Sunday, January 31, 2010

Readings: Sam Shepard


Among those contemporary artists whom I admire, Sam Shepard ranks high. Big-time playwright, big-time actor, participant in Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review (1975), the guy seems to have done it all. Shepard has recently published a new collection of short (some of it very short) fiction, Day Out of Days. I paid cash for it.

In the excerpt I’m providing here, the central character has been trapped in his car by a blizzard in the environs of “Indianapolis” while driving aimlessly around the mid-West in apparent quest of things that may have existed, once, in the past. Or something like that .

At any rate, as he begins to panic, trying to drive in a white-out, his mind goes through some old memory files, of which the following excerpt is one.

[NOTE: The drawings suit the mood of the piece, as it struck me.]

These are some of the things that go sailing through my head as I strain forward to keep the car between the lines: Leaving the desert on a clear day. Boarding the Greyhound. Getting off in Times Square. Huge poster of a pop group from England with Three Stooges haircuts. Blood bank with a sign in the window offering five dollars a pint. Black whores with red hair. Chet Baker standing in a doorway on Avenue C. Tompkins Square Park, with its giant dripping American elms. Cabbage and barley soup. Hearing Polish for the first time. Old World women in bandanas and overcoats. Cubans playing chess. Rumors of acid and TCP. Crowds gathered around a black limo, listening to a radio report of Kennedy’s killing. Jungles burning with napalm. Caskets covered in American flags. Mules hauling Martin Luther King’s coffin. Stanley Turrentine carrying his ax in a paper sack.

I was in Ann Arbor, just turned 21, during the year he’s remembering by the end of this passage. I relocated to New York City, and saw some of these things first-hand, two or three short years later.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Readings: more Sandra Agricola

I think I’m in love. I’m not certain whether it’s what she says—the tough abundance of her revealed intelligence—or how she says it. Or, maybe, it’s the larger context—the vast world of her gift’s creation—the place in which her word-constructed visions are made manifest. Whatever it is that grasps me (the poet as I imagine her, gazing my way with bedroom eyes), I sit at her feet disarmed, enthralled. I have excerpted her at Rodak Riffs before; below I offer a few more passages that have had their way with me:

from “The Origin of Evening”


Ah Eve, the origin and cause of evening,
tonight you are forgiven for coming on too strong
and leaving all of us, both
the quick and the dead,
in bed alone.


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx …. Meanwhile,
God and the Devil are having their own problems.
One is bored and considers divorce,
the other is married to his job.

from “Body and Soul”


All my life I’ve tried to exchange this life
for another,
I’ve tried to inherit the Good Society—
fat lab growing old by the fire,
cypress wood and fieldstone,
Charles Dickens and lobster tails,
John Crowe Ransom with Grand Marnier.
But that’s beyond my time,
beyond my time.

from “Nocturnes: The Gift of Suicide”


Someone who once knew me said I didn’t have many friends
Because I didn’t know how to be a friend. I guess that’s right.
He's gone now, too. Maybe to prove his point, maybe coincidence.
I’m telling you all this not so you’ll go away feeling kind-hearted
and rush to the aid of some lonely bastard outside the grocery
store when his sack breaks and fifteen cans of Vienna sausage
go rolling across the parking lot. I’m telling you so you’ll understand,
when it happens to you, that time spent trying to remember
what you said or did, time spent improving your communication
skills and general attitude toward man is time wasted. Hamlet
said, ‘you would pluck out the heart of my mystery.”
What he meant was you will try to get at the bottom of a problem
by the killing the subject. The mystery, the problem, remains.
The best thing is to wait.


Ah, Sandy…I’m waiting. I’m waiting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

R.I.P. - J. D. Salinger




If there was one book that had the most influence on my love for literary fiction, back in my "formative years," it would have to have been The Catcher in the Rye.

J. D. Salinger and Howard Zinn both gone on the same day.
My, my... It's a perfect day for bananafish.

R.I.P. - Howard Zinn

There aren't very many Americans who have sold millions of copies of books containing the unvarnished truth. We have just lost one of those few.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rodak's Writings: A Poem


xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Autumn Leavings

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx My first-born child
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx has turned 21.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx After you’ve spanned it a few times,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 21 years goes by like (snap!).

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Ah, but then I must be
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx good as dead.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I’m putting my papers in order,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx archiving the meantime.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I’m hanging all my sketches,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx prior to the dying of the light.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I’m putting my papers in order,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and this is one of them.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx I’m putting my papers in order order,
and hope to have time left over

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to righteously file
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx the shuffled leaves of my soul.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reflections: Some Free Advice


Before People Magazine and reality television, children, just about all we had, by way of socially licit voyeurism and church sanctioned schadenfreude, was Abigail Van Buren: “Dear Abby.”

Distraught, confused Americans, trying so hard to be good, but needing a wise word, blown like a kiss from the palm of a helping hand, scribbled their angst on drugstore stationary and mailed it off to Abby, each tortured soul hoping against hope that Abby would post their shame and anxiety for syndication in her daily column: instant, though anonymous, celebrity (signed “Porked in Pittsburgh” or “Hosed in Harrisburg”); posterity’s stamp of authentic existence.

By way of example, Abby once famously advised a gum-snapping adolescent female—plagued by panty-drenching lust and agonizing over whether or not she should resort to “the Pill” and submit to her boyfriend’s frantically urgent probing— that she should hold the Pill between her knees; she should preserve all that heat for a husband-to-come.

Never mind that enterprising chicks from coast-to-coast immediately launched practical experiments proving that defloration would be quite possible although one’s knees were welded together; Abby’s sardonic meme, once launched, lived on and on.

Consider, for instance, these lines from Sandra Agricola’s poem, “Nocturnes: The Gift of Suicide” included in her 1988 collection, White Mercedes:

Xxxxx We rarely give in to beauty.
Xxxxx As if we held aspirin between our legs, saving ourselves
Xxxxx for that special Beauty.

Xxxxx Yet how quickly we spread our legs for grief.

And that, children, is the meaning of life.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Rants: Where Did Our Love Go?

Perplexed about the recent ruling of the Supremes? Well, don't be: this isn’t complicated. It’s a matter of the super-rich asserting their right to control the political system of the country which they firmly believe they are mandated, by virtue of the wealth they generate, to rule.
Ayn Rand lays it all out in her writings, particularly the novel, Atlas Shrugged.
XDemocracy, which empowers “the mob,” is antithetical to the philosophy of the plutocrats.
Leona Helmsley once succinctly exposed the mindset of the super-rich; when charged with tax evasion, she reportedly uttered the classic line: “Only the little people pay taxes.” Well, you and I are “the little people” and lest there be any confusion on the matter, the Supreme Court has made it official.
Get used to it. It’s going to get much worse.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reflections: Conservative Charity as Seen Through the Lens of Haiti

As an avowed lefty, my response to the earthquake in Haiti has been to unapologetically encourage others to throw money at it. If something’s broken and you need to fix it, it’s going to cost you. If you need to throw it out, it’ll cost you to buy a replacement. If the better option is to repair it and the job is too big, or too far above your skill level to constitute a do-it-yourself-project, then you’re going to need to hire Mr. Fixit to do the job. And he doesn’t come cheap. The Haitians have comparatively little money. I have, ergo I give.

But that’s pinko me.

I have also been following quite closely the conservative response to this disaster (exiled as I am in culturally-challenged, constitutionally crimson Ohio). At the surface level, the republican/libertarian rhetoric regarding Haiti has been borderline acceptable. All agree that the event (though God’s will) has been a disaster and unanimously tsk, cluck, and shake a downcast head at the tragedy of the human slaughter and the magnitude of the infrastructural destruction.

As an enthusiastic lifelong [not to say “highly skilled”] practitioner of textual analysis, however, I have been able to discern some disturbing subtextual and intralinear vibrations emanating from the rightwing of our national bird. I will now generously broaden your understanding of the Big Picture by sharing a few of my insights.

An ideological conservative, just below the threshold of public speculation, reasons that the typical Haitian (being rather ostentatiously Black), should he have been fortunate enough to become an American, would instantly, and beyond a shadow of a doubt, also have become a Democrat; which is to say, a socialist. This reasoning is bolstered, if not proven beyond refute, by the fact that the native tongue of the Haitian people, although commonly known as “Creole,” is in reality a kind of degenerate form of French. A-ha! says our conservative. Are the Frogs socialists? Well, does a boiling moule poop in the soup? I mean, just take a gander at their health care system! Moreover, if you take the time to Google the issue, you’ll soon discover that actual French, as spoken in socialist strongholds such as Paris and Montreal, is a second official language in socialist Haiti. (Btw—our conservative is likely to point out—not only is a Frenchman an avowed socialist, but he also has yet to discover deodorant. Walk into an elevator with Pierre, you might as well be bulldozing corpses into a trench outside of Port-au-Prince for the stench of it!)

Now this next item in our analysis pertains largely to that segment of the conservative base known collectively as “evangelicals.” While most evangelicals, other than a handful of “televangelists,” are reluctant to lay an “act of God” at the actual sandaled feet of the Deity, one never quite knows, does one? It was, perhaps, not politically correct for the Rev. Pat Robertson to jump up on his hind legs and call the Haitians “devil-worshippers” on television, where children could hear it and repeat it on the playground. It is true, however, that Haitians are wont to answer the call of the midnight drums, gathering in the steamy jungle forests to take part in black magic voodoo rites, as often portrayed by Hollywood, or on the Discovery Channel. In this country, our own slaves sometimes tried to sneak away—despite all the advantages they’d been given in being brought to these Christian shores—to participate in similar dark ceremonies. For this reason, conservative traditionalists know a bit about what is spoken of here.

The logical conclusion to which these conservative musings redound is the same logical conclusion which conservatism is so very consistent in coming to: that the Haitians have in some way contrived to stage this whole “earthquake” scenario in order to play on the emotions of decent, hard-working Americans. These same hope, thereby, to extort additional and bigger handouts from the bleeding heart liberal big government socialists in Washington. How did these grasping, Third World supplicants pull off this seeming miracle? Well, as our monotonously Pro-Life brethren of the popish persuasian might say, “It’s a mystery.”

A "mystery" perhaps. But the facts speak for themselves.

In conclusion—our conservative quietly surmises—the best way we can help these poor bastards is by helping them minimally, if at all. They must learn to help themselves. Okay, sure--if we can supply a few canned goods and a couple of crates of shovels to get them started on the task at hand, well, why not? But throwing money at the problem, in this—as in every other—case, is not the answer.

I hope that this progressive analysis of conservative charity has served to enlarge in breadth and depth the understanding of my readership on the subject.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Readings: The mind and the heart plan a trip...


Excerpted here are the central lines of poem entitled “Anna” by Sandra Agricola, from her collection White Mercedes. I find the truth-telling of these lines to be courageous. And heart-wrenchingly painful:


How do you start over?
How did second chance ever become a dignified proposal?
How there is no such thing.
There is second child, second marriage, second family,
second place. After first there is second,
as in another, as in not fresh,
not first. Not the redemptive equivalent of first.
There is first and last, first and former,
as in first and former lover. First and last lover.
There is first, lost, last chance.
And how in all this there is hesitation,
an unreliable engine
this brain—
hesitating and choking up
whenever the mind and heart plan a trip together—
past, past, past,
okay present.

How I want to take the wheel,
how the brain won’t let me.

NOTE: The poem’s title is derived from the poet’s reading of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

NOTE ON THE ILLUSTRATION: The drawing is in pastoils. It has nothing to do with this post, except that it, perhaps, catches a bit the mood of the poem.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rants: A Confederacy of Judases

With the decision that the SCOTUS handed down yesterday, the curtain is pulled away and the Great and Powerful Oz is plainly revealed for all to see. Politics is nothing but Big Capital buying the services of Little Men, and now it's out in the open.

Don't think the fact that the unions are likewise released from all restraint represents some kind of equilibrium; the unions exist as an annoying pimple on the ass of corporate power. Both their wealth and their political clout have been in decline for decades.

In the future our politicians will be like our sports arenas: "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Sta-Free Maxipads Senator from the Great State of Massachusetts--Scott Towels!!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rants: F*#k Lewis and Clark!

Despite the funny money, the cacophonous jabber, and the totally weird shoes the bastards wear over there, I think that I’ve felt more “at home” in Western Europe than I have in the great American west. As a man of northern European (British, Scandinavian) blood, my soul tells me that the optimal human environment should be stony grey and sooty, cold, damp and crowded.

New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California—all are too sunny and dizzyingly vast. The natives expose too much of their flesh. The clash of colors is enough to bring on migraine attacks. And surfer music was an aural scourge in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s similar to the horror that disco emerged as twenty years later. I’m serious, really—f*#k Lewis and Clark!

The west: polygamous Mormons and illegal Mexicans; canyons and cultists; Indian reservations and Aryan compounds! Aughh! The Trail of Tears, Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Charlie Manson...there’s no end to it.

The west is the natural habitat of Manny Ramirez. The east is Derek Jeter.

The west is Tim McVeigh. The east is the 9/11 first-responders.

Earthquakes, mudslides, wild fires, coyotes eating babies, freaking volcanoes for chrissake! The only category of natural disaster the west doesn’t have in super-abundance is floods. And that’s because they don’t have enough water; which situation will one day—mark my words—provoke the next civil war.

Let Texas (Gov. Perry) and Alaska (ex-Gov. Palin) secede, and take the rest of their pickup driving, yippy-i-oh-ti-yay neighbors with them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reflections: The Insider, Part 2


So I climbed the stairs, up out of my basement study, and went to the big wall of bookshelves in the family room, pulling volumes by and about Carl G. Jung— four, five, six, seven… All of this to fulfill the intention expressed at the close of my previous post, to write on the subject of the Introvert vs. the World, as expressed in Jung’s theory of psychological types. But then I had a change of heart.

For one thing, I’ve already got so much reading lined up that I don’t want to undertake the review of Jung that the post I had contemplated putting together would entail.
For another thing, I just want to cut this short and move on to other interests.

What I am going to do, therefore, is first quote the paragraph on introversion from the Wikipedia article, “Extraversion and Introversion”. This is as good—and accurate—a general description of the type as any I found in a quick survey of the Jung books in my possession, and it covers all of the salient points that I had planned to discuss.

Next, I will put forth a little rant of my own devise on the nature of introversion. This is kind of poetic sketch, which says what I believe without laboring to heap up a mountain of words to support any of it: like it or lump it.

Finally, instead of directly quoting Jung himself, I will provide you with a really neat quote from Heinrich Heine’s Deutschland, which Jung used to preface his introduction to his own work, Psychological Types, or The Psychology of Individuation. This paragraph just blows me away. One could write on the ideas condensed within it for a lifetime. So, here goes. First, Wikipedia:
Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life". Introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in large groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, drawing, and using computers. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, composer, and inventer are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though they tend to enjoy interactions with close friends. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate. Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement. They are more analytical before speaking.
Introversion is not the same as shyness. Introverts choose solitary over social activities by preference, whereas shy people avoid social encounters out of fear.

And now, Rodak’s rant:
Extroverts make life on earth possible. Introverts make that life worth living.

Extroverts make things work: they organize; they build the hives and drive the drones to their tasks. Without extroverts, ours would be a world of solitary men, scavenging in virgin forests for roots, berries, and psychotropic herbs.

Those things which the introverts contribute to the lives of men are not susceptible, however, to such animal imagery. Bees and ants don’t compose music, recite poetry, or have visions of another world. While both hives and factories have their managers; while both ants and men have their soldiers; while both bees and men have their cooks, their nannies and their hod carriers, only men engender artists, philosophers, and visionaries. There are no prophets in the animal kingdom. And, although one must never discount the value of friendship, even the best of good dogs is only a friend, not a saint.

Finally, as promised, Heine, as quoted in Psychological Types:


Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems: they are also types of two distinct human natures, which from time immemorial, under every sort of cloak, stand more or less inimically opposed. But pre-eminently the whole medieval period was riven by this conflict, persisting even to the present day; moreover, this battle is the most essential content of the history of the Christian Church. Though under different names, always and essentially it is of Plato and Aristotle that we speak. Enthusiastic, mystical, Platonic natures reveal Christian ideas and their corresponding symbols from the bottomless depths of their souls. Practical, ordering Aristotelian natures build up from these ideas and symbols a solid system, a dogma and a cult. The Church eventually embraces both natures—one of them sheltering among the clergy, while the other finds refuge in monasticism; yet both incessantly at feud. ~ H. Heine, Deutschland

Thus endeth the thoughts of this introvert on the introversion that is both his gift and the cross he was given to bear through life.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Reflections: The Insider, Part 1


Perhaps some reader with an eye for detail has noticed that I’ve again changed my profile portrait. And maybe that person, being keenly attuned to such minute changes, has also noted that my self-description as “Rodak” has gone from “faceless clerk” to “introverted clerk.”

“Faceless” hasn’t really been accurate since I scrapped the portrait of haiku master, Bashō, for a series of self-portraits. So, in search of a new adjective to modify “clerk,” I settled on “introverted.” This choice of a modifier was dictated by the coming together of two items, each of which was recently uncovered in one of my fits of boxing backwards.

The first of these items, to take them in chronological order, according to when they were discovered and catalogued for my personal archive, is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. The second is the drawing of a dream image about which I’ve posted below. These two items are linked by my interest in the work of Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, as mentioned in the post linked. Myers-Briggs is based on Jung’s theory of psychological types.

My Myers-Briggs classification is: INTJ. This indicates that my basic personality type is Introvert. This I had determined years ago, through my readings of Jung. The “N” indicates that I am iNtuitive (as opposed to “sensing). The “T” means that I am a Thinking type (as opposed to a “feeling” type). The “J” is for Judging (as opposed to “perceiving”).

The Myers-Briggs thing is usually deployed by creatures such as human resources managers as a device to find out why employee-X has become a problem to the organization by acting out his personal quirks and foibles. Myers-Briggs characterizes the INTJ individual thusly:

“Usually have original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. In fields that appeal to them, they have a fine power to organize a job and carry it through with or without help. Skeptical, critical, independent, determined, sometimes stubborn. Must learn to yield less important points to win the most important.”

Right. And who gives a shit about all that? I’m not interested in knowing just how my particular cog best fits into the machine.

The Myers-Briggs list of introvert traits is a bit more interesting:

Introverts… quiet for concentration
...have trouble remembering names and faces [I do fine with faces; names, not so much]
...can work on one project for a long time without interruption
...are interested in the ideas behind the job
...dislike telephone interruptions
...think before they act, sometimes without acting alone contentedly
...may prefer communications to be in writing
...may prefer to learn by reading rather than talking or experiencing

Yikes. Most of that is spot-on, w/r/t your humble host. All of this, however, is still job/organization-oriented. I am not so very much interested in defining myself as an employee. So, forget Myers-Briggs. In a subsequent post, I’ll go straight to Jung, who has some things which interest me to say about introverts and their problematic and trying relationship to the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reminiscences: Sandy Green

It has occurred to me in further contemplating the fascination that the dream image featured in the post below holds for me, that it doesn’t look like something I would draw precisely because I didn’t draw it. I have had a vague memory—which could well be a false memory, but maybe not—that I described my dream to my friend Sandy and asked her to draw it for me.

Sandra Green is one of the most beautiful people (and women) that I’ve known in my life. In the faded photograph below, taken circa 1970 in the living room of an Ann Arbor apartment on Packard Road that I shared with Chris in the second year of our marriage, Sandy is on the right. Her sister, Paula, is on the left.

Sandy, in addition to being a beautiful soul, is also an artist who is gifted at drawing illustrations embodying a fairy tale quality. When I first met her, in the late ‘sixties, her marriage to Chris Frayne, the younger brother of George “Commander Cody” Frayne, had recently broken up.

I last saw Sandy in New York City. She stayed for a few days with my then wife, Kym, and me in our place on W. 89th Street, circa 1984 or ‘85. As I remember, Sandy had recently returned to New York from Hong Kong. She had learned the Chinese language and worked as a translator.

I would love to hear from Sandy again. In the age of Google, and in the spirit of “six degrees of separation,” if this post could somehow put me in touch with her, I’d be most grateful.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Readings: Drown

At the same time as we all have Haiti on our mind, I have coincidentally been reading a book by Junot Díaz, who was born in Santo Domingo, on the other side of the island. The book is a collection of connected stories, entitled Drown. The story from which the excerpt is taken is “Edison, New Jersey.” The story is told from the viewpoint of the protagonist, a former thief and drug dealer, who has apparently taken a straight job, delivering pool tables. I liked this paragraph because it speaks of one of the few aspects of what might be called “conservatism” that I admire:

Most people don’t realize how sophisticated pool tables are. Yes, tables have bolts and staples on the rails but these suckers hold together mostly by gravity and by the precision of their construction. If you treat a good table right it will outlast you. Believe me. Cathedrals are built like that. There are Incan roads in the Andes that even today you couldn’t work a knife between two of the cobblestones. The sewers that the Romans built in Bath were so good that they weren’t replaced until the 1950s. That’s the sort of thing I can believe in.

Me, too. The problem with this paragraph is that it’s hard to believe that this character (who is the thread that links the stories together), would have been capable of having these thoughts. Now, Junot Díaz, Rutgers graduate; M.F.A., Cornell University, might have them, but not our boy, the drug dealer from the barrio. One might contemplate the possibility that he’s thinking back on former times, after having acquired a level of sophistication similar to that of his Ivy League-enhanced creator. Well, yes…except that the story is written in the present tense, making it difficult, at best, to suspend disbelief in the dude’s uplifting insights, speaking to us from where he’s at now.

But, all of that said, and all nit-pickery aside, the book is a very good read, and usually—I can say as a former long-time denizen of the Bronx—almost painfully authentic. I recommend it.
Note on the image: this is looking down E. 198th in the Bronx by night, in the 1970s. The crutches had been crammed into a storm sewer grate. Perhaps one of the street-corner boyz had been told, "Your sins are forgiven; rise, walk, and sin no more."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rants: Sarah Who?


Alright, I'll admit it: I actually tried to watch Sarah Palin's debut as a paid talking head on O'Reilly last night. But she was, quite frankly, boring. I'd much prefer to watch any Geico commercial. Or even the Progressive girl.
As for those of you who expect Sarah Palin will be running for POTUS in 2012--y'all are delusional. She is interested in money, not in hard work. She has demonstrated the fact of her aversion to toil both as a failed candidate for VP, who refused to prep effectively for such things as the big debate with Biden, and as the takes-her-puck-and-goes-home quitter of an Alaskan governor.

It amazes and disturbs me that she has so many Americans bamboozled by her Grand Ole Opry good looks and the bumpersticker sloganeering that, for her, passes as political philosophy.
"God help this once great nation." ~ Bill Barker

Request: Pray for Haiti


Because my friend and former colleague, Ingrid, has siblings and other relatives living in Haiti, my attention to the horror that is going down there has been more focused on this tragic event than it has been on some others in the past.

Those of you capable of prayer, please pray for the release from affliction of the survivors. Please pray also for the swift salvation of the souls of all those lost.

If you don't pray, please join the prayerful in providing whatever material assistance you can.
UPDATE: Good news and bad news. I have just learned that all of Ingrid's family are accounted for, except for an older brother, Frantz, who was teaching school in Port-au-Prince and has not been heard from. Please pray for Frantz and all the other still missing victims of this mind-boggling tragedy.
UPDATE: Friday, 1/15/10: Here is a link with a photograph and other information regarding my friend's missing brother, Frantz. Please pass it on.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Readings: Dust

Here are the first two stanzas of a pretty good poem by Michael Chitwood, entitled, "Dust":

God said to Jacob
I shall make your descendants like the dust of the earth.
It was just like the Lord,
always the twin meaning.

Like us, dust clings to the what-nots.
Like dust, we find our place among the stones and grass blades.
Our history is a history
of rise and fall.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reflections: Dreamtime

In 1991, the year we moved from New York City to Ohio, I kept a daily journal for only the second time in my life (the previous period had been my senior year of high school.) In 1991, I was functioning as a househusband. I had two toddlers to watch, and otherwise plenty of time to read and write.
Yesterday, I skimmed through the two spiral notebooks comprising the 1991 journal, looking for any mention of the rather strange drawing that you see below:

In addition to keeping a journal that year, I had become interested in my dreams. This interest was due in large part to my readings of the oeuvre of Swiss psychiatrist/philosopher, Carl G. Jung. Many of the pages of the journal log contemporary dreams. Others refer to remembered dreams, some going back to my early childhood.

It is a phenomenon, which you can profitably investigate in yourself, that if your conscious mind begins to take an active interest in your dream life, your dream life will reciprocate. You will begin to have more vivid and more meaningful dreams. It will also become increasingly easier for you to remember your dreams, once you have trained your conscious mind to hold onto them by writing them down immediately upon waking.

When I found this strange picture (while boxing backwards), I remembered that it was the visual record of a dream. But I had retained no psychological context for it. I was hoping that I’d written about it in 1991, but this proved not to have been the case.

Last night, some hours after going fruitlessly through my journal, it came to me suddenly that the strange style of the drawing—it doesn’t look like something that I would draw—is due to the circumstance that in the dream this picture was itself an illustration in a book. When I remembered this, I simultaneously remembered that the image was, for some reason, terrifying at the time. The dream had been a nightmare. The effect upon me of this image was so strong that I had been compelled afterward to try to reproduce it.

Looking at it now, I can’t say what it means, or why it was so horrifying. Neither do I remember when I had the dream. The drawing isn’t dated.

I tell this tale in order to encourage anyone who has never done so to spend some time exploring the strange world through which he travels in dreamtime. It can be a most rewarding undertaking.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Readings: Holy Slowhand, Batman!

Again in Wandering Star, a few pages beyond the one from which my previous post was excerpted, Esther-Estrella continues to remember the teachings of Reb Joel, as received during her refugee days. Here, Reb Joel is reading from the Book of Beginning:

xxxHe went on reading, “He, the Almighty, said let there be light. And there was light. He, the Almighty, saw that it was good. He, the Almighty, divided the light from the darkness.” Joel said, “The light was that which we could know, and the darkness was the cement of the earth. And so, both were given—divided for eternity, and impossible to keep united. On one side, intelligence, on the other, the world…”
xxx“And, he, the Almighty, called the light IOM, and the darkness he called LAYLA.”

Whoa! Wait a damn minute here! So then it’s true, after all…

Friday, January 8, 2010

Readings: In the Dark Matter


Here is another passage from J.M.G Le Clézio’s beautiful novel, Wandering Star. Again, these are the memories of the protagonist; sometimes called Esther, sometimes called Hélène, and as the title character, called Estrella:

I asked why G__ is ineffable, why he is invisible and hidden, since he created everything on earth. Reb Joel shook his head, saying, “He isn’t invisible, he isn’t hidden. It is we who are invisible and hidden, it is we who are in the darkness.” He said that often, “the darkness”. He said that religion is the light, the only light, and that the lives of human beings, their acts, all the grand and magnificent things they build are nothing but darkness. He said, “He who created everything is our father, we are his offspring. Eretz Israel is our birthplace, the place where the first light shone, where the first shades of darkness began.”

The pictures, again, are from my travels: darkness visible.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quote du Jour: Viva la Difference

"A movie moves and a book talks, and that’s the difference, you see. A book has to do with words and a movie has to do with events."
XXXX~ Philip K. Dick, discussing Blade Runner, the screen adaptation of his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Readings: in Eretz Israel

I am currently reading the novel Wandering Star by recent Nobel laureate, J. M. G. Le Clézio. Below is a beautiful passage from that book—the thoughts of a young, French-Jewish WWII-era refugee girl—sandwiched between two photographs made during my travels.

"But when my father spoke of Jerusalem in the days of King David, he told extraordinary tales. I thought it must be the biggest and most beautiful city in the world, not like Paris in any case, because there surely weren’t dark streets over there, or dilapidated buildings, or broken drainpipes, or smelly stairwells, or gutters in which armies of rats ran free. When you say Paris, some people think you’re lucky—such a beautiful city! But in Jerusalem it was certainly different. What was it like? I had a hard time imagining it, a city like a cloud, with domes and steeples and minarets (my father said there were a lot of minarets), surrounded by hills planted with orange and olive trees, a city that floated over the desert like a mirage, a city in which there was nothing commonplace, nothing dirty, nothing dangerous. A city in which everyone spent his time praying and dreaming."


Quote(s) du Jour: Hipster you say?

...I don't think so. The following quote appears at this moment on the front page of the online New York Times:

Bowling is a growth industry in the city, but these aren’t the beer-belly bowling alleys of yesteryear; they’re souped-up, hipster alleys with lounges and sports bars.

There you have it: proof positive that the word "hipster" has been co-opted, devalued, and rendered meaningless by the corporate mindset of Generation X.

Oh, where is Confucius when you need him?:

From The Analects of Confucius, Book 13, Verse 3 (James R. Ware, translated in 1980.)

Tsze-lu said, “The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?”

The Master replied, “What is necessary is to rectify names.” “So! indeed!” said Tsze-lu. “You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?”

The Master said, “How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

“When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

“Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.”

Yeah. What he said.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rodak's Drawings: Who Are They?

Here is a small cast of characters in search of a story:

Although this one isn't dated, I assume that it was drawn in response to my short-lived enthusiasm for fanatasy fiction, during the Lord of the Rings fad in the psychedelic '60s. It seems probable that I had intended to write a tale to accommodate these folk and never got around to it. As I said, my enthusiasm for fantasy was brief.

They are kinda cute, though. Don't you think?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rants: The Fire This Time

As for the scoffers and the global warming deniers, JC had them pegged already, back in the first century:

As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot -- they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all -- so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. ~ Luke 17: 26-30

Consider: fire, though it be low and slow, is fire just the same:

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. ~ Luke 21: 25-26

Will you ignore the abundant signs?

Rodak's Drawings: the Process Revealed

It was noted in the comments section of my previous post that the sketch of an upraised fist resembled a "Power to the People" symbol. Actually, however, that drawing was abstracted from this one:

This drawing, in turn, was my interpretation of a detail from the photograph below (or one very similar to it):

Am I the only one, btw, who has noticed that if LHO had lived to middle-age, he would have looked exactly like Howard Dean?


Friday, January 1, 2010