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Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Fear Poetry, Eh?

I have used the above illustration before, but on one of my poetry sites so it's a pretty sure thing nobody's seen it. It shows me driving my friend Willie downtown in a 1971 VW bus. What has this to do with poetry? It was Willie introduced me to poets like Ginsberg and Brother Antoninus via Rosset's Evergreen Review back in the '60s. This was the poetry of life, written to help us navigate the universe. It was on coffee tables. People read it --strong, gentle voices among many.

Willie also introduced me to the poetry of Marguerite Duras, Dylan Thomas, and participated in the Ferlin-exchange. He held forth on the importance of Ferlinghetti while I extolled the lyricism of Ferlin Husky. These discussions were often punctuated by the word "eh?" Even as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, my VW bus had an assertive horn. It went "Beep!". It hadn't the startling dissonance of American-made horns that combined obnoxious atonalities into auditory tantrums. It was dignified. And over the years got more pensive, quiet and interrogative. Now it goes "eh?"


Oh certainly we are put off by pedants who ostentatiously condescend to improve my...I mean, our ignorance, or that dreary class of poets whose compilations consist of one damn suicide note after another. They dishearten us, leave us in gloom while they live happily ever after. Sometimes they all gang up with excuses: this poet was gloomy (from a childhood spent running at things and chewing them) or that poet was myopic (then got glasses and saw the dog he'd joyously romped and wrestled with in youth was really a tattoo on his neighbor's butt). Admittedly, illusion and disillusion are rampant in the arts and puzzling to all concerned.

And, to be fair, the problem is sometimes ourselves. Could we be a little afraid of how scary and beautiful self-expression can be?

"Eh?" says my old bus, apart from its roar and mephitic fumes. It is metaphor; it becomes the poet who burns freely and smells like a heretic. It echoes the Biblical Logos, the Word of cosmic reason, which is also an interrogative. Poetry is the engine that contains explosions and propels us down the road.

Happily, last I checked under the bonnet, both Bus and Willie are in good shape. Poetry, however, seems to have hidden under rhythmic profanity between subwoofer blasts. Some of it is pretty frightening, but remember the Logos --the still, small voice that remains after the fury, eh?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Success Secrets Of Highly Secretive People

                                  [Harpo-cratic Eros, c. 100–50 BCE. (public domain)]
I don't ordinarily do reviews but will make an exception here because this is an exceptional book. I don't have to tell you how successful it has been over the years in helping people like you and me keep ourselves to ourselves in a pressure-cooker of mass disclosure. Nor do I have to tell you how many refinements and editions it has gone through, so I won't because I don't have to and you can't make me.

It is sufficient to say that, unlike other self-help books, Success Secrets Of Highly Secretive People has undergone enough constructive revision to have cleared it of any accidental clarity.

Some books can change your life. I'm not telling whether this one will or not. That is not the job of the reviewer. It is the job of the apologist, and most people think apologists are a pretty sorry bunch. I could tell you that is because most people never crack a dictionary --now THERE'S a life-changing book-- but I won't. That would be blabbing. Nor is it the reviewer's job to fall under the spell of his or her subject even when confronted with great truths like, "Only in the presence of secrecy can blabbing flourish." Of course, that is not a great truth, nor is it in the book. I just made it up. It is nonsense-- but could the reverse be true?

If there are answers to this and other important questions --who wrote the thing, where can one find it-- they are not forthcoming. I had the honor to meet the author at a wildly successful secret book-signing and asked how the subject arose and why it was so fascinating. The author gave me a kindly, earnest, pensive look, thought for a moment and said, "Nosey old thing, aren't you?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

[Norma Photos 2] Signs Of Summer

Thermometer on the pumphouse wall reads 103 degrees. Sign of summer.

There are other signs. Norma went out a while ago and photographed them. Brave woman. I came in when trimming got too exciting. My tools are still on the bench, way too hot to touch. She photographed them as evidence of my indolence but it will not hold up in court because I fully intend to put them away in November.
Another sign of summer is the exultation of microscopic white blossoms on the privet over our garden gate.
Glare from this spectacle has the effect of making one dizzy and fall down onto the gravel driveway, which is so hot one immediately gets up again to repeat the whole sequence over and over. Here in California, this is called Pilates until one is rescued.

A more graphic sign is Norma's chalkboard:
She writes orders that must be translated and contemplated even in summer-induced delirium until I understand, give up or collapse. Doesn't matter to her as long as I don't blunder onto her seed beds. To deny my ability to manifest all three reactions simultaneously would be a disservice to her husband-training and, on my part, an ostentation of modesty.

Another sign is this one on the front dooryard gate that I routed into pine --now under a hundred coats of Norma's paint-- thirty years ago. The hangy-down thing is a strand of weedeater cord connected obversely to a bell capable of calling medieval Paris to Mass.
It always makes me think of Victor Hugo's hero of Notre Dame, swinging down on the bell-rope. Could Quasimodo have rescued Esmeralda on a weedeater cord? I must be heat-addled to even ask. But one wonders, because one identifies with heroes, if I was Quasimodo's brother --Semimodo maybe, or another sibling like Hemi or Demimodo-- would I persist in the singular tense of Modo? Modo is a Latin word meaning mood or fashion and its plural is Modi.

Were the Modi a musical family? After all, a hemidemisemiquaver is 1/64th of a whole note, also called a semibreve or 1/2 brief. Did Quasimodo wear briefs? I do. At that point I was overcome by the Sunshine State...or is that Florida? We really must get our border settled. That was the last thought I remember before finding myself here, indoors, writing with a cold beer in my hand.

As summer days go, this first one is pretty good. Happy Solstice!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Vampire Youth Secrets! Big Scientific Heathen Discount!

It's Fathers' Day. I get to do what I want. So I sat down and looked at my stats page to see how stagnant it is. It is. Last time this happened I retitled an old essay, "Presque Vu", and reposted it as "Ten Things You Should Always Buy In Bulk". It did a lot better. One of my sons called and I told him I might take an old essay on telomere research that got no response and re-title it with vampires in it. He said it's important to have the right picture too.

"Like Lynda Carter?"

"No," he said. "Justin Bieber is even more popular than vampires right now."

Wonder Woman is an Amazon, not a vampire but this was good advice anyway. I'd make a quiz out of it. Aren't quizzes popular too?

Still, I hesitated. Then my daughter called and we talked about theater, popular fiction, and I brought up vampires. We remembered enjoying a few tv episodes a while back about vampires in the American south --Confederate vampires. I couldn't recall the name of it but she did, "True Blood". Said it was very popular. That decided me. I invite everyone to take this very popular quiz that I worked on real hard today:


Answer: No, he is an 18 year-old Canadian.
(To calculate your score, consult an atlas, a calendar and go clean your room.)

I doubt the above will bring many hits from people interested in research on aging, but here is the essay:

Friday, November 27, 2009
Old vs. New Aging Research
Re: Nobel prize for medicine awarded for work on aging. Three scientists win the most prestigious prize in medicine for work on telomeres---

I have worked privately on aging for a long time and considered my work successful. I'm way older now. But this development stunned me. Let me get this straight, the idea is to STOP aging? Nobel Foundation should really have made that clearer.

However, I am impressed with the idea of chromosomes wearing "caps" to avert degradation. I find a broad-brimmed hat useful too, especially while gardening. For hatless students of age-abatement there are other reports.

I recommend Stoker's research. He found aging could be managed by modifying some social interactions, but there were side effects. His subjects complained of dental malocclusion, leathery wing growth and invisibility in mirrors. MRS --missing reflection syndrome-- is of philological interest as it forever linked vampires with the phrase, "Is my hair alright?"

Now if these improvements fail to take hold and the stats page remains stagnant, I'll replace the stick in the middle of the essay and put it back where I got it. But on a slightly different subject, I will wish all the fathers out there a happy Fathers' Day. We may not be as popular as vampires, Amazons or incredibly talented young performers but, if it weren't for fathers...well, there wouldn't be any, would there?

Monday, June 11, 2012

[Norma Photos]

I have always enjoyed photography but still haven't mastered the digital camera. It is a new technology poorly served by the contents of my brain. I still think in terms of ASA ratings, calculating f-stops, shutter speeds and a leather bag of interchangeable lenses. My brain is 62 years old and built in winter so these obsoletisms are frozen in. Norma, however, is a year younger and born in summer, so her brain is more facile.

She is our photo-chronicler now. Best I have managed is figuring out how to type all over pictures on this machine. That was yesterday. Yesterday also delivered a series of her pictures from her computer to mine. They are of good quality because the two machines are only 20 feet apart. So Norma is my portal into summer. These scenes detail the early bleaching and crisping that go on here this time of year.

The path to the woody end takes one past relics from our early days on this prairie, like the cement-mixer --now a monument slowly sinking into it. I remember all the days and nights of shoveling worlds into and out of this machine. I do not like the cement-mixer but it has my sympathy.

One also encounters the odd disused dove's nest. Doves build flimsy nests and return each year to add new materials that make them even flimsier. They are untidy too. Here is a typical example, newly vacated by its family. They will not be getting their cleaning deposit back.

The woody end is an olio of orphan seedlings pulled up from borders and beds throughout my gardening years. Rather than throw them out, I brought them home in a bucket and stuck them out here. They were, after all, volunteers and eager to live --much like humans after morning coffee.

They are grateful too. They sometimes reach gently out as one nears. They have learned appreciation and responsibility. They like having a family.

In keeping with longstanding family tradition, they are happy to welcome new nuts into it:

As past-plenipotentiary of this family's photojournal, I am pleased to pass the mantle to Norma. Unlike me, she is not intimidated or confusticated by this new century and its brash technology. She has gained a high degree of mastery over it. She is sensitive and alert to detail and, as evidenced by yesterday's final photo at the woody end, capable of achieving grapeness:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Year Zero!

Having elsewhere in this journal dealt with years 1510, 1892, 1964 and the epoch spanning 1 million b.c through 7 p.m., I feel it is time to devote some attention to the year zero. Researches of this period are necessarily inconclusive. There were few witnesses and no way of knowing how reliable they were. I do not say this out of disrespect; zero had no history before it and people were new, ignorant and untrained as observers. Records are sketchy where they are not entirely speculative, but generally concur that humanity was in a state of gullibility and confusion.

This is excusable.

Everything was new and strange, including public record. The sober historian is not provided enough material to construct an analysis out of. Over this essay is a 15th century fresco by Masaccio. It shows the first two people ever at the conclusion of their prelapsarian idyl. They are being run out into the weeds. They are naked. An angel hectors them with a sword. I like to imagine the hand of God, behind the angel, coming down with a rolled-up newspaper the size of Oklahoma --but that is just goofing off, unlike efforts of greater historic fidelity like the woodcut print below.

This scene, by Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, is basically unchanged in composition from Masccio's, which lends credibility to its historical accuracy. There are a few embellishments: sword's on fire; weeds are better-defined, pricklier; everybody's clothed. True, it looks like Adam, Eve and angel all got dressed in a hurry, but the geologist may interpret this as a sign the planet was cooling. I know I do.

I also know both scenes portray a man and woman whose personalities have been thrown into disorder. Sudden knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, has run to spontaneous generation of conscience. Conscience is subordinate to nobody. This was an early concept; had to be to meet the press deadline for Genesis. It is what you feel when authorities at work, in government, any great glob of idiots anywhere order you to do something you don't feel comfortable with. You say no and hightail it before that rolled-up newspaper comes down.