Thursday, January 29, 2015

into the abyss [2011]

werner herzog's documentary on murder -- committed by two young men and the state meting out the death sentence -- is one of the most even-handed examinations i have seen made on the subject.  herzog is clear he opposes the death penalty.  he says to michael perry -- who was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the triple murders committed in conroe, tx on october 2001 -- 'i don't have to like you but i respect you as a human being and no human being should be murdered.'

there is only the voice of herzog as he interviews perry eight days before his execution.  the filmmaker never allows himself in the frame.  rather his focus is on the movie's subjects.  he interviews perry's accomplice, jason burkett, who is serving a 40 year to life sentence for the same crimes.  herzog interviews burkett's young wife and his father who is also serving a 40 year to life sentence.  herzog in turn interviews the daughter and sister of two of the murder victims and he interviews the reverend who will administer comfort to perry when he is strapped to the gurney.  another interviewee is the former captain of the death squad whose job is to keep company of the prisoner on the day of the scheduled execution.

you would expect a filmmaker to get at least a little preachy, perhaps a little strident, maybe even raise his or her voice when you oppose the death penalty and making a film about it.  i don't know but i have read that herzog is a very caring soul.  his ability to care for the dignity of human beings shines in this documentary.  his questions to each person foster trust; herzog is kind to everyone including perry and burkett.  herzog does not raise his voice.

and yet the film makes clear that murder, whether done by the state or by two idiotic young men, is still quite baldly murder.

i prefer herzog's nonfiction films to his fiction.  with documentaries he seems to get to his subjects with greater finesse and depth. he doesn't try to make sense of senselessness.  how can you when these two boys killed three people for a car?  i would call this film an exploratory metaphysics.  what is murder?  how does it change us?  what is this thing called living?  a magnificent movie.  one of herzog's best.   

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

bits & pieces

jonathan hayes sent me the latest edition of his long running journal over the transom #26 and it is just brilliant.  i was bone-tired on saturday and after a cub scout function i got home and found this mag in the mail.  regular snail mail.  like a miracle!  wanted to take a little nap, because, you know, like, i'm old.  instead i read thru ott straight and was so jazzed i could not sleep.  favorites out of this issue is an essay by mel. c. thompson, two art reviews by paul murphy, two poems by peter case [yes, that one, of the plimsouls fame], three poems by klipschutz, and a poet new to me, waka murata of tokyo, japan.  this is the good stuff.  support the small presses.  great job brother hayes.

* * *

i recently wrote about my friend in art and life, alex gildzen, paring down the things in his life  i am the lucky recipient of one of those things.  a matchbook from alex's large collection of match books.  the book is from pacific dining car restaurant in l.a.  it's a lovely gift.  and just my size!  thank you, maestro.

* * *

i read at the sacrament poetry center last night.  there was a last minute cancellation and my friend tim kahl asked if i could read.  i said, yes!  had a blast.  i think i rocked the audience's socks off.  any hoot, it was fun and getting out of my comfort zone and get out among people is very important.  thanks to the sac poetry scene and esp. thank you, mr. kahl.

* * *

i am deep in my interview with german buddhist poet stefan hyner.  i'm having a blast and getting a serious education too.  i don't wana say too much but i am very excited by this interview.

* * *

finally you can show an old dog new [or not so new] things.  nick introduced me to the song 'three little birds' by bob marley today.  beautiful song.  because marley says, 'every little thing is going to be all right.'

Saturday, January 24, 2015

you must watch this

a wonderful documentary on the great writer and translator of chinese poetry: red pine

Friday, January 23, 2015

a nightmare on elm street [1984]

after a long, difficult day at work sometimes you wanna open a beer and get the bejesus scared outta you.  this flick will do the trick.  sure freddy krueger is iconic.  when i was last in a halloween superstore, you know the kind that occupies empty retail space for a couple of months then closed down on november first, i saw a sexy freddy krueger costume for women!  huh?!

okay, this movie is 30 years old.  after a million sequels the villain was less lethal and more camp.  fuckin' hell.  but there is always the first movie in a franchise and this pic provides the goosebumps in spades.

director wes craven hit paydirt when he lensed this film about a pedophile who is burned to death by the parents of his victims.  that creep returns to wreak revenge on the living children of those parents by attacking the kids in their sleep.  such a novel concept.  and brilliant too.  there is no escape and eventually everyone must sleep.

of course both versions of invasion of the body snatchers [1956, 1978] was also predicated on being attacked in your sleep.  yet those were cold war movies whose subject in a nutshell was about the Other.  rather instead craven's monster was a colorful psycho in a slasher flick.

and to prove that this movie is a slasher flick we have a final girl, adroitly played by heather langenkamp, who busts thru sleep deprivation to duke it out with krueger.  the rest is movie magic.

this pic did not have a big budget.  craven was used to small budget films.  he earlier crafted the incredible the last house on the left [1972] which was shot with about a buck and some change.  oh but what the man could do with those few dollars!

there are very few movies that can scare the crap out of me.  this is one of those films.  watching it is cathartic.  a long, difficult day at work and i'm knotted up like shoelaces.  i sit down, open my brew, nick is in the other room, anna just got up and left because this movie has too much grue, and feel another kind of tension build up inside of me.  soon the knots become undone.  i know what happens next and still i cover my eyes.  i say out loud, no sleep!?  you are gonna die!  krueger is such a vision.  i love his fedora.  what a cad!  the final girl, nancy, is one to be reckoned with.  i'm scared.  i'm thrilled.  i am finally relaxed.

bad jokes, etc.

what did the hammer say
to the wood?

i'm gonna nail you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


according to wittgenstein the world is everything that is the case
where i come upon my own limits to language
if i take possession and say these words
and take my natural state: confusion
and stand unsteady on my feet
i shall go on and fall
and rise and fall

Monday, January 19, 2015

a curious thing in the world of poetry.  i have years worth of BAP anthologies.  i pick them up because i like to know what is going on.  BAP [best american poetry] has a guest editor and chooses the best among the thousands [could it be millions?] of published poems in the u.s.  a crapshoot fer sure.  what makes something best?  but rather instead of focusing on the subjective merits of what constitutes the best in u.s.american poetry i am struck by the kind of publications culled from the winning batch of a year's worth of best poems.  robert creeley in 2002 was the guest editor and several of his choices were taken from online journals.  creeley was an early advocate for online publications.  but since then most guest editors cull their choices from mostly print journals.  fine.  good.  but most of the really good stuff is published online.  i read most of my poetry, except for books, and even still i have downloaded dozens of pdf books, online via journals and blogs.  WTF, BAP?!  it is like BAP is stuck in a late-20th century idea of success: print journals and then print books. BAP does look at online journals.  however, most of the journals the guest editor chooses from are print.  but we all know that is not how the world works in this modern age.  is it truly the best if you are not reading the online journals?  does it matter?  i suppose.  when i was a younger poet i wanted to be in BAP.  badly.  but most of my publications have been online.  i have a couple of print pubs and i am proud of those. nor am i talking smack for not being in BAP.  nor am i not speaking ill of print, at all!  i prefer books over most anything else.  but when it comes to showing my cards i confess that much of my reading is done online.  i am guessing yours is too.  shouldn't anthologies that call itself the best be taking its material from the dominant publications vehicle?  earlier today i googled a new zealand poet, bob orr, whom i would never have heard of nor have read his poetry if it were not for the internet.  that is what the internet is for, or one of the reasons why the internet is a good thing: it can expand our minds and give us access to people and cultures that a generation ago would have been damn near impossible to find.  the internet complicates our ideas of success.  we all can upload our art and with a click make it available to the world.  what then about BAP?  i don't know.  my favorite edition of BAP was when creeley was guest editor way back in 2002 [did i say way back in 2002?  holy shit do i feel old!]  for the great poet understood the new century.  we live digital lives and we live physical lives.  our poetry embodies this.  our best of. . .publications must embody this too.        

coherence [2013]

eight friends gather for a dinner party on the night a comet passes very close to earth.  the comet, called miller's comet, is a beautiful fireball in the night sky.  the friends eat, drink, joke and make merry until the power goes out.  oh, the main character, a blonde woman named em, while driving to the dinner party talks to her boyfriend via her mobile phone.  she loses her connection and the glass on her phone shatters in her hand.  when the power goes out the friends look out the window to their neighborhood and find only one house about two blocks away with the lights still on.  one friend said he is going over to the house to use their phone.  he said that his brother is a theoritical physicist and if anything weird happens when miller's comet passes earth to call him.

what kind of weird shit happens?  hold on now.  this movie is a slowburn.  the tension grows until the denouement.  to give away anymore would be a disservice for this film is a good exploration of the theory of the multiverse and decoherence.  what?  theoritical physics claims that there may not be one universe but an infinite number of universes.  and living in each of these other universes is a version of you.  the passage of miller's comet causes a ripple in space-time allowing for decoherence.  the universes mix together.  the house with the lights on is the same house of our friends but in another universe.

rather than get all cerebral by trying to explain the physics -- remember this is fiction and the science used to explain all the weirdness is rather wonky -- the filmmaker james ward byrkit, who also wrote the script, keeps the explanations to a bare minimum.  byrkit instead focuses on the psychological state of his characters.  how would you react if you saw yourself across the street?

i believe the great argentine writer jorge luis borges has a piece titled 'the other' where an other borges meets borges on a park bench in cambridge in the middle of the day.  borges of course records the meeting and concludes that both men, tho the meeting was real, were dreaming.  what is reality if it is mutable?  our friends take little in stride and calmly record this anomaly like borges; they panic.

and what if you get stuck in an exact but alternate universe?  these are the questions brought to fruition by the actions of our guests.  em panics.  she is the voice in this confusion.  she does what we many of us might do.  for this is not a deep-think pic.  rather james ward byrkit crafted an intimate film of perplex and growing dread.  he even managed a couple of jump scares for us.  the people in this movie are ordinary players upon the world's stage.  that is why we can identify with them and feel their fear.  this is a good movie.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


blankets for issa: move over you damn column of ants
it's my time for bed, too

Monday, January 12, 2015

3 word haiku


Thursday, January 08, 2015


as i turned the camera to face me
the world is in such a state
the world is always in such a state
can't be helped one might opine
the human condition cannot be cured
of itself
and yet. . .and yet. . .
the face in the camera
you know the guy
you know
the one that looks like me
you know

Monday, January 05, 2015

anna and i have been watching TV shows about people decluttering their lives and moving into tiny homes.  tiny homes = 400 sq. ft and smaller.  a whole tiny home industry is underfoot in the u.s.  make sense i suppose.  how much space and stuff does a person need anyway?

well, that is a delicate question and the answers run the gamut.  our house is a 1300 sq. ft.  california bungalow.  not the definition of a tiny house but it is for most u.s.american homes, small.  for many of my friends our house is too small.  for a few others it is just the right size.

my friend alex gildzen just posted a piece on his blog about downsizing, decluttering a lifetime's accumulation of things to live a bit more simply.  my things, i am talking about just me now, are books and movies.  a shitload of books.  a house filled with the damn things.  i remind anna she knew what she was getting into when she agreed to marry me.  i love being surrounded by books.  i am comforted by their presence.  i read and reread everyday scanning the shelves and taking one or two either to the john, to bed, or stuffed in my backpack to read on the go.

still we live in a small house.  i love DVDs too.  i have hundreds of them.  i buy fewer of them now.  when our DVD player in the front room went kaput we decided not to replace it and instead subscribe to online streaming services Amazon Prime and Netflix.  i love these services.  having 1000s of TV shows and movies at your fingertips is empowering.  digital culture requires less space.  it does not clutter one's life.

and yet, i know how alex feels.  when one gets a bit older you want to simplify.  you don't need so much stuff anymore.  i can't give up books tho.  even if publishing gets all digital i will still be the guy to fork over dough for the printed thing.

our house is just the right size for us.  plus i enjoy urban living.  my fair city is just big enough, wild enough, to feel like an asphalt jungle and yet small enough to be a cozy community.  i am intrigued by the tiny house movement.  every time we visit IKEA i always pause before the displays of LIVING IN 200 SQ. FT.  anna thinks that i would like to live in such a small space.  i would.  perhaps.  i try to live simply right now.  i don't need a lot of things.  but then again i do.  my world would be colder without books to surround me.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

heraclitus on netflix

                             you can step
twice in the same stream