanging with geof huth last summer and publishing a new chap. i'm not much for summing up things tho but i have a conceit. that conceit would be that time is not linear but rather fluid. the human species necessity for classifications is what signifies one year from the next. but we can call the years anything. anything at all. and my conception of time, refracted thru my own limitations as a man, likes to round things off. my experience with time is quite different. i live in a continuous present. i can look forward to the future and remember the past but the days i occupy, live and think in is the right now.

but that doesn't mean i can't think and plan. i've been a homebuddy for some time now. i've not traveled much at all. i've been thinking of travel recently and how i'd like to do a bit more in the new year. my sense of geography is rather skewed and i can't vector worth a damn but let me take now an imaginary journey. i'll hop in my honda pilot, put it in drive and see where it'll take me. since money and time off work is no consideration and also i can drive my car over the atlantic i want this journey to be a visit with that lot of you. why not. so here goes:

first i drive east and head toward new mexico where i'd pull up in front of alex gildzen's house and surprise him with a set of the thin man dvds because i think william powell is hilarious and myrna loy such a babe. we'll sit and watch a couple of the flicks then have a long leisurely lunch filled with talk of poetry, stars and movies.

then after a long lovely visit i get back into the pilot and head further east, up north a bit to michigan where i'd find gina myers in saginaw. we'd drink a bunch of beers, compare notes of the world of poetry and poets, show off tattoos and talk of our shared love of cult cinema.

i'd stick in michigan where i drive to grand rapids to visit with my good friend robert vander molen. this visit might take longer as i'd suspect bob would like to show me his cabin in the upper peninsula where we'd sit by lamplight, he drinking beer and whisky and me drinking beers, and the discussions will meander everywhere.

after that i head down south a bit and backtrack[i'm not looking at a map so i'm not sure how close saginaw is to grand rapids and so on. this however is an imaginary trip, so sticklers of geo accuracy, calm down] to ohio. specifically kent where i surprise tom beckett just as he is leaving his office after a long day at work. we have so much to catch up on. poetry, comedy, the text of sex and vice versa. tom is one helluva a storyteller and i think i might've broken a rib from all the laughter.

however, i recover and move toward kansas and find jim mccrary's house. mccrary might be a bit tired after working but he perks up and takes me on a tour of his beloved lawrence. he shows me where he used to trip on lsd and where he drove a cab way back when. he shows me william burrough's house. and he shows me the places where filmmaker herk harvey filmed his classic carnival of lost souls. we end our visit over beers and reading our poems together.

then i move to ny where i meet up with steve caratzas. i'm overjoyed with this visit as steve and i think are like two peas. he shows me around nyc, a place i've never been before, and times square which is so cleaned up and respectable i am rather disgusted. conversations, laughter, music and poetry meld into one.

then i stay in ny and head north to visit steve tills who simply dazzles me with his erudition and his passion.

then i move to schenactady where i see geof huth and we pick up where we left off.

then it's up north toward toronto to visit daniel f bradley and his family. daniel and i are nearly the same age and are fathers to children who are also nearly the same age. we also share a love of punk and exploitation movies. he shows me around the toronto scene and we talk about movies and life and our dayjobs and poetry and our children.

then i head south again to philadelphia to hang with the bros. eckes, ryan and brandon. ryan introduces me to the philly crowd, esp. caconrad who again have me laughing so hard i have to go the emergency room.

then it's off across the atlantic. that's right i can drive across the atlantic in my pilot. i drive to london to meet ernesto priego. i've called ernesto already so he expects my visit. we have so much to talk about but we round out the visit by going to his favorite tattoo shop where i get a new tat on my lower left arm cuz i simply couldn't help it.

then i drive north to sweden. i find lars palm who doesn't know me but i introduce myself. we have similar interests in music and poetry and i think we hit it off.

and because kevin thurston is living and teaching in korea i drive to his flat. again, kevin has me rolling on the floor in laughter as he describes his work and life in korea. we talk about poets and poetry, music and movies. he dares me to eat some very hot kim chee which i decline.

afterward i head way down south to australia, rockhampton really, and visit with mark young who drives me around and i tell him rockhampton really is no worse or better than rancho cordova, a city that is really a suburb of sac.

then i find derek motion and together we seek out michael farrell. we might even give a joint reading.

then back towards the atlantic and i drive across canada toward vancouver so i can hang with billy little. i've never met little but i read what i can of little and his blog and share an affinity with his humor and his attitudes, as such as i understand them, toward poetry and publishing and the role of the poet in general.

then i head to seattle and hang with mickey o'connor.

and it's back to my beloved california where i round out my visit driving to castroville to see jean vengua, then on to st. helena to visit with the divine ms eileen tabios, then over to sf where there are so many writers to see, esp. my soul brother jonathan hayes, as well as logan ryan smith, david larsen and kevin killian.

and that is the first jag of my imaginary journey of 2009 as i know in my tiredness i left a few people out and frankly i'd kick my own ass for missing them.

until the next jaunt. happy new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

everybody was kung fu fighting

because i have a 4 year old i watch way more movies and tv shows for children than i have since i was a wee tyke. now, reading the best and worst movies of 2008 year lists remind that i simply don't care for much of what had hit the screens this year. my loss probably, after all, i still have yet to watch many of the best films from the last five years. when friends ask how i liked say no country for old men they are shocked to find i've not seen it.

that doesn't mean at all i hate movies, even new movies. i watch films all the time. but since i'm a genre nut the only time i manage to drag my stinking carcass and endure the crowds and the price of admission, sodas and popcorn [which adds up very quickly] to the theater the movies i see are mostly horror and only the ones i've really been wanting to see.

however, this was the year that i started taking nicholas to the movies. the cinema for kids now is a vast improvement over the dreck that i was forced to endure as a child. i don't mean classics such as mary poppins exactly, i'm talking about the 1970s when the disney studios in particular went south and was churning out barely watchable fare such as, among many others, the cat from outer space and escape from witch mountain. i'm still rather fond of these films because these were the movies of my generation and i watched them at such a young age that it is impossible not to look upon them without a bit of childhood nostalgia. but they are not very good movies.

well then, back to the end of year lists. for the most part they are bogus. reading some lists today online i think i saw three of the movies and have no interest in seeing most of them. the brad pitt vehicle the curious case of benjamin button is getting very good press. however, i have no interest in seeing it. maybe it's the fact that pitt, beautiful he is to look at, is not really much of an actor. he's been in some decent films before but i don't think i could handle sitting for two plus hours watching pitt move from old age to youth in a grand epic scale that is designed to pull at your heartstrings. more than likely, the film would probably manage only to knot up my gutstrings.

but there is one film this year that is among my favorites. dreamworks, that rival of those magicians over at pixar who managed to do the most excellent wall- e, created a very good little homage to the kung fu films of the 1970s, kung fu panda. now wall - e is on the top of many critics best of 2008 lists but my money is on the panda. it is a sweet-natured action-packed romp of faith and loyalty which is really the base of many of the old kung fu films. even the annoying jack black who voices po, the fat panda who turns out to be a great warrior, was held in key. something about animation that frees up actors i think to go outside their normal working personas and expand their range.

perhaps it is simply nostalgia for cheap-jack kung fu movies with the bad dubbing and supra human feats of strength and acrobatics that colors my opinion of panda. but it holds up well after repeated viewings. the energy of the flick almost had me kung fu fighting like i did after a day of watching kung fu movies at the long-gone star theater way back when and singing along to the carl douglas song as i kicked my way to the bus for home. sheeeiit.

Monday, December 29, 2008

in celebration of the new year

me with
just a bit

the best
name ever for

cheapest holiday

notes from my domestic bohemia

shopping at costco i let nicholas hold my membership club card

i say - you can hold on to this but don't drop it i'm trusting you

of course it is lost somewhere in the aisles & crowds

i go one way to search

anna with nicholas sitting in the shopping cart go the other way

anna tells nicholas that we can't leave the store & go home without the card

nicholas says - i wanna go to my home i wanna go to my sweet sweet home

Sunday, December 28, 2008

bill landis [r.i.p]

it was something of a shock to read on the net yesterday the death of exploitation film critic bill landis. landis died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 49 on 12/22/08. it's been quite a year for death. i suppose because landis is an other-stream cultural critic and film historian an obit in most newspapers would not be forthcoming.

i came to landis' work via his book sleazoid express co-authored with his then-wife michelle clifford. the book was published in 2002 but he started his film journalism in 1980 as a typed xeroxed one-sheet working as a projectionist at the theaters he loved so well in the deuce located on 42nd st in times square.

landis' writings on exploitation films and the theaters that featured them married well the critical acumen of a cultural historian with the flair of a natural storyteller. his pieces read like the new journalism of say tom wolfe or even dare i say it hunter thompson. he was also a geeky fanboy with a passion for the marginal in extreme cinema. he was and it is sad even if i never knew the man to use the past tense in writing about him.

a bit announcing landis' death is here. bill landis lived quite a life and wrote quite frankly about it for pubs as varied as film comment, rolling stone and the village voice. with some luck his varied writings will be collected and published under one cover. thru a message board thread i just discovered a piece published in the voice detailing landis' years working in the porn industry under the aka bobby specter. it is a harrowing article and is found here and here.

big & thick

got a new wallet for christmas. that means i need to clean out my current wallet and transfer what i might deem 'the essentials' to the new one. if you've seen my current wallet - a confabulation 3 plus inches thick of old receipts, phone numbers and email addresses written on the back of said receipts and accumulated business cards, rarely do i carry cash - you'll know what kind of task i've set before me.

i might be one of the weirder pack-rats in that i really don't have need nor do i have much desire for things. yet the stuff i do keep is the relatively useless detritus of quotidian life. the same goes for my backpack which is filled with books, mags, drafts of poems, newspapers, my moleskin, a pen, a packed lunch for the workdays. my backpack is also stuffed with evidence of my travels. i still have receipts and brochures from our trip to london in '02. in other words, it is a heavy affair that strains the back and demands a thorough cleaning too. i take my backpack nearly everywhere i go.

i suppose i need one of those iphones to organize my life in an orderly way. the way i keep phone numbers, addresses and email addresses is too slipshod a system for any practical purpose. and yet, it seems for me the messier it appears is also the biggest pleasure-giving aspect of living. call it a system of 'anti-organization'. anna calls it foolhardy. but certainly i have one helluva a task set to clean now.

Friday, December 26, 2008


i'm preparing to take nicholas outside so he can ride his new green bicycle with training wheels, a gift from santa which the boy so wanted he nearly had an out of body experience when he saw it parked by the tree on christmas morn. the weather is clear, cold and sunny. and anna and i have nursed our colds into full-blown coughs and sniffles. everyone seems to have this sort of cold and that it lingers for several weeks.

ah, is it a gift that we may find beauty in the midst of madness and chaos? i mean in the world at large and not necessarily our own individual lives. would it be that the necessity of art, any type of art, is partly defined by our need for definition and beauty? hmmm. . .at any rate, may the new year be better than this concluding year. may each one of you be safe and hold dearly to loved ones and the tasks that make you the individual you are.

may this benediction be consigned to an early new years greeting and that the world and us in it make it new as we go thru our days of a very early new century.

may we find love and beauty when and where we seek it.

below is the utterly sublime k.d. lang's version of a great song by leonard cohen.

Monday, December 22, 2008

why i'm not a filmmaker

last night the above title for a poem hit me as i was going to sleep. i know o'hara's so loved painting and yet he was a text guy. for me it is cinema, usually b-movies and exploitation, but really almost every sort of genre and quality of film. i've not written a poem with the title, not yet at least and i'm probably dooming myself to never write it as i go thru this meandering now.

still, i'm a late-comer to werner herzog's documentaries. i've watched grizzly man and i have a little film directed by zak penn and starring herzog titled incident at loch ness i've not watched yet. last night i watched herzog's recent docu encounters at the end of the world. i've read some criticism about how herzog takes a considerable amount of glee when he describes our inevitable demise as a species in a segment of this docu. herzog travels to antarctica to explore the vast strangeness of the continent and the vast strangeness of the weirdos and misfits who work there.

i say that with all due respect. who is not a weirdo? really, i mean that. yet, herzog's glee about our brevity as a species is counterpoised with the utter beauty of the men and women and the environment of antarctica. i find herzog a sympathetic voice of calm reason as he investigates the people who live and work in what might be described as the last place on earth. his glee might be found in herzog's existentialism. it is an existentialism tinged with nihilstic tendencies. but what of it. we are doomed as a species. we are. but still there is so much beauty.

herzog describes his work as a search for 'ecstatic truth'. i've still to figure that out. i need to study more of herzog's work. but he's primarily a creature of image and i'm a creature of text. sometimes these so mesh. i was literally blown away by this film. as i fell asleep last night with images of this movie playing in my head along with herzog's calm voice as narrator i did well imagine o'hara falling asleep after a particularly great gallery show. as the poet's mind revisited certain paintings there might've been a bit of envy in such abilities to conjure a reality thru imagery. but o'hara was a creature of text and not to paint too broad a picture between me and a great poet, still, i can imagine that o'hara got up the next morning doing the routine things of life then something, an image of a painting or a remembered snippet of a conversation ,set him off again onto the next poem.

happy christmas / feliz navidad

yes, i think pumpkins fit every occassion. imagine pumpkins w/ santa hats, pumpkins w/ bunny ears for easter, pumpkins w/ red sugary hearts for valentine's day. and yet . . .and still. . .

no pumpkins here except for the jack o'lantern inked on my left shoulder. okay, enough of that nonsense. i simply can't believe christmas is here already. again.

i wish you all a happy christmas. may the new year be better than this one.

for christmas below is the pogues great song about the holiday 'fairytale of new york.' have i posted this one before? i think so. still, given the troubles of 2008 this song about despair, hope and love is redoubled in its meaning.

i could've been someone
well, so could anyone

Thursday, December 18, 2008

this life

we took nicholas to the newly refurbished california academy of sciences yesterday. located in golden gate park in san francisco the academy re-opened in i think october or november after a long period when it was completely remodelled. anna and i have fond memories of the museum which includes a fabulous aquarium as we were frequent attendees when we were first dating. to this day our favorite fish is the sarcastic fringehead, an ornery dweller of the muddy bay floor who makes its homes in the detritus of the human world such as bottles, because the fish was both idiosyncratic enough to delight our sensibilities and was one of the first of our mutual discoveries.

it was a gorgeous yet cold day in the bay area. it was also wachovia wednesday at the museum which means that admission is free, sponsored as it is by wachovia. we wondered how long the bank would continue its sponsorship as the credit industry founders. nevertheless, the academy is a fantastic marriage of new and old. life in the 21st century is most certainly digital and centered on technology. the academy houses an africa wing where many of the old displays of lions and zebras remain. what has changed is not only decor but presentation too. rather than contenting itself to static displays of stuffed animals the curators also added interactive digital media to enhance their efforts. most notably was a small animation of elephants moving across the background of the zebra exhibit. so subtle was the animation it looked almost like the paintings it moved across.

i couldn't help thinking that everything is simply transmissions of information. the museum of the 21st century make that information by and thru video monitors, interactive software, and also the old static dioramas. so seamless were these transmissions that we had to look at a display very closely to see if we were witnessing the marvels of technology or genuine life. the virtual is reality and so on. take for example the ubiquity of mobile phones. everywhere i go nearly everyone i see is tethered to one either by texting or by talking. and i mean everyone, young, old, male, female and so forth. no longer can one declare the use of this technology as part of the meanness and crassness of youth. technology is now simply part of life.

well then, that feeling was brought forth again as we did some christmas shopping at a newly remodelled shopping mall today. it is now a place of video imagery and mobile phones. texts are read on monitors including menu boards. i am simply stating facts and am amazed by it all. being a poet in the 21st century means having to know your way online. you could still as a writer reject technology but i think you'd do so at your peril. i think there are many more excellent online pubs than there are print pubs and i wish that editors of say the best american poetry anthologies would get that. maybe then those anthologies wouldn't suck so hard.

at any rate, i don't know if there is any time in human history that is the best time to live. i suppose whatever era you happen to occupy is the best. however, this is certainly one of the more interesting eras, i think, as virtual technologies blur outer realities into brand new wholes.

and with that i'll toot my own horn for a minor note and say that one of the best online review pubs is now live. editor and poet extraordinaire eileen tabios' galatea resurrects #11 is abrim with reviews by, among many fine poet-reviewers, tom becket, lars palm, john bloomberg-rissman and eileen tabios herself who reviewed my collaborative chapbook with jonathan hayes hallucinating california.

an [im]modest proposal

i've only caught snippets of terrence malick's remake of the thin red line and that inludes last night. the brief glimpses i've had of the film reveal a slow, metaphysical examination of the war within and outward of the human soul. i can't say whether malick's movie works well enough to ground its metaphysics within the torpor and horror of battle in the pacific theater. my brother recommends the film as a deep work.

i recall a sequence of poems by quan barry that quotes from the movie. barry also used films such as the matrix and a couple of others that i can't bring to mind at the moment. however, i thought it quite exciting that barry, a poet relatively unknown to me but for her book asylum, uses movies in her poetry. i found her book at the sac public library a few years back.

at any rate, what barry's sequence and malick's revisioning brought to mind last night was the great french poet rene char. in particular char's war poems when he fought as a leader in the french resistance as 'capitaine alexandre' which was a period in his life he called and which were filled with 'fury and mystery'. the notebooks char kept as he was a leader in the resistance were later published as 'leaves of hypnos'.

char was both a deeply sensual and hermetic poet. as a leader engaged in sabotage missions he was known to be highly disciplined, stoic and yet possessed a vast resevoir of empathy. there is a text by char that describes his metaphysical contradictions. this text was occasioned by watching the execution of one of his captured comrades by the nazis as char and his group lay hidden outside the village. if char had attempted to save his comrade he and his group risked the certain destruction of the village.

it is this contrary dynamism i was thinking about last night as i caught a bit of the thin red line. i thought that a movie based on char as a leader of the maquis could be made. the film could be about a poet and poetry - so far i think movies about poets fall flat - and war. the movie would establish its searing metaphysics by showing the life of a poet writing a life in wartime. the slow, dream-like imagery of malick i think would fit perfectly with char.

it's just an idea but frankly i'd love to see a movie about poetry and specifically a poet that does not resort to the cliches of madness and insipid inspiration. you know, as fond as i am of david lean's adaptation of boris pasternak's novel dr zhivago, the image of the poet that we are left with is one who is dreamy and when pen is put to paper the camera simply fizzles into a blur of triteness.

i don't think i've made a good case for a movie about rene char but even a quick glance of his work and i think you'd get my point.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the suck of christmas

we each have our own favorite christmas songs but we also share a like or even greater number of christmas songs that we absolutely loathe. take your pick. mine is the following: 'christmas shoes' by newsong, which was both a song and a movie. gawd, an icepick thru the frontal lobes would be preferable to listening to this fucking fucker of a fucked up dirge. when i asked a friend at work yesterday what is the christmas song she most hated she immediately shouted 'christmas shoes' thus knocking me from my chair in total agreement. tonight i described the song to anna which led us to search youtube for it. she nearly ran to the bathroom in case of upchucking. the song, and the movie, delineates the desire of a little boy to cobble together enough cash to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes so she would have something to wear in heaven. now most holiday songs try to tug our heartstrings but this is a composition that takes out your soul, stomps on it, blackens it, then shoves it back in with a fuck you, have a very fucking christmas.

here is the song. consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

pretty thing, isn't it

just now as i was moving the car from the street into the driveway i startled my neighbor by greeting her as she was moving toward her house after walking her dog. she shouted, my god it is freezing! and it is indeed, or just above freezing. i was surprised when i read the temperature was hovering at 34 f. it is very cold with a few clouds in the sky and as i walked home this evening my ears stung from the cold.

it is christmas in northern cal. it's been raining off and on. and the trees are nearly denuded of their leaves from the winds and the rain. to say that i love this sort of weather would be to understate it. i do. i'm more a night, cold weather creature. but california cold, mind you, i can't hang with the snow. fuck. how does anyone hang with snow?!

well then anyway, another christmas tradition for me is the david bowie / bing crosby duet of 'little drummer boy'. i first saw the video on friday night videos, an early to mid '80s show devoted to airing pop videos. we didn't get cable, and thus mtv, until the late '80s so we watched friday night videos. and if i recall someone somewhere possess old recordings my brothers and i made of that show on betamax tapes.

now, i'm not a big fan of the song itself. it's rather schmaltzy. but the pairing of bowie and crosby is christmas magic. such beauty and i think maybe there is such things as miracles. maybe. whatever. dig.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

enter the dragon

we shall perfect our kung fu

you be a writer too

come and form the horse stance

empty the mind

no desire

no talent

no thing

we shall be little bruce lees

no wait

you be bruce lee

i'll be john saxon

find mr han

we shall write until we lose

Friday, December 12, 2008

and death shall have no dominion

2008 seems to be the year for death. if death is indeed the black cloaked figure with a scythe in popular culture then i think that fucker is reaping more than he sows. 2008 has been a bad year. both personally and in the world at large. and yet there is hope. always hope.

still, death is the natural state of being. our lives occupy the interstices of that luminous absence. as i get older, and i've been feeling very old of late [no biggie, we all do here and there, i think] i try to remind myself that life is a great pleasure even if it seems so fucked in the head.

so then anyway, i learned today the actor robert prosky is now among the dead. he died at age 77 which historically is considered a long life. but even a long life oftentimes is not long enough. prosky is not a huge name in hollywood but his films - among the most prominent is christine and mrs. doubtfire - and his stage work and tv shows like hill street blues showcase a gifted actor and that is perhaps all an actor could ask for in this life.

also, poet dave church died this week at the early age of 61. church was a small press poet who drove a cab for a living. in fact, he was found dead in his cab at 1:30 in the morning. the cause i think was his heart. f.a. nettlebeck posted this elegy at his blog. and you'll find a biographical sketch of church here.

finally, among all the photos of bettie page available i chose a recent pic of her because she was a relative recluse who steadfastly refused to be photographed not wanting to mar her image as the pin-up bondage girl, so this recent photo is relatively rare, and also because even at age 80 she was still beautiful. and that we all get older. we even become old. but that does not stop our living. death will do that soon enough. so i chose a photo of a beautiful, iconic woman in old age because old age does not stop life. nor does it diminish at least in my eyes her allure and mystique. life in life and death in life too. can you dig it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

bettie page died today at age 85 - farewell grande dame of pulp and pin-ups
rest in peace - april 22, 1923 - december 11, 2008 [photo of bettie in 2003, age 80]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

feed the world - let them know it's christmas time

it is now going on nearly 25 years since bob geldoff of the boomtown rats organized the brightest and most popular stars of euro-pop to record a christmas song to illuminate the devestating famines occurring then - and still even now - in africa. i was 17 when the song was released and the supergroup called itself 'band aid' with the proceeds going to hunger relief. since that time there hasn't been a holiday season without the song getting airplay. i've no idea if we could call the song a classic. what amazes me is how many people you'll find, or at least i find, still around making music. the biggest face of the crowd i think is arguably bono whose band, u2, in 3 years time would become one of the biggest in the world. anna and i watched the video again tonight via youtube. it isn't christmas without it. perhaps in the new year with all the shit going down that maybe perhaps maybe pop music can again take up causes. maybe perhaps maybe the need for bling turns into desire for a larger good in all its broad manifestations. but then maybe it's the hippie in me, the inner longhair i've been trying to come to peace with. love is harder than hate and to achieve love takes a hell of a lot of effort. it's worth a shot. because without love we are fucked up.

Monday, December 08, 2008

die hard [1988]

coming up with a list of christmas flicks i wanted to stay away from the obvious. i mean, if i see jimmy stewart again in capra's classic i might just upchuck this season's eggnog. okay, that's an exaggeration because stewart is always great even in drivel and capra knew how to direct sap into very good movies. possibly even great films. but it's a wonderful life is so much an obvious christmas movie.

now, die hard, that's a christmas movie. the action proceeds during christmas eve as bruce willis, in a star making role, portrays a nyc cop, john mcclane, estranged from his wife and kids who live in l.a. mcclane's wife, played by bonnie bedelia, is a successful executive in a japanese company who uses her maiden name. she invites john to l.a. for christmas. they'll meet at holly's company's christmas party. then the party is interrupted by european thugs who are not what they seem. led by the charismatic hans gruber, deliciously played by the great alan rickman, the thugs turn out not to be terrorists as first thought but thieves of a high order as they eyeball the company's 6 hundred million plus change held in a vault.

is that plausible? do blue-chip companies keep that sort of cash around for pin money? i doubt it but what is logic and being reasonable matter in an american action film. for it is the lone cowboy, mcclane, to stop the thugs by blowing them away one by one till only gruber and him face off like 2 gunslingers in an old western. both gruber and mcclane wear their archetypes so closely they might as well being wearing white and black cowboy hats.

and there you have it. mcclane is a violent gary cooper whose rubric goes something like yippee-ki-ya, motherfucker. contrast that with the disciplined cool intellect of european gruber. no match? well, recall that this film was made still in reagan's america when the u.s. pretended to be that city on a hill. a beacon of might and purity and goodness. our heroes speak softly and carry a big stick. and they use it too. the intellect is no match for brawn. at least in this vision quest.

still, the movie is all sheen and little depth. yet it is tightly wound and the action keeps spinning as if we were riding a roller coaster. it might seem incidental that die hard takes place on christmas eve. but i don't think so. the filmmakers rubs christmas in our faces with holiday music on heavy rotation in the soundtrack, decorations everywhere, and characters making little holiday quips from reel 1 to the last line. back in the '80s the u.s. was giving itself to the world as a gift whether it wanted it or not. or so it seemed that the u.s. wanted to. the u.s. as impulsive, quick to violence but ever so resourceful. unless you are fbi who are made a brunt of a joke in this flick. but what's love without a little arrogance. yippee-ki-ya, motherfuckers.

where ya at

poet steve tills has logged some time here in northern california. in fact, i believe steve met jim mccrary when both were students at sonoma state. steve writes about being in a california state of mind here. as he says he'll probably die in ny state he also lives in california.

don't we all live physically in one place while living else where too? i do at least. like steve who says he thinks he'll die in his natal place i probably will die in mine too. yet, i've always thought of myself as a citizen of the world. not a man of the world, which has differing connotations and resonances. i mean a citizen of the world. a person who thinks of himself as a member of the human species in all its guises and manifestations. and even perhaps being at home potentially every where.

at any rate, lately i've been in a sweden state of mind. over the years i think of it as my country also. my connection to the country resides in anna's side of the family where her immediate family members with the exception of her mother, live mostly in stockholm. and now anna's mother, annalena, and myself share the same fantasy: buying either a summer house or a flat for extended family stays.

who knows about that. but i've been thinking about sweden as if i've lived there for many years. the time i've logged in the country amounts to very little. but does it matter for it feels like a second home. i do think where we live is more than the place where we take physical posession. i'll die a californian -- i'm pretty sure. i can't think of a better place for it. i love my native city. i really do and i'm past the age for tragic romantic notions of running away into the abstractions of what we called in school 'the real world'. sac is real enough, believe me. but as i am a native of california i live in this world and i am also, i say, swedish too.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

a surprise waiting in a self-portrait in a convex mirror

fuck! is
it you again

Friday, December 05, 2008

to a bittersweet melancholy

an even more beautiful version of this song performed in the band's native iceland is found here.

you must see this

linh dinh's new collective blog about the human body's lower half

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the most recent entry by rafael toriz at tattoo poetics

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a new zine of tattoos and poetry holly rose review

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a new obsession for me: john bloomberg-rissman's zeitgeist spam

dead nature

lines taken from at swim-two-birds apropos ernesto's desk:

Till a man has accomplished twelve books of poetry, the same is not taken for want of poetry but is forced away. No man is taken till a black hole is hollowed in the world to the depth of his two oxters and he put into it to gaze from it with his lonely head and nothing to him but his shield and a stick of hazel.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

let the right one in [2008]

if i become rather effusive in this little essay let me simply declare straight out that at a single viewing of this movie i think i have discovered a masterpiece. i've not seen all the major releases of this now soon to be past year but if i had to choose the single best movie of the year, hell of the past 5 years, than i'd have a hard time coming up with a better title than this feature. i shit you not. it is that good.

i use the word 'genre' to distinguish cult, exploitation and horror films from every other movie produced in the world. but really the word genre is just a sign and it often sounds sometimes like a pejorative term. horror cinema is normally viewed as a guilty pleasure and real adult fare does not include the supernatural in its thematic structures nor the fantastique in design. i say all that provisionally knowing full well that good cinema simply sometimes refuses any borders. thus director tomas alfredson's vampire film let the right one in is a deeply textured, complex piece of fiction. in the end it is a love story about 2 children who are outcasts in their respective social circles and in life in general. they fall in love at the age of 12 years old and it is their first love in all its lightness and awkward motions.

i'm tempted to give away much of the story to describe this picture. i won't. if your lucky to have this movie open in your city then by all means see it and don't read too much about it. for it will surprise you. if you worry that it is gory then fear not. hardly any gore at all but the filmmakers did supply an abundant share of shocks. so be forewarned. however, this is an arthouse pic of such delicate beauty that i was astonished by it. sweden in winter is cold and dark. especially in this movie. alfredson's genius was to ground the film so much in the quotidian so that you never forget that the characters are living in rather small, claustrophobic flats, that the people work for a living, that life can be so ordinary it is boring. alfredson also has a knack of filming faces. every shaving cut, each blemish is visible so grounded in it that we can recognize ourselves in these people.

the score is minimal. instead, alfredson uses ambient sounds, such as neighbors arguing, the passing traffic, the hushed stillness of crunching snow, to ground his movie. the director's talent at framing his scenes is outstanding so that each frame is impeccably composed. what is left out of the frame is of great import too. the pace of the narrative is leisurely, going the speed of a day. nothing is hurried at all however the slower pace amps the course of the children as they fall in love.

and that is what so got me in this film. alfredson so expertly captured that erotic frisson we have all experienced with our first love. holding hands, a first kiss, a short hug, shoulders touching accidentally walking together. each of those moments are filled with an ecstatic peace that keeps us in a holding pattern. it is bittersweet too for those moments are so brief but in their brevity they contain an eternity. there is a scene when eli - the vampire - crawls in to bed with oskar after a night hunting. she is streaked with blood and strips from her clothes as she gets into bed. oskar from the look on his face is both frightened to death by the boldness of the girl but thrilled as well. it is such a well-done scene where the actors create that moment of fear and daring. oskar notices eli is naked but he keeps his back to her as they talk and he falls i imagine into the most delicious sleep of his life.

such scenes of tenderness and futility - for falling in love at the edge of puberty is a futile experience because the love, as deep as it is, is doomed to a short life but the memory and its attendant emotional resonances will last as long as you live - is why i think this film is a masterpiece. the sound is exquisite, the actors are brilliant, the photography is stunning and the story being a deeply textured tale of love left me at the end saddened by the charasters as they move inexorably into the world of adult experiences but i am made richer for having seen it. i think i'll write once more about this movie when i see it again when it gets released on dvd where i'll be more specific about the story and the characters that populated it. in the meantime, take this collection of generalities as a homage to what might become one of the best films of first love ever made. don't believe the hype that you might've read about this pic, including this little essay, for the movie is even better than its commentary.

below is a clip of oskar and eli meeting for the first time. listen to the soundtrack and see how alfredson composed the scene.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

watching and waiting

now my voice has gone to the harvery fierstein register which is a good sign that my suffering is almost over. my colds run thus: sore throat, then headaches, sneezes, runny nose, listlessness, hardcore 3 1/2 pack cigarette habit hacking and concludes with my losing my voice for a couple of days. i know big deal, big deal. but it is to me when my normal voice is replaced with a smoky resonance, i'm fucking stoked.

just caught a showing of let the right one in. a review is forthcoming tomorrow. tonight i want to hit the hay a bit earlier. however, i'll end by saying that the movie is an astonishing work of art. it really is. everything you've read about it, and if trust a ratings systems called a tomatometer found at the meta-review movie site rotten tomatoes you'll find a rating of 98%, does not replace the pure pleasure of watching a complex film on the big screen. and if you're lucky enough to have this movie play in your city before it gets released on dvd then do so for this movie deserves to be seen on the big screen.