January 31, 2008

Let me go into the depths of your infinity

Shomei Tomatsu, Chewing Gum and Chocolates, 1959

* Did Rove influence the 9/11 Report?

"Philip Zelikow, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, communicated secretly with White House political strategist Karl Rove and other Bush administration officials, reports independent scholar Max Holland, citing an audio version of a forthcoming book by a New York Times reporter.

"On his Web site, Washington Decoded, Holland reports that Philip Shenon, who led the Times coverage of the Commission, has written a 'blistering account' of Zelikow’s role overseeing the 20-month investigation.

He depicts Zelikow as exploiting his central position to negate or neutralize criticism of the Bush administration so that the White House would not bear, in November 2004, the political burden of failing to prevent the attacks.

"Holland, known for his spirited defense of the Warren Commission whose conclusions about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy are widely disputed, says the 9/11 Commission’s veracity is now open to question.

Shenon’s radically different account of the commission’s inner workings promises to achieve what none of the crackpot conspiracy theorists have managed to do so far: put the 9/11 Commission in disrepute.

"Shenon’s book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, will be published on Feb. 5 by Twelve Books."

* Los Angeles has marijuana vending machines. excerpt:

"The city that popularized the fast food drive-thru has a new innovation: 24-hour medical marijuana vending machines.

"Patients suffering from chronic pain, loss of appetite and other ailments that marijuana is said to alleviate can get their pot with a dose of convenience at the Herbal Nutrition Center, where a large machine will dole out the drug around the clock.

"'Convenient access, lower prices, safety, anonymity,' inventor and owner Vincent Mehdizadeh said, extolling the benefits of the machine.

"But federal drug agents say the invention may need unplugging.

"A sliding fence protects the tinted windows of his dispensary, barely distinguishing it from a busy thoroughfare of strip malls, automobile dealers and furniture shops. A box resembling a large refrigerator stands inside the nearly empty shop, near a few shelves stocked with vitamins and herbs.

"A guard in a black T-shirt emblazoned with the word 'Security' on the front stands at the door. A poster of Bob Marley decorates a back room.

"The computerized machine requires fingerprint identification and a prepaid card with a magnetic stripe. Once the card and fingerprint are verified, a bright green envelope with the pot drops down a slot.

"Mehdizadeh says any user approved for medical marijuana and registered in a computer database at his dispensaries can pre-purchase the drug and then use the machine to pick up.
"At the Timothy Leary Medical Dispensary in the San Fernando Valley, the vending machine is accessible only during business hours. An employee there said the machine was introduced about five months ago, and provides speedy service.
"Mehdizadeh said he sought the advice of doctors, and decided to limit the amount of marijuana per user to an ounce per week. Each purchase from the machine yields 1/8th or 2/8th of an ounce. By eliminating a vendor behind the counter, he said, the machine offers users lower drug prices. The 1/8th ounce packet would cost about $40 — $20 lower than the average price at other dispensaries.

* Excellent video -- can't believe I hadn't seen before -- for Yo La Tengo's Tom Courteney.

* "Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple." -- Charles Mingus

January 30, 2008

Of war and peace the truth just twists

Dave Muller, Untitled (I Want It Louder), 2006

What I will
-- by Suheir Hammad

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin break for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain't
louder than this breath.

A Prayer to Escape From the Marketplace
-- by James Wright

I renounce the blindness of the magazines.
I want to lie down under a tree.
This is the only duty that is not death.
This is the everlasting happiness
Of small winds.
A pheasant flutters, and I turn
Only to see him vanishing at the damp edge
Of the road.

-- by Sarah Manguso

Love not the rider but the old rider,
the ghost in the saddle: Obey that ghost.
A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip.
But we are not good horses.
We bolt. We stand still in bad weather.
We rely on things we know are unreliable,
it feels so good just to rely.
We are relied on.
But I do not know who knows that bad secret.
I do not see who sits astride my back,
who cuts my flank so lovingly on our way to the dark mountain.

January 29, 2008

This old town is filled with sin

Jackie Saccoccio, Conflict, 2007

* JG Ballard on Crash. excerpt:

"Crash would be a head-on charge into the arena, an open attack on all the conventional assumptions about our dislike of violence in general and sexual violence in particular. Human beings, I was sure, had far darker imaginations than we liked to believe. We were ruled by reason and self-interest, but only when it suited us, and much of the time we chose to be entertained by films, novels and comic strips that deployed horrific levels of cruelty and violence.

"In Crash I would openly propose a strong connection between sexuality and the car crash, a fusion largely driven by the cult of celebrity. It seemed obvious that the deaths of famous people in car crashes resonated far more deeply than their deaths in plane crashes or hotel fires.

"Crash would clearly be a challenge, and I was still not convinced by my deviant thesis. Then, in 1970, someone at the New Arts Laboratory, in London, contacted me to ask if there was anything I would like to do there. It occurred to me I could test my hypothesis about the unconscious links between sex and the car crash by putting on an exhibition of crashed cars. The Arts Lab offered me the gallery for a month. I drove around wrecked-car sites in north London and paid for three cars, including a Pontiac, to be delivered to the gallery.

"The cars went on show without any supporting graphic material, as if they were large pieces of sculpture. A TV enthusiast at the Arts Lab offered to set up a camera and closed-circuit monitors on which the guests could watch themselves as they strolled around. I suggested we hire a young woman to interview the guests about their reactions. Contacted by telephone, she agreed to appear naked, but when she saw the crashed cars, she told me she would only perform topless – a significant response, I felt at the time.

"I have never seen the guests at a gallery get drunk so quickly. There was a huge tension in the air, as if everyone felt threatened by some inner alarm that had started to ring. Nobody would have noticed the cars if they had been parked in the street, but under the unvarying gallery lights these damaged vehicles seemed to provoke and disturb. Wine was splashed over the cars, windows were broken, the topless girl was almost raped in the back seat of the Pontiac (or so she claimed: she later wrote a damning review headed 'Ballard Crashes' in the underground paper Frendz). A woman journalist from New Society began to interview me among the mayhem, but became so overwrought with indignation, of which the journal had an unlimited supply, that she had to be restrained from attacking me."
"In 1970, I began to write Crash. This was more than a literary challenge, not least because I had three young children crossing Shepperton’s streets every day, and nature might have played another of its nasty tricks. I have described the novel as a kind of psychopathic hymn, and it took an immense effort of will to enter the minds of the central characters. In an attempt to be faithful to my own imagination, I gave the narrator my own name, accepting all this entailed.

"Two weeks after I had finished, my tank-like Ford Zephyr had a front-wheel blowout at the foot of Chiswick Bridge. The car swerved out of control, crossed the central reservation and rolled onto its back. Luckily I was wearing my seat belt. Hanging upside down, I found the doors had been jammed by the partly collapsed roof. The car lay in the centre of the oncoming carriageway, and I was fortunate not to be struck by approaching traffic. Eventually I wound down the window and clambered out.

"Looking back, I suspect that if I had died, the accident might well have been judged deliberate, at least on the unconscious level. But I believe Crash is less a hymn to death than an attempt to buy off the executioner who waits for us all in a quiet garden nearby. Crash is set at a point where sex and death intersect, though the graph is difficult to read and is constantly recalibrating itself. The same is true of Emin’s bed, which reminds us that this young woman’s beautiful body has stepped from a dishevelled grave."

* Open City KGB Reading featuring three outstanding writers from Open City #24, the new Winter 2008 issue: Malerie Willens(fiction); Gerard Coletta(poetry); and Jeff Johnson(fiction), propriator of the always excellent Fitted Sweats.

Wednesday, January 30, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th Street (btw 2nd and 3rd Aves.), NYC,

* Silent footage of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and others in New York, Summer 1959.

* "Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing." -- William S. Burroughs

January 28, 2008

she crossed her legs
and looked at me funny

Jennifer Nehrbass, Postulating Jane, 2007

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

7. Daniel Dean Thompson

"Over the past couple of years a number of companies have sprung up to cater to the conservative movie buff and his oh-so-offended eyes. These companies edit the naughty bits out of Hollywood movies - bare boobies, swearing, ultraviolence, etc. - and market them as 'clean' versions.

"Not only does this system allow concerned moms and dads to take one more lazy step back from the parenting process, it improves the movies too. You haven't see 'Scarface' until you've seen Tony Montana scream 'Say ello to my leedle fren!' followed by a black screen and the words 'The End.'

"Anyway, sure as day follows night, conservative moralists get busted for evil-doing - so it probably won't surprise you to learn that the owner of Flix Club, a Utah-based company that marketed 'clean' versions of movies for conservative parents, was arrested last week for child sex abuse.

A Utah retailer of family-friendly tapes and DVDs - Hollywood films with the 'dirty parts' cut out of them - has been arrested for trading sex with two 14-year-old girls.

Orem police say Flix Club owner Daniel Dean Thompson, 31, and Issac Lifferth, 24, were booked into the Utah County jail on charges of sexual abuse and unlawful sexual activity with a 14-year-old.

"If this guy's convicted, I hope the judge cuts out the part where he gets parole."

* It was 20 years ago today: Bob Mould quits Husker Du.

* YouTube of John Phillips playing Mississippi.

* "Beer, it's the best damn drink in the world." -- Jack Nicholson

January 25, 2008

i drink my liquor from the palm
of a child who spoke in tongues

William Eggleston, Faulkner's House, 1982

The Beautiful American Word, Sure
-- by Delmore Schwartz

The beautiful American word, Sure,
As I have come into a room, and touch
The lamp's button, and the light blooms with such
Certainty where the darkness loomed before,

As I care for what I do not know, and care
Knowing for little she might not have been,
And for how little she would be unseen,
The intercourse of lives miraculous and dear.

Where the light is, and each thing clear,
separate from all others, standing in its place,
I drink the time and touch whatever's near,

And hope for day when the whole world has that face:
For what assures her present every year?
In dark accidents the mind's sufficient grace.

Too Many Lifetimes Like This One, Right?
-- by Richard Brautigan

Too many lifetimes like this one, right?
Hungover, surrounded by general goofiness,
lonely, can't get it up, I feel like a pile of bleached cat shit.

Night Thought
-- Bill Knott

Compared to one's normal clothes, pajamas
are just as caricature as the dreams
they bare: farce-skins, facades, unserious
soft versions of the mode diem, they seem
to have come from a posthumousness;
floppy statues of ourselves, slack seams
of death. Their form mimics the decay
that will fit us so comfortably someday.

-- by Thurston Moore

sonic youth is playing
a tiny club in new orleans
with unwound and polvo and
the place is a pressure cooker ready to blow. a girl in
the audience scales the club wall
and stands
on a lighting rig
beam. we have to
stop playing and try to coax
her down. kim asks her why she is up there.
she explains she can't see and for $30
she wants to see. we tell her
that tickets
are only $15 and she confesses
she had to buy one
for her boyfriend. kim sez,
"that was yr first mistake."

* Tonight in SF:

[dust congress house poet] KLIPSCHUTZ READS.

Friday, January 25, 7:30 p.m., @ the Adobe Bookshop, 3166 16th st/guerrero, the Premier Destination in San Francisco’s glorious Mission District. Also reading: Tom Stolmar; and international man of literary mystery, Gabor Gyukics, translator of legendary Hungarian poet Attila József. FREE!

January 24, 2008

Feel so hypnotized, can't describe the scene

Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 1968

* Paul Krassner on tripping with Groucho Marx. excerpt:

"We ingested those little white tabs one afternoon at the home of an actress in Beverly Hills.

"Groucho was interested in the social background of the drug. There were two items that particularly tickled his fancy.

"One was about the day acid was outlawed. Hippies were standing around the streets waiting for the exact appointed minute to strike so they could all publicly swallow their LSD the exact second it became illegal.

"The other was how the tour bus would pass through Haight-Ashbury and passengers would try to take snapshots of the local alien creatures, who in turn would hold mirrors up to the bus windows so that the tourists would see themselves focusing their cameras."
"We had long periods of silence and of listening to music. I was accustomed to playing rock 'n' roll while tripping, but the record collection here was all classical and Broadway show albums. After we heard the Bach Cantata No. 7 Groucho said, 'I may be Jewish, but I was seeing the most beautiful visions of Gothic cathedrals. Do you think Bach knew he was doing that?'"
"There was a point when our conversation somehow got into a negative space. Groucho was equally bitter about institutions such as marriage ('like quicksand') and individuals such as Lyndon Johnson ('that potato-head'). Eventually, I asked, 'What gives you hope?'

"Groucho thought for a moment. Then he said just one word out loud: 'People.'

"After a while, he started chuckling to himself. I hesitated to interrupt his revelry. Finally he spoke: 'I'm really getting quite a kick out of this notion of playing God like a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do you realize that irreverence and reverence are the same thing?'


"'If they're not, then it's a misuse of your power to make people laugh.'

"And right after he said that, his eyes began to tear.

"When he came back from peeing, he said, 'Everybody is waiting for miracles to happen. The human body is a goddam miracle.'

"He mentioned, 'I had a little crush on Marilyn Monroe when we were making Love Happy. I remember I got a hard-on just talking to her on the set.'

"During a little snack: 'I never thought eating a fig would be the biggest thrill of my life.'

"He held and smelled a cigar for a long time but never smoked it.

"'Everybody has their own Laurel and Hardy,' he mused. 'A miniature Laurel and Hardy, one on each shoulder. Your little Oliver Hardy bawls you out-he says, 'Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into.' And your little Stan Laurel gets all weepy -'Oh, Ollie, I couldn't help it, I'm sorry, I did the best I could. . . '"

* In San Francisco?

Budapist Productions Presents: KLIPSCHUTZ READS. Friday, January 25, 7:30 p.m., @ the Adobe Bookshop, 3166 16th st/guerrero, the Premier Destination in San Francisco’s glorious Mission District. Also reading: Tom Stolmar; and international man of literary mystery, Gabor Gyukics, translator of legendary Hungarian poet Attila József. FREE!

* "Why do people think artists are special? It's just another job." -- Andy Warhol

January 23, 2008

Come by my side before the evening is gone

Fixure, by Karl Lintvedt, 2007

That Poet
-- by Jack Hirschman

That poet you admire so–

in my fifteen years
in the workers movement
I've never seen him
in attendance at
a demonstration against
social injustice, or at
a memorial honoring
a revolutionary hero,
or at a rally in support
of an uprising people–

is not even a fighting
but a bibelot
dribbling over
with obsolete pus.

-- by Jack Hirschman

for Eugene Smith

She was on her knees
in a Tenderloin doorway
eating chunks of darkness
out of a small tin can.

As I passed, a photograph
of a Haitian man crawling
on a Port-au-Prince sidewalk
30 years ago came to mind.

There was no difference.

I'd like to hold the nape
of capital down to a plate
of dogfood on a street
with the mange.

I'd like to see capital
with lacerated knees crawling
from one reality to another
for a change.

-- by Octavio Paz

translated by Eliot Weinberger

If you are the amber mare
I am the road of blood
If you are the first snow
I am he who lights the hearth of dawn
If you are the tower of night
I am the spike burning in your mind
If you are the morning tide
I am the first bird's cry
If you are the basket of oranges
I am the knife of the sun
If you are the stone altar
I am the sacrilegious hand
If you are the sleeping land
I am the green cane
If you are the wind's leap
I am the buried fire
If you are the water's mouth
I am the mouth of moss
If you are the forest of the clouds
I am the axe that parts it
If you are the profaned city
I am the rain of consecration
If you are the yellow mountain
I am the red arms of lichen
If you are the rising sun
I am the road of blood

The Dialectics of Spam
-- by Tom Hibbard

perhaps chain store economy
like any idea that favors immunity
every six miles: think about it
remember to get necessities
it’s yours to air-out
paying the penalty for identity theft
k-mart next to wal-mart
is construction turned into
an excuse for demeaning kindness
capitalist philosophy of consciousness
corroded by untainted localness
able to eradicate with
reassuring uniform apparel
drained moral energy
occupied 'village' resigned
to making a clean start
consuming enormous solitary ordinariness

January 22, 2008

A thief can only steal from you
He cannot break your heart

Hunter S. Thompson, Self Portrait, In White Whale, Las Vegas, 1970

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"8. Michele Bachmann

"This week's prize for getting it ass-backwards goes to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who according to Think Progress recently 'justified the conservative plan to give tax breaks to corporations - instead of working Americans - by arguing that people actually like working long hours.' Here's what she had to say:

"'I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We're the workingest state in the country, and the reason why we are, we have more people that are working longer hours, we have people that are working two jobs.'

"Isn't that special? Maybe Minnesota could consider putting that fact up on their state website to attract new residents. 'Come to Minnesota! You'll work longer and harder than ever before.' Or, 'Minnesota: you'll eke out a living like nowhere else in America.'

"Mind you, with the economy going under, Michele Bachmann might need to consider some fresh ideas to make sure that Minnesota remains the 'workingest state in the country.' How about repealing some child labor laws? Or raising the retirement age to 80? Making these simple changes should mean she can keep voting for massive tax breaks for millionaires well into the 21st century."

* People are standing in line to take a picture of the Stephen Colbert portrait now at the National Portrait Gallery.

* "My best advice to anyone who wants to raise a happy, mentally healthy child is: Keep him or her as far away from a church as you can." -- Frank Zappa

January 18, 2008

we learned punk rock in hollywood

Christopher Wool, If You, 1992

Questions and Answers
-- by Nicanor Parra

do you believe it would be worth the trouble
to kill god
to see if that would straighten out the world?

--of course it would be

would it be worth the trouble
to risk your life
for an idea that might be false?

--of course it would be

I ask you now if it would be
worth the trouble to eat crab meat
worth the trouble to raise children
who will turn against
their elders?

--obviously yes
no, its worth the trouble

I ask you now if it would be worth
the trouble to play a record
the trouble to read a tree
the trouble to plant a book
if everything disappears
if nothing lasts?

--maybe it wouldn't be

don't cry

--I'm laughing

don't get born

--I'm dying

Flies on Shit
-- by Nicanor Parra

to this kind of gentleman -- to the tourist -- to the revolutionary
I'd like to ask a question:
have you ever seen a squadron of flies
racing around a pile of shit
come in for a landing and go to work on the shit?
have you seen flies some time or another on shit?

because I was born and raised with flies
in a house surrounded by shit.

Snow Drift
-- by Sarah Hannah

I only want to write about a space
Three-inches square, in the picket fence's
Stolid corner, the uncontested crevice
Boasting, suddenly, a jagged occurrence
Of snow, Alp-like, resting on the brief ledge
The wooden crossbeam makes: unlikely cliff,
However wedged, suggesting passage
Beyond lawn and property line, as if
Transgression could be intimately known
Through bold example in miniature,
On familiar ground, a trace of snow blown
On a fence, articulation of a dare:
To realize the route the mountain sees,
The fall to nether--valley, wild trees.

January 17, 2008

I got the desert in my toenail
And I hid the speed inside my shoe

Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Mister Keith, 2000

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"The dark tunnel that the US economy has entered began to look more and more like a black hole last week, sucking in lives, fortunes, and prospects behind a Potemkin facade of orderly retreat put up by anyone in authority with a story to tell or an interest to protect -- Fed chairman Bernanke, CNBC, The New York Times, the Bank of America.... Events are now moving ahead of anything that personalities can do to control them.

"The 'housing bubble' implosion is broadly misunderstood. It's not just the collapse of a market for a particular kind of commodity, it's the end of the suburban pattern itself, the way of life it represents, and the entire economy connected with it. It's the crack up of the system that America has invested most of its wealth in since 1950. It's perhaps most tragic that the mis-investments only accelerated as the system reached its end, but it seems to be nature's way that waves crest just before they break.

"This wave is breaking into a sea-wall of disbelief. Nobody gets it. The psychological investment in what we think of as American reality is too great. The mainstream media doesn't get it, and they can't report it coherently. None of the candidates for president has begun to articulate an understanding of what we face: the suburban living arrangement is an experiment that has entered failure mode."
"We'd better prepare psychologically to downscale all institutions, including government, schools and colleges, corporations, and hospitals. All the centralizing tendencies and gigantification of the past half-century will have to be reversed. Government will be starved for revenue and impotent at the higher scale. The centralized high schools all over the nation will prove to be our most frustrating mis-investment. We will probably have to replace them with some form of home-schooling that is allowed to aggregate into neighborhood units. A lot of colleges, public and private, will fail as higher ed ceases to be a 'consumer' activity. Corporations scaled to operate globally are not going to make it. This includes probably all national chain "big box" operations. It will have to be replaced by small local and regional business. We'll have to reopen many of the small town hospitals that were shuttered in recent years, and open many new local clinic-style health-care operations as part of the greater reform of American medicine.

"Take a time-out from legal immigration and get serious about enforcing the laws about illegal immigration. Stop lying to ourselves and stop using semantic ruses like calling illegal immigrants 'undocumented.'"

"Prepare psychologically for the destruction of a lot of fictitious 'wealth' -- and allow instruments and institutions based on fictitious wealth to fail, instead of attempting to keep them propped up on credit life-support. Like any other thing in our national life, finance has to return to a scale that is consistent with our circumstances -- i.e., what reality will allow. That process is underway, anyway, whether the public is prepared for it or not. We will soon hear the sound of banks crashing all over the place. Get out of their way, if you can.

"Prepare psychologically for a sociopolitical climate of anger, grievance, and resentment. A lot of individual citizens will find themselves short of resources in the years ahead. They will be very ticked off and seek to scapegoat and punish others. The United States is one of the few nations on earth that did not undergo a sociopolitical convulsion in the past hundred years. But despite what we tell ourselves about our specialness, we're not immune to the forces that have driven other societies to extremes. The rise of the Nazis, the Soviet terror, the 'cultural revolution, the holocausts and genocides -- these are all things that can happen to any people driven to desperation."

* Vinyl Sleeve Heads.

* Condom envelopes from the 1930s and 1940s.

* "I'd hate to have to go around thinking of health & shit like that." -- Keith Richards

January 16, 2008

in the perfect water
she never felt so free

Joe Jackson, Birds, 2001

Diatribe Against the Dead
-- by Angel Gonzalez (RIP)

Translated from the Spanish by Steven Ford Brown and Gutierrez Revuelta

The dead are selfish:
they make us cry and don't care,
they stay quiet in the most inconvenient places,
they refuse to walk, we have to carry them
on our backs to the tomb
as if they were children. What a burden!
Unusually rigid, their faces
accuse us of something, or warn us;
they are the bad conscience, the bad example,
they are the worst things in our lives always, always.
The bad thing about the dead
is that there is no way you can kill them.
Their constant destructive labor
is for the reason incalculable.
Insensitive, distant, obstinate, cold,
with their insolence and their silence
they don't realize what they undo.

Oh No
-- by Robert Creeley

If you wander far enough
You will come to it
and when you get there
they will give you a place to sit

for yourself only, in a nice chair,
and all your friends will be there
with smiles on their faces
and they will likewise all have places.

--by Patti Smith

I keep trying to figure out what it means
to be american. When I look in myself
I see arabia, venus, nineteenth-century
french but I can't recognize what
makes me american. I think about
Robert Frank's photographs -- broke down
jukeboxes in gallup, new mexico...
swaying hips and spurs...ponytails and
syphilitic cowpokes. I think about a
red, white and blue rag I wrap around
my pillow. Maybe it's nothing material
maybe it's just being free.

Freedom is a waterfall, is pacing
linoleum till dawn, is the right to
write the wrong words, and I done
plenty of that...

The Professional
-- by Joe Maynard

"That's the good thing;
about my profession,"
she said
putting her hand on my arm
while her other hand
palm up
with lipstick clad filter
sandwiched between her index
and bird finger
like a smoldering
"All you have to know
is how to use the phone."

January 15, 2008

My love's like a dancer
she weaves through the dangers complete

Matthew Langley, In Between Words, 2007

* 2001 Bomb interview of Roberto Bolano. excerpt:

Carmen Boullosa: In Latin America, there are two literary traditions that the average reader tends to regard as antithetical, opposite—or frankly, antagonistic: the fantastic—Adolfo Bioy Casares, the best of Cortázar, and the realist—Vargas Llosa, Teresa de la Parra. Hallowed tradition tells us that the southern part of Latin America is home to the fantastic, while the northern part is the center of realism. In my opinion, you reap the benefits of both: your novels and narratives are inventions—the fantastic—and a sharp, critical reflection of reality—realist. And if I follow this reasoning, I would add that this is because you have lived on the two geographic edges of Latin America, Chile and Mexico. You grew up on both edges. Do you object to this idea, or does it appeal to you? To be honest, I find it somewhat illuminating, but it also leaves me dissatisfied: the best, the greatest writers (including Bioy Casares and his antithesis, Vargas Llosa) always draw from these two traditions. Yet from the standpoint of the English-speaking North, there’s a tendency to pigeonhole Latin American literature within only one tradition.

Roberto Bolaño: I thought the realists came from the south (by that, I mean the countries in the Southern Cone), and writers of the fantastic came from the middle and northern parts of Latin America—if you pay attention to these compartmentalizations, which you should never, under any circumstances, take seriously. Twentieth-century Latin-American literature has followed the impulses of imitation and rejection, and may continue to do so for some time in the 21st century. As a general rule, human beings either imitate or reject the great monuments, never the small, nearly invisible treasures. We have very few writers who have cultivated the fantastic in the strictest sense—perhaps none, because among other reasons, economic underdevelopment doesn’t allow subgenres to flourish. Underdevelopment only allows for great works of literature. Lesser works, in this monotonous or apocalyptic landscape, are an unattainable luxury. Of course, it doesn’t follow that our literature is full of great works—quite the contrary. At first the writer aspires to meet these expectations, but then reality—the same reality that has fostered these aspirations—works to stunt the final product. I think there are only two countries with an authentic literary tradition that have at times managed to escape this destiny—Argentina and Mexico. As to my writing, I don’t know what to say. I suppose it’s realist. I’d like to be a writer of the fantastic, like Philip K. Dick, although as time passes and I get older, Dick seems more and more realist to me. Deep down—and I think you’ll agree with me—the question doesn’t lie in the distinction of realist/fantastic but in language and structures, in ways of seeing. I had no idea that you liked Teresa de la Parra so much. When I was in Venezuela people spoke a lot about her. Of course, I’ve never read her.
CB: In the eyes of this reader, your laughter is much more than a gesture; it’s far more corrosive—it’s a demolition job. In your books, the inner workings of the novel proceed in the classic manner: a fable, a fiction draws the reader in and at the same time makes him or her an accomplice in pulling apart the events in the background that you, the novelist, are narrating with extreme fidelity. But let’s leave that for now. No one who has read you could doubt your faith in writing. It’s the first thing that attracts the reader. Anyone who wants to find something other than writing in a book—for example, a sense of belonging, or being a member of a certain club or fellowship—will find no satisfaction in your novels or stories. And when I read you, I don’t look for history, the retelling of a more or less recent period in some corner of the world. Few writers engage the reader as well as you do with concrete scenes that could be inert, static passages in the hands of “realist” authors. If you belong to a tradition, what would you call it? Where are the roots of your genealogical tree, and in which direction do its branches grow?

RB: The truth is, I don’t believe all that much in writing. Starting with my own. Being a writer is pleasant—no, pleasant isn’t the word—it’s an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there’s no other choice but to write. For me, the word writing is the exact opposite of the word waiting. Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I’m probably wrong—it’s possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I’d like to think otherwise. But, as I said, I’m probably wrong. As to my idea of a canon, I don’t know, it’s like everyone else’s—I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, it’s so obvious: Francisco de Aldana, Jorge Manrique, Cervantes, the chroniclers of the Indies, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Rubén Darío, Alfonso Reyes, Borges, just to name a few and without going beyond the realm of the Spanish language. Of course, I’d love to claim a literary past, a tradition, a very brief one, made up of only two or three writers (and maybe one single book), a dazzling tradition prone to amnesia, but on the one hand, I’m much too modest about my work and on the other, I’ve read too much (and too many books have made me happy) to indulge in such a ridiculous notion.

CB: Doesn’t it seem arbitrary to name as your literary ancestors authors who wrote exclusively in Spanish? Do you include yourself in the Hispanic tradition, in a separate current from other languages? If a large part of Latin-American literature (especially prose) is engaged in a dialogue with other traditions, I would say this is doubly true in your case.

RB: I named authors who wrote in Spanish in order to limit the canon. Needless to say, I’m not one of those nationalist monsters who only reads what his native country produces. I’m interested in French literature, in Pascal, who could foresee his death, and in his struggle against melancholy, which to me seems more admirable now than ever before. Or the utopian naiveté of Fourier. And all the prose, typically anonymous, of courtly writers (some Mannerists and some anatomists) that somehow leads to the endless caverns of the Marquis de Sade. I’m also interested in American literature of the 1880s, especially Twain and Melville, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Whitman. As a teenager, I went through a phase when I only read Poe. Basically, I’m interested in Western literature, and I’m fairly familiar with all of it.
CB: When we were young poets, teenagers, and shared the same city (Mexico City in the seventies), you were the leader of a group of poets, the Infrarealists, which you’ve mythologized in your novel, Los detectives salvajes. Tell us a little about what poetry meant for the Infrarealists, about the Mexico City of the Infrarealists.

RB: Infrarealism was a kind of Dada á la Mexicana. At one point there were many people, not only poets, but also painters and especially loafers and hangers-on, who considered themselves Infrarealists. Actually there were only two members, Mario Santiago and me. We both went to Europe in 1977. One night, in Rosellón, France, at the Port Vendres train station (which is very close to Perpignan), after having suffered a few disastrous adventures, we decided that the movement, such as it was, had come to an end.

* Mad Cabbie and MHI. excerpt:

"MHI stands for Mad’s Hooker Index: As a professional DC cab driver and an ex-mathematician I have created my own way of weighing in the country’s state of the economy by the frequency of rides I offer to my hooker clients and their customers. Things are so bad out there even the highly in demand lovely friend of mine the one legged hooker is not keeping me busy lately and on the other side of the coin, armed robberies are way up, you just don’t read about them unless somebody gets hurt. I am talking about robberies all over the city including Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Chevy Chase and Tenelytown.

"They say sex always sells but there comes a point that some fine gentlemen stash away that extra hooker appointed cash for the coming rainy days and instead they are forced to downgrade their hooker level to $50 blow-jobs on L street or forced to make love to their wives or they go down the basement and jerk-off watching Angelica Houston movies."

* "The other guy I dug a lot was Burroughs because he was a smart man already; he learned it through the druggie pool - the street scene of an old aristocratic kind of man." -- Gregory Corso

January 14, 2008

Money don't get me down but I can't make it last

Joel Meyerowitz,Red Interior Provincetown, 1977

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

10. George W. Bush

"And finally: Middle East peacemaking hasn't just been on the back burner for Bush, it's been on the back burner of the old stove which he packed into his pickup a few years ago and dumped in the woods twenty miles out of town. But that all changed last week when, after coming to the conclusion that he's already fixed America's problems, Our Great Leader decided to drop by and solve the Israel/Palestine conflict.

"According to the Associated Press, 'Bush says these conditions in Israel and the Palestinian territories now are ripe for a more aggressive U.S. role.' Because let's face it, if there's one thing that spells Middle East peace, it's George W. Bush and 'a more aggressive U.S. role.'

"So how did it go? Well, after being greeted in Jerusalem by his security cordon of 10,450 police officers who shut down the entire city center for three days, Dubya quickly warmed to his role as a visiting dignitary. According to AFP:

"'Lights in the Old City of Jerusalem will be turned off before dawn this week so visiting US President George W. Bush can get a better view of the sun rising over its ancient walls.'

"Bush, who arrives in the Middle East on Wednesday for a visit lasting more than a week, had made a request to watch the sun rise over the Old City from his suite at the King David Hotel, a municipal spokesman said on Tuesday.

"How special. I hope they were also able to fulfill his other requests. You know George can't go anywhere without a diamond-encrusted salad bar, solid gold toilet paper, and an ice sculpture of Jesus Christ that pisses Jim Beam.

"But the bottom line is that Our Great Leader's Great Middle East Tour was a smashing success. 'I believe that a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that defines a Palestinian state is possible this year,' he boldly declared in his weekly radio address.

"And the headlines certainly bore out George's optimism. 'Bush ends peace mission without breakthrough' trumpeted an Associated Press story. 'Many Palestinians Ho-Hum Over Bush Visit' blared another. And as Reuters reported:

"'To talk about a peace treaty to create a Palestinian state within a year is a fairy tale,' veteran U.S. Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller told Reuters. 'It does us no good to inflate and raise expectations that are unrealistic.'

"But George won't let the skeptics get him down. After all this is the same guy who just announced that America's economy 'is on a solid foundation.' Yes, a strong economy, peace in the Middle East - the future sure looks bright when viewed through the rose-tinted glass of the presidential crack pipe."

* California appeals court does the right thing. excerpt:

"Police can't enter a home without a warrant just because they see someone inside smoking marijuana, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

"In overturning a Pacifica man's conviction, the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco said officers may enter someone's home to preserve evidence of a crime - but only if the crime is punishable by jail or prison.

"Under a 1975 California law, the court noted, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of as much as $100, with no jail time even for a repeat offense. That means police who see someone smoking can enter only if they have the resident's permission or a warrant from a judge, the court said.

"The case dated from March 2005, when Pacifica officers came to an apartment where loud noises had been reported, smelled marijuana as they approached, and looked through an opening in the window blinds to see someone smoking what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette among a group of people.

"Over the objections of John Hua, who lived at the apartment, police entered and found two marijuana cigarettes in the living room, 46 marijuana plants in a bedroom and an illegal cane sword on a bookshelf, the court said. After a San Mateo County judge upheld the search, Hua pleaded no contest to cultivating marijuana and possession of the cane sword and served a 60-day jail sentence, his lawyer said.

"In defense of the search, prosecutors argued that police had reason to believe there was more than an ounce of marijuana elsewhere in the apartment - enough to subject Hua to a possible one-year jail sentence - and that Hua or others might be committing felonies by handing marijuana cigarettes to each other.

"The court said the first argument was based on 'mere conjecture' and the second was a misinterpretation of the law, which prescribes the same maximum $100 fine for giving away a marijuana cigarette as for smoking it. Justice Mark Simons wrote the 3-0 ruling.

"The court recognized that 'California's law treats possession of marijuana as the least serious crime,' said Hua's lawyer, Gordon Brownell."

* Ten American writer drunks.

* "I exercise extreme self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast." -- W. C. Fields

January 11, 2008

the dove is never free

Leonard Cohen, Dear Heather

Poems by Leonard Cohen

If there were no paintings

If there were no paintings in the world,
Mine would be very important.
Same with my songs.
Since this is not the case, let us make haste to get in line,
Well towards the back.
Sometimes I would see a woman in a magazine
Humiliated in the technicolour glare.
I would try to establish her
In happier circumstances.
Sometimes a man.
Sometimes living persons sat for me.
May I say to them again:
Thank you for coming to my room.
I also loved the objects on the table
Such as candlesticks and bowls.
From a mirror on my desk
In the very early morning
I copied down
Hundreds of self-portraits.
The Curator has called this exhibition
Drawn to Words.
I call my work
Acceptable Decorations.

The Pro 1973

Lost my voice in New York City
never heard it again after sixty-seven
Now I talk like you
Now I sing like you
Cigarette and coffee to make me sick
Couple of families to make me think
Going to see my lawyer
Going to read my mail
Lost my voice in New York City
Guess you always knew

The Pro

from the Nashville notebooks, 1969

I leave my silence to a co-operative of poets
who have already bruised their mouths against it.
I leave my homesick charm to the scavengers of
spare change who work the old artistic corners.
I leave the shadow of my manly groin to those who
write for pay.
I leave to several jealous men a second-rate legend
of my life.
To those few high school girls
who preferred my work to Dylan's
I leave my stone ear
and my disposable Franciscan ambitions

Poem 17

I perceived the outline of your breasts
through your Hallowe'en costume
I knew you were falling in love with me
because no other man could perceive
the advance of your bosom into his imagination
It was a rupture of your unusual modesty
for me and me alone
through which you impressed upon my shapeless hunger
the incomparable and final outline of your breasts
like two deep fossil shells
which remained all night long and probably forever

Poem 111

Each man
has a way to betray
the revolution
This is mine

January 10, 2008

I've spent a lot of time down on the corner
Tasting tears and spilling whisky on the floor

Armando Mariño, De Koons à Duchamp, 1999

* From Harper's February 2008:

-- Number of confirmed suicides in the U.S. Army in 2006: 102

-- Number of years since accurate record-keeping began in 1981 that the rate was as high: 0

-- Number of states where a court has held that women must return engagement rings if the wedding doesn't happen: 18

-- Ratio of the total square footage of the world's Wal-Marts to that of Manhattan: 9:7

-- Amount that DC city officials were found last fall to have embezzled through a dummy firm called Bilkemor LLC: $346,700

-- Average percentage by which a woman's left breast is larger than her right: 4

* Blackwater dropped blinding tear gas on Iraqis, US soldiers in 2005. excerpt:

"Blackwater security contractors employed in Iraq dropped a blinding riot-control gas on Iraqi civilians and US military personnel on a busy Baghdad street in May 2005, according to the reporter who first broke the NSA wiretapping scandal in the New York Times.

"'The copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders,' James Risen writes. 'An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.'

"CS gas -- 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile -- is among the most common tear gases used by law enforcement and militaries in conflict zones.

"Use of CS gas in war is prohibited by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (signed in 1993), as it could trigged retaliation with more toxic substances such as nerve gas. 'A 1975 presidential order allows their use by the United States military in war zones under limited defensive circumstances and only with the approval of the president or a senior officer designated by the president,' the Times notes."
"The revelation raises new questions about the purview of private security contractors in Iraq and how much authority they have to exercise military-like action without following the rules of engagement or international treaties that the Pentagon requires its troops to follow."

* 12 timely deaths.

* "Whenever I can afford to do something, I do it." -- Thurston Moore

January 9, 2008

the man on the radio won't leave me alone

Gwyneth Scally, Patriarch, 2005

The Day I Got My Timing Down
-- by D.R. James

It was in that phase of pure
sarcasm, midteens, when guys
work out an awkward stance,

work their pack's patter
till they maybe have it. I don't
really remember the day but

the single-moment wonder of hitting
my first come-back just right
by accident, then their free, true

laughter and my perfect follow-up,
the never looking back. From there
a career: from Senior Class Clown,

to smooth talker in any crowd, to
flip teacher spinning lit, to wordsmith
chiseling chin-up come-backs

to the tin-clad sarcasms
every life dishes out as it
disarms or drops you or

leaves you hanging, slamming
its clanging locker door in your
gullible, stuttering face.

-- by Beth Woodcome

This morning the three dogs shat
on the floor and that’s what I woke to.

Before I even woke my body took itself
in, took it in like an immediate mother would.

Not every mother, but let’s get back to you.
One dog is now sleeping at my feet.

I know how that feels, that shame.
This is my sixty-seventh postcard.

Each time, when I say
I wish you were here

I mean to say I don’t know if you’re real
or intend to hurt me by having a body I can’t get to.

Shuffled Thoughts
-- by Nicanor Parra

I don't want to see myself
In blood-spattered mirrors.

I would rather sleep in the open
Than share
A marriage bed with a turtle.

The automobile is a wheelchair.

And the poor devil who looks at his mother
At the very moment of birth
Is marked forever
per secula seculorum.

January 8, 2008

Time can pass and time can heal
But it don't ever pass the way I feel

Kara Walker, Darkytown Rebellion, 2001, projection, cut paper and adhesive on wall

* Top cop calls for drug legalization. excerpt:

"Few senior cops can boast such an electrifying record as Richard Brunstrom. He recently stunned himself with a Taser gun to prove the police device was not dangerous. Then he broke into his own headquarters at night to highlight a lack of security. And last week Brunstrom’s sanity was questioned after he proclaimed that the illegal drug ecstasy was 'a remarkably safe substance' – safer than aspirin.

"Some maintain that a congenital predilection for self-publicity has propelled North Wales’s chief constable on his relentless campaign to install ever more speed cameras, for which he earned the sobriquet 'the mad mullah of the traffic Taliban." Now he has the tabloids frothing at the mouth over his zeal to legalise all drugs.

"How does it feel, I ask, to be Tasered with 50,000 volts? 'Very uncomfortable,' Brunstrom admits. He did it for 'ethical reasons' to demonstrate that the police’s reassurances were true. So presumably he’s taken ecstasy for the same reason? 'Never. I don’t take illegal substances. I’ve never touched cannabis in my life. I don’t smoke. I drink a little bit of alcohol but not to excess.' He says that more people die from taking aspirin than ecstasy.

"'Why are heroin and cocaine illegal and not lighter fluid? It is demonstrable that tobacco and alcohol are more addictive and more dangerous than cannabis, yet they are not illegal. The question is not whether I am mad, but why these things are illegal.'

"Brunstrom refers to 20 substances listed in a 'hierarchy of harm' printed in The Lancet last year. The league table is headed by heroin, closely followed by cocaine, with alcohol in fifth place, tobacco ninth, cannabis 11th and ecstasy 18th. If ecstasy, as he stated on Radio 4’s Today programme last week, was 'far safer than aspirin' how does he respond to the parents whose children have died after taking a pill?
"Invoking numerous sources, he claims the war on drugs is unwinnable. 'It is not possible to run a democratic country and stop drugs getting in,' he insists. 'We reckon, on the best evidence we’ve got, that we stop between 10 and 12% at best of the drugs imported into the UK.'

"His assertions on heroin would give most antidrugs campaigners cold turkey. Despite heading his 'hierarchy of harm,' he says it is 'not particularly dangerous,' although highly addictive. 'If taken sensibly, heroin has no known adverse medical effects.'

"Brunstrom contends that prescribing heroin to addicts has been proved to reduce their criminal activities: 'Because most of their criminal behaviour is driven by the need to gain cash and buy more drugs.'

"He rates cannabis as 'demonstrably less dangerous and addictive than tobacco,' but concedes that crack cocaine makes people 'extremely violent.'

"Unable to cite any precedents for the legalisation of drugs beyond the recent case of Portugal, he says the experts know what is likely to work. Of course, a similar confidence inspired legislation on 24-hour drinking.

* Pre-order Dean Wareham's upcoming book, Black Postcards.

* In DC? Plums + obetrol (first show ever!) + guests (TBA), at the electric maid (268 carroll st. NW at the takoma metro stop), 12 january 2008 8pm $5

* "[I]wonder if the attention given to coffee isn't surpassing the attention produced by coffee." -- David Berman

January 7, 2008

he had that sweet country sound
but they stole every note in his head

Lisa M. Robinson, Solo, 2007

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"4. Rudy Giuliani

"Rudy Giuliani has decided not to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, preferring instead to focus on warmer states where he can get a nice tan, like Florida. Apparently Rudy's strategy is to suffer a crushing defeat in every single primary and then show up at the Republican National Convention with Bernie Kerik and some hired muscle. 'Nice convention center you've got here. It would be a shame if something happened to it.'

"And so far Rudy's strategy is coming up roses. His loss in Iowa was truly embarrassing, a sixth-place finish with just 3% of the vote - seven percentage points behind cult leader Ron Paul.

"But of course this is all part of the plan. According to Newsday, Rudy has 'no regrets' and confirmed to reporters that 'This is the strategy that we selected pretty close to day one.'

"The former New York City mayor said he's not concerned about his recent slides in polls here and in Florida, where he later campaigned in the afternoon.

"'On Sept. 11, I was worried,' he said. 'The way I approach politics, you don't worry about these things; you deal with them.'

"He added, 'September 11th. September 11th. 9/11 9/11 9/11. Hello? Is anybody there?'"

* The Nation on Robert Creeley. excerpt:

"The most important American love poet in living memory, and certainly one of the most important American poets tout court, Robert Creeley was born in 1926 and raised in eastern Massachusetts. His early life was marked by two devastating losses: the death of his father in 1930 and the removal of his left eye the year after, when he was 5. In 1944 Creeley left his studies at Harvard to drive an ambulance in Burma, and at war's end he returned to Cambridge. Then, in 1947, just before graduating, he dropped out, married Ann MacKinnon, tried raising chickens on a New Hampshire farm and eventually went to Mallorca, where he and MacKinnon started a small literary press. There he found the vocations of writing, traveling, editing and, eventually, teaching that he would follow the remainder of his rambling, rambunctious and often difficult life--a life that included two more marriages, raising children, the accidental death of a young daughter and periods of settling in New Mexico, Bolinas, Buffalo and Providence. Throughout these years, he journeyed around the world to read his poems and stories and pursued collaborations with a range of artists, from Jim Dine and Francesco Clemente to the legendary jazz soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Creeley died during a sojourn on a fellowship in Marfa, Texas, in March 2005."
"Because Creeley was a friend of Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Jack Kerouac, he was often identified as being part of the Beat generation. Yet his main early poetic influences were, to put them in historical order, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson and Robert Duncan--the last two forming his immediate company at Black Mountain College, where he taught in 1954 and 1955. Just as important is the fact that their influences were often some of his. Creeley's early poetry shows a Poundian affinity for the troubadours and poets of the dolce stil nuovo, but his love of what might be called an English American English--the New England speech patterns that were his native legacy--can clearly be heard in his echoes of Campion, Herrick and Anglo-American ballad and song traditions. The spareness of Creeley's poems is Puritan as much as '70s Minimalist, and perhaps only a Puritan could celebrate the body and its ambivalent desires quite as well as he does. His well-known mantra "Form is never more than an extension of content," which he honed in his extensive early correspondence with Olson on issues of form and line, can be viewed not only as the outcome of a Modernist rebellion against Victorian meters and narrative structures but also as a late-twentieth-century version of the concept of organic form, which reaches from German Romanticism to Coleridge's lectures on Shakespeare to the New Criticism of the 1950s."
"In Creeley's final poems, he knew well where he was going both as a poet and as a mortal being, cognizant of old age and the body's failings but still loving and changing his work. Friedlander includes a selection that takes the reader in surprising new directions, including a luxurious homage to Wallace Stevens from the late 1990s, 'Histoire de Florida.' Creeley left many apostles; perhaps some of them will turn now to the tasks of fully editing and annotating his collected works in poetry and prose and producing a solid scholarly biography. Others will no doubt end up fighting over his legacy before sorting it all out. In the meantime, this Selected should continue to draw new readers to lines as remarkable as these, like a rough-hewn work song, from his 2003 'Supper:' 'Shovel it in./Then go away again./Then come back and/shovel it in.... I can no longer think of heaven/as any place I want to go,/not even dying. I want/to shovel it in.//I want to keep on eating,/drinking, thinking./I am ahead. I am not dead./Shovel it in.'"

* "Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block." -- Joni Mitchell

January 3, 2008

cockney gangsters with electric guitars
pretending to be dying saints

Henry Diltz, Stephen Stills & Mick Jagger, Amsterdam, 1970

The Blue Bowie
-- by Terrance Hayes

This guy wept
and told us
he wanted to touch
the earth
with the fury
of a falling star.
This guy wore snow-
storm glitter and bangles
of lightning and tears
back when our slogan was:
Never Pull A Slow Gun
lest your children's link
with you be broken
and they janitor
a blank banner of surrender
into and out of
all the iridescent cities
of War.
All modern thought
is permeated by the idea
of thinking the unthinkable.
Ziggy Stardust,
Ziggy Stardust,
A moonage daydream, Baby,
put your ray gun to my head.
Black as a black hole,
why does your big electric pupil
keep looking at me?
I could write my name
in the makeup
on your face.
Sweet blue boy
with a black wind
through the spaces
between your teeth,
O, whoa, whoa, whoa,
you're a rock 'n roll suicide.
The song has gone
on forever.
And you say, as it is said
Samuel Beckett said
at the end of his life:
What a hell of a morning it's been . . .

-- by mark halliday

all the wanting and not having oilspills my room
and darkens the thickened air.
If i could forget --
but young women of venturesome litheness
and moderately priced unpretentiously good food
force me to care.

Dream Song 14
-- by John Berryman

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
He's the only DJ you can hear after three

MIchael Rashkow, untitled, 2007, ink on paper

* While at Joshua Tree last week, we randomly stayed at the same motel at which Gram Parsons died. I was until then unaware of the story of his death. From the Byrdwatcher website:

Gram Parsons had been hanging out at the Joshua Tree National Monument for several years -- he went there regularly, with Chris Hillman when they were bandmates, and later with Keith Richards, to get high, commune with the cactus, and watch the sky for UFOs. He reserved two rooms at the nearby Joshua Tree Inn, a modest cinder-block motel whose owners had come to know Parsons after several visits. Along with Parsons on this trip were his "valet" and chum, Michael Martin; Martin's girlfriend Dale McElroy (no fan of Gram Parsons); and an old friend from his high school days in Florida named Margaret Fisher.

The events of that trip have been recounted by Dale McElroy, who told her story to Ben Fong-Torres when he was writing Hickory Wind, then retold it in her own words in Phil Kaufman's 1993 bio. Other accounts differ, but hers seems the most reliable.

The foursome arrived Monday, September 17, 1973. That day they indulged sufficiently that Martin returned to Los Angeles the next morning to score more marijuana -- even though Martin theoretically went along on the trip so he could look after Parsons. Parsons dragged the women out to the airport for lunch, throughout which he drank Jack Daniels non-stop.
When they returned from lunch, McElroy excused herself -- she couldn't drink because she was recovering from hepatitis, and she wasn't having any fun watching Parsons drink.

Meanwhile, Parsons scored some heroin in town and then topped it off with morphine he acquired from a drug connection, who was staying at the Inn. Several hours later, a wasted Fisher showed up at McElroy's door in a frantic state. Parsons had overdosed, she said. They grabbed some ice and went to Room 1, where he was passed out on the floor, blue. There Fisher revived him with an ice cube suppository -- an old street remedy for overdoses. When McElroy left the two alone again, he was walking around the room, seemingly recovered.

After another hour or so, at about 10:00, Fisher returned to McElroy's room and asked her to sit with the sleeping Parsons while she went out to get some dinner. McElroy grabbed a book and went to Parsons's room -- Room 8. After a few minutes, she realized that his breathing had gone from normal to labored. McElroy had no experience with drug overdoses and no training in CPR. Believing (incorrectly) that there were no other people in the hotel, she never called out for help. Instead she tried to get him breathing again by pumping his back and his chest and giving him mouth-to-mouth. "I tried to figure out whether to stay and keep him breathing or leave and get some help.... I figured if I left, he might die."

After about a half hour of futile pumping and pushing, McElroy realized that Parsons was probably beyond help. At this point Margaret Fisher returned, then left to call an ambulance. The rescue crew arrived quickly, but concluded that CPR would not be successful. They got Parsons to the nearby Hi-Desert Memorial Hospital in Yucca Valley by 12:15 AM. The doctors there found no pulse and, after trying unsuccessfully to restart his heart, declared him dead at 12:30 AM, Wednesday, September 19, 1973.

The press were told that Parsons had died of natural causes, but after performing an autopsy, the coroner listed the cause of death as "drug toxicity, days, due to multiple drug use, weeks." A blood test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.21% -- high, but nowhere near fatal standing alone. No morphine showed in the blood test, though it did turn up in more than trace amounts in urine and liver tests. The urinalysis also revealed traces of cocaine and barbiturates. Since substances may accumulate in the body over a long time, it's unclear from the urine and liver tests whether Parsons used morphine, cocaine or barbiturates that day.

Fisher and McElroy were questioned by the police at the hospital. McElroy called Phil Kaufman in Los Angeles, who persuaded the sheriff that he could answer all their questions as soon as he arrived. The sheriff then permitted Fisher and McElroy to stay at the motel until Kaufman arrived. When Kaufman got to the hotel, the women gave him Parsons's drugs, which they had gathered up before the ambulance and police arrived. Kaufman took the drugs and hid them in the desert, then called the police station. He promised the police he would bring McElroy and Fisher in for further questioning, then piled them in his car and drove them straight back to LA, where he hid them out for a few days. The Joshua Tree police never sought out the two women.

Both Margaret Fisher and Alan Barbary, the son of the hotel owners, told conflicting versions of that night's events, which added to the confusion and exaggeration that soon surrounded the death of Gram Parsons.

When the news of his stepson's death reached Bob Parsons, he immediately realized that his own interests would be best served by having the body buried in Louisiana, where the senior Parsons lived. Parsons knew that under Louisiana's Napoleonic code, his adopted son's estate would pass in its entirety to the nearest living male -- Bob Parsons -- notwithstanding any will provisions to the contrary. But the code would only apply if Bob Parsons could prove that Gram Parsons had been a resident of Louisiana. Burying the younger Parsons in New Orleans would bolster the tenuous arguments for Louisiana residency. Bob Parsons booked a flight to LA to claim the body. At stake was his stepson's share of the dwindling but still substantial Snively fortune.

When Phil Kaufman learned of the plan to bury his friend in New Orleans, he became distraught. He knew that Parsons had no connection whatsoever to that city. He knew that Parsons had little use for his stepfather, and would not have wanted any of his estate to pass to him. He knew that Parsons had not wanted a long, depressing, religious service with family and friends.

Most of all he knew he had made a pact with Parsons, at the funeral of Clarence White: whoever died first, "the survivor would take the other guy's body out to Joshua Tree, have a few drinks and burn it."

After a day of vodka-enhanced self-recriminations, Kaufman decided he had to try to make good on his promise. Thus began one of the most unforgettable episodes of what hackers call "social engineering." For the full story, check out Kaufman's biography, Road Mangler Deluxe, which describes the whole episode in Kaufman's own inimitable fashion. What follows is only a taste of Kaufman's tale.

Kaufman called the funeral parlor in the town of Joshua Tree and managed to learn that the body would be driven to LAX and then flown on Continental to New Orleans. He called the airline's mortuary service and found out that the body would arrive that evening. Kaufman recruited Michael Martin, who knew about the pact, and commandeered a hearse of Dale McElroy's, which she and Martin used for camping trips. It had no license plates and several broken windows, but it would do. They tried on suits, but decided they looked so ridiculous that they changed into their tour clothes -- Levi's, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and jackets with the legend "Sin City" stitched on the back. They loaded the hearse up with beer and Jack Daniels and headed for LAX.

Kaufman and Martin arrived at the loading dock just as a flatbed truck rolled up with the Parsons casket. A drunken Kaufman somehow persuaded an airline employee that the Parsons family had changed its plans and wanted to ship the body privately on a chartered flight.

While Kaufman was in the hangar office, signing the paperwork with a phony name, a policeman pulled up, blocking the hangar door. Kaufman was sure his operation would be shut down, but the officer didn't do anything -- he just sat there. So Kaufman walked out to him, waved his copies of the paperwork, and said, "Hey, can you move that car?" The officer apologized, moved the car, and then, remarkably, helped Kaufman load the casket onto a gurney and into the back of the unlicensed, liquor-filled hearse.

Martin, also liquor-filled, got in the hearse and headed out of the hangar, only to run into the wall on his way out. The officer observed all this, and commented ruefully, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes now." Then he left, and the two drunk bodysnatchers departed the airport with the body of their friend. They stopped at a gas station and filled a gas can with high test ("I didn't want him to ping," Kaufman says.) Then they headed back for Joshua Tree.

They reached the Monument and drove until they were too drunk to drive any farther. There, near the Cap Rock, a landmark geological formation, they unloaded their friend's coffin. Then Kaufman saw car lights in the distance and concluded the police were coming. He quickly doused his friend with fuel and lit him. The two watched as a giant fireball rose from the coffin, sucking his ashes into the desert night. Then they abandoned the charred remains and headed for LA.

After a trip home filled with close calls, Kaufman and Martin laid low. The morning after their return, the papers were full of the story of the rock star's hijacked and burnt corpse, playing up baseless speculation by local police that the amateur cremation may have been "ritualistic."

Kaufman knew the police were looking for him, so after a few weeks, he and Martin just turned themselves in. They appeared in West L.A. Municipal Court on Parsons's 27th birthday -- November 5, 1973. Since a corpse has no intrinsic value, the two were charged with misdemeanor theft for stealing the coffin and given a slap on the wrist: $708 in damages for the coffin, and a $300 fine for each of the bodysnatchers. Kaufman has surely made that amount back just dining out on the story -- his misadventures have been legendary in rock and country music circles ever since.

The aftermath of the court's sentence was as unlikely as the events leading up to it. Kaufman threw himself a party to raise the fine money -- Kaufman's Koffin Kaper Koncert. They pasted beer bottles with some homemade labels featuring a bad likeness of Parsons and the legend, "Gram Pilsner: A stiff drink for what ales you." Dr. Demento served as deejay, and live music was provided by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers of "Monster Mash" fame and a young band being managed by Tickner and Kaufman at the time, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Despite the gruesome streak running through the party, it was a memorable wake for their friend.

On the other side of the country, some other friends mourned Parsons in a somewhat quieter fashion. Emmylou Harris met with John Nuese, Bill Keith, and Holly and Barry Tashian for a quiet weekend at the Tashians' cottage in Connecticut, where they listened for the first time to finished versions of the sessions from Grievous Angel (Reprise, 1974).

* Famous vegetarians.

* "Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!" -- Albert Einstein

January 2, 2008

One hundred years from this day
Will the people still feel this way

adrienne funk, sunset joshua tree national park, December 28, 2007

-- by John Tranter

Another fuckwit drops into the dustbin
of history, just as we're finishing our coffee.
Some of us are meant to burn out, is that
right? Like roman candles, across the night sky.

I want to go up like a tree, not a rocket.
I'd like to get drunk disgracefully
with a favorite neice, and grow old
among an amplitude of footnotes.

Pour me another Pernod, Famous Poet, and
tell me again about the doomstruck literati,
those dropouts immortalized in ink -- your
thirst, your secret greed, your mausoleum.

A Poem About Kenneth Koch
-- by John Tranter

He never writes poems about writing poems,
this dog-eared wunderkind who’s tapped
the unconscious of the race. His main characteristics:
in the fall he develops a fatal liking for stiff gin
martinis. He’s not a disguised Mayor Ed Koch —
the hair’s different — and don’t let anybody tell you
he is. He kisses wives under the mistletoe,
given half a chance, and he’s a sink of indiscretion,
so look out, gossip-wise. A knot of contradictions, he is
a simpering tough guy, and a brutal sook — mercy me,
here he comes! Violently athirst!

-- by John Sinclair

late one night
in the early ’60s
between sets
at the village vanguard

charles mingus
was holding forth
on the current struggle
for black liberation

& making a lot of noise
when monk walked up,
stood there & listened,
then shook his head

& said to charlie,
‘goddamn, mingus,
I never knew
you was black!’

After Apollinaire
-- by Franz Wright

It's four o'clock in the afternoon
and its finished;
I sit back and light my cigarette
on a ray of dusk.
I don't want to write anymore.
All I want to do is smoke.