Wednesday, October 29, 2014

harsh noise wall

i was hipped to this genre of noise music by john b-r.  we have an annual noise festival here in sac.  several years ago i met the founder and guiding light of the noise festival, a poet/musician named lob instagon.  i told lob how much i love dark ambient electronica.  he told me there is so much more to noise music, including percussion made out of banging on coffee cans.

harsh noise wall is utterly new to me.  listening to its practitioners i am reminded of the noise musician, boyd rice who records under the name, non.  this ain't everyones cuppa tea.  but if you listen to it carefully you will find subtleties in texture, rhythm and tempo.

below is the french musician who records and performs under the name of vomir.  great sound for a haunted house.  or if you want to evacuate your house of the living and the living dead.  in this vid vomir is performing at an arts festival called luff.  for all i can see vomir stands like a zombie before his electronic kit with a burlap sack over his head.  without moving at all.  the lighting is a flickering blue.  there are a handful of people in the audience.  i always wonder about the audience for avant films and music.  there is such an audience that at least i think nominally supports the artists thru ticket sales and merchandise sales.  i could be wrong.  but another terrific noise artist, mick harris, who records under many names but his better known moniker is scorn, tours all thru eastern and western europe.  i don't know how well harris' albums sell but i think he makes a decent living at it.  so then, there is an audience for difficult, not so lovable, material.  right. 

but this performance by vomir reminds me of a poetry reading.  a few aficionados in the audience paying dutiful, perhaps even rapt, attention.  and that is all.

everyday is halloween

just two more days till the high holiday.  adverts and commercials for christmas are also popping up.  a little early, i think.  but why not combine the two, not like how tim burton did in his fantastic film the nightmare before christmas [1993], but getting your little ghoul or goblin an alien action figure.  yes, that alien from the movie of the same name directed by ridley scott.  i think this was a short-lived toy.  i don't remember the action figure in the stores in 1979 or 1980.  but i mean, c'mon!  really!  what marketing genius thought up this crap to sell a toy based on a very scary, adult-themed, horror movie!  i betcha want one, don't you!


Monday, October 27, 2014

in spite, or despite, my optimism and love of life i think we have some serious problems that we need to deal with very soon.  problems like overpopulation and climate change and economic inequality.  these issues are not theoretical.  these are very real issues that we are hell-bent on ignoring.  ignorance will just make these problems worse over time.

i wrote a few weeks ago about my love of [post]apocalyptic movies not because i want the world to end but because these are imaginative explorations of living the life we need rather than living the life we think we want.  how should you live is the question that these movies -- at least a few of them -- explore.  we are finite beings on a finite planet.  we have to by necessity and for survival live with others.  how we live is of the greatest importance.  for us.

anna tipped me to this article tonight published by the guardian last spring.  the story, in a nutshell, is about a study authored by a mathematician and some natural and social scientists and how our level of civilization is not sustainable.  every great civilization reaches a point where it collapses.  we seem, according to the study, to be at that point now.

i really don't know.  i do recall all the apocalyptic scenarios of the 1970s.  i feared for the worst and worried, yes, i worried so much my hair nearly fell out, about environmental degradation and economic stagnation.  i recall coming out of the theater after a matinee showing of the charlton heston vehicle soylent green [1973].  i was shaken.  the movie was about overpopulation.  the ecology was so damaged it could not produce food and so a corporation developed a food to feed the people.  but that food was made of people.  thus we suffered a closed, and ultimately doomed, system.  society was dying.  one of the symptoms of its illness was no trees or green plants.  i walked out of the theater sick to my stomach.  then i looked around.  a beautiful, warm, sunny day.  sacramento -- yes, i have lived here all my life -- is an urban forest.  we have an abundance of trees.  the streets of the city core, where i live today, are lined with trees.  i remember thinking, even as a young child, we still have time left to change.

but do we?  i am by nature an optimist.  i really do think art and science can transform the world.  an equation and a poem can change the world.  if we have enough people to listen.  the problems i listed at the top of this piece are very real.  i am a grown man in the second decade of the 21st century.  the movies are again expressions of our fears of climate change, overpopulation and economic inequalities and stagnation.  we have better tools for communication.  we can google for information on almost anything.  including accurate data about our pressing problems.  does that give me hope? yes and no.  what shall happen to us in the near future.  are we fated for collapse?  i don't think there is such thing as fate.  we make our world as it makes us.  we create our economy.  we create our jobs.  we create money.  we can make solutions for overpopulation and energy.  we can do all these things if we choose to do them.  will we?  i remember the polish poet wislawa szymborska when she won the 1996 nobel prize in literature. szymborska predicated her life and work in uncertainty.  in her nobel lecture the poet and the world szymborska demonstrates three words that drove her life and work, 'i don't know.'  i make the same claim for our predicaments, i don't know.  should it mean i must stop loving life?  i don't think so.  i think chance governs our lives.  'i don't know' is a pretty damn good philosophy.  those three words, i think, should mean we live by being good people.  i have no idea what the future holds.  i think our art and our science should make the same claim: be good.  i don't know what happens after that.

try to say simple

i noticed that john berryman is celebrating his centenary.  good on the ol' chap.  i was -- i am -- a huge admirer of his work.  it was his sonnet, "I Lift", that set me on the red road of verse.  that poem, i mean this with all my heart and soul, changed my life.  i soon bought the dream songs and aped berryman's torsions and agonies.  but that writing didn't suit me or my personality.

i imitated every writer i admired.  very soon after berryman, or around the same time, i discovered rimbaud and dylan thomas.  i was doomed.  rimbaud has stayed with me.  thomas, not so much.  berryman, yes, as a reader, but no as a writer.  i take my reading seriously.  perhaps more so than my writing.  but then i think of reading and writing as being two very like actions.  one cannot exist without the other.  so when i say yes to berryman as a reader i'm taking his jagged music very seriously.

i can't abide berryman tho as a figure for imitation.  first of all, i don't think life is very tragic.  perhaps life is a tragic-comedy.  there is too much pleasure in life.  too much to be grateful for.  there is suffering, a great deal of it, yes.  but even in the shit, and we have all suffered greatly for we are human and that is the overriding human subject for all of us, i enjoy living.

i've devolved.  i try to be as simple as i can.  later on i discovered the classical chinese poets, who helped me weather an awful time of personal suffering, and buddhist writers.  only then when i read these writers did i come to know a few happy eccentrics who suffered too but also enjoyed the very fact of living.  oh, let me throw in thom gunn in the mix, for that dude knew how to take a huge bite out of life.

happiness is not considered a worthy enough subject for art.  i mightily refute that assumption.  i don't mean a blind, ignorant kind of happiness that ignores, or doesn't process, the horrors of the world.  the last two poems i recently wrote take as their subjects our mediated culture and our self-created horrors.  but when i say happiness i mean a fully realized life in the midst of all this madness.

because the art of writing is a manifestation of the art of living.  berryman took his horrors and created a language of great, but tragic beauty.  his language was the result of such tragedy.  hence the difficulty of his poetry.

and yet, there are other writers, like the very great, and undersung, lew welch, who wrote a poetry that was also tragic but, i think, celebrated living.  welch's poems are less arch than berryman's work, and arguably simpler.  not simple by being stupid.  i mean a radical simplicity of great beauty.  welch gets us to slow down and savor life.  berryman tries to speed up life and tie it into knots.  welch tries to undo those knots.  when i read the classical chinese poets, and poets like lew welch, that's what i am going for.  or trying to get to in my own work.  i am doing my best to slow down, and undo the knots.  i shall fail.  we all do fail.  the made thing is never the gleaming object we had in our minds' eye.  but in my failures i shall do my best to make as good music as i know how.  even if that music sounds like a gorilla banging on a rusted pail.

or maybe the better image is of the filmmaker on par with ed wood or al adamson or william girdler.  for those guys created uncommon art by sheer luck, determination, and obstinacy.  their works are very simple.  perhaps inept too.  but for them art was not about personal expression but a vision of a body of work that came from fully realized lives.  yes, that is what i want.  a vision of work out of a fully realized life.       

quote unquote

It was like this, or a little different.
It is like this, or a little different.

--jaan kaplinski [selected poems; bloodaxe, 2011]

Friday, October 24, 2014

quote unquote

write like a motherfucker

--printed on the coffee mug of todd colby

everyday is halloween
it is full-bore scary season at casa de lopez/bronson.  we just returned from the annual haunted house hosted by nick's school.  the 6th graders are in charge of building, maintaining and staffing the haunted house.  they did a good job too.  a couple of sets were quite creepy.  the decorations used in the sets, like skulls and witches's cauldrons, reminded me of the same decorations used at the professional haunt i toured last week.  perhaps the reason for the identical decorations is a paucity of ideas for halloween?  or the ubiquity of the same designs that have become cliche?

at any rate, below is a video from 1942 of a trio of teen-age sisters, the brian sisters, performing the halloween ditty, 'the boogie woogie man'.   their harmonies are spot on.  their style of singing was very much the fashion of their time.  like the style of singing that is popular of our time.  or the time of the 1980s when the neo-romantic sound produced male singers who sang in an emotional, deep resonate voice.  think OMD, Tears for Fears, etc etc.  the fact of the matter is that one can only be of the time we belong.  as much as we wish to transcend our era our era makes us as we create it.  if you don't like what's happening with the era, and society, and want to change it first start with the person you face every day in the mirror.


Friday, October 17, 2014

everyday is halloween

the trek to the haunted house was postponed from last sunday to today.  everyone p. and i invited to come along chickened out.  or had other obligations [wink! wink!].  p. confessed when we were in line at heartstoppers haunted house waiting to get in that he never been to a halloween haunted house.  we thought we might be the oldest dudes there.  we were not.  we made friends with a couple of roommates, she in her early 70s, he in his late 20s, while in line for one of the haunted attractions [there are five separately themed haunted houses] who became our companions for our journeys in the the western themed macabre.

this haunted house was the same one my father and i went to last year but the location had changed.  instead of being cooped up in a small downtown location like last year this year's heartstoppers is set up at the mineshaft, an old all-ages dance club and miniature golf course that was the bomb say 30 years ago.  the place is a huge lot and building with a gigantic basement where the dance floor was located.  all the locations of the grounds were used to great effect.

but but here's the rub.  p. and i are two middle-aged dudes.  we were not the focus of the scaring.  the actors look for the people who are the most freaked out and exploit their fears.  two older dudes are pretty much left alone.  which means for all but one of the mazes the scares were just not there.  still, i love halloween and scary imagery, and actors flocked in their finest ghoulery sets my heart a'thumpin'.  scary music and ambient sounds get the dopamine flowing.  i loved it even if it wasn't terribly scary.

that is until we hit the last maze, the tomb of shadows.  pitch black maze.  i was third in our group.  p. was behind me.  you couldn't see nothing, not even the hand in front of your face. we moved by feel.  p. kept saying, rich, are you there!?  i'd feel for p.'s hand and say yes.  and then there was the turn.  a corner of the maze that turned me to a dead-end.  i lost contact with my group.  i heard p.'s voice then it was gone.  i groped for safer passage and found myself in a corner.  i felt panic rising.  i was alone in a pitch black maze.  i imagined myself trapped in there forever.  i imagined myself as being the dork who panics and the management would then have to shut down the haunt, turn on the lights, and lead me to the exit.  it was, really, that freaky of an experience.  all the other mazes were fun but far from scary.  this fucker was scary.  i saw an explosion of light in the middle distance and saw a passage.  there were people facing me.  i jumped.  i thought they were actors.  they saw me and jumped thinking i was an actor.  we all turned a corner.  i lost those people.  i was alone in the dark, again.  i felt my way out.  i did everything i could not to panic.  p. and my group were long gone.  i was utterly alone.

but that was the end.  i felt my way out.  i saw p. and he said, where the fuck were you!?  our two companions were wiping sweat from their foreheads.  that maze alone was worth the price of admission.  that maze was incredibly scary.

the haunt was improved by the added acreage of the old mineshaft.  it is a western-themed haunt.  p. and i explored the grounds.  they were playing the old clint eastwood flick the outlaw josey wales [1976] in a corner of the lobby.  the bar in the center of the haunt served rootbeer and sarsaparilla.  there was also a place where kids could get their faces painted.  i saw lots of kids nick's age and younger. the decor run the gamut of standard spookhouse cobwebs to a skeleton singing old cowboy songs.

p. and i ended the night with a beer at a local watering hole.  we compared notes of the evening.  we both agreed the black-out tomb of shadows was quite freaky and the best part of the haunt.  then we got to talking about the passage of time and getting older.  we are no longer young.  we are not quite old yet too.  one doesn't get say four times to be 40 years old to get it right.  you get only one shot and more than not we will fuck up.  that is the human condition.  to be alive and to know it but be alive for each portion of our lives only once.  we will screw up.  we will stumble.  we will have no idea what being 40 years old ought to feel like.  and if we get the feeling we soon will be 50 years old and be brand new to that.  we will stumble there too.  and so on.  until we get to dying.  then death.  for the first time, only.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

last night anna told me of the passing of the actress elizabeth pena dead at the early early age of 55.  dare i say it but i've long long had a crush on her.  she was a magnificent actor and a great beauty.  the last thing i saw her in was the sitcom modern family.  her death leaves a void in the world of hollywood and the world at large.  as for the rest i fail in words to express my condolences to her and her friends and family.  the world is poorer now for her not being in it.   

everyday is halloween
homage to joe brainard

i remember watching the local news tour the haunted house sponsored by the march of dimes.  there was a creature beneath the water in the bathtub.  frankenstein's monster prowled its halls.

i remember driving with my family down del paso blvd on a very hot october day.  the air was smudged with soot from nearby burning rice fields.  on the movie theater marquee was rocky horror picture show.  i thought it must be one scary flick.

i remember the halloween when latex makeup hit the market.  we gored ourselves up with slashes and wounds and blood.  then we hit the streets.  it was a long night.  we forgot how late it was.  when we got to what turned out to be the final house of the night the hippies who lived there invited us inside.  they ooh'd and ah'd and fussed over our makeup saying we were blowing their minds.

i remember we lived in salt lake city.  i forgot to wear my batman costume to school on the day of the haunted house tour.  the teacher had a large, painted, paper bag with holes cut out for the head and the arms.  he gave it to me to wear for the haunted house.  i put it on.  i felt like a fool.

 i remember choosing my costume at payless drugstore.  a whole aisle of ready-made superheroes and creatures.  my happiness was red-lining.  i picked up a flashlight with a plastic jack o'lantern over the light.  it was, at the time, one of the most beautiful objects i had ever seen.

i remember the neighbor set up a haunted house complete with strobe lights and spooky sounds.  everyone went inside.  except for me.  i could not will myself to cross its threshold.

i remember an after school assembly.  the teacher told scary tales.  the one with the beautiful lady with the sash around her neck continues to haunt me to this day.

i remember we were living in san jose.  we approached the house on the corner.  the lights were not on.  when we got to the door a  figure in utter white burst out with a loud boo.  i shit my pants and ran to my father.  the man took off his sheet and handed out candy.  i, with great trepidation, gingerly took a piece.  my father couldn't catch his breath as he was bent over with tears running down his face.



Monday, October 13, 2014

on aesthetics

there are moments, yes, when, if, instead, or in spite of, the ugliness of the world you watch a movie and get all HUBBA HUBBA at the actor and/or actress of the film


travels thru the 'net

i'm an addicted traveler of the ether.  like most of us i read a shitload of poems and essays online.  when i fall in love with a writer i will often follow their work via the internet using google to search for interviews, essays, poems, pieces of fiction and so forth.

i am a late bloomer.  i didn't seriously read until i was 16 years old.  i knew i wanted to be a writer.  i wrote a lot of shit, and i do mean shit, for a very long time.  i read bios of writers and painters to figure out how they did it.  one thing bios of writers and painters never seemed to mention: money.  how did the writers and painters of yore make ends meet?  that is a topic for another day.  suffice it to say when i wrote i revised and revised and revised.  i revised because the great writers of the 20th century demanded rigorous and religious revision to the work.  i recall a documentary i saw in my early 20s about james joyce.  an actor portraying the great genius described a full day's work.  what did joyce accomplish that day?  two sentences.

revision has its place.  i remember a quote by kurt vonnegut that said something like revision allows mediocre minds an improvement.  okay.  sure.  but then something happened to me.  i started to write fast.  with little revision.  i don't claim my work to be any better for lack of revision but for me writing a poem in one sitting without the agony of having to make hundreds of drafts was liberating.  a little later in my 20s i discovered ted berrigan.  the great NYC poet was not only prolific but a generous soul.  he said, don't worry about meter and rhyme, poets have a little guy tucked in the office of their minds that take care of such things.  i don't know if berrigan was a heavy reviser.  i suspect for his Sonnets he was.  but for his later poems, perhaps he simply let them fly.

so the other night when i was bone tired but still awake i found this article, writing or rewriting, by poet paul nelson.  the gist is this, heavy revision is a 20th century invention based on the development of the typewriter.  heavy revision is, i might add, a romantic vision of the writer suffering for her art.  all of which is nonsense.  i recall a course on shakespeare when the professor told us a particular play was written in two weeks by the bard.  i don't recall the play but i remember thinking two fucking weeks?  that's it?!  i suspect the bard did not do any heavy revision to his play.

turns out nelson compiled a list of poets who also try to write in one sitting.  among them is my man jose kozer and, if you click the link above and scroll down, you'll find the prolific canadian poet george bowering who in his photo is wearing a motorhead t-shirt and flipping us the bird [don't get much cooler than than]!

sit down, shut up, and write.  revision has its place in writing.  i've got into the habit to write one draft and post it here.  i will revise, later, if the piece is going to be read in public or published elsewhere.  many times the pieces i publish here need revision.  but sitting down, shutting up, and writing gets me to where i need to be in writing and life.  for i don't separate writing and life.  we only get one chance in this life.  no practice and no do-overs.  writing we could argue is a place where we can have do-overs.  hence we need to revise.  okay.  sure.  but then when we face the blank page and/or screen we can suffer fear of not getting it right.  the result becomes a poetic impotence.  we become mute and unable to perform.  the pressures are too great.  so if that is the case, say fuck it.  no one demanded you to become a poet.  it is a calling you feel within you.  damn, to use a phrase by charles bernstein, official verse culture, or, i might add, MFAs.  we make and break the rules as we go.  including the rule of heavy, radical revision.  we just need to simply sit down and write.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

everyday is halloween

someone suggested ghost hunting.  we find a scary place, like an old, abandoned building or cemetery, and see if we can see a few spooks.  okay, i said, i'm game.  plans were made.  the location was found, a remote graveyard.  the place, i was told, is very very scary, and haunted to the nth degree.  but there is a stipulation.  we must be quiet in order for the ghosts to appear.  too much human noise and the specters will not make an appearance.  you mean that we must hush and disguise our presence for us to glimpse an apparition or two, i asked.  are we in danger of us being the scary ones, and we not being scared by the spooks?