Thursday, November 30, 2017

note to self #322

in a dark time read some poems write some poems too for it is in the act of language can you redeem the age

shed your ego practice humility you are one of billions

remember there are poets greater than you that have survived far worst things

quote unquote

Cutting hay, chopping wood, cooking food.  Pacing to and from in the yard.  Looking at the weather, contemplating, reading a bit during my breaks.  Thus I pass the day.  The weather answers with a shower, then sunlight breaking through the clouds.

--olav h hauge, translated from the norwegian by olav grinde [luminous spaces: selected poems & journals; white pine press, 2016]

Friday, November 24, 2017

cocktail [1988]

i don't know if one is born with a movie obsession or if said obsession is developed and cultivated by an lifetime exposure to cinema.  i can't identify when my own love of movies developed.  i had a lot of help developing my love because i had parents who enabled my movie-going habits by taking me and my brothers to the drive-in theaters -- of which sac and the greater sacramento area had in abundance -- and the many local matinee theaters.  it is useful to note that when i was a wee pup there was no internet, no DVDs or VHS tapes, and even TV was pretty crappy.  if you wanted to see a movie you better get your ass to the theater before it went away, forever!  in short, i got in the habit of going to the movies all the time.

which might explain why i saw this movie upon its release in 1988.  i am no tom cruise fan.  i did -- do -- have a long-standing crush on co-star elisabeth shue, and bryan brown, who plays cruise's bartender mentor in this flick under review, is always an onscreen delight.  cocktail is not a good movie, nor is it a movie so bad it is good.  and yet, i have an affection for it.  not the least because it stars the aformentionened elisabeth shue.  but i did see this flick in the theaters with my brother, his date, and the girl i was dating at the time.  it was an important time for me as i was regaining my health after a long bout of severe panic disorder.

sitting in a darkened theater for a couple of hours was no mean feat to me at the time.  this tom cruise vehicle was the perfect foil against my anxiety for it barely has any drama.  or plot.  watching this pic was like a flat sine wave that signals neither despair, fear, or anger.  the movie is also a document of its time, the 1980s, a decade that liked to think of itself as dashing with a flash of gritty class.  cruise plays a young man working on his degree.  he dreams of striking it rich.  he works as a bartender and discovers he has a talent for mixing drinks, and for performance behind, and on top, of the bar.  cruise is shortly taken under wing by brown and together they become famous as the bottle heaving duo of manhattan.  their choreographed numbers where they juggle booze bottles in the air like circus performers punctuated by poems decried as they stand on the bar to their audience cum customers becomes legend.

these bartenders' dream is to open their own place in the big city called cocktails and dreams.  and yet, ambition, greed and pride get in their way.  cruise scurries off to jamaica to tend bar on the beach and brown goes in to debt as he courts the hoi polloi.  when they meet again it is over drinks on brown's yacht.  but before then, cruise meets 'nice girl' -- i put that phrase in quotes because i think such labels are stupid, and yet that is how she is described in the film and in the press package -- shue.  she is from a rich family who thinks cruise is scum.  whatever will he do?

i won't bore you with the details.  this movie gravitated into my orbit last week when i watched it on TV after last seeing it a couple of decades ago.  man!  this movie is so '80s frrom its synth soundtrack -- including a number from the beach boys that hit the charts in 1988, to its dayglo lighting, and miami vice-type sets.  the 1980s was supposed to be about glitz and lucre.  i guess all eras like glitz and lucre, but in the '80s these things were made onscreen, and in literature, as the apex of civilization.  and this flick is no different in that claim for money as the highest value.  both cruise and brown get what they want, money, but each pay a different price for it.  and cruise does get the girl.  shue's character is written more as decoration for cruise and less as a full-blooded human being, and yet her talent prevents her character from being a shell of a person.  even in such a limited role elisabeth shue is graceful and deep.

furthermore, we rarely get these kind of comedy/dramas in the multiplexes anymore.  i suppose these kinds of stories are found today on streaming platforms.  and yet, the pleasure of going to the movies, the act of buying the tickets, standing in line for the popcorn, and settling into your seat as the dark descends and the trailers begin, is magic.  one that i lost focus because i watch most of my movies at home either on TV, disc or streaming platforms.  lately i have broken my shell and i've seen several movies in the theater since the summer.  the tickets are usually bought online using my smart phone.  the multiplexes have become something else, a place where you can buy lunch, have a beer or glass of wine, and the chairs are barcaloungers replete with headrests and footstools.  but the buying of the popcorn has not changed.  i find comfort in that last fact, let it always be salty, buttery and crunchy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

when it is time for the big paperclip let us call his yawp

the love/hate songs of a greaser/hippie/punk

Sunday, November 19, 2017

lady bird [2017]

i want to watch this movie again, and again, and again, and again.  right off the bat, this is a miracle of a film.  it might be the best coming-of-age movie in a long time.  sacramento native, greta gerwig, wrote and directed a love letter to her natal city, and crafted the most loving story of the relationship between mother and daughter.  the people are real, gritty, flawed, sweet, petty, and large hearted as the people we know.

saoirse ronan plays christine 'lady bird' mcpherson a senior at a catholic high school who is developing in to the person she is meant to be.  her mother, marion, played by laurie metcalf, is a psychiatric nurse who must work extra shifts at the hospital because her husband, lady bird's father, larry, played by tracy letts, was laid off his job as an engineer.  lady bird is not her given name.  it is an invention by lady bird herself, a gift to the creation of identity.

the year is 2002-2003.  lady bird's parents are struggling financially, but they are not poor.  lady bird is cut from the same cloth as her mother, marion, both are strong, independent, intelligent women.  these qualities lead to frequent fights and misunderstandings.  and yet, there is a tenderness under the surface tension.  larry is a sweet natured man who is quietly shouldering his own burdens.

and yet and yet, the delight filmmaker gerwig provides to her characters never leaves the screen.  good god, this movie is beautifully written, expertly directed, wonderfully photographed and awesomely edited.  lady bird and marion suffer loss and heartache, but no one, i mean, no one, beginning with lady bird's first boyfriend and love, to the hip kids she later hangs out with, are made the enemy.  indeed, there is a scene, after a betrayal, between lady bird and her first love, that is so sweet and so beautiful that i choke up just thinking about it as i type.

i can go on and on about the beauty of this movie and the reality of its conceits and characters.  i know, you know, these people.  lady bird and marion are people you know in your own lives.  and what can i say about greta gerwig's treatment of my own beloved hometown.  for she made a love letter to sacramento.  the thrust of most of this flick is centered in my own backyard.  i was wondering how the hell could i have missed the film crew as it shot many scenes where i live.  i mean, really, the neighborhood where i live is prominent in this film.  i didn't see any film crews during production of this movie even tho they shot prominently my neighborhood, such as the rose garden in mckinley park, where lady bird falls in love, is just two blocks from where i am sitting right now.  hell, gerwig and co. even put my family's favorite dive burger stand, cookie's, located on h street, in this flick.  i was agog by what i saw onscreen.  because, yes, there has been several movies and TV shows that are supposed to be sacramento, but gerwig's movie is the first one i've seen that makes sacramento a central character, and photograph the city as a real place.

you might wonder if my love for my city blinds me to the flaws of this flick.  i give an emphatic no.  this is a perfect movie.  i say that soberly, and matter-of-fact-ly.  i didn't want this movie to end.  i wanted to stay in the company of lady bird, marion, larry, the rest of her family, and friends for hours and hours.  but even the ending of this movie is precise, hits just the right note.  this movie is perfectly cast, beautifully acted, gorgeously shot and edited, and superbly written and directed. this is the first movie written and directed by greta gerwig.  i think we have a major talent in our midst.  i can't wait to see her next film.

see this movie.  i beseech you.  witness the flawed beauty of its characters, and of my beloved city.  i don't know how else to end this review.  this is a movie that has you fall in love, with life, again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

sometimes I get anxious over the fact
that I am so ordinary
                       tadeusz rozewicz 

i look forward to becoming
a cranky old man
you know the type
standing before you in the grocery queue
complaining about the length of the line
and shaking his cane
at the hapless store clerks
in the meantime i was looking at photos
of my fellow poets who all pose
with wild hair and crazy eyes
and classy or mismatched clothes 
i am so ordinary i feel like i need to take
up some bad habits
like pipe smoking and spitting on the sidewalk
learn to cuss out passing traffic in four languages
and either shave my head or grow my hair
instead i look in to my mirror
i'm surprised to find a face on the other side
that looks like an older me
more like my father than the man who
shares my name
whose poems are printed on pages stuck together
by spit and pipe smoke
macaronic missives of extreme states
who can bang out text after text
that no longer resemble mine

Friday, November 10, 2017

two images

this is a young century & i don't think it is always useful to slice years decades & generations in to distinct parts for i have more in common with some people who are 20 30 or so years older than me than i have with people of my own generation & when we think of the change of centuries what we are really contemplating is the dynamics of technological & social change because people are people whether it be in this century or the last but what is different is our technology & our technological changes that foist social change

what is different in this century rather than the century i was born in is digital culture AI automation & rapid climate change but all these things have their antecedents in the previous century & even the century before that

meaning that we live in a continuity a perpetual present where our cultures changes and/or adapts to the forces that act upon them

the biggest threat to our species is climate change but we have yet to really do anything about a rapidly destabilized climate

we are also automating the shit out of our manufacturing bases i just read an article in the new yorker titled 'the dark factory' the title refers to a factory so automated there is no need to turn on the lights because robots don't need them which begs the question where do the laid off workers find jobs when there will be fewer jobs to be had

we have three threats in this new century Automation AI & Climate Change

let me quote the character Eli. played by Robert Duvall, in the movie version of Cormac McCarthy's the road [2009], who said about the impending disaster, 'even if you knew what to do you wouldn't know what to do'

& that is what i think about how we deal with the trinity i listed above particularly climate change, we know what we should do but we don't know what to do so the problems will hit us -- are hitting us like a brick to the brain pan -- with a ferocity we couldn't know until it is upon us & then, only then, will we see it as a great conclusion to the obvious

AI will be upon us sooner than we realize, like our mobile phones, for our phones may seem like they've been always with us -- who doesn't remember those flicks where a character has a brick-like mobile phone in the 1980s -- the smart phones we carry in our pockets have been with us for only about 10 years now & these devices have utterly changed our economics our society our work place if you don't believe me then reflect on this for you can use a dating app to find a life partner you are connected to your work 24/7 via email & messaging apps & you can order anything you can think of with a few swipes & taps

think about your mobile device & how it has changed brick & mortar retailing or movie/TV watching in short mobile technology has changed the world in ways that was not even imagined 20 years ago

that is what is happening with AI it will change everything

so if i might add two images that might represent our new century it is this

the refugee

the militarized police

when there are no jobs or food or fresh water or stable government millions of people will leave their places & seek out jobs food fresh water & security elsewhere

we see this mass migration beginning now

wait a decade or two or perhaps three but sure as shit millions tens of millions will be on the move looking for a better life & when these tens of millions move they will be met with militarized police because the governments of more stable countries will not have the political will the infrastructure or the space to accommodate all these people

the shit, as the bard wrote, has hitteth the fan

how can my -- our -- poetry be equal to our times