September 20, 2005

Idiot wind blowing like a circle around my skull

Helen Frankenthaler, Broome Street at Night, 1987

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"Take a good look at America around you now, because when we emerge from the winter of 2005 - 6, we're going to be another country. The reality-oblivious nation of mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers is headed into a werewolf-like transformation that will reveal to all the tragic monster we have become.

"What we will leave behind is the certainty that we have made the right choices. Was it a good thing to buy a 3,600 square foot house 32 miles outside Minneapolis with an interest-only adjustable rate mortgage -- with natural gas for home heating running at $12 a unit and gasoline over $3 a gallon? Was it the right choice to run three credit cards up to their $5000 limit? Was I chump to think my pension from Acme Airlines would really be there for me? Do I really owe the Middletown Hospital $17,678 for a gall bladder operation that took forty-five minutes? And why did they charge me $238 for a plastic catheter?

"All kinds of assumptions about the okay-ness of our recent collective behavior are headed out the window. This naturally beats a straight path to politics, since that is the theater in which our collective choices are dramatized. It really won't take another jolting event like a major hurricane or a terror incident or an H4N5 flu outbreak to take things over the edge -- though it is very likely that something else will happen. George W. Bush, and the party he represents, are headed into full Hooverization mode. After Katrina, nobody will take claims of governmental competence seriously. The new assumption will be that when shit happens you are on your own."

* Interviews of Allen Ginsberg. excerpt:

from a 1976 interview

Interviewer: Was Dylan moved during that experience [visiting Kerouac's grave]?

Ginsberg: He was very open and very tender, he gave a lot of himself there. We stood at Kerouac's grave and read a little section on the nature of self-selflessness, from Mexico City Blues. Then we sat down on the grave and Dylan took up my harmonium and made up a little tune. Then he picked up his guitar and started a slow blues, so I improvised into a sort of exalted style, images about Kerouac's empty skull looking down at us over the trees and clouds while we sat there, empty-mouthed, chanting the blues. Suddenly, Dylan interrupted the guitar while I continued singing the verses (making them up as I went along so it was like the triumph of the Milarepa style) and he picked up a Kerouac-ian October-brown autumn leaf from the grass above his grave and stuck it in his breast pocket and then picked up the guitar again and came down at the beat just as I did, too, and we continued for another couple of verses before ending. So it was very detached and surrendered; it didn't even make a difference if he played the guitar or not. It was like the old blues guitarists who sing a cappella for a couple of bars.

Interviewer: Has Dylan ever acknowledged to you that Kerouac was an influence on him or that he's familiar with his work?

Ginsberg: Yes, oddly! I asked him if he had ever read any Kerouac. He answered, 'Yeah, when I was young in Minneapolis.' Someone had given him Kerouac's Mexico City Blues. He said, 'I didn't understand the words then, I understand it better now, but it blew my mind.' So apparently Kerouac was more of an influence on him than I had realized. I think it was a nice influence on him.
from a mid 90s interview

Interviewer:I gather you don't care for the "just say no" campaign which Republicans are now trying to revive?

Ginsberg: I'll say it very straightforwardly: yes, absolutely, I think the war on drugs is a fake, it's a hype, I think it's intended to increase the number of druggies, I think it's intended to increase police presence in America, and I think its purpose is a cynical political manipulation. It's not intended to solve any problems with drugs particularly, it's only intended to increase control over the lower classes who are becoming increasingly restive with inflation, housing problems, and the decline of American industrial jobs and power.

If they wanted to solve the drug problem, they would have to use a solution which 'will not fly politically'--to LEGALIZE. You assign marijuana as a small cash crop to save family farms from omnipotent agribusiness farming. Addicts would be sent to doctors, as they are in most countries.

Interviewer:You mean that drug addiction should be treated as a disease, like alcoholism?

Ginsberg: Yes, like an illness, rather than hounding and accusing addicts of being fiends--which is already a trespass on human dignity, the notion of the dope fiend. By definition, the addict is viewed as psychopathic. I think that is a vicious semiotic trick to reduce people to things. Junkies in America are treated like Jews in Nazi Germany, chased with guns and dogs. Put into camps and made to suffer withdrawal without medical help. If they can be cured, let's cure them. Other drugs, such as LSD, have already been legalized elsewhere--in Switzerland, for example, so doctors can experiment with it. Scientific research shouldn't be suppressed.

Interviewer:Which younger poets do you believe are doing the most promising work? Are there any with whom you feel a strong literary kinship?

Ginsberg: ... Beck--a young blues singer, just 23 years old--has a great command of blues rhyme, the best I've heard since Dylan. Sapphire, a young student of mine at Brooklyn college, just received half a million dollars for a novel in progress. She's a black lesbian. Paul Beatty is another former student of mine: he is a rapper with a literary, be-bop sound. He was a winner of the Nuyorican Poetry slam and got a book out of it. And, finally, Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Eileen Myles are more established poets with whom I feel an affinity.


my favorite eileen myles poem:

my cheap lifestyle

After a bourbon
I came in and turned on the tube
lit a joint and watched Monterey Pop
nearly wept when Janis came on
Janis' legs kicking on stage is a memorable site
Janis does her sweet little Texas girl smile as
her act finishes. she kicks her heels
and otis redding is so sexy
millions of young americans experience religion for the first
in their lives
or so the cameras would inform us
I'm concerned about manipulation in this media
how one gains such wonderful power
but of course I'm too tired
thrilled by the process of bringing down a familar blanket
upon my bed
it's nearly fall
nearly winter
I expect the stars will be bright
the woods full of bears

* Agreed.


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