Wednesday, February 29, 2012

the kaplinski system

if you've noticed a while back i found estonian poet jaan kaplinski's blog and linked to it [you'll find it on the right]. i can't recall where or how i discovered kaplinski's poetry but i've been reading him for [i can't believe i'm old enough to say this!] nearly 20 years now. well tonight i discovered a french filmmaker just finished a documentary on kaplinski and documented the making of the film at the blog with the same name as the film the kaplinski system. i hope it will be released to dvd very soon. in the meantime here is the trailer.


one wet morning

leap day? happens every four years

proof that the universe makes its own order

we simply try to keep up

* * *

reading all that by jim mccrary

i decide to walk in the rain

because life is too short

because i'm too long

Sunday, February 26, 2012


gnat flies thru the spotlight
early spring
gets gnarly and punk as fuck

and the beat goes on

anna and i, along with our great friends b. and c., just returned from a concert by the english beat [or the beat, if you will, outside of the u.s.] and i'm too amped to go to bed. the beat, led by dave wakeling, has been doing their thing for over thirty years now. wakeling and co. have their sound down cold! fucking rocking.

a few moments of history. we grew up with the 2-tone revival. both anna and i love the second wave of ska bands like the specials, madness, selector, and the beat. i'll even dare say that the beat is one of anna's favorite bands that she grew up with. so as a birthday gift i bought tix for tonight's show and we invited b. and c. because they are also great fans of the band. b. is a huge, huge, i mean ginormous, fan of ska period.

well, here's the thing. anna and i returned to music a few years ago and started going to shows. mostly we choose to stay away from the crush of the crowd and listen to live music in the back where we can sit, or stand, coolly and fervently enjoy the show. not this go around. somehow we managed to get to the front of the stage. my right ear is blown out because the p.a. was on my right. we were right in the sweaty, swelling crowd. there were some difficulties, particularly from a rather obnoxious woman who wanted to dance like a rabid chicken and invade everyone's personal space.

but this is a rock show. for the over forty set. but still a rock show. i lost myself with the crowd. i've not felt such abandon in years. so when the band played classics like 'mirror in the bathroom' and 'i confess' i was literally out of my freaking mind. it was wonderful. wakeling has a great voice and his songs are tight constructions of adrenalized dance pop. he's been doing this for a long time now and he's an expert at bringing down the house.

my hearing will come back. i hope. we stopped at the merch table and i bought a t-shirt for anna and a just-published book about the 2-tone revival titled dance craze: rude boys on the road! how the specials, madness, the selector and co. conquered the world by garry bushell [countdown books, 2011] signed by wakeling. that's right, bitches. i got a signed copy by the man himself. as for the man. the dude looks like his in his mid-50s. but he carries it well. rock&roll might never die, but it certainly can grow in to middle-age. there was even an old punk rocker wearing a black leather jacket, plaid bondage pants and with grey-white hair who staked out some prime real estate at the front of the stage. i don't know who he is tho i'm sure he's a veteran of the punk rock years and i might've recognized his name if i had the chance to ask him. i didn't. all i could do was admire his fashion sense because i'm a middle-aged punk too with the grey hair as well. it's come down to that. i think my next collection of poems should be titled earrings and hearing aids.

Friday, February 24, 2012

the academy awards

npr broadcast a story today about woody allen shunning the academy awards despite allen's numerous nominations and past wins. only allen knows why he avoids the awards like the plague. i remember when his film annie hall [1977] was up for several oscars and the big to do made over allen's non-appearance at the ceremony. if i recall allen was playing clarinet in his jazz ensemble and there was a camera crew to record his notable absence at the award ceremony.

the academy awards is broadcast this sunday. and i don't give a shit. when i was a lad i used to be a devout oscar watcher. i would watch the awards mostly for the movie clips because those were the pre-digital, pre-cable tv, days and the only way to see movie clips [especially if you are a rabid movie nut] in those days was during awards ceremonies like the oscars.

i don't think i've seen a single movie nominated for an oscar. perhaps it's because of orneriness. life is only so long, i have only so many hours to spend watching films. so i'll watch the movies that have my attention, that i'm obsessed with, and not the movies that have been nominated for a gold statue.

whatever reason allen avoids award ceremonies i share his aversion. awards? you've got to be kidding. who really is to judge? i remember watching c-span [for those outside the u.s. the 'c' stands for congress] channel when the national book awards were broadcast. i watched because poet hayden carruth was up for an award for a collection of his poetry. i've always like carruth. because on a very personal and extra-literary note carruth also suffered from panic disorder, like i do. anyway, carruth won the nba. guess what. he was no where to be seen. his stature rose a few cubits in my humble estimation.

besides, i'm doing my best to deconstruct my ego and to give a fuck about competition. i am non-competitive. or try to be. so awards are so much bullshit. well, okay, even so i had the same attitude last year and i watched the oscars anyway. so sue me. sometimes film geekdom trumps everything else.

the walking dead: triggerfinger

the first time i watched this episode i thought, meh. it didn't pack the punch of the previous installment. then i watched one more time a couple nights ago. now i think, not too bad. pretty good, even. the tension between the survivors is increasing so that the title of this episode refers not only to the events that transpired between rick and the two dudes from philly in the bar [a gun fight ensued where rick killed the dudes from philly] but between the rising hostilities among rick and the rest of his group.

which i think is probably true to the case of real survivors attempting to cope with the wreckage of the world. works of horror are often considered metaphors for the fears we humans face and must cope with. zombies are symbols of our collective species ground into simple working bodies. perhaps our worries of our shaky economy, and the huge gap between the very few haves and the very many have nots, are manifested in these fables of the undead.

for how do we make for our survival? especially when the world seems to have turned to shit. rick and co. are playing out those fears for us on our television [and mobile devices] screens. not that there needs to be a structural analysis of our society and the show for the show to entertain. the show, like most things, don't need to explain itself for it to be.

better yet, i'm hooked. there are some duds in the series and not every moment in the programs are searing. i admire the creators of the series for making a program that examines human relationships in a dead world. sometimes the zombies are the afterthoughts. it's not all action all the time. even in a dead world people must learn the art of being people.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

that mighty noun

could be the name of a band. it refers instead to the word -- poet. no caps. no especial nothing. but for i remember an interview charlie rose did with seamus heaney right after the irish bard won the nobel. during that interview heaney said something like, 'that noun is might, and it should be scaresome.' i took it to mean that heaney considers the art of poetry a form of magic and that poets are a kind of shaman.

which is and is not bullshit. still, i'd read a few interviews and blog posts by my brethren who want to delimit that mighty noun and confess to being uncomfortable with being called, yep, a poet. why should that be? i can't answer for those who shy away from that mighty noun. i am puzzled by the humility.

i'm all for being humble. poetry does not begin or end with one or a few poets. i don't believe in that nostrum that many are called and few are chosen. really? many are called and few are chosen? for what, pray tell. immortality? okay, maybe one or two of you, or me, will be remembered after our deaths. but don't hold your breath. chances are will be as quickly forgotten as a 1980s one-hit wonder.

if we are even that lucky. i consider myself very fortunate because i can read and write and i can devote my life to my obsessions. i know what i want to do with my life. not many people do. that is very lucky. and tho i am not a religious man i think that a life in poetry is a life of devotion. that quickens my senses and gets my head aswirling.

i was watching via youtube an interview with jose kozer recently where kozer makes the claim for poetry where the person who gives herself to poetry will have a wonderful life. i believe him. i believe in poetry. i believe in poetry providing for a fully-lived life. that is wonderful.

so the act of reading and writing poetry makes one a poet. it does. we need more poets in this world. i believe that. we don't argue the against the noun guitarist for someone who plays guitar. what do we call a person who is in the act of playing baseball but a baseball player. same with sculpture, painter, husband, mother, father, wife, partner etc etc. not that i'm big on labels. i am big on names. my name. your name. sure stay humble. even great poets didn't know they would be remembered as great when they died. all mandesltam knew was that he was a poet when he was alive. that's one example of poet. the other is rod mckuen. if you asked, rod who? i rest my case. he's a poet too.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

poetry is not an occupation

i mean have you ever heard of a poet plumping up a poetics 401(k)
then after 30 years doing the gig retiring from reading/writing?

that thing you do

if you are done
or if you are stuck
doing that thing you do

do something else

Monday, February 20, 2012


stuck on mental illness

the crows in midtown concuss cars in shit

birdshit is bullshit come dawn

political discourse is bullshit sd the man on the corner

inbetween the sidewalk and the road

on his cardboard sign

as rimbe sd, what a ninny i am lacking

the courage to be in love with death

Thursday, February 16, 2012

new favorite tv show

is doomsday preppers broadcast on the national geographic channel. oh yeah. last weekend i was doing a little channel surfing and found a couple of reruns of this program. ostensibly it's a docu of ordinary people who are preparing for mass catastrophes, both either natural or human-made, and the resulting collapse of society and surging civil unrest.

my what do we find here we used to call survivalists. and survivalists around 10 or 20 years ago were usually depicted in the popular media as extremists whose common sense went south. nowadays with global warming, economic instabilities, growing civil agitation via the occupy movements in response to rising disparities of wealth, and the very fact that we have a global population that is getting larger and larger, individuals who are preparing for the collapse of civilization are getting more respect. and their own show.

what's interesting to me is why some people believe something like massive solar flares that knock out our power grid, or hyper-inflation leading to collapsing global economies, will create panic and violence in society that will bring upon its own collapse. shit's happened in the past and society withstood intact. no matter, obsessions remain that their preparations for the end of the world becomes like a religion.

perhaps that's why i love the show. these people's lives become details of preparations. guns, ammo and food are the connective tissue to their metaphysical, nee spiritual, malaise. if the end comes they want to be the persons who will say to the rest of us, told ya so.

a few individuals profiled are indeed prepared while most are rather deluded into thinking that a few cans of food, some water, a gun, and the hope of living thru their worst fears, are enough for survival. time will only tell. as for the rest of us, we have a new show to watch and gauge our own thoughts of survival against those whose lives are emblems of an attempted arrest against entropy and decay. long live the american dream.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

my top four love stories

i'm not one to get all mushy and stuff but i do love a good love story. boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl at the end. and all manner of variation on the theme. but for hollywood movies there are very few girl meets girl, or boy meets boy, kind of romantic stylings that one can point to. a pity. for love is manifold and various. if we are thinking of love stories in film wouldn't a good subject be the good grey poet himself, walt whitman, for he so loved being alive. i mean whitman eroticized everything, didn't he.

well but so my top four romantic films are relatively traditional in the boy-meets-girl way and all are from my own era of adolescence and young adulthood. what can i say, it's valentine's day, and these four flicks continue to shoot me thru the heart [links take you to the trailers].

valley girl [1983] -- the chemistry between val-chick julie and punk rocker randy smolders the screen. a beautiful concoction of teen innocence and first, powerful, love. i think this is nicolas cage's first lead role. it is one of his best.

say anything [1989] -- filmmaker cameron crowe creates small, intimate pictures where the leads wear their hearts on their sleeves. crowe's movies lately are more miss than hit. he struck gold with this feature starring john cusack as a sensitive lug who is crazy insane over brainy beauty ione skye. mismatched lovers make good proving that love can indeed change the world. a literate script is added depth by supporting character actor john mahoney who plays skye's father. that famous scene where cusack tries to woo back his love by holding a boombox over his head as peter gabriel's song 'in your eyes' rises in emotion over the soundtrack is iconic. a fantastic love story.

10 things i hate about you [1999] -- i'm a sucker for sweet-natured movies and despite this flick's alleged meanness and nastiness it is really a very sweet movie. a half-light rendering of the taming of the shrew the filmmakers populated all sorts of shakespearean references in the picture for an audience weened on pop culture. clever word-play and game actors make for a treat of the senses. one of heath ledger's first starring roles. he is every bit as wonderful an actor in this picture as you remember him.

an officer and a gentleman [1982] -- holy crap. romantic movies don't get more traditional than this flick. bootcamp for navy officer candidates is located next to a factory that makes paper bags. young working class women try to woo the young officer candidates to better their socio-economic condition. alas, love finds a way in anyway. this movie is both a coming of age story and a love story starring richard gere and debra winger. it is hot! i double-dog dare you to keep your eyes dry when gere literally sweeps winger off her feet to the high melody of 'love lifts us up where we belong' by joe cocker and jennifer warner. an utter classic of the genre.

quote unquote

Let no one say that I don't love life, the eternal
presence: I pulsate in her; she bears me, she gives me
the spaciousness of this day, the primeval workday
for me to make use of, and over my existence flings,
in her magnanimity, nights that have never been.

--rainer maria rilke [translated by stephen mitchell]

Monday, February 13, 2012

the walking dead: nebraska

when did networks begin to break up the broadcast season in half? amc did just that with the walking dead. if you follow the show then you know the premise is a group of individuals led by deputy sheriff rick grimes [brilliantly realized by actor andrew lincoln] trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. the first half of season two was left on a cliffhanger. the grimes group took shelter on a farm owned by hershel, a man guided by his christian faith, and who believed that the walkers -- zombies -- were only sick and that maybe there eventually would be a cure. the cliffhanger: a little girl from grimes' group disappeared and as the group took refuge on hershel's farm they looked for the little girl.

the girl was not to put it bluntly hope that maybe the world will eventually recover. at the end of the first half of season two we discover hershel kept family members who turned to zombies in a barn. the barn, in a moment of panic and bravado of one of grimes' members, shane, liquidated the walkers from the barn. the last to emerge from the gloom of the barn was the little girl grimes' group put so much hope on.

tonight's episode begins with grimes' gun still smoking as he put a bullet into the head of the dead zombie child. hope is gone. or is it. one of the frequent criticisms of the series is the lack of zombies. especially for a zombie centered piece of tv fiction. but what i find fascinating about the series is not the fact that there are zombies. it's how people would cope and try to survive in such a world. thus when grimes goes out in search of hershel, who is in shock after the barn massacre, and find hershel at an old watering hole as hershel tries to drink the horror right out of him, that's when the shit hits the fan.

for suddenly hershel, grimes, and glenn [a young man that grimes relies on and who's love interest, the daughter of hershel, just told loves him], are set upon by two live strangers. who are these guys and what do they want. ambiguity is the theme of the day. these two strangers maybe lost orphans of the mad world or they could be agents of chaos set to take what is not given them.

that's what i love about this show. how people react and behave in a world gone nuts. does rick do the right thing, or has he gone cold. rick grimes so far is the moral lead. shane, his longtime friend and fellow deputy sheriff, is the heartless pragmatist willing to kill in order to achieve his goals. the roles have not switched but there is another layer added to grimes as he does what he thinks is not only good for survival but good for our species.

i watched that penultimate scene between the strangers and grimes four times now. i think grimes did the right thing. especially as the scene is constructed. time will play out if that was indeed the right action. in this universe of the walking dead perhaps the moral compass is busted. what makes right is simply survival. i don't know. i do know is that i can't wait for next week's show.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

bill knott reads

Friday, February 10, 2012

old dog / new tricks

i read a wonderful piece in last week's new yorker about a pianist's experiences, and obssesive love, of the u.s. composer charles ives' concord sonata. i'm a dummy when it comes to modern, post-modern and contemporary classical music. i'm mostly a pop music sort of dude.

but the magazine essay had me search out some of ives' music. charles ives was an iconoclast who chose a career in the insurance industry and wrote his lovely, dissonant music while building his business to which ives was quite successful at. here i read a bit of my own biography. not the building of business but in the choice of not pursuing an academic career, but of holding down a day job, as i write and read poetry as ives had chosen not to go the usual composer route and instead managed a day job in addition to his obsessions with music over a century ago.

that is a superficial significance but significant just the same. i think many of us writers are in pursuit of our obsessions while holding down the job that pays the mortgage. i liked that detail in ives' biography. i still didn't know the music.

god bless the internets. i pointed my browser to youtube and found many, many recordings of ives. perhaps my ears are trained a bit better after years of listening to ambient electronica and punk rock. then again, maybe it's because i am doing my best to rid myself of my ego and am doing my best to be open to everything.

whatever the case what i want in my life is to be alive and to know it. that includes learning and becoming excited about things. those new things sometimes become obsessions. such as it is listening to ives' concord sonata as performed by the pianist below blows apart what i conceive of as a personal metaphysics. because my metaphysics are not set. they are expanding. what beauties we as a species create. there is a lot of shit in the world. yet music, movies, writing and reading, are expansive. they make us question who we are, what we are becoming, who we were, and what we can do. ah yes, music! we do it because we are alive, and this old dog is not done learning new tricks.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

2 haiku

rain again
in dog shit, again

* * *

at dusk the caw of crows
parked cars shellacked in crowshit

Monday, February 06, 2012

a short text on the long history of my failures

there is a poem by james wright that blew my mind when i was a wee lad

the poem "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota'

is an idyll meditating on the greeny world and the reader's place in it

the poem ends with a crashing note, "I have wasted my life.'

i have wasted my life was a war cry for me for a number of years

i read that line as a triumph not as a defeat even tho now i think it's rather clunky

the poem is dated even maybe a bit, dare i say it, out of fashion

even so i am attracted to poetry because it is the art of failure

to use this common medium, words, and use them in such a way to make a poem

is an exercise in failure, there are so many words and too many ways to fumble

but words are me and i am a member of the human species

the art of poetry is the practice of utter impracticability

and absolute beauty, so perhaps wright was on to something

poetry is the practice of defeat turned to beauty

when i put the giant paperclip to my collected poems

i'll call it the long history of my failures

Sunday, February 05, 2012

the long weekend

nick is a tiger cub scout. that's right. jr. boy scout. the kid loves the activities and has a blast at den and pack meetings where he can with the other boys in the den play, wrestle, yell and chase each other till their voices are hoarse and their legs rubbery from all the running. it's great fun. as a parent i get the great, great pleasure of accompanying my child in his adventures.

we just returned from one such adventure. the whole scout pack, which includes tiger cubs and webolos [slightly older cub scouts], to an over night expedition at the chabot space and science center which is located in the hills above oakland. i'm a born and bred northern california boy and i never heard of the chabot. while the museum is relatively new the first telescope designed for the wealthy industrialist anthony chabot was built in the late 19th century. later chabot bequeathed funds to oakland to build a site for astronomers and astronomy education.

the place is pretty cool. we got a tour of the first telescope, an eight inch, built for chabot in 1883, and the second 20 inch telescope built in 1915, and finally the most recent addition, and the most used telescope, a whopping 36 inch lens, built in 2003. the 36 inch telescope was awesome. with it we got to see the moon, jupiter, and orion's belt where the image was so clear we can see the green gas clouds [which we are told is oxygen and is the area where new stars are forming].

mind blowing really. nick asked one of the astronomers what contains the universe. the answer nick was told was that everything that exists is in the universe. even the word, universe, 'uni' meaning one and 'verse' meaning word, is 'one word'. it is everything. which blew nick's mind. then another question nick asked, what happens to light from a flashlight after you turn it off. answer, the light keeps going even if it becomes too faint for us to see it.

the kids went nuts. i mean that in the most positive terms. but they did. go nuts. among each other and within the safe confines of the museums that they had to for the better part of the evening to themselves the scouts were difficult to keep track of. food was pizza, and lots of it. i'm all pizza'd out. we, parents and scouts, unfolded our sleeping bags around 11:00 pm on the floor of a classroom. the chabot screened a movie for the kids, zathura [2005]. nick went nuts because this is a favorite flick, and most of the boys i think have seen it several time too.

parents. what could we do. we slept as best we can. i tried. which means hardly sleeping at all. you know, no farting, no belching, worries about the rat's nest your hair becomes when you wake in the morning. a rough night. the scouts were utterly in heaven.

then this morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves until opening for the general public. after that, we still pretty much had the place to ourselves. because of the superbowl i'm guessing because when nick and i left around noon the museum was still pretty empty. we were the last of the scouts to leave. the weather was gorgeous. mid 60s and the sky crystal clear.

then we came home. i took a nap for about an hour then we headed to grandpa's house to watch the superbowl. um. grandpa and grandma watched the superbowl. nick and i hung out and ate even more pizza. and chips. lots of chips. such is the way of the world. anna, you ask. she went to berkeley because it was supebowl sunday, and what better day to go out into the world then on a day when most of the world is hunkered before tv sets, laptops and i-phones to watch a football game. amen sister.

below is a pic of nick taken this morning from the chabot in front of a photo of the international space station to simulate weightlessness.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

turning in the decrepitude

i'm deep into will hermes' book on the music scenes in 1970s nyc, love goes to the buildings on fire: five years in new york city that changed music forever [fsg, 2011]. nyc in the '70s was for some a cesspool and emblematic of all that was wrong with u.s. cities: high-crime, poverty-stricken, dangerous, dilapidated, and so on. what hermes' book shows is that beneath the surfaces of all the grit and grime was revolutionary sounds percolating amid a popular music scene that was roundly criticized for its perceived sterility.

i bought the dvds for season three of the cop sitcom barney miller. the years for the third season are 1976 and 1977, the era hermes chronicles in his book. miller is a favorite tv show of mine. i've always admired and related to the zen-like quality and intellectual goofiness of det. arthur dietrich, played by the late, wonderful comic steve landesberg. often the episodes were penned with much wordplay so much so that one show had both dietrich and miller trying to one up each other by quoting dickens. it works.

very often the humor in miller comes from a deprecating knowledge of characters stuck in a city in decay. entropy is the rule of order. the city's looming bankruptcy, the environmental crises predicated on jokes about acid rain and polluted snow, brown-outs and black-outs, cuts in departmental fundings and threatened police force lay-offs. it seemed like it was the end of the road.

i look back to that era i see fecundity, humor and survival. there's a beckettian grace as the characters of miller go thru their staccatto rythms. in the music as investigated by hermes there were small miracles. the talking heads and television on fire at cbgb. anthony braxton performing in lofts. bruce springsteen proudly declaring his natal city of asbury park, new jersey. looking back at 1970s nyc i see individuals and groups of individuals not making due with what they have but taking what they have and making it new.

which might be said for any era. i wish i could point out object lessons for today. because often it does seem like it is the end of the road now. yet lessons taken from the past are not easily come by. or if they are those lessons could very well be proven false. i can't help it. it's probably because i'm on optimist by nature. i look at the worst era for nyc, or one of the worst times for the city, and i find great beauty. i'm not the only one. proof too with hermes book on the era. people don't necessarily stagnate. sometimes they do. oftentimes they do not. we turn in our perceived decrepitude in order to create because if we stop then we stagnate. then we die.