Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bring it all Back

I found this comic in a drawer when I was packing up all my crap to move last year. It might be the last complete comic I've done in five years, and it's not even complete--just a scribble on some lined notepaper. Oh well, I feel compelled to post it because I sense the 80s are back on the horizon, threatening to take over pop culture in commercially horrific ways. Just like when the 70s came back in the form of Earth-tone clothes and stupid iron-on transfer t-shirts.

Guess what? The 70s sucked and so did the 80s! We lived through them and their overwhelming trends because we didn't have a choice. We were steeped in the stupidity and we loathed it. That's why there was punk rock and too many drugs. That's why there was irony and emotional disconnect. 70s = Watergate, Vietnam, soft rock, divorce, swingers. 80s = Reagan, Iran/Contra, Journey, fear of commitment, yuppies. They were dark eras so don't you go there and:

Bring It All Back

And if my mindless scribbling can't convince you to keep moving forward, then surely the following video link will scare you straight (a video so embarassing, it's no longer allowed to be embedded). Warning: the music will be stuck in your head for at least 24 hours after listening. The visuals may take longer to recede from memory. Don't say I didn't warn you. Because I did. And now it's too late. If you find yourself screaming "NO! NO! NO!" during viewing, just repeat in a calm, moderately toned voice, "It's all in the past now. It's all in the past."

Don't go there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hot Damn! It's National Poetry Month

If you can recover from the current news of the day and delve into the potential for greatness (not the fucked-upness) of people, then let's explore the wonders of poetry together. No, wait, hear me out. I rarely read or seek out much poetry. A lot of it leaves me in a hypnotic dreamscape, similar to long college lectures where I doodled obsessively, first in the margins of my notes, then in the body of the notes, and often, just covering entire sheets of paper, rather than take notes at all. Except with poetry, you can't doodle while you're reading it. Your mind can run off in little doodle tangents though, and mine often does. Where was I? Oh yes, poetry. Well, anyhow, I don't consider myself a great champion of well-stocked libraries of poetry, but I do have a small collection and I'll share some of my faves, in honor of the month.

What's great about poetry? Strangely enough, it's very fun to write, due to all the classic rules and regulations about it set down over millennium. You're free to break the rules or not. It's like a puzzle of words and emotions interlocking into one big subconscious coagulation. If you're not up on all the requirements of the Ballad, the Ode, the Sestina, the Sonnet, Haiku or Epigram, or if you'd just like some creative inspiration and great writing exercises, there's a book that I love to re-visit each year, Creating Poetry by John Drury. One of the best books on my shelf.

(Note: some of the line breaks are slightly off, due to the limitations of HTML--pity.)

First up, Emily Dickinson - 1830-1886. Hyper-intelligent, prolific, hermetic, possibly bisexual, a wee bit god-less. She wrote of death, fame and bees--over 1700 poems worth (found after she died). The poet’s poet.

***
I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
Then space began to toll.

As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.

***
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, -
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

Bob Kaufman - 1925 - 1986. Kaufman was a beat poet and surrealist who settled in San Francisco by way of New Orleans and was considered the “American Rimbaud” in France. He famously took a vow of silence when JFK was assassinated and he didn’t break it until the end of the Vietnam War. He liked to jump on cars while reciting poetry and a lot of his stuff was written on bags, scraps of paper, whatever was lying around, and then salvaged by his wife for publication. Even so, there’s not a lot of his stuff in a readable format because he liked to improvise to live jazz. And he was often in and out of jail for vagrancy and other trumped-up offenses by the SF Police. It definitely was not easy being an African-American Buddhist beat poet in 60s San Francisco, despite its reputation for embracing the world’s weirdos. My dad was a Bob Kaufman fan, or I never would have heard of the guy. Even the Beat Culture exhibit at the De Young Museum in ’96 didn’t mention him (maybe he was in there somewhere, but if so, I couldn’t find him; it was a big exhibit). Dig the rhythms.

SUICIDE

Big Fanny & stromin vine deal,
all that’s left of the largest colony
of the new world, who coulda guessed it
no one in his right mind.

Poets don’t sneak into zoos & talk with tigers anymore,
even though they read Blake & startle all by striped
devices, while those poems of God pout, lurking & sundried torn tree
jungles
William Blake never saw a tiger & never fucked a lamb.
you get off at fifty ninth street, forever

The first man was an idealist, but he died,
he couldn’t survive the final truth,
discovering that the whole
world, all of it, was all his, he sat down
& with a little piece of string, & a sharp stone
invented suicide.

BENEDICTION

Pale brown Moses went down to Egypt land
To let somebody’s people go.
Keep him out of Florida, no UN there:
The poor governor is all alone,
With six hundred thousand illiterates.

America, I forgive you…I forgive you
Nailing black Jesus to an imported cross
Every six weeks in Dawson, Georgia.
America, I forgive you…I forgive you
Eating black children, I know your hunger.
America, I forgive you…I forgive you
Burning Japanese babies defensively -
I realize how necessary it was.
Your ancestor had beautiful thoughts in his brain.
His descendants are experts in real estate.
Your generals have mushrooming visions.
Every day your people get more and more
Cars, televisions, sickness, death dreams.
You must have been great
Alive.

La Loca - I don’t know exactly when Pamala “La Loca” Karol was born and I sure hope she’s still alive. We met and hung out for a little while in the late 80s/early 90s, then lost touch. She has hardly any Internet presence, but this one entry from Australian poet, Laurie Duggan’s epic diary posting (1968 - 2005!) captures the exact same moment in time that I met her in 1987. Except I met her on the phone at our college radio station at SF State U., then in person; otherwise, the meeting was exactly the same. She was working it:

…Michael & I are approached by a seemingly young new-wavish woman called Pamala Karol (a.k.a. La Loca) who hands us parcels with tapes & samples of her work & proceeds to spiel speedily with a valley-girl accent. She talks to Michael first & immediately tells him she has only been writing 2 years, since her operation for ovarian cancer. It turns out she is ‘37½’… I get cornered by La Loca who delivers me a spiel about her coming debut at the Winter Poetry Olympics in Calgary (where it seems Australia’s entry is Blanche D’Alpuget . . .). She is finally taken aside by a guy in a black T-shirt who enters the room from nowhere, after making me promise I’ll see her perform in San Francisco next week (after I read the material later I’m not enthusiastic).

Only difference is that I very much liked her work and performance. Her poetry is both bizarro and personal. I like that her stuff is seriously twisted and very So-Cal, where she’s from. She grew up in poor, Latino neighborhoods and her family was like something out of a Lynda Barry comic. She asked me once to take her shopping on Haight Street to buy some skull jewelry and afterward thanked me for braving the most heinous shopping experience of our lives (it was just a typical day on Haight Street, no biggie). We had a falling out over something really weird that I can’t quite remember, like a ride to Berkeley, or a stay on a couch overnight that didn’t happen. Some sort of miscommunication before there were cell phones and email to tie everything together a little more logically. I miss your writing Pamala. Write if you can. (La Loca’s best works are really lengthy, theatrically macabre and funny; here’s a short one, due to space restraints.)

KIDDIE SHOWS I USED TO WATCH

My mother lashed me to the
screen
where everything was Black & White
and she turned it on.
Captain Kangaroo had a lap
like a department store Santa.
I was left alone on the couch with
Mighty Mouse and Crusader Rabbit.
Roadrunner, Daffy, Flex, Bullwinkle, Bugs & Rags
leaped into the living
room with soft paws and falsettos while their
villain, forever penned, leered through the incandescent
cage, gnashed their teeth and growled.
I could black it out with a button.
Meanwhile
my mother bellied by
in spike mules and a
snippy bikini
to answer the
door
for some grisly simian
who came to fix her washing machine.
He looked like that scary caricature of a
“stranger” thumbtacked on the
wall of my kindergarten.
They open their car
door
and offer you pomegranate suckers but you
mustn’t get in with them.
Through the carefully left
open
crack
in the kitchen
door
I could see my mother posing on a
stepladder and chirping and pointing
the painted toenails of one foot
at her busted wringer;
her Spring-O-Later dangling mid-air by a strap,
her instep bobbing it
articulately.
I could also see a three-fingered hand
with enormous knuckles,
covered with hair like rusty nails,
grasping a tool.
Porky and Goofy,
beardless and puffy,
stood at the loosed
gate
of our harem,
with red lollipops in their mouths.

Elizabeth Bishop - 1911 - 1979. Man, sorry this post is just sooooo loooong--it’s poetry and it fucks things up. Here’s a classic poem. I don’t know why I like it so much but it always is fun to read. I guess it’s so immediate that it’s almost surreal.

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of its mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
— the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly —
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
— It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
— if you could call it a lip —
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels — until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

I was going to write some more about Anne Sexton and include some Hispanic historical laments, but this post has gone on long enough now. We can only take so much before we turn to our Britney Spears news of the day. I got no permissions, and I mean absolutely none, to print any of this and for this, I apologize. Please don’t sue me! Sorry the news has been so bad: war, homicidal mania, more war; let's read some poetry.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Damn. Fine. President.

...Trey Perkins, who was sitting in a German class in Norris Hall, told The Washington Post that the gunman barged into the room at about 9:50 a.m. and opened fire for about a minute and a half, squeezing off about 30 shots...

...A White House spokesman said President Bush was horrified and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia. "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said...

Source

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tyra Banks Inspires

I realize it's lazy of me to keep posting other people's YouTube videos as a form of entertainment, but until I can get my Poetry Post together (it is National Poetry Month), here's the inspiring video of "Tyra Banks Goes Insane" and the master-work parody that it inspired.



Parody (which no longer can be embedded--boo!).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Awwwww

That's a cute little bunny (with garbage cans on his ears).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hot Dolls of the 70s

Not until I visited the pages of dollreference.com did I realize how hot the dolls of the 70s were. Who is the hottest male or female doll? I don't care which. We were really into androgyny back then anyway. Is it:

Lilac of the Rock Flowers? Disclosure: I owned two of these and also quite a lot of their groovy tie-dyed, fringed pleather clothing. They had red plastic sunglasses sewn onto the sides of their heads and they also came with a hard plastic record with some really dumb pop songs that I loved. Sample lyrics: Flash! It's a purple explosion. Close your eyes and let your worries go. Crash! No time for watching and waiting. Clap your hands and let the music flow... Definitely hot, but what about:

Big Josh and his friend, Big Jim? They look really good together.

Then there's Christie and Live-Action P.J., both of whom were way cooler than their pal Barbie.

TV's Lone Wolf and Grizzly Adams bring their own personal style to the doll hotness.

But Talking Brad has star quality that's hard to deny.


And what about Moon Mystic Guardian? Have mercy on me, Mattel!
















  
To get you in the mood, here's a trip back in time. When Rock Flowers "danced" on the spindle of the record player, they looked less "rock" and more "ice skater." If you turned the record to 78-speed, the doll flew across the room--alarming, but definitely more "rock." My favorite, Lilac, sang: Feeling good today and I'll be feeling fine tomorrow. I'm dealing with good company, and it's agreeing with me, can't you tell? With her orange plastic record and groovy rock costume, she was a pioneer in rock-doll hotness.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

What I Read, or What, I Read?

Dashiell Hammett - The Complete Novels I'm not a complete idiot. I'm an idiot who happens to be a compulsive reader. This keeps me from being lost in a pop culture purgatory (somewhat). In order to shore up my self-image, I'm making a list of books and reading material that currently reside on my bedside table. As you may notice--it's a BIG table with two shelves, a drawer and a vast top portion, perfect for the person who must read 5-10 books at a time. I don't always finish every book, especially history books, but the top shelf gets finished for sure. Here they are in order of top to bottom:

1.) The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's - A Secret History of Jewish Punk by Steven Lee Beeber.
If you completely ignore the west coast punk scene and focus on all things NYC punk, then Beeber's book is your starting point for Jewish history and punk rock beginnings. How Lenny Bruce, Lou Reed, half of the Ramones, Lenny Kaye, Chris Stein, Hilly Kristal, etc., etc. channeled their urban/outsider/children-of-immigrants and Holocaust-survivors status through outlets of music, comedy and performance. I'm halfway through and it's a good read. A history-of-rock book that has some real historical weight to it.

2.) Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris.
A new novel set in an advertising firm in Chicago that's going through a long, slow decline. While the office workers (always referred to as "we" throughout) deal with ongoing lay-offs and the mundane existence that is office-work, their stories are revealed. It's satirical, bitter and set in a workplace where half the people are going mad, already mad or on medication. It's bleakly funny and reminds me a bit of "Catch 22," my all-time favorite novel. So I'm reading about work but really absorbing a story of survival.

3.) The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The third Chronicles of Narnia books (if you start with "The Magician's Uncle" and take it from there). I really enjoyed three or four of these books when I was a kid. There are seven in all and some are very disturbing and racist, so not always fun to read. The adventure quotient is very high and enjoyable, but this particular story is set in the southern regions of whatever world Narnia resides in, and it's blatantly anti-Islam. Or Arab, or something along those lines. Lewis was some kind of uber-Christian, so I guess he thought he was doing children a favor by outlining what he considered the proper belief-system to adhere to, even within a fantasy context. But it gets ugly, especially in the last book, which I swore I'd never read again after it's revealed that one of the main characters can't get into heaven because she would rather wear lipstick and pantyhose. Also, there's a holy war and it's very similar current events, and no thank you.

4.) The Novels of Dashielle Hammett
This was a thrift-store find. I enjoyed "The Thin Man" and I've been slogging through "The Dain Curse," which barely makes any sense, plot-wise, but has some of the most weirdo characters ever. "The Thin Man" baffled me because although it's set in the long-ago 30s (I believe), the married couple so dashingly portrayed in the Hollywood series, are actually involved in an open marriage. It took me a while to even absorb that reality as I was reading, but finally I figured out that they were constantly drinking and talking about their future sexual conquests. And the husband lives off the wife's money, and there's a lot of dope-shooting among secondary characters. Racy stuff. "The Dain Curse" goes on and on, much like this review. Just when you think you've reached a barely sustainable conclusion, there's more. There's an urban cult, sex addiction, and plenty more dope shooting. One more big chapter and I'm through, then I guess it's on to "The Maltese Falcon." Why read Hammett?: he's so deadpan about human perversity and he's drawn to oddballs. And he was an oddball. That's why.

5.) Spook - Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
The bizarre history of wacked-out scientists and their futile attempts to research spirit life, ectoplasm, seance rappings, the weight of the soul, and so much more. Roach also wrote a book on cadavers called "Stiff" and she has a really dry wit. She lives in the Bay Area and I'd love to chat with her with a plate of delicious tapas between us.

6.) The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone
Found this on the sidewalk in a "free" box near my house. People around here give away books a lot. I was pleased because I've been wanting to read about Socrates for a few years now. Stone ponders the trial that found Socrates guilty of being a traitor of the state, and sentenced him to death. I'm only a quarter of the way through since this is really crammed full of information and that always takes a while to absorb (at least for me). Stone focuses on the free-speech aspect. Why did the ancient Greeks condemn one of their own for speaking his mind? So far, I've re-discovered that Socrates believed in a one-ruler society. He thought the general population was too stupid to effectively vote in a great government leader or leaders. Kind of a bummer but then you look at George W. and it's a double-bummer. Anyway, not sure if I'll get all the way through this one. Can't I just read one of those comic book biographies?

7.) The Zen Commandments - Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom by Dean Sluyter
A nice, easy primer of living life in the moment so you don't go crazy (my take, anyway). The philosophy of: This is it, so let's enjoy washing the dishes while we can. Sluyter is funny and completely unpretentious. This book helped me deal with some bad ju-ju from a former friend. Not by addressing anything specifically going on in my life, but by urging me to embrace what I have and move on. And also to see difficult passages with difficult people as life lessons. Isn't it true that every cruddy friend you've ever had taught you how to be a better friend? Hey, thanks, messed-up people! Sluyter also wrote a really clever book, "Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies" about gaining buddhist wisdom through classic Hollywood film. And I don't mean that Keanu Reeves Siddhartha vehicle. We're talking Jailhouse Rock, Jaws, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Singing in the Rain. One of the best film books ever. I got it at the library but I think I'll buy it because it's worth re-reading. You wouldn't think film and spiritual guidance could mix, but this book does it all--it's a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Moving on to the bottom tiers of my bedside table, briefly:

Meditations on Design by John Wheatman - I check out a lot of interior design books at the library because they're too big and expensive to buy. This one is from a few years ago and features a lot of natural elements in subdued Bay Area houses that I could never afford in my lifetime. Nice photos of tribal drums used as end tables and hand-made bowls holding some found objects like eggs and some antique farm tools hung on a beige wall. Yawn. But nice.

World Mandalas - 100 New Designs for Colouring and Meditation by Madonna Gauding - I wanted to start coloring mandalas this year because I don't have a lot of time to draw comics any more and I don't have the space (or time) for painting. I bought a set of pencils and now spend a lot of evenings coloring in these fantastic Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Celtic and Native American mandalas. I don't know how meditative it is, since I usually color while watching "America's Next Top Model" or "The Office," but there's something about coloring, using color and thinking about color that is right and good.

Up-Tight - The Velvet Underground Story by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga - Because those of us who do not learn from Rock history are doomed to repeat it.

After the Plague by T.C. Boyle - Boyle is such a good and acerbic writer. He depresses me and makes me laugh at the same time--what kind of magician does that? I can't take too much of him but I'm glad he's around.

The World of the Celts by Simon James - Lots of photos of my ancient ancestors' stomping grounds. The more I read about my ancient ancestors, the more I realize wow--they're nuts. I like that in a history.

Crafting Personal Shrines - Using Photos, Mementos and Treasures to Create Artful Displays by Carol Owen - This is a beautifully photographed craft book that will inspire you, even if you never get around to making that shrine to your grandma (like I haven't for a long time--too busy coloring mandalas I guess). Joseph Cornell fans will also like.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Everything I Know, I've Learned From Celebrity Blogs

It's time to come clean: I'm addicted to celebrity blogs. I resolved to give them up for 2007 and that literally lasted all of 5 minutes (it was a mistake. I logged onto a non-celebrity blog, but the first item was a celebrity-gossip post and I was forced to see it). So I've decided to look on the bright side and compile a list of all the knowledge I've gained since succumbing to the brain-rot that is my choice of cheap entertainment. Remember: these are not necessarily the opinions of this blogger; I'm simply regurgitating back what I've absorbed for the past couple of years. So you don't have to.

1.) Courtney Love should definitely consider wearing a one-piece on the beach.

2.) Lindsay Lohan is really, really fucked up and slutty.

3.) Britney Spears is a national disgrace but the nation loves a come-back. Maybe this time she'll give the people what they want: more Britney Spears.

4.) Fergie is butt-ugly. And a former crystal meth addict. And hideous.

5.) Cameron Diaz is the most hated woman in America. And she's pock-marked.

6.) Kirsten Dunst is a drunken, coke-snorting, Gollum.

7.) Beyonce is a jealous bitch in a bad wig.

8.) Paris Hilton is a wonk-eyed, sleazy, fame-whore with an impressive drug paraphenalia kit.

9.) Tom Cruise is a short, closeted, religious fanatic, and an idiot.

10.) Jake Gyllenhaal, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and David Beckham are hot.

11.) Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon are beautiful.

12.) Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley, Kate Bosworth and Victoria Beckham are anorexic.

13.) Jennifer Lopez still has a big butt. And is a bitch or a diva, depending on the site.

14.) Same with Madonna, but instead of having a big butt, she has a big camel toe.

15.) Same with Angelina Jolie, except instead of being a bitch or a diva, she's either a humanitarian saint, or a self-centered home-wrecker. And instead of having a big butt or a camel toe, she has four children.

In drafting this list, I see that what I crave on some base level, is not so much celebrity gossip, but a re-living of my high school experience. It turns out that the Web is the perfect outlet for all the frustrated writerly geeks to get out their agressions/crushes/love-hate spew on the popular kids.

Lindsay Lohan Quilt Anyway, here's a Lindsay Lohan quilt I've been working on. Mmmmm, snuggly.