To the Point

There comes a time in every epoch when pragmatism simply evolves into extreme acquiescence and surrender to the forces of apathy and do-nothingness, a guarantor of the status quo in all of its easy, democratic criminality--its fortress of greed.--TL Simons

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Truth in Humor and Logic

This from the Onion.

Of course in the wrong environment some will miss the point and say, "See! See! Even the Onion says all Muslims are evil!"

Obama speaks to America this evening, upping the stakes in the Empire's propaganda war.

Michigan history professor Juan Cole weighs in with another alternative address to the nation.

Ray McGovern notes that US military intelligence is sort of stupid at times.

And here at Round Bend we always save the best for last.


Monday, August 30, 2010

David Michael Green Rant

"So – mounting evidence to the contrary – we’re being told that the American adventure in Iraq is coming to an end now.

All I can say is, 'Damn fine war, damn fine war.'

Yup. We sure showed ‘em, didn’t we? Showed ‘em how to really fight a war. Showed ‘em how to kick some Ay-rab ass. Showed ‘em who’s boss. You know, “shock and awe” and such.

Yeah, baby."

DMG has a superb rant up at CommonDreams. The Hofstra University professor lets it all hang out.

Great, lacerating swipes at the evil-doers.

Here some moron attempts to "refudiate" Green and butchers himself.

Tea party swine.


Wrong Way Willie!

At left, the Arizona State running back didn't have a chance.

This is too funny, a high school football play that goes terribly wrong!

Just whets my appetite for the real games that begin this weekend in college stadiums across the land.


Cold Eye Anthology in Development

I'm looking forward to starting another book project (hey, it's what I do, right?) This one is a collection of poems from the short happy life of my literary tabloid Cold Eye, which I published in conjunction with the Northwest Neighbor back in 1979-80. I've been looking at these poems recently and I'm struck again by how accomplished they are. I've posted numerous of them here. They deserve to be in a special volume. Though they represent a sliver of Portland's publishing life from that era, the poems are an important part of the Northwest's literary history. They must be preserved for the record.

The material will make a nice, tight volume and feature an introduction by KC Bacon, the talented Tacoma artist and poet whom I've written about previously in this blog. For my preface I'll likely use a chapter from my memoir which recalls the literary venue The Long Goodbye. I met numerous of the poets that will be featured in the collection at the legendary artists' hangout.

In addition to its featured poems the book will include three entertaining and lucid interviews with Northwest writers Katherine Dunn, James Bash, and Walt Curtis.

KC has a solid grasp of the Cold Eye poems. We talked briefly about collaborating on this project years ago. It's come full circle, I guess. With POD it will be easier than ever and result in a very fine book indeed.

KC and I collaborated on a number of projects in the nineties, including drafts of several screenplays and a 70 min. feature adaptation of William Faulkner's short story "Artist at Home." KC played a role and did a fine job. He and a group of other talented actors carried this project, which was unfortunately flawed by poor VHS technology, no-budget, my less than stellar directing and editing, and occasional sound problems. It was a learning experience, I must say. One day I would like to post the feature to the Internet. Better yet, I wish I could find the raw video and do a reedit. Chris Thompson produced the project and packed the raw footage off to his retirement in Washington years ago, I think. Chris died in July and the footage could be anywhere, or even destroyed. What small expenditure we put up on the project came out of Chris's pocket. So I guess he owned it.

The performers were the strength of the project, titled "What Time Remains," about a dying poet who begins an affair with his friend's wife. The project really needed some technical assistance. One of its strengths was the soundtrack, however, featuring original compositions by Jim Wylie and Steve Christofferson.

Unfortunately, I don't even have my finished copy of it at this time. Maybe one will emerge from the ether, or a certain female will finally acquiesce to my wishes and return my copy to me.

Anyhow, keep your eyes open for the Cold Eye project, which I've set for an Oct. 1 deadline. Things are rolling along.

Here is Carol Knox's fine poem, A Moment of Silence After Words Spoken in Anger.

During the night
a small cold wind grows
into a Northeaster.
The pond freezes so
quickly the goldfish hang suspended.
You can look down through the ice and see them,
caught in gleaming arcs perfect
as an infant’s fingernails.
It takes the space of several heartbeats to
realize they are already dead.

Carol Knox


Friday, August 27, 2010

John Berryman

I came under the heavy influence of John Berryman shortly after leaving Eugene, in 1974. We'd grazed over him in a writing class I was in at Oregon and I was taken in by his odd syntax and freewheeling juxtaposition of images. Like Weldon Kees with the specter of Robinson, Berryman carried an alter-ego in his notebook, a troubled soul named "Henry." Berryman used Henry to root out life's curious agonies and as a second voice to counter despair and loss. Henry could be wise and confused at the same time, a psychological force with whom Berryman could commiserate about life's hardships and the tragedies that haunted him.

His businessman father committed suicide when Berryman was an adolescent and the sad reality deeply disturbed the poet. He carried the hardship throughout his life, yet managed to become a renowned teacher at Harvard and Princeton and later at the University of Minnesota, where he was working at the time of his own suicide at age 58.

Among Berryman's most venerated poems are his Dream Songs, of which he wrote hundreds. This is one of my favorites.

Dream Song 14:

Life, Friends is Boring

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatedly) 'Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.' I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

Who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind me, wag.

John Berryman


Round Bend Net Podcast Coming Soon!

The funny guy to the left is Oliver (Ollie) Dybing. He's a Big Presence at the Yamhill Pub, where he works four nights a week. He's also captain of the Pub Experts, one of the city's best softball teams. The Experts are playing in the championship round this Sunday at Farragut Park in N. Portland.

Oliver is trying to hook me up with his program of hourly Internet podcasts. I have a few programming ideas in mind for my slot, such as playing a mixture of great country and jazz tunes, readings, interviews with artists of various stripes, sports stories, political commentary and a few other things.

Sounds like a great opportunity. Still working out the details and readying my tech chops for the gig. I've never done a podcast; it's time to take the leap.

I'll keep you informed and add links as they happen.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conversation w/Dooley: Part 3

From time to time Buddy Dooley tapes our rambling conversations and transcribes them.

Then he sends them my way as e-mails and I attempt to correct his many, many errors before posting the texts here. Buddy and I have had a recent civil period that I'd like to maintain. It is, however, Buddy's call.

(above: Attica cell block)

BD: When we left off you were talking about power. How does power work in your estimation?

TS: Power is often a subtle phenomenon. At other times it works quite openly. It works in various ways, but it always has similar results; the subjugation of a particular individual or group of individuals whom elites have determined are threatening to a long-standing imposed order. When talking about subjugation you are actually referencing control mechanisms that the stakeholders determine will best undermine rebellion, or the potential for rebellion, in all its manifestations. Order is of utmost importance to the stakeholders. Money is merely a symbol of power, then. Money hasn't any real purpose except to assist in the imposition of control. War is the most fundamental example of the imposition of order. Quite simply, the stakeholders will train their subjects to kill to maintain the control that has evolved from hierarchical systems over time. We refer to such a display as defensive. The point is to keep what's yours. But power is often not satisfied with simply maintaining the control--say of resources--it is also interested in obtaining more, a surplus of whatever it is--minerals, which is land, navigable waterways, airspace, etc. It is very easy for the defensive posture to mutate into an offensive quest. The shift can be subtle and is often explained away with organized propaganda, intimidation, fear mongering and a regeneration of newer and even more subtle symbols. If control is to be maintained it must be wrapped in this increasingly subtle and tentacled apparatus. Symbolic order is the highest manipulative form of regeneration. Power is dynastic and clannish. That's sort of basic, isn't it? Power isn't a very complicated process at all. The key lies in training and organizing killers.

BD: Well, war seems to be an open example, as you say. What about the individual. Those levels of power? Let's talk about relationships...I guess that is what I'm talking about.

TS: Power is weighed and measured in its most rudimentary personal formulations. I've been taking a long look lately at techniques of cognitive manipulation...

BD: As among prison populations...

TS: Yes, that, but not that alone. But since you brought it up. Prison is certainly the most obvious control mechanism when it comes to the individual. And the work that is usually done there is an important aspect of a trend that is seeping into other areas, too. The lessons of control have jumped the line, so to speak. There is a whole area of the sketchy use of cognitive manipulation that is bleeding into ordinary society. This has been going on for a long time; its impetus is obviously growing and the influence of the technique is skyrocketing. It's one thing to attempt to teach moral conation to a killer and quite another to use it while reflecting what I consider to be a very presumptive understanding of morality overall. I was talking with a gentleman just the other day, a very nice man, whose work is in this field.

BD: The field of...does he work with prisoners?

S: Moral Conation Therapy. He works with many ex-offenders, parolees, etc. Actually what he tries to do is make people employable, which is reasonable. This man is very concerned with moral judgements. He didn't really have much to say about markets and the constriction of the economy as such, situations that are making even non-offenders sweat out the job market. But that's another story. He's not an economist and neither am I. It was interesting in talking to him how he used as his primary example of immorality the recklessness of Bill Clinton's sex scandal. He was simply aghast at Bill's use of the Oval Office as a sex den, though I doubt Bill was the first to ever do that. I had just met this person, a very nice and earnest man, a man whom I believe is sincere and actually desirous of helping people find jobs. He's a strong mentor figure. His next example was Tiger Woods. Look, he said. Bill and Tiger are just terrible, terrible and so immoral in their actions.

BD: Whoa....I see what you're getting at.

TS: Yeah, imagine it. People are dying in two American wars and this guy is talking about the immorality of sex in the Oval Office, or on the putting green, or wherever Tiger gets it on. If you're going to express a moral tale about politicians you'd be better off going with something a little more pertinent to the job politicians are supposed to be doing. It is a very conservative ideal to pick up on sex scandals when you have real evil at hand, highly organized, deadly evil in the highest and most revered institutions in the land. I mean war is immoral, particularly the two I'm talking about. Collateral damage is immoral. The very notion of collateral damage as being acceptable is an awful immorality. Much worse than a blow job!

BD: Sinful...just awful. The BJ, I mean...

TS: Well now, let's not play down how hurtful Bill and Tiger were in their shenanigans. Their wives and other girlfriends were no doubt dismayed...Anyway, this is the point. My friend's concerns are an aspect of the illogical that is often tied in with judgments of moral reasoning. Logic and moral questions aren't necessarily inclusive of each other. To claim they are can become downright frightening if the evidence demonstrates they are not. Sure, get the killer or bank robber to rethink his actions, or think ahead, or consider others, or accept himself, or to achieve self-awareness or whatever it takes to quit crime. Protest sin if you like. But be very, very careful in your moral judgments.

BD: He's a Christian I take it?

TS: Of course, but this is where misappropriations of power in individual relationships may subtly go beyond the norm. Moral Conation Therapy was designed by a pair of psychologists working with prisoners in Memphis in the early or mid-80s. They've made studies that demonstrate successful cognitive regeneration at work in the field of prison science. The notion is to cut recidivism among offenders. It works, evidently.

BD: And where exactly do you see the quandary?

TS: In that we are all susceptible to cognitive control and the potential of the stakeholders to make prisoners of even the mildest rebel.

BD: Do you think that is happening?

TS: I know it is.

BD: I'm not as certain about this as you are. We'll pick it up next time with some examples if you have any, which I doubt. Also, I'd like to talk about poetics if we can.

TS: Whatever you say big shot.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Attack of the Kochtopus

Here is a story from the New Yorker that will raise the hair on your neck.

"The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a 'kingpin of climate science denial.' The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus."

Read more here.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Rosen Hits White Mythology, Racists

Here's the real deal. David Rosen has his combo punches working furiously on the chin of the "Know Nothings" in this piece over at Counterpunch.

Conversation w/Dooley--Part 2

I strolled across town last week and talked to my friend Buddy Dooley. He recorded our discussion and sent this in an e-mail. I've tried to edit his spelling errors. There were so many I may have missed a few.

TS: Where were we before you started drinking Saturday night?

BD: My notes say we were talking about voting.

TS: Ah, yes. That...

BD: I said voting changes little.

TS: Yes, you're right. The big picture doesn't fluctuate at all. Corporations steal the show and that is a result of the two-party system. The question is how to take big money out of the process and allow a true pluralism to unfold. Were that to happen, you would see the overall voting numbers go up. If people believed that actual representation was the norm then they might sense that their concerns are being addressed. This is not a mystery. Nothing will change until people organize that part of the dynamic. That would be an absolute grassroots exercise. A lot of energy would be required to succeed. A new draft constitution, or at the very least a nationwide referendum based on a truly national dialogue would be required. As it stands, there is no dialogue of significance happening. An edge of parliamentarian-style chaos might help persuade people that they have a real voice. Where is the communist party in the U.S. Where are the socialists? What you have now is two big boulders blocking the highway. Third and fourth movements are marginalized by the big money in cahoots with Big Media. Look at what they talk about. Every time something of substance grabs people, the real power, the opinion makers, leap into action. Where is the next missing child story? Where is the next O.J.? The important stuff is swept away by a tidal wave of sensational garbage. Hey, not to be insensitive to those affected by tragedy. It's just that the larger, looming national tragedy should take precedence. Power works overtime to distract the populace. Here's what we get. A cover picture of an Afghanistan woman with her nose cut off. Where was the picture of the bride's brains splattered by a U.S. bomb? That one was missing. Strangely enough... What are elections getting you now? A sense of loss, even despair among the disenfranchised. It's a rocky boat right now.

BD: You were a grassroots organizer, correct?

TS: You read the new book. It's all in there.

BD: Share please, for the great unwashed.

TS: Do you have any beer? (a pause as Buddy goes for beer)

BD: You have to have your beer, don't you?

TS: Throat's a little dry. (cough). Yes, that's better...okay, yes I worked as an organizer for a couple of years a long time ago. Welfare rights. Prisoners' rights. Tenants organizing, etc. It was me and a few others against the power. There's that word again. Power to the people, man? It was the sixties all over again in Maine in 1974. The movement never dies, it just changes tactics. That's part of what got Obama elected. That coalesced fast man, once he got sanctioned by big money. Big money rolled the dice. You don't see peace breaking out. I think Obama had to promise that wouldn't happen.

BD: That's very cynical. What did you do for the masses back then.

TS: "The masses, which rhymes with asses." A sociology professor I knew in college always used that phrase, incessantly. Bad habit. (sips too loudly). To answer your question, honestly, not much. As an advocate I helped people obtain services, often pleading and kicking, making a nuisance of myself around city hall. A partner and I might drive fifty miles to a small town in the sticks, approach the mayor who was usually a local businessman, and make a case for our client. A little food money. A barrel of oil. Essentials that the family budget couldn't cover. I'd say to the mayor: "we need a barrel of oil and a case of potato chips..."

BD: You're kidding right?

TS: I am. Sorry. (pausing to swallow, smacking lips) I tried to form groups in these small towns. Community groups with a charter, officers, the whole ball of wax. In Waterville I found a landlord who lent our group an office space. Very generous. One of the Pillsbury kids came in one day and said, "Do you want some money to run this place?" We were doing advocacy right there in Waterville, running people in and out of city hall who needed assistance. Word got around. George Pillsbury walks into our office and writes out a check. I can't remember how much. Paid the light bill, that's for sure.

BD: I take it you're talking about the dough boy, the food family? That Pillsbury?

TS: Well, not Grandpa. The kid. He was a young kid. It may have been George. I can't really remember all the details. The kid inherited all this money and decided to give us some. A rich, conservative family. The kid was sort of rebellious I guess. Or maybe he thought we'd continue to buy his frozen biscuits if he ponied up.

BD: How's that beer?

TS: It's good, bro.

BD: That's brewed around the corner, you know?

TS: Portland, Oregon...

BD: Beer capital...

TS: It's sort of heavy. Maybe I'd prefer a lager next time...

BD: Next time?


(to be continued)


Idiot of the Week

Can there be any doubt who our latest Idiot of the Week is after his Sunday appearance on Meet the Press?

No. He is the Republican candidate for governor of New York, Rick Lazio, a most odious turd.

Congratulations sir! You have won the coveted Round Bend Press Idiot of the Week trophy, thus joining an exclusive club headed by two-time award winner Newt Gingrich!

Rick, no offense. But you've pissed off NYC's firefighters. You've pissed off the actual heroes of 9/11. Nice work, Great Divider.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Rambling Conversation w/ Dooley-- Pt. 1

Buddy Dooley and I have buried the hatchet--for now. He as been motivated to record and transcribe our recent conversations. I'll post them here as Dooley and I talk about things and as he feels duty-bound to send the transcripts my way.

BD: You have strong opinions, don't you?

TS: I do. I'm not cowered by anyone. I'm supposed to have strong opinions. I like to think I have a sense of urgency about things. It's important to clarify things for the record.

BD: That explains your recent book of memoirs...

TS: It does. It's out there now, in case anyone wonders, now or in the future. What did he know? What did he like? What were his experiences? These types of questions are haunting. I expect they will be familial questions in the very least. Everyone should make a record, of course. Even you, Buddy. One writes a memoir to exorcise memories, to attempt to justify existence, and blah, blah...This is old hat.

BD: Do you worry that your opinions may not be substantive?

TS: Well, I know what I don't know. Which is a helluva lot more than I do know. Does that answer your question?

BD: I'll accept it as a starter.

TS: You mean like an appetizer?

BD: Well, yes...You're a political animal, aren't you? You seem to...

TS: Where am I? Alone on an island? Of course, all of us are political animals. Some of us simply are unaware of the fact. Never trust a man without a political opinion. He's either undeveloped or lying. In either case, he's dangerous.

BD: Dangerous, how so?

TS: Well, we already know what damage liars can do. Look around. But I think Thomas Frank was talking about the danger of the uninformed man in his book What's the Matter with Kansas? I don't know if he would agree with that assessment, but for my money that is what he was talking about. A body politic that is to a large degree perfectly happy to suffer hardship and yet maintain its bliss.

BD: Well, if they're not feeling it...

TS: But so many are who are in denial about it. Even in the face of the obvious, the erosion of their quality of life, say. In the face of job loss. In the face of destitution. They are feeling it. They will say they are not, until the bank rolls them up. Until the moving van shows up.

BD: You interrupted me for a second time. I'd like to have a dialogue with you.

TS: I'm sorry, Buddy (long pause). I mean dangerous in the sense that if they persist with myth at the expense of a keener understanding of systems, then their acquiescence threatens democracy. I should say the ideal of democracy. You and I both know democracy is failing.

BD: Well, certainly representative government is. You go on a lot about corporatism. I take it that is a pejorative term for you? And I'm not certain how myth enters the equation here.

TS: Two questions, Buddy. I'll try to sort them out. First, in the stead of democracy we have corporate entities wielding influence. What is happening is a second tier of action and response to government is wrapped up in that influence. For millions of Americans democracy has become a double-step maneuver, which might be a crude way of putting it. The first step or response such people have is to go with the bread man, the corporation. But if the corporation is doing things anathema to the good of the people, conflict erupts between those with a vested interest in their jobs and those who simply want to see services, in goods, in the environment, etc. Corporations that make that maneuvering easier for people are of course more responsible, because people actually know what is happening. They know when their jobs are dangerous to society. Look at oil. Look at the Gulf disaster. Of course people knew the potential was there for disaster. The problem was that people were powerless to stop it--the workers who might have blown the whistle, and the environmental types, the corporation's enemies. That is corporatism--a degradation of common sense in the name of profits...

BD: And the second part of the question?

TS: What was it?

BD: You mentioned myth. The Kansas variety.

TS: Oh, yes. Well, the overriding myth of our time, or of a conservative time like we have now for example, is that "values" are constant. People speak blankly about values. Yet values are not as easily constructed as would be moralists suggest. The myth then is that one set of values has...

BD: Value?

TS: Yes, in the absolute sense. So that when the righteous begin to extol the "values" they believe are important it is because those values are moral. But morality is more elastic than that. Values are not finite and morals are with a few exceptions openly debatable. Except to the closed minded.

BD: Well, using the example you just did, the Gulf, whose values should take precedence?

TS: That is a political question, but it is just one of many, which is why all claims that some people are apolitical is bogus. They may not vote, which is another story. Even the non-voter has an opinion. His is that the issue is not important enough to vote on or even think about. Nihilists along with Anarchists tend to not vote.

BD: It does seem at times that voting accomplishes little.

(to be continued)


Friday, August 20, 2010

War and Dissent

With the Iraq occupation by U.S. troops diminishing in favor of a privatized contractual police action (mercenaries), it is a good time to look back at the European Union's reaction to the US and UK takeover of that poor nation. The European Union was rife with dissent, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets, and the ideological rhetoric soared.

In America, Cindy Sheehan (above) grew righteously angry after her son died.

This essay first appeared in the Oregon Literary Review in 2008.

War and Dissent

In early 2003, as the United States and Great Britain plotted the invasion of Iraq, the fifteen member-states of the European Union fell into turmoil. Intense debate and infighting are common enough occurrences among the EU states, but nothing in Europe creates rhetorical heat quite like the question of war. The EU after all was partially designed 50 years ago to avoid war. The EU’s foundation is predicated on the value of peace: “The desire for peace led to exercises in regional integration, the process by which countries remove the barriers to free trade movement of people across national borders, integrate their markets, and build common sets of policies” (McCormick p. 2).

The variant reactions of the European nations to the Iraq war can be attributed to several factors. As a group, the EU felt great sympathy for the US in the aftermath of 9/11. But the good will was short-lived for some EU members in light of the Bush Administration’s interpretation of how to best fight terrorism. Two fundamentally different philosophies dominated the prewar discourse among EU nations. One philosophy painted terrorism as a fully formed organization of international influence. Perceptions of al Qaeda are often formulated by this mistaken logic. Terrorism, the other philosophy implies, is seldom organized as a sustainable amalgam; it rather floats through international communities as a loose and often unrelated series of disputations tied to an array of real and imagined grievances. This is not to dispute al Qaeda’s connectedness as a terror system; it simply deflates the value in thinking of terrorism as an entity that can be crushed like an opposing army on a universal battlefield. Terrorists are criminals first and organization men, if at all, second. Thus the futility of approaching terrorism as a military exercise is evidenced by the so-called war on terror, which initially equated the anti-US government of Afghanistan with free agents of terrorism such as Osama bin Laden. The Taliban and bin Laden were rather too close and conspiratorial, of course, which is why the EU and NATO supported the 2001 war to oust the Taliban government. There was, then, substance to the US logic that the Taliban was, if not an organized terrorist group, a clear supporter of terrorism. Unfortunately, soon after the Taliban’s ouster, perceptions began to change at the top levels of the US and EU and the fighting spread to Iraq.

Two major EU players, France and Germany, in the interest of prolonged diplomatic efforts, coupled with a desire to see more evidence of Iraq’s disputed weapons program, opposed the second Iraq war. “War is always a last resort,” French President Jacques Chirac said days before the US-led invasion of Iraq. “It is always the worst of solutions because it brings death and misery” (International Herald Tribune, 3/11/2007).

Because the Bush Administration sold the invasion of Iraq as an aspect of the war on terror, an illogical corollary that the majority of Americans bought, France became a target of ridicule by members of Congress, average citizens and reflexive writers in the US press. France and Germany were laughed off as the “Old Europe” in a press conference by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. French fries sold in the US House commissary were renamed “freedom fries.” Stale bromides referencing France’s World War II defeat by the Nazis were reborn. The winds of war became a hurricane, and Europe was in the eye of the storm.

Germany’s Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder shared the effect of the heat-seeking rhetorical missiles launched by the US leadership and rightist press. His top advisor, Reinhardt Hesse declared, “We’re all working to find a non-war solution” (BBC News, 1/22/2003). Pierre Lequiller, a member of the French National Assembly stated flatly—“We don’t want war” (Ibid.)

Much to Schroeder’s and Chirac’s disappointment cracks in the EU peace initiative opened when some members lined up with the UK in support of the US-led “coalition of the willing.” Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said, “the situation in Iraq is ‘inextricably linked’ to the problem of terrorism” (BBC News, 1/29/2003). Spain vowed to back Washington, as did Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi. Tempering his hard-line pro-US stance Berlusconi hedged somewhat by saying the UN must be given time to finish their job” of weapons inspections (Ibid.). But his intent was clear when he suggested “an Italian-Spanish-British axis to rival the Franco-German axis” in the heated debate among the EU’s pro and anti-war factions (Ibid.)

The rift in the EU further widened when Denmark said it would support the war even without a new UN resolution. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “existing UN resolutions give the green light for war, if Iraq does not fall in line with the call for disarmament” (Ibid.)

In the Netherlands, the Christian Democrats of Jan Peter Balkenende threw their support behind Bush and Blair as well (Ibid.)

Greece joined France and Germany in opposition to the war. Holding the EU presidency at the time, Greece was “very keen to steer the EU away from backing a war,” and also had “the unenviable tasks of trying to weld the divided Europe into something approaching a unified force on the issue” (Ibid.).

The Nature of the Divide

The major disappointment for the anti-war faction in the EU was the alignment of the so-called “New Europe” states with Washington. These were the members of the former Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe who, perhaps in recognition of the United States’ Cold War role in pressuring the Soviet Union to democratize, felt extreme loyalty to the US. Numerous of the Eastern European candidates for the 2004 enlargement backed the war. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia supported the war coalition to varying degrees. The Czechs committed troops early, while Poland and Hungary mulled over troop commitments. Hungary allowed the US to use the Taszer airbase to train Iraqi exiles, doing so with the proviso that combat troops not be trained there. Speaking of Chirac, who had condemned the support of the 13 EU candidate countries that endorsed the war, Romanian President Ion Iliescu said, “Jacques Chirac should regret such expressions, which are not in the spirit of friendship and democratic relationships” (BBC News, 2/19/2003). Chirac had accused the Eastern candidate countries of “childish and irresponsible behavior. It is not well-brought up behavior” (Ibid.). He also warned the countries that they were in a “dangerous” position because the ratification of their entry into the EU was incomplete and their actions may have spoiled their chances of ratification (Ibid.).
The rhetoric regarding the old and new Europe continued to fly, but many Europeans felt Rumsfeld fell into a trap when he called France and Germany “old Europe.”

The fragile single European project has been badly shaken. The characterization of old and new Europe was in fact quite mistaken. Compared to the past few centuries of European history, France and Germany standing together in resisting war is the new Europe, built on peaceful relations embedded in continental institution and the supremacy of the rule of law. And the former Soviet satellites that sided with the US represent the continuity from the old Europe built on balance-of-power policies that had led to world wars (Ramesh Thakur, p. 3).

As alluded to above, the dissonance in the assignation of anti-terrorism philosophies cleaved the EU into opposing camps. Rumsfeld’s belief that the US could root out terrorists via an Iraq invasion was fallacious. As a result of the Iraq war, many critics believe terrorism has been exasperated. “The net result of all this has been a distraction from the war on terror,” writes Thakur. “The fall from grace of an America that was the object of everyone’s sympathy and support after 9/11 is nothing short of astonishing. That support understood and backed the war against the Taliban government of Afghanistan. It fractured when Washington turned its attention to Iraq, whose links to 9/11 were tenuous at best” (Ibid, p. 4).

Why It Happened

It is time now to determine why the cleaving of the EU over Iraq occurred, beyond the aforementioned differing philosophical approaches to fighting terrorism. While the EU has accomplished much in its growth over 50 years, fundamental differences remain among the Union’s nations. Foremost among these are issues of sovereignty in the context of domestic security concerns. These are perhaps the lingering effects of the nationalism that propelled Europe into two devastating twentieth century wars.

The argument here is that while member states have ceded sovereignty on issues such as monetary policy, they have maintained a strong hold on external political and security issues…This coupled with other factors that enter into states’ calculation of foreign policy interests: states such as the UK have favored “Atlantic ties; those such as France and Germany have sought to solidify links with each other in order to become leaders on the world stage within Europe; the smaller states such as Ireland have remained ambivalent about the future of CFSP (Common and Foreign Security Policy) based on pure cost-benefit analysis and concerns regarding the loss of foreign policy “neutrality” (Raj S. Chari and Francesco Cavatoria, p. 2).

Foreign policy has become a stressful area of EU infighting as a result of the military domination of the world by the US, which propels the willingness of the Eastern European nations to fall under the spell of American protectionism. While the Cold War has theoretically ended, concerns among the old Soviet satellites yet exist—has Russia completely reformed, or are her tentacles of influence still a danger to the newly sovereign nations stretching from the Balkans to Poland in Central Europe? “The Iraq war may represent the same story of impotence that has historically plagued Europe when trying to present a united front during major world crises,” wrote Chari and Cavatoria of the European Consortium for Political Research in 2003 (Ibid, p. 1). The authors note that the EU was also divided over sanctions against Iraq before the war. The US policy of imperial persuasion pushed by the Bush Administration forced deeper EU divisiveness as “the EU froze and failed to promote an alternative strategy acceptable to the rest of the global community” (Ibid, p. 1).

The domestic and supranational concerns of the EU may be superseded by the ambivalent US view of the EU. Certainly the US has pushed its imperial policies and willingness to act unilaterally beyond the pale. As the world’s lone super power, America’s evaluation of global events counts for more than other nations’. Given the US’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and advanced technologies and its current expenditure to remain dominate militarily, the EU’s only hope to compete lies in the economic realm, where its GDP has surpassed the US’s. As an avowed peacekeeping entity the EU cannot go the route of major militarization and threaten the US.

The new realities of the transatlantic alliance were brought into the clear light of day by the dispute over the US-led invasion of Iraq. Most Europeans were already deeply alarmed by the unilateralist postures of George W. Bush, but this was not just about the stance of a single administration: Europeans and Americans had already parted company on a wide variety of fronts, from foreign policy to trade policy and domestic social policy, dating back to the Clinton and Bush Senior administrations and before. What was different in 2003 was that the Europeans finally realized that they had the means to oppose US policy in a meaningful way, and that serious questions could now be posed in public about American motives. They no longer felt obligated to support American policy where the two sides disagreed, and they also saw with new clarity that they needed the security and political assertiveness to back up their uncontested economic position in the world (McCormick, p. 236).

The fundamental rejection of an anti-war consensus was based in the inability of the EU members to facilitate a supranational identity. Whether caused by real and/or imagined fears of offending the US, it is clear that deference to the US is of utmost concern to many EU members and is certainly not limited to the UK. The ongoing failure of the CFSP’s role in uniting Europe’s foreign policy plays into the hands of imperial US ambitions.

There is little doubt that the institutional procedures governing CFSP are cumbersome and that the Commission is not fully relevant…the political will of the domestic actors, pointing to the idea that the EU’s foreign policy institutional configuration is not of prime importance… Europe can make an effective contribution to peace in the world only if its nations pull together with the European Union…Indeed, a stark reminder of the failure of the EU to speak with one voice is the absence (bar a very general statement) of any strong CFSP statements during the crisis…(Chari and Cavatoria, p. 4)

How deep is the rift between the US and Europe then? Recent history demonstrates that the Bush Administration is mainly ambivalent about the EU. Two notions predicate this. The first is that the US has generally recognized the importance of a strong, peaceful Europe that is capable of sharing the responsibilities of providing world stability. But has the US a real interest in the EU in light of the economic competition the Europeans provide, and in the potential damage to US world hegemony that a philosophically united anti-war EU would cause in places such as the Middle East?

“While Washington may have an interest in pursuing a policy of ‘divide et impera’ towards European countries, EU member states could make an effort to build a unified CFSP, to which the US would be forced to adapt,” Chari and Cavatorta write. “The lack of European unity regarding the transatlantic relation is the result of a failure by the member states to realize that in many respects the US needs Europe just as much as Europe needs the US” (Ibid.).

Finally, the lack of an anti-war consensus in the EU during the run up to the Iraq war can be gleaned by examining the work of the 15 European leaders that eventually emerged on February 18, 2003, a mere month before the US-led invasion of Iraq. It is a mix of undisguised support for the US balanced by a rhetorical nod to the anti-war states. “The Union’ objectives for Iraq remain full and effective disarmament in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolution 1441. We want to achieve this peacefully. It is clear that this is what the people of Europe want” (Text of European Union Declaration, February 18, 2003).

What the people wanted then did not count for very much. Hundreds of thousand marched in the streets of Europe’s major cities, but they were ignored by the politicians as the US and Great Britain rushed into war in pursuit of weapons that some inspectors suspected weren’t there. The “coalition” rushed in to achieve regime change without a clear understanding of the regime itself. It rushed into war to build a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a historically undemocratic region. It rushed into war to inadvertently create an entirely new definition of terrorism, one that presumed groups of formerly sovereign peoples who resisted the US’s new imperial doctrine were indeed terrorists. The philosophy of irrationality won, despite the French President Jacques Chirac’s cry of “Non!”

Footnotes and Bibliography
McCormick, John, Understanding the European Union: A Concise Introduction, Palgrave, New York and Hampshire (2005)

Media Web Sites

BBC News,
CBS News,
The International Herald Tribune,

Academic Web Sites

Robert Fisk's summary of the middle game.

And Alexander Cockburn calls a ruse a ruse.


Lee Santa

Lee Santa is an old friend from the Breadline Cafe, where "the gang" met frequently to shoot the shit and drink beer and wine.
This is a new piece, he says on Facebook. I like this a lot. Here is more of Lee's work.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Somebody's Fibbing Aren't They?

"Clemens lied to the liars. I'm pissed now."

Buddy Dooley


The Legacy

This breakdown of the obfuscation blighting Obama's administration is right on the mark. The Iraq tragedy is far from over. With 50K troops remaining in-country, the U.S. occupation persists. More unnecessary death will follow. The corporations profiting from this disaster have won. The truth died years ago.


Buddy's Reaction

Buddy Dooley in an email:

I have accepted Mr. Simons' explanation of why he "acted" like an impetuous version of me in the cameo spot he has wrapped up for CD's next video feature. The explanation came in the form of an apology. Not wanting to further damage what has become a tenuous and difficult relationship with Simons, I consented to read his new memoir.

Not bad, TS. One small suggestion, however. Hire a fucking writing coach, okay!

Dear Buddy:

Buddy, don't curse on my blog. I hate you.

Here's the link to Buddy's favorite new book.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Have You Ever Been Discharged for Not

Have you ever been discharged for not
bidding adieu to the fool with the key to the Loo
or pledging allegiance to the New World Miasma?

Have you ever been discharged for not
ignoring Mr. Chomsky when he speaks to
the 3rd Platoon, 2nd Squad about murder?

Have you ever been discharged for not
listening to Limbaugh for a day and a half
and smiling benignly at the death camp?

Have you ever been discharged for not
appealing to the Directorate
of Irredeemable Absolution?

Have you ever been discharged for not
taking it in the ass and mouth in
a whirlwind executive relationship?

Have you ever been discharged for not
whispering I love you to the FBI
or for not burning your portrait of Marx?

Have you ever been discharged for not
ignoring the atrocity of the moment
and enjoying your tax-exempt billions?

Have you ever been discharged for not
dancing the four-step with the wife
of an important crusader?

Have you ever been discharged for not
taking charge of the killing fields
in a propaganda war?

Have you ever been discharged for not
professing your love of Heidegger when
Nietzsche is your obsession?

Have you ever been discharged for not
being loyal to the laundromat employee
with the ants in his pants?

Have you ever been discharged for not
digging the scene at the Republican National
Convention and smooching with Reagan?

Have you ever been discharged for not
cutting off the head of the snake and
making it your guardian?

Have you ever been discharged for not
heeding the hysteria of any moment
whatsoever for whatever reason?

Have you ever been discharged for not
lying when your job depended on it
and your clock ran out?

Have you ever been discharged for not
adhering to the rules and regulations
of a damaged mind?

Have you ever been discharged for not
forsaking the indignation that you have
no right to feel?

Have you ever been discharged for not
expressing your love of the expedient and
malicious rumor of your banishment?

Have you?


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Good Thinking

I have an idea! Let's fill a cooler with food and beers and head out to the desert and watch this really cool 200 mile off-road race, stand too close to the course, smell the gasoline, eat the dust, tempt fate, and live for the moment.

And DIE!.

The idiotocracy persists. Someone said this was a tragedy, but a blameless one. Really? I'd blame the parents of the child that died in this completely useless mayhem.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Notes

I worked all morning at designing the interior pages of A Marvelous Paranoia. Did some editing last night, but I wish I had a top pro working over my manuscript. I think it's improving but not nearly there yet. I inserted a title header on every page this time, which sharpens the book's overall look. Used a William Stafford quote. Dedicated the book to my daughter and her son. Explained that I changed some names in the book to protect the innocent.

Found a nice photo of a trumpet for my logo. I've used a trumpet logo in several of my designs, so I'm staying with the theme. I played trumpet years ago. I can still play, but my chops are practically non-existent. You don't forget how to play of course, but if you forget to practice you are doomed. "You've got to practice..." the trumpet-playing character in my play Litany in a Trumpeter's Bog advises. "Be like Miles."

I live near Portland State University, and I've been watching the Viking football team practice. The players seem small, Jerry Glanville's recruits from the run and shoot offense he and Mouse Davis implemented here until last year. New football coach Nigel Burton doesn't have the players he needs to compete with the big boys.

Arizona State and Oregon and likely U.C. Davis will crush these guys. So will Montana. I might go to that game. It will not be pretty. The ASU and Oregon games will be nice paydays for the university, but someone may get hurt out there.

I liked the run and shoot. I saw Mouse run it in the early eighties during his first stint with PSU, with Neil Lomax at quarterback. I watched PSU play Delaware here in town. I think Lomax threw for eight TDs. The score was 102-0. Lomax had a short, injury plagued NFL career, but he was a special player.

I once interviewed Mouse and his staff about the run and shoot offense for a piece I was working up for Willamette Week, which didn't make it into the rag. Too bad.

I watched an old man selecting tomatoes out of bins at the Farmers' Market on the PSU campus today. He was being very selective. I mean very, very selective. I didn't know one could obtain that kind of intensity regarding tomatoes. He was funny, about 90.

I don't know if it's a good thing to live that long, not that I have a chance. Probably don't eat enough tomatoes.

The PSU summer graduation ceremony happened earlier. I watched hundreds of newly minted college grads lining up to receive their sheepskins at Hoffmann Hall. It was already hot and most of them were carrying their gowns draped over one arm until they could get into the air-conditioned building to dress for the show. I strolled close to a group of them and asked if they were lined up to apply for unemployment benefits.

They laughed. Sort of.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Finished Draft of Memoir

I should be celebrating this evening. I finished a draft of my memoir today. It comes in at 175 pages, an easy read. A link to the book will appear here within weeks. Briefly, the book covers numerous topics and events from my life that I have rewritten and cleaned up from this blog.

I've managed to transition through the various topics and events I've discussed here to create what I hope is a smooth narrative of some of the most significant events in my life from childhood to my late twenties. At a future time, I will begin another books detailing more recent events and my reaction to them.

I think this is a good start, so look for it next month, or sooner.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Are We Safe Yet?

Boys will be boys.


One by Kees

Aspects Of Robinson

Robinson at cards at the Algonquin; a thin
Blue light comes down once more outside the blinds.
Gray men in overcoats are ghosts blown past the door.
The taxis streak the avenues with yellow, orange, and red.
This is Grand Central, Mr. Robinson.

Robinson on a roof above the Heights; the boats
Mourn like the lost. Water is slate, far down.
Through sounds of ice cubes dropped in glass, an osteopath,
Dressed for the links, describes an old Intourist tour.
—Here’s where old Gibbons jumped from, Robinson.

Robinson walking in the Park, admiring the elephant.
Robinson buying the Tribune, Robinson buying the Times. Robinson
Saying, “Hello. Yes, this is Robinson. Sunday
At five? I’d love to. Pretty well. And you?”
Robinson alone at Longchamps, staring at the wall.

Robinson afraid, drunk, sobbing Robinson
In bed with a Mrs. Morse. Robinson at home;
Decisions: Toynbee or luminol? Where the sun
Shines, Robinson in flowered trunks, eyes toward
The breakers. Where the night ends, Robinson in East Side bars.

Robinson in Glen plaid jacket, Scotch-grain shoes,
Black four-in-hand and oxford button-down,
The jeweled and silent watch that winds itself, the brief-
Case, covert topcoat, clothes for spring, all covering
His sad and usual heart, dry as a winter leaf.

Weldon Kees
April 24, 1948 (The New Yorker)


Corporatism and Education

By allowing the handover of our public schools to corporate America we have endangered children and the future of society.

The turnover, which is openly acknowledged in the U.S., is a perilous and costly trend. Its negative effects are measurable in the dropout rates of high school students who sense their needs being ignored while select elite students race on the fast track to the rich corporate subsidies, or professions, that society pronounces desirable and obtainable only by the best of the best.

This elitism is the underpinning of corporate-sponsored schools and has for years now damaged young lives. It has created a caste of undesirables whose real interests and passions are often dismissed as superfluous to the needs of big business.

To ignore and fail society’s rebels, overtly or subtly, has brought us our current troubles in the form of group-think and a constricted view of what constitutes success.

The encroachment of corporate power over public schools is as anti-democratic as a poor minimum wage and just as reckless. The implicit message under the corporate-sponsored school system is that if schools are not spewing out corporate workers the system has somehow failed society. This is the antithesis of reason and fair play.

Any time a corporate spokesperson informs us that education equals economic nirvana he is obfuscating, particularly if the effect of his empire is to create a class of automatons intent on depleting the Earth’s fossil fuels and generally degrading the environment.

While one of education’s noblest goals ought to be to enhance the self-actualization and socialization of learners, we have seen many recent instances where negative behavior among the powerful has ruined lives--theirs and their subjects. That is not exactly the sort of self-actualization and socialization we need to blindly embrace.

We are seeing the sad results of corporatism...a withering of freedom and democracy.

And I can't believe I'm still talking about this stuff.


Gibbs and Greenwald

This guy is really beginning to annoy me.

But fortunately this guy comes to the rescue.

Being a presidential press secretary has be the worst job in politics. Gibbs is completely off base here of course, but his job is to protect President Obama. He may even know that he is being played for a sap, but what can he do about it?

His statements were so far off the mark they look silly. "Those people (Obama's critics) ought to be drug tested. I mean it's crazy."

Gibby, you should have smoked a little weed back in the day. Woulda done ya good.


Trending Now: More Unemployment

Take a look at this remarkable map documenting the rise of unemployment county by county in the U.S. since 2007.

Warning: if you dislike gory pictures with your disasters this may cause you to become ill.

The odious fact remains; the ridiculous politicians in Washington with their fat salaries and incompetent leadership are unwilling to do anything to absolve this nasty reality. Thirty years of this bullshit, which is all that has trickled down to the working class.

Sleep, America. Sweet dreams.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Real Buddy is Pissed

With all of my computer hassles of late I've been having a difficult time getting to my memoir draft. But I think I have found a way. I must keep it a secret, though. I haven't improved my technological competence, but I have reached out to another source and I have been lucky. I cannot tell you what is happening. That would be too risky. But I think I can keep my newest book on schedule.

Just received an email from Buddy Dooley, who doesn't think I did his character justice in CD's projected feature about a conniving director who holds his own "wake." The minute-long teaser, which CD posted here, has Buddy Dooley hot under the collar.

"That is not &^%^&#$$%$#@*&^*-ing me!" Buddy wrote.

Buddy, I didn't say I was going to try to "do you." I said I was inspired by you. Seriously, if it hurts so badly don't watch it. Go have a drink. Good grief, Buddy. Get the FUCK OUT OF MY LIFE IF YOU CAN'T TAKE A JOKE!


I Like Football

Nothing to report. I'm just thinking ahead to the Tennessee game.

Show Time

The word from Mr. Deemer, henceforth known as CD here, is that my cameo in the feature he is slavishly toiling after is "good" enough and may, if he uses the edit he is currently pondering, come in at around 3 min. of screen time!

Is that enough to impress the Hollywood moguls? Or my favorite Indy directors? Mr. Sayles? Mr. Van Sant? Mr. Jarmusch? Anyone at all?

Here is CD's initial 1:22 of my incredible performance.

Look at it and tell me your thoughts. Is stardom in my future? Am I better than Tom Cruise? Johnny Depp? Bobby De Niro?

You better tell me I'm better than Cruise. I don't like him.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The Phony Man

I wrote this for my cameo role in a video feature that I will appear in if I can stay off the cutting room floor. It's all in the editing, man, and out of my hands.

The Phony Man

The phony man lives in the loft
Digging like a mole into the dirt
He is up at midnight feathering his nest
Whispering I love you New York Times
More than the Daily News for
You are fairer in your lust
Having seen my latest turn from
Pinteresque dust to fiery nothingness

I am grateful to be sodomized by you
My lovely online edition
I am happiest with you in the aisle
Leading the applause at the final curtain
Picking up the tab at Elaine's
At 4 a.m. when
All the sheep have been put
To sleep and you and I can
Retire to the hills
Burrow in and
And drink our fill
Count our glowing
Dinosaur eggs
And laugh at
the little people


Here is a video of Deemer talking about his work.

And a segment of his 2009 silent, "The Heirs."

My Startling Rise to Fame

I have prepared a special poem for the occasion at the request of the director of my first interweb video cameo, and today or perhaps tomorrow I shall share it with the world.

But for now I must let it simmer in its fatty juices.

I am pumped, for today, an hour from now, I commence my startling rise to fame.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bobby and Me Working a Scene

My big shot at super stardom comes tomorrow when I begin my career as an interweb actor. I will be featured in a cameo role in a video by Charles Deemer, whom I have not yet informed must pay me Actors' Guild union scale wages to participate in the project. I am not the least worried that he will come up with the cash, either, for I believe he is absolutely set on me participating in the video. If I happened to inconveniently disappear the project would instantly collapse and...well, we wouldn't want that to happen.

As I told Mr. Deemer when he approached me with his project via email, I shall give the production my high and mighty best, for I have always aspired to be a star of the silver screen, or even the small YouTube screen that you find on your itty-bitty computer.

I am looking forward to this not because I know what I am getting myself into but precisely because I do not know what I am getting myself into. This nauseous, gnawing fear I have of the stage and public speaking is of course transferable to the screen, so a Herculean task lies ahead of me as I attempt to quell my urge to run for the hills.

In the few days since I garnered this coveted albeit small role, I have read everything I have been unable to get my my hands on concerning THE METHOD. Now, will I be able to transfer the theoretical understanding I do not have of THE METHOD to a practical application?

Is all the world a stage or not? Tomorrow we shall discover the truth.


The Magic Christian

It was Terry Southern who had the balls to tell Stanley Kubrick that Dr. Strangelove was a comedy and not the oh-so-serious anti-nuclear muckraking political tract Kubrick believed he'd conceived.

Kubrick listened and a classic was born. It was Peter Sellers who turned Kubrick on to The Magic Christian, Southern's masterpiece about human greed, and the book opened the director's mind to the possibility that Southern just might be a special kind of thinker. Plus, face it, if you were Kubrick and Sellers was telling you something, you were going to take it seriously.

Southern knew what kind of film Kubrick was, without knowing it, actually making because the novelist was intimately connected with the absurd. Southern understood plenty about comedy and its role in blowing apart the dearest old myths of his nation. To Southern, nothing was as absurd as a nation willing to annihilate humanity to save humanity, which gives war and the bomb and mankind's ability to justify their existence an ultimately paradoxical and bizarre sheen.

Take another myth, which Southern obliterates in The Magic Christian, surely one of the top ten funniest fictions every written by an American. The myth of the detached fiscal aesthete. The man who is above needing or wanting money.

Do you remember the premise of the story, which was a decade after its 1959 publication made into a movie with Sellers in the lead role, but unfortunately without Kubrick as director?

Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire, has a wicked cruel streak and a desire to demonstrate how hypocritical people can be. He gives people money to make asses of themselves and discovers that nothing is too debasing for an American to try if enough cash is offered in exchange. At one point Grand tosses 100K into a vat of shit and tells people to have at it if they want, and of course people jump into the shit to retrieve the money.

And that is just one of the many situations Southern creates to demonstrate his discomfort with the American idiotacracy. Southern is an overlooked writer, which is kind of sad.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Annie Ned's Blues

A few notes about this effort--I was struck by the format Julie Cruikshank used in Life Lived Like a Story to approximate the poetic voice in Yukon Native Annie Ned’s oral narrative of her life. I hadn’t seen this kind of format before reading Cruikshank's book (perhaps I haven’t looked around enough, admittedly), but then I began to think about its appropriateness for my own interpretation of Annie Ned's story.

We learn to memorize and recite poems aloud in grade school (and if we are lucky we never stop) in order to draw the music from the page, like a horn player who sees and understands the notes of a piece of music but cannot be satisfied with knowing their complete effect until he/she breathes and expresses with sound.

When I look at a poem for the first time I try to understand how it breathes. I’ll scan it and attempt to gather its possible meaning by focusing on certain words that have an immediate impact on my senses. Like a musician reading a score for the first time, I scan peculiarities in structure, where notes (words) may present a particularly difficult passage or present a complexity that must be worked out in practice.

I suppose this is the way many people “read” poetry before declaring themselves done with the job and moving on to more important things in life. But the work of reading a poem, enjoying it, and taking everything away from it that you possibly can, is in my thinking an oral exercise connecting sound and sensation. This is not a new idea of course, rather it is one I believe best approximates how I see (hear) poetry.

So I read Annie Ned's thoughts aloud. Once her music flowed, I found myself caught up in something more than an interpretation of the historiography, landscape, culture and politics of an epoch--the stuff historians seek. With that in mind, understand this to be a purely visceral reaction to Annie Ned’s narrative. I’m on stage with Annie’s band and it’s my turn to improvise a counterpoint before all the players rush again headlong into the chorus of historical interpretation.

The numbers correspond to the page numbers in Annie Ned's narrative. They denote context, not Annie's verbatim responses to the historian.

Annie Ned’s Blues

This was before her
Marriage to her first husband
Before the talk talk talk of the whites
Before the highway cut-cross hunting paths
And before the caribou herds moved
Or died

She was a young girl becoming woman
When moose strolled along alone wide-eyed
And she listened to the glacier as
It caught fire burning and cracking
The water filling up
Before the gold and drunken ways of Skookum Jim (338)

Not seeing the mountain move
But knowing (333)

And knowing Crow and Beaverman
Were not afraid of the beasts who ate men (274)
Who put them down with sharp knives
And made stories through long time
Singing with old words again and again (268)

The next season the coast Tlingits
Returned with baskets of shells along thawed Lake Kusawa (272)
And admired the moccasins and mukluks of her Athapaskans
Offering trade-peace and pleasure

Mixed cultures in village Hutshi
Southern Yukon singing fat choruses

Before the sharing and
Turning over of fish at Nakhu
Narrows to hungry whites (299)
Who were worthless without the clans (moiety?) (271)
And might have starved without seeing
The bounty under their noses
Like children too young to know the secrets of elders
O where caribou?

Running into the eastern trap below the mountain
Ideal! (273)

Then she is ready for the lessons of grandmothers
You must prepare men for the mountains
With mukluks and warm skins (323)
To hunt and put up the food for everyone
The infants from pleasure and pain
Who next learn
Songs of place (277)

To pass on through

Telling of the open valley Kosandaga—I feel
Bad when I think about it
That is why I sing (269)
As grandsons wave warm Hellos! (269)
A few of sixty-four in Yukon (338)
Who survived the gold and whites and carry
Tradition like shovels to dig away the past

The highway
Climbs away like smoke

And the historians appear
As ghosts driving in from B.C. & L.A.
This sounds a little like
A railroad across
Something imaginary lying
On the frozen ground

All numerical citations are from Life Lived Like a Story, Julie Cruikshank, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1990.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Confessional Advertising

I have a confession to make. I hadn't seen a copy of my play The Opening until Tuesday night. A friend who purchased a copy a couple of months ago showed me his. If you don't mind me saying so, I was impressed. The Opening is one of my favorites, a play I am quite proud of, and the book is gorgeous. I'm very happy with its look and feel, and if you don't mind a little blatant self-advertising, I suggest you buy one today.


Better Start Living

I'm progressing nicely on my first memoir, A Marvelous Paranoia, thank you. At this time it looks like I'll publish around 160 pages, a nice length for a set of etchings of the past. I like much of it already and plan on digging into its details throughout the remainder of this month. I'm looking at a mid-September release at Lulu.

It's a deliberately discursive text, which is perhaps why I'm pleased so far. The right voice for the material seems to be coming naturally, allowing movement within each segment of the life, a sense of the past and present enmeshed.

I think I've managed to get around the big question in a book like this one, which is "Who Cares?" The key lies in telling anecdotes and providing glimpses that achieve universal substance. I hope somebody finds it interesting, but the truth is I'm writing it for my daughter and grandson.

When my grandson reads it later in life he'll have a little better understanding of old Grandpa. That's the idea at any rate. Poor kid.


Cold-Hearted Dolts

Beginning Monday most college football teams will report to fall camp and begin preparations for next month's opening kickoff of the 2010 season. At this time of year my anticipation and excitement grow daily, for I am a huge college football aficionado. The college season is my favorite time of the year and I look forward to each Saturday's lineup of televised games. Give me the opportunity and I'll spend the whole day in front of the boob tube watching game after game. I'll watch Podunk vs. Slippery Rock if I can tune it in. I'm serious.

I generally try to stay out of the politics of college football. Politics and gigantic egos have ruined so many things in sports for me over the years that I'd like to keep just one pure passion for myself. As it is I have to turn a blind eye to much that is happening in the college game and try to not have it ruined for me by the sport's over-reactive usurpers, be they idiotic fans, dumb players, or stodgy old NCAA representatives.

But this story about Boise State and petty NCAA rules sticks in my craw. The NCAA is often horrible in its judgements and arcane rulings, but this one takes the cake.

Everything is a bureaucratic process these days, even the red tape surrounding death. Give me a break. The president of the NCAA should call the parents of the deceased recruit and apologize for his organization's utter callousness.

Those who lead by provoking fear are destined to fail. Get it together NCAA.



Flurry of emails this morning regarding Charles Deemer's latest project. He has a great idea for a video project and I've been invited to join the fun. I'm looking forward to this, a chance to do a little method acting and show off my jowly cheeks on the interweb. He's approaching the project as improvisation, with a set of guidelines that will give the story cohesion and direction, which is the correct way to do improvisational work.

I once looked up the initial draft of Herzog's Aquirre, the Wrath of God; 15 pages of story with the important plot points and desired mood of the film delineated. That was it. The actors, including the great Klaus Kinski, improvised around the grand theme. What a brilliant film.

Believe it or not, I resemble Kinski somewhat. Without the hair, of course.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Legging One Out

Alex Rodriquez is the youngest player to hit 600 home runs.

Which reminds me of a story. I played high school baseball and in my entire career I hit one home run. It was at Central High in Monmouth against a team we were supposed to beat because we were a larger school. I don't know how it happened, but I connected on a pitch and I connected good. The damn ball flew and flew and I can remember watching it a little too long like Barry Bonds used to do when he connected--it's an obnoxious habit--which was a mistake because the field in Monmouth had no fence. This meant the left fielder could chase the ball down no matter how far it rolled past him.

Understand that this ball was hit very deep. Had a normal home run fence been there it would have cleared it by twenty-feet. I mean this drive would have been out of any ballpark in the land that was fenced. Not there in Monmouth, however.

I finally took off running the bases. I was one of the guys the coaches always said looked like I was carrying a piano on my back when I ran as fast as I could. Running to second this time, I could see that left fielder had excellent speed and was catching up with the ball as it rolled in the outfield. I chugged around second, feeling heavy in the legs and breathing a mite too hard. I looked at the third base coach as I lugged toward the base and he was frantically waving me on, yelling "turn it! Keep going!" He had his right arm working like a windmill, the baseball sign that says "don't even think about stopping here."

Running, I glanced at the left fielder. Good lord, I realized. He had already picked up the ball and was getting ready to throw it to the shortstop who had run out halfway to meet him for a relay throw.

I looked at the third base coach again and he was still insisting I round the bag and head toward home. At that moment I'd have bet against myself making it, but I did as he said and turned toward the plate, arms and legs flailing in a seemingly stationary vacuum.

I could hear my teammates exhorting me to run harder. They were standing up, waving towels, cheering their heads off. I pumped my legs and arms, seemingly not moving, yet the home plate grew nearer and I could see both the catcher and the umpire preparing for a close call. It appeared I might have to slide into home and dirty my clean white uniform, and probably earn another raspberry (abrasion) on my ass for the effort.

The catcher crouched. The umpire peered closely at the plate and I went into the sliding motion, an instinctive baseball maneuver that can be risky if one is careless or indecisive. I've seen players break their ankles by sliding too close to the bag, or half-sliding, entangling themselves in a knot of their own making that could not be untied by any person other than an orthopedic surgeon.

So I committed to sliding and stretched out my left leg, kept my right leg bent and said here goes, "I'm gonna get dirty."

The ball came in from left field on a perfect peg from the shortstop and smacked into the catcher's glove just as my left toe grazed the lip of the plate. He tagged me an instant too late and the ump made the right call. I had hit an inside-the-park homer. My first and last.

My teammates jumped on me, slapped me on the back, high-fived me and laughed their heads off. That this play was even close was nonsensical. I'd hit the ball so far that even a moderately fast player could have easily scored standing up. But I'd watched the ball sail too long and then I'd used my blazing speed to make it interesting at the plate.

My teammates laughed for days afterward about my blast and the piano on my back and my coach just shook his head sadly and said, "Simons, I cannot believe you sometimes."
Well, he wasn't alone.


Charles Lucas

Charles Lucas is an old friend and ceramic tile artist whose work I always found exceptional for its intricate beauty. At left is a picture of one of his tile-covered tables with an ornate, Middle Eastern motif.

I worked with Charles in the tile business for a number of years, and to watch him take the possibilities inherent in tile to such an elevated, artistic level was a great joy.

I haven't seen Lucas in a number of years, but I can tell by his website that he continues his quest to make tile art and continues to amaze with both his ideas and his commitment to utility and extraordinarily detailed beauty.

Check out his website and study the details in his pieces. You'll want to keep your checkbook at hand, too.