i'd recorded it from the sundance channel and when anna and nick went to bed i turned on the tv as it was about oh 10:00 p.m. which for me is pretty early in the evening but no for when i got about 20 minutes into the documentary around the part where a fellow alaskan says of timothy treadwell that treadwell got what he deserved i thought what a prick no one deserves such a death when all hell broke loose i blacked out and when i came out of it the movie was over and the time was 2:00 a.m. i thought what the hell happened how did i lose consciousness so suddenly like but then it happened i yawned a great deep soul-satisfying intake of breath and my limbs became pieces of lead this must be aging i said for i had slept like the dead
i read. i read poetry. i read a lot of poetry. it is with poetry that nourishes me. makes me feel the most alive. i read poetry every morning on the john. i read poems when i have a few moments at work. i read poems, in books, in journals, online and in print. i read a lot of other things. but it is poetry that makes my life.
i write. i write a lot of poetry. sometimes it doesn't look like poetry. or sound like poetry. if one subscribes to the phrase, 'life is poetry -- everything is poetry', then the words and phrases jotted in my notebooks with my ugly handwriting is poetry. blogging is poetry. walking to and fro among the earth with song and snatches of language is poetry. writing poetry is that what makes my life.
i used to sweat about the immortality of poetry. the immortality of the poet. the immortal phrase. i used to have a big ego. i try to diminish my ego. i am ego-less. i am working toward being sans ego.
i am and am not a natural poet. i have worked toward poetry from the moment i read my first real poems. my obsession with film nourishes my poetry. i attempt a cinematic language. i watch a movie that hits me with a wow and i think, goddamn, i can use that technique in writing. i learn by going, watching and reading. i wanted the marmoreal phrase. i now want a perfect awkwardness.
i used to agonize over writing. to the point where i was not writing. i got over that agony because i am a poet. i write poems. i read poems. poetry is not immortal. the poet is not immortal. the poet is the man/woman who, to paraphrase another poet who was paraphrasing still another poet, is there when the bread comes out of the oven. the poet is the man/woman who says, welcome.
i have a memory of the drive ins. i don't know how old i am, certainly under 10, and i'm at the sunrise drive in theater. i know it's the sunrise because right next door is a cemetery and the front gates of the cemetery was -- is -- a wwii era howitzer.
i watched a shitload of horror and exploitation movies at the drive ins. but this one is vivid in my memories. i'm not sure who took me to this theater. my parents? my father? my uncle? who knows. what i recall is a scene: a man is lured into bed by a bevy of comely young women. they tie his arms to the bed post. the women pour some kind of liquid down the belly of the man. the man thinks that he's in for a long night of serious kinky play. the women writhe, then lick the man, then bite, tearing chunks out of him.
that's what i recall of the movie. it's haunted me ever since. i even developed a phobia of bed headboards because you can get your hands bound against them. i've also despaired i'd find this movie again. but look now i found it. the flick, cannibal girls, was released in 1973. i'm surprised that the hippie doofus protagonist with the huge head of hair and handle-bar mustache is canadian comic eugene levy. the pic is directed by comic filmmaker ivan reitman who later helmed the ghostbusters franchise. the movie is also supposed to be a comedy.
funny but they didn't advertise it as such in 1973, or whenever i saw it. it scared the hell outta me. well, kinda. really that image of the man as the man course strapped to the headboard is the one that did me in. i have a lot of films to blame for me love of exploitation movies. certainly this is one of them.
below is a brief glimpse of the scene that set me to a lifetime of watching really bad films.
what a weird concept. colors that signify whether money is lost or gained. nick was asking what the 'black' meant in 'black friday'. we explained that a company operating in the black is making money, if it is in the red it is losing money. the day after thanksgiving was coined black friday because we live in a consumerist culture and over 80 percent, or so, of our economy is based on people buying shit. a lot of shit.
but instead of camping out for deals or heading for the malls we headed for the gold country. the day was beautiful, sunny and cool, with this wonderful slanted golden light. we spent a long afternoon in jackson walking along its main street and we did duck into some of its shops. jackson caters to a large tourist industry and there are many stores that are called 'antique shops'. hell, sometimes you might even find an antique in one of these stores. rather they are filled to the ceilings with all sorts of pop culture detritus. the vogue for antique stores was in the '90s when you couldn't round a corner without stubbing your toe on some space selling stuff. i remember once when entering such a propriety my mother-in-law said, god humans make a lot of junk.
we didn't stick around the shops for very long. the day was too nice for that and after one shop you've seen them all. instead we took the long route home. kinda got lost in a good way. we headed off the main artery jackson hwy onto latrobe rd and drove thru some of the prettiest country this side of creation: rolling golden and green hills studded with large oaks. the occasional bric a brac of chimneys on fenced properties that are the last evidence of 19th century homesteaders. many fowl, such as quail, pheasant and hawks of all kinds. we even, i swear it, saw a bald eagle soar above our vehicle.
it was, as the hippies like to say, beautiful. and a perfect antidote to a day dedicated in all ways to shopping. which is a bit creepy when you think about it. black friday, i mean. not that i am anti-stuff or anti-consumerism. but i would rather spend the day with my family in gorgeous northern california country than be among the bustle and brightness of crowds looking for more stuff.
thanksgiving might be the most understated and least commercial of our holidays. the day after thanksgiving, black friday, is the most commercial. and now some retailers are attempting to make the day of thanksgiving a pre-black friday. but no matter as the fourth thursday in november is the day when we gather together with our friends and family to share a large meal and give thanks. so far that has not been co opted by commercial interests. it is by the sharing of food that binds our species. and our families. as i've gotten older i know that it is family and friends i cherish the most.
so i raise a bottle of red hoptober ale and toast you and your families. might we truly give thanks. for being alive and for having each other. on this day and every day. i know bad stuff is happening out there. there is always a fresh horror. but as issa said, 'the world of dew/is the world of dew/and yet. . .and yet.' happy thanksgiving.
1st noble truth
that puckers the sphincter
esp. if you think
that happy endings come
by a hug and big lickery kiss
surrounded by beatific
in times square
gift love unwrapped
soundtrack by john williams
and no light on at home
this lady claims that her toaster is possessed by satan. how does she know that. the toaster told her. what does the voice of satan sound like? eli wallach, of course. asked why she doesn't get rid of the toaster she replies, 'when all is said and done, it makes great toast.'
how now strange this adventure, life. if that sentence is overwrought it is meant to be overwrought. i have my tongue lightly touching my cheek. for see i spent the past month, october, my favorite month, in a relative funk. i can't explain my low trough. it simply was. nothing major. and i did manage to have some good times in those funkified days. like watching nick and his good friend j. trick 'r treating and getting lost in the 53 acre corn maze.
and yet even if we get what we think are our heart's desire, whatever that might be, sometimes the desired effect, ongoing joy, doesn't happen. we plan and we plan for perfection and the result is sometimes ho-hum. depression is cyclical. i need to remember that. but life is an adventure. the biggest one we shall ever have. for me planning only takes me so far. joy happens when i forget to worry about it. pleasure is contained in unscripted moments. to find what we are seeking: stop searching.
and laughter. it's a big one. i inherited my father's humor and his style of laughing. it has returned to me. where i find humor i can bite into life. i know i am healthy again when i can have those big belly laughs. i sound like dork when i laugh. i don't care. because for me laughter is a proof of this adventure.
i don't know what's got into me. i've been on a werner herzog kick. again. there are some marvelous interviews of herzog found on YouTube. below is a clips of herzog interviewed by the BBC. during the interview he is shot by a sniper with an airgun. i have no idea if the whole thing is staged or not. it seems like he was really shot. herzog has the serenity of a buddhist monk. 'it was not a significant bullet'. i laughed loud when i watched this clip. fucking herzog. guy's a nut, of the most rarest, bestest kind.
'the poet must not avert his eyes.' i hear ya, werner.
i've always wanted to know what happens when the arcade closes its door for the night. all that buzz. all that activity from the games. do they sleep too? turns out yes and no. for ralph is the bad guy in a 30 year old video game, the ogre who destroys the building that is saved by the eponymous hero of the game, fix-it felix, jr. ralph is tired of getting the bum rush and wants to be the hero and get a medal for his heroism.
quite a concept and one that is strafed by similarly themed films like the toy story series where we learn the lives and thoughts of the playthings of our world. turns out ralph is a likable guy. makes friends easily enough. has his routines which are shaken up when he enters a first-person shooter game to get the medal inside. by jove he does that indeed.
then he loses it to a 'glitch', an imperfectly coded character in car racing game called sugar rush. the gist of rush is that everything is made out of candy. the ambiance is a mixture of the chocolate room from willy wonka's chocolate factory and tokyo hyper-cute hello kitty. ralph befriends the glitch who really isn't a glitch at all but the victim of turbo, a villain who went rogue from a different game, and who batched all the racers memories so he can be king candy.
no, i'm not making this up. imagine reading the script for the first time. imagine it. without busting a gut. and forking over the dough to get this thing made. all's well that end's well. ralph gets a life lesson, and some dignity, while the glitch is really the princess of sugar rush. who'd'a guessed it.
i promised nick i'd take him to see this movie. i kept my word. it's not a bad flick. not as funny as some of the pixar movies. entertaining enough. we had to sit thru oodles of trailers and a behind the scenes making of les miserables. it was during the latter when nick turned to me and asked, daddy, check your watch and tell me when the movie is supposed to begin. the movie started soon enough.
during world war 2 my uncle was a marine island hopping in the pacific theater. the firefights were fierce. one morning he and his fellow marines were near the top of a hill attempting to burn out the last of the japanese soldiers dug in at the top. fire was everywhere. my uncle lost it. in panic he dropped his rifle and ran for his life. he ran and ran and didn't see the thing that made him drop to the ground. he leapt to his feet. that thing was a japanese soldier who also dropped his weapon, in panic, and was running for his life.
dave m. was a hippie and a pacificist. he was also an unfocused young man and dropped out of college. the vietnam war was escalating and dave m. lost his college deferral. his lottery number was drawn. he was in a dilemma. should he be a conscientious objector and go to prison? should he head toward canada? dave m. instead bargained with a recruiting officer. the recruiting officer said, if you sign up for an additional four years i'll make sure you don't see combat.
dave m. signed up for an additional four years. the army made good on its promise and trained dave m. to be a radio operator. he was stationed on a firebase. every evening that firebase was shelled by the nva. the first two months were a living hell. rockets do make a whistling sound when they are in the air. running away from that whistling sound turned into a pantomime of absurd panic.
every evening, almost like clockwork, dave m. would hear the shout, incoming! followed by the whistling of rockets fired by the nva. dave m. was a great reader of science fiction. his favorites were the works of isaac asimov and robert a. heinlein. it was in the latrine reading the foundation trilogy by asimov that he forgot the time. his trousers were around his ankles when he heard the shout, incoming! and the whistling of the rockets. dave m. thought for a moment, said, fuck it. when it's time to die you die. and was soon deeply absorbed in his book.
vic s. was a retired teacher and full-time painter. his wife was also a retired teacher and full-time poet. we were sitting in the kitchen looking over some sketches vic s. made when he was in the navy during world war 2. he was stationed on an island in the pacific. his job was to load and unload supply ships that were anchored just off-shore. he and his fellow sailors had to take a boat to the ships. each morning and every evening japanese zeroes strafed the beaches. more than a few of the sketches were of exploded ships. a few of the sketches were made when he was aboard a supply ship during an attack.
--you could see the explosions before you could hear them. light travels faster than sound, remember.
--were there many dead?
--oh yeah, every day some one would die.
--were you scared?
-- no! i was 19. the other guys might die. but i would be fine. i was young and dumb. and alive.
i like television i grew up with television i was watching television before i could read i don't watch a lot of television now but i probably watch more television than most people would care to admit
i like commercials i grew up with commercials i probably was humming jingles from commercials before i knew the words to popular songs i even watch favorite commercials at YouTube
i have been a student of literature i have been a student of movies i have been a student of those bits of capitalism we call the great big blue eye
i have written with the television on in the background i learned to tell time by the sequence of programs that aired on Tuesday PrimeTime in 1974
i have measured world events by their broadcasts on television i think poems are better than television but nothing beats a good sitcom
i used to think that you had to be a great person to be on television i think that to be on television you have to be both lucky and perhaps a little deranged
i used to be an intellectual who derided television i used to pretend to hate television i used to pretend to hate commercials
i liked how each decade has its own look and style and sound evident in their commercials i liked the earthy '70s the glossy '80s the grungy '90s the sleek 2000s
i wanted to write for television no i wanted to write as the television broadcast whatever the gatekeepers had chosen to broadcast
i see no distinction between television and books i see no problems with writing with the television on
just found out via silliman's blog that two important french poets have died, anne-marie albiach and jacques dupin. their deaths are quite a blow to the solar plexus. not because i thought they would live forever -- who does? -- but because post-war french poetry had such a profound influence on my writing/reading life. and i felt perhaps the influences of my reading/writing life would indeed live forever. another shock to my system was just last week i was watching that dupin video silliman posts on his blog. can't recall how i was introduced to either albiach and dupin. certainly the translations by the waldrops for albiach and paul auster for dupin engaged my reading to the nth degree. both poets were abetted by their respective translators. better still, albiach and dupin were both lucky to have such gifted translators. or it was i that was lucky to find their translations so luminous and so necessary. whatever the case the world is made more more abundant for these two poets' work being in it.
anna and i went to the movies. not a big thing? we've not been to the theaters in a long, long time. anna's mother recommended this flick. told us that even tho we knows how the movie will end the narrative will have you on edge of your seat.
no small task, that. anna's mom was absolutely correct. what a flashback for us. the era, 1979 - 1980, was vividly realized from the eyewear, the clothes, the booze, the cigarettes, the decor, the cars. ben affleck directed this wonderful movie with all the thrills of riding a roller coaster. what in reality, getting six americans who escaped the takeover of the u.s. embassy in tehran, iran during their revolution out of the country under the pretext of a film company who wants to use tehran as the location of their cheap-jack sci-fi movie, was full of risk but probably went down in a much boring fashion, is changed into a breathtaking thrill ride.
the idea of film production as a beard was so crazy it had to work. besides, the history of exploitation cinema does boast some stories of movies made in despotic countries because the locations were dirt cheap. for example, check out this trailer for a documentary on filmmaking in the philippines in the 1970s.
making a movie in iran during their revolution. . .well, why not. except that this production company was a beard to rescue a half dozen foreign service personnel who took refuge in the canadian embassy. failure for them, the cia agent who led the six out of iran, played by affleck, to the six themselves, as well as the canadian ambassador and his wife meant imprisonment, torture and possible execution. the stakes were that high.
but it was the verisimilitude that had me gasping for breath. aflleck and co. were so good that when the credits ran side by side pics of the actors and the real people who suffered thru that crazy time it looked like photographs of twins. the actors and the subjects were just that close in appearance the effect was astonishing. and when the cia agent returns home to the bedroom of his son the decorations of that room had me taking deep breaths. not only did a recognize the star wars bed sheets and toys. i had those same ones! the footage of the real embassy takeover and the recreated takeover are nearly indistinguishable.
mindboggling. sure. i remember that time because i was a child of that time. affleck's storytelling is near perfect. not a false step or wasted moment. not a frame wasted. the actors were spot on. there was never a superhero moment. each person was believable as an authentic person. flaws and all.
oh, and even if the trailers for new releases were all action flicks, blood, violence and explosions [including the trailer for a remake of the cold war era red dawn ], affleck's film had not one drop of blood contained within its frames. there were some bullets, a few bodies, and a mock execution, but nothing extraneous outside of the needs of this particular story. and no explosions. perhaps this movie can be described as the thinking person's action film. whatever the case it is an awesome bit of storytelling.