I have not saved older posts except a few scattered ones that ended up in baseball notes. This is what I was able to salvage before beginning a current thread.
June 17, 2013
I’m not as much a follower of baseball or the Mets as I once was. It’s not that the team is bad—that’s neither here nor there. I’m tired of the kitsch corporate affair that baseball—and sports, in general—have become. And I despise the team’s ownership and have enough inside information about them from various sources to feel justified. They reveal themselves adequately to the public: imperious, self-important, smug crooks and poseurs, the classic “woke up on third base and thought I hit a triple” crew. I did, however, fortuitously turn on yesterday’s game with a man on first for the Mets in the ninth, two batters before Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his walk-off 3-run homer. I have followed Nieuwenhuis for a few years, from a solid hitter at Buffalo to a relative “star” and clutch hitter early for the Mets last season as a surprise walk-on (after injuries to other outfielders left him the default center fielder) to a total crash once pitchers figured him out. Chronically injured too, he has mostly been MIA the second half of last year and this year. Except for one hit, he did zero before being set to the Las Vegas earlier this year, where he struggled also before getting on a home-run streak, hitting 10 while still batting only .240 when he was called back up. He was batting at or around .100, a low figure almost unheard of, when he hit the shot yesterday.
The Mets lose routinely and are not competitive, though they are building a promising future team in the minors. The game meant nothing. Yet I found it immensely pleasurable to see his shot and the wild celebration at home plate that followed. Rarely do teams losing 3-0 entering the 9th score 4 runs to win. In addition, Nieuwenhuis was ecstatic, and his team-mates were ecstatic for him. It was transparent, authentic, spontaneous.
Then I read in this morning’s news that Bob Costas had mocked the celebration as “another indication of the decline of Western civilization.” His reason was that they had celebrated as though they had won the World Series when in fact they were just a bad team going nowhere that had merely avoided another loss.
But that is to miss the entire point. What is the World Series anyway except another set of games? Quickly just a memory. As one player pointed out a few years ago of the Super Bowl, that’s not the ultimate game because, if it were, “why do they play it again next year?”
Pleasure comes from the simple fact of simple events. From proximal view and from memory. Most of the sporting events that remain memorable to me are single quirky games. A hundred years from now, no one will have first-hand memory or care about who won the World Series one year or the next. We exist in the brightness of moments.
Costas was telling the fans as well as the players that they shouldn’t enjoy something singular and special and wonderful because it didn’t count in terms of championships. So then why even play the games? Or televise them? Or have people attend them? Or get pleasure from something that amounts to nothing? As if rooting for a team that wins a championship amounts to anything really.
You can’t do anything with a championship. But you can have a unique, discrete experience watching a game, any game but especially a peculiarly interesting one. I had an investment in the player and the game.
Met players seem to have implicitly understood this. Reliever Dave Aardsma tweeted, “I love Bob Costas but are we supposed to roll over and die on the season? Or should we celebrate the excitement of a huge comeback?” A Mets coach called it “a classic example of a non-athlete not ‘getting it.’”
It’s really an existential moment: no one is given meaning or value; you have to create it. And winning a championship is not necessarily more meaningful than the nuances of a single game or single play.
Mets’ manager Terry Collins added a day later, ““We’re down three runs, it seemed like we hadn’t won a game in a week. All right, civilization is over. We’ll have to rebuild it. We’re starting today.”
August 12, 2013
I think that the smart and courageous thing to do is to trade David Wright. If you can add Montero and get both Gonzalez and Tulowitzki from Colorado, that’s an example, but only an example of the type of trade worth attempting; there are probably better, less expense-raising ones with Boston or the Angels. Why? it opens a position for Flores (or Murphy). David Wright is, as the owner once said, a very good but not a great player, not a superstar–and he is TERRIBLE CLUTCH HITTER. Teams pitch around Murphy to get at him. He takes strikes and swings at balls; he just seems to lose mojo in the clutch unless he’s on one of those rare hot streaks. He is also older than Flores. Plus trading him changes the entire team consciousness away from a failed past. A young fan once wrote in to a Mets’ forum that David Wright’s late-inning, men-on-base, game-on-the-line at-bats reminded him of when he had his girlfriend alone in his room and his mother suddenly knocked on the door. It’s really tricky to make the right moves from here. Too many very good pitches in the pipelines. Not enough of anything else. Can you imagine if they had drafted the Miami guy instead of Nimmo too? Who to trade and for what? I guess that it depends on the options. I’d hate to see Gee have to go; he’s a great competitor and change of pace and a quality team-mate.
September 1, 2013
Barack, we put our heart and soul into your election and have gotten back enough disappointment for a generation of elections. How about a vote in Congress on emergency measures to stop the Fukushima reactor from dumping more of its 430,000 tons of radioactive water (plus 400 more each day from ground water) into the Pacific instead of bombing Syria? How about punishing the unified, craven Tepco officials instead of the fractured Syrian government? An increasingly radioactive ocean may not be the moral equivalent of a gas attack on civilians, but it represents a far worse long-term, potentially fatal attack on the world. (I know, Hillary’s no better; her response was to help get the U.S. “safe to eat” levels raised on radioactive fish to protect imports from Japan. But we didn’t throw ourselves behind your election for that low a bar).
How about you North Koreans stop building nuclear weapons for a spell and offer to help your neighbors?
How about Chinese technology and personnel directed toward saving the ocean?
How about you Japanese dropping your veneer of pride and admitting you’re’re in over your heads and have a problem too big for for to solve alone? (Leonard Cohen: “Show me the place, help me roll away the stone.
Show me the place, I can’t move this thing alone.”)
How about, V. Putin, raising yourself from a thug and warlord to a humanitarian (if you want to outflank Barack on the international stage)? Send in your most veteran Chernobyl crew, dude.
And while we’re at it, thanks a whole lot, Barack and Hillary, for enabling Monsanto in their destruction of crops and extermination of bees. The bar has gotten pretty low when a KGB thug has to warn you that you are destroying the food chain, perhaps forever.
June 17, 2015
Just a passing thought. We are in a time of deceptions on top of deceptions but, even more, parodies of parodies, caricatures of what is already a caricature. In the forties and fifties, most things were literal and real. World War II was pretty much as portrayed. The Soviet Union was the Soviet Union. Every act stood for itself. Andy Warhol iconicized both the culmination and dissolution of that possibility. Now the hardcore base of the US Republican Party no longer even tries to pose credible options or arguments; it is only a battle of caricatures. By caricaturing yourself, you force the opposition into a caricature too—a good idea if you can rise above a parody of your own disingenuousness. Their model man, BNetanyahu, has mastered this: As the old statement misattributed to various Nazis goes, the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed. Hence, the more trenchantly Israel conducts apartheid, the more stridently it advances itself as not only a democracy but the only one in the Middle East. This is the same reality in which Hilary Clinton, a former lawyer and apologist for Monsanto, and someone who completely buys into their cover story, can run as an environmental candidate; in which the United States underwrite and arm Al-Qaeda and ISIS and then go to war with them, can simultaneously ally with and fights Iran in near-adjacent theaters. Russia is no longer Russia and, while I hold no torch for VPutin’s revival of fasco-communism, the corporate interests for which NATO is the mercenary army did not slip a so-called democratic Ukraine past him. Chemtrails, treaties with aliens, monocrops, climate change, annihilation of the natural world, fabricated narratives. It’s all one big bubble, and one wonders how big it will get and how it will take it to—I won’t say “pop” it—but turn everything back into what it actually is.
June 18, 2015
Last Saturday Lindy and I had a day pass for the International Herb Symposium held in Norton, Massachusetts, on the campus of Wheaton College. The publishing company we founded, North Atlantic Books, had a table manned by the awesome Ed Mondazzi, compassionate salesman supreme (or Fun Eddie on his badge). Ed handles NAB overstock, hurts, and remainders out of Windsor, Connecticut (search him under D in http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2010/03/departments-3-operations-rights-and-contracts/ or check out his videos on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnBq1DXZfHQ). NAB had four authors giving talks—Matthew Wood, Anna Robertsdottir, Wolf Storl, and Chris Kilham. We saw the last two, and they were great stuff: Chris’s herbal tour of the Eurasian Silk Road, complete with cutting-edge ecopolitics, and Wolf imitating the Sun’s Om (that’s not just a thermonuclear furnace out there, he said), describing a yogi along the Ganges who had sat so long beneath a particular tree that his and its etheric field had merged and the two eyes were both him and the tree staring out, and referring passingly to East Germany’s “late experiment in fasco-communism.” What I mainly want to emphasize is how the phrase “herb symposium” in no way tips off the scope of this gathering (almost 1000 people from around the world): various anti-big-pharma businesses, labs, start-ups, entrepreneurships, schools, etc.; privileging of the wild (wildcrafting and weeds); the incipient alchemy of tinctures, potions, teas, lotions, and the like; radical takes on just about every disease (but Lyme and Crohns for starters). Herbalism is one of the great alternative medical systems, and it is ancient and global, with countless regional traditions and plenty of as-yet-undiscovered herbs and blends. No, it does not make up for all the rest, but that’s not our job. Our job, each of us, is to keep the flame lit in dark times and pass it on. These folks are—thanks.
June 19, 2015
Today is our son Robin’s birthday. Hard for Lindy and me to believe that we have a 46-year-old son, but I guess anyone would say pretty much that; even he will, I hope, someday. Robin is a historical geographer and eco-resiliency biologist at San Francisco Estuary Institute outside Berkeley in El Cerrito. He was born at 6:19 AM on 6/19 in 1969, a different era, in the midst of a massive cultural turnover. We had been married three years then and lived in Ann Arbor. I was a graduate student in anthropology, about to do fieldwork in Maine. We are living in Maine again after 38 intervening years in California (and 5 in Vermont). We last lived in the Portland, Maine area from 1970-1972, Robin’s first and second birthdays. He himself has 9- and 4-year-old boys now. It’s amazing how routinely we treat the most amazing events and premises (not that we have any choice). It’s also, overall, an amazing emanation, what we call the “universe” but might better be known as All That Is.
June 20, 2015
For the last six-plus months I have been working on a manuscript about reincarnation, the shape of the universe, and the way that things appear to get done here. It is mostly a discussion of reincarnation and, in particular, the Sethian theory of Multipersonhood as channeled and elucidated by Jane Roberts. Every so often I do another pass and post it on my website. Here is a link to the most recent pass completed yesterday. I see the text as a collaborative effort, and I have no plan to think about publishing it until I have run it through many people’s considerations. Right now Paul Pitchford is the only one who has provided lucent enough feedback to include, but I am open. I gave the text the working title Bottoming Out the Universe because I couldn’t think of anything better. I still can’t and I am getting fond of it. I now have a trial subtitle: Karma, Identity, and Reincarnation. Here is the link; it has the title of the first posting of it. If anyone wants to write a note on the level of Pitchford’s one, I am open to including it.
June 21, 2015
Lindy’s and my 49th anniversary is today (no need to send Facebook congratulations). The number is as strange as having a 46-year-old son whose birthday was two days ago (June 19). My mother’s and stepfather’s legendary marriage was a mere few years more than half that, but then time for a child moves at a different rate—it still seems to me much longer than mine. That was a myth; this is my life. Lindy and I met in 1963 a few weeks before JFK was assassinated (to give you a temporal landmark); we were nineteen. We started going out the next spring. We broke up two or three times before deciding to throw in together. Our son Robin was born the year we were 25, our daughter Miranda the year we were 30. I have been rewriting my three memoir books these days, and yesterday I took up the one of the three that was never published, Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage. I probably will retitle it before I finish, though that is a good title for the section I wrote in 1975-1977 (which is the bulk of what I have to work with now). I plan to revisit “marriage” themes in that book, but the main lessons seem to me: 1. You find your “spiritual marriage” not by spiritual rituals or by trying to spiritualize marriage itself but by just about everything else. 2. There are no rules except that there are no rules. I mean, I think we broke most ordinary rules that people tend to valorize (regarding marriage) over the course of 49 years, but I think that’s how we were able to stay together. We lived apart for a chunk of 1992-93. And, though we have fussed over many things, usually trivial ones, we never fussed over the big ones or over breaking rules. We remained individuals to each other. It also helps to meet young, less baggage and imprints of many other people’s energy, and you get to imprint your own energy on your partner (and get imprinted). We are very dissimilar, but we are moved by each other’s stories and find each other entertaining. I think that we track at similar speeds and, as one friend said, we are both very talky. In fact, Jacob Needleman, the philosopher, remarked to me recently that a major discovery of his in life was that romance and courtship are all about language and not about a lot of other things usually assigned to them.
June 22, 2015
I am getting into the ritual of a post a day. Perhaps I’ll even keep it up. I figure that if you all went through the trouble of friending me, I might as well do more than “like” a post here and there or promote my books. I’m not an implicit fan of Facebook, but it seems worth trying to figure out the sort of medium it is, what use can be made of it.
Last weekend when we attended the International Herb Symposium in Norton, Mass., Lindy and I also visited Gloria Hemsher and her husband Gilbert Choudry in Waltham. Gloria is the teaching partner of John Friedlander, the psychic I have been studying with the past seven years. John is much more than a psychic, or at least what the word conveys; he combines Berkeley Psychic Institute methods and exercises, Sethian cosmology (he was present when Jane Roberts channeled Seth), Blavatskian theosophy, Buddhist meditation practices, and pretty much anything else that converges around his Sethian/theosophical pivot. He is also a Harvard-trained attorney but hasn’t practiced for years—he is very legalistic about the occult. I won’t get into discussing his teaching here because I have written about it extensively in Dark Pool of Light and also in the link posted two days ago (Bottoming Out the Universe). What I want to say is that John is a philosopher, an intellectual, and a channel, while Gloria is a pure intuitive—she transmits John’s system by contact (and then it’s her system too). The main thing I got from being around her was: don’t keep trying to effort and micromanage the exercises; every one of them is something that I am (we are) doing all the time anyway. The point of the practice is not to cultivate something new but to make conscious and enhance our ongoing interfaces with energy and the pictures held in our aura, to become more active in relation to them and the karmic forces that are sustaining them. What I had forgotten is that not only can’t you think your way there, but most psychic work is done unconsciously by everyone all the time. They are just not aware of things like (blowing) creating and dissolving pictures and collaborating with other people’s energies, but they are effectively practicing these under cover stories. Or what you could say is that the cover stories are psychic codes disguised effectively by their non- or anti-psychic language, which is what allows them to proceed unhindered.
June 23, 2015
Father’s Day, a dubious and bogus holiday at best, at least imposes awareness of the ritual nature of this relationship. Our adult children, both now parents, engage more in the ritual in the other direction, our son as father to two boys, our daughter as wife of the father of her son. I am always moved by their attempt to “find” me and saddened by the difficulties in our lines of communication, each for its own reasons. I hear in them what I expressed with my own parents: a desire to be seen and heard as who they are, to be supported and admired, and to control the conversation and have the last word. During their wonderful childhoods I had deluded myself into thinking that there wouldn’t be a generational gap the way that there was with my own parents—and there isn’t. But in some ways this one is even more unbridgeable. With my parents I shared virtually nothing, nothing intellectual, artistic, psychospiritual, or political. With my son and daughter I share all of that, plus lifestyle (more or less). But with my parents I shared an urgent need to bridge our gap. My children don’t have that; they have crossed over almost entirely into the worlds of their peers and generation. We are on good terms, but I sense their frustration. I feel that I acknowledge and praise them, but I can’t, as they seem to want, enter their myths in the way they were forced to enter mine. They are both very accomplished in their fields, our son an environmental biological and historical geographer (as mentioned in an earlier post), our daughter a novelist, movie director, and multimedia artist. We should be great at dialogues together. But we aren’t because we are each wanting to hear something the other is trying to say but is unable to. It’s not as though there aren’t epiphanies and breakthroughs—there are, and they are timeless—but the situation always reverts to stalemate.
[Since Facebook friends raised the dilemma of these posts going to only a fraction of my entire list, I recommend going to my home page or, more reliably, to my website under http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2015/06/facebook-posts-june-2015/ for the daily post and cumulative archive, ignore the June date in the URL. I will post this notice regularly.]
June 24, 2015
I’m going to try to keep up a post a day, so this one is going to be mundane. It’s about homilies, in this case, “Don’t loan people money.” Last summer when we got to Portland, we hired handyman off craigslist. He was an incredibly efficient worker, could do plumbing, electrical, carpentry, pretty much anything. He said he could build our house from the ground up and I believe it. He charged only $20 an hour and got more done in one than most people in three or four hours. True, he was a bit surly, smoked (stepped away from the house), and obviously drank, plus had a kind of Aspbergy energy, but the relationship was about the work. Then we came back after a week away to find a note from him pleading to borrow $2000. He had put a downpayment on a snowplow and would lose it if he didn’t come up with the rest in three days. Against our better instincts we did it. I won’t go into the whole story, but we reasoned that some things just come to you and it’s your responsibility to handle them. Well, it worked out fine. He did a lot of work for us in Portland and then more in SW Harbor, and I found him numerous other clients, especially in SW Harbor when he was there. He earned it all back, and we got fine work. Communication wasn’t always perfect, and he pissed some people off (for instance, smoked in the free No Smoking motel room we got him at Seawall Motel). That was all in the summer and fall. In the winter we ostensibly got a discount on his plowing, part of the deal but he didn’t always show up, and we had to shovel out from a blizzard January 29 to catch a flight from Boston to Denver. He didn’t even call to say he wasn’t coming.
A friend who had warned us against loaning the money remarked, “I can’t tell you the reason, and you seem to have lucked out, but I don’t think it’s that simple. There’s a deeper truth here and it just hasn’t come out yet.”
He was right. Just as we are about to leave for NYC this week week, he called with a request for a $800 loan because his transmission went out and he couldn’t get his truck back from the mechanic if he didn’t pay it. We didn’t have a lot more work for him, and I didn’t feel like making a second loan to someone I didn’t really know. Also his pressure was really great and he didn’t respect my wanting to think about it; he needed the money at once. I offered to call the auto repair place and vouch for him and offer to cover it if he didn’t pay, but he wouldn’t give me the number, not a good sign. This was two days ago. Since then I have received twenty-seven texts that began with pleading, offering to pay ridiculous interest (which I said I wouldn’t accept anyway), then demanding, then threatening, a switch of vocabulary to four-letter words and gratuitous four-letter-word-laden insults. He even said he’d rather be dead than put up with my bullshit, then went on to a dozen or so emails saying in different ways that he would never work for us again. He doesn’t begin to understand the irony. He had already told me that none of his other clients who refused him the loan got this treatment, only us. So that’s why you don’t lend money, let alone to a stranger. As a lawyer friend put it, ‘If he can’t come up with $800 between credit cards, friends, relatives, and the pawn shop, then he’s already burned a lot of bridges. He senses a vulnerability in you, so he’s going to manipulate you as much as he can. You’re the only soft spot he’s detected in his vicinity, so like an addict he’s going to try every angle with you, hoping to find the right one.” Because we loaned him money, we are not seen as benefactors but targets, and now he hates us for it, and that is said. Telling this reminds of another story that somewhat parallels it, but I will save it.
June 25, 2015
I’d like to keep up a post a day, but I don’t have much to say because it’s been a travel day, lots of logistics getting out and then on the road. We picked up a rental car in Springfield, Mass., drove in tandem from there to Windsor; we leave our own car in Windsor, Ct. tomorrow with our friends, drive the rental into Manhattan and return it at once. At $114, it’s the cheapest way (that I can think of) for two people to get into Manhattan. If you bring your own car in, it’s almost that per day to park it there. (Usually we get the rental car at the airport, but they were all sold out.)
- For those few “friends” who share sports fandom with me, or even “my” teams, I was thinking to remark here, because Metsblog always censors my posts—I’m persona non grata there, perhaps for my book on the Mets—that the owners, the Wilpon family are energy vampires, and it shows in everything that happens with the team. I met the patriarch Fred, a business associate of my father’s, in the early eighties, and few people have come cross so negatively in such short interactions: blatantly arrogant, smug, self-congratulatory, almost sociopathically unaware of the impact that team sports have on people’s lives and culture, a vulgar nouveau-riche pedant. It’s hard to get behind an enterprise so intimately involved with him, but one is stuck with their teams.
I did like seeing the Binghamton Mets at Portland last week, great little double-A ballpark for the Sea Dogs and eight minutes from my house; the Mets’ future corner outfielders Nimmo and Conforto got five hits between them, more than the entire MLB team that night.
- New England thunderstorms and breezes one of the reasons for leaving California. One can talk about the texture of life in many ways, but the backdrop of nature and weather is a large part of it. When I first came to Berkeley, that blue celestial vortex held my attention and created a sense of an almost supernaturally visionary zone. By the time we left, it felt like a stalled weather front over a cultural scene long ago gone to seed. Happily the seeds of Berkeley are everywhere now.
Not a lot but, as I said, it’s a travel day. Been watching the planes coming in low over this yard into Bradley (Hartford-Springfield) till a few minutes ago when the mosquitos drove me in. Agreed, they’re part of the downside. Tomorrow lots of logistics, meeting two people en route to NYC, then dumping the rental car and getting into our 9-day place.
June 26, 2015
NYC again. Everything here is different on the physical plane, but nothing has changed on the etheric or astral. Same energy, same trance realm, same jus’ another northeast-corridor primate oasis, bigger and more networked than Hartford or Springfield or even Boston but part of the greater anthill.
These days I’ve been working on old writing done in 1976-1977, and it makes NYC feel even more timeless—I was born and grew up here. In reclaiming my unpublished memoir book (Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage), I can redeem a project I lost any sense of forty-plus years ago. I can also offload material that I unwisely offloaded from it into New Moon and Out of Babylon and put it back where it belongs. That fleshes out Episodes and gives me space to fill in New Moon and Babylon in their own vibrations.
Lindy and I may have a July 4th gathering—her birthday—so any Facebook friends in NYC, free on that night, and interested in coming, write or email me.
June 27, 2015
My first post in this series was about self-parody. The right-wing response has been getting more and more like a self-parody. These reactions, say to the Supreme Court decisions this week, don’t seem like real things as much as tantrums and acting out. But they are very dangerous tantrums because, as we have seen, people get shot and much other damage is done.
I assume that this ideology and energy has always been here in the US, just kept more at bay and underground (KKK, etc.). But now various politicians and Fox News, etc. have legitimized it, and it has become an unabashed public stance, more than unabashed—self-righteous. It also seems to feed and feed off its own momentum. The Internet fosters it as much as it does ISIL and in the same way.
Racism plays a big role because the election of a black president triggered so much of it. People can’t say “too black”—even most of them recognize that that’s too retro and dumb-sounding—so they say too socialist or Muslim. The subconscious racism is perhaps more dangerous than the overt attitudes. In many ways Obama is to the right of Eisenhower, maybe Nixon and Reagan too.
I also think that Americans have been cut off for too long from the realities of the planet, so they think this stuff is real. What’s real is what’s happening most other places like Burma and Syria and Gaza and Nigeria. None of this posturing is real, at least in the same way, though it is very dangerous: the guns, the threats of secession and revolt, etc.
What seems particularly galling is that most of these folks contribute little or nothing to the national collective. They leach off it—off science and technology, off government welfare, off previous generations’ infrastructure and savings—and yet they are arrogant and smug in their assault on just those institutions that provide them their leisure and leeway. Being against evolution and for guns is ultimately an oxymoron, though these people didn’t realize that their guns come from Darwin, not God. Their narcissism, in perfect clinical display, protects them from the terror of their inferiority and irrelevance. Cruz, Palin, Clarence Thomas, et al.—the less they actually are, the more they have to bloat their threat displays and fake authority and wisdom as a defense against a terror of the truth.
I take issue with lots of what Obama does, but him leading “Amazing Grace” in South Carolina is the kind of soul act that makes America what it is, and even gives these bums and parasites the cover to act out and preen. America is its spirit, creative imagination, heart, soul; it is certainly not racist and fascist ideology or “gunnism.” [http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2012/12/piece-on-guns-in-america-from-the-bardo-of-waking-life/]
The worry is that through voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, Koch/Adelson money, and hacking Diebold machines, these delusion-ridden folks will get the big stage on which to act out their megalomaniac fantasies.
In the long run, I think that what this is about is deep resistance to transformation, but metamorphosis is ultimately the work of the species, the planet, and the universe, and resistance to it is as much part of its driving texture, its negative capability, its yang to yin, as the more benign progressive aspect. There is nothing to do but ride the wave.
June 28, 2015
- Lindy and I saw a great play last night in the Village: Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait by Daniel Talbott. I liked the dialogue, energy, and arc of abstraction, how these soldiers in the desert (and the sand came right up to the audience’s feet) could have been anywhere, and they were waiting for Godot, or relief, that never came. Instead what came were ghosts and memories of their past and their victims. It was dynamically staged and transcended its prototypes like Beckett or even A Christmas Tale. I saw hints of The Warriors, Pina Bausch, Pilobolus, and Eric Bogosian of SubUrbia, also a bit of Apocalypse Now. It was like watching the future of theater.
An interesting journey there, three different subway lines, and some walking in rainy NYC, for me a nostalgic throwback adventure in my original hometown.
- NYC vignette that could be a New Yorker cartoon: a guy crossing 81st Street on Lex with earphones, deaf to the fact that he was walking into traffic, and blind too because he was reading a newspaper (he could have been texting). Cars were honking and he didn’t hear. He actually stopped in the middle of the street to look more closely at something on the page, and traffic had to go around him. When I finally crossed on the green, I saw that what he was reading was the personals ads.
- I have only paid peripheral attention to the Mets these days and, being in NYC, I can’t get them on my computer because they are blacked out here online. I watched Steven Matz, who made his Major League debut today, pitch for Binghamton against the Portland Sea Dogs last fall, so I would have watched if I could have, at least some of it. I doubt that there was ever a weaker starting lineup in the history of baseball than the one that the Mets started in effectively the second game of a doubleheader (behind Matz) if you consider all of the players’ last 50 at-bats only. I think that it was under .150 for the eight players. So what happens? The pitcher, the one guy not paid to hit, sets a 100-year record for RBIs by a starting pitcher in his first game. That is not only irony but precisely the way baseball works: posing the diametrically unlikely and then making it happen. Often enough that it is interesting (and uncanny).
June 29, 2015
The lead article on the back page of yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Review is called “Face It, Your Brain is a Computer” and written by an author described as a psychologist and neural scientist at NYU. He goes on to argue that the brain has to be a computer because what else can it be? It links by computations; its neurons are like computer hardware; it performs behaviors similar to what a computer performs. The article is full of proposed analogies between the brain and various sorts of computers, with the author concluding that “field programmable gate arrays” offer the best existing models for what sorts of computers our brains are.
This article seems less an essay than an almost computer-like playback of an ideological viewpoint masquerading as salient ideas. It could have been generated by programming its conclusion into a computer with reasonably good language skills. In fact, academic creativity and imagination these days consist of finding clever ways to repeat baseline materialist propaganda. The author would no doubt be appalled at such a criticism or more likely brush it off as ignorant.
The fact is, the brain is a computer only if you believe that the three-dimensional material sphere is the sole domain of the universe’s activity linking matter and consciousness and that consciousness originates in molecular algorithms and the experience and phenomenology of it are a cybernetic-like mirages of synthetic organisms.
Professor Marcus seems to neglect that the only reason he is able to make a comparison between brains and computers is because brains recently invented computers. I mean, it is not as though computers have ontological or etiological superiority over brains. He also seems have forgotten the Turing test or, more likely, to assume it has been aced at this point. He thinks that himself knowing himself as himself and conceiving and writing his article is the same as a computer running equivalent ideas from its programming, i.e., that someday we can program computers to know themselves—the source is solely in the wiring and monitor hierarchies.
It must be Turing Test Sunday because the Magazine Section ran an article subtitled “Can Brain Scanning Help Save Freudian Psychoanalysis?” We already know that drugs have pretty much replaced Freud’s “talking cure”— they are more efficient, cheaper, and more accountably scientific as regards diagnosis and then confirmation of proper treatment. However, argues the author, Casey Schwartz, a so-called neuropsychoanalytic theoretician, if the effects of clinical transference can be mapped in the brain, then there might be new hope for classical doctor-patient interaction—and for scientific treatments other than pharmaceutical intervention.
This is really the same article, a bit subtler and more biochemically and neuroscientifically savvy, but an equivalent reductio ad materialism. It has been proven, I think, that actions change the brain—actions like Buddhist meditation in molding a nondual brain and criminal acts in molding a brain chemically predisposed to more criminal behavior. But I think that this is not because action catalyzes chemical change which becomes molecular change (though I accept that this does also happen) but because the etheric body (which is also the karmic body) is regularly transducing itself into the physical body through the aura (or the self’s subtle energy field) via what osteopath John Upledger called “cell talk.” Of course, you must not use terms like “etheric” and karma when talking to modern scientists. They would dismiss them as imprecise, subjective, archaic, and poorly programmed.
I find their own jargon the perfect marriage of scientific and capitalist hegemonies, with the classic goal—to create commodities for markets and profits for shareholders. They don’t begin to understand the degree to which materialism is not the acme of science but the detour of science into decadent, stage-4 capitalism. They think that science always holds the final and upper hand over corporate greed, but I think that it is precisely the opposite and that these articles are symptomatic of that sad fact.
June 30, 2015
I’m working these days on an autobiographical manuscript I dropped in 1977. It’s striking to me how many of the issues I struggled with then are active now in different ways, though I do feel as though I have made some progress. The progress is dramatic in terms of what I know and my shift at core, less so in terms of who I am as a social being or in my comfort level in public situations. The main episode I tried to recover today, some of it from handwritten journal pages, was a trip I took to Anchorage in August, 1976, with Ed Dorn, Bob Callahan, Ishmael Reed, a few other poets and writers not noted, and the Jim Pepper Band, invited by Tlingit cultural minister Andy Hope to participate in the annual powwow. It was not an occasion really suited to reading from one’s work (Andy used tribe oil money to fly up people he wanted, without any local support), and, after watching other poets perform great pieces to an uninterested native Alaskan audience that didn’t even stop talking to each other to pay attention to the whites, I decided to imitate the native story-tellers instead, drop my planned selection, and speak of my growing up in an urban arcade without traditions or spiritual training. My mother had committed suicide the previous year and my brother had been in a mental hospital on psychotropic drugs for two yeas, so I could talk about how we lacked shamanic guidance in healing or ameliorating demons. The routine worked, but it earned me much razzing from my fellow writers.
When I drop into and out of this text, I am amazed at the passage of time. I get into the narrative, and then I stop and have to take stock—it’s 39 years later and I’m in New York City 2015, a totally different era.
July 1, 2015
Today I want to call attention to my one-time Goddard student Jamie Rauchman, who has become quite a mature, sophisticated painter. Tonight Lindy and I had dinner with him and his partner Paul Hertz and viewed years of his work in the basement of their apartment building at 121st St. and Morningside in NYC. It ranges from photorealist Cuban landscapes and portraits to abstract topologies that start with complex two-dimensional forms, evolve into their three-dimensional equivalents, and then flow off the paintings into rooms and onto furniture. This meshes with Jamie’s evolution of self-portraits whereby the painter, the studio, the paint, and the initiating image all work their way onto and off paintings of the canvasses themselves into various views of the studio. There is also a radical gay edge to Jamie’s work including several large-canvas blow-jobs, one inter-racial. This touches upon Jamie’s and Paul’s own art collection upstairs, highlighted by a vast array of cross-cultural phalluses and fertility stones and folk and surreal art running the gamut from voodoo statues to native Cuban works to dolls that range between pop art and soul-work homunculi. It’s great to see Jamie come of age. Note that his website is about two years behind his actual art: http://www.jamesrauchman.net/
July 2, 2015
Mainly for NYC Facebook friends, a couple of additional shout-outs.
Marcelo Coutinho is a subtle, sensitive Rolfer, which is not an oxymoron. A colleague and student of late Rolfing master Louis Schultz and a former dancer with Merce Cunningham (modern dance is what brought him from Brazil to NYC), he combines the traditional Rolfing fascial and neuromuscular sculpting with Upledger-oriented craniosacral listening and Barral-oriented attention to visceral shapes and spaces. He is well worth a session or regular visits. He balances the body and gets you grounded and your self-awareness back on track. He is also a warm, compassionate healer who understands energy as well as most Reiki practitioners. Check out Village Rolfing on 13th Street just to the west of Sixth Avenue. If you’re coming from the East Side, the L train along 14th drops you one block away. [Marcelo also helped put together a revised version of Louis’ classic Out in the Open: The Complete Male Pelvis, which NAB published, both versions in fact. This describes a large number of male—and female for that matter—pelvic issues, and it also touches upon a bodywork that Louis (before his passing) and Marcelo somewhat uniquely do, direct genital work. This means palpating both male and female organs, nonsexually it goes without saying, as regular parts of the body. It turns out that European pro athletes based in NYC (like hockey players) tend to be more comfortable and familiar with this notion than most Americans are. Mostly Marcelo works as a regular Rolfer and bodyworker, but as Out in the Open explains, the corpus spongiosum, etc., develop the same blocks as other tissue and need the same attention. Most bodyworks won’t go there, often out of legitimate legal concern.]
On Sixth Avenue between 13th and 14th, half a block from Marcelo, is
Gust Organics (http://gustorganics.com/), a great organic vegan restaurant that is now at risk of closing. They seem to me to have plenty of clientele, but apparently not enough to pay the rent. Service is a bit slow, and it is a hair pricey (though not by NYC standards). Otherwise, the food is spectacular and all organic. Before the owners took a ecopolitical position against meat, they had the best range-fed steaks I ever (guiltily) tried. Now there is a variety of vegan dishes ranging from wild-mushroom crepes to shiitakes with lemon curd and various vegetable mixes, raviolis, seitans, lasagnas, raw-cracker pizzas, etc., plus well-thought-out cleansing juices and smoothies (and perfect carrot cake, tiramisu, etc.). There is a sign up in the place asking customers to spread the word, so I want to do that here. Go visit at least for a meal, order a delivered meal if you are in their delivery zone (south of 23rd Street to down a ways), or even have them cater an event. Lindy and I next plan to be back in New York in October for our daughter Miranda’s performance at BAM, and when we go to Marcelo, we’d hate to find Gust Organics no longer there. Apparently August is the head-of-the crisis month. Like the sign says, Save Gust Organics! I like it better than any restaurant in NYC, better even than Hangawi, the Korean zen place on 32nd off Fifth, better than the Bay Area’s Café Gratitudes (which I like plenty and which it are closest to in menu, except Gust is less raw), better than Portland’s fine strip of Thai and other restaurants (which are great in themselves). Okay, NY friends….
(NY scene: Bangladeshi subway toll attendant figuring out our scramble of Metrocards, five of them, with various degrees of fare on them from the last two years, helping us get them us to fare level, and insisting that he didn’t make a mistake because he taught college math before this job, and then proceeding to explain in great detail why he moved from Bangladesh to New York, including lessons in global politics and the future of the species while a line formed behind us. He enjoyed every minute and, frankly, so did we—and I suspect the aggravated folks immediately behind us.)
July 3, 2015
A number of people have asked me what to read of mine, so I will try to reconstruct the arc of my work. No, I am not happy that there are around 40 titles. That is not a good way to go about things, but when it is happening, you are in the present, you don’t see your whole snail trail going around in circles. It’s just the way it played out for numerous reasons.
- Apprenticeship books from 1965 to 1976. I don’t relate to any of these now, and they are officially out of print (though I have copies of many). I think of them as my practice run, though I do still hear from people who pick them up and read them believably—and why not? A sincere person wrote them and they were the best he could do at the time. They are like my own pre-Socratic fragments, just not fragments at least not yet. Except for the Black Sparrow/Mudra ones, I have extra copies and am willing to give them to anyone who names what they want and sends the postage. These are, in rough chronological order. A. The Black Sparrow/Mudra titles: Solar Journal: Oecological Sections, Book of the Earth and Sky (two volumes), Space Wild and Tame, and The Continents. B. The Harper title: Book of the Cranberry Islands. C. North Atlantic Books general experimental prose: The Provinces, The Long Body of the Dream, The Book of Being Born Again into the World, The Windy Passage from Nostalgia, and The Slag of Creation. D. Io/North Atlantic Books essay collections: Mars: A Science Fiction Vision, Early Field-Notes from the All-American Revival Church, Martian Homecoming at the All-American Revival Church, and The Unfinished Business of Doctor Hermes (or Cosmic Shootout at the All-American Revival Church). That’s fifteen early books that you don’t have to address as part of my live oeuvre—trial runs, getting a voice. They probably never should have been published, but then what’s publishing on a planet where everything not sopped by the rising Okeanos will be incinerated by the nova Sol?
- Expository projects done for other publishers and rewritten subsequently for North Atlantic Books (1976-2003): Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, and Embryogenesis. Add to those the general sequel Embryos, Galaxies, and Sentient Beings: How the Universe Makes Life, written at the tail end of the cycle. Planet Medicine was published by Doubleday Anchor, then Shambhala, then twice by North Atlantic, under the subtitle From Stone Age Shamanism to Post-Industrial Healing. Each edition was to some degree revised (from Doubleday to Shambhala the biggest revision). Then I rewrote the whole book into three volumes beginning in 1992, in fact revised them again in 2000, as Planet Medicine: Origins; Planet Medicine: Modalities; and Homeopathy: The Great Riddle (originally Homeopathy: An Introduction for Beginners and Skeptics). The first two need to say “Revised Edition” to be the 2003 rather than 2000 versions.
The Night Sky was published by Sierra Club Books and then J.P. Tarcher under the subtitle The Science and Anthropology of the Stars and Planets and then rewritten by me for North Atlantic Books in 2012-2014 under the subtitle Soul and Cosmos.
Embryogenesis was typset by Avon under the subtitle From Cosmos to Creature and published by North Atlantic (after the Avon editor left). I then rewrote it from 1996-2000 under the subtitle Species, Gender, and Identity.
The most recent versions of all six of these books are part of my core work: Planet Medicine: Origins; Planet Medicine: Modalities; Homeopathy: The Great Riddle; Embryogenesis; The Night Sky, and Embryos, Galaxies…. Planet Medicine has been redone so many times for different publishers that it is a bit of a muddle, so I have posted a guide to the mishmash on my website (see the foreword to the e-book versions).
- My three memoir books written concurrently with both book cycles above. Versions of New Moon and Out of Babylon: Ghosts of Grossinger’s were published in the mid to late nineties, but I am writing new versions while dropping the subtitle of Babylon.
Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage was never published, but I am presently putting it together. As a whole, these books have writings that begin before 1965 and go up to the present. They span my whole process and are the most fiction-like and literary things I have done.
- On the Integration of Nature: Post-9/11 Biopolitical Notes, The Bardo of Waking Life, and 2013: Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration. These are three books running from 2003-2010 that return to a different version of the same sorts of mixes of topics that I used in the earliest experimental prose books: a mixture of landscapes, dreams, political essays, science-fiction stories, pop-culture views, mythology, spiritual process, life narratives, plant stories, animal stories, stone stories, ecological investigations, etc. They are really one long book in which individual pieces run from a sentence to about ten pages.
During this same period I wrote two books as the publisher of North Atlantic Books: Migraine Auras: When the Visual World Fails and The New York Mets: Myth, Ethnography, and Subtext. I wrote the former because there was no book explicitly on the topic of optical migraines without headaches and it turned out to be too expensive to hire a writer. I wrote the latter because a New York sportswriter (Mike Vaccaro) thought my essay “Playing Catch with Terry Leach: Baseball as an Act of Transgression” was an interesting and quirky baseball piece and he offered to write an intro if I could turn it into a book. Instead I wrote a companion piece (“Endy’s Catch”) and then collected all my other writings on the Mets from their beginning in 1962 for a collection.
5- Dark Pool of Light: Reality and Consciousness. I wrote this three-volume book after finishing 2013. It started out as a discussion of neuroscience and psychic practice, two opposite poles that I intended to begin together on their own terms. The discussion got broad enough that I eventually formed three books out of it. The first was subtitled The Neuroscience, Evolution, and Ontology of Consciousness and summarizes the scientific arguments for the material evolution and basis of mind (biological, astrophysical, anthropological, psychological) and the critiques of them. The second was subtitled Consciousness in Psychospiritual and Psychic Ranges and brings together Eastern and Western views of mind. The third was subtitled The Crisis and Future of Consciousness and intuits the destiny of conscious life forms in the universe. The revised edition of The Night Sky, the one subtitled Soul and Cosmos, is effectively Volume Four; its subtitle in the series would be The Universe. I am currently working on another book in the series: Bottoming Out the Universe: Karma, Reincarnation, and Identity (its drafts have posted on my website).
When people ask me where to begin, of course anywhere is possible, but I would say—Not at any of the early experimental prose books or earlier editions of the books on healing, cosmology, or embryology. Pick one of the latest version of Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, or Embryogenesis, depending on your predilection and/or Embryos, Galaxies…. Read one of the three from among Integration, Bardo, and 2013. Read one of the volumes of Dark Pool of Light depending on whether you are more interested in the science, psychic practice, or speculation on consciousness (each one stands alone). Read one of my memoir books (either now or after waiting for the new versions). Go from there (or not) according to your interest and patience with me.
July 4, 2015
Lindy’s birthday is July 4th; she used to wonder as a young child why so many people knew to celebrate it. I remember best the intersection of her birthday with Independence Day after we had been married one year: 1967, Prescott, Arizona, collecting data for the Directory of American Regional English while doing a separate project about millenarian religion in Hotevilla and Oraibi on the Hopi reservation. This was during the Vietnam War, and the sonic armada of jets suddenly screeching over the city was downright terrifying. How much has changed since then (and gotten better), but how much hasn’t changed (and gotten worse)? By count it was still thirty-four years, two months, seven days till 9/11 and the break in the random-noise generator.
Yesterday we walked all the way from York and 77th through Central Park to the Natural History Museum on 80th and Central Park West (seven of those long avenue blocks plus the park itself).
Central Park holds memories for me that stretch from my own afternoons playing Hare and Hounds with Bill-Dave Group at age seven following a day at P. S. 6, 1951, to our son Robin getting himself into pick-up hardball games as the Santa Cruz Kid, 1989 (he was on the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs by then). I saw the scene of both events in the general territory of the large obelisk. Hard to conceive how many tableaus have been enacted there, let alone how many separate views—sentient portals—of those tableaus
The Museum of Natural History was mobbed. It was difficult to move, let alone look in comfort. So many electronic devices and agendas operating at once too.
The old dioramas of my childhood were still there, the cheetahs, rhinoceroses, wild pigs, ostriches, colobus monkeys frozen in time, really dead taxidermies ripped out of nature and posed in a kind of pornography if you think about it but also exquisite in their own metaphors. I may see them differently now, but not all that differently. After all, the illusion is seamless with its suspension of disbelief.
I was exhausted by the various wefts of loose and dead energy ricocheting through the museum by the time we got to the primates, a well-furnished series from tree shrews through lemurs, aye-ayes, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes to Homo sapiens). That led to Indians of the Eastern Woodlands, then of the Plains. These are rich exhibits with clothing, artifacts, smaller dioramas, etc.
And then I thought of something—to take their faintly evocative mood of other worlds, really other universes, up a few frequencies to an astral-oriented tier of perception. The synthetic mood was still there—lazy, diffuse—but it was longer not just a haze of boundary-less empathy or egoic imagination of these remote lives. There was an actual sense of communicating with and melding into them as a Sethian Multipersonhood or Group Soul where one’s own life (or life cycle) timelessly intersected the lives of the Indians portrayed here. If you do this successfully, you not only romantically project into a native American (Iroquois and then Ojibwa) by some sort of Hollywood fake reductionist transfer, you feel (more deeply and obscurely) an authentic transmission of a radically different existence from your own that suffuses your aura more than your mind with a kind of dead-reckoning compass to there and then. Even more poignantly, it is not the sentimental nostalgia and literalism of the displays that carries the energy; it is the artifacts themselves (baskets, knitted blouses, adzes, beads, painted hides) broadcasting psionically or psychotronically, at around an Atmic frequency, blasting vistas and transpersonal, transdimensional landscapes at the numbed crowds. It is not that the lookers don’t get it; they do—that’s why they’re even there, staring, trying to make sense, using modern devices to record the exhibits.
No wonder the scene is so cosmically as well as physically and mentally exhausting!
You can also sit in a theater and ride out astronomy’s Potemkin Big Bang, but we did that last time, and after the promised four-minute wait turned into fifteen with no entry in sight, we bailed.
July 5, 2015
My cousin Seymour Zises saw this framed photograph at his brother Siggy’s July 4th party yesterday and snapped a shot of it. I have two other photos of the same event but had never seen this one. 1956 All-Star Game day, July 10, Cape Chipinaw, Swan Lake, New York. My father brought two New York Yankees to Chipinaw during the All-Star break, as lots of them stayed at Grossinger’s, his hotel. The visit caused a huge commotion at the camp. They brought along a Grossinger’s photographer to document the event, hence the stamp, but the photo was not taken there. From left to right are Siggy’s friend Ken Wapnick, Siggy, Don Larsen (who would pitch a perfect game in the World Series that year against the Dodgers), me (in front), Mickey McDermott (a journeyman pitcher), Jay (Siggy and Seymour’s brother my age), Arthur Richman (sportswriter for the Daily Mirror and later traveling secretary for the Mets), Paul Grossinger (my legal, not my genetic, father, though I didn’t know it at the time), and Abbey West (Chipinaw’s legendary head counselor). More context for this event and many of these characters (notably West, Jay Zises, PG, and Richman) in my memoir books Out of Babylon and New Moon.
July 6, 2015
It makes sense that getting out of NYC yesterday at the end of July 4th weekend would be difficult, but the obstacle was not an expected one: 2 hours 15 minutes on line at Budget Rental Car on 31st off Lexington. When I arrived at 12:30, there were about fifteen people ahead of me, and each check-in was really, really slow. They were also overbooked on cars and waiting on returns. I switched to Budget because it was the lowest price for a one-day rental (to get back to Windsor, Connecticut, and retrieve our car), but that was a chimera because by the time I got through with the rental, it cost pretty much the same—I had fallen for a bait and switch. In fact, to my chagrin I didn’t even book through Budget. Priceline took over my booking without my being aware of it. This is how the world is now, even a simple world of simple actions. There is no such simple world and there are few activities that are not in some way or another tied into the global market and its routine scams. Also they were sending the cars out with whatever gas they had on their return. Mine had an eighth of a tank.
My wait online was tedious and unpleasant until around the hour mark when someone entertaining finally got on line behind me, a good-looking, somewhat wiped-out woman with some pizzazz from Coral Gables, Florida, with her son, a high-school junior. Her husband, an attorney I eventually found out, was at Hertz with their other two kids, just in case, and it turned out to be necessary because Budget didn’t have the mini-van she reserved. What was great about her was that she was all over the board in modern pop America; I could never tell what she would say next, from astute recognition and outrage to blind acceptance of the most kitsch crap in her Florida neighborhood, all the same. We talked for about a half hour, and it felt like a very well-written sitcom. They were on a family vacation but also taking their son around to colleges (as diverse as Columbia and Texas A & M, figure that—in fact, they were headed south from NYC to Georgia and Emory). “He’s into science,” she explained. “It’s a wonder he hasn’t blown up the house yet with his experiments. You haven’t, have you?” It was pretty much like that. She was wearing a plain gold cross on a necklace, and I would have cast her somewhere between Mary Stuart Masterson and Laura Dern. She wanted to put me between Steve Martin and Richard Gere. I talked to the son a bit too and put in a word for College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. “If he wants Columbia,” she had said, “he better bring up his game.”
The family in front of me was insufferable. It was composed of a surly guy, a young teenage boy, and a woman about half his age or made to look half his age with her face painted as smooth and white as a mask and wearing a turban. I thought that they were East Indian American, but they may have been upper class from India. They seemed mainly concerned that someone might take their place on line, so refused civil conversation. I had to squeeze up to the couple ahead of them to find out that, yes, this was a line for people with reservations too. When their turn came about a hundred minutes into my wait, I was by then behind them out of the garage itself and into the office, so could observe there interactions. He had the clerk start over twice in order to try to get a better rate even though he was warned that he would lose his discount if he did. When asked if he still wanted to do it, he gestured with his hand no words, just a movement like pitching cards. When it came out costing him more, he didn’t give up, he wanted to try a different ploy. The clerk mentioned that there were people behind him who had been waiting two hours and also told him that he was wasting his time and that it would cost more again. He made the same gesture, and it did. He was absolutely non-apologetic when he finally ended up marching out like the cat that swallowed the canary to his car with the original booking.
I had told myself all along that the practice here was to be patient and to say nothing irritable, show no unhappiness, and certainly not bitch, as a number of people ahead of me had done—I could hear the ruckus. That paid off because the clerk thanked me for my good humor (it wasn’t that so much as creating and destroying roses in John Friedlander’s system, changing the energy balance); he gave me a spontaneous discount that brought the charge down about $70 or the whole thing would have ended up costing me more than the original Hertz reservation I cancelled.
I didn’t see the tiny office until the Indian family went in, making space for me behind them. Only then did I realize that there were four young men on raised chairs and only one active station. The others were sitting at their monitors with soda cups and candy bars, telling jokes, laughing, functionally inactive and oblivious to what was going on as if in a different movie—it couldn’t have been a lazier, shoot-the-breeze Sunday afternoon, no business at all, just hanging around the office and cracking up. One was grungy white with only half his uniform on; three were black including the guy working the monitor who maybe had a Jamaican accent or was playing with one. They were all very young and quite appealing aside from the situation—interesting faces and movements. I have no idea what the scene was, but while working in John’s system I took it for granted that they were do what they needed to with energy at that moment in that place in the cosmos and didn’t need or want my outrage or critique. The universe was as it was meant to be. It was up to me to find my place and accept it.
When the lady from Coral Gables got in the door (and just before her husband summoned her to Hertz with a snappy tune on her cell), she took a quick look around, sized up the situation, and said, “Whazzup, guys? Just chillin’?” Doubtless she wasn’t practicing John’s system, but her remark was even more perfect.
July 7, 2015
On a video of firefighters in Slovakia rescuing ducklings from a sewer by removing a grate and bringing them up, one by one, and handing them to the mother duck waiting along the roadside, then getting them all back into the river [http://www.noviny.sk/c/zaujimavosti/kuriozna-zachrana-hasicov].
Consciousness at so many levels…working to bridge its own ancient gaps. Compassion too. This is the same species (Homo sapiens) that gave rise to Daesh (ISIL), so bridging that gap is the order of the next few millennia. I think that it is possible and that resistance to its paradox, grace, and reconciliation lies at the root of the present global crisis.
July 8, 2015
A busy day moving from Portland to Southwest Harbor (158.5 miles door to door) leaves time only for the day’s few shout-outs: 1. Zoot, restaurant on the main street of Camden (Route 1), is more than a restaurant; it is Sondra Hamilton’s community center and cooking class (the website makes it seem like more a coffee coffee house than it is: http://zootcoffee.com/). Sondra, a Chinese-American former Princeton and Stanford student and graduate student who grew up in San José, decided to make a different life with her husband: “seasonal living,” as she calls it. She provides quiches (asparagus-dill, spinach, and fiddlehead-fern in season), blueberry muffins, hazelnut cake, salads, fruit and vegetable drinks—all home-made and organic. The service is slow because she and a helper do everything, but the mood and food are great. At 79 miles, it is precisely halfway. If you find yourself driving the coast of Maine, this is a worthwhile stop. 2. Slaid Cleaves (on the car iPod), best unknown songwriter and guitar player in North America, a mixture of his native Maine and the Austin scene to which he moved, plenty of stuff on youtube to listen to; his website: http://slaidcleaves.com/. He’s not maybe quite Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs, and he’s most of a generation younger, but he’s in their league, and there’s a lot of country & western and cowboy, maybe an echo of Townes Van Zandt and Geoff Muldaur thrown in, edgy left-wing politics, dark, more existential than spiritual, but then that’s how that music should be. 3. Dianne Dixon’s novel Book of Someday. She is a terrible writer that I love the work of and listening to on CDs. There is nothing to recommend this book except the fact of it. It’s overwritten, clichéd, its episodes way overhyped, poorly paced, clunky, vulgarly and sloppily commercialized and gratuitously sexualized, kitsch, and then read breathlessly with way too much canned drama. Yet for me these stories work because they’re mysterious and touch something tantalizing and human. I like Dixon’s Language of Secrets much better; it’s a tighter, more cohesive, more compelling narrative. I recommend her if you like a good story with lots of twists and unexpected revelations. (http://diannedixon.com/) 4. The East Coast: misty days, thunderstorms, dew, more sea breezes than there are names for, wildflowers, humidity, summer, memory, nostalgia. We couldn’t have moved here after 38 years in Berkeley if we weren’t somehow already here.
July 14, 2015
I discovered that I can’t do daily posts, certainly not and still work on other writings, so I will post on as relevant. A few backlogged things:
- Lindy and I spent a few days in Blue Hill, Maine, guests of Jungian therapists Nathan and Lydia Schwartz-Salant. It is intrinsically healing to be around mature Jungians because they derive the meaning and spiritual/individuation process from the most mundane and negative things. It deepens one’s own perspective and self-narrative. It puts one in an etheric field on a planet in a greater mystery.
- On Sunday we visited with Jonathan Lethem, a wonderful novelist and North Atlantic’s first employee, briefly, during the 1980s when he was still an apprentice science-fiction writer who had dropped out of Bennington and hanging out in Berkeley. Watching the Mets on the old-fashioned giant dish at the East Bay Satellite Baseball Club in the backyard of our Blake Street house was a memorable adventure then, in the early days of out-of-market games, and we honored that memory Sunday with some Mets-watching on my computer before going to Curtis Cove Beach where there was a social scene equivalent to an outdoor party because so many people knew each other, even as the tide came in and eventually removed the venue. Jonathan is a thoughtful, modest writer with a wide range of styles and voices.
- I was doing some research for a scene I was recreating from the 1990s, and I wanted to reference Bruce Conner’s iconic 1965 film “Vivian,” which is available in full on youtube (11 minutes if I remember). I like pretty much all Bruce’s SF renaissance work, the paintings as well as short experimental films like “Vivian” but especially the one-of-a-kind “A Movie.” The latter is constructed brilliantly from documentary footage of mainly old movie clips, newsreels, disasters, anomalies, and grotesqueries; check it out, it is of an era, but utterly unique, and comes off as a brief tragic history of our species, paced like a piece of symphonic music, exquisitie rhythm of gaps and intense images, as prophetic of the Islamic State and eco-catastrophe as vestigial of the sixties and with a shamanic overtone as man “evolves” back into the sea. Anyway I wanted to see who sings the background song of “Vivian” (“Mona Lisa,” but it’s not the Nat King Cole version). I thought maybe Elvis, so I checked out his rendition on youtube. It isn’t (“Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa, / Or just a lovely, lonely work of art?”); yet watching young Elvis in the clips and thinking about his magnetic appeal, I was immediately triggered to Caitlyn Jenner and the ambiguity and trans- aspect to all gender that was almost completely missed in the fifties even as it was intimated and deeply felt. Elvis’ appeal was a foreshadowing of the dissolving boundary of gender—his macho presence is totally feminine and that was its appeal.
- I spent five hours today with Richard Hoagland on the Dark Matter network (the return of Art Bell), covering the Pluto Flyby on Skype from Maryland headquarters. Richard got a coveted interview with project director Alan Stern, I think because Stern had no idea who was on the other side of the mike he was handed and it was a generous celebratory moment, and also Dick is better informed on the science of Solar System astronomy than just about any other commentator. His speculations are a whole other territory. Stern provided two memorable images that will almost certainly dominate Pluto’s status on Earth for the foreseeable future, as well as help reinstate it as an official planet. Pluto is more complex, surprising, and enigmatic than Mars, and it is not only a planet but a mini-Solar System with five moons and its own barycenter. Hoagland additionally asserts that its mean-motion-resonance is impossible by celestial mechanics and it reads artificial: a torsion-physics, interdimensional machine.
July 16, 2015
If Russell Targ can remote-review under the auspices of the Pentagon and be convincing enough that military skeptics want to learn the technique, then Don Dixon can remote-view Pluto. Remote-reviewing doesn’t require the consent or even the knowledge of the viewer. My hunch is that we are doing it all the time, but we just don’t know what we’re looking at (either in implicit nature or explicit content). It’s actually more of an elusive uncertainty state than that: we don’t believe that we could be looking at what we are looking at, so we either don’t “see” it or we conflate it instantaneously into something else. And we don’t ever pull it up out of the unconscious and subliminal realm. But it is still an active, ineluctable force: civilization is driven at an unconscious level by unmanifest forms and archetype-like fields as much as it is driven by willed intentions. Greece, Iran, Israel, Syria, Mexico, and all those revved American politicians reflect the Sphinx in the Solar System and Oracle at Delphi at a different levels from those at which they express doers’ and leaders’ conscious intentions. http://www.cosmographica.com/spaceart/pluto-predicted.html.
July 18, 2015
I know that it’s naïve, but instead of good guys and bad guys, or winners and losers, on the planetary stage, in each instance from Mexico to Syria, the Koreas to Ukraine to Nigeria, how about energy, cause and effect, global action and reaction, latency and manifestation, orbital transduction, and the cosmic balance of forces? For instance, I don’t think that ISIL or the Mexican cartel is any worse or, for that matter, different from international capitalism with its human and environmental degradation nor, more significantly, would any other sort of malignant activity accurate balance its energetic equation or serve as its sanguinely named “healing crisis.” Blowback is gravity, yin and yang, karma in action, and homeopathic response.
July 24, 2015 I was thinking again about the random-number generators on 9/11. Without going into detail here (descriptions of the experiment are widely available online), there were (perhaps still are), I think, forty of these generators worldwide as part of a “global consciousness” experiment, one phase of which is monitored at Princeton University. About three hours before the 9/11 attacks, these computers began generating coordinates at significant deviations from chance (against odds of about 6000 to 1). I have written about this matter at length in Dark Pool of Light, but I was considering anew the implications: not only telepathy (and at the scope of a noosphere) but precognition too, a distortion in the fabric of time. If authentically interpreted, this parley would make it one of the most significant experiments of all time, indicating that events can be experienced unconsciously before they begin and can also be transduced globally from mind to matter.
In checking this out on Google tonight, I find, not surprisingly, that the pro skeptics are all over the experiment. They no more want it to be legit than Benjamin Netanyahu wants a treaty with Iran signed, and for a surprisingly similar reason: ideology over faith, force against hope, a desire to put human destiny in the hands of the technocrats, the military, and large corporations. He no more cares about the details and minutiae of the treaty than skeptics care about the actual evidence and its implications.
Anyway I find online two major skeptical objections to a precognitive, telepathic interpretation of the random-number generators: 1. The results are merely statistical variations and, without a prior protocol for what they mean, they could mean anything or, more likely, nothing. If you want a real test for consciousness, have people try to move a microbalance with their thoughts. To quote one smug skeptic, “Maybe if enough people scrunch up their faces and concentrate real hard at sending this suggestion to Radin and Nelson [supporters of a paranormal interpretation of the date], they will be driven to do the experiment. Don’t hold your breath.” But what if these effects take place not on the level of the conscious mind or controllable by consciousness but are the effects of a combination of the unconscious mind, the Etheric and Astral Fields, and the noosphere? I lot of good it does then to scrunch up your face and concentrate real hard. 2. The data is not precognitive because there is no such thing. The fact that the anomalies began three hours before the attacks is proof that they were not connected to the 9/11 events and are simply uncorrelated, wrong.
I don’t have any great insight or verdict to offer here. I will simply note that on any set of anomalies that challenge metaphysical materialism and the reign of commoditism, be they homeopathic microdoses, crop circles, memories of proximal past lives by young children, UFOs, remote views, faith healing, even mind-matter implications of quantum physics (and the list is much longer than this), the position of the skeptics is to start first with the notion that the event as proposed is impossible, then back-engineer a suitable materialistic explanation or pure debunking. It’s about on the level of Republicans saying, If Obama negotiated it, it must be lame—kill it. I sometimes wonder how skeptics explain their own existence, not when in the public spotlight but in the lost watches of the night.
July 25, 2015
War as defined by professionals in the military: The strategic and intelligent use of force against an intelligent enemy whose interests differ from and oppose ours and who are using force themselves. A chess match against a worthy and dangerous opponent.
War as defined by enlisted soldiers and jihadists: the ultimate human test of skill, camaraderie, and courage, the only way of finding out what’s in one’s heart and guts, the only game in which humans get to be both hunters and hunted.
War as defined by Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Cheney-Bush, and countless conservative chicken hawks: a video game that the US always wins, a zero-sum chess match in which the US has only queens and everyone else has only pawns, a patriotic orgasm enjoyed by a behemoth with unlimited wealth and an unlimited budget that alone gets to decide how things everywhere else in the world should be.
The trouble with exceptionalism is its failure to realize that all fanatical ideologues are exceptionalists. Everyone wants to establish a caliphate of like-minded ideologues and then boss everyone else around.
[Since Facebook friends raised the issue of the dilemma of these posts going to only a fraction of my entire list, I recommend going to my home page or, more reliably, to my website under http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2015/06/facebook-posts-june-2015/ for the daily post (if you are not getting and want to read it) and for the cumulative archive. I will post this notice every so often (a few days in a row now after a long lapse and a spate of new friends).
July 26, 2015
A Note on Whorfian Covert Syntax
About ten years ago I came up with two words that conjugated or declined (depending on whether you emphasized their noun or verb root) in a way that is unrecognized grammatically in English but similar to what Benjamin Lee Whorf described for “aspects” in Amerindian languages, particularly Hopi. We could then say that these words are neither conjugated nor declined but “aspected.” English aspects are quite powerful transitions imbedded at the level of covert syntax. Mine go from a pure, almost spiritual noun state to an agitated, distorted adjective, to a different, pathological noun state. Here are the two. I wonder if anyone can come up with another. They don’t have to follow this particular sequence and line of development:
Vigil Vigilant Vigilante
Despair Desperate Desperado
It’s basically forming an adjective on a verb stem while darkening its meaning and then building another noun on the adjective while taking its shadow over the top. The first case is a smooth accretion; the second turns the unvoiced “t” into a voiced “d.”
(After writing this, I thought of an imperfect (or defective) third one:
Psyche Psychotic Psycho
It doesn’t have the same smooth accretion mode of formation (in fact the last item is like a back formation), and its evolution of meanings and endings is choppier, less magically transformational, and less one of “real” unconscious latent grammar and more of overtly utilizing a semi-conscious recognition of the covert “aspect” itself.
[Since Facebook friends raised the issue of the dilemma of these posts going to only a fraction of my entire list, I recommend going to my home page or, more reliably, to my website under http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2015/06/facebook-posts-june-2015/ for the daily post (if you are not getting and want to read it) and for the cumulative archive. I will post this notice every so often (a few days in a row now after a long lapse and a spate of new friends).]
July 30, 2015
Terrence Deacon and I have placed quite different bets on the source disposition of the universe—phenomena as such, why something rather than nothing—but we have been having a sporadic fruitful discussion of our viewpoints for a few years, both in person (before I left Berkeley last year and on a return visit) and in emails. Terry is chairman of the anthropology department at UC/Berkeley, a true biological anthropological who works and thinks at a subcellular level in terms of the origin of species. I consider his recent book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (Norton) the best thing I have read on the topic insofar as it addresses the issue of life and consciousness from a scientific viewpoint. Terry is quantum leaps ahead of any other evolutionary biologist in modeling consciousness without abandoning Darwinism. Read this book and Origin of Species, and you have the whole presentation.
Terry balked at meeting initially because he didn’t think that conversation with a “mystic” would be useful. However, I am not a mystic in that sense, and my graduate degree is in anthropology. I started with a batch of academic articles Terry gave me and drew on them heavily in Dark Pool of Light (the first volume), and then I read the book and incorporated its arguments in my section on Darwin in The Night Sky (the revised 2014 edition). The fact that Terry approved of both uses speaks to the fact that we are able to converse about the complexity of the universe without our different takes on its source getting in the way. Here was our exchange this week (email addresses and incidental party’s name omitted):
From: “Terrence W. DEACON”
Date: Monday, July 27, 2015 at 1:44 PM
To: Richard Grossinger
Subject: Re: <no subject>
Thanks for the link to this. I will listen with interest. I suspect that the PsychToday piece was written by my friend Jeremy Sherman. I haven’t read it, but I probably should.
The Marcus piece in NYT on mind-as-computing is a classic version of the unconscious metaphysical propaganda that is implicit in much of modern science today. The result is that my work is sometimes treated as scientifically uninformed mysticism by one group and as reductionistic materialism by others. It exemplifies that we live in a sharply dualistic intellectual world.
This excerpt from the quote that you include from XXX (above) —
“Matter and mind are so totally different so how self-referential consciousness “evolved” from inanimate matter is a huge mystery …”
— indicates that he hasn’t grasped the essence of my argument and has been misled by the book’s subtitle (which was a concession to the publisher to help sell the book). The last line of the chapter on consciousness apologizes for the misleading subtitle, noting that mind doesn’t emerge from matter but from the constraints (aka absences) that organize matter. The centrality of absences and our contemporary blindness to their role in the world is, of course, the common thread running through the book. My effort is simply to do the best, most honest, job I can using scientifically guided reasoning to understand these mysteries—and neither assuming materialism nor magic. The subtitle turns out to have been a bit of unintended misdirection.
I look forward to getting together again when you return to Berkeley this winter.
The full quote from the last paragraph on Consciousness is:
“I believe that despite its counterintuitive negative framing, this
figure/background reversal of the way we conceive of living and mental
causality promises to reinstate subjective experience as a legitimate
participant in the web of physical causes and effects, and to ultimately
reintroduce intentional phenomena back into the natural sciences. It also
suggests that the subtitle of this book is slightly misleading. Mind didn’t
exactly emerge from matter, but from constraints on matter.”
I would add that a tendency to “substantialize” the phenomena that are effects of constraints (absences) is also a danger for those who assume that consciousness, meaning, purpose, value, etc., reside in a parallel nonphysical realm. It leads to a tendency to prematurely abandon the scientific enterprise in favor of uncritical mysticism. This is not to deny that our scientific understanding falls far short of explaining many phenomena, but it is a warning that we shouldn’t be too hasty to assume that something can’t be explained by some future scientific paradigm. There are more things in heaven and earth than …
This is all interesting and pregnant with possibility, hovering over so many tantalizing, unexplored chasms simultaneously. A few that strike me: 1) The Marcus piece is unconscious metaphysical propaganda because, I think, materialists who don’t examine the premises that led them to their materialism are all/always unconsciously metaphysical. Unexamined materialism, materialism that is unaware of its own ontological roots and unconscious dependence on unrooted constructs, even those intrinsic to mathematics itself, is metaphysical materialism by definition. 2) An intrinsic propaganda is built into both polar positions. The blind idealists/spirtual-ists fail to appreciate, regardless of their lip service to materialization of “spirit,” (say in classic hermetic texts of Pymander and Plotinus) the fact that this is and is operating as a fully self-contained and sealed physical zone, no exits or exemptions from physicalism as our current complete fate. But the blind materialists fail to appreciate the unsupported presumptions, incomplete lurches, gaps, baits-and-switches, lesions, patches, epicycles, etc., in their presumed orderly assembly line from matter to mind, from the Big Bang to the physics of the Big Bang. 3. Neither side seems to recognize consistently that the poignancy of life, of the present conundrum, of the mystery itself, whatever you put under that umbrella, whether it is or isn’t concomitant with the psychological depth and transpersonal “poignancy” of the universe, is a measure of how complex and accountable a model/paradigm of the whole enchilada has to be to stand a chance in the pagan wild. I mean, you can’t have a model of how you get to consciousness that is far less complicated, nonlinear, back-looped, and many-times-over synopsized and reimbedded than the consciousness probing it. E.g. you can’t have a universe any less complex than us. 4. What I like about your constraints, absences, as organizing principles for startlingly fresh emergences at new tiers is that, as you say, they are neutrally (scientifically) guided, they go into the “machine” and its interstices rather than out into unbased metaphysically materialist (or idealist) metaphors pretending to be vetted threads, continuities, and they make use of the unconscious/negative feedback that is so obviously the catalyst behind much of what we wake to everyday. Such constraint-drive profundity is almost tantamount to the outside-in/inside-out constraints that characterize, say, gastrulation or a philosophical concept or a poem (and of course the negative feedback of a koan wherein absence (“don’t know”) is the key to real knowledge. At Empty Gate, the Korean Zen Center in Berkeley, it’s (on inhalation) “don’t know, don’t know, don’t know”… then exhalation: “clear mind.”
Best wishes, Richard
August 30, 2015
I haven’t posted for a month, primarily because I have been working 4-5 hours a day on Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage and I haven’t had the energy or inspiration to write anything more. Episodes…. is my abandoned manuscript from 1975-1977, originally called The Planet with Blue Skies, renamed in the 90s. I hope to have it out by 2018. I have restored material taken out of it for my other two memoir books (nonfiction novels), New Moon and Out of Babylon, and I have added a second half, focusing on the period 1989-1994.
There are a few things I’m interested in talking about in retrospect, but I’ll start with the Tuesday hiking group on Mount Desert Island. Lindy and I were on MDI from August 5 till August 29 and are now back in Portland, Maine, for two weeks before returning. Having moved from Berkeley after 38 years last year, these are our two homes. Footloose Friends hikes many of the trails in Acadia Park fifty-two weeks of the year and has been doing so for decades. The group is made up of people mostly in Lindy’s and my general age range (born in the 1940s and 1950s), and they don’t hike the really dangerous summits like the Beehive or the Precipice. In the three weeks we were there we hiked the back side of Cadillac Mountain from Jordan Pond, Bernard Mountain from the Mill Pond, and Cedar Swamp Mountain from Upper Hadlock Pond. These are strenuous climbs, each with at least a half mile of clambering over rocks or on a steep slope (or both). The hiking group averages about twenty, the hikes about four hours (with a picnic included, from our backpacks), and the ascent about eight hundred feet.
One goal of the Cedar Swamp hike was to view the wreckage of a plane that crashed into the mountain in 1970. It has not been fully removed, though the body of the pilot was recovered after a three-month search when his Piper disappeared. He apparently was headed for the Bar Harbor Airport at Trenton, got lost in the fog and thought he was over the Atlantic.
The wreckage is not on the trail. If it was, it would have been removed by the Park. In fact, I found that many longtime MDI residents and natives did not even know it was there. I didn’t either.
I thought that it would be “heavy,” and it was. Yes, forty years had passed, and there was nothing that looked like a plane, just lots of metal objects strewn about in the woods with vegetation and trees grown up among them. Some of them were quite large; many were as tiny as a tea kettle; others were tiny shards and wires. Each piece had its poignancy. Many of the larger chunks were remarkably well preserved and held the basic shape of their anatomy on the aircraft. It did not look forty years old. I have never viewed a crashed plane before. Most people in the US haven’t.
Approaching the site, even before I saw the first occulted objects, I felt a vortex, a kind of psychic tangle or distortion. It wasn’t strongly palpable or gross but, on attuning, I felt its stickiness, a bit of nausea, plus a series of corkscrew or spirals in the field. I was not comfortable and was made more uncomfortable by members of the group climbing on wreckage, photographing it and themselves, and generally acting as though it was a coup to have found it off-trail, an acquired experience and artifact.
It was a coup, and I felt some of the same, but I also felt that it was a tomb, a coffin, a sacred spot, as well as a scene of extreme violence. The force of impact was still there, visibly. There was something else, a bit more poltergeisty.
It’s not that I thought that the others didn’t feel it too. I think they did and overrode it. If you don’t have everyday language for something, you can brush it off like a twitch or mild headache.
However, when I got back up the hill, Bar Harbor Bob, a retired MD who canoed across the Arctic and biked from San Diego to Augustine after a bout with serious cancer, an intense guy, generally secular, said, “What did you think?” He was one of a group that reached Cedar Swamp summit before us and had already been down to look.
“Pretty spooky,” I said.
“I’m not going back,” he said. “That guy’s ghost is still there. I could feel it. It needs to be released.”
“Psychically, then is now,” I said. “It just happened.”
“I know,” Bob said. “That is one scary spot.”
September 4, 2015
I have been meaning to post something about my ongoing studies with psychic teacher John Friedlander, but I had not found a moment to write something new. These paragraphs are taken out of recent ongoing manuscript draft, though their order is changed.
John sees the universe not as an event that happened in the middle of nowhere for no reason nor as a great delusional fog cast by samsara. Instead it is great and beautiful truth-mystery, a mechanism for individuation, self-discovery, and manifestation. In this guise the universe is not a single fixed thing; it is a series of shifting designs and vortices arising from each individual to form a phenomenal verisimilitude generated by belief systems. The universe reconstructs its reality through individuals moment by moment as they make decisions and act, in order to always optimize their possibility for spiritual freedom and meaningfulness. If they bad decisions, it takes those into account and re-optimizes at once. If they make good decisions, it takes those into account in the same way as it reconstructs itself from end to end in the next second. This sort of universe never rests, never goes on autopilot, never gets distracted, never spaces out, never loses track, never misses a beat (anywhere in its purviews and depths), never fails to adjust and reconstruct itself simultaneously from every view—every view of every sentient creature everywhere from moment to moment. We take vacations and siestas; the universe never lazes or slacks, even for a millisecond.
When bad things happen to good people, or are visited upon innocent creatures, it may take billions of years to reckon that, but it is always reckoned. Imagine a universe complex enough to optimize the possibility for spiritual freedom and meaning simultaneously for an ISIS executioner and his victim. The universe has to be tracking and managing at both levels and in both directions commensurately. It has to be exploring a reality beyond even its own multiple views, a reality supple and diverse enough to sustain its contradictions and intrinsic paradoxes, to turn the crucifixion of Christ into both an expiation of sin and a demonstration of the lengths to which it is willing to go to redeem and transubstantiate.
This is, of course, not the universe of Newtonian physics but a universe that incorporates consciousness and ego-mindedness with thermodynamics, relativity, quantum entanglement, string topology, and the like. It is a universe so complex and exquisite and multicentric that the mere so-called unified field theories of Stephen Hawking and fellow terrestrial cosmologists don’t hold even a thimble of it—the relationship of their paradigms to its true measure is less even than the energy deficit to Jupiter of an Earth-launched satellite using the planet’s gravitational field for a boost to the outer Solar System in comparison to the entire Jovian mass—about one electron.
September 9, 2015
William Irwin Thompson posted this poem today on Facebook. Not saying it’s a great art piece (it isn’t), or even that I make much sense when trying to talk to the dude (a combination of arrogance, brilliantly personal insults, and faux-humble self-aggrandizement are his stock-in-trade and preferred repertoire and entertainment plus he has a bit of the sadist in him, that is, makes no effort at civility or convivial engagement), though the poem is okay (and psychically timely for me—see below), and I also think some of WIT’s works (in particular, The Time It Takes Falling Bodies to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture) are fantastic, and among semi-famous recluses/misanthropes, it’s somewhat of a secret that he lives in Portland and likes to stroll from his West End apartment to Pom Thai or Green Elephant on Congress for lunch. His daughter teaches at Bowdoin and moved him here after he had a near-fatal heart attack in Colorado. He is more associated with Toronto, San Francisco, and Europe. Coincidence is that I went into that very grocery store yesterday for the first time. Lindy and I both had appointments with the wonderful young osteopath Derek Libby on Exchange Street and were going to eat lunch in the hour between each of ours. Instead I thought of getting take-out at Pom and eating it at that poignantly rowdy little likely-teen-homeless park on Exchange and, I think Middle, but Poms has nothing but sugar to drink, so I stopped at that store which had been invisible to me before as the only visible alternative option and managed to find a couple of lemon sodas with “natural” Maine honey. Notable was the crowd/gauntlet outside on the street to thread my way through (lots of bare flesh, tattoos, and cigarette smoke) and the surly ageless female cashier who answered my question about whether they carried Kombucha (ridiculous in the light of all this, though they did have so many cold drinks behind glass, a large proportion alcoholic) by staring back at me without a word, even when I asked again. Also I managed to leave on her counter the two audiobooks I had just picked up at Portland Public Library for our return drive later this week to Mount Desert (short stories by James Baldwin and the absurdly long [21 disks) Nicholas Nickleby, one of the few major Dickens novels I didn’t read while in high school). When I reached my car on High Street, meter having run out, I realized I didn’t have the audiobooks, ran back to Pom, they weren’t there, blanked out for a moment, then remembered what I had fazed from memory and went back to the grocery store for a second encounter I had counted on not having. I asked, she shrugged and looked back to the guy she was checking out with a six-pack. As I was about to get worried, she said, “You mean these?” and produced them. BTW the audiobook I returned, Runaway, short stories by Alice Munro, was well worth the effort over the last two months. They are subtle with lots of refraction and unspoken, unspeakable negative spaces out of which she carves fleeting ghosts of her Canadian characters through dissolving landscapes, always on the forcibly antiseptically side of madness. R
The humid densities
of the afternoon
do not slow down
Portland’s morbidly obese
who speed by
on electric carts
Frito Lay potato chips.
If they tried to walk they’d collapse
into adipose puddles. Ice Age statuettes
of steatopygous women
walk by in summer shorts.
I signal back
my Maine allegiance in the body language
of my belly over my belt.
Who knew that Maine was
as bad as Alabama when it comes to nutrition.
The poor white trash grocery stores
have no fruit juice
without corn fructose syrup, no yogurt without sugar,
and so they make a killing,
selling fat in Kraft
Easy Cheese aerosol cans,
Twinkies, Fruit Loops, and Coco Puffs.
The poor get diabetes
but only complain that
Whole Foods costs too much.
On Portland’s Congress Street,
it all comes down in the end
to education and class
and the need to belong by signaling your allegiance to the flag of your favorite ads
with tattoos, cigarettes,
junk food, and metal piercings
on your corporate billboard body.
September 9, 2015
I know that Facebook is a melding of many, many motley feathers and birds, but honest to god, how can Buddhists of serious persuasion also be such Tea Party qua NRA nuts that they continue to deny Obama’s citizenship or that the Newtown and Roanoke shootings actually occurred, as they present continual refreshments of doctored, out-of-context truther videos to back their claims? Just in the name of common sense and compassion, and on the off chance you MIGHT be wrong, give it a rest. I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person, and I published Richard Hoagland first mind you (the face on Mars), and I also know that what you didn’t see with your own eyes didn’t necessarily happen—you have no proof, in fact even if you did see it with your own eyes (George Plimpton once told me that a seatmate on a plane talked him out of Sirhan as the Bobby Kennedy assassin even though George was two feet away and helped disarm him). Plus, as the Danny DeVito character said to Peter Facinelli playing the fundamentalist Christian spouting biblical lore in The Big Kahuna, “Were you there?” No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t at Newtown and I wasn’t in Virginia, but I don’t think I’m being had or that such a massive scam could be pulled off seamlessly or that there is any need to do so since the NRA has every politician on the run anyway and guns are more abundant than ever. Show some decency, guys. The truther movement is not about truth; it is about trutherism; that is, doctoring evidence enough to create plausible deniability and give bigots and soul-deficient zombis their talking points. It is beneath the dignity of those who claim to be Dzogchen Buddhists. I could make a similar fuss about otherwise progressive/liberal poets standing up for Netanyahu as if he were a martyr for truth, but I won’t. I have lived with liberal Jewish exceptionalism regarding Israel my whole life, and I get it—they’re surrounded by fanatics who want to annihilate them. It excuses any behavior, right?
October 17, 2015
Back in New England after thirty-eight years in California, I understand and appreciate autumn so much more. Summer is brief, intense, and dear, fading even as it ripens. It seems just yesterday that the snows melted and the forsythia bloomed. Already it is cold, colored leaves blow across the grasses, all the flowers and bushes we planted from eager trips to various nurseries have gone dormant. There is a dying off and dreamlike mulching, a profound dormancy before renewal: the first blooms of Aries. Winds are stripping leaves even as I write. Snow will cover the ground again, protecting decay and resurrection.
When we moved to California, it was such a blessing and gift—endless summer, year-round flowers and fruits. In 1972, five years before we moved to Berkeley, a friend wrote from Santa Cruz: “You think that California can’t grow any more vegetation or it will burst, but then after a pouring rain the highway is a tunnel through acacia trees and pyrocanthia. Studded here and there between plots of emerald grasses are fields of chartreuse wild-flowers. Everyone’s lemon trees are hanging with fruit and purple, pink—incredible non-colors or LSD space colors bloom in gardens and near curbs. Dogwood-like trees have burst into color right out of the concrete. The smells drive me insane, literally. Smell is my most powerful Sense and is the one that signals my Fall—that is, Desire, Wish, Regression, Childhood, so that I can’t live in the present happily—always harkening back—crossing the Lethe.”
It was many years before I began to miss fall and winter, before I began to understand the oppression of unrelenting fertility, the tyranny of incipient drought. There was never any pause or renewal, and I gradually understood something that had eluded me before we moved there: why Californians hire gardeners. One is held hostage by the garden.
When you can’t experience the shadow and Scorpio/Pisces in the seasons, you must experience them in your own recesses as something else. There is always a sense of loss, but the loss of autumn is fundamental.
Yes, I know that California has seasons and botanical progressions; it too is subject to the Earth’s orbit, axial tilt, and zodiac. But it is nothing like Maine’s, where the seminal forces operate at a core level, leaving no alternative or evasion. You wake right into it and sleep under its moon. I need the seasons now in order to understand my own life. I need the starkness and cold to rekindle the light within.
Today I noticed the small cabin in the yard, a teahouse moved there by a former owner. This summer a large hornets’ nest had formed in the eaves. I was inclined to give it a wide berth without disturbing it, live and let live, till a friend of Lindy’s visiting from Berkeley got stung on the eyelid. Social pressure increased to the point where I bought one of those bombs that you spray from some twenty-five feet away. I regretfully lined up the nest but then realized how the fully-bearing blueberry bushes would be contaminated as well—an excuse not to do it. Instead, in between innings of a Mets’ game I was watching on my computer, I fired fallen apples at the nest from about forty feet away and ultimately dislodged it. The hornets vacated. I didn’t feel great about it, though the two or three thwacks out of about fifty shots were elating, and it was better than gassing them with poison from Wal-Mart. Afterwards I sprayed the eaves lightly up close to assure no return.
Today I passed the spot and noticed how silent it was all around: dead ferns, dead leaves, bare branches, no sign of blueberries or anything like them. The great hibernation has begun, when what is within will incubate its runes for next spring. Most of them are not born yet, carried in seed. (We will cheat by spending two months in California this winter visiting our children and grandchildren, but my home and heart are here).
did u throw a change-up or fastball?-go Bluejays!
They were intended to be fastballs, but who knows? From the hornets’ standpoint, my “fun” was sadly serious business, like knocking off the top of the universe. I will post on the Mets later. The D’ Arnaud-Syndegaard-Dickey trade was basic to both teams, but kind of a Mets steal. I like the Blue Jays, though. They are Canada and they are managed by John Gibbons, briefly a Mets catcher who started once and I think when four for four. The one ex-Met I am friendly with, Terry Leach, didn’t know it was the same guy. When I mentioned it, he said, “My John Gibbons?” I nodded. “Managing the Blue Jays.” He shook his head. We could use a Mets-Jays Series.
October 18, 2015
Correspondence between me in NYC and Maine and my son Robin in Berkeley during the Mets-Dodgers playoff series.
Flores tears and HR after not being traded is symbol of mets year vs
the nats dugout fight. Really great to have a likable team. Balances
out 06-08 a bit.
Yeah, who could have predicted that? When I saw Jonathan Lethem in July, he said they’d have to go for the wild card, couldn’t win the Division.
But it was the opposite. At this point I think that unless they raise the
budget significantly, it makes more sense to sign Duda and Murphy in the
offseason at half the price of Cespedes and let him go. I can’t see them
jumping to a $150,000,000 payroll, which is what it would take and also
how are they going to sign de Grom, Harvey, etc. if they have that much
invested in one player? We’ll see.
bummer of a game. Matz so easily could have not been scored on, very frustrating rally
Thanks for telling me that. It’s good to know I actually didn’t watch the game. Lindy and I were involved in something that overlapped the beginning. I thought it would be ten minutes, but the evening backed up and it turned into a half hour. When I looked online, it was two on, two out, in, I believe, the third. Then suddenly it was 1-0, and I was headed for the TV when it became 3-0. I decided not to watch because there was so much to catch up on and Kershaw was pitching, it was bound to be frustrating. I could come in at any point. I was looking for my moment, but it never came. I was following online while I did other work. I saw two at-bats: Flores’ hard ground to Turner and Murphy’s 3-2 flyball. Those were the closest things to that never-came moment and I turned on the TV for them. I’m glad to hear Matz wasn’t bombed.
Isn’t it remarkable that a little more than a year ago Lindy and I saw him pitch in the playoffs for Binghamton against the Sea Dogs? He wasn’t all that good that night, I think three runs in five innings and continually behind the hitters.
I was a big fan of Turner when he was on the Mets, not of him personally but him as a player. I ranked him among the five or ten top clutch hitters I have ever seen, there with Dale Mitchell of the old Cleveland Indians, Irv Noren of the 1950s Yankees, Jimmy Rollins, etc. I couldn’t understand why they just non-tendered him. He had had a killer second half of the 2013 season (in today’s press he credits Marlon Byrd for changing his batting style). Then I read that there was a dispute within the organization with some people believing he was a better option than Wright. Since he wasn’t one of their boys, wasn’t drafted by them, didn’t come up in the system (he came in a minor-league trade with the Orioles), his fate was sealed. He could be better than Wright, but they would never admit that, Wright is the golden boy. Sobeit. Rarely have mistakes and biases been so painfully exposed. Yes, Sandy Alderson is a genius, but he also gave away Angel Pagan for nothing (and pretty much catalyzed two Giant championships) and traded Colin McHugh, a twenty-game winner this year, for Eric Young. He almost traded deGrom to the Red Sox for that third-string catcher two years ago whose name eludes me but who played for the Mets a few months that year, then a scout dissuaded him at the last moment to substitute Pedro Beato. He is great but, of course, not perfect.
All we can do is wait and see. Can de Grom, 2018’s pitcher, beat Greinke, 2015’s pitcher? Can the future come fast enough, as it has for the Cubs.
Taking the long view, the issue is, will the culture change? The only reasons to non-tender Turner were to save some small-time dollars and float a sanitized PR image of Wright. They will face the same issues many times over this winter and in coming winters. The NYPost has them non-tendering Murphy this year. Carlos Torres will likely be allowed to walk too. Will this really happen, though, or will they see Turner as an indication that that is a bad strategy? There are really only two paths here: big-time and small-time. And I am not talking politics, just baseball, because Donald Trump would be a perfect owner for the Mets. Turner and Murphy are harbingers in a way. The Dodgers have more than three times the payroll of the Mets, and the Cubs are headed there. Even with a 50% jump in the payroll, which is huge, they cannot afford more than one, maybe two, of the current young pitchers, including Familia, when they come due. Without a 50% jump or something approaching it they cannot afford Cespedes right now. Even without Cespedes they cannot afford both Murphy and Duda. So they can keep only one of those three under present guidelines. There are choices to make. Either the Wilpons can afford to be big-time and make big-time club decisions, or this whole renaissance will deteriorate starting this winter. To me that’s the real crossroads. There are enough big-money clubs in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Texas to strip almost every player from the NYM roster over time, but even more telling, the majority of MLB clubs presently have a higher payroll than the Mets.
Still can’t believe they won that game. Apparently the first lead
Greinke gave up all year—and because of a strange steal and foul
sacrifice fly that probably should’ve been dropped (d’Arnaud would’ve
been down 0-2).
But the Dodgers did end up turning out to be the Nationals again,
fighting in the dugout and not playing as a team.
Mets really showed a lot of heart as a team, from deGrom (and
Harvey, Syndergaard even Matz too) facing down Kershaw and Greinke to
murphy making it happen even when the bigger hitters were tied in
knots, and overall, overcoming the devastating slide play that cost
them a winnable game and really handed the series to the Dodgers.
I’m still not even thinking about the cubs, just want to savor this
one for a while…
I am reminded of the cliché that it¹s a game of inches and also of how
each event is like a quantum uncertainty state that gives rise ton the
next quantum uncertainty state, forming a sum like in chaos mechanics,
generating an event that transcends the whole and defies even its own
parts. These events are numberless. Take Utley¹s pinch hit in Game 2. It
was just beyond the reach of Murphy. If he catches it, the whole series
likely takes on a different flavor entirely. What about a small thing like
Flores¹ two-out single in the seventh. If he doesn¹t hit that, de Grom
goes out for another inning, and maybe he runs out of steam. I forget
which World Series it was that was decided by Chuck Knoblauch¹s deking a Brave runner, Lonnie Brown (?), into slowing down because he fell for a
pretend movement in extra innings. That cost the Braves the Series.
Similarly, just not covering third during a walk with an infield shift may
have cost the Dodgers the series. Since these overshifts became so
popular, that possibility was there on a walk with a man on first, but I
don¹t think anyone perceived it before. I watched MLB for a while and they discussed why outfielders don¹t let foul sac flies just drop. One reason in D¹Arnaud’s case was the fact that you can never be absolutely sure inthe split second you have to make the decision, but on top of that no one wants to take responsibility for a bone-head play.
Only thing I am wondering about the Cubs series is roster changes: Is Uribe ready (apparently not, but there¹s still a day or two)? Do you
replace Goeddel with Torres (I would)? Is Blevins even perhaps ready? Does Reynolds stay on the roster in the Kevin Elster role?
October 19, 2015
My daughter Miranda’s play New Society closed this week after two years of performances in assorted venues from Boston to New York to Los Angeles, drawing sellout audiences. Many issues, philosophical and aesthetic, were raised by it. Though it has been widely praised, in fact to a surprising degree for a work so edgy and radical, there are issues that have left some viewers confused and/or disturbed, which is how it should be with any art that seeks to wake up and transform the audience.
In the play, really more a participatory theater piece than something in the lineage of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, or even Samuel Beckett, Miranda engages in a thought experiment: What if the life of everyone present were to continue in the theater and they were never to leave? How would basic matters of civil and personal life be conducted? As she invites members of the audience to participate, she raises issues of jurisprudence, health, sex, aging, death, money, food, and the formation of normative reality. Any of these can take volunteers and viewers into unfamiliar and uncomfortable ground, and do, in part because Miranda plays with charged issues and raises possibilities that the audience and participants would not normally be comfortable with. Their protection is that this is a theater piece and not reality, except that it is also a thought experiment meant to replicate reality, so the dividing line becomes wavering and unreliable, an uncertainty state more than a boundary. At no point does her theater cross over into life, but the piece is about that option, and Miranda would not achieve the art that she does without challenging belief systems and comfort levels as well as testing traditional limits around this matter.
Even if I weren’t her father, I would feel squeamish about some of her routines. She is very daring, but also she has an uncanny empathy for the pulse of the audience, so people trust her to take them beyond usual boundaries, and she always rewards that trust. In fact, the real art of the piece is her ability to work with different laypeople (if not total amateurs in every case, at least unscripted players, draw out their potential, and make it a creative and positive experience for them at the same time that she is including them necessarily (and ruthlessly) in the play, hence making an aesthetically and emotionally satisfying experience for the audience too.
Having watched Miranda develop her art from childhood, I have some overriding thoughts about the “meaning” of the piece, which is not to say that it even has an easily extricable meaning. Ever since she began doing avant-garde theater as a teenager, with The Lifers somewhat and then substantially with Sink You Up and Liars and Fingers, her edge seems to have been working with the boundaries between play and reality and between cast and audience. In her more recent work, she is the sole cast.
This mode was in partial incubation in the way in which she workshopped her second move The Future by developing parts of its narrative structure as a play in which semi-random volunteers from the audience acted out incipient key scenes. This meant not just once but in numerous venues in different locales over a period of time. So she got to see many different versions of her movie before she made it, much as a director does in auditions.
I take it that with New Society, Miranda has extended this exploration: context in lieu of content. To some degree bored by the formality of the conventional theatrical experience, she has tried to unravel it. In New Society from the instant she appears on stage and pretends to be losing it, unable even to do the performance, all the energy is going into the not-play, the unraveling of the play that wasn’t, or the play that would be there in some alternate reality. It’s a matter of always working inside-out or backwards from the moment the nonexistent play begins in the other direction, toward the hidden and latent factors that surround the occasion of there even being a performance, an audience, and a performer (her). The play is the fact that there is a play, or maybe that there isn’t; that is, that there is a performer and an audience and an expectation—and she really never goes past that. Never going past that is her prime self-imposed ground rule and the rule behind the piece. She stops the script and time-line right there at the beginning and explores the premise itself, and that becomes the show. The show is the fact that people have come to see a show. The show is the fact that they have come to see a show turned back on them, not as a complete meltdown of the line between actor and audience, instead as a thought experiment that tells a story, a kind of science-fiction trope, based on the ontological premise of the event itself.
By the way, New Society is definitively not Sleep No More or anything like it. Sleep No More, from what I hear, is the pinnacle of theatrical pretension and ego. New Society is the elision of theatrical pretense and the dissolution of ego. Sleep No More is pure capitalism. New Society is futuristically post-capital, post-debt. Her goal is melatonin not insomnia. If put in a diptych with SNM, New Society might be called Sleep Tight, or Sleep Till I Wake You, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakesperean producer Jeffrey Horowitz asker Miranda, after the last New York performance, if she was aware of the resonance with her namesake in The Tempest: “O brave new world” = New Society. I think that she was though not as explicitly as he intuited.)
Because the duration of the ordinary performance is far too brief to allow the full meaning of the inversion to be explored, Miranda handles it by making the “plot” an extension of the time-line to something like thirty years. That allows her to tease out birth, death, loss, desire, relationship, and so on, things which only manifest over long durations of time. This leads to the raison of the “play,” to allow the audience to experience their own transformation as an unscripted artifact rather than a Sophoclean catharsis from projection onto a myth/story. The plot becomes one’s own lifetime, which is also how the play works inside-out. It is an emotional transformative experience insofar as one undergoes personal mortality and time-travel and comes out of the evening’s trance more fully alive and aware and appreciative of his or her own process. In that sense, Miranda makes everyone an actor in her play, not just her generous volunteers, as New Society becomes a modern version of Shakespeare’s “The play’s the thing….”
October 20, 2015
This is the unlikely story of discovering a superfruit. About ten years ago I hiked offtrail in Acadia a few times with philosopher-naturalist Steve Perrin, author of Acadia: Soul of a National Park. At one point he discussed a seven-berry pie made from local fruits: blue, black, straw, rasp, huckle, and cran plus the rare Viking cloudberry. Then he showed me huckleberries, an extremely ubiquitous berry in eastern Maine. It was a great discovery. In Bardo of Waking Life I wrote:
“Until the summer of 2005 I didn’t know what a huckleberry was, though I had seen them without recognition forever. Black jujubes, they dilate on low-lying shrubs along the trails of Acadia and, in fact, throughout North America. Naturalist Steve Perrin named them after we climbed the ladders above Echo Lake onto Beech Cliffs.
“I had thought that those ubiquitous dark drupes were cranberries or chokecherries or something poisonous. Steve’s branding of them drew a fresh card out of the “berry” tarot. At his behest I took a cautious bite. The fruit had a subtle, cidery flavor, high on pulp and skin—intoxicating! Each was either slightly sweeter or more acrid than its predecessor. I enjoyed not knowing the sugar content until I crushed a pip in my mouth….
“Blueberry-like in size and shape, huckleberries are almost black, have stiffer skins, and are crunchier in the mouth. The majority are as shiny as good shoes, but buff ones are more reliably sweet.”
On the same hike I thought that Steve pointed out wild cranberries. Though very small compared to commercial varieties, they had a distinct cranberry taste and were even more astringent. I am quite sure that he accurately pointed out cranberries not only because of the confirming taste but because he is also the author of Acadia’s Native Flowers, Fruits, and Wildlife, an illustrated pocket guide. However, at some point in the last ten years I must have begun conflating Steve’s cranberries with another berry in the some mountain localities: darkish and similar looking and tasting. Several times in that period Lindy and I collected a sparse smattering of cranberries on nearby Mansell Mountain for an apple-cranberry pie, using the fall crop of heirloom apples from the old trees in our backyard. Those were probably cranberries, though ones growing not in wetlands but pooling zones on rocky mountainsides.
In late September the Footloose Friends group went on a hike of Penobscot Mountain. This is a fairly long, tedious uphill trail from the far side of Jordan Pond. The trail around Jordan Pond is popular with tourists, as Jordan Pond House is the source of popovers and where the main Acadia store is. So when you leave Jordan Pond on what I think is called the Spring Brook Trail, you go from heavy traffic to virtually no one at all. It takes about an hour and a half at moderate pace along a rocky, sometimes steep trail to get to Penobscot peak. Just off where the path splits a second time with Sargent Mountain to the right, Penobscot to the left is a long flat stony expanse precedin the peak. On this day, with rain threatening, we entered heavy fog just before the stony approach and were in swirling fog for the rest of the hike.
Of all the relatively similar mountain-top views (ostensibly 33 in all) in Acadia ranging from 1500+ feet at Cadillac to 200+ feet at Flying Mountain, I find Penobscot at about 1000 feet the most interesting because the other mountains line up from there somewhat like the moons of Jupiter in 2001. In the right light it is dramatic, a vast natural Stonehenge. On the day of the hike, however, it was you alone with Penobscot; you couldn’t see another mountain.
The group found a somewhat sheltered spot for our picnic lunch, but what I found were “wild cranberries” in abundance. I had picked something like ten berries toward a pie on my hike of Mansell two days earlier, so I had brought a container along in the off chance I saw a few more. That’s how sparse and diffuse they are. Yet I figured that any amount would help the pie. Near our picnic site were numeries little ground clusters from which I picked “cranberries” of various sizes, tasting a few in the process. These were the best and sweetest I had ever found, and I attributed their nectar to the lateness of the season.
I delayed lunch to range about from patch to patch in rock crevices and filled about a quarter of my container. As we crossed the ridge after lunch, I found the wild cranberries in such abundance that I kept losing the group in my enthusiasm to get more. At some points it was like a spilled pirate treasure chest. Lindy was continually concerned that I would get separated and lost, but I generally kept them in sight through the interestingly twisting fog. Over the next half hour I filled my entire container, the only thing that got me to stop.
One of the hike’s leaders was a retired forest ranger and a naturalist. He took one look at my cache and said, “Those are not wild cranberries.” They were too black. He also said that they were not lingonberries either; lingonberries are a close enough match to cranberries to be an alternative name for varieties of them found in the wild. To make sure, we checked on a cell phone, and clearly my berries were darker, larger, less red, and more oblong than either wild cranberries or lingonberries. “I wouldn’t eat those,” the ex-ranger said. “If they’re still here this time of year, especially in this abundance, there’s a reason because there are plenty of hungry animals.”
To my comment that we had been eating them for years he looked Lindy and me over with a smile. We were obviously still alive.
Nonetheless it took the wind out of my sails and all the way down the south ridge I was hoping to find an office in Jordan Pond House to get an identification. There wasn’t any. At home I looked through Steve Perrin’s guide and then The Little Golden Books of Acadia National Park for confirmation The identity of my berries was indisputable: black chokeberries—not chokecherries, an entirely different thing. They were in the rose family, hence relatives of rose hips and, according to Wikipedia, used by native Americans and favored for their medicinal properties.
Lindy didn’t make her pie until we returned three weeks later from Portland and New York City—I had frozen them. By the time we had an apple/black-chokeberry pie on Sunday, my digestion was unsettled and pie wouldn’t have been my choice, but I had one piece in honor of the hunt, less what I normally might have eaten. The black chokeberries had a decidedly strange taste, somewhat bitter but not cranberry-like, more medicinal than a usual dessert berry. They are were crunchy with a mincemeat kind of feel and flavor.
I was worried about feeling worse, but my complaints cleared up entirely. Furthermore I slept through the next two nights without once getting up to pee.
We brought out the pie for company last night, October 19, and during a discussion of its relative edibility and appropriateness to the health status of our guests, I looked it up on an herbal website and was stunned. As my daughter Miranda wrote when I sent her the link—I had told her the story in NYC—“ wow, it’s like a fairy tale and you stumbled on a magical berry. people must spend a lot of money to get those!”
Judge for yourself: antioxidant, five times better than cranberry for prostate, heals intestinal mucosa, kills cancer cells, protects against cataracts and malignancies from UV light, used in Chernobyl for victims of radiation: http://www.bestherbalhealth.com/black-chokeberry-the-magical-fruit/.
My whole view has changed. I am not going to hike Penobscot again this year, but next year I will check it out with an entirely different attitude and respect. Wild cranberries, my eye. These are of higher and more esoteric royalty. I will also check for availability extracts online.
October 26, 2015
Lilya 4-Ever, directed by Lukas Moodysson (2003) and Mammoth, directed by Luke Moodysson (2009) These two films could not be more different but, for the purposed of reviewing them, I am treating them as phases of the same larger theme: the severe, often fatal disruption of lives by the unregulated global marketplace and international flow of commodities and capital—in particular, the way in which people’s status and belief systems are torn apart in passage between incommensurate zones. In the flow of commodities, human and cultural values are trashed and replaced by the merciless squeezing of value out of flesh and personal identity. This is more than “lost in translation” translation is not even on the map for most of these characters.
Lilya 4-Ever describes trafficking in women. In this particular film the sites are Russian Estonia (as the source) and Sweden (as the market). Sixteen-year-old Lilya, played brilliantly by Oksana Akinshina, is abandoned by her mother who has attached herself to a nondescript male in order to get to America, leaving her daughter behind (Lilya’s father, a Russian military man, was never present). Although a situation has ostensibly been set up to take care of her, it is flawed and corrupt with a mere veneer of accountability and normality. Lilya’s apartment is stolen immediately by the greedy aunt who was chosen to protect her, and she ends up effectively in the street, her one friend a younger boy who has a crush on her. It is only a matter of time before she ends up a prostitute and is tricked by a seeming well-intentioned boyfriend to board a plane to Sweden where is immediately incarcerated and forced into one horrific sexual episode after another, the benefits of which go to her kidnapper-jailer, too disgusting a being to be elevated to pimp. Forget liberal Scandinavia. This guy is an ISIL-level abuser. He treats her like a farm animal, meant to be milked for profit until she drops.
The situations Lilya undergoes are graphically and creatively portrayed, intentionally forcing on the viewer a threshold between prurience and outrage/revulsion, with the meter weighted strongly toward the latter. The film is almost too painful to watch. I emphasize this because a near subsequent film by Moodysson (A Hole in My Heart, 2005) portrays three amateur pornographic film-makers (two men and one woman) confined by their obsessions to a squalid apartment with the alienated teenage son of one of the men, a boy who provides an outsider’s context for not only their lurid behavior (as he tries to block out the activities) but the implicit parental abuse.
Unlike L4E, A Hole in my Heart is, to my taste, fundamentally unwatchable: ninety-eight minutes of decadent, half-hearted sex, genital slapstick and mutilation, mayhem, and self-parody mixed in with a total trashing of the apartment, some of it in an over-the-top food fight bordering on S&M. Yes, Moodysson gives A Hole in My Heart a striking montage rhythm and sound track like something you might expect half a century after Stan Brakhage and John Cage and that makes it ontologically more meaningful but not still necessarily watchable. What you are left with in AHIMH is that fully sated, requited lust and erotic fantasy, when isolated in and of themselves and made their own sole purpose, are banal, absurd, and degrading beyond any pleasure they give.
The Swedish men who buy sex with the young Lilya in the 2003 film are vicious, cruel, and/or antipathetic forerunners of the two men in AHIMH, as if two years later Moodysson decided to pull two of them out of L4E and put them outside of narrative time and under a microscope while caricaturing their pathologized libidos.
In L4E some of the sex customers are shown in brief video mugshot format, whereas others are portrayed in full cowardly exploitation and/or sadism. L4E also has a small quotient of bursts of experimental music-like noise (and noise-like music), though there, because it is selectively used and in the narrative flow, it has a unique sort of power. I resisted the decibels of usually brief, very hard rock initially, but as the full scope of Lilya’s plight becomes clear, they seem the only way to match it and her panic on the sound track.
There is also a magical realist element to L4E, its only mitigating factor, in that when both Lilya’s young friend and ultimately Lilya herself leave their bodies and the world, they grow wings and become angels (In reference to some of the elements of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire).
For me the film’s most powerful and emotionally shocking scene comes very early when the young, hip, insouciant Lilya pretends not to care as her mother departs for good with her boyfriend. Then she suddenly rushes outside to the taxi and screams chillingly not to be left behind. “I won’t survive,” she pleads with unerring accuracy, but the mother manages to steel herself and then, once in the US, disowns the girl. For all the cruel and shocking things that are done to Lilya later, this is the moment when the glass is smashed, when her heart and her hope are broken. The movie is then a fait accompli: the natural flow of capital and desire to where it wants to
While Mammoth is set in upper-class yuppie American culture, with lowest stations being those of Filipino nanny, her two sons back in the Philippines, and a spirited Thai prostitute named Cookie, the engine of disjointed juxtapositions is the same. The husband and wife, who live in a swish Manhattan apartment, are respectively a web developer (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) and his emergency-room surgeon wife (played by Michelle Williams). The nanny (Marife Necesito) has left her two sons in the care of her mother in the Philippines while she makes money for a better life for all of them. Meanwhile the roughly seven-year-old girl she is caring for becomes closer to her than to her own parents to the point of committing to learning Tagalog, the nanny’s native language, a central trope of the film.
In the narrative the husband software-developer is dragged unwillingly by private jet to Bangkok to sign a 45-million-dollar gaming contract but ends up stuck there while his partner haggles for a better deal. He finally takes off to one of the islands in ostensibly the Gulf of Thailand where, while backpacking, he pays Cookie, a very pretty prostitute who pursues him, not to have sex with him (or anyone), which then leads to an actual romantic affair between them. In attempting to break the cycle of prostitution, he actually brings the two of them to the level of a consensual affair. But even that turns out to be grounded in the disparate power between them, as they each lie about who they are and turn the relationship into a game-like fantasy.
Meanwhile the older of the nanny’s two boys in the Philippines, through a series of childlike misunderstandings, ends up in the throes of a violent pedophile who almost kills him, leading the nanny to have to return, abandoning her charge in the apartment late at night while the girl’s mother is attempting desperate surgery on a boy stabbed to the point of death by his own mother.
The number and degrees of cultural and geographical dislocation in Mammoth are too numerous and disparate to inventory here, but suffice it to say, as a kind of overlay, that the title refers to super-expensive pens made from the bones of the extinct mammal, and one of the more interesting repeated scenes in the movie is that of the yuppie couple’s daughter, an aspiring astronomer, sitting with her nanny (and then her mother) at the Hayden Planetarium and watching the birth of galaxies in interstellar space. These end-markers give a sense of the ultimate scale of dislocation that Moodysson is getting at beneath the cloak of global capitalism in a terminal phase. It’s also molecular and Big Bang cosmological. No one can escape its gravity or distortion.
Since writing this, I have seen We Are the Best (2013) and Show Me Love (1998), films at opposite ends of Moodysson’s current oeuvre, both of which capture the inner and outer lives and language of teenage girls—the later film in a punk context, the former in a lesbian versus straight context. In each instance the girls are opposed by a mainline culture: boy and male punkers (WETB) and anti-lesbian boy-crazy girls (SML). Both films torque against expectations, as the heroines’ capacity for courage, perseverance in the face of tidal waves of obstacles and objections, social humiliation, and heartbreak, is, finally, no other word for it, inspiring. I found myself moved to tears by situations that wouldn’t ordinarily be emotional but were made so by the director’s meticulous sensitivity to layers and phases of consciousness, capturing nuances and shifts that are almost always passed over, in hundreds, if not thousands, of other movies that run along similar and vaguely similar tracks to these two. Moodysson captures those essential elements that are routinely left out, the muddled, middle-ground moments that define individuation, personal growth, and breakthrough. The recruiting of a born-again Christian girl to a punk band by the band’s long-bonded duo, her graceful entry and then innate transformation of the two of them (she in fact is an accomplished musician, while they can’t play a thing), and their recognition and springing of her into a new joy and self-confidence from her own familial traps are made all the more exquisite by Moodysson’s refusal to stereotype or vilify anything, however inviting a target, but to bring each to its essential humanity and the search for companionship and being seen. In the process we see emotional mixes and ambivalences not usually revealed in art. Likewise, when Agnes (the sullen, alienated, lonely, scorned lesbian) and Elin (the beautiful, popular, cheerful boy’s girl) swirl out of the bathroom where they have locked themselves to deal with the crisis of their incipient relationship, a huge crowd of their schoolmates having gathered and expecting to see Elin emerging with some guy, hooting and jeering in expectation, and then they startle the group as they declare their just discovered truth with brazen, in-your-face pride, it is a cinema moment for the ages, no less juicy as turnabout revenge than anything portrayed by Clint Eastwood or John Wayne.
[See http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2010/03/a-guide-to-cinema/ for this and other film reviews and recommendations]
December 8, 2015
Could Donald Trump be performing one of the all-time great works of performance art while playing a Manchurian candidate, parodying Republican ideology by embracing it so fully that it parodies itself? If so, he has managed to trick about 30% of the Republican constituency into believing in his hoax and its own self-parody and split the party across the axis of its own internal contradictions. Those ideological memes are meant to herd the sheep, not to be taken seriously. By taking them seriously, he has changed the playing field and turned Fox’s longstanding ruse inside-out. I don’t think that’s what he’s doing, so probably not. But then he is parodying his own Reality TV persona. The high ideology is a mere convenience, a script that allows the playing of his character to the full on a bigger stage. The fact that a third of the country would fall for a hoax even if it were performance art tells you that we are in trouble. The world is a far more serious arena, and Daesh recruits have no problem knowing what they believe in and what’s real.
December 10 2015
A correspondence worth sharing
On 12/9/15, 3:43 PM, XXXXX@XXXXX wrote:
I hope this email finds you well. I am hard at work on my contribution to the class of 1966 reunion book; I am actually finding the writing quite enjoyable. This is, as you probably know better than any, a very special year for the class of 1966. I know that you have chosen never to give to the Alumni Fund in the past for specific principalled reasons. I don’t know if you remember that years ago you and I had lengthy phone discussions on this topic. But that was a long time ago, and I hope that you can go beyond your past feelings about the Alumni Fund, and think about how meaningful it would be to our class if you participated. Whatever issues we all have with the College, I hope we all feel a sense of closeness to our own class of 1966. I know I do. I am writing to ask if you will participate in the Alumni Fund campaign in this, our 50th reunion year. This is a very meaningful year for all of us. Your donation this year is extremely important to our class. I am asking you to consider joining the class of 1966 club with a gift of $1966 or more. Your gift will be matched by a group of classmates, which makes your gift all the more valuable. Of course, any gift will be greatly appreciated, no matter what the amount. Giving online is quick at www.amherst.edu/give. You have over the years been an important part of the class of 1966 in every way except participation in our class gift. I hope you will be able to change that. I look forward to seeing you at the reunion in June!
I haven’t changed in my view, and it is a principalled one, as you say. I really see a disconnect. You talk about the closeness of our class and the meaningfulness of the 50th reunion year and the extreme importance of a donation, but none of these things follow from each other or connect causally or in any other discernible way. It is an Orwellian distortion of language. A donation has nothing to do with closeness and meaningfulness and is hardly extremely important. On a list of entities and charities in the world for which a donation would be extremely important, Amherst College is very low on the list, probably in the bottom .01% internationally and in the bottom 1% nationally. If our class were raising money for a needy cause like settling refugees from Somalia or supporting Buddhist hospice work, I would donate in the spirit of class solidarity, closeness, meaningfulness, and the rest. I personally think that it is a nationwide scam and self-serving propaganda/agitprop by which colleges convince alumni to give money. For what exactly? If we believe the national statistics, the majority of it goes into administrative salaries and the majority of the rest goes into capital improvement. Would you pay to support administrative overhead in your own medical profession?
In fact, I believe that Amherst is more honest than most colleges. It has committed itself in a major way to racial and cultural and gender diversity and to taking in poor students from around the world. Our classmate Arthur Koenig made an incredibly meaningful and generous donation when he provided full scholarships for multiple students from Third and Fourth World countries with the specification that none of it be used for anything else and no ringers either, sons and daughters of diplomats or Americans living abroad. He made the specifications ostensibly because he knew what would happen otherwise. No such specifications would exist for money we raise.
My view is that Amherst doesn’t need the money, that if it gets it, it cannot be counted on to put it to ethical use—and by that I mean the individuals who end up controlling funds. I find it sad that all this gets conflated with class spirit, meaningfulness, and solidarity. Talk about the monetization of reality. I hate the modern materialization of values, emotions, spirit, and loyalty, so yes it is a principalled stand.
December 18, 2015
On December 8, I posted:
“Could Donald Trump be performing one of the all-time great works of performance art while playing a Manchurian candidate, parodying Republican ideology by embracing it so fully that it parodies itself? If so, he has managed to trick about 30% of the Republican constituency into believing in his hoax and its own self-parody and split the party across the axis of its own internal contradictions. Those ideological memes are meant to herd the sheep, not to be taken seriously. By taking them seriously, he has changed the playing field and turned Fox’s longstanding ruse inside-out. I don’t think that’s what he’s doing, so probably not. But then he is parodying his own Reality TV persona. The high ideology is a mere convenience, a script that allows the playing of his character to the full on a bigger stage. The fact that a third of the country would fall for a hoax even if it were performance art tells you that we are in trouble. The world is a far more serious arena, and Daesh recruits have no problem knowing what they believe in and what’s real.”
I got many interesting responses of which Rob Brezsny’s was the most substantial and probably more in keeping with the deep underlying reality and psychic state involved here than what I said.
“Trump could be possessed by an archetype. Like the Trickster in his shadow aspect, for instance — Loki in the manic range of his lust for upheaval…. Donald Trump was born with the Sun conjunct Uranus. This is the trickster aspect par excellence.” – Rob Brezsny
I wanted to respond to some of the comments, but I was on a deadline and doing 10-12 hours a day on my current book, so had no energy or focus for it. I handed that in yesterday and wanted to comment on a few things today.
People seemed authentically engaged by the different layers and implications of my offhand proposition; they put out Trump as intentional trickster and performance artist doing a Republican Party self-parody, Trump as out-of-control egoist, Trump as master exploiter of the media for his own financial profit, Trump as revengeful fascistic bully, Trump as secret ally of Hillary Clinton, Trump as servant of the apocalypse, Trump as Reality, e.g. Anti-Reality, TV star, etc.
I would add that, insofar as Trump seems incapable of understanding the implications of his proposals or thinking even one thing layer beneath the surface to logistic impracticalities and impossibilities, he is either brilliantly misdirectional (like the old doublespeak artist Professor Irwin Corey) or utterly stupid like any of us with a bunch of high-dorks back in the day (whenever that was) when we just shot off our mouths and thought it meant anything. People are always saying, “Kick the bums out” or “bomb the assholes back to the Stone Age.” But it can’t be done; there’s no such viable action. It’s football hooliganism not functional speech. You can’t kick out uncertainty states or bomb paradoxes. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney proved that in Iraq. Just consider the hubris of thinking that all we had to do was remove Saddam and we’d be regarded as liberators, everything would go great afterwards, people would fall into civil society and democracy, and the oil dollars would flow. It is as if there is no history anywhere, let alone dense jungles of it, and everything in the world works on the level of a Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoon.
One person quite irrelevantly used my post to write denigrating things about Barack Obama, including citing such incidental matters as that he was only a first-term Senator when elected and Illinois is a corrupt state. I have many issues with Obama, the biggest of which is his outright support of Monsanto, but also Afghanistan, drones, pandering to Wall Street, and so on. However, he has done some wonderful things: Cuba, immigration, race, and moderation in foreign exploits, articulating as well as enacting a policy based on realities on the ground rather than exceptionalist jingoism. Gratuitous attacks upon him—and they are legion and far uglier than what was posted on my Facebook page, in fact just about as ugly as the imagination can go—are always some combination of racism, anti-intellectualism, American entitlement, fear masked as braggadocio, and unexamined self-loathing. He has occupied the office with eloquence, dignity, respect, and humility. You could not say the same about most of the other presidents in my at least conscious lifetime, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter excluded. Everyone running for President now, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, has a fair chance of being arrogant, undignified, vulgar, divisive, and anywhere from tangentially destructive to apocalyptic. George W. all by himself (with his auxiliaries) probably knocked fifty years to a century off the half-life of the United States. Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio could destroy what is left in four short years. I will say this, though, for Trump: he blames Iraq on Bush and calls it the worse foreign-policy blunder in history, and he seems willing to talk with Putin (maybe he is thinking, art of the deal, art of the deal, me big best dealer). At the same time, he just wants to drop bombs willy-nilly on occupied territories, round up and deport people, and block US entry to Muslims. He also has a child’s (or desk-sitting mogul’s) Leggo belief in the power of a wall.
December 19, 2015
Two reading recommendations. During the summer Lindy and I went to the local library to see what audiotaped fiction was available to check out. What we ended up with, picking solely by potential for literary quality, were two very different books: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (unabridged at 24 CDs and 900+ pages) and Going to Meet the Man (short stories) by James Baldwin. Both were spectacular, tours de force, in very different ways.
I had read more than half of Dickens in high school, a few additional books later, and then re-read or listened to my two favorites, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, about ten years ago. Neither Lindy nor I had read Nicholas Nickleby, nor had we any idea what it was about.
I think that Dickens is almost unrivalled (in English) for blend of careful, exquisite use of language, attention to detail, credibility and suspense of plot, entanglement of design, emotional impact, and creation of interest without resort to clichéd violence and sex, especially by comparison with much of what passes for fine literary fiction today. His description of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, an instance where extreme violence does play a role (but not gratuitously), could be applied to the Red Guards or Daesh without feeling that that it was in any way abashed for being Victorian.
Nicholas Nickleby is considered by critics to be a minor Dickens novel, many of its themes better and less mawkishly handled in David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol, but it is an epic of its own and creates a poignant, indelible universe of characters. The writing is just as breathtaking as in the rest of Dickens, especially his freshness of language and view. Although NN’s name might lead you to think of him as a tongue-in-cheek or meek character, he is actually one of the nobler, more courageous, impetuous characters in nineteenth-century fiction. His sense of personal dignity and social justice drives the book. If A Tale of Two Cities could be legitimately applied to the depravities of the Islamic State, NN startling modernity in its presentation of financial-industry abuses makes it applicable to contemporary Wall Street without giving ground.
I read James Baldwin in college in the sixties, and he was one of five or six novelists who most strongly influenced me when I was still trying to be a fiction writer, before I met Robert Kelly and changed genres. I was particularly moved then by Another Country. I had not read Baldwin in more than fifty years. During that time I have read a great deal of other fiction, a number of books dealing with African-American sensibilities, and have had a run of personal literary friends (Welton Smith, Ishmael Reed, David Henderson, and Cecil Brown) who in one way or another in their work and interpersonal connections have had a serious stake in characterizing the black experience in the West (including differences between Europe and the US) and keeping one on their toes as regards subconscious prejudices. I have also watched most of Spike Lee’s movies and, with the rest us here, lived with a black President sensitive to subtleties of race relations and able to articulate them.
On that basis I expected to find Baldwin very dated. Not so. I found him cutting–edge still, in fact still the front-runner on these topics. With due respect to all of the above, to my mind no one has surpassed Baldwin’s meticulously sensitive nuancing of double entendres and hidden messaging in black-white interaction or the particularly excruciating form of marginalization and alienation that imbues African-American experience. For all the noise generated by Black Lives Matter—and I have nothing but respect for the spirit and goals of most of those involved in the movement—I don’t think any language or searing insight from them on this topic surpasses what is in short stories from the fifties and sixties like “Previous Condition,” “Sonny’s Blues,” and “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon.” They are not just poignant, they ring like Zen bell with the crispness of their koans. The stories are really about human difference in the most basic sense of it and the awkwardnesses, squeamishnesses, and defenses of intimacy—both failed and successful—in ALL situations. (NN took us three months, and we still have two stories left in Going to Meet the Man, including the cover story, so the three I list may not be alone in the highest valuation when all bands have been played).
It may have been two random choices, but I am a different person for having listened to the books. I have also gotten the printed versions and re-read many of my favorite parts.
December 22, 2015
I want to call attention to a new title published by North Atlantic Books, Rainbow Body and Resurrection by Father Francis V. Tiso. North Atlantic publishes about 5 new titles a month, and I rarely mention any of them. This one is special. First of all, it became through Facebook. I believe that it was Colin Brown, a friend I know only through his friending me on this forum, who told me about Father Tiso’s work and made the connection so that we could end up publishing him rather than the usual Buddhistic suspects. What is remarkable is that a Catholic priest, an American living and working in Italy and a respected presence at the Vatican, has taken it upon himself to research the Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist Rainbow Body with the goal of understanding the Resurrection of Christ. In so doing, Father Tiso is implicitly making the Body of Christ the Body of All Humanity and addressing the human condition and the meaning of embodiment and conscious being in the universe. The link between the Rainbow Body and the Resurrection is obvious, but people get too bound in sectarian dogma to see it. Father Tiso, with a staggering background of scholarship that reads like a combination of the Vatican Library and the scrolls of early Hinduism and Buddhism, has subtly put a finger on the cellular basis of the Eucharist and bodily transubstantiation as well the infusion of the Divine Force into the very molecular basis of all humanity. By making Christ a lama too, he has made all lamas Christ and opened the door to an ecumenical vision that could ultimately turn even apocalyptic jihad back on itself and into a Rainbow Body too. Would that the next 9/11 some fifty years from now be a mark of our unity in the noosphere rather than our division in the battle between Corporate Technocracy and the other tribes and species of the biosphere.
December 25, 2015 (Posted on Mets Blog)
You can debate individual moves pro and con, and fans will have different opinions. Some will support frugality in particular instances, others decry it. There is certainly a sound argument to be made for not overspending now to save money for signing as many pitchers as possible. I don’t think any of that is necessarily the problem. I myself feel that if you aren’t going to spend money, don’t waste it on the likes of de Aza or even Cabrera. Try Nimmo and Reynolds. That’s a matter of opinion that well-meaning Mets fans can debate and disagree on. Overall, though, what seems beyond debate is that the Wilpons lack soul, heart, spirit, or generosity. Yes, they do generous things, but only when it serves their agenda, which itself is erratic at best. They do not see team ownership as a public service or a living community. They regard the Mets as their possession, to monetize for their own private uses just like any other asset. Serving the fan base is clearly secondary, so much so that they don’t even pay lip service to it. What they want from the fan base is economic support, and they will price that as cheaply as they can get away with, not as a strategic plan to keep 3 or 4 of the 5 young pitchers long-term but as a calculation of short- and long-term profit. Not that they need the money, but neither did Madoff. He put himself in jail for money he didn’t need and couldn’t spend. Given who Murphy was to them and what he meant, and his loyalty and spirit and unprecedented role and performance in the playoffs, don’t sign him if you reason that is your smartest move, but at least communicate with the fans. Explain, grieve, thank, show a smidgen of decency. No, not these guys. Anyone who watched the three stooges receive the NL championship trophy on TV had to be embarrassed to be a Met fan: one self-righteous zombi, one don’t-ask-me-what-I’m-doing-here zombi, and one baby zombi who woke up on third base thinking he hit a triple.
January 27, 2016
Lindy and I are on Amtrak headed west, a real high for someone who is a nervous flier. We are going all the way from Portland, Maine, to Emeryville, California, and are right now just west of Worcester, Mass. Actually we took a bus from Portland to Boston because trains from Maine go to North Station and the trains headed west leave from South Station. A bus was logistically easier than a cab within Boston.
The train is more expensive, not dramatically so but not trivially either. However, the weeks preceding this train trip were far calmer, a whole different mood from flying. I usually start to get ready mentally for the plane about three weeks ahead. The low stress was worth something.
I find the plane scene subtly and increasingly more militaristic. It starts with the check-in, more draft-like than the funky scene we found today at Amtrak. Then of course the security lines, TSA, and the radar machines (that apparently miss 96% of all FBI-smuggled test explosives and have such untested radiation output that a woman on line behind us in Denver a few years ago told us that she worked from the company that made them and she would never go through one herself). That creates the mood of a war zone, which it is. Once you board, you are under a commanding officer and, despite the light theater all around, it is a serious situation (35,000 feet above the ground, 550 MPH, jet fuel in abundance, and someone, in principle, trying to blow your plane, or another like it, out of the sky). Cat and mouse. And then there is all the overkill noise, from the continuous announcements, many of them repeated and warnings, at the airport to the barrage of safety information and sales pitches on the plane.
There was no one but us at Amtrak baggage in Boston. We moseyed along Track 12 and were checked in by a charming Bostonian with a great accent and a fifties laid-back tenor, probably to be played by an older, larger Jason Alexander. He chatted about the route, the changes (Albany and Chicago), and talked us into repacking so that we could ship all our bags (they allow you an absurd number, far more than you could carry; we arrived with three suitcases and three backpacks, one each for the computer and an extra one with food). Then we got to go to an exclusive Amtrak lounge that seemed like a forties movie set. It had free energy bars and other less healthy snacks. That’s where we repacked. An Amtrak official took us to the lounge by a security elevator because we still had too many bags to walk the stairs. He offered to take our bags back and check them in for us, but I saw he was eating lunch and did it myself.
Everything on the train is so informal, moving so slowly and gently, at human speed. We will actually experience the ground covered rather than get deposited in California six hours later. The snow-dappled, partly frozen landscape of southern Maine, coastal New Hampshire, and rural Massachusetts, and the urban density of downtown Boston were totally engaging, entertaining. I particularly like the degrees of ice on ponds and patches of snow and ice. We are now outside Springfield, not far from where Lindy and I met in college 52 years ago.
January 30, 2016
This has been an amazing train trip. Despite requests I continue the travelogue, you haven’t heard from me. There was no wifi on the train from Albany to Chicago, so I dropped it. Then the “maître d’” of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago, after confirming that there was no wifi on any overnight train including the one we were about to board, asked if I had an iPhone and then why I didn’t use it. I started to explain the drawbacks and he interrupted, “No, not that way.” He meant for me to set up a hotspot with the phone and then link the computer to it through Bluetooth. He showed me how to get the password from the phone and put it in the computer. It worked and I was able to use my own hotspot wifi the rest of the way (except for the significant stretches when service was reduced or nonexistent).
What stood out about the journey from Boston to Albany was how unpopulated the Algonquin Woods-like the landscape was, especially around Pittsfield. At times it was Appalachian with abandoned factories skinned down to their innards so that we were looking at the remains of lunchrooms and interior pipes in a late-stage debris that had a very somber but resonant tone. It was also very beautiful as nature reclaimed itself by degrees from culture even as culture invaded unevenly—lots of ponds and little streams and forestland surrounding occasional outposts of human life, lonely but indigenous to the time and place.
In Albany we switched trains. Technically we were still on the Lakeshore Limited, but the LL has two branches, one from Boston (us) and one from NYC; they meet in Albany and become one train. It was a one-hour layover. By then we had made our first friends, an intriguing-looking couple about twenty years younger than us. We kept running into each other in the corridors. Eventually we struck up conversations. He was Chinese-American, though born and partially raised in Taiwan; she was Jewish. Both grew up in the NYC area and were now living in Chicago where he practiced pediatric surgery and taught at the medical school of the University of Chicago. I don’t want to overly intrude on their privacy, so I will say only a small bit out of our conversations that began before Albany, continued during the hour in the train station, then at dinner en route to Utica and places west, then the next morning at breakfast, sometimes all four of us, sometimes three, sometimes two, and in all possible combinations. Essentially he had gone to Boston for serious surgery, the sort of surgery in which you face mortality, and she had come to get him after briefly returning to Chicago. He preferred not to risk flying in his condition, though he moved and acted normally.
We talked about New York City, adult kids, literature, science, each of our biographies, etc.; then we talked more deeply about life and death and, in particular, how hard it was for him as a surgeon to undergo surgery because he knew too well what was happening and what the risks and possible outcomes were. Diffident and reserved initially, by the morning when just he and I were talking at breakfast we went deep into the topic and ranged from ontological scientific issues to psychospiritual ones. Interspersed with that, we talked about politics, particularly Taiwan and China, the Catskills (where my father’s hotel once was and which they both knew well), and issues of adult kids (though their kids were barely adults). We exchanged emails and agreed to stay in touch.
Though I love the train and, more than that, am an advocate of the system, there are issues. The semi-gourmet food was a throwback to Howard Johsons or Dennys for anyone trying to eat consciously, even the vegan black-bean enchilada, probably microwaved, still cold on the bottom. Then something I have learned to an increasing degree over the four days—the crumbling infrastructure in the US, cheered on by Tea Party know-nothings and other moochers on the publicly-financed commons who must think that private enterprise made this landscape and its all automatic and free, well that extends to the railroad tracks. While not liking to be in a sealed aluminum can hurtling at 35,000 feet, from a spiritual and metaphysical standpoint alone, I began to face the reality of being in a heap of metal tonnage on wheels propelled along a track that requires millimeter by millimeter integrity to avoid a spectacular wreck. I thought of our three-year-old grandson in LA who was worried that we did not have enough track with us to get to his front door. Well, I was worried about getting from Utica to Syracuse on the rugged track the way the train bombed along, lurched, and rattled at what the waiter proudly announced was 106 miles per hour. It felt as though we were one missed repair away from disaster, or one jihadist with an explosive-filled truck or a metal saw. I hoped that the Amtrak police had a bead on all that, or at least a notion. That was what I was thinking at dinner with our friends as plates were in motion and liquids gave indications of turning over.
Nothing of that sort happened, but then the sheer miniatureness of our sleeping compartment was a revelation about what we had gotten into. If we hadn’t checked those bags in Boston, we and our backpacks wouldn’t have fit. It was arranged as couch chairs when we arrived but was miraculously made into upper and lower compartments by the porter when we were at dinner. Sweeter guys than him and the waiter would be hard to find: gentle large black men with an almost angelic sense of care, railroad lifers who crooned the lingo, constantly barking out instructions and menus, etc., in train voices out of old movies or just by their lineage from the era in which those movies were made. I cannot say the same about their equivalents on the California Zephyr. Though they were nice enough, they were crankier and more rule-bound and dictatorial: what you could and couldn’t do—like I couldn’t eat my own carrot in the dining car and if I left for more than five minutes my food would be removed. They crew felt a bit more like college students or college dropouts there, whiter and less southern.
I took the upper bunk, and it was hard to sleep. The way we hurtled from Syracuse to Rochester to Buffalo into Pennsylvania, the fourth of fourteen states we would pass through between Maine and California (with far and away the broadest yet to come), kept me up for a long time. I don’t know that it would have helped to be awake during a disaster, but it was hard for a while to get to sleep at such a pell-mell lurchy clop. When I finally did, the motion of the train became soothing. I got used to it; it was the same repeated symphony, expectable surges followed by mellower coastings. I woke once to stare at some amazing things in the night: an accident surrounded by police cars, a few trucks or cars waiting at a railroad crossing (of which there were hundreds—I saw about ten—and it was strange being on the other side of the situation, the one not held up by the crossing), the train’s incessant warning whistle like the voice of night-prowling were-beast, anonymous industrial landscapes along the tracks, faintly lit graffiti, and the city of Cleveland like a silent ghost in the near distance, its twirly towers and digital era facelift more modern and functional-looking than I expected. It passed in utter silence, dreamlike. I thought idly, “O, Homo sapiens, what has thou done to this fine planet?” Then I slept the rest of the way. (I took the upper compartment too on the Zephyr, but it offered no window in the upper bunk, just gray metal blocking the scenery.)
They did have organic bacon, but the pancakes were heaps of food groups you’re supposed to at least try to avoid.
I should add that I was involved in two major tasks all along. I am rewriting my three memoir books—New Moon, Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage, and Out of Babylon—at a level of detail, nuance, and commitment that is new for me, even with all the books I have written and rewritten. We are talking fifty-pass territory. New Moon is at press now after about 1000 hours of work in 2015. Episodes is the one of the three that was never published, and I have spent huge amounts of time shaping a kernel book. My rewrite of Out of Babylon was the one I had neglected, and I committed the week before travelling and the trip to it. It was absolutely wonderful working on it for hours at a time while looking up to watch scenery go by.
I was also reading Peter Ralston’s latest Zen/Cheng Hsin manuscript as a North Atlantic submission, q&a’s between him and his students over decades regarding experience, sensation, enlightenment, death, mastery, etc., and that is a profound text to dip in and out of at 40-50 pages, 20 or 30 miles a shot.
We had five hours in Chicago and Lindy and I used the GPS on a cell phone to guide us toward the Fine Arts Institute. We left our backpacks in the lounge. The walk turned out to be about 18 blocks and, given that we spent some time catching up on email (no wifi between Albany and Chicago) and also intended to eat lunch, there wasn’t time to really go in. It was, finally, a destination so that we didn’t wander aimlessly. Or, put differently, even at senior rates it would have been $40 for non-Illinoisians, and we had only 40 minutes left. We also were tired and not in a viewing mood. Instead we ate at the fancy restaurant in the museum, the one that you didn’t have to pay to enter first. I forget the name, but I think it had the word Piano in it. For $22 each, we got the fixed-price lunch: mushroom-rice risotto, range-fed lamb chops (1) and lamb sausages (2) in chard, and a banana-toasted coconut panna cotta. Ethics of meat aside, it was worth the hike.
The real museum was Chicago. I hadn’t seen it in over a decade, and the downtown skyscraper architecture, towering thin objects, sloped glass façades, and a general corporate signature linked it to Hong-Kong and the Emirates more than to the Midwestern metropolis of the sixties. It was a perfect, collectively curated exhibit of the twenty-first century.
No more Lakeshore Express, the California Zephyr is a double-decker train, and most of the action is on the second floor. Our sleeper, the dining car, and the lounge were all there. The manufacturers have mastered smooth transit between cars: press a button, the door opens, you would barely know that you were walking over no man’s land.
We were a much bigger object, which gave more Newtonian thrust to everything. The second floor rode more smoothly but also seemed to sway and teeter in empty space. The tracks not being at the level of upkeep they require, the conductors seem to know what stretches will handle what, though there are transitional moments that suggest a runaway train. Other transportation issues intercede, like pausing for freight trains and traffic in the other direction to share tracks. In general, we zoomed along.
The Midwest looks entirely different from New England and western New York State, more populated, more industrial and commercial, flatter, dirtier. One can sit mesmerized and watch it go by, waiting vehicles at crossing after crossing, our beast’s proud cry, “get out of my way!” a house on fire, just like that.
The constabulary atmosphere of the dining car did not allow you to take an empty table. There was enforced social life and camaraderie, a fortunate occasion, if handled too peremptorily. We were assigned a nondescript-looking couple whose America by Rail badges hanging around their necks identified them as Michiganites. For a while we struggled at conversation, the guy particularly insular and stoic, the woman overly chatty maybe, Lindy chatty too. It was a struggle not to offend—I was well aware of the gold cross on her necklace—but we bumbled through various domestic and civil matters until by chance I said something I said brought out the fact that he was a sports-medicine osteopath and was very aware and respectful of the work of John Upledger. From there the conversation took on precisely the sort of energy that a stillpoint release should; we talked about energy, releases, and the mysterious power of the cranial system, which led to a discussion of hidden powers in the universe, God’s presence, and the like, altogether a satisfying occasion.
Sleeptime was all of Nebraska. When we went to bed we were outside Omaha. When we got up, we were still in Western Nebraska. It took the whole night to get accomplish that.
After doing a run of early writing on Out of Babylon, I was catching up on email from my hot spot in the dining car (before being told that that as well as my carrot was not allowed) when a wonderful Irishman with a brogue came up and asked me if I was the source of the link he saw called Richard’s iPhone, and then if he could use it for some crucial emailing he needed because he had a European setup. I had already shared my hotspot with the two gay guys from Australia who needed to catch up on their banking, so I shared it with him after breakfast in the lounge car where he and his wife joined us in adjoining seats. That led to detailed talk about Ireland and an invitation to visit (in exchange for the hot spot, though I told him that was free, we stood at scratch). We conversed continually across our cultural and personal differences—he ran a tour business in Galway—but we achieved basic rapport while, to his wife’s dismay, he did all too much email and business from the train on the link. He was more involved in that than the breathtaking scenery. He did listen happily to the Richie O’Shea recordings I had made off youtube, “One Day at a Time” and “Boolavogue.” I had just discovered the late R O’Shea working his magic in NYC restaurants of the eighties and was happy to share him with someone from the old country. Check those out on youtube along with “The Streets of New York.” I also got my friend interested in finding old copies of my late buddy Bob Callahan’s Callahan’s Irish Quarterly, almost thirty years defunct, and a bunch of other stuff he gracefully copied down. He particularly liked the title of the book Callahan never wrote for us but intended to: Punks in Kilts. He thought he could use it somewhere.
We saw Denver close-up, right from the Rockies’ stadium: Lindy’s childhood Denver, the Platte River, the downtown. It was so palpable, so unlike the view from the plane, yet no more accessible though we were allowed to stand outside on the platform and stare longingly at the whole city on a platter just not for present consumption. Then we wound into the foothills and the Rockies and what we saw for the next four hours was beyond description. Just the engineering to get us through those gigantic mountains and gorges, the withheld terror looking at what a runaway train here would entail, thousands of feet, the constant winds and switchbacks showing us where the train had come from and where it was going, the dozens of tunnels, the windblown snow. The vehicle progressed at a civilized thirty miles per hour while we, the denizens of the lounge car oohed and aahed (I didn’t, but many did), their cell phones held aloft, performers and jokers in abundance (like the guy who shouted “A moose!” but it was on his cell. Ha ha!)
We saw fast-moving water through ice, disappearing under it, returning, winding, pulsing like a heart against the translucent surface. We saw so many paw prints in the fresh human-inaccessible snow that you could only guess at rabbit, deer, bear, moose, elk, coyote, etc., all intermingling and in ethological engagement. We saw white-tipped eagles, coyotes, elk, herds of cattle melting snow under their bodies, magpies, each multiple times. Pitch black a tunnel, then bright. Peaks towering far above the glass ceiling edge of the train, plummeting gorges below, then long snowy plains, the snow whipped up, then diminishing, whole lakes with ducks (causing some to quack, ha ha again), then more coyotes and eagles, gigantic icicles, a guy in the middle of nowhere with a sign saying, “I love you, Kendra,” causing an outburst of laughter and a single voice saying, “I hope she’s on that side of the train, then ski slopes with skiiers in all phases of the enterprise, tows and hills, intervening woods, cross-country skiiers, backpackers, cottages, villas, lodges—and this went on for four hours! It was pretty much worth the price of the trip.
The train stopped at Winter Park and they let people off for “three minutes.” It was fresh-air/smokers oxymoron break. Our compadres in the lounge car watched Lindy and me argue. She wanted to go back to the sleeper and get her coat, but I kept telling her that that didn’t go with three minutes. I got off the lounge car in my sweater, then got back on almost immediately. When I returned to my spot, two of the more out-of-control assholes said, “Look, there’s your wife on the platform. She missed the train.” It wasn’t true, but I felt a rush of terror for half a second before I realized who the messengers were.
We spent most of the mountain time with Frank and Emelle Fahey, our new Irish friends from Galway, so I will plug their travel business, Spirit of Ireland.
Lindy made a different acquaintance; she spied a tall young man reading Fielding Dawson’s memoir of Franz Kline, an obscure book and a throwback to our twenties, so she struck up a conversation with him and found him to be a big fan of our daughter Miranda July. A few hours later I went over and joined him and had a subtle meandering exchange for a good ninety minutes. He was headed to Glenwood Springs to see his girlfriend, a mobile occupational therapist who was assigned there for a few weeks, and to take in the hot springs there. Our conversation was a lovely intermittent exchange of disjointed insights, political, artistic, social, and metaphysical, with spurts of life narrative, then silent viewing. He was an artist and graphic designer in Denver, nosing out into possible careers. By the time we reached Glenwood, he seemed an old friend. When they released us for ten minutes of walking around the station to the edge of town, I was touched to see that the cute young dark-haired lady walking the dog turned out to be the girl Sean embraced. Then he pointed us out to her from a distance, though we couldn’t hear his words. This was a town we had last seen in 1965 when we were college juniors, this summer having fled our respective families to live in a cabin in the woods in Aspen and do odd jobs there.
In the midst of all this, we went for lunch in the dining car and this time were assigned to an imposing looking couple, also America by Rail, hung badges Brunswick, Georgia, though we found out that they were originally from Alabama, their accents betraying that. We joked about how we were from opposite sides of polarized America and then proceeded to have the most unlikely civilized conversation about exactly what should have been taboo: politics, the current election, the state of America. Before we were done, we realized that we agreed on just about everything and the guy was smiling and chatty. We were in agreement before we began, but I was led to think that they should put the whole fucking Tea Party, Trump-Cruz angry white guys on America by Rail and let them think about the tracks as well as what constitutes civil conversation in a functional democracy.
After Glenwood, the train stopped next at Grand Junction, maybe an hour later, and we were released for a longer spell, a half hour. It was a particularly downbeat section of town, another one of those western cities in a bowl surrounded by mountains. There were auto-repair shops, a closed antique store, and the old paint-peeling station—about it. The conductor, however, took pictures of willing couples and travelling parties posing by the Grand Junction sign and the train itself. Lindy pronounced us willing.
At dinner that night, I was not all that much looking forward to new company. In fact, Frank was hoping I would bring my hotspot and he could sneak a few emails before we were caught. But we were assigned divergent eating times, and Lindy and I ended up at a table with two single guys. The one next to me was one of the jokers from the afternoon who said my wife was still on the platform, and he was a chatterbox, never shut up, between the Air Force, the properties he used to own in Denver, his messy divorce, selling his home in Connecticut, and his radiology practice. These were so disconnected that it was impossible to figure out the time scale of anything. A few years older than Lindy and me, he kept trying to make jokes. I assume his name was Byron because he introduced himself as Lord Byron and the proceeded to tell us his cartoon version of the poet Lord Byron’s career, from the Turks to his clubfoot to his bisexuality and pedophilia. That’s how the meal began.
It took a while for the other guy, seated next to Lindy, to come into focus. A giant in his mid-thirties, bald head, interesting facial piercings (two studs above left eyebrow, one deep in right ear), he looked a bit like the old Mr. Clean figure. It turned out he was a sailing-boat skipper on Lake Michigan out of Milwaukee headed to San Diego to do a Merchant Marine course as part of getting a license at the Maritime Institute so that he could take over his boss’s business. Gradually his texture and depth came into focus: martial-arts practice, Buddhist interests, young daughters, Wisconsin political and cultural descriptions with a lot of sagacity, and general presence: calm, grounded, wry, respectful, compassionate. As Sam gained heft, he changed before my eyes. He wasn’t ever a lunk, but to the degree he was, it evaporated into something more like a lay Zen master.
After dinner we all sat in the lounge car and watched night in the Utah mountains as the train wound through small towns, along highways, and into high wilderness. Lindy went back to the sleeper at 10 PM, but I was determined to see Provo and Salt Lake, and I didn’t relish lying in that tiny suspended windowless cubicle while rising to 7000 feet and descending. I worked on Out of Babylon and read Ralston’s Dialogues About Consciousness. Meanwhile Sam was engaged with a young German traveller, very young it turned out (21) in what was clearly probing life and universe exploration. As I dropped working, they moved to my vicinity, and we plunged in far deeper at 7000 feet down to Provo: consciousness, Seth, karma, Einstein, the meaning of technology and civilization, the great public trance reality, materialism versus vibrational realities, enlightenment versus duality, the point of experiencing and witnessing, the soul, Mormon polygamy and eternal families, parallel universes, alternate realities ISIS, 9/11, shamanism, international capitalism, old “Twilight Zone” episodes (Oskar knew nothing about these but listened, quite amazed that he had stumbled upon this train collegium on his first try—he got off at Salt Lake). “The Twilight Zone” was particularly relevant in that Sam and I converged on the notion that anything eternal, including a sister-wife family, including the biblical walls of gold, would turn into hell. We had the perfect setting for a metaphysical conversation: distant lights, changing panoramas.
I awoke before dawn and finished my pass on Out of Babylon, then moved on to this travelogue. I could see in the dark that it was snowing, but as clouds let the rising sun down onto central Nevada, in its pale glow everything was covered with a soft blanket of snow: cylindrical gas tanks, pipes, street lights still helping, cars, trucks, fences, sheds, power poles, slender power lines acrobatically juggling a quarter inch along their lenghts, bare branches, an old red Coca-Cola sign, houses, trailers. The snow was like a brush of gouache not only camouflaging but revealing detail, showing the shape and contour of shrubbery, the undersides of artifacts, and the gentleness of tree breaths like Tolkein’s ents. Then it became snow covered mountains, black birds against white, weeping willows, corrals, a rolling planetary view, disclosing the sheer aesthetic power of black, white, gray, and tan to paint something far more aesthetic than the colored world, in fact showing how our world of light is more truly a world of shadows.
Now here’s Sam Block looking over my shoulder. I’ll end here and append later if inspired. Last night Sam bought Oskar beer after beer and offered to buy me too, but sadly I don’t drink alcohol anymore. His purchases created a festive mood and also were observed as consumption and apparently put him under conductor’s monitor. As he just now stopped, he was joking about it because a woman who got on at Helper, Utah, a lone figure in the black boarding our train last night who immediately sought the bar which had not yet opened, and said “Shit!” she just passed us with bottles AM liquor, leading Sam to say, “She’s off to an early start—and it’s me they put on the conductor’s list.”
Reno and the Sierras up ahead.
March 4, 2016
Marfa Girl, directed by Larry Clark (2012). I am late to discover Larry Clark, and I am amazed that he can pull this stuff off–just the demand he puts on very young actors to portray nuances and subtlety in the context of absolute intimacy and relative and potential violence/transgression. I imagine that every director tries for “reality,” if not cinema verité in a literal sense, at least the sense that what you are watching is authentic and not just a ritual. This is true even in magical realism, in fact is the point of magical realism—to be away from the illusion of a flat, simple, Western-world reality. But then all performance is ritual at some level—the equivalent of Iphigenia in Colchis or a Navaho sandpainting or aboriginal Emu Dreamtime dance; Shakespeare posed it as such: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and men merely players.” In the two Clark films I have seen so far (this and Bully), the separations between playing the play and playing reality, between reality as fact and reality as ritual, waver in interesting ways. All actors come out of performances, plays, movies, etc., transformed as from a ritual, but that crucible is inescapable in films like these.
I wouldn’t have put Bully on this list by itself. It was a bit too nihilistic and unredemptive but otherwise perfect and utterly engaging. You feel as though you are watching the events—in this case a collective momentum against the actions of a bully that turns into a communal murder of him. At the crux of the film is the kids’ gradual recognition that actually killing someone is different from all their other fantasies and transgressions, that it has a different quality of reality. Clark tracks this patiently in each of them separately and all of them as a group. Then when they finally commit the murder, it flips into a ritual transformation. It is as though they have cracked the surface of reality, and what spills through is totally unreal. Their attempts to hide the crime expose their fractured views even of the reality they have smashed. Everything prior and else is “whatever.” The murder turns out to be as big as the sun rising out of the ocean, something they failed to notice in their hungry-ghost transit through super-hip, pop-culture privileged lives.
Marfa Girl is different. It is redemptive. All of the characters except one (the real bad guy, the out-of-control sex-addict border patrol cop) are redeemed to one degree or another, and even the bad guy is given a redeeming confession before he goes on his final, fatal deranged spree. Adam, the wandering half-Hispanic sixteen-year-old at the film’s heart, is redeemed in his open-eyed innocence and beginner’s mind, even as he seemingly betrays his sweet, even more innocent girlfriend by having generously proffered sex with two other older women. The border-patrol guys are all given soliloquies and justifiable narratives; they are not central-casting cops or goons. In fact, the most proudly Hispanic of them gives an entire brilliant exegesis of the border, its permeability, the drug cartels, and life and death in Iraq. His tattoos and those of other actors in the film are their own scripts, as they read out as sacred documents like the markings on Melville’s Queequeg or stations of the Cross on Serbian paramilitary avengers. The women are redeemed by the simplicity and directness of not just their sexuality but their sage presence in an arid landscape, each holding up her part: teacher, mother, visiting artist, erotic teacher. Most significantly the film segues effortlessly and convincingly from sex scenes (which would earn an easy X rating in standard release), crude racism, incipient and actual violence, and near terminal alienation and directionlessness to past lives, reincarnation, healing ceremonies, and cultivation of psychic energy. It is all part of an underlying Texas landscape with its shifting Native American, chicano, redneck, Marfa-art-scene, and border-war layers. The revelation is a text that can contain naked carnality and discussions of old-soul cats and birds and a Native American girl (more Mexican than Texan) who does energy clearing, psychic healing, and sound therapy in a tradition that mixes New Age and pre-Columbian. Her operatic, ceremonial voice haunts as it suffuses and hyperspatializes the background din of the tale, alternating with original hard rock composed by one of the young actors among endless supernal passages of intermittent trains like vans between galaxies and the ineffable Sun rising and setting in serifs of clouds.
April 3, 2016
Subsequent to writing this, I saw Wassup Rockers (2005). This biopic follows a group of South Central LA Latino skateboarders on a series of adventures, the first bunch of which (according to the sound-over of the director) are reenactments of their regular life (including some school scenes hearkening to other Southern Cal classrooms that show how schools are anything but institutions for education), the second bunch of which are a mixture of fantasy, surrealism, and homage to the movie The Warriors, as they struggle to get themselves home from Beverly Hills at night after a complicated, busy afternoon.
Clark started this project as a photo series with a model for a French magazine, picking the characters/actors out as different from the general ghetto scene. They are Salvadoran and Guatemalan teens, as young as twelve) (if I remember correctly) and threatened by African American gangs and, to a lesser degree, by Latinos from Mexico. In fact, the film opens with one of them being gunned down on the street, a crucifixion-like event around which the story loosely revolves.
What stands out is the kids’ humor, joy, guilelessness, and dead-reckoning of their situation. If you go at South Central from the outside in, it is an ugly ghetto. If you come at it from inside out, it is a complex landscape, fully and richly inhabited and experienced and more of a grounding frame of reference for existence than Beverly Hills is to the folks inhabiting that outlying territory. The contrast between the crowded multi-family homes and garbage-filled streets in which the film emerges (and to which it returns) and the various homes and backyards (and Beverly High) visited by the skateboarders is, on one level, a scathing critique of class, privilege, and the hegemony of wealth but, on another level, a contrast of competing cultures and phenomenologies. The South Central landscape comes off as anything but depleted or alienated. The events in Beverly Hills are alienated from their own landscapes, as the skateboards themselves become the Rosetta Stone through which one geography and tribe passes into another. Plus Clark is always a flawless recorder of faces, landscapes, and juxtapositions.
The most powerful sequence in the film involves the interaction of one of the skateboarders with a Beverly Hills high-school girl, one of a pair who has picked them up and taken them to her mansion for sex (played, in this case, by a young actress). Clark says that script only called for dialogue between the two, so the exchange itself was adlibbed. As she asks him ordinary questions, she gets anything but ordinary answers. For instance, to a question about his father he says he doesn’t have one, but that not only means (as subsequent dialogue shows) that he never knew his father but that the term has no relevance to his sense of what a family is. When queried about whether the other guys are his friends, he balks at the notion, finding it ludicrous because “We not friends, we the same.”
Like other Clark films the movie has its share of sex and violence, but these are so close to the marrow that, unlike conventional films, especially commercial ones, where these events function as interruptions in the fabric like intentional ampings to create juicy commodities within the commodity, they emerge inside the flow and feel like what they are in the reality of these people’s lives. The interesting thing in that regard is how the kids have no moral position regarding anything that happens; life simply is what it is.
April 3, 2016
Back in Santa Cruz for a couple of days, overheard on Pacific Street on the mall (mild countercultural child abuse): tall, brawny, goatee-ed redneck hippie father walking with 3 to 4 year old son: “Watch where you’re going, dude. You’re walking like a spaz.”
April 9, 2016
Back in Portland, Maine, after a ten-week road-trip in California. Writing a few friends here, I tried to summarize it: I figure we spent 5 weeks in home-exchange houses, 4 weeks staying with family or friends, 3 days on the train, 2 days in motels, and 2 days in an airbnb. We were something like 39 days in Berkeley, 19 days in LA, 3 days in Encino, 3 days in Santa Cruz, 2 days in Laguna Beach and San Francisco, and 1 day each in Encinitas and San Luis Obispo. We saw three people from my high school, Horace Mann (Jon Firestone, retired BBDO executive, Andy Lazere, retired MD, and Jeremy Kagan, Hollywood director) and one from my college, Amherst, Evan Maurer (retired American Indian curator). We got to hang out at different times with writers/thinkers Brian Swimme, Terrence Deacon, David Presti, Donna Haraway, Sherril Jaffee, Jacob Needleman, Peter Levine, Bill Stranger, Susan Harding, Gordon Wheeler, Nancy Lunney, Carl Grundberg, Peter Marin, and probably others. We spent time with our adult kids and their families and our three grandsons, my cousin Shea, my aunt Suzanne Taylor, and one of genetic half-brothers whom I only found out about late in life. I attended numerous meetings at North Atlantic Books, almost as if I were back at work. We took Amtrak out January 27 and JetBlue back April 6 (SFO to JFK to PWM). I don’t much like flying, though I appreciated that there was Internet for distraction this time and getting to complain to friends about turbulence and hear their reassurances. The bumpy areas were most of Wyoming and Nebraska and western Iowa and Lake Erie. We also circled Manhattan at 2800 feet for 30 minutes waiting for clearance to land, a dazzling and scary dreamtime suspension. Earlier today I wrote this note:
You live on this planet long enough you don’t expect a new event with the sun, but this morning I got up at 9 and was working at my desk when suddenly the sun came through the fog in one shot like a floodlight and startled me.
April 18, 2016
I am impressed by the recent interview with Monica Lewinsky in which she identifies the misogynist gauntlet through which she was put in the mid-nineties as “slut-shaming.” She also pushed back against a questioner’s inflation of her oral sex with President Clinton as coronating her a “blowjob queen” by saying calmly that it was a relationship, two people. Enough with the caricatures and exaggerations!
No one has to state the meaning of this revisiting of the recent but not overly recent past for its subtexts in the Now to glisten through. For one, the slut-shaming she was assumed to have automatically earned by her White House deeds was a forerunner of gotcha politics, cyberbullying, and Donald Trump’s vindictive and sadistic campaigning in the present day, though these are current forms of deeply imbedded societal behaviors.
More saliently, she speaks, without having to address it, to the reality of the Clintons. I am not anti-Hillary or even sure that Bernie Sanders is the overall better candidate (none of my range of acceptable choices came anywhere close to even running), but I think that ML’s unspoken critique cuts to the core of everything that is wrong with Ms. Clinton. She exists obliviously in an arena that is totally and solely political and political instead of human and real. The reality she designs is dangerously provincial as well as corporate and upper-1%. It is a calculated life rather than a life in the bricks and mortar and mud. Of course, she doesn’t know how to ride the subway as an ersatz New Yorker. Even that transposition of her residence was expedient.
As far as she is concerned, her husband did not have a mutual affair with Ms. Lewinsky; he was trapped and bewitched by an aggressive slut. Likewise, GMOs are not real biological events; they are political pawns to be manipulated in the service of Monsanto.
You can take it across the board: her payments for financial-sector speeches, her equivocation about fracking, her view of Israel and Palestine, her militaristic take on Iran and in fact the geopolitcal world. It is all political posturing, but it is more dangerous than that: it is delusion, self-congratulation, and entitlement: turning other people’s realities into her private game. Monica Lewinsky was expendable, but so are the genome, Palestine, the obscenely large prison population; they are expendable until they are politically fruitful; then she changes her posturing—who knows what her reality is? At least Bernie is speaking about real things and telling their truth. He is simple, direct, and relevant. His response to Bill Clinton’s behavior with Monica Lewinsky, when asked after Donald Trump raised it as relevant, was spot-on: a terrible thing he did but irrelevant to the campaign. Not really, but irrelevant for him to pile on and cite.
I say “not irrelevant” in part because Mr. Clinton apparently had many such selfish, exploitative encounters with women both before and after Monica Lewinsky and either continues to have them or stopped fairly recently, a roster that includes pedophilia and high-roller prostitution (if the Marc Rich accounts are to be believed). This stuff isn’t just incidental or personal. He feels entitled just as he feels entitled to pose as the real first black President. Posturing, posturing, posturing. As well as being creepy, it speaks to the same morality that he and Hillary apply to Monsanto, Goldman-Sachs, and Palestine.
May 18, 2016
Last Thursday I got to hear Thurston Moore improvise by chance at a guitar store called Replay in Greenfield, Mass. I didn’t know Thurston’s work at all, just his role in forming Sonic Youth, a band I knew only by reputation, its heyday being after my time. I know Thurston multiple ways, mainly via his support of Lindy’s and my writing and North Atlantic Books and Io historically, and his and his ex-partner Kim Gordon’s loose affiliation with our daughter Miranda. Lindy and I visited him and Kim in Northampton in happier days for them a few years ago, but I knew that they had split up with her apparently shifting the full blame to him in a book I haven’t read. Since I was in Northampton leaving Lindy off at her 50th Smith reunion (my Amherst one is in a week), I sent out an email checking on who was still around. Thurston had moved to London but by unlikely coincidence was back passing through and playing with former mates, I believe a band called bucket t. The gig was private but open and about thirty people were in attendance. After night-driving 18 miles from Northampton to Greenfield, something I don’t do much anymore, I had expected something noisier and more foreign to my sensibility, but it was an adventure. I liked it a lot. I’m not much of a music analyst, but it seemed raga-like and complex, a mixture of rock and experimental music and sitar-resembling strings, three musicians playing off each other’s sound. I don’t listen to jazz well, but this was different. The sound had a lot of space in it and ways to follow the threads and also to perceive how one player led another and they picked up each other’s themes. The fact that it was at once sci-fi and mediaeval was pretty much at my sensibility. I mentioned the space afterwards to Thurston and he said, “That’s ONE of the things I do.”
May 31, 2016
See http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2016/06/amherst-class-of-66-fiftieth-reunion-notes/ for this post.
June 11, 2016
The Stanford rapist case is all over Facebook, the Internet, and now the regular press as well. My empathy and support go to the victim not the perpetrator. Her physical and emotional wounds and the articulateness and inner witnessing of her account carry a weight that overrides the rapist and his father’s unexamined male entitlement, social privilege, and gratuitous excuses and self-forgiveness; but I am bothered by a number of things on “the good guys’” side of the equation: the bloodthirsty preference of punishment over healing or compassion or a teaching opportunity, the intentionally anti-intellectual yanking of the event out of ANY cultural context (as if cultural context were itself a classist violation), the complete disregarding of roles (even if they are far less culpable) played by females in today’s soul-less dating, partying, and hooking-up regime (see Camille Paglia and Lafayette Morehouse for further nuancing on this shadow), a lynch mob fueled as much by political correctness and ideological rigidity as by real empathy, the cruel mindlessness of wanting to feed strangers to the Prison Industrial Complex, the black hole of one-size-fits-all imprisonment in America, the sadism and barbaric ease of wanting to impose longer sentences (not just days but years) on other human beings, the scapegoating of a liberal judge (as if he were supposed to redeem all prior injustices of the system by inflicting another), and the boycotting and cancelling of venues of an all-girl Indie band named Good English because one of its members wrote a letter placing the incident in a cultural context and asking for clemency for a high-school friend. None of this is good or anything to proud of—my take anyway—and some of the savagely self-righteous grandstanding sounds Talibanesque and Trump-like.
June 12, 2016
The Facebook exchanges are interesting. Here are some:
Marge Lrc: I’m not a big fan of prisons and tend to favor therapy and rehabilitation. I think what people are so upset though is the preferential treatment this guy is receiving because he’s white. If he was anything other than white, they’d probably give him 25 years in state prison. And that doesn’t even address the “danger to others” aspect.
Richard Grossinger: That is certainly worth being upset about, and I acknowledge the outrageous double standard. My solution would be to give everyone the same “preferential” treatment rather than treat everyone to the same mindless revenge and out-of-scale incarceration.
Michael Bickley Caron: The emphasis on “white” is greatly overstated in this case. The young man had social status and financial resources that made all the difference. After 29 years working in prisons, jails and re-entry programs I have seen many white guys with substantial ambiguity surrounding the circumstances of their case end up not only incarcerated for long periods in facilities where prison rape was rampant for “sex offenders”, but then faced a lifetime of required sex offender registry that severely limits housing and employment options. And a failure to register immediately can result in reincarceration no matter how exemplary one lives post release.
Joy Manne: Thank you, Richard, you have spoken for many of us.
Dana Ullman:Richard, thanx again for acknowledging and reminding us all of the increased complexity that reality and integrity demands.
Anna Karelia-coates: Thank u nice to find a nuanced voice..on the internet on big issues and frankly anywhere
Gary Aspenberg: All of your points here contradict your opening statements. What is the cultural context of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster? You need to find another issue.
Bill Eichman: I saw the intended point as being something like this:
There is something just as ‘wrong’ in our collective response to the social process of learning about and discussing events and/or people such as this rape, as there is in the rape itself.
You might reasonably ask how could this be, when the initial act of rape was so vile?
It has to do with its long term results, and its ethical logic. And also with what one values and hopes for in our lives.
By carrying out a collective ritual degradation of a young guy who did a vile thing, do we rise or fall ads a society? Have we healed anything? Have we helped other young guys understand and fix the tangled nasty in their heads that makes rape possible?
The collective degradation lets us feel virtuous, but are we virtuous? Would wise and healthy people carry out this kind of social process?
Or are we just letting our own unresolved inner violence act out in public?
Richard Grossinger: Mr. Eichmann says it pretty well, Gary. I don’t think I contradicted my opening statements; I think that I put them in context. Cultural and subcultural context is what causes a “young man [to] rap[e] an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.” Otherwise, you declare him pure “evil” in one or another nuance of the word (all of which lead to a fundamental duality in the universe) and absolve yourself and all the other finger-pointers and scapegoaters of any complicity in his act. Anyone who says, “Six months in the Prison Industrial Complex isn’t enough, give him fourteen years,” has already taken the first step toward dissociation, abuse, and sadistic transgression and has aligned more with the perpetrator than the victim. As for my other point, it is possible to blame the perpetrator 100% without 100% exonerating the victim. There are countless instances in which, to all appearances, a victim is 100% innocent; I don’t think that this is one of them. She was innocent while unconscious but not before or after. She wasn’t guilty of a crime in either case, just of contributing to a chain of causation. Her account is profound and moving, but to note that her actions and words were also narcissistic, intentionally self-serving and/or heroic, and self-righteous, both before and after, is not to absolve the perpetrator or blame the victim, just to give some respect to the karma of cause and effect.
Gary Aspenberg: You’re right. I hereby absolve myself of complicity in his act. By the way, scapegoating is targeting an innocent person not a perpetrator. Cause and effect: unconscious woman, now’s my chance.
Richard Grossinger: I‘m not sure that’s cause and effect in a karmic sense; that’s surficial thought and act. Who knows what was happening karmically. Maybe they were simultaneously drawn into the mythical enantiodromia.
Sharon Doubiago: Thanks, Richard. It took a lot for me to applaud her stance because I am so opposed to our prison system.
Anna Dibble: Intellectualizing rape is moving into dangerous territory.
Richard Grossinger: Not intellectualizing rape but intellectualizing or deconstructing the responses to it.
Sharon Doubiago: All of what you bring up, I wrestled with in writing my booklength poem, The Visit (Wild Ocean, 2015). It is our whole culture.
Wayne Paul Liles: I do so agree.
Anna Dibble: Well, but the responses—in this case the victim’s letter as well as the father of the perpetrator’s letter—are intricately bound to the rape itself. I agree with many of the things you say in your piece. Our prison system is absolutely outrageous and in dire need of reform. But currently we don’t have much to work with, regarding punishment for true crimes, such as this rape. That is where a good percentage of the anger has come from—that he got off lightly with such a short sentence. Changing this particular part of our culture— male physical aggression towards women, in its multiple forms, is going to take eons. We are making tiny steps in that direction, though, and I am grateful for that.
Richard Grossinger: My feeling is that punishment as such doesn’t accomplish anything, though the incidental shock from loss of freedom and the hellish environment does catalyze some people into dramatic personal changes. Remove people who are dangerous, playing it on the safe side, but treat and rehabilitate the rest. I don’t think that any sentence is short. Would you want 14 hours, let alone 14 months or 14 years of your life in a jail?
Anna Dibble: I agree, but we haven’t reached that point in our society (hopefully, yet), so what do you suggest the society does about this man, right now? Given his sentence, it is highly likely he will commit a similar crime again. Most of what I am saying—i.e. dangerous territory—is that sexual assault is vastly different from murder or stealing or, really any other crime. For one thing, it is a crime that is mostly unreported for many reasons—and a crime that has a long history of being unrecognized as a crime in many instances, and most certainly not punished. Look at the line up of Cosby’s victims. Also, the victim usually lives, and has to live in the prison of having had her or his body assaulted for the rest of life. Women in the current military system are raped on a regular basis, and the men who perpetuate this mostly get away with it entirely. In all war situations, all over the earth, women are raped every minute. It is a much more complicated issue than all the other crimes that humans perpetuate. Because of the enormous emotional damage, the crime is extremely complicated.
Richard Grossinger: We share a viewpoint regarding the unique nature of sexual crimes insofar as they involved multiple taboos, create conspiracies of secrecy, get deeply internalized by victims, and produce serial perpetrators who are driven by compulsions and addictions and protected by a combination of victim shame, sexism, and a corrupt criminal and legal system that does not take the acts seriously as absolute crimes. As we all know, it is even worse in other countries where slavery, forced prostitution, forced marriages, and honor killings are epidemic and often normalized. Where to begin!? Nonetheless, my guess is that this kid is not an addict or serial abuser and has probably been shocked into contrition; there are a few clues that this is the case. My original email didn’t address what you are addressing. I was really reacting to different issues—those of mob justice, ideological correctness on both sides in the Trump era, the Prison Industrial Complex, dissociation, dehumanization, and the replacement of hope and empathy with blood lust, the theater of public shaming, and revenge.
Anna Dibble: Point taken. However, you did defend the judge in the case – and I was attempting to simply defend the response of the victim and many other victims or would be victims—to the judge’s ruling. Sure— a lot of the response has been terrible, and has a lynch mob quality, mainly I think due to the ongoing nature of internet ranting (maybe that’s what we are doing too?!). But the letter the victim wrote and read was extraordinarily brave, and I think a good number of people who responded to that did so in an empathic manner. Also, there is no way anyone can guess at another’s future behavior! Though I hope you are correct.
June 21, 2016
On June 21, 1966, Lindy and I got married in her family’s backyard at 548 Franklin Street in Denver. Neither of our sets of our parents thought it was a good idea. Part of that was culture class—Episcopalian Denver and Jewish New York City—though we had more in common with each other than with our upbringings. It was probably more that it seemed a hasty decision to them, and they didn’t understand what bonded us, a mindset that was foreign to many at the outset of the counterculture. To Lindy’s parents, the marriages of her two older sisters seemed more sensible—a businessman from Harvard and a doctor—whereas we hadn’t a clue as to how to earn a living or how we would raise our children. For that matter they didn’t think we would stay together long.
Yet we were the ones who did, and then we had two amazing, independent, creative children: Robin and Miranda (now more than twice as old as we were when we got married).
We ourselves didn’t know what we were getting into (except perhaps at the level of the aura with its greater knowledge and those chakras above the crown, but that was fully unconscious then). It was more that we were applying to graduate schools together and in that era, believe it or not, you weren’t allowed to live together without being married—some landlords actually asked for a marriage certificate.
We decided to get married out of convenience, and the ceremony itself seemed an afterthought, a family obligation. Despite Lindy’s parents’ objections they would have been even unhappier if we had lived together without getting married. Her family all came, and a surprising number of folks came from both coasts in my family, partly to make a family reunion of it.
Afterwards we didn’t even know how to have a proper honeymoon, going to the Navaho and Hopi reservations in search of the occult and as a preview of graduate anthropology and getting our car stuck in the sand so that a Hopi kid had to blast it out for us without driving off the Mesa. We came back to Denver, collected our cat from the previous summer (when we did in fact live together in a cabin in Aspen), and drove to the apartment we had rented on Mary Street in Ann Arbor on the way out west after graduations from Smith and Amherst.
Looking back on the ceremony fifty years, I have much more respect for the formality of those vows. Since I have been working on my book Episodes in Disguise of a Marriage these last couple of years, I will borrow a brief section from what is still rough draft of the last chapter:
So began the long sublime. We would repeat that cycle many times; it was forty years before we finally began to get it. It took that long to absorb something so profound, so subtle, so intrinsically and shamanically spiritual.
There was no formula for its crucible, and we did pretty much everything that was counter-indicated. That’s how we got there.
There is no rulebook and, if there were, we broke every rule, and if we hadn’t, we never would have found each other or been able to stay together long enough to experience our own transparency.
No one gives you a road map—there is no road map. There couldn’t be a road map because every trail is way too dangerous to send neophytes or mere tourists down; most would become roadkill or victims of one or another hoodwinking and seduction by the all-too-palpable svengalis and sirens who line its thoroughfares. The ὁδὸς is a labyrinth, not an assured course. The ὁδὸς is unnavigable, the only reason to take it. All the other highways lead to modernity’s mirages, mostly of false extended youth and illusory immortality.
Our wedding was a transmutation as well as a Shekhinah that made something larger beyond us. To say that it would land us in some eternal family or angelic form in heaven is creepy as well as absurd. But in another sense anything made conscious in the universe will last forever, in the universe of consciousness but not of atoms or neurons. The Akashic universe is not dependent on the chemicals of memory. In the ethers, if ethers exist, is where we become something else too.
Seeing Lindy in our sixties and seventies with beginner’s eyes was like meeting her in the doorway of Laura Scales House at Smith College in 1963, or walking into Northampton with her that first time. It was the spring dance again when for the first time I held a girl who regally received my life and offered me hers, who gave me the ultimate gift: her beauty, her charm, her days on Earth, her priceless time. We would do the same dance as many times as we had to and in as many ways as it took to complete a chymical ceremony in a diabolically ecstatic zone. We would find our sync eventually through innocence and wide-open eyes, the sheer unmistakeable apperception of each other’s beings.
July 4, 2016
Since I posted about Slaid Cleaves today, I’ll mention a rejected song of his. Last winter he made available on iTunes a bunch of out-takes, failed songs, and alternate versions called Bonus Tracks for ten bucks. On it was a song called “The Pain of Love,” about which he wrote something like, Not every song works. Maybe someone will think it’s the best song of the lot. Probably not.
I am the naysayer and I sent him his wife (who handles his correspondence) an email:
I only discovered last week the song “The Pain of Love.” I looked for the lyrics online, didn’t find them, and finally read Slaid’s liner note. I understand why he considers it a failed or incomplete song, but for some of the same reasons I think it is a special song. The line between a cliché and a great truth is often a thin one, likewise between a derivative melody and a subtle variation on an archetypal tune. The clichés—”someday we’ll part,’ “I won’t pretend,” “unworthy of your love,” “the stars above,” “it’s always you,” “along the sandy shore,” “nothing lasts forever,” etc.—do not come off as clichés, especially as off-cadenced; they sound more like a light graze over tropes of fifties rock n roll headed for a deeper meaning unavailable say in Dion and the Belmonts. It’s hard to put into words: it’s something like, the song’s battle with its own incipient superficiality becomes the battle between incipient profundity and transient superficiality, and it is finally won within the melody. That’s maybe overkill. I think that it does break through as a song. Its amateur unfinishedness and internal uncertainty with its own flow are right because the truth being expressed is equally unfinishable and uncertain. I know that Slaid said, “Probably not,” but I cast an opposite vote. I hope he finishes and releases it; it could break out, even exceed “Broke Down” in the world. One other thing: I think that the vaguely seventeenth century metaphysical-poets-like archaic diction works in the “As” stanza for the same reasons as those cited: its amateurness, awkwardness, and clumsy innocence match the tone of the song rather exquisitely. Below find my attempted transcription. Here’s the link for hearing the melody and cadence. “Uncle Ted” on this “album” is also very good:
The Pain of Love
On the night we met I said some day we’ll part
Readily, you did agree.
In a week, a month, or maybe fifty years.
We’ll wait and see.
Fierce and tender is the tune
That your heart sings.
All these years
I’ve drunk it in.
How could any man deserve
The gifts you bring
I won’t pretend.
Sometimes I fear that I’m
Unworthy of your love.
I don’t know,
It may be true.
But on my mind
As I look up on stars above,
It’s always you.
As fades a summer cloud away,
As the leaves will fall to forest floor,
As gently shuts the eye of day,
As tides a-wave
Along the sand-dy shore.
Never mind the promises, the vows of two,
The heavens and
The stars above.
When one of our hearts feels its beat alone
The pain of love.
On the night we met I said some day we’ll part
Readily, you did agree.
Nothing lasts forever in this world, you cried,
Then fell asleep,
Leaning into me.
August 2, 2016
I can see why Trump supporters and operatives think that he is constantly being misinterpreted and that his words are being opportunistically twisted, spun, and nuanced to their worst possible effect beyond what he intended, because they are. But they miss the point, as do many of his detractors too. It’s not what the guy says, though that’s usually clinically symptomatic; it’s that he lacks empathy, compassion, knowledge, wisdom, intellectual curiosity, imagination, capacity for ambiguity or complexity, judgment, restraint, maturity, dignity, courtesy, gravitas, sacredness, sincerity, strength of character or position, graciousness, generosity, humor, art, philosophical or historical perspective, or even real business sense (his supposed strong point). He valorizes boasting, bullying, taunting, ignorance, and duplicity as strengths when they are merely covers for his insecurity and wide-spectrum psychopathology. If you think things are so bad that they couldn’t possibly get any worse, then you have reason to roll the dice and hope that putting Caligula in charge couldn’t possibly make matters worse and might even scare up some unexpected good stuff. But if you know that the US is relatively privileged and entitled and things could get a whole lot worse, even direly and fatally so, for the most enthusiastically benighted Trump supporters too, then you can’t put a madman in office and hand him ten thousand nuclear weapons. I get that Paul Ryan thinks that he’s simply a way to put a signature on some right-wing legislation and that Jill Stein thinks that Hillary is just as bad if not worse (and that may be the case vis a vis corporate fealty and war-hawkishness); but you don’t put a baboon in the cockpit or a gorilla in the operating room, and you don’t put a provincial poseur in the White House. If Trump gets elected, the most elegiacally despairing NRA-supporting hillbilly may find himself wishing for the return of Obama and the most avid, white-supremacist militia man may find himself ducking just like the guys on Wall Street when the shit hits the fan.
I archive posts on http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2015/06/facebook-posts-june-2015/.
August 4, 2016
Hunger, directed by Steve McQueen (2008). Hunger is neither a pleasant experience nor an easy film to watch. I have put it on my list solely for its uniqueness and rawpower. It is essential, not just in its depiction of “the troubles” in Northern Ireland but its reflection (via them) of any human event that brings together territoriality, ethnic and/or religious and class conflict, personal and regional sovereignty, asymmetrical warfare, conscience, honor, and the strategic and spiritual force of disciplined symbolic acts. The aftermath of watching it is more indelible than the initial viewing. It has to be. The film cannot be contained in the technology or on a glass screen; it throws one after another exquisite, unbearable, timelessly thick image at you, and the impact takes a while to settle in, get internalized, become emotionally, even cognitively, accessible, at which point they flow back iconically out of one’s own mind’s as if having just been in a museum exhibition of an unknown series of paintings by Rembrandt and Bosch or their more ephemeral modern shadow: the amateur postcards made by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib.
In an interview on the DVD , McQueen, an avant-garde African English painter, iterates his intention to make moving paintings with continuous attention to framing, color, texture, light, duration, and content. Duration and rhythm are key because cinema is not more but less than persistent the art of Lascaux or Da Vinci. In cinema, each deep image wavers and dissipates into its next inevitable transitional state or gets lost in the expectation and potentiation of its necessity to become something else. McQueen neutralizes that to make a gallery space. Some films are painting-like. This is a painting that is film-like because it is a film.
Many of the scenes are throwback Warhol in their stolidly fixed lens and unlikely length, yet classical in their richness and imagery like Dutch Mediaeval renditions of the Crucifixion or Bosch’s damned wandering or clustering in Hell. McQueen’s reconstruction of the 1981 hunger strike of IRA Maze prisoner Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender), ending in Sands’ death—the film’s topic—is effectively a purgatory followed by a crucifixion. The latter third of the film is a record of the deterioration of Sands’ body in Fassbender’s gruesomely real presentation of his own body; the first third depicts the set-up: prison walls hand-painted shades of brown by prisoners with their own excrement, full frontal male naked bodies throughout, milling in prison groups, being tortured individually and collectively, confined restlessly and torpidly in their cells like animals in a zoo. The nakedness feels part of McQueen’s essential naked, transparent, Rembrandt-like aesthetic, building layers of painting that move away from motion to stillness, in part by breaking an unspoken rule about superfluous penises and making them essential (because ordinary) anatomy, in part by preceding modernity with a kind of Stone Age and feudal stripping away of nuance. There is one long, slowly evolving composition of a fly, broken jail wire, and a trapped hand exploring the wire and permitting contact by the fly (the fly freer than the hand). The longest Warhol-like composition is a guard with a squeegee disinfecting the hall of urine poured into it by the prisoners; he approaches the lens from faraway pushing the spills along, occasionally back under the iron doors of the cells.
A sequence comprising almost an astonishing third of the film—the middle third—is a discussion between Sands and a priest in which Sands makes a moral and existential argument for the imminent hunger strike to the death and the priest tries unsuccessfully to dissuade him. The dialogue is set at a greater distance than directors usually accomodate their audience, plus the words are softer and less theatrically enunciated, making the scene difficult to hear or interpret. The fact that the camera and and mike are intentionally un-user-friendly gives the sensation of eavesdropping. This makes the exchange more necessary and powerful, as if one were overhearing the real thing. The two actors capture the likely rhythm and alternately intense and idle tugs that such a conversation in life would have; one gets to overhear particularly poignant phases in which moral and political view come to a head, the whole sequence punctuated with aesthetically rendered flashbacks from Sands’ boyhood. These flashbacks and dissolves continue into his hunger strike, where they are mixed with the waning natural world so that Fassbender’s character can barely see or hear the events and visitors in his surroundings. Fades of dimension, memory, and Now into one another convert McQueen’s gallery to a more modern montage, but it is just as painterly and hard-earned. Again, I can’t say that it was an enjoyable film or one that I was drawn to keep watching, but brilliance and perfection are their own reward. The after-images in my mind continue to speak for themselves.
August 10, 2016
Note to Paul Ryan:
Telling yourself that you can stage-manage four years of a Trump presidency without major catastrophe to the country and the world is like kidding yourself that you can persuade Mohammed Atta to land the plane safely.
Judy Holden: I’m worried about Hillary becoming President. She is reckless with national security and considers herself above the law.
This seems a typically somewhat duplicitous non sequitur lacking real disclosure. If what is meant is that HIllary is an ethically challenged opportunist and corporate lackey and I wish that we had better candidates, then I can more or less let it pass. However, if what is meant is that it would be better to have a mentally disabled, sadistic sociopath as president, then No. D. Trump by the way is even more reckless and considers himself above far more laws and decencies than Hillary. His crimes against numerous contractors, investors, partners, etc., represent grandiose entitlement and, if numerous witnesses are to be believed, he has participated with the notorious Jeffrey Epstein in recreational rape and bondage of minors (see the pending lawsuit previously referenced: http://www.alternet.org/…/donald-trump-accused-rape…). Sorry, but there is a difference between mere burglary and serial murder. I’d rather have a common burglar in the White House than a sociopath. Moral equivalence is another duplicitous game. Even if all the Benghazi claims against Hillary are true–and they likely aren’t– they represent at most dubious judgment and a single unfortunate incident. What about all the intentional lies and deceits of W, Bush and Cheney et al. that underwrote the Iraq War? Hundreds of thousands died or were dislocated over their criminal actions. Moral equivalence to Benghazi? I don’t think so.
November 9, 2016
A few quick, sleep-deprived thoughts as a placeholder for anything more substantial. I’ll give it another shot later:
- As hard as we tried to convince ourselves, she never felt right. She was always the woman who said she landed in, was it Bosnia?, under fire when it was her romanticized imagination of her own drama. It made you worry that, like Reagan, she couldn’t tell the difference between movie script and reality, or between the horror of war and her heroic participation in historic events. She was oddly invisible; you couldn’t find her, from the first Bill Clinton campaign to her empty, bloodless to reaction to Monica Lewinsky, to debate after debate in two Potemkin campaigns in which she never said what we wanted her, or someone, to say. Trump wasn’t the only narcissist or Reality star; it’s just that her Reality Show was staged on a misleadingly global platform. As much as I tried, I never felt as though she was the best-prepared candidate in history for President. That smacked of delusion, denial, and empty, running-scared sloganeering.
- The Affordable Care Act killed her, all the way back to her misguided attempts at comprehensive health care in her husband’s first term, not that something else might not have done her in too. Many people have just been overwhelmed by the sky-rocketing costs of health insurance after the health-care transformation. From my perspective, neither Hillary nor Obama nor any of the Democrats seem to understand that the medical system itself, the pharmaceutical companies, the manufacturers of equipment, the insurance companies, the hospitals, the scientists who back it with soul-less scientism, the commoditizers of life, health, and death and the fear of the death, are systematically corrupt and will subvert any simulacrum of monetized healthcare into their own pockets. If you build healthcare on the foundation of a bogus medical system, the beneficiaries of that system will gladly turn your gullibility into continued plunder.
- Bernie aside, not that Bernie can ever be aside because I believe he was the right candidate and would have won the Rust Belt, Florida, and this election, it was the Democratic Establishment’s refusal even to allow an honest primary, to run a fair horse race and figure out what the public really wanted, its insistence on coronating a specter from the past with slipshod marketing makeover and willfully ignorant dismissal of where modernity now was (modernity outside its stylishly modernized bubble), its subservience to the Clinton machine, and so on. It meant that they ended up with an autocratically imposed candidate running against a renegade populist. He was tied to something; she never was.
- At its worst, it feels like being on a plane you suddenly realize is going to crash, a terminal diagnosis out of the blue. You have to struggle to absorb it, to breathe with it, to sleep with it, to live. At its best you realize it’s just a shadow play, a puppet show, masking the real events, the international corporate warlord governance of our time, the bigger stage of samsara—and the American Election was never the real battle, the real battle is the one you begin to fight with each next breath. The truth falls somewhere between the two sensations. Gradually the truth mystery will settle into the reality it is.
- I return to the two great prophetic poems of our time, from long before our time:
Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” which ends:
“Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming,” which ends:
“…but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
- Standing Rock is the real stage that isn’t a shadow play or hyped reality show.
November 9, 2016
I appreciate the thoughts of so many on Facebook. The responses to my post
heartened me and made me feel part of a larger community and constituency that didn’t lose last night. They restored texture to a world that seemed to have evaporated in a startling and unexpected way. Lindy and I were en route back to Portland, Maine (where we are living now) from New York City where we had been for more than two weeks, mostly visiting my family and also using some Manhattan time we earned through homeexchange.com. On November 7 I ran an event called “Healing the Election” with Daniel Pinchbeck at the Alchemist’s Kitchen on the Lower East Side (1st Street off Second Avenue). At its beginning, I conducted some psychic exercises taught by John Friedlander for finding and transforming negative energy and taking responsibility for our own complicity in it. John’s system presumes any evil or darkness we identify outside ourselves is also being sustained inside us at our own vibration. This is in every sense a consensus reality.
Likewise, high-voltage public figures—in this instance, the candidates—create their reality out of a collective projection to which we each contribute. Every one of us has a role, however minute, in forming Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s realities. Likewise, they have a role, however small, in creating our reality.
One of John’s exercises involved returning their energy to a public figure on the outbreath and reclaiming our own energy from him or her on the inbreath. Just as we need our own energy and can make better use of it than they can, they can need their own energy more than we do. Returning it to them is a favor and gift. Try it.
Likewise if we attempt to excise a hated figure from the universe, the universe will restore the exact energy in some other form. Everything is necessary and has arisen in balance with everything else from shared karmic participation.
In a third exercise, the healing energy we send to a detested person who is also suffering in samsara, though a tiny particle by measure with all the noise, if sincerely intended and discretely conducted, reaches them eventually and helps balance them and cure them of their pain and distortions. The healing may happen instantaneously, or take months or years, even lifetimes, but the particle gets there. That is the nature of psychospiritual interdependence and quantum entanglement.
I have synopsized and oversimplified John’s powerful exercises, but I want to share a figment of them for what use they might be right now. I will elaborate at another time.
Daniel’s mysterious hooded friend Johnny, a man about my age, closed the evening with a prayer based on the premise that you cannot fight darkness with darkness, only with light. He had us pray silently and spread light and healing in every increasing circles of inclusion.
I want to continue this post and encourage others to share and post their own thoughts. Unfortunately, as I understand its operation, Facebook selectively posts to timelines, so there is no guarantee you will see any one post. Perhaps we could form a group, though I am unclear on the procedure. For now, I will copy all posts sequentially to my website where you can read them by date, these ones at the end. Ignore the obsolete date in the URL: http://www.richardgrossinger.com/2015/06/facebook-posts-june-2015/.
I will also try to post directly to some of you.
I was going to add a few thoughts from others and share some additional ones of my own, but cutting and pasting responses from Facebook corrupted my document, so you will have to check my home page for responses. Here are my own further thoughts
- I couldn’t sleep because I felt unsafe. That is the dominant sentiment I see online: people feel afraid and unsafe. Trump owns this and it’s his responsibility, with our help, to fix it.
We were staying with friends in Connecticut and they were out at an election party. It was a strange house, explaining the difficulty sleeping after such a monumental Earth change, but we have stayed overnight there dozens of times since 2001. It was more that the world itself had altered irrevocably, and the basic coordinates of night sanctuary were gone. Even food didn’t taste the same. The rain had a new meaning and subtext.
The unsafeness, of course, is generic and global and was there before the Election, but the events, the image of a tidal wave of enraged uneducated rural white people, was invasive. I have long been aware of the strong, mostly unexamined anti-intellectual, white-privilege bias of so many around me (and the Rust Belt itself), going all the way back to my graduate-school days in Ann Arbor in the sixties during the Vietnam War), but it always felt relatively contained and abeyant. Not so now. It had been activated and given license.
- But our friends are much the same as their neighbors outside Hartford—blue collar, not fond of Obama, anti-bureaucracy = anti-government, more countercultural however. I have admired the strong mutual support and camaraderie of their general community. These people take care of each other more than most of my more left-wing friends do, and with sincerity.
I got up from my sleeplessness around 2 a.m. when they arrived back from their party. That’s when I learned that they had voted for Trump and were pleased with the result. “We’re ready for a change,” S said and pumped her fist once. E spoke about how his insurance rates had more than doubled since Obamacare; his deductible had gone from $500 to $8,000. “I’m not getting treated for stuff I should be. I’m not spending eight. It’s too hard to come by.” Then I asked if I read the Wiki Leaks. I said I hadn’t. “She doesn’t even deny the stuff. She makes no attempt to deny her own corruption. The whole lot of them feel entitled to do whatever they want. It’s totally corrupt They needed to be sent a message.”
Wow. My friends. Yet it was reassuring to realize that all who voted for Trump weren’t the enemy. I fell asleep more easily, albeit for only three hours before waking to the new reality and writing that earlier post.
- Who did vote for Trump? Was the popular vote a reflection of the actual national mood or of just those motivated to vote? I for one know young people and artists who think voting has nothing to do with them.
Even a superficial listen to the analysis on the news tells you that, unless there is a parallel universe or a shitload of first-timers, a huge number of people who voted for Trump approve of Obama and give him a high rating? Explain that. Voting for a guy who attempts to disenfranchise a President they respect and admire. Schizophrenic. More easily explained but just as disturbing (in fact more so) is another huge block of people, some of them the same as the first, who voted for Obama twice and then for Trump. This tells me that Obama’s election didn’t mean what I thought it did, but nor does Trump’s. What is riling people isn’t entirely racist in origin.
- I agree with those who say that this is a moment to pitch in and heal the divide in the country, at least to the degree at which it was polarized twenty years ago. What we have now is far worse than Goldwater/Johnson or anything from the Nixon, Reagan, Bush eras. Some positive thoughts in that regard about Trump:
He is not Ted Cruz. He is not an ideologue. We could be in more trouble.
He sounds and reads like a homeboy, New York, like. He’s not alien or unfamiliar. It’s not the New York I like, but it is New York, not Texas. Hell, my cousin was his right-hand man until the rotor came off the helicopter in which he was flying to New York for his boss (1991) when someone, maybe the Russian mafia, was trying to send Donald a message and my cousin was collateral damage. That’s what came of a private investigation that was swiftly ended.
He stood up to the entire Republican crew in a debate in front of Jeb Bush and the Tea Partiers and said that the Iraq War was a policy blunder of unprecedented proportion, or something like that.
He was once pro-Hillary, pro-choice, pro-single-payer (I believe). No one knows what he really thinks, what is performance, what is Reality Show, what is red meat for his supporters.
He was justified when he said that pollsters were biased and vastly underestimated his support.
He was right when he said that the Democrats talk about helping the disenfranchised, but it’s rhetoric to get elected.
He is not in the service of corporate lobbies like most candidates, though who he is in the service of may be more frightening.
He does not want confrontation with Russia.
When he defends his behavior with women by saying Bill Clinton did far worse, I buy that. In any case, the fact that he hung out with wealthy, pedophiliac pimp Jeffrey Epstein and his entourage is partly mitigated by the fact that Bill Clinton apparently hung out with the same prostitutes, some of them well under-aged, and Hillary never said the line she should have, “I’m not Bill Clinton, but you are Donald Trump.” In fact, she never said, “I am not Bill Clinton,” and that was, to my mind, one of her many mistakes. It is totally weird when two candidates who oppose each other, and whose constituencies oppose each other, so fiercely, are near accomplices of the same pedophiliac sex addict at one meager degree of removal. Bill’s selfish, self-righteous sexual appetite has arguably resulted in two electoral disasters and hundreds of thousands dead in the US and Middle East.
What scare me the most is Trump’s desire to tear up the Iran agreement, his attitude toward climate change, his current right-to-life stance, and the purported number of people claiming to be time-travellers who came here to try to prevent his election because of the cataclysmic damage it did. Make of that what you will. Probably an urban legend.
- My favorite line on Facebook was the guy who said his twelve-year-old daughter responded to the news with, “He’s not the boss of me.”
November 11, 2016
Some further observations on the Election. Two earlier sets of observations are on my website richardgrossinger.com under Facebook Posts through 2016.
- Everything is different now. Everything looks different, feels different. There is a cloud over the world itself and the sense that things will never be right again. I find myself vigilant at multiple levels: fending off media input for its combined normalization and theft of reality, fending off politics as a useful or even neutral dialectic in which to talk to myself about the future or create imaginal worlds, fending off ally and enemy voters alike, in part because I can’t tell who is who anymore, in part because of cognitive and ontological dissonance between every political intention and its translation as ideology into acts with consequences. Every option is a voodoo doll in which a pin can legitimately be stuck.
- Someone told me that the shock reminded him and his friends of 9/11. The election of Donald Trump had some of the same apocalyptic rupture. If planes flown into the twin towers made a prophetic draw of the sixteenth trump of the major arcana with its lightning strike of the turret, breaking it open as doomed people fall in the surrounding air, Trump’s ascension restores the Trump Tower of Babel, making a pun on itself within the tarot, a fitting entendre for what will now become World as Reality TV. It’s been done before even recently: Bunga Bunga and the Weather Girls, but Berlusconi didn’t have nuclear weapons. In that sense the Election reminds me of On the Beach, which I saw in high school (at its premier because my mother scored tickets): everyone sitting around in Australia, waiting for the radiation to blow and wash in and the world to end, singing “Waltzing Mathilda.”
- Before the Election, Lindy and I were staying with Tony Torn and Lee Ann Brown in their NYC Chelsea brownstone. Tony was about to relaunch his rock opera Ubu Sings Ubu. I put him in touch with my old grade-school friend Phillip Wohlstetter, a former Hamlet at Columbia. Phillip emailed Tony a day after the Election, “Well, Ubu is king now so your Ubu Sings Ubu couldn’t be more timely. Is the first word he sings “merde”? (Actually it was “merdre” in the play, right?) You may have to run the show for the next four years.” Ubu builds a wall. Ubu grabs pussy. Ubu threatens China.
- Phillip thinks Trump will quickly tire of the job as his thirst for attention is sated and, in the vacuum he created, the American Heritage Institute will write the script as during Reagan’s terms. Obamacare would be small potatoes for them; they will go after Medicare itself.
- The newspaper headlines seem to be running a dystopian science-fiction plot, not quite real. Everything is proceeding with as if real substituting for the real.
- It was a mistake to make Hillary the stand-in for women against a rapist culture in the form of a man who towered menacingly over her at the third debate—too facile and misleadingly perfect an image. Her definition was lodged in her false opposition to Trump. Married to his partner in crime, a guest at his wedding, she could not establish plausible distance, let alone moral outrage. And she tied too much of who she was to who he was. She didn’t come clear. She has never come clear. She’s like the ballplayer on your team you root for, thinking this next time she’ll come through in the clutch.
- Half the country didn’t vote at all. You want to guess who they didn’t vote for; that is, who they would have voted for if they had bothered or been allowed? I’m not talking about protest tickets that left a Presidential choice off their ballots because they didn’t like either candidate. I’m talking about those who didn’t cast a ballot. A quarter of the country elected the President. I don’t buy the notion the your measly vote counts for one, which is essentially nothing; there’s the hundredth monkey. If you project a different thoughtform, others will receive it and be activated.
- Tell me it wasn’t a mistake for the Democrats to watch the Republicans have a wide-open primary in which the public got to tell the party whom they wanted—and choose someone the establishment wouldn’t have considered in a million years—and then let their own Establishment ram a candidate down the voters’ throats. The Republicans got a road-tested populist candidate with a head start; the Democrats got a pre-packaged counter-populist with insufficient momentum behind her and a sense that she was given rather than won the nomination. As one person put it, the only person who challenged her, a populist, had four major strikes going in—old, Jewish, a socialist, and an atheist (not qualities that usually score in American politics)—and he still almost beat her without Superdelegates or a fair referee. Why handicap yourself. They completely missed that this was a change election and the old rules were dead. Insisting on Hillary gave us Trump.
- I keep coming back in my mind to the number of former and present Obama supporters who voted for Trump (or against Hillary). Her emails may have been innocent and a red herring, but she radiated a sense of entitlement and being “above the law.” She was everything that working-class white folks rejected in Romney. No wonder those same districts in Florida, North Carolina, and the Midwest flipped denomination. She spoke not to the traditional Democratic working class or organized labor but liberal and suburban Republicans and minorities. I have no trouble with this, especially the latter, but it wasn’t a winning constituency. You needed at least some of the working class. These folks aren’t all racist and sexist; after all, many of them voted for Obama, and I believe they would have voted for Elizabeth Warren. Their concerns needed to be addressed, their sense of unfairness and disinterest in them within a liberal bureaucracy. More than by rhetoric. It had feel real.
- The Democratic Establishment didn’t take the Election seriously as a brutally competitive event. Once Trump became the Republican candidate, they were modelling their victory lap and dividing the spoils. They tried to help him win the primary, figuring he was a pushover. Hubris in action. Greek tragedy. Fall of the gods.
- Hillary was the only Democrat he could have beaten.
- The outcome is a Zen slap. End of peaceful, dignified Obama interlude. Back to the battle for the life and soul of the planet. We are activated now. We have no choice. That’s what we voted for as a collective organism. Let’s hope that we knew what we were doing, through a glass darkly.
- History is a nightmare from which we can’t awake.
- A few reader responses:
“I can’t disagree with you, but I think you would write different words if you were with my latino friends here in California who cried in fear with me yesterday. Their fear is is very real and a larger perspective is far away.” –David Hurwith
“Agreed on Standing Rock, it is the alembic of North America, in my opinion.”—Nigel Seale
“hadnt heard about the time travelers… fascinating, captain.” – Reva Loo Chenier
“thank you Richard. Your words help my shock and dismay.But I keep singing that Beatles song – Hey, you got to hide your love away – as I realize it’s time to hunker down and keep working on the path.” – Kathy Park
“Even the trees and the cars and the buildings look different now. I find this to be a lot like 9/11 and the aftermath. And so surreal because the people on TV news and so many others are behaving as if this is normal. Just an election with one side winning, the other side losing. This is not normal.” – Anna Dibble
“Even with Dubya in 2000 and the whole stolen election things didn’t feel nearly this apocalyptic. You’re right, Richard, that now it is a ‘battle for the life and soul of the planet’. The correlation between 9/11 as 16th trump of the Major Arcana and Trump election as Tower of Babel restored is uncanny and frightening. I guess we have to double, triple down our efforts against the vast, reptile-brained force in our path.”—James Cook
“two weeks to go; the fat lady ain’t sung yet. i’m picturing Bernie.” – Gavin Geoffrey Dillard
Have hope. The weirdness may just be beginning.
December 23, 2016
I will get back to posting short segments of New Moon soon, but Lindy and I have been dealing with the aftermath of a crisis since Monday. I have been drawn back into the vortex of the family in which I grew up in the fifties and sixties in New York. My sister committed suicide on Monday at age 64. Although for almost fifty years, from the time I went to college when she was ten till two years ago, she barely allowed me in her life, since then I have called her almost daily and been her main support. I saw no way to prevent what happened. I could perhaps have forestalled it, but I could not have replaced the critical things needed: a reason to live, a sense of wonder or joy, an ability to see her own damage as an opportunity to heal. I don’t believe I could have saved myself if I were in her situation, so I think it is miraculous she lasted as long as she did, in continual torment and terror. It took more courage and grit than I have. Now I look back on the family in awe and astonishment. My mother jumped out the window of her apartment on Park Avenue and 37th Street in 1975 at age 55. My half-brother stabbed himself to death with a knife in Westport, Connecticut, where he had become a street person, in 2005 at age 57. My half-sister jumped from the same window of the same apartment where she had lived in the 41 years since our mother’s death. The day before her death, I stayed on the phone with her for two hours, most of which was in silence, just assuring her I was there. I considered driving to New York and pulling her out of the place against her will, but I chose not to. I couldn’t think of what to do next. Bring her to Maine? Put her in a facility? We had no capacity to deal with her medical issues and no resources in Portland, plus she didn’t want to go. She had a lifelong eating disorder and had pretty much stopped eating along with other major health challenges. All her doctors were in NY. She had stopped going to her job as a waitress at Lexington Avenue Candy Shop, a job she had held for some 35 years despite her college and graduate school education, an MA in French from Middlebury. A combination of autistic-like regression and paranoid obsessive-compulsive phobias had pretty much wiped all that away. Now part of me regrets not making the effort, not because I believe I could have rescued her or helped her for long but because it is excruciating to think of her in so much panic and suffering that jumping out the same window as her mother was the only solace. I finally had to yield to her free will and also to the fact that conscious dying is a sacred act and one must be left to choose. She had already been in three psychiatric wards in NYC and gotten little help there. In fact, such places these days are akin to prisons with only forced drugging and electroshock for the unwilling. What we needed was a Navaho situation: a community gathering, a sandpainting, the chanting of her story, a collective solidarity and attempt to establish dialogue with her demons and get them to move along in their own evolution. The landscape of my childhood, looking back, now is precisely what it felt like at the time, though no one knew because the family presented itself as not only normal but superior. I was the lone rebel, traitor, miscreant, and crazy person, the only one acting out, the only one vilified, blamed, and ostracized. That turned out to be the best survival strategy: reflect back the reality you are experiencing; reflect it back as powerfully and defiantly and in as full a warp of its distortion as you can. Compliance is not a survival strategy. Plus I had another family. Lindy and I have been dealing with the logistics, a big learning curve, especially in NYC, starting with NYPD. The apartment remains a crime scene and sealed off. We will have to come back in January to clean it out after the surrogate court establishes my authority. On Friday, today, we are having a memorial gathering at 55 Park Avenue in the apartment of her downstairs neighbor at 6 PM. It will be mainly customers of Lexington Candy and tenants of the building. If there are Facebook friends in NYC who would like to attend for whatever reason, write me on my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. We head back to Portland on Saturday.
January 1, 2017
On New Year’s Day, I’d like to mentioning discovering John McCutcheon’s songs, particularly his Christmas and peace songs, and then peace songs in general. I got “Detroit, December” from a friend in May but hadn’t listened to it carefully till it came up on my Christmas/New Year’s playlist. That led Lindy to check McCutcheon out and I purchased a bunch of his other songs from iTunes. My favorite, “Christmas in the Trenches,” is about the unofficial Christmas peace between troops who met across the battlelines during World War I; it is beautifully written with a haunting melody and suggests an Aquarian minion we are far from achieving; yet it is intimated in every action that contradicts it. Earth just isn’t there quite yet, maybe 2117. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJi41RWaTCs
I am reminded of another powerful WW1 anti-war song “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” though that’s purely dark and existential. Worth checking out if you don’t know it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZqN1glz4JY.
Here is Detroit, December. I have put the lyrics with ???’s at the end of this post. Maybe someone else can fill them in. They are not online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6tsDoLFB_8
Other antiwar songs I admire are Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” and Tom Paxton’s (I think) “Simple Song of Freedom.”
The king of kings.
They tell us that
A child is born.
And Christmas lights
Just only make me cold and warm.
Reach out their hands
To ask you for a dime or two,
To praise the Lord
And Henry Ford
Friends I meet
Along the street
I know them from the factory
But thirty years of building gears
Makes Christmas seem untrue to me
8 hours a day just to draw my pay
And overtime to see me through
And peace on Earth
For what it’s worth
The things I had
The things I made
Are lost like pebbles on the beach
And any ?????? I want to?????
Is always furthest out of reach.
To trade these blues
For dancing shoes
And trade the old year
For the new,
But time it seems
Will steal your dreams
Detroit, December, and you.