Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reminiscences: TV in the '70s

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Among the treasures uncovered while boxing backwards was an issue of TV Guide from the 1970’s that had been used as packing in a box of breakables. In flipping through its pages, the thought occurred that any of my readers old enough to remember those days-gone-by might enjoy reminiscing over the listings for some of the shows then current:




TV Guide listings: 1975

Apple’s Way xxxApple is upset when Paul and Kathy confide to him that incest is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Kojack xxxRumors abound at NYPD when Kojak swears off sucking Tootsie Roll Pops and applies for transfer to the vice squad.

Ironside xxxIronside faces a crisis when a corrupt politician tells him to give up his investigation into graft in city hall or go back to walking a beat.

Medical Center xxxDr. Gannon comes under slanderous attack from an envious colleague after inventory disappears from the morgue and strange lights are seen flashing in his attic window.

Little House on the Prairie xxxCharles is kicked in the head by a mule and becomes convinced that an oddly-shaped buffalo chip is a gold nugget.

The WaltonsxxxJohn-Boy fears for his sanity when the mole on his cheek starts to whisper into his ear at night.

Movin’ On xxWill and Sonny come to blows when both call “shotgun” and neither will back down.

Mannix xxxIn solving a difficult case, Mannix survives more vicious blows to the head than any man since the first Ali-Frazier fight.

Tomorrow xxxTom Snyder hosts a discussion of peculiar practices among Turkistani goatherds. Also: Judge Crater makes a rare personal appearance.

Monday Night Football xxxCossell, Gifford and Mongo host an all-star line-up including John Wayne, Billy Graham, Former President Richard M. Nixon, the Jackson Five, and Dr. Irwin J. Stillman. Coverage of Rams-Steelers game, time permitting.

Petrocelli xxxPetrocelli corrects the sheriff’s pronunciation of his name once too often. Final show of series.

Chico and the Man xxxEd Brown blows his stack when Chico wants a day off to go to Tijuana to do research on “emission control devices.”

Kung Fu xxxAngry townsfolk threaten to burn Caine at the stake after several medically-certified local virgins are found to be pregnant.

Wide World of Sports xxxChris Shenkle provides live coverage of the world championship Amateur Geek Competition from Krakow. Taped coverage of the pro-am invitational three-legged race competition from Pocatella, Idaho. Also: in an exclusive interview, Evel Knieval announces his intention to sell the Brooklyn Bridge on closed-circuit television.

Leave It to Beaver xxxBeaver learns some new slang terms from an older boy at school and decides that he would prefer to be called Theodore after all.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remembrances: O, the Payne of it all!

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The rewards of diligent boxing backwards! One comes across gems such as the following:


Fame

Who remembers poor John Payne

Who never made the stretch to Wayne

Who donned his Colts

And done his best

But sank like George Bush

In the West?

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Reflections: Let There Be


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Being on vacation, this week and last, I’ve been boxing backwards like a man on a mission from God. This morning I extracted the following bit of writing from a folder of miscellaneous musings for which I had no use at the time of their composition: no blog yet, then.

In this piece, I made use of images from some several pre-existent poems. It is not dated. The run-on sentences are deliberate:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMind Under Matter

Imagine the Genesis, the instant of the living cell, the simple datum of now, the primordial (!) of being, the impact of is, scant effervescence of flesh, more sea than surface, out of eternal silence made manifest, out of the dreamless sleep of cool minerality cast into a steeping, screaming cauldron of chaotic light, temporal and temporary, unendurable.

Regress to a notion of what that first cell had to endure, Eros at outset, want without will, need without knowing, attracted, perhaps, to light, more eye than I, repulsed, perhaps, by motion, ontology of need, epistemology of hunger.

The immensity of that miniscule event persists, incommensurate, this thing so tiny, so huge, revealing across fathomless seas of space-time the gnosis of the Big Bang, which, paradoxically, impossibly, it outweighs on the scale of significance, hoisting the whole starry explosion out of the depths of endlessly contingent night, to reveal the slight, human light of prophecy, hope, aspiration.

That improbable spark of I am, predicting complex permutations of sentient mass in motion, all material striving, from the thunderous rut of Brontosaurus to the chalkboard ponderings of alchemist Einstein, or the emotionally teleological aural alembic of a Bach chorale.

That single cell that gave birth to the mind which calculates and comprehends the massive fecundity of the rosy receding lights of a billion-billion galaxies.

And the Whole is patterned, the Essence is informed.

Had we the information to connect all the dots, would we fall flat in awe before the face of the Holy Spirit, or would we roll up our sleeves in resignation, perpetually to tend the Big Machine?

What provides the light that lights our dreams?

Are we circus folk or angels?

Listen now—even as the big tent collapses in tatters around us, we hear the tigers being rolled away in their cages.

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Rodak's Doodles: "Excelsior!"

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Analyze this one at your own peril:

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Readings: the 'Fifties

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Here is the tattered cover of the only issue I ever bought of a Mad Magazine knock-off called Cracked. The "humor" inside it is extremely lame. It is one of the few magazines and/or comic books from that era that have survived. Unfortunately. This is dated 1959:

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Readings: the 'Fifties

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Below is an example of the kind of thing lil' Rodak was reading in 1953:



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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rodak's Drawings: A Jesus for Jingoists

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Here is a Christ for Conservatives: clean-cut, well-kempt, clearly comfortable, and with a noticeable tilt to the right.

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R.I.P: Vic Chesnutt

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I am saddened today by Vic Chesnutt's suicide. I loved his music. He was one of those guys--Dylan is another--whose music one either connects to, or doesn't. The Elect are those who connect.

May he rest in peace, no longer in pain. The pain is now ours.
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rodak Relents...

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...but only situationally, in order to give this nod to the season.
Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one...X
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z

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Rodak's (Illuminated) Writings: Unrated

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Here is an old poem, the images of which were sketched onto the pages of a notebook in ballpoint pen:


Death Is Just Life Made Painless

listen now
there is a spell cast
in the room
whisperings of another voice
disembodied
the voice of the carnival
turning turning
or is it my voice
lost in the wine of a sorry dreamstate
we put down to earth
wings drooping
i can see your costume glittering
in the flash of dying eyes
are we circus folk or angels
or is it just the crowd
growing hollow as the tent collapses
we hear the tigers being
rolled away in their cages
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Readings: Behind the Curtain, Part 4

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ARPAnet 1969

Following is the final installment of my reflections on Thomas Pynchon's novel, Inherent Vice. The denoument is summed up in one sentence:

“It’s all data. One and zeros. All recoverable. Eternally present.”

So sez Sparky, a kind of keyboarding lab rat, deputy to Fritz, the ur-Nerd, surrounded by monitors, all patched into the ARPAnet, first ancestor of today’s internet. Working on a case, Doc is wont to go to these primitive hackers for information. And so, the birth of the Cyber-Information Age, the realization of a kind of “eternal life,” perhaps infernal--also in 1969, btw—is the final thematic thread running through Inherent Vice and adding its portion to our grasp of the gist of the novel’s title. It brings us right up to the point where we sit together now at our collective keyboards, bathed in the glow of our mutual monitors.

Inherent Vice is a worthwhile read: I recommend it.
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Part 3 is here.
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Reflections: Drop Out

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John Q. Public
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The fix remains solidly in. Washington is, indeed, a parliament of whores.

The thing to do--as it always has been--is to drop out of the system. Stop supporting it with your cooperation and participation and allow the universal lack of response to the lies, disinformation, and false propaganda to throw a spotlight on the venality, greed, thievery and brutal amorality of the corporate class and their political parrots and butt-boys.

Once again, the people have spoken and their elected "representatives" have collectively shot them the bird.

Shoot back. Stay home next November, keep your money in your pocket, and post your outrage on the internet.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rodak Asks: Who Dat?

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As promised, here is a photographic portrait--as close as I could find to the facial expression in the drawing--of the individual portrayed in the previous "Who Dat?" Does that help?



Be that as it may, here is a much easier one:


Identify one, or both, of these handsome dudes in the comment section.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Readings: Behind the Curtain, Part 3

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In another example of the kind of synchronicity of which I’ve written before, during the work hours of the same day on which I read the following passage from Inherent Vice after dinner, I’d had a conversation about the film The Wizard of Oz with a colleague in the office. This guy is a film buff and talks about “the cinema” often. On this occasion, my colleague had told me of having experienced exactly the same eye-opener related to Doc Sportello by his colleague, Sauncho in Inherent Vice—i.e. seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time on a color TV and discovering that Kansas is in black-and-white, while Oz is in living color.

Although I am nearly a decade older than this guy, and can well remember those days of yore when all “television sets” were black-and-white, I never had this particular experience. I had seen The Wizard of Oz in the theater, multiple times, as a child. The film was shown every year—I think during the Christmas season—at a theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan, near where my maternal grandparents lived. This theater was in the shopping district of a neighborhood called Burton Heights, a short walk from my grandparents’ house. Under the supervision of the oldest cousin, we gathered kids would excitedly make that annual walk, eager to immerse ourselves in the mind-blowing wonders of Oz. It was a family tradition.

Here, now, is Inherent Vice:

On the way back to the beach, Doc looked in at the offices of Hardy, Gridley & Chatfield. Sauncho was there, but mentally for the moment not available, having the other night happened to watch The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the first time on a color TV set.
xxx“Did you know it starts off in black and white,” he informed Doc with some anxiety, “but it changes to color! Do you realize what that means?”
xxx“Saunch…”
xxxNo use. “—the world we see Dorothy living in at the beginning of the picture is black, actually brown, and white, only she thinks she’s seeing it all in color—the same normal everyday color we see our lives in. Then the cyclone picks her up, dumps her in Munchkin Land, and she walks out the door, and suddenly we see the brown and white shift into Technicolor. But if that’s what we see, what’s happening with Dorothy? What’s her ‘normal’ Kansas color changing into? Huh? What very weird hypercolor? as far beyond our everyday color as Technicolor is beyond black and white—“ and so on.


I use the term “mind-blowing” above, which usage is, of course, anachronistic. That term came into common parlance in the psychedelic ‘sixties. The glimpsed perception of those alternate realties—those states of awareness just behind, below, above, or beyond, the workaday reality of the ego—offered by the use of psychotropic drugs, is mirrored here in this talk of Oz and “hypercolor.” But you can’t describe it. You have to have been there.

And Oz, of course, like, say…LSD…was not all sweetness and light. In Oz you had your witches and your flying monkeys. Bad trips, those.

Nonetheless, The Wizard of Oz has always been my favorite movie.
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Part 2 of this series is here.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Remembrances: Still Boxing Backwards

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I opened a copy paper box that was sitting on the floor of my closet the other day. This was a box full of stuff from my desk in a previous office. Amongst the stuff was a CD-RW with "R.D." scribbled on the index. I had no idea what might be on this particular disk, so I popped it into the computer to find out. In there with all the spreadsheets, drafts of correspondence, and other detritus of the daily grind at my former position, was a word document designated as "Hell." This turned out to be the draft of a poem that I must have created during a lull in a bad day at the office. I kind of like it--"unfinished" though it remains--so I thought I'd post it.

The drawing is another from my high school art class days. My daughter saw it as I was preparing to scan it into my computer and told me that it was certainly the Gollum. Apparently she saw a resemblance to this creature that I drew way back in the day and Gollum as created for the movie version of LOTR. Since I made the drawing at least a year before I read the Ring Triology as a college freshman, (and have never seen the movie), any resemblance between the drawing and the Gollum, is purely coincidental. I think that it does make a nice accompanyment to a poem entitled "Hell" though.





xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxHELL

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe smothering solitude of hell
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxpunctuated only
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxby the incessant dread
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxof an arrhythmic ringing--

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe unwanted dead
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxcalling up to mock--
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxphoning in the bad news--

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxbut those blessèd dead--
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthose whose voice
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxone ceaselessly desires--

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxeternally silent

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxin an impossible future.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Readings: Behind the Curtain, Part 2

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Do I have your attention? Okay, then...

Doc Sportello’s primary antagonist in Inherent Vice is a cop whose handle is Bigfoot. Bigfoot is that rare officer of the law who uses a large vocabulary fluently. The two men seem to be opposite numbers. Yet it is almost as if the existences of Sportello and Bigfoot are each necessary conditions for the existence of the other. Here, Bigfoot and Doc wax Gnostic on the topic of Charles Manson:

xxx“It’s like,” Bigfoot had continued, “there’s this evil subgod who rules over Southern California? who off and on will wake from his slumber and allow the dark forces that are always lying there just out of the sunlight to come forth?”
xxx“Wow, and…and you’ve…seen him? This ‘evil subgod,’ maybe he…he talks to you?”
xxx“Yes and he looks just like a hippie pothead freak! Something, huh?”
xxxWondering what this was about, Doc, trying to be helpful, said, “Well, what I’ve been noticing since Charlie Manson got popped is a lot less eye contact from the straight world. You folks all used to be like a crowd at the zoo—‘Oh, look, the male one is carrying the baby and the female one is paying for the groceries,’ sorta thing, but now it’s like, ‘Pretend they’re not even there, ‘cause maybe they’ll mass murder our ass.’”

The year 1969 was a dark one in many ways: Nixon took office; the secret bombing of Cambodia commenced; Weatherman seized control of SDS; the Stonewall riot took place in NYC; the My Lai massacre became public knowledge; Black Panther, Fred Hampton, was murdered in his bed by Chicago cops; following the peak draft year of 1968, the Selective Service Lottery was introduced; demonstrations and riots against the war grew in size and frequency; the Walrus was Paul... But two 1969 events—the Manson Family killings, and the violent deaths at the Altamont Free Concert—served to permanently freak out the counter-culture. There was never a complete recovery. Things were never the same. It was the end of any real belief in “the Woodstock Nation”—among its former inhabitants, anyway. It was the Fall. It was the expulsion from Eden. The Man Behind the Curtain cranking the wheels was not the blustery, mischievous Wiz: the Man was Charles Manson.
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If you missed Part 1, it is here.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rodak Asks: Who Dat?

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We will now take a short hiatus from Thomas Pynchon to present another installment of "Who Dat?" This one may be more obscure than were previous offerings. In addition to not depicting an American pol, it will be noted that the art class assignment had evidently moved on from strict line drawings to more use of shading. So, who is it?


I'd never have guessed, as I was drawing this portroon from a photo, that a bit more than a decade later I would meet the man in person.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Readings: Behind the Curtain, Part 1


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Lest anyone think that I’ve been doing nothing but rummaging around in old boxes in recent times, I will now endeavor to write a few words about, and provide a few excerpts from, a witty and entertaining novel that I yesterday finished reading: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.

The protagonist of Inherent Vice is a dope-addled hippie/beach boy/private investigator named Larry “Doc” Sportello. The novel is set in Los Angeles and vicinity, in the recent aftermath of the Charles Manson murders, the occurrence of which provides the book with one of its several noirish refrains.

It would be easy to read this book as a humorous blend of satire, parody and nostalgia; it is more than that. As with all of Pynchon’s novels, the subsurface preoccupation is with the mysterious, sometimes dark, sometimes benevolent, forces inhabiting our world and operating just behind the skrim of “reality” which ordinarily prevents them from manifesting at our conscious level. Pynchon, in this book, remains very much the postmodern Gnostic.

It will take me three or four posts to present, and say a few words about, each of the excerpts I have chosen as essential introductions to Inherent Vice. The first of these made me laugh out loud when I read it. The novel is replete with allusions to song lyrics and other pop-cultural markers of the early ‘seventies. In the excerpt that follows, Pynchon pokes fun at the emergent blaxploitation genre, which was one such marker:

East of Sepulveda the moon was out, and Doc made pretty good time. He peeled off the freeway at La Cienega, took the Stocker shortcut over to La Brea. Programming on the radio, appropriate to the hour, included one of the few known attempts at black surf music, “Soul Gidget,” by Meatball Flag—

Who’s that strollin down the street,
Hi-heel flip-flops on her feet,
Always got a great big smile,
Never gets popped by Juv-o-nile—
Who is it? [Minor-seventh guitar fill]
Soul Gidget!

Who never worries about her karma?
Who be that signifying on your mamma?
Out there lookin so bad and big,
Like Sandra Dee in some Afro wig—
Who is it?
Soul Gidget!

Surf’s up, Soul Gidget’s there,
Got that patchouli all in her hair,
Down in Hermosa she’s runnin wild,
Back in South Central she just a child—
Uh who is it?
Soul Gidget!


That's nearly perfect. The subject of the next excerpt will be (gasp!) Charles Manson himself.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Riffs: Some Cultcha

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As I type, I am listening to Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No.3, featuring soprano, Dawn Upshaw, with David Zinman conducting the London Sinfonietta.

Back in the early ‘90s, this recording was something of a major fad. Tribes of Euro-Quaalude freaks (or maybe it was Ecstasy) were gathering in converted airplane hangers featuring vampire castle lighting and pumped-in clouds of detergent foam to dig the haunting beauty of this piece of music while trying to remember where they’d left their genitalia.

Or something like that.

I will freely admit that I don’t listen to much symphonic music. My personal strings are more attuned to three-chord guitar classics. I will also confess that I sent away for the disc due to curiosity about its cult status, rather than as a high-toned exercise in music appreciation.

All of that said, if you don’t know this gorgeous work, and if archival Poison, Kanye West and Coldplay just aren’t diddling the ol’ G-spot like they used to, you might want to check it out.

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Rodak Asks: Who Dat?

XOkay, this one's surely a gimme, and time has expired on the previous offering. The benignity of the portrait below is reflective of the (now hard to remember) fact that in 1964 when it was drawn this man was still wearing a white hat:






Just three years later, his tagline was “I coulda been a contender!” The current resident of the White House should take a deep breath and learn from history.

A definitive I.D.--or further remarks--will be welcomed in the comment section.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Remembrances: La Rochelle

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I intuit that there are readers out there who have been muttering to themselves, “When is Rodak going to lay off with the doodles and give us another poem?”

(Huh? What’s that, you say? You’d rather chew sand? Well, FU2.)

The window through which the picture below was shot provided this poem with one of its central images. The words are addressed to another beautiful Jewish woman (not “Leah”), who was a pivotal figure in my life.


Before the Fall

Sweetly androgynous birds of dawn
on dawn’s light float,
on tiled roofs, sea sky.
Our eyes and lips
for making words alone,
our meaningless song, before the fall.
Our soles flinch yet
from the crushed shells’ bite.
The taste of wine renews
the garlic sauce, orange light,
blue beach umbrellas, moules,
the musky night.
Sand from our shoes
sifts onto the floor. Time

lounged in breathless windows,
where mosquitoes sang love songs.
My joy, my frenzy, passed for disease
or drunken charm.
Don’t let this image come to harm,
nor question now
what it is was that, then, you knew for sure.
It is far too late to live again,
and Friday’s smile for Wednesday’s love
makes a month of Sundays real.

Memories, scars, so pretty
once the wounds have healed.
It is we, yes, perfect,
completely formed and poised before the fall.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Reflections: Just War Doctrine

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B. Obama: It's just war.

N. Gingrich: I'm right behind you, Barry!

S. Palin: You betcha!
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Rodak's Drawings: The Donald

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Please indulge me as I honor the memory of the ceramic coin bank of my idyllic Midwestern boyhood:



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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rodak Asks: Who Dat?

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Before Rummy, before Dick "Big Time" Cheney, there was:


Name this man in the comments section.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rodak's Doodles: Contra Darkness

RODAK DECONSTRUCTS LORD OF THE RINGS:



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UPDATE: This is a very old drawing and not on acid-free paper, as the yellowing indicates. For anyone having trouble making it out, the caption reads: Confident of success with Gandalf at his side, Frodo grimly challenges the forces of Darkness
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Remembrances: In a Sense, Abroad*

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...and I think that I took this next one in Egypt. It’s hard to remember after all this time. I call it, Horses, Sand, and Colored People:




I seem to recall that our little native guide (spoke terrible English; never heard of Right Guard) tried very hard to make a big deal out of those raggedy-ass stone structures in the background there. Sheesh! This photo was taken over thirty years ago. That stuff is probably looking really shabby by now!

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*cf., this classic
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Rodak's Writings: The Suicide's Satori

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The Suicide’s Satori

I hover about my life
as the ghost malingers near the corpse—
not appalled, unamused.

Wondering how long the feeling can last,
I touch your hand.
Half hopeful, facing one more dawn,
I rise to kiss the sun.

Expecting to burn, I feel no heat.

Awaiting yet the vision manifest,
I perceive just light—
mere, yellow light.

Ah-ha. Ah-ha.

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John 12:25
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quote(s) du Jour: Last Milosz

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Lest they be forgotten, here are the last couple of excerpts I pulled from the pages of Czeslaw Milosz' great novel, The Issa Valley, and never used:


If only a moment of everything’s happening could be arrested, fixed, examined in a glass jar; if only it could be peeled away from the moment before and the moment after, and the tissue of time stretched into an ocean of space! But no.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx# # #

We are given to live on the border of the human and the bestial, and it is good so.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rodak's Doodles: You Know Not the Hour

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Here's another oldie out of the box:



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Friday, December 4, 2009

Rodak Asks: Who Dat Now?

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This "Who Dat" offering is a bit more obscure, although the mug was highly visible and recognizable, back in the day. "The day" would have been 1964-1965, when I was a senior in high school. These drawings, which I have now dubbed "portroons," were drawn for an assignment in an art class I took.


Name this man in the comments section.

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UPDATE: What? Nobody is able--or can be bothered to--identify this esteemed gentleman? Well, that certainly shows one how fruitless, finally, is the pursuit of fame, influence, and power!
UPDATE.1: Wow! There was a freudian typo, if ever there was one. I had myself in high school in the 1990s! LoL! If only!


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rodak Asks: Who Dat?

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Today begins a new little feature--which will be short-lived--again based on my current "boxing backwards" project.


Found in one of those ancient boxes was a small cache of portraits, or cartoons (okay, then, "portroons") mostly in pencil, of some men who were prominent in the early-to-mid 1960s, when I sketched them. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify these personages in the comments section.


I've started you off with an easy one, which is actually one of the notebook margin doodles.
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Addendum: I should have noted that in addition to being the only notebook doodle in the series, this one is the only true caricature--the rest will all be portroons.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rodak's Writings: Solipsist?

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Possibly because of my persistence in defending the righteousness of operating as a sola scriptura Protestant; or possibly because I’m just a stubborn and hyper-opinionated contrarian, Tom--Keeper of the Keys at Disputations—has not been able, from time to time, to resist the temptation to characterize your humble host as a solipsist. Say what?

I must admit that I was a bit miffed--after I looked the word up and found out what Tom was talking about. Then again, if one gets a good whiff of the attitude expressed in the following old poem, one might be prompted to allow the possibility (slight though it might be) that old Tom is, after all, a just taxonomist.

Not Asking Much

I’ll eat my strained prunes
if you let Grandma make me God.

I’ll wear a bright sign
and sing in the streets:
Don’t work! Don’t vote! Suicide is out!
Go home! Take a bath with a friend!
Drink wine! Make love!
For, verily, as the last virgin succumbeth
it trippeth some kind of lever, et voilà!
the Apocalypth!

Judgement cometh! Take a break!
Baptize thyself in funky waters!

Yea, verily, I’d be God, alright!

(But then the old, beat-black, funk-dipped
wino shuffled up to the candy store counter, and said—
Don’ tell me! I knows! said—
Jeezis maybe went up that tree a Englishman, o’what’evah,
but he come back down a nig-gah!)

Redemption, is this your price?
To be pulled by the ear down Broadway
by some huge mutha Japanese boom-box?

No?

Then behold!—
TV addicts in their hundreds of millions,
straining to act as one;
going mad with frustration,
‘cuz the thing’s not perfected!

Behold!—
Within the pillar’d alabaster breast
of every stout Rotarian sire beats—
paper-thin—the hive-swelling communal heart
of a retooled Red Chinese cadre!

So, come! (Ye perfect capitalists!)
Come! (Ye cannibals of the future!)
Truth is but a lamb in the swamp!
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Come dance on my funky grave!
Come eat my dust!
Choke!

Now try to scream.

x …All I want for this moment,
x for the price of this moment spent
x on a single freaking tear,
x is a little mercy:
x is to be able to stand
x on line down at the supermarket,
x perfect in patience,
x filled with joy
x and in awe of existence…

Grandma!
Is this too much to ask?

Then, Grandma, stuff thy strained prunes.
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In the final anaysis, however, my interpretation would be that I’m exonerated by the bit about the supermarket..
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Reflections: In the Red

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The Red Mandala was created long ago in a notebook, freehand, in red ballpoint pen. When it was finished, and I began to contemplate it, I was given this message:

This figure is a self-portrait; each of its formal imperfections maps a corresponding flaw in your soul.


Ah-so.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Readings: Blaise Cendrars


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If you happened to have dropped by this site a couple of weeks back, you may have seen one or more of the posts I put up quoting from Henry Miller’s excellent book, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. In that book (and probably in others), Miller touts the writings of the French novelist, Blaise Cendrars. Having never read any Cendrars, Miller’s endorsement sent me off to the stacks, resolved to fill this gap in my cultural heritage. I came away from the library with two books by Cendrars: The Confessions of Dan Yack; and Moravagine.

Of the former, the less said the better. The latter is a more interesting and substantial work. In the end, despite Miller’s enthusiasm for Cendrars and my enthusiasm for Miller, I can’t say that reading these two works has left me with any desire to pursue further studies concerning the fiction of Cendrars: c’est fini.

In Moravagine, he does manage to create one of the most cynical, amoral protagonists that I’ve ever encountered. Some thought typical of this character is presented below:

…In the last analysis scientific knowledge is negative. The latest discoveries of science as well as its most stable and thoroughly proven laws, are just sufficient to allow us to demonstrate the futility of any attempt to explain the universe rationally, and the basic folly of all abstract notions. We can now put our metaphysics away in the museum of international folklore, we can confound all a priori ideas. How and why have become idle, idiotic questions. All that we can admit or affirm, the only synthesis, is the absurdity of being, of the universe, of life. If one wants to live one is better to incline towards imbecility than intelligence, and live only in the absurd. Intelligence consists of eating stars and turning them into dung. And the universe, at the most optimistic estimate, is nothing but God’s digestive system.

And with that, I toss Monsieur Cendrars into the oubliette.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Remembrances: Boxing Backwards

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“Boxing Backwards” is the title that I gave to a collection of my poems, mostly composed after my move from New York City to Ohio in the early 1990s. The words are taken from a line in a poem, (to which I link you here) which I ended up not including in the collection. It was not that I felt that the poem didn’t work. Its exclusion was based upon my decision that the tortured syntax and neologistic compounds used in the poem (originally titled “In Retrospect: 1994”) clashed with the style of the bulk of the works. Structurally, this poem is an example of an experimental form that I created and used in the composition of a dozen or so other poems which were included in the collection. Its form is based on a strict linear syllable count, repeated in two stanzas of twelve lines each. The syllable count forces word choice and presents the poet with interesting problems of creative composition.

The term “boxing backwards” functions for me on a couple of different levels of meaning. In a pugilistic sense, if one finds that life is landing a series of sharp jabs to one’s chin, while one flails ineffectively, unable either to counterpunch or to mount a defense, one is soon on the retreat—“boxing backwards” into the ropes. On a more immediate level, with reference to the afore-mentioned move from NYC to Ohio, “boxing backwards” suggests the unpacking of the corrugated cardboard boxes into which the treasures and detritus of the life one has left behind had been packed for the move. As one opens the boxes and digs down through layers of documents and other items, one travels “backwards” through time and the boxes, deluged by memories of things past.

As I stated at the conclusion of a recent post, having become increasingly dissatisfied with dissecting the present world, where very little that is good—and less that is worth discussing—is happening, I have instead turned to the past. I have been going through the physical boxes stored in my closet—boxing backwards—and building blog posts around the items found therein.

As some of my Facebook friends have already seen, one category of “treasures” found in a box of very old items was certain pages torn out of some of my college notebooks (1965-1969), the margins of which are adorned with pencil, felt-tip, or ballpoint pen doodles made while obviously paying less than rapt attention to the words of my teachers. I will, for awhile, be using some of these doodles to illuminate selected blog posts. The doodles will most likely have nothing at all to do with the content of the post of above which they appear (as the one on this post does not); they will be art for art’s sake.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reflections: Pigging Out

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The question was never whether natural cycles of climate change occur. The question is, rather, whether human activity will push a naturally occurring climate trend a couple of ticks past a tipping point which would result in a global disaster for the unnaturally huge current human population.

As things stand with Man, however, a significant human die-off could be considered quite desirable.

So, as they say out in pork country, Happy Thanksgiving, m**therf***ers.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remembrances: In the Desert

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Below is another poem from the Rodak archives, composed for the same woman to whom this previously posted poem was addressed. This one is obviously more appropriate to her then still embryonic vocation as a rabbi:


Song for Leah

Leah, my face in your eyes,
dark stars, flashing on and off,
as night more slowly turns to day
than love devolves into sorrow.

Leah, your name is lovely
to my tongue. I do not hate you.
Though I loved your sister first,
I cherish all that you have borne for me.

Leah, your lips are dry,
chapped, as if in fever.
But your proud brow is cool,
smooth as a patriarch’s proscription.

Leah, is it your own?
Or is it Laban’s will,
rising like Sinai
behind your eyes?

Leah, time's bright eye
has focused too acutely,
parching love’s most tender flesh,
leaving my heart a desert place.

Leah, you show me out.
You fix the latch.
You shoot the bolt.
Life is a caravan, departing unladen.

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The photograph, taken during my travels to the Holy Land, back in the day when “Leah” was more recently in my life, is of the desert near the Dead Sea.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Quote du Jour: Serving Mammon



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Quote: Bob Dylan (more on YouTube); Drawing: Heinrich Kley (more here)

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Remembrances: 520 Linden Street

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The following piece of juvenilia is distinguished by having inspired the primitive watercolor sketch which accompanies it on the page. The picture was, in turn, inspired by the neighborhood in Ann Arbor where I lived for three or four years as a grade-schooler. The house was at 520 Linden Street. Linden ran between South University Street, where my school, Angell Elementary, was located, and Geddes Avenue, which ran alongside the cemetery. The street was lush with tall elm trees then, just before the great Dutch elm disease plague that swept them all away. The backyards of many of the homes were graced with fruit trees; cherries, apples, pears. There were at least a dozen kids around my age living in homes on Linden, and also on South U. and Geddes. In the summer, we had it made in the shade, playing all day beneath a canopy of green. My several years on Linden Street were the happiest of my childhood. They ended in the summer following fifth grade, when we moved to Muncie, Indiana.

The house at 520 Linden still stands, apparently little changed. The families are all gone, however. Due to its close proximity to the central campus of the University of Michigan, the neighborhood has long since become a student ghetto. A look at the contemporary Linden Street, is provided by Google Maps.



Hymn

There are gray days when the trees drip crows
And the cries of dark birds fly over the hills
And into the towns, like the words
Of the locust eater, out of the wilderness.

Roaring seas of boiling black tumble in
To fill the empty bowl of the morning.
The belly of the sky is green with storm.
Shadows of branches, shivering with leaves,
Twist at our feet, writhing in the lightening flashes.
Then rain combs the grasses.

Afterwards the ground is wet
With the waters of the broken storm.
The odor of worms rises from the loam.
For all this praise the empty sky.




Amen, amen.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Remembrances: Sinner Man

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The woman for whom the following poem was written—over thirty years ago—was a dancer, an artists’ model, and a poet. She lived alone in New York City, in a walk-up apartment with a bathtub in the kitchen. Her building stood in the Westside Manhattan neighborhood called Hell’s Kitchen, where rats rumbled along the gutters of 9th Avenue; where streetwalkers plied their trade from dusk to dawn, beckoning without hope from the urinous recesses of darkened doorways.

Bacchanal


sad the thrill-thin blood
of sober being
x __________

sister, sister
incest appeals to an only child
x __________

the canine tooth of doggèd love
can’t bite itself
and requires an assassin—
x
tear out the throat of my urgent cry
drink the blood of reason’s walking corpse
and revel, drunken, in the mess you make—
x
then sleep your sleep
in the bowels of a finished thing
x __________


A little over a year ago, I learned that she whom I am remembering here is now living in California. And she is—are you ready?—a rabbi.

A rabbi. Wow.
How cool is that?
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

What, me Rodak?


Reflections: Memories

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Here is a beautiful passage from Czeslaw Milosz’s great novel, The Issa Valley. These words— the reflections of the book’s protagonist, Thomas—perhaps have relevance—on a grander scale— to some of my own recent posts:

…No one lives alone; he is speaking with those who are no more, their lives are incarnated in him; he is retracing their footsteps, climbing the stairs to the edifice of history. Their hopes and defeats, the signs left behind, be it a single letter carved in stone—here is the way to peace, to mitigating the judgments he imposed on himself. Happiness is given to those who have the gift. Never and nowhere will they feel alone, as they are comforted by the memory of all who have struggled like themselves, for something unattainable. Whether or not Thomas was rewarded, such moments as those spent in the company of his grandfather abided with him, anticipating an age when voices muted by time would become precious.

And here is another:

The nightingale cried out, was answered. Dampness seeped through the window. Whatever has been cannot endure; it fades, flickers, scatters; a man, doubting that he has been, can only pray. If a star ablaze in the bluish-green firmament was millions of miles away, and beyond it other stars, other suns; if all that was born passed without leaving a trace, then only God could rescue the past from insignificance. Even a past full of pain. Oh, if only one could say with certainty that it was not a dream.

We must remember that the past has relevance only as it is reshaped by our acts in the present.

With that thought in mind, it is my intention—the present growing increasingly less tolerable with each passing day—to dwell a bit more on my past for awhile than has been my habit to-date.

It may hurt some.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writings: Turner's Rhapsody

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Below is a contemplation of patriotic capitalists and their fruits:


The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement, explain American development. ~ Frederick Jackson Turner


Dig in deep, little Injun,
Here rides Kit Carson
Who counts coup with a boning knife;
Who translates vast tempests
Of thundering bison into one
Proper, prairie-rocking noun;
Who funnels all that rolling force
Through a single humming strand
Of transcontinental copper,
Which carries, encoded, the awesome
Name of shaggy Destiny;
Which grinds out at each end
Pale entrails of tickertape,
To fall from the turreted casements
Of meatpackers and railroad kings;
From the raspy digits of wrinkled domestics;
From the inky thumbs of chirruping clerks;
Down, down, down, descends
This glyphy slough of American laurel,
To wreath the rude brow, anointed
With the unclarified fats of beasts and bipeds,
Where beads of blood like flies in buttermilk
Persist, pronouncing the Passion
Of our Messiah of Manifest,
Now honored in grand procession;
As dime novels generate like maggots
In the sun-soaked meat that glorifies
Every distance from Independence to sunset,
Dig in deep, little Injun,
Here rides Kit Carson,
His saddlebags bursting with letters to Santa Claus.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Religion: Fuse It, or Lose It

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The following excerpt is taken from Marilynne Robinson’s* preface to the Vintage Spiritual Classics volume, John Calvin, Steward of God’s Covenant, Selected Writings. Robinson’s preface serves not only to introduce Calvin to the reader, but also as a brief apologia for Protestantism and the Reformation.

As a Protestant who is wont to visit Catholic blogs, both to observe how the “other side” lives, and to defend the Christian brand under the aegis of which I was baptized and made my Confirmation, my positions have frequently been subject to the very criticism against which Robinson here defends Luther and Calvin:

To assume that objectivity can be looked for in matters of religion, as critics of the Reformers often do, when it is not naïve, is a pure statement of faith. Tradition is simply the accumulated subjectivities of individuals—Paul, Augustine, Francis of Assisi. That these are authoritative figures only underscores the fact that subjectivity is in itself nothing to be dismissed out of hand. If tradition sets these men apart on the grounds that God, so to speak, acted upon them directly, those who revere Luther and Calvin feel that they also were instruments of God. The Reformers’ sola Scriptura is often treated as literalism or bibliomancy, in either case as an evasion of discipline and reason. But such a view is by no means consistent with the acute critical attention both of them, but Calvin especially, brought to bear on the text.

This all seems so patently obvious that one is tempted simply to go, “Well, d’uh!” and move on to more challenging subjects. Ah, would that it were that easy. Would that Christian disunity--in an age when the Jihadists are off the rez and streaming across every Western frontier, bearing a law so harsh, yet so stark, that Father Abraham would have found little fault in it--did not render the decadent West so vulnerable in its collective hubris.

The potential site of that crucially-needed healing is an open Communion.
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*Marilynne Robinson is the author of the award-winning novels Housekeeping and Gilead, both of which I have read and recommend without reservation, and of The Death of Adam, a nonfiction book which I have also read and likewise recommend.


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Monday, November 16, 2009

Writings: Utopia

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Another oldie-but-goody...



Of those who champion the power
Of profane love, I ask—
Where stand the monuments
To passion's seizures?

To those who exhort faith
In the sophistries,
The promises, the pledges
And coercion of Politics,

I say—Once I can vote
For Wisdom as against Reason,
And for Justice as against Law,
I will have found my faction.

With those who speak of Progress
I would make this compromise—
To live with a lithe dark woman
In a dome of hand-packed mud:

A garden, a few useful animals,
A bronze chronology of children
Laughing through the mists
Of a waist-high meadow.

Beyond, an amphitheatrical forest,
Enclosed again by a range of hills
Mounting with pines to Himalayan majesty—
At my back, an unsailed ocean.

Yet, within walking distance
A great medical center, side by side
With the ultimate library,
At the end of a path known only to me.

Complete—I would worship Time.
Content—I would keep a place
Always set at my table
For the anticipated savior: Death.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Readings: of (R)evolution and Lemonade

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From the Introduction of translator, Kimon Friar, to The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises by Nikos Kazantzakis:

…[Kazantzakis] never accepted the Soviet’s materialistic bias but looked on the Russian experiment primarily as the violent and cyclical upheaval of matter from the fires of which the refined spirit springs: “Not that I have any new illusions about Russia, but because, on the whole its soul is the deepest, darkest and most luminous, the most god-bearing soul of the world today.” He saw in Soviet Russia those barbaric yet necessary forces which periodically disrupt the world, seemingly sudden mutations in the surge of evolutionary progress which either destroy previous softened and decadent civilizations or challenge them toward resurrection. Thus the Dorians descended on the Minoan and Mycenaean civilization, the Romans on the Greek, the Goths on the Roman, inundation after inundation in the cyclical, barbaric, and implacable progress of the world.

Perhaps the way in which Kazantzakis chose to regard Russia’s struggle to infuse the West with a Soviet-style system, suggests that we might do well today to try to make conceptual lemonade out of the corrosively sour fruits of the Islamic neo-Jihad.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writings: Luckyland

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The following was composed some years ago. It still seems to work:


In the land of the lucky we specialize in irony. The words
Father and sky are linked by legerdemain. Skilled engravers
Etch shamanistic totems on the currency. We need to be seen.
It is not understood how these things are related.

In fine weather we circulate mainly by night. Heedful to
Whom we criticize necessity, we gather around tables in
Subterranean settings to share emphatic liquids, safe
Beneath the great spiked shell of the overhead city.

We scissor between tables, or sit in the din with the
Warm weight of opinion pressed upon our thighs like the
Unwelcomed cat of an arbitrary host. What the mind cannot
Contain, the flesh must often assume. We need to be heard.

Lips sphincter on eggs of darkness. Hands flutter urgently
Like doves snared in a fog. Eyes strobe the pounding ether
For omens of potentiality. Foiled by the tyranny of
Triangulation, do we still hope to be touched?

Boney-fingered dawn now prods a commotion of public events.
We note that the statues on the commons have ceased bellowing.
We hunker close in the deep purple dust of dead presidents
To attend their muttered contempt for the styles of the faithful.

We need to act. Here a committee is formed to oppose a task
Force. There a cetacean is rescued from stardom. All
Future walls must be clearly labeled BIODEGRADABLE. The
Think tank across the river hums like a Tibetan revival tent.

Vouchers for tennis lessons are distributed to the indigent.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff declare a moratorium on the production of
Blues harps. Bumper stickers are found to be edible and the
Parking lots double-up on muscle. Disney annexes Havana.

Weary, rosy, we now trudge our way westward. The
Dying orphans of High Romance are with us yet. We step around.
A large yellow dog of which Dickens dared not to conceive
Makes meat in the gutter of our national thrift.

We need to be seen. We need to be heard. Do we hope to be
Touched? We need to act. It is not understood how these
Things are related. The dog makes meat. The statues are silent.
This latter we take as a sure sign of progress.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Reflections: Lovely Revenants

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Below is an excerpt from Samuel Beckett’s quirky novel, Watt, which I recently finished reading. This particular passage struck me in an odd way, making me aware, for the first time in a long time, of a mental gizmo I’ve intermittently recognized as part of my own apparatus.

The excerpt from Watt is lifted from one of the last few pages of the novel. The novel’s plot is too minimal to require much of a summary by way of setting up a context for the passage to be quoted. Most of the book is, in fact, much like this passage: a noting of mental events, often so fleeting and so experientially “disembodied” that they would go almost unnoticed under normal circumstances. The circumstances in Watt are, however, seldom “normal.”

Briefly, then, at the beginning of the novel, we see the character Watt setting out for new employment in the home of a Mr. Knott (“Not?”), a personage who sometimes (as when he walks in his garden) might strike us as some kind of a “God” figure (or Knott, as the case may be). One apparently holds the position towards which Watt (“What?”...”Wot?”) is travelling, until one day another man comes, unannounced, to take one’s place. Then it is over.

Toward the end of the story, Watt’s replacement has arrived, and he has therefore set out by night, carrying with him the two valises that he carried when he first embarked for Knott’s house, sometime in the indefinite past. He has now arrived at the train station, just as the night station master, his shift over, is about to lock up. After some deliberation, the night man decides that Watt may be admitted to the station to await the dawn arrival of the day man, so long as Watt remains locked in the Waiting Room. And so, in the Waiting Room Watt...waits:

Part of the waiting room was faintly lit, by light from without. …The waiting room was empty of furniture, or other objects, as far as Watt could see.
[…]
Whispering it told, the mouth, a woman’s, the thin lips sticking and unsticking, how when empty they could accommodate a larger public than when encumbered with armchairs and divans, and how it was vain to sit, vain to lie, when without the rain beat down, or the sleet, or the snow, with or without wind, or the sun, with greater or lesser perpendicularity. This woman’s name had been Price, her persona was of an extreme spareness, and some thirty-five years earlier she had shot, with colors flying, the narrows of the menopause. Watt was not displeased to hear her voice again, to watch again the play of the pale bows of mucus. He was not displeased either when it went away.

It took me a minute to realize what is going on here. The disembodied presence of a woman named “Price”—a person from Watt’s distant past—has for no readily apparent or causally-related reason, manifested, and is phantasmagorically explaining to Watt why the Waiting Room is devoid of furniture. Watt can “see” her familiar lips as she “speaks” and “hear” her ghostly voice.

This passage made me realize that my own soul is haunted by such female presences who float up from the submerged past to deliver instructions such as “Squeeze from the bottom!” when I pick up the toothpaste tube. Or, who chant “Home again, home again, diggy-diggy!” as the car pulls into the driveway at the end of a trip.

Just as they are familiar to Watt, so these presences are familiar to me; yet they wax uncanny, if consciously contemplated. Why, for instance, did Beckett choose to name this female apparition that comes to Watt “Price?” Is it not because of the price that these lost relationships demand of a man’s soul? Is the price not those points subtracted by the referee, Necessity, for what we must now consider to have been our unforced errors? Is this not the price we pay for having played and lost? And does this all not explain my fondness for the Steve Earle song, I Still Carry You Around, a stanza of which laments:

You’re with me everywhere I go
xxxIn my heart and in my soul
Down every road, no matter where I’m bound
xxxI still carry you around.


I think so. Yes, I do. And it has also occurred to me now, thanks to Beckett, that I had once fictively described this mental phenomenon myself, in a story entitled, Solitude. To wit:

But I had already gone too far. Inadvertently, I had strayed too near the crushing gravitational pull of that merciless black hole. For I heard a voice, a soft, barely audible, whisper of a voice, distinctly female, though disembodied, that said quite clearly, “Want to smell something funky?” And simultaneously I saw, wavering before my mind’s eye, the vision of a lovely, ghostly little hand; a hand that had slipped through the tiniest crack in the ramparts of memory; a hand that extended an index finger freshly withdrawn from the very fundament of my physical being to emerge redolent of the forbidden aroma of erotic misconduct.

If you have come with me thus far, I invite you now to see and hear a video of I Still Carry You Around here, and/or to read my story, Solitude, in its entirety, here. You deserve no less.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quote du Jour: Easier Said Than Done

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It is easy to use the words faith and repentence, but the things are most difficult to perform. ...Men will allow themselves to be constrained by numerous severe laws, to be tied to numerous laborious observances, and to bear a severe and heavy yoke; in short, there is no annoyance to which they will not submit, provided there be no mention of the heart.
XXX~ John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reflections: Conservatism

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American political conservatism is populated by a compliant mob of the intellectually-challenged, all desperately seeking leaders who will condone the acting-out of their fear and hatred of anything that looks "different" to them, and which they don't understand. The conservative mob is to be pitied, as are all the confused and disoriented.

The leaders who exploit the weakness and disability of this sorry herd cannot be called "conservative," since the substance of their purposes and agendas transcends political definition by entering into the spiritual arena of Evil.

The strength of such men is derivative of the failure of our age to recognize the objective reality of Evil. This moral vacuum has allowed them to corrupt even religion, twisting and manipulating sacred doctrine to serve their perverse ends.

Ultimately, it must be understood that even these leaders, influential and powerful as they may become, are also to be pitied. No mortal being serves Evil knowingly. We therefore understand that each of these rabble-rousing plutocrats and power-brokers is radically ignorant of the reality of his world, as well as of the nature of his essential self.

One day, men such as these--each in his own time--will come awake to an awful terror, as a shield against which all of his worldly status, riches, and power over little men will be of no avail.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Rants: Making a Federal Case of Health Care

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The following consideration of the constitutionality of a proposed national health care system was originally composed in the comment section of Kyle Cupp's excellent blog, here. I am an advocate of a fully-nationalized, single-payer health care system. I think that to question the half-assed compromise system that is currently before congress on constitutional grounds is a joke and a diversionary tactic, being promoted in defense of corporate profits at the expense of the general welfare of the citizenry. That said, please consider the following:

The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution states that its purposes are the following: ...to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty...

I believe that ensuring access for all citizens, regardless of their ability to pay, to live-saving and life-enhancing health care fits nicely into the category "promote the general welfare." I believe that a national health care system is every bit as constitutionally sound as providing for the common defense. Is not defense against disease as important to the individual citizen as is defense against foreign or domestic enemies? Is it not, in fact, very likely to actually be much more important in the life of almost all citizens?

Much of medical research is funded by tax dollars. Why, therefore, should there not be equal, and guaranteed, access to the fruits of that science for all citizens?

I don't see the problem here. If a national health service, in which the government actually employed the health care providers were being proposed, the argument against it might be stronger. But that is not the case. The only difference here would be in who is writing the checks to pay for the services.

Government agencies are answerable to the people through their elected representatives. Insurance corporation bureaucrats are answerable only to their boards of directors and their shareholders. And what those entities are demanding of them is not good health care, but good profits. You do the math.
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reflections: A Collage

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Two lines of poetry often tell us more, give us more, than the weightiest tome by an erudite. To make anything truly significant one has to poetize it. …Knowledge weighs one down; wisdom saddens one. The love of truth has nothing to do with knowledge or wisdom: it’s beyond their domains. Whatever certitude one possesses is beyond the realm of proof.
xxx~ Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

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Ironic Couplet

Although the gates of Hell
Were locked,
Determined Billy
Kristol knocked.
xxx~ Rodak

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Matt. 18:3 …Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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The intellect is a product of ego, and the ego can never be stilled, never be satisfied.
xxx~ Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

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It’s only when we stop trying to see, stop trying to know, that we really see and know. (ibid.)

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Freedom is a misnomer. …Freedom implies choice and choice exists only to the extent that we are aware of our ineptitude. (ibid.)

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If we abandoned fear and prejudice, we could meet the murderer as easily as the saint. (ibid.)
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rants: Built on Sand

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All one needs to do is criticize Pres. Obama*--no matter how unfairly, and upon whatever petty, nitpicky grounds--and the mouth-breathing droves of clueless goobers and bleating merinos come marching forth in drooling, lockstep droves, chanting the talking-point du jour in the best approximation of unison that they can muster in their immeasurable incompetence. Send in the Clowns.

If such as these are the foundation of our democracy, this building has not much longer to stand.
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*See comment threads following the posts "Open Thread" and "Presidential Disconnect" (Friday, November 6th)
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quotes Pour l'Avenir


The seed you sow does not come to life unless it has first died…
xxxx~ 1 Corinthians 15:36

When should one lend oneself to action? What constitutes an act? And may it not be that not to act is sometimes a higher form of action? Jesus was silent before Pontius Pilate. The Buddha delivered his greatest sermon by holding a flower up to the multitude to behold.
xxxx~ Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world…for that reason the world hates you.
xxxx~ John 15:19

That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.”
xxxx~ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
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Photo credit
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rants: It's Only a Game?

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World Series, Game One:

Instead of trotting out one wounded vet, with a missing left hand, to throw out the first pitch right-handed, why didn't they truck in a couple hundred of the brain-damaged vets in their diapers and bibs to show us what the war is REALLY like?

Liars! Propagandists!
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Readings: When Baby Fae Went Down to Graceland



As I was surfing the net the other day, taking brief glances at the stories on various news sites, one of those which caught my attention was a notice "on this day in history" of the 25th anniversary of the implantation of a baboon heart in a human infant, whom the world came to know as “Baby Fae.” This in turn brought back to me the Paul Simon song, “The Boy in the Bubble” from Simon’s hit album “Graceland” (1986), in which Baby Fae is alluded to:

Its a turn-around jump shot
Its everybody jump start
Its every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
The boy in the bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

As the lyrics of that song played silently in my head, it next occurred to me how little our world, as it inspired Simon’s lyrics, has changed during the intervening years. As the French say, Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose, the Americanized, colloquial translation of which is usually rendered, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Just as the Baby Fae case gave rise to questions in the area of medical ethics twenty-five years ago, today medical science is embroiled in controversy over such things as stem cell research and human cloning.

Another headline announced the deaths of several UN workers and ever more American military personnel in the Middle East, where IEDs are nothing new. How little our current world differs from the one that inspired this stanza of Paul Simon’s song, back in the mid-Eighties:

It was a slow day,
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road,
There was a bright light,
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio...

And the rest of the lyrics of “The Boy in the Bubble”* seem equally relevant, even prophetic, when considered against the backdrop of current events in the 21st century:

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
That is dying in a corner of the sky

Indeed,

These are the days of miracle and wonder
And dont cry baby, dont cry
Dont cry

Check it out:...plus c’est le même chose.

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*See the excellent video.

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