Tuesday, November 30, 2010

don't call me shirley

the death of actor leslie nielsen yesterday came as a surprise but not a shock. the man was 84 years old. however, his death leaves this world a bit emptier for him not being in it. the obits and appreciations i've read all pretty well concentrate on his comedy. for that, nielsen was a master ham. by playing it straight, along with his leading man looks, his silvery mane, and his resonant voice he was the antithesis of the clown. by playing his scenes straight in very goofball movies the comedy was amped to the first intensity. but nielsen was also a gifted actor and for me one of his best roles was in the stephen king/george a romero's paean to e.c. comics creepshow [1982]. in the segment 'something to tide you over' nielsen portrayed a really evil, really sinister dude. gone was the comedy and in its place was pure creepiness. it is a masterful role and a proof that nielsen had a lot of range. then again, i've long claimed that comedy and horror come from similar places and plays upon emotions that are mirror images of each other. pleasure and pain. fear and joy. we can't have one without the other. i'll remember that next time when someone says, 'rich -- surely you don't mean. . .' and i'll say, 'don't call me shirley.'

Monday, November 29, 2010

drugstore cowboy [1989]

it is nearly always illuminating to return to a work of art that informed your youth. sometimes that illumination still shines with the original impulse. other times that bulb just dims. i'd seen gus van sant's first feature when it was released in '89 and i was enthralled to the filmmaker's vision of a life of louche decadence. of course the decadence spirals downward to the inevitable decline of the movie's principals. van sant is refreshingly candid. his cowboy does not pull himself up by his bootstraps from a life of petty crime and even pettier highs. even if the fate of matt dillon's character, bob, is left a bit ambiguous at the end of the last reel we know he's irrevocably damaged.

part of this flick's appeal is watching van sant hone his craft. in '89 i was pretty much done with chemicals even if i was under the influence of that master bastard and seer, rimbaud. watching bob and his crew shoot up was difficult for me. i had to turn my head when the needle hit the vein. i'm less squeamish about that now even if my tolerance for the tales of the drug-addled and downtrodden is almost nil.

which was the problem with watching the pic last night on ifc. van sant is a talented filmmaker and placing william s burroughs in the film as a junky priest is a brilliant touch. i simply couldn't care less of whether bob got straight or died a junky. drug addiction in literature, movies and language, is an over-ample field. i blame myself. as i get older the troubles with junkies are too complicated, too familiar and too tedious for me to really give a shit.

another problem is the beauty of the cast. dillon as bob is too handsome to be such a bottom-feeder. same goes for his wife, diane, played by kelly lynch, and heather graham as the baby of bob's crew. ever see what real junkies look like. they sure as hell don't look like models with clear skin and even clearer eyes. but that's hollywood, even indie hollywood as constructed by van sant, because who would want to spend 90 plus minutes with a cast that looks like it'll ask the gaffers and electricians on the set for spare change for a bottle of ripple very much like the real street people we pass each day.

i don't blame van sant either for he made a good film. as bob gets high van sant uses fades and floating imagery that would make dali proud. the result is rather kitchen sink surrealism made on a budget of a buck and a half. doesn't matter for this movie is supposed to look rather unravelled much like the protagonist bob who separates himself from his crew when his guilty conscious over the death of a member of his gang puts him on the path toward sobriety.

and yet. . .and yet. . .the junkie's life is always a tangled weave of lost opportunities. how van sant traces the narrative arc to its bitter conclusion is something to be lauded. i can see with this first feature that van sant is developing into a very good movie-maker. not all of his films will be good ones. i'm tempted to say that van sant is an honest filmmaker but how can one forgive his shot-by-shot remake of hitchcock's classic psycho. what could van sant have been thinking?! then again, such missteps are the life of art and perhaps even the life of life. i saw this pic again last night for the first time in almost 20 years. and as borges liked to say of himself about particular books that didn't work out for him, i failed the film.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

the great linguist/philosopher george carlin

i posted this video before on occasion of carlin's death a couple of years ago. whether you agree or disagree with carlin's thesis on the existence of god it is without a doubt, at least my doubt, that george carlin was a great linguist and a damn fine thinker. philosophy, poetry and comedy are intimately related i think. i don't know if carlin wrote books like another comedian steve martin is writing books now. i imagine a system of aphorisms by carlin would be his modus operandi. why not. for carlin reminds me of a very hippy-ish, earthy rene char. char was a cosmic poet who was also deeply grounded in this life. the poet who was a friend of heidegger and survived the second world war as a leader of the french resistance knew, from what i gather from his poetry, a good joke when he heard it. he also relished a good meal and the company of friends, and that life is better lived thru the witness of words. i know very little about the lives of either char or carlin but i imagine that both laughed heartily and knew how to enjoy. as for carlin the dude knew his shit and knew how to express it in language. i don't mean to make a direct comparison between carlin and char, and i imagine both turning over in their graves at such a comparison -- poetry and comedy?! -- yet they both share a cosmic earthiness that is abundant in ironies and wonder. make of it what you will.

living in stereo

i think that was the name of a pop song back in the '80s. i use that phrase when i think of someone or some thing living life large. i used that phrase to describe our late pooch, hugo, who was nothing if not large in character, bark and spirit. in february it'll be a year since hugo's death. does that time seem short. and it is. i'm amazed by it. the speed of time. i don't think i embody living in stereo. at all. i'm too close to my own flaws to be objective anyway. as i age i'm attracted more to the idea of gusto. because when i'm dead i won't be able to enjoy life. i don't know what all this means. i do what i can, and stumble much of the time. it was raining for most of the day. i left the house just once. i took nick with me for my eye exam. i need a new pair of eyeglasses. the ones i got are woefully inadequate. reading and seeing normally are getting harder. i like to do both, sometimes at the same time. as the saying goes, it sucks getting older. i retort, no, it doesn't suck getting older. not getting older is not an option. i have no choice. i am in the process. stuck between yes and no.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

opening the day with anselm hollo

i fell asleep last night reading the poet's notebook [norton, 1995], a compendium of just that, poets and their jottings. consider it blogging but in paper form. i bought the book at the university bookstore because i liked some of the poets caught between two covers, such as yusef komanyakaa, charles simic, and a few more of the usual suspects readers of the new yorker find sometimes, oftentimes, in that magazine. i bought it too because i like reading notebooks, especially the journals of poets because poets are often, no matter their schooling, auto-didacts and seem always like they are trying to catch up so their noodlings are treasure chests of cool finds and their curiosity about the world and its subjects can be quite infectious.

the real find for me in the book, the one poet i've returned to again and again is anselm hollo. hollo writes using a mac and his lower-case stylings with a zen detachment married with great humor is both, at least to this reader, marvels of clarity and sanity. hollo is for me a poet who takes great pleasure at being in the world and has created a language of balance. i can't qualify that at all except to respond as a reader and fellow word-worker.

a few years ago i found in a used bookstore hollo's selected poems sojourner microcosms [blue wind press, 1977]. i think i might have written a bit about this book before. i pulled it off the shelf this morning and read about a dozen poems to gird me for the day. reading hollo is as eye-opening and bracing as a good, strong cup of black coffee. after reading this translation of catullus and hopi :

love-i --thou-- me-off-pissest

i was ready for whatever the day would throw at me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

the rain, again

the news said it wasn't a gully washer

but it was close

even if the skies settled a bit and the sun opened up


i almost made it

left the office late

when it started to sprinkle

the smells of rain thru trees

of rain on sidewalks and streets


wet speckled my glasses

double- and triple-vision

for a moment almost knew where i was going

Saturday, November 20, 2010

super hot heat

speaking of delicious this piece by ryan scott about how hot his dad liked his food reminds me of the time when i worked for campbell soup co.

the soups we made in the factory were not hot at all. for from it. but the employees were a multi-cultural lot with many mexicans. mind you, i was 18-19 years old when i worked at campbell so i thought any one over the age of 25 was older. there were a lot of older mexicans who i'd see in the lunch room wolfing down chili peppers. these chilies ranged from large green to small reds. i'm not an expert at all, then and now, on the heat of various chilies. i've no idea whether the wattage of the pepper depends on its size and color.

nevertheless, on my lunch break i'd see invariably these older hombres wolfing down these chilies of various sizes and hues. and invariably i'd watch as the eyes began to water, the faces flushed red, sweat developed on their brows, and snot dropped from their noses. always, after the initial heat and swallow these dudes would grab for another pepper.

i didn't understand it. why suffer so in the name of pleasure. could it be that the sensation of pain co-existed on the same gene as the one for pleasure? could be, i suppose, because i'm often asked why do i love extreme films. how do i get pleasure from those types of movies. or better still, what is it about poetry that gets my blood pumping and synapses firing. i'm often asked that. telling someone i'm a poet is akin to declaring myself a bedwetter. nothing wrong with that, i guess, but i wouldn't advertise, goes the popular thinking.

okay, back to the chilies. i'd watch these old dudes eat shit that seemed so hot that one would need to wear asbestos gloves to just to hold the peppers. it happened. my own experience with the hot stuff. i worked graveyard shift, which was between 10:00 pm to 7:00 am. by lunch-time i was pretty tired. i headed to the cafeteria and ordered my usual burger and pepsi. between the grill and the cash register was a tray for condiments. the usual array of stuff like salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard. and also, a jar of large green chili peppers. maybe my mind snapped. because those peppers looked yummy.

i took one of those peppers and put it on my tray. i mean, i ask in hindsight, how hot could it have been. the chili just looked so delicious and it smelled wonderful. i ate my burger and luckily didn't finish my pepsi because i took a fairly big bite of the pepper. i swallowed without tasting. that's when the heat hit. oh fuck. it was like biting into molten lead. pain upon pain upon pain. mucous flowed and my eyes teared up so badly i couldn't see. i was in a world of hurt. i could've drank a thousand gallons of pepsi and still not put out the fire. i don't recall if anyone noticed my pain or the snot running down my face. i did my best to pull thru even if i wanted to run to the nurse's station and ask for a bandage for my bleeding tongue. i finished the shift alright. i never wanted to see another chili ever again.

do eat this

visual poem by text/vis poet spencer selby. it is delicious.

dude, what you gonna do with that degree?

that was the question i got way back when i was in school. seems studying english or philosophy or history or any of the humanities is just not practical. lo and behold there's a story in today's paper, front page, about what sort of degree you get translates to the kind of money you make. both anna and i had the same thoughts regarding this article, since when did education mean getting vocational training? isn't the means to higher education to develop habits in reading and critical thinking? wouldn't that be crucial to be an active participant in our cultures. everything else, other than very specific training that is required for jobs in medicine and the sciences, everything can be learned on the job. since when did going to university require specific job training, for like everything? is it the desire for increasing capital? what does this quasi- vocational training mean about what our society values?

welcome to the NEW NORMAL where if you want to study history, philosophy, literature, languages or even, gasp!, creative writing an ancillary curriculum should be developed for prospective graduates where the students can utilize and perfect that key phrase, you want fries with that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

a short walk

i'd spent all day in my cube yesterday, not leaving the building once. until i left for the night and the sky darkened with the city turning itself on. that's when the warm breeze hit me full. i smiled. it was thisness, this aliveness. i felt like young elizabeth in the poem 'the waiting room' when the conscious becomes aware of itself and its mortality. i was astonished to be alive, now, even at all. the feeling didn't leave as i made my usual trek home. i passed a homeless guy sitting in the doorway of a building and he says to me, 'excuse me man, can i ask you a question'. i tell him, 'i don't have an answer'. i did the usual things but even in their ordinariness was amazing. to be alive, now, to read, listen to music, write a bit, correspond and delight, yes delight, in the presence of my family. i don't know if that's luck, but that counts too.

shocking blue

on a sitcom
i saw it

i'm not making
this up

see the
too young grandfather

not just
any t-shirt no

it was a
social distortion

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the snatch

it comes as no surprise to writers that everything is grist for writing. even snatches of conversation. obviously, but we live in an era when people do this thing involving talking into these hand-held devices called mobile phones and the words i hear from these conversations are divorced from their context. sometimes the words can sound quite lame and unemphatic, a lot of yeses and uh-huhs. other times the words sound ominous. while sometimes the language is quite like the dialog from a sitcom. especially so that the language i hear is from one voice talking into, from my perspective, dead air. august kleinzahler suggests, in an essay, that a few people might be talking into dead mobiles. who knows. i don't have a phone so i can't say what the habits are of people using these phones, and it seems the users of these devices might be everyone as i've seen even the homeless talking into these marvels of human technology. yet, we live in a world of words, textual and verbal and visual. my radar is attuned to language. i can't help it. i love words and i hear these snatches of living language as if they are pieces of an unfinished poem. perhaps that is part of the postmodern condition to be caught in clouds of words often divorced from context. what we don't know we make up. here i am with these words and applying it to my own half-conceived concepts of writing and what i don't know i make up. sometimes it becomes a poem.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

quote unquote

the finger of blame has turned upon itself
and i'm more than willing to offer myself
do you want my presence or need my help

who know where that might lead.

--neil finn


reading this post by u.k. based aussie poet laurie duggan reminds me a bit of my own education in poetry. or mis-education. or whatever. i made my discoveries pre-internet padding thru the stacks of libraries where one discovery dove-tailed into another. an education like that has many disadvantages including reading a lot of poetry that might block or hold you back in your development. but i loved it. i think i learned from everything and everyone i read. i recall some letters to the editor published in the newspaper american poetry review by john yau where yau mentions nyc poet jim brodey as both being homeless and suffering from aids. i had to find out who brodey was tout suite. in short, i had no head honcho who could guide me in my practices of reading and writing. i would've benefited from such a honcho, greatly. but by the time i got into university i was past the need for a guiding light and was well on my way to becoming a poet. in my defence, i knew i was to become a poet and even had the idea, from past examples as varied as dylan thomas and arthur rimbaud, that one didn't even need to finish high school to become a writer. i think my eclectic reading served me well. i developed a voracious curiosity and i think i can, even now, read the writings of say post-avant and formal poetries without irony and without contradiction. that means i also developed a distaste for canons and canon-makers, even if i agreed with the makers. later i developed a hatred for the categories of 'minor' and 'major' writers. in the end, who cares. what matters most to me is the high i get from poetry. i still get high from poetry. i don't care who might be declared the honcho or no.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

dead set [2008]

finished this 5-part british zombie miniseries tonight and i'm here to testify that the vision of scads of the undead ripping thru the scant survivors of an apocalypse that has no known origin is quite a head-clearing, stress relieving, experience. this is bleak storytelling at its finest.

it goes like this: it's eviction night for the cast of big brother, a reality show where a group of people live in a single house and bicker like only reality stars can. the show is i hear huge in the u.k. then from out of nowhere the dead are rising up to eat the flesh of the living. the cast survives the initial onslaught and takes refuge in the house itself. also among the survivors is the director of the program, a real self-absorbed shithead and the vapid cast member who was evicted earlier in the evening. the wrinkle is that these two are separated by the rest of the case members as they had fled the control room and are trapped in one of the green rooms. and they hate each other.

that's the beauty of this show. you get shell-shocked victims who bicker and argue to their ultimate deaths. you also have the standard-issue badass of a person who rises from an unlikely source and becomes the default leader. that leader is kelly who was just a few hours before the zombie attacks an assistant to the show whose main job was to get coffee for the shithead director. she is a pleasure to watch. she does no vamping or heroics. rather, her leadership is achieved thru a prism of realism that is unafraid to show real fear and vulnerabilities.

a graduate student can of course write a thesis on the ironies of the literal dead eating the figurative dead of a reality star culture. the makers of this drama do not dig that thesis into the dirt and instead focus on the chemistry of its cast and the group dynamics that emerge under extreme stress. the vision is bleak and nihilistic. the end is both welcome and unexpected. if you like happy endings then stay away from this miniseries. the photography is roughened to a sort of old filmstock but i suspect was shot in digital while the lighting is that blue-grey that is so common among indie horror films now. i suspect that blue-grey light and the fast-cut editing of hyper-violent segments, and this is one of the most violent tv shows i've seen in recent memory, will be seen as so-early-21st century, much like how we view editing of split screens in the movies of the 1970s. even tho the techniques used by the makers of this excellent miniseries might be dated in a few years does not detract from its power. at the end my heart was pumping and my eyes were seared by the final image of kelly looking into one of the house cameras of big brother for even when it is the end of the world the cameras will still be rolling.

quote unquote

Let us sleep now. . .

--wilfred owen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

grab yr board and go sidewalk surfin'

this is a cool jan & dean clip of the duo goofing off on skateboards to their song 'sidewalk surfin'. i liked jan & dean when i was a kid and today the conversation veered toward the cool stuff you can find at youtube. i mentioned the short stag films by irving klaw and that yesterday was klaw's birthday. then someone mentioned reading about jan & dean on the web which led him to looking at some stuff by the duo at youtube, including the above clip. god bless the infoweb! this is early skating celebrated by a pair of so cal kids who made some good tunes in the style of surf music popularized by the beach boys among others. so grab yr stick and hit the streets! skate or die!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

klaw at 100

alex gildzen writes me today and tells me today is irving klaw's 100th birthday and will i be celebrating. well, i didn't know. klaw is mostly regarded as making popular thru his fetish photography and films a pin-up girl known as bettie page. klaw was something special too and tho i think most of his work might be regarded as rather tame by today's standard recall that when he and his sister began their work in the late 1940s the klaws were on the cutting edge and later found themselves in some legal entanglements. nowadays you can find his films at youtube.com. we've come a long way baby. or have we. seems society tends to open up and become more tolerant every once in a while pushing back and denying itself the possibilities of openness and pleasure. perhaps we as a species shun those very things we greatly desire. i think of something thom gunn wrote that i've quoted here a couple of times regarding holidays and pleasure. that perhaps the human being has within a homeostatic device that shuts out the very things we want, and perhaps need. irving klaw was, in the phrase of shakespeare, a man. not a tragic figure in the least but a business man and an artist who knew what beats in the hearts of at least some of us creatures who inhabit this planet and gave us the embodiment of these heart beats in the form of short films and photographic stills of uncompromising vision.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

i remember the 1970s

the dossier for the lit journal court green #7 is the 1970s. a round-table section of poems and remembrances from a decade that now from this distance looks pretty rad. contributors include, alex gildzen and kevin opstedal who both remember a former president known then and know as tricky dick. i was born in the late 1960s so i was, obviously, a child during the polyester years and remember it well. what was not to love? the decade gave us john travolta, punk rock, some of the coolest horror and exploitation movies ever committed to celluloid, and, might i remind you, lee majors as the six million dollar man. oh, raised in the public consciousness were the mysteries of bigfoot, the loch ness monster, noah's ark [there was a film that i think is available on youtube.com that i forget the name of that was a pseudo-documentary on an expedition to mt ararat to find the ark. i saw it at, where else, the drive-in] and the bermuda triangle. i tried ouija boards, heard ghost stories, even saw what i think might be a ghost in the 1970s. but the icon i remember best is the stunt motorcyclist evel knievel. knievel was more famous for his spectacular crashes and the speeches he gave as he was gurneyed from the fields. most of these speeches consisted of i'm gonna give this act up. usually these renunciations lasted long enough for knievel to heal and get back on his harley-davidson. his hog had no suspension so it is without wonder that he crashed as often and as well as he did. i carried a lunch-box with knievel's visage and attempt to soar over the snake river canyon in what was billed as a sky cycle. i had his action figures and his wind-up cycle that was a pretty damn cool toy. knievel even starred in his own motion picture that presented to the world a contraption called a stratocycle. yep, i even had that as a toy. knievel was a bad-ass and a pleasure to watch. the 1970s would've been a shade less cool without him.

love this performance

lush was a wonderful band. i missed them the first time round back in the early 90s. i rediscovered them when i fished out a cassette of their first full-length lp, gala, several years ago from anna's stash. it's worth remarking that anna has influenced my musical tastes more than i have her's. maybe she got into social distortion because of me, but i think that might be it. i don't know but some of the benefits of a long relationship are how ideas, thoughts and emotions blend together so one forgets where this and that arrive. at any rate, i love these textured guitars and the sweet harmonies. the lyrics are romantic longing and sound, to my ears, all grown-up. plus emma anderson's guitar work is a joy to behold. nothing fancy but she hits all the right notes.

fall in!

oh yeah, this is my favorite time of year. looking outside the weather is clear, windy, temperature is dropping a bit and the trees like the chinese pistaches are riotously changing colors. and and and! daylight savings time ends tonight. that means we gain an hour. i'm not a fan of daylight savings time but when we fall back and gain that hour. . .plus, i love walking home in the cold and dark of early evening when the city lights up like a christmas tree. sheeeeiiiiit!

we just got home from the flu clinic where nick and i got our vaccines, nick in nasal spray form and me with a needle injected right in my jack o'lantern. sure my arm is aching a bit. but what the fuck. we also have a new member of the family. we adopted a new 5-month old kitty. still working on a name and he's still a little unsure of his surroundings. he's made a little boy so happy. nick's tended to him since we got home. watching him reminds me even if the world seems to be going to hell there is still so much love to share with the world. okay.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

the call


not every body has gone & lost their minds

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

not my hog

yeah, it's hard to stay buoyant in these times. but i'm trying. like founding my street skating club for oldsters, like me. anna came up with the name for the club, SKEEZERS, an amalgam of skaters and geezers. i've not been on a board for years and i'm a lazy fuck by nature. i don't have a skateboard but i've noticed that there are a couple of older dudes i see skating thru midtown on these long boards with big, fat wheels. that's the kind for me. something easier that rolls over cracks and rocks and shit people throw out in the streets and is more forgiving on the knees.

i think it's high time that poets embrace skating culture anyway. okay, i know some have done just that, but i'd like to see skating get the same kind of cred that biker culture does. it's not unusual to see poems and poets whole-heartily embrace them hogs and the uniforms that go with riding those cycles [correct pronunciation should be, according to harvey lembeck of the 1960s beach movies fame, sickles]. why not the same for skating, dudes and dudettes. and if we happen to become a swarm on the streets imagine the oohs and ahs and gasps of the younger set. talk about blowing minds. then write about it, fer crissakes. poems, blog posts, pics and visual art and vispo. talk about more minds blown. think the next time you read you skate to the venue, set your stick on the podium and have at it. let's skate!

Monday, November 01, 2010


the posse

the mission

the deal