Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sam Shepard-Curse of the Starving Class

I was laying there on my back. I could smell the avocado blossoms. I could hear the coyotes. I could hear stock cars squealing down the street. I could feel myself in my bed in my room in this house in this town in this state in this country. I could feel this country close like it was part of my bones. I could feel the presence of all the people outside, at night, in the dark. Even sleeping people I could feel. Even all the sleeping animals. Dogs. Peacocks. Bulls. Even tractors sitting in the wetness, waiting for the sun to come up. I was looking straight up at the ceiling at all my model airplanes hanging by all their thin metal wires. Floating. Swaying very quietly like they were being blown by someone’s breath. Cobwebs moving with them. Dust laying on their wings. Decals peeling off their wings. My P-39. My Messerschmitt. My Jap Zero. I could feel myself laying far below them on my bed like I was the ocean and overhead they were on reconnaissance. Scouting me. Floating. Taking pictures of the enemy. Me, the enemy. I could feel the space around me like a big, black world. I listened like an animal. My listening was afraid. Afraid of sound. Tense. Like any second something could invade me. Some foreigner. Something undescribable. Then I heard the Packard coming up the hill. From a mile off I could tell it was the Packard by the sound of the valves. The lifters have a sound like nothing else. Then I could picture my dad driving it. Shifting unconsciously. Downshifting into second for the last pull up the hill. I could feel the headlights closing in. Cutting through the orchard. I could see the trees being lit one after the other by the lights, then going back to black. My heart was pounding. Just from my Dad coming back. Then I heard him pull the break. Lights go off. Key’s turned off. Then a long silence. Him just sitting in the car. Just sitting. I picture him just sitting. What’s he doing? Just sitting. Waiting to get out. Why’s he waiting to get out? He’s plastered and can’t move. He’s plastered and doesn’t want to move. He’s going to sleep there all night. He’s slept there before. He’s woken up with dew on the hood before. Freezing headache. Teeth covered with peanuts. Then I hear the door of the Packard open. A pop of metal. Dogs barking down the road. Door slams. Feet. Paper bag being tucked under one arm. Paper bag covering “Tiger Rose”. Feet coming. Feet walking toward the door. Feet stopping. Heart pounding. Sound of door not opening. Foot kicking door. Man’s voice. Dad’s voice. Dad calling Mom. No answer. Foot kicking. Foot kicking harder. Wood splitting. Man’s voice. In the night. Foot kicking hard through door. One foor right through door. Bottle crashing. Glass breaking. Fist through door. Man cursing. Man going insane. Feet and hands tearing. Head smashing. Man yelling. Shoulder smashing. Whole body crashing. Woman screaming. Mom screaming. Mom screaming for police. Man throwing wood. Man throwing up. Mom calling cops. Dad crashing away. Back down driveway. Car door slamming. Ignition grinding. Wheels screaming. First gear grinding. Wheels screaming off down hill. Packard disappearing. Sound disappearing. No sound. No sight. Planes still hanging. Heart still pounding. No sound. Mom crying soft. Soft crying. Then no sound. Then softly crying. Then moving around through house. Then no moving. Then crying softly. Then stopping. Then, far off the freeway could be heard.

Do you know what this is? It’s a curse. I can feel it. It’s invisible but it’s there. It’s always there. It comes onto us like nighttime. Every day I can feel it. Every day I can see it coming. And it always comes. Repeats itself. It comes even when you do everything to stop it from coming. Even when you try to change it. And it goes back. Deep. It goes back and back to tiny little cells and genes. To atoms. To tiny little swimming things making up their minds without us. Plotting in the womb. Before that even. In the air. We’re surrounded with it. It’s bigger than government even. It goes forward too. We spread it. We pass it on. We inherit it and pass it down, and then pass it down again. It goes on and on like that without us.

I remember now. I was in hock. I was in hock up to my elbows. See, I always figured on the future. I banked on it. I was banking on it getting better. It couldn't get worse, so I figured it'd just get better. I figured that's why everyone wants you to buy things. Buy refrigerators. Buy cars, houses, lots, invest. They wouldn't be so generous if they didn't figure you had it comin' in. At some point it had to be comin' in. So I went along with it. Why not borrow if you know it's coming in. Why not make a touch here and there. They all want you to borrow anyhow. Banks, car lots, investors. The whole thing's geared to invisible money. You never hear the sound of change anymore. It's all plastic shuffling back and forth. It's all in everybody's heads. So I figured if that's the case, why not take advantage of it? Why not go in debt for a few grand if all it is is numbers? If it's all an idea and nothing's really there, why not take advantage? So I just went along with it, that's all. I just played ball.

from "Curse of the Starving Class", first performed in 1978.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rimbaud by Jack Kerouac

Arthur! On t' appela pas Jean!
Born in 1854 cursing in Charle-
ville thus paving the way for
the abominable murderousnesses
of Ardennes---No wonder your father left!
So you entered school at 8
---Proficient little Latinist you!
In October of 1869
Rimbaud is writing poetry
in Greek French—
Takes a runaway train

to Paris without a ticket,
the miraculous Mexican Brakeman
throws him off the fast
train, to Heaven, which
he no longer travels because
Heaven is everywhere---
Nevertheless the old fags
Rimbaud nonplussed Rimbaud
trains in the green National
Guard, proud marching
in the dust with his heroes---
hoping to be buggered,
dreaming of the ultimate Girl.
---Cities are bombarded as
he stares & stares & chews
his degenerate lip & stares
with gray eyes at
Walled France---

Andre Gill was forerunner
to Andre Gide---
Long walks reading poems
in the Genet Haystacks---
The Voyant is born,
the deranged seer makes his
first Manifesto,
gives vowels colors
& consonants carking care,
comes under the influence
of old French Fairies
who accuse him of constipation
of the brain & diarrhea
of the mouth---
Verlaine summons him to Paris
with less aplomb than he
did banish girls to

Merde! screams Rimbaud
at Verlaine salons---
Gossip in Paris---Verlaine Wife
is jealous of a boy
with no seats to his trousers
---Love sends money from Brussels
---Mother Rimbaud hates
the importunity of Madame
Verlaine---Degenerate Arthur is suspected
of being a poet by now---
Screaming in the barn
Rimbaud writes Season in Hell,
his mother trembles
Verlaine sends money & bullets
into Rimbaud---
Rimbaud goes to the police
& presents his innocence
like the pale innocence of
his divine feminine Jesus
---Poor Verlaine, 2 years
in the can, but could have
got a knife in the heart

---Illuminations! Stuttgart!
Study of Languages!
On foot Rimbaud walks
& looks thru the Alpine
passes into Italy, looking
for clover bells, rabbits,
Genie Kingdoms & ahead
of his nothing but the old
Canaletto death of sun
on old Venetian buildings
---Rimbaud studies language
---hears of the Alleghanies,
of Brooklyn, of last
American Plages---
His angel sister dies---
Vienne! He looks at pastries
& pets old dogs! I hope!
This mad cat joins
the Dutch Army
& sails for Java
commanding the fleet
at midnight
on the bow, alone,
no one hears his Command
but every fishy shining in
the sea---August is
no time to stay in Java---
Aiming at Egypt, he's again
hungup in Italy so he goes back
home to deep armchair
but immediately he goes
again, to Cyprus, to
run a gang of quarry workers,---
what did he look like now.this later
Rimbaud?---Rock dust
& black backs & hacks
of coughers, the dream rises
in the Frenchman's Africa mind,---
Invalids from the tropics are always
loved---The Red Sea
in June, the coast clanks
in Arabia---Havar,
Havar, the magic trading
post---Aden, Aden,
South of Bedouin---
Ogaden, Ogaden, never
Verlaine sits in Paris
over cognacs wondering
what Arthur looks like now,
& how bleak their eyebrows
because they believed
in earlier eyebrow beauty)---
Who cares? What kinda
Frenchmen are these? Rimbaud, hit me
over the head with that rock!
Serious Rimbaud composes
elegant & learned articles
for National Geographic
Societies, & after wars
commands Harari Girl
(Ha Ha!) back
to Abyssinia, & she
was young, had black
eyes, thick lips, hair
curled, & breasts like
polished brown with
copper teats & ringlets
on her arms &
joined her hands upon her central loin &
had shoulders as broad as
Arthur's & little ears
---A girl of some
caste, in Bronzeville---

Rimbaud also knew
thinbonehipped Polynesians
with long tumbling hair &
tiny tits & big feet

Finally he starts
trading illegal guns
in Tajoura
riding in caravans, Mad,
with a belt of gold
around his waist---
Screwed by King Menelek!
The Shah of Shoa!
The noises of these names
in that noisy
French mind!

Cairo for the summer,
bitter lemon wind
& kisses in the dusty park
where girls sit
folded at
thinking nothing---

Havar! Havar!
By litter to Zeyla
he's carried moaning
his birthday---the boat
returns to chalk castle
Marseilles sadder than
time, than dream,
sadder than water
---Carcinoma, Rimbaud
is eaten by the disease
of overlife---They cut off
his beautiful leg---
He dies in the arms
of Ste Isabelle
his sister
& before rising to Heaven
sends his francs to Djami, Djami the Havari boy
his dody servant
8 years in the African
Frenchman's Hell,
& it all adds up
to nothing, like
Dostoevsky, Beethoven
or Da Vinci---

So, poets, rest awhile
& shut up:
Nothing ever came
of nothing.

Written in 1958 and published as a City Lights broadside in 1960.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Samuel Beckett on why he wrote

“I could not have gone on through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain on the silence.”

The photograph above is a portrait of Samuel Beckett taken by Richard Avedon on April 13th 1979 (on Beckett’s 73th birthday). Tomorrow marks the 22nd anniversary of his death.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brendan Behan on Anything and Everything

I drink to forget, but I can’t remember what.

I didn’t turn to drink. It turned to me.

Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

I lost my health drinking to other people’s.

I always know my capacity for alcohol, but I usually get sozzled before I reach it.

The only sort of man most women want to marry is a fellow with a will of his own – preferably made out in her favour.

An Anglo-Irishman only works at riding horses, drinking whiskey and reading double-meaning jokes at Trinity college.

The British are a gentle race – at least when you take away their guns, their kings and their queens.

I have a great admiration for the British people. No one else could have used Churchill so well during the war and then thrown him out at the right time afterwards.

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.

I have nothing against the church as long as they leave the drink alone.

Them that does all the talk about how nice it is in the next world, I don’t see them in any great hurry to get there.

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sam Shepard-Buried Child

I was gonna run last night. I was gonna run and keep right on running. I drove all night. Clear to the Iowa border. The old man’s two bucks sitting right on the seat beside me. It never stopped raining the whole time. Never stopped once. I could see myself in the windshield. My face. My eyes. I studied my face. Studied everything about it. As though I was looking at another man. As though I could see his whole race behind him. Like a mummy’s face. I saw him dead and alive at the same time. In the same breath. In the windshield, I watched him breathe as though he was frozen in time. And every breath marked him. Marked him forever without him knowing. And then his face changed. His face became his father’s face. Same bones. Same eyes. Same nose. Same breath. And his father’s face changed to his Grandfather’s face. And it went on like that. Changing. Clear on back to faces I’d never seen before but still recognized. Still recognized the bones underneath. The eyes. The breath. The mouth. I followed my family clear into Iowa. Every last one. Straight into the Corn Belt and further. Straight back as far as they’d take me. Then it all dissolved. Everything dissolved.

from "Buried Child", first performed in 1978

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Grand Marais by Jim Harrison

The wind came up so strongly at midnight
the cabin creaked in its joints and between
the logs, the tin roof hummed and shuddered
and in the woods you could hear the dead
trees called widow-makers falling
with staccato crashes, and by 3 a.m.
the thunderous roar of Lake Superior miles away.
My dog Rose comes from the sofa
where she invariably sleeps. Her face is close
to mine in the dark, a question on her breath.
Will the sun rise again? She gets on the bed trembling.
I wonder what the creature life is doing
without shelter? Rose is terribly frightened
of this lordly old bear I know who visits
the yard for the sunflower seeds I put out
for the birds. I placed my hand on his head one night
through the car window when I was drunk.
He doesn’t give a shit about violent storms
knowing the light comes from his mind, not the sun.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rule of Life by Fernando Pessoa

1. Make as few confidences as possible. Better make none, but if you make any, make false or indistinct ones.
2. Dream as little as possible, except where the direct purpose of the dream is a poem or a literary product. Study and work.
3. Try to be as sober as possible, anticipating sobriety of body by a sober attitude of mind.
4. Be agreeable only by agreeableness, not by opening your mind or by discussing freely those problems that are bound up with the inner life of the spirit.
5. Cultivate concentration, temper the will, make yourself a force by thinking, as innerly as possible, that you are indeed a force.
6. Consider how few real friends you have, because few people are apt to be anyone's friends.
7. Try to charm by what is in your silence.
8. Learn to be prompt to act in small things, in the trite things of street life, home life, work life, to brook no delay from yourself.
9. Organize your life like a literary work, putting as much unity into it as possible.
10. Kill the Killer.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alan Rudolph On Filmmaking

One of America’s most striking and original filmmakers, Alan Rudolph hasn’t made a movie in 9 years. Disgruntled with the process of financing, he has turned to painting, having done a solo show recently at the Bainbridge Public Library in Bainbridge Island, WA where he lives. Even without having the privilege of watching a new movie from him, his oeuvre is a statement to his cinematic genius, from “Welcome to L.A.”(1976) and “Remember My Name” (1978) to his masterpieces, “Choose Me” (1984) and “Trouble In Mind” (1985) to “The Moderns”(1988) and “Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle”(1994), and I’m just naming a few. A complete retrospective of his films is in order so we can re-evaluate this important living American filmmaker. For now, and until that happens or some wise producer decides to bring him out of retirement, I’ll leave here a few bits and pieces of filmmaking wisdom from the man himself, extracted from a few of the interviews he has done over the years.

I am humbled by film's potential and power; it's so rarely used to get inside you in a way that is really meaningful. People allow it to crawl inside them but only the conditioning responses - instead of new doors opening up, they're happy to just go through the same doors. It's what advertising does, replaces your identity with a version of your identity that seems more appealing to you and can also be programmed. The problem is you wind up being like everybody else. Human identity is the most fragile thing that we have, and it's often only found in moments of truth.

Now people go to the movies to see their investment in their own culture. Some people are so conditioned they don't know it. They want to see how to be married. How to be a lawyer. How to become a human being on every level, which would be okay if the films were really teaching you that, but it's all manipulated.

These awful things that have happened to our world the last couple of years - when 9/11 happened, you'd turn on the television, and I don't care if it was the man on the street or Dan Rather or the President of the United States, what did they say? "It's like a movie." That was the number one description, "It was like a bad movie." "Like a Hollywood movie." Even when they started bombing Baghdad, people were saying that. It was harder to handle when put on a real, emotional level. Movies are our point of reference now. Which would be great if it wasn't just the technical side of movies that people were referencing.

People talk about reality, about realism (in movies). And yes, it gets to you if it’s something you’ve never seen or it has manipulation appeal, but in the final analysis, anything that is creatively dramatic is a take on realism. I can’t seem to take any of the circus seriously.

The thing that's different from when I started is that film used to be a sharp elbow in society's ribs. But now it's like a style.

Movies have become merchandising and they've also become a currency. Basic Hollywood movies are corporate propaganda and the corporation is really attacking our souls and trying to get each of our identities. People are going to movies to learn how to behave as human beings because they're so confused now. It would be great if it were Frank Capra, but instead it's imitators and imitators of imitators and suddenly people are confused.

As the world either progresses or degenerates, depending on your opinion, this surface interconnection and interaction that we are all required to have becomes just that: surface. It’s very disingenuous. I don’t find there’s a lot of truth in people’s lives in society, and I find that television and advertising have invaded the movies and eaten all the good stuff in the emotional content. The symbols are now overwhelming the substance.

The two things I know about film are 1)the natural human creation. It just seems like the ultimate cave drawing. If you were from another solar system and said the human race invented one thing, what would it be? Well, the ability to see themselves, to observe themselves. 2)the other thing I know that since its invention 100 years ago, it's been under constant assault, and it's indestructable, the essense of it. It's like that Picasso thing, the lie that enables you to understand the truth.

It occurred to me, in this very political season, that filmmaking is a lot like politics . . . Every two years we're looking for more money, fiction is our way of getting at the truth, and we all seem to celebrate strange bedfellows.