Showing posts with label Kunst Ist Überall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kunst Ist Überall. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: Still Missed

John Lennon: October 9, 1940


Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass; they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe;
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way,
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.

Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views; inviting and inciting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me
Like a million suns; it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru de va om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world...

Across The Universe (Lennon / McCartney, 1969)


We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came;

You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer:

Free the people, now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now

We understand your paranoia,
But we don't want to play your game;
You think you're cool and know what you are doing,
666 is your name;
So while your jerking off each other,
You better bear this thought in mind:
Your time is up you better know it,
But maybe you don't read the signs

Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.

Well you were caught with your hands in the kill,
And you still got to swallow your pill,
As you slip and you slide down the hill,
On the blood of the people you killed

Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Stop the killing now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now...

Bring On The Lucie (Freda People) (John Lennon, 1973)


The Soul Of America reminded me that I missed the actual day. Normally, I put up a memorial on December 10th. Better, I think, to celebrate someone's birth.

... I can't say I listen to Beatles music too much myself, these days (though I did listen to the Magical Mystery Tour album last weekend, by chance, while padding through the Haight).

So:  Absent Friends. Happy Birthday, John.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Reprint Heaven Forever: We're Whalers On The Moon

Yet Again, The Birthday of Big Marine Mammal Avatar Creators

Moving through life, we find ourselves on occasion in the midst of experience or the presence of a thing which resonates and reminds that something, more than what we think we know or can perceive (if we would just stop and shut up and pay enough attention to see), exists.

Principally, this happens when we're 'out in nature', but it also happens when we encounter some art -- in particular, when it's been created by someone who made deep and illuminating connections and Brought Them Back To Tell Thee. From August 1 in 2016 and 2017 and 2018.
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There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
-- Herman Melville / Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
Over at the Soul Of America, it's a celebration of Herman Melville's 200th birthday (!!!), and things of the Sea, and a Whale, and other notables which Herman brought back, To Tell Thee.

I considered writing a post from the viewpoint of the Whale just for the potential Yucks (because, god knows, We Need The Yucks Wherever We Can Get Them), but gave it up and settled for the Humorous Image.

The best thing about the post, and the reason I mention it here, is -- Herman tends to be overlooked in a culture whose highest expression is a Rhianna / Pitbull remix; it's good to be reminded that he is still there -- as he reminds us that we are chased by our mortality; and that sometimes the Form Of The Destructor is large, albino, and aquatic.  For me, it's a big lawn mower. Your Harbinger O' Death™, of course, may differ.

I was introduced to Melville when I was fourteen -- not through the novel he's most often identified with, but in the short work, "Bartelby The Scrivener" (1853), a classic in its own right. Ishmael's tale was next, and I was, uh, hooked. Later, I wasn't able to read anything by James or Conrad that didn't refer back to the narrative style I encountered first with Melville.

"Moby Dick: Or, A Whale" is ubiquitous. There is No Whale before He who populates a portion of that book (Yeah, okay; 'Shamu'  and 'Willy' are not the same thing). The Whale at least lurks, an unseen presence, in the background of all the on-ship action -- like Death, or Fate, or reruns of Three's Company. As if the Whale might chuckle and snicker in the dark during certain scenes:
" 'What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike.'   
" 'Heh heh heh heh,' " came a deep basso rumble out of the darkness which hid the waters. Ahab started, but did not otherwise acknowledge the presence of that upon which he had focused for so long."
That Big Marine Mammal is archetypal, now. And, aber natürlich, the moment something makes an appearance on "Family Guy", it's an absolute certainty that, whatever it is, it's now hard-coded into our DNA.

 Herman Left Out The Part Where Whales Like Raisin Bran
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MEHR, MIT KEINE POLITIK: My Very Own Hillaryite Colleague asks, "So you hate music, too?" (This, because of the Rhianna / Pitbull quip.) And I would agree, it's absurdist reductionism to claim that the essence of culture in Eusa is rap music and movies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. I'm convinced that people (or, Whales; or very intelligent Honey Badgers) in the not very distant future will look back on this period as one of the most varied and vibrant in the history of our humanoid species -- until, you know, that thing happens.
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UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Once I saw this, I could not un-see it. It is an actual book. Swear to god.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HzYH1qVAn2s/VLuVF_f9DWI/AAAAAAAABbI/SC32BIgWys4/s1600/Ships.jpg
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UND: WAS IST AUCH SCHON WIEDER LOS? MEHR:  At one point, if you had $39.9K, Jim Morrison's Moby could have been yours.

At that price, you'd think the seller would have provided free shipping -- but, remember: this is Aremica, Land Of The Free and Home Of The Hip.






Sunday, March 24, 2019

Centenary Ferlinghetti

Happy Birthday, Larry: An Anecdotal
City Of Paris Sign In The Conversation (1974)

Almost half my life ago, a friend took me to an event in support of saving the Eiffel Tower-shaped sign which had graced the roof of the old City of Paris department store on Union Square. CofP had been there for generations -- since the Gold Rush; before and after The 1906 Earthquake and fire -- but business setbacks forced it to close.

The property had been purchased by Neiman-Marcus; they intended to build what still looks like a featureless beige box around the old CofP's oval, central core, topped by a stained glass skylight (you can see the old City of Paris building, and its trademark sign, in Coppola's film, The Conversation).

Replacing CofP with Texas-based Neiman's struck many San Franciscans as a cultural loss (dear god; Texas???) . Trying to save a landmark sign from a landmark local business was a way of saying No. A meeting was held to raise funds to purchase the sign, before finding a suitable location for it: and there would be poetry! Gary Snyder would read. So would Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

I went, I listened.  Snyder had been a particular lodestone favorite of mine for a long time; I'd only heard him read once before in Berkeley, and Ferlinghetti not in person at all.

When he did, he set "In Fascist America " in front of us like a dish well-cooked but spicy enough to be a challenge to eat, like reading The Fire Next Time all in one sitting -- dig in if you've got the spittle for it, baby. And he read it in the Beat cadence you can see, fortunately, in film and video clips.

The applause at the end was genuine. Everyone knew Ferlinghetti as a national treasure, a cultural icon, someone who had gravitas and knew it and used it. He was on the side of Right and it appeared in his work like a sword on fire. We applauded for all that as much as the reading.
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They never were able to buy the City of Paris sign. I went on to dinners over the years with friends and occasionally did (or was asked to do) my impression of Ferlinghetti, reading -- I'm gifted as a mimic; people laughed, which was the point (particularly about the repeating line in that poem, with a specific pause in his cadence when he would say, "In Fascist / America"). One person I knew in particular, who loved Ferlinghetti's poetry and had heard him read multiple times, always dissolved in laughter when she heard that.

Fast-forward a number of years: My acquaintance was taking lessons in a foreign language in the City through a cultural exchange group; Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in the class. The last, penultimate assignment for each student was to take a short piece of literature or poetry, translate it into the Language Other Than English, then read it to the rest of the class. Ferlinghetti chose, "In Fascist America".

My acquaintance said later she was able to hold it in "almost until the end", before exploding with laughter. Apparently she slipped and fell trying to exit the room but made it outside, leaving Ferlinghetti and the rest of the class somewhat mystified.
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I lived in North Beach for over a decade. In (for me) the old days, before heading to Vesuvio's or Spec's or Tosca's -- the real Bermuda Triangle -- I might stop off in City Lights Books; occasionally, you might see Ferlinghetti on the ground floor, talking with someone at a table in one of the alcoves. More rarely at night, coming out of Pearl's jazz club across the street, you might catch a glimpse of him, working late, through a window in City Lights' second-floor offices.

Most long-time residents in North Beach knew his house; it was roughly a block from my flat, and we passed each other at least twice a week for years, he walking up Stockton street towards Columbus, me walking down: two guys who wore fedoras. We made eye contact; I smiled, and sometimes said hello (it would have been odd if, after years of occurrence, I hadn't) but it was only a short time before I left the neighborhood that he began responding back.

The last time I saw Ferlinghetti was during a sentimental walk back, over a decade after I left North Beach -- walking across the grass of Washington Square on a warm, sunny afternoon, and there he was, wearing one of the trademark hats, lying on the grass with his head propped up by a day pack, a faint smile on his face as he tilted it up toward the sun.

At some point today I'll walk over to the old neighborhood and past his house, and put a good thought out for him. A century is a long time for a person, but it's not even a blink in the universe. Very few of us get to impact the Geist of the culture, live in people's hearts, and so sail on into time. But he will.
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Friday, February 22, 2019

What We Leave Behind

Charlie

Charlie Chaplin, 1914

Some spiritual traditions believe in additional dimensions of existence; that the world most of us see as the only reality is one place where thought can be transformed into physicality.

Everywhere we look, there's an idea translated into concrete form, and associated with positive or negative energy -- speeches, laws and regulations; social agreements around money, sexuality, role and status; value. And most obviously, images, novels, poetry; music. Even the simplest transaction between strangers, a word or a look or a tone of voice, carries some form of energy.

Following that perspective, the world might be viewed as the collective energy in all ideas, actions and objects in it at any given moment. In that view, reality is defined by what we as individuals and as a species put into it.
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When a playlist of music you're listening to on Soundcloud runs out, an algorithm in the service continues providing a shuffle of tunes with similar themes or instrumentation. In that way, I found myself listening to a melody composed by Charlie Chaplin for his film, A King In New York (if you use Soundcloud, search on "Charlie Chaplin Filmmusic - Mandolin Serenade").

That brought up a stream of images of Chaplin that I carry around in long-term memory -- mostly, his iconic 'Little Tramp' character. His acting and films were so influential that for generations almost any adult, nearly anywhere in the world, might see a drawing of a figure with a postage-stamp moustache, wearing a bowler hat, and say, "Oh, that's Chaplin!" and smile.

Early Little Tramp: Mack Sennett's Caught In The Rain, 1914

Chaplin started as a 24-year-old immigrant from Britain, a contract actor for Mack Sennett's film company in 1914 (the photo at the top of the post; he looked like almost any Dude you might pass on the street today). His Little Tramp routine caught Sennett's eye -- initially a burlesque on an "affable drunkard", a bit loutish and inconsiderate and sloppily boozed. Chaplin's humor was physical, perfect for the trademark slapstick of Sennett's short films, and his comic timing was amazing.

Within four years, Chaplin had refined the Tramp into a more sober, sharper, plucky 'Everyman'. The Tramp became one of Sennett's most popular short-film characters -- and whenever a new Chaplin 'flick appeared in local movie-houses, people paid to see him. Lots of people: Chaplin 'packed them in'.


Kid Auto Races, Venice, California (1914); Chaplin's First Film Appearance
As The Tramp, Then Still The Affable Drunk

Like any artist, Chaplin was all about having as much creative control as possible; eventually, he convinced Sennett he could create better films (with the Tramp, of course) for Sennett's company. When a better financial and creative deal became available with another studio, Chaplin jumped at the chance -- and within four years of landing in America, by 1918, Chaplin was one of the most popular 'stars' in moving pictures, and possibly the most highly paid.

In the years immediately after the First World War, he became a founding partner of United Artists, a film company founded to allow film 'artists' more freedom to experiment with the medium, in contrast to what was becoming a Hollywood studio system. UA allowed Chaplin the control he wanted over his work, and in less than a decade he had created some of the best  American silent films (arguably, some of the best motion pictures) ever made: The Kid, "The Gold Rush"; "The Circus"; "A Dog's Life", and Pay Day, to name a few.

Arguing With The Boss: Pay Day (1922)

Sound motion pictures appeared in 1927. Four years later, Chaplin released City Lights, a film without dialog, only a music soundtrack he had composed, after Talkies had all but buried silent films. He continued in 1936 with another classic, Modern Times, again accompanied only by a soundtrack of Chaplin's music. As an art form, it wouldn't be used again for forty years, until Mel Brooks' Silent Movie.

The western press mocked Hitler in his early days as dictator by referring to him as "the politician with the Chaplin moustache". True to form, Charlie used the humor in that comparison to create a parody of Adolf and his Reich in The Great Dictator (released in 1940) not long after the Second World War began. After 1945, Chaplin made only four other films: "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947), Limelight (1952); "A King In New York" (1957), and A Countess From Hong Kong (1967).
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Chaplin's work showcased poor and working people in the early Twentieth century, easily shoved about by authority and manipulated by wealth. His films made clear he was no fan of unbridled capitalism, industrialism or the dehumanizing, assembly-line exploitation of labor. In 1947, when  anti-communist hysteria spawned House Un-American Activities Committee investigations of Red influence in Hollywood, Chaplin was tailor-made to become a target. It didn't help that he had unwittingly made an enemy out of J.Edgar Hoover, whom Chaplin had met in the mid 1920's.

Gossip about Chaplin as a wealthy actor and director involved him and young women under the age of consent -- of his four wives, two were sixteen, and another eighteen, when they married. His Leftist, anti-authoritarian political views were clear. Hoover's Bureau collected gossip (and any information in an FBI file must be legitimate) on thousands of Americans, which Hoover was happy to use for personal and political ends during his 70-year reign.

To Hoover, Chaplin was just another foreign national -- and a Jew, Hoover believed -- with loose morals and radical political sympathies, forcing radical propaganda down the throats of innocent Americans through his films. His interest in Chaplin nearly amounted to obsession: the actor / director was a target of FBI surveillance from the mid-1920's until his death in 1977, and his FBI file may be the largest publicly known (over 2,000 pages) of any prominent public figure in the agency's archives.

As Chaplin left the U.S. in 1952 to attend the London premiere of his film, Limelight, the Justice Department revoked the re-entry permit on his resident alien visa. To be allowed to return, he would have to "submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behavior". Hoover was behind the move; he had asked England's own Bureau, MI-5, to provide confirmation of Chaplin's communist connections, and for proof that his real name was 'Israel Thornstein'. MI-5 found no proof that Chaplin was a Red, and didn't respond to Hoover's antisemitism.

The FBI's files on Chaplin, released under Freedom Of Information Act requests, show the U.S. government had no serious evidence to prevent his return to America if he had applied for re-entry. While Limelight received praise and success in Europe, Chaplin was smeared as a communist sympathizer in the U.S., and the film boycotted. Frightened and disgusted, after living and working in America for thirty years Chaplin decided not to go back.

... and he didn't, until in 1972 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which had done little to stand up to Hoover, McCarthy or the HUAC) tried to make amends by voting to award a Lifetime Achievement Oscar to Chaplin "for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of [the 20th] century."

At 83, having had a series of small strokes and other health issues, unsure how he would be received in a country he believed had rejected and then forgotten him and his work, Chaplin came to Hollywood and was visibly moved when the attending crowd gave him a twelve-minute standing ovation -- the longest tribute of that kind by the Academy in its history.
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Easy Street, 1917

Chaplin's Tramp, and other main characters in his films, were ordinary 'folks' -- mostly poor, or at the mercy of Fate and Chance. The world of his films was familiar to the people who could find a nickel to see them, and populated by easily-recognizable archetypes: regular, working-class Joes and Janes; office workers; the bullies and bosses; streetwise kids, shopkeepers and beat cops.

The Tramp -- at the bottom of the social ladder -- had to make a tremendous effort to overcome his circumstances, just to achieve some happiness or justice. He hoped for something better than what he had. And, the stories in Chaplin's movies were transformational, where that Good Ending comes about by helping an Other -- the Girl; the Child; the Friend.

The Kid, 1921

In The Kid, the Tramp finds and raises a little orphaned boy -- whom he had initially wanted nothing to do with -- then rescues him from the clutches of a brutal County Orphan Commissioner, using the Tramp's poverty as the excuse to take the child away. You know when he embraces the boy that the Tramp loves him, will protect and care for the Kid as if he were his own. They're still dirt poor, but the little boy is safe -- and in a world where anything can happen, that's the point. It's everything.

City Lights (1931)

In City Lights, possibly Chaplin's best film (it was his favorite work), the Tramp is poor and homeless, ignored by most people, teased by a pair of wiseass newsboys -- but meets, becomes friends with (and almost immediately falls for) a beautiful blind girl, reduced to selling flowers on the street to help support herself and her grandmother. Whenever they meet, she gives him a small, white rose.

When he speaks, she mistakes his voice for that of a wealthy millionaire she's heard in the neighborhood where she sells her flowers, and (more out of embarrassment than some attempt to impress her) the Tramp allows her to believe it's true.

Later, when the Girl falls ill, the Tramp learns she might recover her sight -- but only through an expensive medical procedure. He works to save the money; after more plot twists, the operation is paid for and a success. Her vision restored, the Girl is able to open a flower shop with her grandma -- where she hopes the 'wealthy millionaire' who helped her will appear one day and sweep her off her feet.

Meanwhile, The Tramp, having been tossed in jail after the usual comic misunderstandings, is now even shabbier than when we first met him -- 1930-31 was the worst year of the Great Depression in the U.S. He shuffles along the street, mocked and teased by the same pair of newsboys.

Suddenly, the Tramp sees a small white rose in the gutter and picks it up -- the same flower the blind Girl used to give him. He turns, and is standing in front of the Girl's flower shop; she's sitting inside the front window, and has been watching the antics of the newsboys with this ... street person. She and her grandmother share a laugh; they think it's funny.

When he sees her, The Tramp is overjoyed; she's whole and healthy, but suddenly he's ashamed: she's now a respectable shop owner, and he's not.


The Last Scene Of City Lights; Critic James Agee Described It As
"The greatest piece of acting ever committed to celluloid"

The flower he'd picked up in the gutter is losing its petals; the Girl comes out of the shop to offer him a new rose, and a half-dollar. He carefully accepts the flower; she takes his hand to give him the coin -- and from the feel of his hand, the texture of his coat, all familiar to her when she was blind -- she suddenly realizes who he is. "You?" she asks; the Tramp nods. "You can see now?" he asks; she replies, "I can see now" -- meaning, it wasn't a wealthy man she had been waiting for, but the one with a heart, who helped her.

As he looks back at The Girl, the Tramp smiles. In his expression is every person who ever hoped for good luck in a hard world, a chance to care deeply about someone and have them care about you -- and barely able to believe, after everything, that it's come true. The screen fades to black.
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We can't know the sum of the actions of Chaplin, the man. We do know more about the effect of his artistic output on the world -- and it's much greater than "making motion pictures the art form of the [Twentieth] century".

From the perspective of the world being the sum of what is put into it -- even though they drew on earlier forms of storytelling, Chaplin's movies helped define what the motion picture medium could be. His films were moral, in the same way as Dickens' serialized novels: they showcased human folly and the absurd nature of life; they reminded us how we ought to treat each other. How our societies should reflect that, not just to serve as vehicles for commerce and acquisition, avarice, and domination.

Chaplin's films weren't meant to portray a perfect world, no matter that some of their plot resolutions might seem like fairy-tale-magic. They presented hopes human beings have for how life might be, how things might turn out if the Fates were kind -- and that on occasion, our hopes can be made concrete and real, in this world. His movies affected people, first; he made us laugh. He still does.

In These Times, it might seem that Chaplin's work is outdated, less recognizable, but something tells me that's not the case: Chaplin is still iconic. And if we have an opportunity to add to the world even a fraction of what he left behind in his art, we'll have done something important -- if only because we need so much more of that now.
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MEHR, Mit einer offensichtlichen Sache, die ich vermisst habe:  I was adding this 'Mehr', when something happened, and the entire post was deleted. No hope of recovery. Just - gone. It was like hiking for miles to get to the truck to take you home, and it just pulls away; you're eating dust, screaming at the top of your lungs, and know nothing can help. 

JEDOCH, Es Ist So: The post was open in the browser on my smarter-than-me phone -- and if I wanted to Man Up and transcribe retype it, from scratch, it would be remade.  

UND So Wurde Es Gemacht War: But Dear Fucking God Jesus and the Yeti, I never want to go through that again.

UND SO WEITER: The Girl Who Refused To Be Mrs Mongo said, "You write about Chaplin and his politics, and you miss the final speech from The Great Dictator? Shame!"


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Friday, January 4, 2019

Glad To Be Unhappy

Cool And Blue

While on the bus down to the Embarcadero, heading for the Place 'O Witless Labor, I remembered how easy it once was to find a sense of San Francisco in the Fifties, a feeling in the air or something found around a corner.

I had come here on and off for years before making The City home, and that 50's feeling had always been here. It was a button-down, 'Mad Men' kind of vibe -- as if a redhead in a pearl-grey Coco Chanel suit and expensive perfume had walked through a room, leaving that fragrance behind, lingering. It was Herb Caen and Charles McCabe's columns in the Chronicle; it was summers at Lake Tahoe; 'Gold Coast' old money (San Francisco was the only city west of Denver with a Social Register).

It was women wearing white gloves to Sunday services at Saints Peter and Paul, or Grace Cathedral; it was Democratic machine politics and Longshoremen. The navy had a shipyard in The City, bases around the Bay; there was a famous prison just offshore and one of the world's greatest suspension bridges across the Golden Gate.

Even into the 1970's, you could find echoes of all that -- the whole Tony Bennett, terribly-alone-and-forgotten-in-Manhattan thing; cable cars rumbling along foggy night streets; Caucasian men with Sta-Pressed hair who wore suits by Botany 500 with a handkerchief in their breast pocket, leaving their offices in the Financial District for drinks at House Of Shields, the St. Francis or Mark Hopkins' lower bar, the Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake -- or, if they were a little adventurous, the Black Hawk Night Club down in the Tenderloin.

I'm not forgetting that this was the Leave It To Beaver 50's and 60's. The repressed psyches, institutionalized racism, sexism and homophobia; Might Makes Right against a monolithic Commie enemy, and Capitalism Consumerism was fully in control. We had faced off against those Commies in Korea less than a decade before, and were revving up for A Land War In Southeast Asia. Believe me: Television and film haven't managed to capture how good, and how bad, we had it back in the Day.

There were foghorns on the Bay (the original ones, replaced in the mid-eighties, had been there for fifty years; I lived in North Beach and went to sleep by them), and late-night dinners in Chinatown. And you could find more poignant reverberations of the 50's in jazz being played in small clubs across the City; a few of them lasted into the early Eighties. They were intense, smoky dives, often loud -- and while there are more jazz clubs in the Bay Area now than ever before, they're polite showcases by comparison.

When I do hear any jazz, I immediately think of a saxophone -- specifically, an Alto sax, whether one is present or not (I played Reeds, back in The Day, and this may be the reason why). I do listen to the Sax action of Mr. Charles Parker, and Mssrs. Coltraine, Getz, Lateef ,and others (here's a list of over 50 jazz saxophonists, with clips of their styles for comparison; check them out).

But, for me, only one Sax player truly does it: Paul Desmond. The cool, grey-blue images he painted are part of the soundtrack of a San Francisco that I still see, hiding in memory most of my adult life.

Some recent critics have noted that the 'Blue' jazz played by musicians like Desmond (as opposed to the hotter, 'Red' jazz interpretations by Parker, or Coltraine) in the early 50's to mid-60's reflected that America's look-the-other-way, don't-spoil-the-party Bourgeois culture. It was cool, intellectual, detached music -- playing as issues and passions were slowly coming to a boil, demanding change, involvement, commitment. I think there's truth in that -- interpretation in art doesn't grow out of a vacuum, and Desmond had said he was trying to create the equivalent in sound of "a dry Martini" -- but his music is also just damn good. 
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Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Culture Thing
(Sasha Arutyunova / New York Times)

Desmond was a local boy; after forty years in The City, I've occasionally met people who Knew Him When. San Francisco is where Dave Brubeck, another local kid and a pianist acquaintance of Desmond's in the music scene, had already been playing around the Bay Area since the late 1940's. He had even hired Brubeck at one point to play backup piano for him at various gigs, then replaced him.

Brubeck eventually developed an eight-person band, then a trio. He had brought Desmond into the Octet, but in forming the Trio, Brubeck didn't bring him along. Desmond was not happy about it, not shy about telling Brubeck off, and left the Bay Area for New York. For roughly a year, he played his alto sax as part of a 'big band' orchestra led by Jack Fina (whose most famous composition was "Bumble Boogie" [1946]).

Desmond did make some connections with other jazz artists in New York, but wasn't the City By The Bay where he had most of his contacts. Meanwhile, back in Frisco, Brubeck and his Trio had signed a contract with a local label, and were selling thousands of records. Out in The Big Apple, Desmond heard their music played on a local radio station and was impressed; it may have reminded him of a lost opportunity, back in his home town.

In 1951, Brubeck suffered a serious spinal injury while diving in Hawaii. He recovered, but performing intricate fingering on the piano that required more dexterity caused him physical pain. From that point forward, he began writing songs based around chords, played with the whole hand, with individual notes kept to a minimum. This became a recognizable signature in Brubeck's music (at least, it's always seemed that way to me; I'm not a music historian or critic).

Meanwhile, Desmond decided to return to the Bay Area specifically to ask Brubeck to join his group -- which took some doing, given how they'd parted a year before. Brubeck was skeptical, but relented, and Desmond joined a new Dave Brubeck Quartet, along with Bob Bates (Double Bass) and Joe Dodge (Drums). A piano player I was acquainted with once told me he had seen their first public performance at the old Black Hawk in the fall of 1951 -- the nightclub became home base for the group when not on tour.

Through the 1950s and 60s, Desmond (per notes on the Fresh Sounds Records website) "had one of the sweetest gigs in jazz history". For at least a quarter-century, Brubeck's Quartet was one of the most commercially successful, marketed and widely known jazz ensembles in America. And as its single horn player, Desmond's "supremely lyrical, sublimely melodic playing... [became] a defining sound of the era."

The actual Quartet only remained as a regular group for roughly fifteen years, until 1967. By then, Brubeck and Desmond, individually, were well-established and in-demand musicians. The Quartet resurfaced periodically from the mid-70's on, performing in reunion tours and spot appearances -- in part, I think, just to give Brubeck and himself the opportunity to play together. Desmond's involvement with the Quartet lasted until his death in 1977.

Desmond's work with Brubeck (specifically the iconic track they co-wrote, Take Five) is how most people recognize him, but Desmond's Wikipedia page lists over 70 albums issued between 1950 and 1976 on which he either contributed, or was the featured performer.

His music seems a good way to find a path into the New Year: Try these.
________________________________



(1964)


(1962; Includes an orchestral string section as backup on most tracks)


(1963)


(1956; This is a 1975 live recording in Toronto. Composer: Gerry Mulligan)

(1963)
____________________________________

MEHR, MIT HUNDE:  And then there is this:  Ah, San Francisco -- One Big Campus, One Big Dorm; Land of Rich Kiddies.

Mentioning this to a friend in my Curmudgeonly Dog way, I barked that Come The Recession the Trust-Fund-Tech-Bros-and-Broettes will all have to go home to live with Mommy and Daddy. My friend replied, "Look up there -- see that, the 'Salesforce Tower'? It means 'They' are here to stay, man; and the City wants them. Screw the homeless and you 'n me; bring on the rich, rich, rich." 
______________________________

Friday, December 14, 2018

Random Barking Friday: Euro-Girls

Eee-Urrp u. Deutschland

All kinds of stuff is happening with Euro-Girls. This just another way of saying that it's year-end, and things at the Place O' Witless Labor are heating up so budget dollars can be spent. The Ghost Of Exmass Past has arrived, and that Guy With The Salmon Mousse is just outside. And the time and energy for Das Blog is slim.

So we offer The New and Improved Theresa May, struggling for relevance in a World That Doesn't Care.


But, let's skip To Hell With the politiki.  Woof ! Muss Sein. Es ist so:  Enjoy.

_______________________________


Friday, January 12, 2018

Old

The Only Serious Thing In The World

Harry Bertschmann, "Stuttgart No. 6", 1957  (Bertschmann Studio / NYT 2017)

The New York Times recently presented a showcase article about an artist, a painter living in New York City. They've produced a body of work and it's clear they have some chops, a vision -- but they're still trying for that Big Break to achieve recognition. And they're 86 years old.
________________________________

American culture really has no idea what to do with the Old (and 'old' is a plastic term; so, anyone over 55, say) beyond separating them from the most important thing in American culture: their money. In that, Olds are no different than any other segment in our population.

In the brave new 5G world, everyone is a unit or resource, part of a demographic group to be influenced, led, monitored and monetized. To the Powers, what people do with their little lives isn't so important -- it's what percentage of their income can be shorn from them during those lives that's key.

In 2016, The New Inquiry webzine dedicated an issue to aging, and in an editorial comment noted
In the ... capitalist core (that is, those regions which have long since sundered the multigenerational household as the central economic unit), old age isn’t held in the public esteem it vaguely remembers it should be due...
But ... (m)any of the indignities of old age are, on inspection, the indignities of being socially discarded — feelings of isolation, a fall in status, loss of autonomy. That is, these are not organic facts of the body but outcomes desired, at some level, by someone. Why that is, and who benefits, are both painfully obvious and logically obscure.
The general assumptions made about old age have to do with physical changes, a reduction and a diminution. Older people "retire", leave the jobs where they labored and the homes where they lived and (possibly) raised families, and slowly disappear from public view.  Who cares what they did in their lives? They're no longer vital or real contributors to the world. That's all in the past.

And journey's end is death, the ultimate reduction and mystery.  Olds are a reminder of The End of everything our spiritually crippled culture asserts is most important. Small wonder most people are almost eager to ignore them, unless of course there's money to be made.
__________________________________

People with a desire for artistic expression make efforts to translate their insights and experience, birthing them into the world through whatever medium. American culture takes art seriously, and boasts of the achievements of our artists, but doesn't support those artists and won't take them seriously unless there's money involved (if so, Jeff Koons is the greatest artist humankind ever produced).

Often the image of that effort is connected to youth --  the young artist, the unheated garret; trying for recognition and fame, the "big break". Most people wouldn't connect being a "struggling artist" with being an Old -- but I'll bet you lunch that it's more common.
_________________________________

When the New York Times published Harry Bertschmann's story, it was a reminder that artists frequently make trade-offs between creative time and material security, Working The Day Job. Bertschmann was no different; he worked for decades doing advertising art, and making that choice affected Bertschmann's path as an artist.

In that review, the NYT story took a traditional perspective -- an underlying assumption that art must result in financial success and name recognition to have any intrinsic worth: Bertschmann knew Rothko and Kline and Motherwell; they got famous and rich, and he didn't.

The usual conclusion of a storyline like this will depict the unrecognized artist, aging, living in solitary poverty -- a cold-water, sub-basement apartment; a description of finished canvases stacked beside the pallet and mattress, the stained, pathetic hotplate.

But this story has a Cinderella ending: good news, that Bertschmann is becoming known, late in life, with a promise of financial reward: the NYT article was timed to appear a week before a solo show of his selected works at a prestigious, upstate gallery. There's lots of buzz and potential for sales.

Don't misunderstand: I'm all for Cinderella endings. I'm glad Bertschmann and his wife will have more money, more security -- and, that his work will be shown. People will see it -- and whatever alchemical magic happens when we see, hear or read art can take place. That's why Art gets done. I would suggest that if Bertschmann were here, he'd say that's what he's been doing for 60 years; it's why he's on the planet.

At the same time, there's a reminder that perspectives and assumptions about art, about aging, and life and death, served up by our culture are terrifyingly inadequate. In spite of itself, the NYT article of Bertschmann's story gives a glimpse of that -- and that sometimes, in this world, there are happy endings.
__________________________________

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reprint Heaven Forever (1934 - 2016)

Closing Time


Over at The Soul Of America, a reminder that today is Cohen's birthday. Originally posted last Armistice Veteran's Day in 2016, when he went off to the Bardo, or wherever the hell we go, if anywhere (and in that spirit, I'll add a link to this).

November 11 is one Day I use to consciously remember specific people, from a specific time, whom I miss. It was right after the election, and everyone still numb; the fat, raving Parasite-Elect had barely begun to push his tiny manhood into America's collective face, and everyone I knew were looking around for anyone wearing the same uniform. Cohen's bowing out just then (to take the metaphor a little further), seemed like one more Loss in the Unit. We were going single file; I turned around, and he wasn't back there there any more: Ah, fuck; aber natürlich, it would have to be now.
____________________________ 

Goddamn it. Knew the news was coming, but wasn't ready for it just now.

Ah we're lonely, we're romantic
And the cider's laced with acid
And the holy spirit's crying, where's the beef?
And the moon is swimming naked
And the summer night is fragrant
With a mighty expectation of relief


So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime
And I swear it happened just like this
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
The gates of love they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closing time
Closing time
Closing time
Closing time 

 Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like ‘The Law,’ which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres. In the song ‘Sisters of Mercy,’ for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen...

‘Sisters of Mercy’ is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. ... This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.
I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin... [whose] songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere.
And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.
-- Bob Dylan 
I loved you for your beauty
But that doesn't make a fool of me
You were in it for your beauty too
And I loved you for your body
There's a voice that sounds like god to me
Declaring, (declaring) declaring, declaring that your body's really you
And I loved you when our love was blessed
And I love you now there's nothing left
But sorrow and a sense of overtime

I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich.

What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol (divine voice). You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it... At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.

-- Leonard Cohen / September, 2016
And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
And I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don't care what happens next
Looks like freedom but it feels like death
It's something in between, I guess
It's closing time
closing time
closing time
closing time


___________________________

MEHR, Several Hours Later:  The last thing I wanted to do was write a post about this man that had even a hint of self-reference, but remembered a thirty-year-old conversation. 

A long time ago: someone said in a discussion of Sufis and 'The Work' that "There are a lot of people around who say they're looking for answers, want self-enlightenment, and they present a posture -- removed, serious, aesthetic. Like a parody of the Holy Man. Another is the smartass, the 'Mister Natural' who just enjoys fucking with people. And my feeling is, neither of them are 'authentic'. 

"The Sufis I've met have been raw and real, man; There's grit in their voices -- they're like Blues singers. Tom Waits, minus the alcohol. They've been around the fucking block, they've done some things, and they know what really matters. They're not saints -- 'rogue sage'; you know? -- but about the Big Things, you can trust them."

Cohen loved the Blues. He sang them, no matter what style his songs were.  He spoke simply, straight from the heart, about The Big Questions.  His music, the way he lived his life, was grappling with those questions and his human condition, and ours, unashamedly. He was no saint, but an honest and sincere seeker of Truth -- and his music was a commentary on that stumbling around in the dark. His work was illuminated by a long Rabbinical tradition; he was born with a Heart On Fire.

His songs were in the language of missed chances, relationships spoiled by ego or greed or a simple misunderstanding; ecstatic revelry and bone-crushing disappointment. When he sang politics, it was about choice and betrayal from the level of someone in the street. He told you: This is what happened to me. I don't know what all this is. I don't know what I'm doing, either; you're not alone out here. It was like the end of Moby Dick: A thing happened; buoyed up by a coffin, I came back to tell thee.

And what he sang about was a reminder that everything in this world was part of something else  -- The Big Questions, maybe. And he sang about that all the way to the end -- "You Want It Darker", his album released in October.

People sense how much truth they're being told by others, moment to moment, moving through the world. The number of people who speak in an authentic voice that we recognize, instinctively, as being true are very few. Poets can do this; Cohen was a poet, first, which is how I met him (only discovered later that the guy had albums of music, too, which made sense). From his work, he was recognizable as being as egotistical, confused, scheming, greedy; fucked up; kind, generous; lonely and longing -- as human, as I am. He had the energy and talent to share his particular vision, and it resonated with a wide audience.

When someone like that leaves the room, I grieve, because they're so few. And I'm pretty damned sad (The Best Friend texted back "Goddamned shit storm November" when I told them Cohen had died). I understand: never knew the man personally; it's the connections on so many levels to memory and hope and experience that add to the emotions. And there was Fucking Tuesday; and, today.  We're all going to have to leave the room -- if I can bow out in the same frame of mind, with the same intent as he was reported to have, that would be an act of grace.

Another Mensch leaves us. Now he knows what we do not -- but he was frankly curious, without much fear, as to whatever that is.
___________________________

Also, remembering the day, and Absent Friends. "We Have Done So Much With So Little For So Long That We Could Do Everything With Nothing Forever" (1969 - 1971)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Everyone Sing Along

Eine Kleine Rhumba Tanzen

It's all too much Mehr.  So; Fuck it.  Let's all do the Rhumba -- yeah; you. You all know who you are.


... Navigate this YouTub to start at 37:25 (Est ist wo wohnen die Rhumbazeit, Kinder!) and the Little Rhumba is over all too soon -- though if you wish to watch the whole video, it runs approximately two hours, and will be good for you.

P.S. :  That is not George "Lil' Boots" Bush at right with the violin.  This is a family Blog, for god's sake.
_________________________



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ich Bin Noch Immer Verrückt, Nach Alle Diesen Jahren

Still Crazy After All These Years: A Before Nine Birthday


To use someone else's turn of phrase, This Shitty Blog is nine years old.

Over at The Soul Of America, there was this reference to another blog -- this one is produced by an intelligent person about economics, rather than by a Dog with a bizarre sense of humor who barks repeatedly about whatever comes into his tiny head.

And (as any good numbers wonk would -- that's not a criticism; it's a compliment) the other blogger performed a full traffic analysis of the previous five years, including observations such as, "I now have 11,271 followers",  and, "3,227,472 hits over the last five years ... I’ve written somewhere between 737,000 and 1,474,000 words on the blog. For comparison, the entire Harry Potter series is 1,084,000 words long."

Dude: My congratulations -- all proofs that the content has value and speaks to a need people have in getting factual information about the world we live in. BeforeNine's content tries to be fact-based -- really, it does -- but frequently takes a dive for cheap humor that's one step above the "arm and leg routine" that the Hologram mentions in THX1138 (whatever that routine is).

My running joke about writing for three (now, two) people and a Superintelligent Parakeet is very close to the truth. On a really good day, perhaps 50 people will stop in, look around, and then are off to god alone knows where -- and that, only when another blogger does a Kind and adds a link.

I don't complain. It's actually a wonder (и маскарад, как собака!*) I haven't been sued into poverty by now. 11,000 followers? Wouldn't know what to do with that, even if were so. But, plainly, I don't Bark here to be popular, or even lay claim to being right.

For better or worse, this is the place in life where I come to Do My Dog Thing. Hopefully -- occasionally -- it makes someone laugh, right out loud, hard enough to wet themselves.

Please continue to enjoy.  Be nice to your neighbors.  Don't piss off Ed209. Thank You. You're welcome.

____________________________

*  And masquerading as a Dog!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Reprint Heaven: Floating, or, May We All Be Rescued

Birthday of Big Marine Mammal Avatar Creators
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
-- Herman Melville / Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
Over at the Soul Of America, we are reminded that it's Herman Melville's 198th 189th birthday.

... There is no Whale before He who populates a goodly portion of that book ... That Big Marine Mammal is archetypal, now.

And His (or, Her) echoes in the culture are manifest:  We get Futurama's We're Whalers On The Moon / We Carry A Harpoon; or Robert Graves' "Good-Bye To All That" (where -- and I paraphrase -- the President of his College at post-Great War Oxford tells the assembled, 'Gentlemen, the menu indicates that tonight we are dining on "Whale and Pigeon Pie." You will find the ratio of the ingredients to be precisely one whale to one pigeon');  or, Robertson Davies' What's Bred In The Bone, where the main character has a dinner of Moby meat with his flagrantly unfaithful wife, in a dingy London restaurant during WWII (" '...Catch Me!' She said through a mouthful of whale' ").

Of course, when something appears in Family Guy, it's now hard-wired into our DNA.

 Herman Left Out The Part Where Whales Like 'Total'
______________________________

UND NOCH IMMER MEHR:  Once I saw this, I could not un-see it. It is an actual book.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-HzYH1qVAn2s/VLuVF_f9DWI/AAAAAAAABbI/SC32BIgWys4/s1600/Ships.jpg 
______________________________

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen ( 1934 - 2016 )

Closing Time


Goddamn it. Knew the news was coming, but wasn't ready for it just now.

Ah we're lonely, we're romantic
And the cider's laced with acid
And the holy spirit's crying, where's the beef?
And the moon is swimming naked
And the summer night is fragrant
With a mighty expectation of relief


So we struggle and we stagger
Down the snakes and up the ladder
To the tower where the blessed hours chime
And I swear it happened just like this
A sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
The gates of love they budged an inch
I can't say much has happened since
But closing time
Closing time
Closing time
Closing time 

 Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius. Even the counterpoint lines—they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music. Even the simplest song, like ‘The Law,’ which is structured on two fundamental chords, has counterpoint lines that are essential, and anybody who even thinks about doing this song and loves the lyrics would have to build around the counterpoint lines.

His gift or genius is in his connection to the music of the spheres. In the song ‘Sisters of Mercy,’ for instance, the verses are four elemental lines which change and move at predictable intervals . . . The song just comes in and states a fact. And after that anything can happen and it does, and Leonard allows it to happen...

‘Sisters of Mercy’ is verse after verse of four distinctive lines, in perfect meter, with no chorus, quivering with drama. ... This is a deceptively unusual musical theme, with or without lyrics. But it’s so subtle a listener doesn’t realize he’s been taken on a musical journey and dropped off somewhere, with or without lyrics.
I see no disenchantment in Leonard’s lyrics at all. There’s always a direct sentiment, as if he’s holding a conversation and telling you something, him doing all the talking, but the listener keeps listening. He’s very much a descendant of Irving Berlin... [whose] songs did the same thing. Berlin was also connected to some kind of celestial sphere.
And, like Leonard, he probably had no classical music training, either. Both of them just hear melodies that most of us can only strive for. Berlin’s lyrics also fell into place and consisted of half lines, full lines at surprising intervals, using simple elongated words. Both Leonard and Berlin are incredibly crafty. Leonard particularly uses chord progressions that seem classical in shape. He is a much more savvy musician than you’d think.
-- Bob Dylan 
I loved you for your beauty
But that doesn't make a fool of me
You were in it for your beauty too
And I loved you for your body
There's a voice that sounds like god to me
Declaring, (declaring) declaring, declaring that your body's really you
And I loved you when our love was blessed
And I love you now there's nothing left
But sorrow and a sense of overtime

I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich.

What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol (divine voice). You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it... At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.

-- Leonard Cohen / September, 2016
And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
And I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don't care what happens next
Looks like freedom but it feels like death
It's something in between, I guess
It's closing time
closing time
closing time
closing time


___________________________

MEHR, Several Hours Later:  The last thing I wanted to do was write a post about this man that had even a hint of self-reference, but remembered a thirty-year-old conversation. 

A long time ago: someone said in a discussion of Sufis and 'The Work' that "There are a lot of people around who say they're looking for answers, want self-enlightenment, and they present a posture -- removed, serious, aesthetic. Like a parody of the Holy Man. And the feeling I get is, they're not authentic. The Sufis I've met have been raw and real, man; There's grit in their voices -- they're like Blues singers. They've been around the fucking block, they've done some things, and they know what really matters. They're not saints -- 'rogue sage'; you know? -- but about the Big Things, you can trust them."

Cohen loved the Blues. He sang them, no matter what style his songs were.  He spoke simply, straight from the heart, about The Big Questions.  His music, the way he lived his life, was grappling with those questions and his human condition, and ours, unashamedly. He was no saint, but an honest and sincere seeker of Truth -- and his music was a commentary on that stumbling around in the dark. His work was illuminated by a long family Rabbinical tradition; he was born with a Heart On Fire.

His songs were in the language of missed chances, relationships spoiled by ego or greed or a simple misunderstanding; ecstatic revelry and bone-crushing disappointment. When he sang politics, it was about choice and betrayal from the level of someone in the street. He told you: This is what happened to me. I don't know what all this is. I don't know what I'm doing, either; you're not alone out here. It was like the end of Moby Dick: A thing happened; buoyed up by a coffin, I came back to tell thee.

And what he sang about was a reminder that everything in this world was part of something else  -- The Big Questions, maybe. And he sang about that all the way to the end -- "You Want It Darker", his album released in October.

People sense how much truth they're being told by others, moment to moment, moving through the world. The number of people who speak in an authentic voice that we recognize, instinctively, as being true are very few. Poets can do this; Cohen was a poet, first, which is how I met him (only discovered later that the guy had albums of music, too, which made sense). From his work, he was recognizable as being as egotistical, confused, scheming, greedy; fucked up; kind, generous; lonely and longing -- as human, as I am. He had the energy and talent to share his particular vision, and it resonated with a wide audience.

When someone like that leaves the room, I grieve, because they're so few. And I'm pretty damned sad (The Best Friend texted back "Goddamned shit storm November" when I told them Cohen had died). I understand: never knew the man personally; it's the connections on so many levels to memory and hope and experience that add to the emotions. And there was Fucking Tuesday; and, today.  We're all going to have to leave the room -- if I can bow out in the same frame of mind, with the same intent as he was reported to have, that would be an act of grace.

Another Mensch leaves us. Now he knows what we do not -- but he was frankly curious, without much fear, as to whatever that is.
___________________________

Also, remembering the day, and Absent Friends. "We Have Done So Much With So Little For So Long That We Could Do Everything With Nothing Forever" (1969 - 1971)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Participation Is Complicity

Choose The Form Of The Destructor

Bloom County; October, 1988 (© Berke Breathed)
HC: So I bet you're wasting your vote on Jill Stein.
DOG: [Affectless Stare]
HC: Seriously; are you gonna vote Stein?
DOG: I'm not voting.
HC: You're kidding.
DOG: No. My vote doesn't count, and I refuse to give the current electoral system and this election in particular any legitimacy. And even if this were an election between two different candidates, it wouldn't matter. I would've voted for Bernie, but even that would be misplaced nostalgia for Old Days that really never were.
HC: [Pause] But it's a historic election. The first woman President.
DOG: I'll manage to live with myself.
HC: Fuck you.
[I should mention: These conversations, between a True Believer Of The Cult Of She (HC), and myself (Dog), have actually happened in the depths of corporate America where I dwell, and are not entirely a parody of encounters between a Hillaryite Colleague and The Pjoepf at his Place O' Labor, as occasionally chronicled over at The Soul Of America.]

In the long-ago land of 1988, an impossible time before many of you were ever born, there was another Pestidential contest, between Blue-Blood Owner "Poppy" Bush (father of Greasy George, the Peevish Dullard; son of Prescott Bush, who reportedly supported an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government under that socialist, FDR), Vice-Pestident under Saint Ronald The Dim -- and Michael Dukakis, the much shorter and also stiff, less animated Governor of Massachusetts in the era before 'Der Mittster', Romney.

America's economy had been stuttering in that 1988.  There had been an actual double-dip Recession in 1981-83 under Saint Ronald (as the early waves of globalization began eliminating the steel industry, and moving manufacturing offshore). But Ronaldo El Magnifico, conqueror of Jamaica, performed that famous Voodoo Economics and made it all better.

Then, in 1987, the Iran-Contra Affair became public knowledge -- something Poppy had direct involvement in -- and later that year, the largest single drop in the U.S. stock market on October 19, 1987.  Saint Ronald could not run for a third term, and was tired. There were disquieting stories that he seemed... uh, different... distracted, and that Nancy was being kept closely in the loop on whatever Ronnie needed to do as Our Leader.

The 1988 election was a spirited contest, which resulted in Poppy rousing himself enough to say, "Read My Lips: No New Taxes", and Mike saying in response to a question that Americans want "Good Jobs At Good Wages".  Poppy was known as "The Wimp".  Mikey, much shorter, was known as "The Shrimp".

Except for the fact that the economy seemed to be tanking again, enthusiasm for the election seemed lackluster, manufactured. Many Americans were understandably confused at having to choose, for leadership of the American Ship O' State, between an old-money, ex-DCI at CIA, Skull-n-Boneser with some involvement in drugs-for-arms and Latin right-wing death squads, or a Governor whose greatest achievement appeared to be taking a short joy ride in a tank for the benefit of the press.

Berke Breathed, observer of the American scene, beloved humorist in the vein of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, but wielding a pen and brush (and way better than that patrician Yaleboy, Trudeau), was the author of a daily comic strip, Bloom County, which had a color Sunday supplement (you'll have to look up "daily comic strip" and "color Sunday supplement"; this was before graphic novels and Beyonce and Game Of Tones on DVR teevee).

In October, 1988, before the election, Breathed submitted (in one Dog's opinion) one of the classic humorous commentaries on voting in a Republic where we face Hobson's Choice ("[an allegedly] free choice in which only one thing is offered. Because a person may refuse to accept what is offered, the two options are taking it, or taking nothing"). I shouldn't have to explain how this relates to America's politics, if not Western politics in general.

(If I do, you are not paying attention and so will be surprised when someone suggests perhaps it's time to get rid of the Twenty-Second Amendment, and so enter, by stage Right, President Erwin Rexall. And I get to pee on your leg.)

Opus the Penguin goes to vote, and the result is -- well, obvious, as are all the connections you can see, and many we can't.  The result of participation in this mutant circus freakshow election cycle will be exactly the same -- and for myself, I can't go walking around with The Sign Of The Beast (my head covered in a wad of used green chewing gum) for all to see.

This was originally issued as a color Sunday comic, but no color version exists on the Intertubes that I could find; the amateurish attempt to add a bit of color is the best you can expect for a Dog who has to pick up crayons with his soft mouth parts, and all while at the Place O' Labor™.

(Clicky = Bigger, Happier. © 1988, 2014 Berke Breathed; Washington Post Co.)
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MEHR, Mit Wir Vermissen Opus:
(Clicky = In Einem Augenblick, Ein Grosser Cartoon)
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