Wednesday, December 30, 2015

another year nearly done.  time for some self-reflecting.  nah!  writing itself is reflection, and action.  this has been a crazy year.  we seem to be moving closer to self-destruction.  i have been reading article upon article on the worries experts have about AI.  will AI become self-aware and demolish us squishy, in the phrase of the late poet gregory corso, hairy bags of water?  most tech experts seem to agree that AI could become that dangerous.  i don't know.  but what sounds like sci-fi to me seems closer to fruition.  do you have a smart phone with SIRI?  does SIRI interact with you in a very human like way?  yes?  weird, right?

what if AI does become smarter than us and suggests solutions to our global problems, like climate change, that doesn't make a lot of intuitive sense.  will we disregard the suggestions of AI?  will we follow it?  e.g. have you ever plugged in an address in your cars GPS map and it takes you on a route that doesn't seem to make any sense to you?  have you ignored the route thinking you know the way because you feel your way is right but then got hopelessly lost only to turn back to the GPS route to get you to your destination?  would AI be like that confusing to us?

AI is on my mind because these past couple of weeks i've been reading a shitload of articles about AI and, also, autonomous vehicles.  i read a prediction by a tech writer today that 2016 might be the break out year for both technologies.  these technologies have the potential to remake our human species.  i don't think that is an exaggeration.  the potential changes are profound.  change is nearly always scary.

so what changes would i like to see change in 2016?  i don't know.  perhaps we grow the fuck up as a society and stop worrying about god.  perhaps we fully understand and know intuitively the robust dangers we face with climate change and overpopulation.  perhaps we train our police not to see its citizens as lethal combatants.  perhaps we begin to phase out petrochemicals in every aspect of our lives, manufacturing, and trade.  perhaps we celebrate science and the scientific method as fundamental to the health of liberal democracies.  perhaps we learn to celebrate our likenesses and differences because we are, all, human.

as for me, perhaps i'll eat more, drink more and take up smoking.  i am half way thru my life.  my friend, the late poet pearl stein selinsky, thought the difference between a poet and a non-poet is that the poet thinks of death all the time.  i don't know.  but i do.  and i am profoundly aware that my life is finite and it is the only life i get.  i don't believe in an afterlife, or providence.  i see death as permanent and life is ephemeral.  but life is the sweetest for being brief.  sometimes i am a cranky old man.  but more often i want to give the universe a large hug.

i don't make new year's resolutions.  either change or don't, is my thinking.  but as i face the new year i know i want to write a bit more, read a bit more, celebrate my family and friends and brothers and sisters in poetry.  i want to know more about science and technology.  i want to get my own head out of my ass and fall in love again with with the world. 

i think how we calibrate time is so much bullshit.  we can choose to call next year 1 or 5016.  nature doesn't care what we call time.  we give too much credence to decades and centuries.  we do because we live such a short while.  but really has human nature changed so much from say the 1960s to the present?  we live right now.  not in the past.  and not in the future.  but then so we do live in the present but let us remember our past and let us live for, not into, the future.  let us plan.  let us live.  let us love.  let us know.  let us create.  we have been cursed to live in interesting times.  yes, and the times are a'changing.  to what we don't know.   

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

4:44 last day on earth

i do loves me an apocalyptic movie.  esp. when the principals have a limited time to live before the destruction of the earth.  so when this flick showed up on my netflix feed, starring the fantastic actor willem dafoe, i thought give it a shot.

big mistake.  all life on earth will end at 4:44 a.m. because the ozone layer will collapse.  dafoe is an actor living in a NYC loft with his painter girlfriend played by shanyn leigh.  most of the movie is within the confines of this loft.  not much happens except the characters fuck, paint and order take out chinese food.  the world is ending in a few hours and bleh!

filmmaker abel ferrara is no stranger to gritty cinema.  he directed grindhouse classics like the driller killer [1979] and ms. 45 [1981].  i also think ferrar is the king of one-takes.  at least in this film.  because dafoe feels out his role via improv.  was there even a shooting script for this flick?  this film lacks structure and also that element so necessary to storytelling: the viewer gives a shit about the characters. 

in the end this movie will bore the hell out of you.  dafoe is a beautiful man and a hyper-talented actor, but even he can't save this arty mess of the end of days.  this is not a movie that is so bad it's good.  nope.  this is a movie so bad it is bad.  there are better ways to spend a couple hours of your life.  try gardening.  clipping your toe nails.  drinking lemonade.  smoking turds in hell.  do anything but watch this movie. 

not that i'm complaining but when i scan the shelves at a bookstore or the central library i have a hard time reading the print on the spines of books.  esp. when the light is low.  i mean, i have bifocals [don't laugh, you'll get old too and will need them!] but they ain't working too well.  so reading print is getting tougher for this old punk/poet.  i shouldn't complain but when i stopped in THE BOOK COLLECTOR, an indie shop a few blocks from my house, i looked over the poetry section.  this little bookstore usually has an excellent selection of small press stuff.  but the light was low and it was dark outside.  my eyeballs had a hell of a time adjusting.  but then i found a book speed of life [apogee press; 1999] by edward kleinschmidt mayes.  i don't know the poetry too well.  what i know of mayes is that he is a bay area poet who kinda straddles the line between mainstream and avant-garde poetries, and who married the writer frances mayes, author of the famous book under the tuscan sun [broadway books; 1997], which was made into a movie starring the lovely diane lane.  what i think is kool about edward mayes is the fact that he took his wife's name.  straight up awesome kool.  there's been enuf nonsense about how the woman must take the man's name.  how about the man taking the woman's name.  for reals!  i can dig that, really!  anyhow, i was thumbing thru speed of life this morning.  good stuff so far.  i'm getting too old to worry about whether what kind of poetry, or music, or movies, or what have you, fits where.  i don't care if mayes is doing the avant thing or not.  what i want is poetry that is full of life and makes me glad to be alive.  and so far mayes' book suits me just fine. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

californication [2007 - 2014]

recently i ran across a review/promo piece on the 'net about the latest anthology of poetry and TV.  like, wow, poets watch TV?!  everyone watches TV.  the sitcom was born in the early days of broadcast television and the format has not changed for nearly 70 years.  we've had nearly 70s or so years of TV so now TV is solidly part of our culture.  we may bitch and whine about the dominance of video imagery, but there it is.  and it hasn't killed reading/writing, yet.  and all of us, pray tell, are influenced by television.

i remember when carrie fisher [princess leia organa, bitches!] published her first novel.  yes, fisher is a good writer and respected script doctor.  she was on some late night talk show and described her writing process which included writing in longhand on legal pads with the TV on.  the interviewer was surprised that fisher watched TV while writing.  the interviewer expressed surprise that fisher liked television because aren't writers supposed to be snobbish creatures who don't live and partake in our shared culture[s], i.e. watch TV?

bu TV is part of our lives.  i watch a lot of TV.  probably not as much as many people but still a lot.  has my poetry suffered?  who the fuck knows!  who the fuck cares!  poetry and TV are not incompatible.  TV is part of our life, and poetry is a way of life.  stretch that out to its logical conclusion that TV watching is part of participating in our shared culture[s] and that poetry will somehow find its way out and in to TV.

okay, i binge-watched this TV series starring david duchovny as a bukowski-like l.a. based writer hank moody.  it took me a while to finish this series but i did it this week.  what i loved about the series creator and lead writer, tom kapinos, emphasize that moody was, despite his idiocies and substance abuse, a good man and father who loved his daughter, and the mother of his daughter.

some of the later episodes appear tired in their tropes.  how many times can moody fuck up a good thing?  too many and you can only show that fuck up in so many ways.  yet, moody was a good father in his own fashion.  that is what attracted me to the character as well as duchovny's laid-back acting style and kapinos' hyper-funny writing.

my only beef with the show was how the character hank moody changed as a writer thru the seasons.  i mean, the early episodes had him surrounded by books and writerly paraphernalia.  he even read, for goodness sake!  later seasons abandoned the books and writerly stuff in favor of a more slapstick style of storytelling.  i calll bullshit on that.

still moody possessed massive charisma who evinced a cool zen like approach to suffering.  i don't know what to binge watch now.  there are not a lot of TV shows about writers.  or movies even.  watching writers on the small or big screen is rather boring stuff.  daydreaming.  scribbling.  reading.  who would want to watch that?  well, throw in to the mix a little drugs and alcohol and the utter devotion of a parent to their kid and i'll watch.

Monday, December 14, 2015

kung fury [2015]

this 30 minute gem was recommended to me by a friend at work.  he said, you gotta see this crazy homage to VHS tapes and 1980s mom&pop video stores.  so on saturday, feeling the worse for my cold i turned on netflix and gave it a shot.

man, what a shot it was.  filmmaker david sandberg wrote, directed and stars as kung fury, a beat cop who acquires great martial arts skills in order to kick serious street ass.  the film starts with a prologue on how kung fury got his powers.  while narrating his origins kung fury fights a rampaging video game that is killing a shitload of things, buildings and people.  i mean, it ain't the video game that is causing all the chaos, it is the actual arcade machine of the kind that used to house video games that transmogrifies into a death machine.

later, kung fury is told by his boss he's got a new partner, a cop with the head of a triceratop, called tricercop.  fury says, in a faux gravel voice, i work alone.

turns out the new enemy is adolf hitler, who also acquired mad kung fu skills, and who calls himself kung fuhrer hitler.  fury has to go back in time to defeat this villain.

along the way our hero meets a giant thor, a couple of women warriors who look straight out of casting from an '80s day-glo peblum, a tyrannosarus rex, and, of course his new partner, triceracop.  this makes for an unbeatable team and hitler is defeated in his plan of world domination.  or is he?

again, the delight is in this short's zaniness and sandberg's willingness to have fun.  you recall mom&pop video stores, right?  well, sometimes the tape you rented was shit.  the picture and/or sound was crap and the tape would keep tracking.  don't know what i mean?  VHS tapes required to track in order to maintain fidelity.  when the tape got a bit wonky the VCR would 'track' the tape to correct it.  you would even see the word 'tracking' on the TV.  sometimes the tape would just be fuzzy and no amount of tracking done by the VCR would help.  i remember renting the cult film liquid sky [1982] from jazzbird video and the damn tape was all snow.  i could hear the sound but i couldn't get the picture.  fucking tape.  that was how it was back then.  you took your chances.

david sandberg has fun with fuzziness and tracking.  he uses them in his short. sandberg also employs a cheezy synth score that is so in tune with straight-to-video '80s films it is a delight to behold.  this is a wonderful short film for those who want to experience again the days of renting straight-to-video fodder from a mom&pop video store and experience its beautiful slag.

i caught this worst cold in several years last week.  laid me out flat like drooling infant.  i could barely read, except for a few articles in the new yorker.  watched a lot of programs on netflix.  i'll post a review shortly.

yesterday, i started feeling like a human being again.  still not completely up to solid rocket fuel but perhaps i'm 82% there.  but at least when the sun shines i can catch the rays!

okay, that sounded rather hippy-dippy.  earlier this month the brilliant and talented poet/editor eileen tabios published her review journal galatea resurrects #25.

packed with 80 book and chapbook reviews, essays, poetry, and an interview i have two pieces that i'm quite proud of,  a review lars palm's magnificent book of hay[na]ku and a piece on a book published in 1998 by a poet i don't know much about, m loncar, but of whom i have the highest regard.

get to clicking the link above for some seriously good shit.  poetry as a way of life.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

watching reading jim mccrary

readers of this humble blog know how much the poet jim mccrary means to me as a friend and fellow practitioner of the art.  mccrary is one of my anti-teachers who has taught me fortitude, strength, and a fuck-yeah-diy-edness when a life in poetry means more than a career or honors of any fashion.  by his example i learned to do your work and do it because writing and reading poetry, for those who choose it, helps to create a fully lived life.

well, mccrary has been around a while and is no technophobe.  that is evidenced by the videos of him reading poetry that he has recently uploaded to youtube.  the videos date from the late '80s to early '90s to our present century.

behold the video below taken from a show called 'flying fish poetry show' which i think is jim, a friend and a video camera.  lucky for us it has been digitized and available now online.

to find more of jim's videos follow this link to mccrary's youtube profile.



Wednesday, December 02, 2015

the poet doug draime

several days ago my partner in rhyme, jonathan hayes, emailed me the sad news doug draime died at the early age of 72 from a short, but intense bout with lung cancer.  doug was -- is -- a small press poet, prolific as hell, and a good man.  i knew doug by his poetry and the too few emails we exchanged over the span of a few years.  this is a sad world, i am currently watching CNN with live coverage of the latest tragedy and my heart hangs heavy.  but doug's example of life, love and poetry counterbalances my near despair of our fucked up world by making me want to stay, feel and be alive.  the world is made a poorer place without doug draime in it.