Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hebrew Melody

Clara Rockmore on theremin
Nadia Reisenberg on piano

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

United States of Unconsciousness

Disposable Heroes of the Hiphoprisy.
I saw this video at Greenbelt in '92 on a night when I'd been carrying Walker Percy's Message in a Bottle around in the hope that someone might ask me what I was reading. First spotted a favorite Marshall Mcluhan quote in the window of a Dublin bookstore not long afterward: "Anyone who thinks there's a difference between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either." If, against convention, I could be allowed THREE bookends, I believe I could fit an awful lot of my adult-life squawking in-bethreen them.

Let Your Soul Lead the Way

I give you Afrika Bambaataa.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

With Thanks As Ever To wood s lot

These days
whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them

And the dirt

Just to make clear
where they come from
- Charles Olson

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Failures Rise

Probably my favorite Switchfoot song.
Such words.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You can hear it too, if you're sincere.

It's just right.
I thank Mark Miller for the cue.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Words of Explanation

Well...I had a really nice Daily Show clip up (Stewart asking some questions of a Fox News anchor in view of the paradigm shift for Brand USA in the wake of the Obama victory. The dang thing got taken down. One tangent within the thread that followed seemed worth preserving. Ahna asked about the blog title and the Gibson quote, and I responded lengthily. Here tis:

i am of course delighted that you asked. "Peer pressure is forever" is something I once heard (or read) Patty Smith say. I think she had in mind the blind conformity that sometimes gets hold of young people (stereotypically) and she was suggesting that this sad habit we have of surrendering our ability to see (or redemptively imagine) what's in front of us is a lifelong struggle. I thought it was funny and true and maybe a good title or banner to drape over the activity of this blog. The William Gibson quote is a wittily intended reminder that these are just thoughts and links asserted (I'd like to say whispered) amid the static and the noise. One reason I put it up there is to help people to receive what I post without going crazy in a "Oh! Right! So what you're REALLY SAYING is..." I suppose I'm trying to encourage people to add or respond to the drift I intend, ask questions about my drift that aren't accusations in disguise (which rhetorical questions almost always are), disagree as unheatedly as they can, OR take the time to cast a tiny bit of positive reinforcement my way. It's the blog which will pass (settle to the bottom of the sea), and I suppose I say as much to remind myself (and my kind readers) that the posts can serve the very big deal of helping them (as this collage and the collages of others often helps me) to go out and learn and gather and try to be good to people OR they (the posts) can just float on down to the bottom more or less harmlessly (i hope).
Ahna, my pal, thank you for occasioning this bit of self-reflection with the gift that is your insatiable curiosity. I believe you're helping me redeem the times.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

He doth prattle on

More of Geoff Little's kind attentiveness unto me...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Letting The Days Go By

I think I was 14 when I first saw this on MTV. At the time, it struck me as about the coolest thing I'd ever seen; funny and profound and moving in ways I could feel without being able to articulate exactly what I felt. Still feeling it.
Got to meet David Byrne a few weeks ago when he showed up at Grimey's, and he struck me as a kind, curious man with the vitality of someone who really believes that time is neither holding us nor is it after us. Very generous and attentive. Made me feel cool when he laughed loudly at something I said.
This feels like a good performance to post in view of the days ahead in the land of my sojourn. I dedicate it to my friend, Porkpie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Culture of Life

Once one is exposed to the comprehensive wit of Wendell Berry, there is no going back. The question 'What Would Wendell Berry Do?' comes to inform all manner of decisions in our buying, selling, and doing. In a treatment that is both wide-ranging and robustly evangelical, Bonzo and Stevens bring Berry's witness to bear upon one dim-witted economy after another with an invigorating account of Berry's more magnanimous economic vision. In a constant call to look harder at the world we're in, creation is imagined not as a resource for endless plundering but rather the place where God's kingdom, the great economy, comes, offering the hospitality that sustains, our only home and our only hope.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Here’s what it is: Steve Mason and Charlie Lowell (you’ll perhaps know them from such musical ventures as JARS OF CLAY), Brian Ritchey, Cary Gibson, founding performer of the Belfast-based collective called ikon, Matthew Perryman Jones, Katie Herzig, one Sarah Masen probably, Tom Wills with his moving images, and everyone else who comes. It’s called "EVERYTHING IS BROKEN. It's songs and thoughts and conversation and maybe a Bukowski poem. 7:00 to 8:30. THIS THURSDAY NIGHT...October 23. It's part of a program called "LIKE A PRAYER" that's been going on all semester (see the magnificent Todd Greene image to enlarge). This is the HUMAN CONDITION component to be followed by more proclamation-ish evenings. This would be the ecclesiates section, if you like. The lamentation/confession/complaining piece of lyrical witness. The nod to the parts of the Bible (most parts?) which might not look so good inscribed on a poster with a basket-full of puppies. For a second or two, I thought we might do well to call it “Sad Songs Say So Much.” Coffee will flow. My partners in crime with whom I’m directing/emceeing the evening are Philip Hood, Andrea Thornton, and Lauren Roden. Come on out. Come with questions. How does the market serve/obstruct the possibilies of artistic witness? What are we waiting for? How is justice served when we say what we feel, not what we ought to say? When has a sad, straight-shooting song turned everything around? How did it help? Let’s talk.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In the Company of the Law

I thank Chris Smit for this ministry opportunity.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Detroit, lift up your weary head!

We listened to Steve Martin's comedy albums on the drive to Detroit today (sans kids). Some Prince and Bob Dylan and P.J. Harvey and Neil Young and Leonard Cohen and Blue Nile and REM too. Hours to talk and think and remember that we really like other. Special thanks to the extraordinary personage, Jude Adam, for looking after our spawn. I'm about to fade into a headache-relieving sleep, but I wanted to post word concerning what could be called a sort of double-header. THIS Friday evening (10th of October), Sarah and Ric Hordinski are playing the Trinity House Theatre at 8:00. In view of the ever-faithful hometown crowd, it might already be sold-out, but it also might not be. One could google the venue or phone them (734.464.6302). And I'm speaking there the next morning. A 9:30 to 11:45 sort of thing. The USA. The elections. How we might be agents of redemptive unease and witnesses to the economy to come. Anyway, I was going to feel bad if I didn't issue a heads-up. And maybe some someone reading this is within doable distance. I hope everyone's weekend is remarkably good.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Apocalyptic for the People

Suppose on some gray day, as you plod down Wall Street, you should see God sitting on the Treasury steps, in His Glory, with the thunders curved about him? Suppose on Michigan Avenue, between the lakes and hills of stone, and in the midst of hastening automobiles and jostling crowds, suddenly you see living and walking toward you, the Christ, with sorrow and sunshine in his face?
Foolish talk, all of this you say, of course; and that is because no American now believes in his religion. Its facts are mere symbolism; its revelation vague generalities; its ethics a matter of carefully balanced gain. But to most of the four million black folk emancipated by civil war, God was real. They knew him. They had met him personally in many a wild orgy, or in the black stillness of the night. His plan for them was clear; they were to suffer and be degraded, and then afterwards by divine edict, raised to manhood and power; and so on January 1, 1863, He made them free.
It was all foolish, bizarre, and tawdry. Gangs of dirty Negroes howling and dancing; poverty-stricken ignorant laborers mistaking war, destruction, and revolution for the mystery of the free human soul; and yet to these Black folk it was the Apocalypse."The magnificent trumpet tones of Hebrew Scripture, transmuted and oddly changed, became a brand new Gospel. All that was Beauty, all that was Love, all that was Truth, stood on top of those mad mornings and sang with the stars. A great human sob shrieked in the wind, and tossed its tears upon the sea -- free, free, free.

--W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880

Monday, October 06, 2008

"Angry barrage of insults"

Notice the pained look on his face when a man cries out the answer many within his campaign appear to be to be working toward. I wish he'd taken the opportunity to say, "That's not what we're about." It would have been an inspiring leadership moment. I feel for him if he thinks such leadership is something he can no longer afford.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Call To Prayer

In a phone conversation a few nights ago, my mother told me that she'd walked out of a church service praying that people would be able to see Barack Obama as they should. It occurred to me that this was about the wisest, most redemptively religious sensibility I'd witnessed during our election season. She wasn't stumping for him. I imagine she'd join me in praying the same thing concerning the way people see John McCain and any political figure over whom people can get--How shall I put it?--demonically worked up. There are people whose pulses will quicken if you mention how nice it is of Jimmy Carter to build houses for the poor, and there are people who will become visibly agitated if you calmly assert that George W. Bush means well and prays sincerely. I usually don't know what to do when meanness or rage gets hold. But I do know to at least try to pray. Maybe prayer is always just a try. Maybe there's a way of talking about these things that's prayerful without being sanctimonious. A way of communicating in something other than conversation-stoppers.
My mother said she was especially moved when she watched Obama exit the stage in Oxford, Mississippi. In my historical deafness, I didn't know what she was talking about. She explained that he would have been rightfully afraid for his life (and the life of his family) if he'd publicly appeared on that stage just a few decades ago. She was right. And she was right to be moved.
My prayer is that we would all be rightly moved. Righteously moved in the direction of the already-yet-still-to-come kingdom for which many Republicans and Democrats pray, never knowing what we're doing exactly. I pray that we would feel some affection--somehow actually like--the people we can't imagine ourselves voting for and the friends, family, and neighbors we suspect--with fear and trembling--will vote for them. Amid the din of hi-tech carnival barkers, loud televised people who claim to be without spin, and gentle mortals like myself who receive their words into their heads like a shot of espresso every few minutes through e-mails, radio broadcasts, and frantic visits to websites, may our hearts remain open to the possibility of being rightly moved.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Homeland Security

The Reckoning
by Theodore Roethke

All profits disappear: the gain
Of ease, the hoarded, secret sum;
And now grim digits of old pain
Return to litter up our home.

We hunt the cause of ruin, add,
Subtract, and put ourselves in pawn;
For all our scratching on the pad,
We cannot trace the error down.

What we are seeking is a fare
One way, a chance to be secure:
The lack that keeps us what we are,
The penny that usurps the poor.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Save Our Economy

by Jack Kerouac
SET-UP The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.
PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.
METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)--"measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech"--"divisions of the sounds we hear"-"time and how to note it down." (William Carlos Williams)
SCOPING Not "selectivity' Iof expression but following free deviation (association) of mind into limitless blow-on-subject seas of thought, swimming in sea of English with no discipline other than rhythms of rhetorical exhalation and expostulated statement, like a fist coming down on a table with each complete utterance, bang! (the space dash)-Blow as deep as you want-write as deeply, fish as far down as you want, satisfy yourself first, then reader cannot fail to receive telepathic shock and meaning-excitement by same laws operating in his own human mind.
LAG IN PROCEDURE No pause to think of proper word but the infantile pileup of scatological buildup words till satisfaction is gained, which will turn out to be a great appending rhythm to a thought and be in accordance with Great Law of timing.
TIMING Nothing is muddy that runs in time and to laws of time-Shakespearian stress of dramatic need to speak now in own unalterable way or forever hold tongue-no revisions (except obvious rational mistakes, such as names or calculated insertions in act of not writing but inserting).
CENTER OF INTEREST Begin not from preconceived idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion-Do not afterthink except for poetic or P. S. reasons. Never afterthink to "improve" or defray impressions, as, the best writing is always the most painful personal wrung-out tossed from cradle warm protective mind-tap from yourself the song of yourself, blow!-now!-your way is your only way-"good"-or "bad"-always honest ("ludi- crous"), spontaneous, "confessionals' interesting, because not "crafted." Craft is craft.
STRUCTURE OF WORK Modern bizarre structures (science fiction, etc.) arise from language being dead, "different" themes give illusion of "new" life. Follow roughly outlines in outfanning movement over subject, as river rock, so mindflow over jewel-center need (run your mind over it, once) arriving at pivot, where what was dim-formed "beginning" becomes sharp-necessitating "ending" and language shortens in race to wire of time-race of work, following laws of Deep Form, to conclusion, last words, last trickle-Night is The End.
MENTAL STATE If possible write "without consciousness" in semi-trance (as Yeats' later "trance writing") allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so "modern" language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly, with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich's "beclouding of consciousness." Come from within, out-to relaxed and said.

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."
Dorothy Day

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This Present Darkness

The owners of the land came to the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came...
Some of the owner men were kind because they hated what they had to do, and some of them were angry because they hated to be cruel, and some were cold because they had long ago found that one could not be an owner unless one were cold. And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshipped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling. If a bank or finance company owned the land, the owner man said: The Bank — or the Company — needs — wants — insists — must have — as though the Bank or the Company were a monster, with thought and feeling, which had ensnared them. These last would take no responsibility for the banks or the companies because they were men and slaves, while the banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. YOu've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.
The squatting tenant men nodded and wondered and drew figures in the dust, and yes, they knew, God knows. If the dust only wouldn't fly. If the top would only stay on the soil, it might not be so bad.
The owner men went on leading to their point: You know the land's getting poorer. You know what cotton does to the land: robs it, sucks all the blood out of it.
The squatters nodded - they knew, God knew. If they could only rotate the crop they might pump blood back into the land.
Well, it's not too late. And the owner men explained the workings and the thinkings of the monster that was stronger than they were. A man can hold land if he can just eat and pay taxes; he can do that. Yes, he can do that until his crop fails one day and he has to borrow money from the bank. But - you see, a bank or a company can't do that, because those creatures don't breathe air, don't eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so.
The squatting men raised their eyes to understand. Can't we just hang on ? Maybe the next year will be a good year. God knows how much cotton next year. And with all the wars - God knows what price cotton will bring. Don't they make explosives out of cotton? And uniforms?
Get enough wars and cotton'll hit the ceiling. Next year, maybe. They looked up questioningly. We can't depend on it. The bank - the monster has to have profits all the time. It can't wait. It'll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can't stay one size...
And at last the owner men came to the point. The tenant system won't work any more. One man on a tractor can take the place of twelve or fourteen families. Pay him a wage and take all the crop. We have to do it. We don't like to do it. But the monster's sick. Something's happened to the monster.
But you'll kill the land with the cotton.
We know. We've got to take cotton quick before the land dies. Then we'll sell the land. Lots of families in the East would like to own a piece of land. The tenant men looked alarmed. But what'll happen to us? How'll we eat?
You'll have to get off the land. ... It's not us, it's the bank. A bank isn't like a man. Or an owner with fifty thousand acres, he isn't like a man either. That's the monster.
Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours -being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not paper with numbers on it.
We're sorry, it's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.
Yes, but the bank is only made of men.
No, you're wrong there - quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it...You'll have to go.
But it's ours, the tenant men cried. We ---
No, the bank, the monster owns it. You'll have to go.

--John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
With thanks to Charles Campbell, Walter Wink, Ted Smith, and Ezra Pound
No taxation without representation.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bring It

If I knew of a Ron Paul video somehow equivalent to this (in the sense that it seems to have been directed by David Lynch), I would happily post it alongside this one. This is me wishing the two men would appear on television to talk thru the events of the last few days. I'm currently tuning in to Robert Scheer, Amy Goodman, and William Greider. I'm wanting everyone who considers themselves "conservative" to explain their use of the word in correlation with the film _Children of Men_ and the work of Wendell Berry. Any suggested reading, viewing, or listening on the subject of economy ecumenically considered?

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It keeps coming up in conversation. This little chunk of apocalypse that made it into my head before I could drive. Within a very short span time an old movie theater friend (former manager of the Capri Twin at Harding Mall...Can I get a witness?) wrote me to say that he'd finally acquired his own copy of The Watchmen and persuaded his wife to read it (i'd foisted it upon him...I dunno...Twenty-two years ago) AND a younger friend I'll refer to as Porkpie said, "Dave, you've GOT to read this." I enjoyed telling Porkpie that I'd read The Watchmen, issue by issue, as it was coming out. As Porkpie articulated his enthusiasm, I became reacquainted with the depth of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons vision and remembered, as I do every few years, how its witness colored my views on all sorts of things even as I wandered away from "comic books." The Watchmen raised the bar so high that I couldn't quite put my money down on anything that followed it. I think there was talk of Terry Gilliam (Walter Hill too) doing a film version even before Tim Burton tackled Batman. I hope the film-to-come is good enough to get people giving the comic some time. I suppose the purpose of this post is to urge everyone who means to see the film to go acquire or borrow a copy (any decent library....that friend you strongly suspect has one) and read it beforehand. It's gritty and graphic and all that, but also devastatingly truthful. Come to think of it, I imagine it might've been my first experience with something I knew to be "objectionable" content-wise, as the saying goes, but illuminatingly grim like Shakespeare or Melville or Ralph Ellison. Maybe it prepared my heart for Dostoevsky or something. Anyway, I thank God for it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Binding and Loosing

This would be my last go at significant emendation before the thing goes off to possible endorsers. If anyone can think of something clever or helpful you've heard me say in a "That oughtta be in your book" kind of way. Lemme know.
The Greenbelt Festival was wondrous. One can download a large percentage of the coolness, including my talks, here:
Here's me all sweaty and talkative with Steve Lawson:
And here's Ewan Gibson delivering, as he always does, the goods:
Two of the children are about to arrive on a bus. Must go. Still mean to say a word on Steve Martin soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Memory Believes

Believe me. The words "postmodern fundamentalist" only came strangely to mind as we strolled along, and I'm not sure I ever want to speak them aloud again. I also suspect that I could have come up with a more tasteful, reverent, and interesting way of speaking when I thought it somehow necessary to throw in that my dad had "passed." But this is the way these things go in the land of video I guess. Family members, please pardon my easy use of the first person plural. I don't mean to drag you into my madness (at least not unwillingly). "Memory believes before knowing remembers," sayeth Faulkner. I will say I trust the man’s epistemology. Anyone in Nashville care to guess where Geoff and I were? Incidentally, the youtube site has an option for viewing the thing in higher quality.
I'll get to Beck and Batman and the glories of Steve Martin's Born Standing Up real soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Know Its Me All The Time

Many moons ago, I did a piece on Bob Dylan I'm especially pleased with and Paste now has it up on their site. There's a link to it over at stage left under Recent Broadsides. "I've Got My Bob Dylan Mask On," I called it (Dylan said it). And I couldn't track down the name of the person behind that wonderful little illustration. If anyone knows, please clue us in. I find it difficult overestimate the wonders of the Dylan one.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Secret Treasure Hidden


Its door opens near. It's a shrine
by the road, it's a flower in the parking lot
of The Pentagon, it says, "Look around,
listen. Feel the air." It interrupts
international telephone lines with a tune.
When traffic lines jam, it gets out
and dances on the bridge. If great people
get distracted by fame they forget
this essential kind of breathing
and they die inside their gold shell.
When caravans cross deserts
It is the secret treasure hidden under the jewels.

Sometimes commanders take us over, and they
try to impose their whole universe,
how to succeed by daily calculation:
I can't eat that bread.

--William Stafford

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Saying of It

Lit Instructor

Day after day up there beating my wings
with all the softness truth requires
I feel them shrug whenever I pause:
they class my voice among tentative things,

And they credit fact, force, battering.
I dance my way toward the family of knowing,
embracing stray error as a long-lost boy
and bringing him home with my fluttering.

Every quick feather asserts a just claim;
it bites like a saw into white pine.
I communicate right; but explain to the dean--
well, Right has a long and intricate name.

And the saying of it is a lonely thing.

--William Stafford

Friday, August 01, 2008


I've been reading Daniel Berrigan's commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon. So incredibly good. Whenever I read Berrigan, I get to wondering why I don't read him constantly. SO few people my age seem to give him any time, but I think he'll be remembered as a sort of William Blake-figure for our times. A sampling:
The Gift of Wisdom is not psychological acuity: it is the discerning skill of a heart open to all weathers, making all weathers from torrid to icy, one…The Gift ennables us to comport ourselves as humans—and this against the odds of an inhuman time...It would seem that the church is called to this momentous task: to hold close in Spirit, in honor and unity (and in face of cultural disintegration and incoherence), all that is worthy, all that is encompassed by the noble term human.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Talks Good With Words

My dear friend, the renaissance man Geoff Little, thought it might be worthwhile to ask me some questions with a camera rolling, and this is a mere smidgin of at least an hours worth of footage (the first of many more to come). Quite the gift to get me going in this way and to take the time to edit the thing. Thank you, Geoff, for thinking of it and even naming a time and place (that's his wondrous kitchen table) and for giving me something to put up as I try to figure out what I have to say about Beck's Modern Guilt and the Dark Knight film. I hope it at least provides a giggle for those who haven't seen me in person in some time. I do like to prattle.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


This doesn't work. I found it on the carpet at my mother's house where I was informed that it came out of a Cheerios box. "But the arm moves!" my mom exclaimed, knowing darn well just how to get me started. How the child psychologists under the employ of Fortune500 multinational corporations to accelerate sales of units could have let this pass is a question worth posing. Cross-marketing genius? Not at all. Whose profit? Whose mental health? Whose dreams are they looking out for? Why the nightmare raid on a baby's imagination?
Don't get me wrong. I still remember the thrill it was to me when Frank Miller gave us a drawing of the Joker (Issue #1 of the Dark Knight...twenty-something years ago) with a face disturbingly and inspiringly plain-looking. No impossibly long chin. Just a dude with never-to-be-washed-off make-up. It seemed to me at the time (years before Tim Burton went horseback riding with Jack Nicholson with an interesting proposition) that the people in charge should give Willem Defoe or, believe it or not, Michael Keaton a crack at the role. I'll be there for Heath Ledger's performance of a lifetime. Believe me.
But this little artifact of psychotic marketeering...If I was standing in a factory in China stamping these things out by the millions, I would have some not happy thoughts toward that strange land faraway, the land of this little babyman scaryclown's origin, a land that has an interesting speech habit whereby it decrees and advertises itself as "freedom itself," a city on a hill, a light unto the nations.
TO Mr. and Mrs. General Mills, you shouldn't have consented to or arranged this. Focus on the family. Stop the plastic presses.
TO friends and readers, isn't this hilariously bad? I'm carring him around in my pocket. Sarah refuses to look at it a second time.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Damaged or Whole?

Sometimes Andy Warhol said something. It was simple, what he said, but it was not a comfort. He was so polite, but it was not a comfort. He used simple words, words that honored the idea of simple agreement—“Oh, it’s so big!” and “Oh yes!” and “Oh, he was so cute!”—but there was no comfort in the agreement. And sometimes the agreement turned a corner, “Oh, he was so cute! But all he was interested in was drugs.”
Andy Warhol looked like a little god. It was so comforting the way he made everything uncomfortable. And the way the damage rose to the surface around him. The people around him had this in common, at first: a sense of sin. They knew what was damaged and what was whole. Andy Warhol knew, too. But sometimes he was coy. Sometimes he wouldn’t tell. People around him wondered if they had got it right. People around him wondered if they should be more damaged or more whole. It was hard to tell.

--George W.S. Trow, Within the Context of No Context

Friday, June 27, 2008

So Many of Us

"Reality has always had too many heads."
Bob Dylan, "Cold Irons Bound"

"Crushing truths perish from being acknowledged."
Albert Camus

“How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Wise Trip On Grace

It occurred to me that a good number of people with whom we hang these days might not know this side of my...What do they it..Better half. If you can pull yourself away from the fact of the devastatingly charming woman for a moment, the song is also really something. All seamless I reckon.
Happy Bloomsday,
p.s. One can apparently acquire a crisper version on ITunes.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Language will cease.

My brother Joel is reading 1st Corinthians 13 during my cousin's wedding this evening (Congratulations Susan and Cliff!). The power of cliche, Joel observed, is devastating. And what I believe he meant is the way we shrink-wrap the passage to fit our greeting-card-sized, sentimental sensibilities (not that there's anything wrong with greeting cards). Joel says 1st Corinthians 13 is, among other things, a political critique, a critique that gets bypassed whenever we reduce Paul's privileging of real, live, doable love to something that 'sposed to happen in the sweet by and by. "Language will cease," isn't strictly "Just you wait." It's a relativizing of all our noisy gong/clanging symbol goings-on right now. Our carrying on over politics and doctrines and what we're mad about, when it's bereft of love, really is even now exactly nothing. And when people can't sense love in what we're going on about (e-mails, blogs, writings, opinionating), it really isn't going to get through. It might be full of sound and fury and sincerity but it signifies nothing. Joel sealed the deal (rather casually over coffee while the boys stared at Cartoon Network) when he noted that some e-mails are filed under "noisy gong" the moment he sees their subject heading. The scatter-shot, mass e-mails, I should clarify on his behalf, not when anyone's actually talking to him. Anyway, the idea that Paul was writing a letter to particular people in danger of forgetting what prophesying, pontificating, and prattling on are for (what people are are for) hit me anew today. Wanted to make a record.
A jarringly redemptive next week to everyone.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Song and Dance Man

This probably isn't the best way to introduce the uninitiated to Buddy Greene, but it is does ope the curtain a little. Sarah and I passed a few days in Texas talking Bible and Dylan and Shakespeare and John Hartford and sharing songs with him and the gathered at an amazing place called Laity Lodge. A prevailing topic: What does Big Rock Candy Mountain have to do with God's economy? That sort of thing. Such a rich, invigorating time. Shout-outs to Buddy and Vicki and Kenny and Laura and Stephen and Amy and all the assembled heartbeats.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Difficult-To-Say-In-Words Things"

I like him so much...I don't always have the words for why exactly...And maybe this is why...Bless him.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"a word is elegy to what it signifies"

Robert Hass has mostly made it into my head by way of his work with Czeslaw Milosz, but I'm fast becoming an enthusiast of the fellow apart from all that. Here's the one that's getting to me lately...say "blackberry" three times.

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you
and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

© 1987 Robert Hass

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Impression You Sell

Sarah and Steve Mason and I were celebrating Fun Boy Three's "Our Lips Are Sealed" last night and working our way over to the therapeutic-charismatic powers of Tears for Fears when it was remarked, "80's music...It's all there." I'm feeling the resonance of many a witness lately, and this one came to me on the Ipod today. Please join me in my exploration of this chronically, underestimated poetic-prophetic resource (I initially serendipitously misheard the opening line as "The deception we're TAUGHT":

The Fixx...One Thing Leads to Another

The deception with tact
Just what are you trying to say
You've got a blank face, which irritates
Communicate, pull out your party piece
You see dimensions in two
State your case with black or white
But when one little cross
Leads to shots, grit your teeth
You run for cover so discreet
Why don't they

Do what they say, say what you mean
Oh well, one thing leads to another
You told me something wrong
I know I listen too long
But then one thing leads to another

The impression that you sell
Passes in and out like a scent
But the long face that you see
Comes from living close to your fears
If this is up, then I'm up
But you're running out of sight
You've seen your name on the walls
And when one little bump
Leads to shock miss a beat
You run for cover and there's heat
Why don't they

Do what they say, say what they mean
One thing leads to another
You told me something wrong
I know I listen too long
But then one thing leads to another
Yeah, yeah, yeah

One thing leads to another

Then it's easy to believe
Somebody's been lying to me
But when the wrong word goes in the right ear
I know you've been lying to me
It's getting rough, off the cuff
I've got to say enough's enough
Bigger the harder he falls
But when the wrong antidote
Is like a bulge on the throat
You run for cover in the heat
Why don't they

Do what they say, say what they mean
One thing leads to another
You told me something wrong
I know I listen too long
But then one thing leads to another
Yeah, yeah

One thing leads to another...

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Gifted...

What could be more Rock and Roll than the deconstruction of Rock and Roll.
Is this Rock and Roll?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Post-Celebrity Age

The unflashiness of the thing, to my mind, ups the volume of its credibility feeling and it gets me wondering if we're entering a time when more and more people are less and less wowed by celebrity, a time when famous people are expected to come to us more notably unplugged and on the level. It's as if he's apologizing for the idea that his two-cents might have an impact. Anyway, Joe Versus the Volcano ROCKED.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Storytelling Belongs to the People

Gathered Intelligence. I wonder how it is (or why it is) that I feel inclined to send a dollar even though I don't know what the story-line is. Maybe it's because I think I'd like all these people. They remind me of my friends. Or something. Here comes everybody.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cheik Abdelbassit

I wanted to throw this into the Qur'an business.
This video of tajwid (rendering beautiful) the recitation that is the Qur'an seemed appropriate to the question of whether or not we're receiving a text when it has yet to be, as the expression goes, music to our ears. ALSO, shout outs to Stephen Archer (who jumped into the conversation in the original Qur'an post). I can't think of him without recalling our common interest in Peter Gabriel's Real World label maybe 15 years ago and his love for Sam Phillips' song "The Private Storm" which (I think) resonates with some of the issues discussed. I'd post the song if I could. Here are the lyrics in the glorious meantime:
we lock the hurricane indoors
looking for shelter, we deny and ignore
afraid that our words bring clouds we talk in code
the thunder or cruel perfection covers love
and we're cold

the private storm
and our souls are worn from the tears
the private storm
and it rages on through the years

no warning the ground pulls out from underneath
we tiptoe through air until we see the blood on their teeth

time doesn't heal, the scars turn into wounds
as we walk lightly silence screams in the storm

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Responding to the Qur'an

This might be of limited interest to most, but I done read the Qur'an and even wrote out questions and comments for the course I'm taking...Here's what I had to say/ask/wonder. I reserve the right to change my mind concerning all of it. Let's call this a field report:

Surah 2: How can it be that it can’t be doubted? (2) Only the sinners will doubt and get it wrong. (26) I begin to wonder if this is one of many instances (others unrecorded and unremembered) of a group of people trying to claim the continuity that other, more powerful and privileged communities of Jews and Christians (self-described anyway) wanted to keep to themselves. (120) Maybe the supposed outsiders are attempting their own form of reform from without and within. (25) Those who mislead and get misled are a constant theme and moving target. An anxiety of continuity persists throughout

Surah 3: Maybe the questions have to change. It isn’t who’s Jewish or Christian. It’s who’s submitting to God. Abraham, in this sense, is Muslim. (67-68) And maybe the revelation (and who’s submitting to it) is an ongoingly open question. (70-71). Given the controversies that already beset the communities (Jewish and Christian) which claim continuity with Abraham, there’s something almost comically tragic in the the hope for “An equitable word between us” (64). Is “Bear witness that we are Muslims” best translated, “Bear witness that we too are among those who are actively submitting to God?” Might submission (Islam) have been lowercase (islam)? (85) Beware those who debar “from the path.” (99) God knows what you’re doing.

Surah 4: I’d always heard that Augustine gave us this business of flesh regenerating in Hell for the purpose of being burnt off again. It’s interesting to see that tradition continuing here. (56)

Surah 5: How does one sell a revelation? (44) The notion of “increasing in arrogance and unbelief” (so don’t pity them) brings to mind the hardening of Pharoah’s heart which always struck me as horribly unfair. And yet, the idea of an oppressed minority daring to conclude that even the spirit and the personal volition of tyrants is somehow within the purposes of an all-redeeming and just God (in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an) doesn’t leave me unmoved.

Surah 6: Every grain and every leaf and all manner of goings-on recorded “in a Clear Book.” (59) Should this be distinguished from the Qur’an? Is this the “Mother of the Book?”

Surah 7: “Remember how He made you successors after the people of Noah.” (69) This is especially worthy of note in view of the possibility that Muhammad and his community were being forcibly (or perhaps non-negotiably) deprived of a sense of succession among “the People of the Book.” “Wait then until Allah judges between us; for He is the Best of judges.” (87) Delayed judgment of this sort (let God sort out the dogma, seriously), when held to, might prevent many a violent quandary. Very pleased to see a witness to it here.

Surah 8: “Allah stands between a man and his heart” (24) is an awfully evocative principle in regard to the community’s stand-off with other traditions (a “Search your heart to discern justice between us!”). We all scheme away but “Allah is the Best of schemers.” (30) In view of Allah, may our own schemings be forever relativized. I like how the fifth of the booty reserved for Allah seems to be synonymously reserved for the orphan and (a personal favorite) the wayfarer. (41)

Surah 9: Would this be the only appearance of “Son of God” status being attributed to Ezrah? (30) Interesting to note the critical apparatus being applied retroactively to “the statement of unbelievers of yore” (false witness?) now emulated by contemporaries. Interesting too to imagine people awaiting with trepidation the “breaking news” of Muhammad’s latest surah. (64) Did Muhammad claim to occupy a “No Spin Zone?” “Go on mocking,” because the truth will out!

Surah 10: “I have dwelt in your midst a lifetime before it [the surah].” (16) Is this the speech of “the Clear Book?” A generalized revelation always available (before and after the Qur’an) to anyone with an ear to hear and an eye to see? “Thus We expound Our Revelations to people who reflect.” (24) Being on the lookout for revelation is tantamount to being a person of critical reflection. The ethical imperative of wondering why. The religious text as a feat of attentiveness. Have a go at your own. See what you can do you so-called truth-tellers. (38) There are “signs for a people who listen.” (67)

Surah 11: Come up with “ten-forged surahs like it, and call upon whomever you can, apart from Allah, if you are truthful.” (13) Why can’t (or shouldn’t) someone else call upon Allah too in their compostion? Is there a space for equal- opportunity attempted revelation? Might humility of conception (“God wants the following as far as I can tell.”) be an entrance fee to the witness box?

Surah 12: Only the “unbelieving people” despair “of “Allah’s mercy.” (87) I’d prefer that despair not be an evil in itself. I’d like to see a Qur’anic equivalent to some of the darker Psalms and the “Why hast thou forsaken me?” plea.

Surah 13: No power of signs except by “Allah’s Permission,” and “every age has its own Book.” (38) Wow. Gospel of pluralism? “With Him is the Mother of the Book.” (39) I wonder if there’s something to work with here.

Surah 14: Something haunting about the haste, the empty gazes, and the vacant hearts of the damned. (43) Zombie films come to mind.

Surah 15: This bit on Satan (39) as well as the stuff about Satan refusing to bow before the creation of Adam seems very reminiscent of Miltonic cosmology. Muhammad as “the plain warner” (89) also brings to mind the possibility that the prophet’s self-understanding might have undergone undue elevation in what comes to us of the transmission. “Plain warner” sounds like a humbler beginning perhaps than divine dictaphone.

Surah 16: Are there pre-Qur’anic accounts of “sperm drop” (4) and blood clot origins?

Surah 17: Not sure what to make of the “hidden curtain” manifested when Muhammad recites. (45) And I confess I think of Joseph Smith’s eye-glasses (Urim and Thummim?). Does this mean that only the “true believers” get to say what the recitation was? Is somebody getting cut off here? “Falsehood is ever perishing.” (81) Is anyone with an honest question or a shadow of doubt merely “ungrateful?” (89) Moses: “I think that you, Pharoah, are doomed.” (102) Nicely spoken. The old plot is thickened.

Surah 18: I’m confused as to what’s going on with the people in the cave (and their 309 years of lingering there). (25) Is this a way of looping around past Mosaic tradition (going further back). And the figure of Khidr (a Tom Bombadil-type, a phantom stranger) seems to be an outweirding of the Jews. You can’t handle the truth! (75) I sure didn’t know that Alexander the Great made an appearance. (83-85) He too is incorporated into the good pleasure of Allah.

Surah 19: Something interesting about the “the form of a well-shaped human being” (17) and the mention (which I wouldn’t have expected) of Mary’s labor pains (23). Is Jesus referring to the Mother of the Book or his own book out of which it was somehow derived? (30) What’s the book of Idris? (56)

Surah 20: Is Moses referring to the Clear Book/Mother Book? (52)

Surah 21: We didn’t create the heavens and the earth in sport (later, in jest). There’s something appealing about this. And while we’re at it what’s with all the royal We’s? (16) “They fell apart into factions; but they will all return unto Us.” (93) I wonder if this might be read in a universalist sense?

Surah 22: Leave to the particular nations their own “sacred rite” (67) which We gave them. Bring on the pluralism.

Surah 23: And yet, there’s this notion that the rites were reduced “to mere tales” because these nations weren’t sufficiently just or reverent. (44) Myths became (or were rendered) merely mythological. Interesting.

Surah 24: I wonder if verse 33 is a unique word of compassion for rape victims.

Surah 26: Maybe the talk of the perverse poets and their aimless wanderings is an attempt to make strong distinctions between those who presume to take down recitations (224-226). The borders are historically fuzzy. Poets, pilgrims, and unlettered prophets all.

Surah 27: I hadn’t heard that the Qur’an shared with the Hebrew Bible such instances of interspecies dialogue (18 and 22-25).

Surah 28: I’m receiving a sense of what seems to be the Qur’an’s preferential option for “the downtrodden in the land.” (5) I especially like the bit about Moses being warned about becoming yet another tyrant in a very long line. (19)

Surah 29: “Taste now what you used to do,” (55) strikes me as interestingly purgatorial.

Surah 30: Something very compelling in the Qur’anic economy’s delegitimizing of usury and elevation of alms as the real multiplication. (39)

Surah 32: “To warn a people to whom no warner came before.” (3) I think again of the deal-breakers between Jews, Christians, and emerging Muslims and wonder how it all might have gone down differently. Were the People of the Book to whom Muhammad was exposed too blatantly hypocritical? Could he see no continuity in their claims of continuity? Did he feel called to cobble together his own?

Surah 34: If Muhammad’s Lord “hurls down truth,” (48) could this be in keeping with the generalize revelation of Surah 10. Is revelation hurling down on the attentive everywhere?

Surah 35: The false gods aren’t even in possession of “a date’s crust.” (13) Nice.

Surah 36: “To warn a people, whose fathers were not warned and so they are heedless.” (6) Again, where to find the righteousness? “Forgiveness and a generous wage” (11) Excellent antidote to spiritualizing. “Master Register” (12) There’s that that meta-text again.

Surah 37: Things take a turn for the interplanetary (6-7). Protection from extra-terrestrial invasion? Forsake the gods for a poet possessed?!? (36) What else is there? Interesting elaboration of the Abraham/Isaac exchange (“I have seen in sleep that I am slaughtering you” 103). The costliness of being counted among the steadfast.

Surah 38: I’m puzzled by the account of Solomon getting the message when he finds a dead body on his throne. (34) Did They make an offer he couldn’t refuse? Allah as the chief of schemers takes on a new meaning when Satn says “By Your glory, I will seduce them all.” (82) Excepting, of course, the sincere servants.

Surah 39: A Book “insistent and corroboratory.” (23) Is this a summons to investigative criticism.

Surah 40: “That is how Allah places a seal on the heart of every arrogant bully.” (35) The Qur’an, it seems to me, is an anti-bully document.

Surah 41: I like this business (the imagery anyway) of people’s skins bearing witness against them. (20-22)

Surah 43: “What if I were to bring you a more certain guidance than what you found your fathers upon?” (24) I find it interesting to note that he isn’t calling the “fathers” liars. He’s suggesting that his hearers found “their fathers” on something less certain than what he (the Prophet) proclaims. The possibility of idolatry (or reification) cuts in myriad ways. I think of Jesus’ “You have heard it said…But I say to you.”

Surah 45: “This is an illumination.” (20) With all appropriate qualifications, I think I can probably affirm as much.

Surah 49: Allah knows all about your so-called religions. (16) The question: Are you submitting to Allah now?

Surah 50: Allah is closer to man than his own jugular and knows all about his inner insinuations and false religiosities (16). What the prophet brings is for anyone with a mind open to a witness (37).

Surah 51: Is there pre-Qur’anic material on ‘Ad and Thamud? (41-43) Does this refer to events in Muhammad’s life?

Surah 52: More assertions of inimitability. (34)

Surah 53: “Only a Revelation being revealed” (4). Interestingly not lofty or heavy-handed.

Surah 55: I am anxious to read a commentary on this one.

Surah 56: I’ve known the first fashioning if only I would remember? Interesting. Have I really seen what I’m tilling? Good question. Who’s doing the sowing? (62-64) Am I lying to myself as I read the discourse? (81) Dang.

Surah 57: Everything that happens is “in a Book, before We create it.” An easy matter for Allah. Color me pleasantly puzzled. (22) The People of the Book need a renewed reverence for all that is and isn’t in their (or what they take to be their) books. (29)

Surah 58: Allah is witness. (6)

Surah 59: Pity the poor immigrants. They are the truthful ones. (8)

Surah 63: Word of hypocritical speakers as “propped-up wooden logs” is a nice image. (4)

Surah 65: “You do not know, Allah may perhaps bring about something new after that.” (1) I wonder if this implies that “the bounds of Allah” might be further elaborated upon beyond what Muhammad is receiving. Maybe this is only talking about babies.

Surah 67: The challenge to fix my gaze upon creation repeatedly to see if I might discern a crack or two is rather cool. (1-2)

Surah 68: Oh God, let me not be mad.

Surah 71: In the Noah account, drowning in water followed by burning in fire is a strange image. I’m noting too Noah’s personal prayer for the destruction of unbelievers. (25-26)

Surah 73: What’s up with the wrapping? (1)

Surah 74: The problematizing of prayer bereft of charity toward the destitute is good to see. (43-44)

Surah 75: I wonder if this is spoken in response to disgruntled members of the community who’ve come to expect a more immediate manifestation of resurrection. I wonder if the deferral of the Day of Decision calls into question to their minds, Muhammad’s legitimacy.

Surah 81: This is just a reminder for those of you who want moral reform, but you can’t want it unless Allah wants you to want it. Deafening rhetoric indeed.

Surah 83: Is the Underworld a book inscribed? (8-9) The Higher World too? (19-20)

Surah 88: Muhammad remembers (or is made to remember) that he is a mere exhorter (not called to dominate). (21-22)

Surah 90: Someone sees you squandering when you’re squandering. Always.

Surah 91: I recall the business with the she-camel appearing earlier on. (13-14)

Surah 95: Do I deny the righteous judgment? Am I denying it now?

Surah 50: The “Night of Power” is, I take it, the occasion of the descent of the recitation. (1-4) Is it one evening of revelation or does it refer to a number of them?

Surah 99: An atom’s weight of good will redeem. An atom’s weight of evil will bring reckoning. Wow.

Surah 100: The information comes.

Surah 107: Sounds about right to me.

Surah 114: “The slinking whisperer.” Well-rendered