Monday, August 25

Elizabeth stopped here last week, driving across country towards a different life with a car full of stuff. She kept quoting lyrics, humming things, trying to describe songs.

See, I'm not the only one.

I believe in a better land
a place of peace in the golden sand
the windy streets in the summer time
a cloudless day when I feel fine

The Samples have a song called "We All Move On". Lyrically I suppose it's nothing spectacular. You have to hear it before it says anything to you. Most of the Samples' stuff is that way. They're not a great band in the sense that their whole catalog is breathtakingly good, or in the sense that they'll leave a giant, visible mark on American music. (Do you like American music? I like American music.)

But they are a great band in the sense that you hear them once, and it's ok, and you hear them again and they're really good. They travel a lot, they work hard, and when they're on stage they make the kind of music you'd like to share instead of describing it. We need that. Even in a world where the take is still on the drinks, it's worth a lot.

Leave the past with a lonely girl
who begs for love from her empty world
I've learned my lessons and I've learned them well
I drank the water from the wishing well

I heard from Sarah the other day. She's teaching now, doing her thing far enough away I don't see her often. I don't expect to know much more than that. There are precious few people I can really communicate with at a distance, and I don't want to demand some fake response when I know there's really not much to say. How are you, fine thanks and yourself, well gotta go, take care: It's just a way to destroy whatever you've shared with someone in the process of trying to preserve a connection.

My first kiss at sweet sixteen
the prettiest eyes I've ever seen
we used to sit around and laugh all day
and dream of all the things we'll be someday

We all move on.

thursday, august 21

i wonder why thankfulness is so hard to express
and values like love and honest affinity
are so lacking in all but the most manipulative or ethereal
statements of our civilization

why are grief and rage alike supplanted by sarcasm,
why is purity of expression hidden in buried channels
allowed only in formula between formally recognized lovers?

or am i just
projecting my own failures on the world again?

wednesday, august 20

making my shaggy, sweat-soaked
way past the stadium this afternoon
i could hear the drum corps practicing
for all the other things on my mind
i have to stop and note
that is one badass sound

i think there's a dearth of real percussion
in midwestern american life
unless you count the thunderstorms,
and there's sure hell nothing very authentic
about the massive bass
on all those overpriced car stereos

what we really need is to just beat on drums
and slap guitar strings
a lot more often.

Monday, August 18

near my house in may

unlike june, or even july
there are ragged edges to things around here
in august

shaggy and about to go to seed
cars and trucks kick tons of dust up
from the roads, cicadas are nearing
some kind of breakdown in their song.

Saturday, August 16

a tree

friday, august 15

denim, flannel, wool, and polycotton blends

somewhere under them is a girl
who is in her way also a patchwork

she gives the squares of orange brown
blue gray green red and white a better
geometry than they have had in a long while

she hasn't noticed the envelope yet
about an inch from the hair that
falls out of the quilt where her face
must be buried

it will wait.

on my kitchen card table
the local paper has a headline about
the east coast going dark, fifty million people affected

someone is going to write a column,
an article, a blog entry, a scholarly treatise
on how the blackout showed them a community
they didn't know they had or created one
where before everyone was too distracted
by electronics and the
endless pull of their lives' everyday demands

people will talk about how they pulled together
it will be true but it will sound like something
you read months or years ago

this thing is as much a part of the process of disaster
as high winds, rising water, snow shovels
and unexpected darkness

i was in church once when the power went out
the organ stopped and suddenly you could hear voices
the white haired tyrant organist
played piano instead and the lights off
let us see by morning stormlight through the stained glass
so people sang.

Tuesday, August 12

i am in an airport in omaha,
waiting for a flight to come in

i suppose airports are amazing things, in their own way
signature elements of our civilization, ca. 2003

they don't always speak well of us
there is nowhere comfortable in an airport
and no matter the occasion for your presence
you mostly long to leave, one way or another

there are better things,
but walking out of a place like this
makes you glad to be alive

one of the scariest stories i ever read
was about a traveler stuck eternally in airports,
taxies, and late night gas stations.

ggk

A newsletter in my mailbox from Bright Weavings announces that Guy G. Kay has finished a new novel, The Last Light of the Sun, out some time in the spring.

There is also a book of poetry which I mean to read soon.

I have not often had much luck turning people on to books. Kay has been an exception. If I haven't tried with you yet, this is a start. Some day you may find a copy of Tigana or The Fionavar Tapestry in an unlikely place and the name will strike a faint note somewhere in your mind. Listen to that note. Forget your expectations for the things sold near Tolkien and Asimov. Open the front cover and read a few pages, walk out of your unlikely place with the book still in your hands. Let it become part of your life. I promise, as much as I can promise anything about someone else's art, that it will be worth it.

monday, august 11

j. michael straczynski was at least partly responsible
for a cartoon called the real ghostbusters
which i used to watch despite my mother's objections,
before we moved to a cable-free environment in rural nebraska
a piece of knowledge i acquired
by following links on everything2:
the protocols of the learned elders of zion,
john dee,
and eliphas levy
whose name i came across in a book review by kenneth rexroth
where he asserts that mystical alchemy was actually
a coded form of erotic mysticism
a claim i am in no position to verify.

more: places

Saturday, August 9

molly

friday, august 8

leaving for missouri
which isn't all that far away

thinking about
possibility exploding all over
the landscape

maybe that's not
either

Wednesday, August 6

I should have walked away from this computer an hour ago, but I have not quite been able to bring myself to do so. It is a new Macintosh, with a shiny two-toned sort of tower case, chrome, a white keyboard, and a huge flatscreen monitor standing on clear plastic legs. There are little icons on the edges of the monitor, one for power and one for display settings, with backlights that pulse elegantly when you touch them. Netscape runs beautifully here, there is a simple terminal icon on the dock providing an instant window into the essentially Unixy guts of the system, and even the mouse is acceptable.

I will never have any long term faith in Apple again; there have been too many betrayals and abuses and long slides into utter mediocrity for that, but there is no escaping the fact that this is a beautiful machine, capable of running beautiful software.

seeing things

Brent and Stephen have been talking about routine, every day life, the big picture and the small one. I do not think I will enter the fray directly because I'm not sure what I could add, or precisely what we'd be arguing about if I did. I suspect Brent's feelings about the significance of daily life reflect things it's very healthy to know; similar thoughts have helped me realize from time time that I am genuinely happy, and there is a hell of a lot to be said for that. I sympathize with Stephen's bigger picture thoughts because there is inexpressibly more that it would be possible for me to see.

I think that ultimately the failure to see, little things or big ones, is the essence of tragedy. Routine can help or hinder vision, just as dreaming can.

What I will do, however, is suggest as earnestly as possible, maybe a little too much so for comfort, that you both find My Story as told by Water: confessions, Druidic rants, reflections, bird-watchings, fish-stalkings, visions, songs and prayers refracting light, from living rivers, in the age of the industrial dark, by one David James Duncan, and read at least three parts of it: "Birdwatching as a Blood Sport", "Beauty/Violence/Grief/Frenzy/Love: On the Contemplative Versus the Activist Life", and "Strategic Withdrawal", from which I will briefly crib:

strategic withdrawal: any refusal to man our habitual political or psychological trenches or to defend our turf, for though the turf may be holy, our defenses, when they grow automatic, are not ...

strategic withdrawal: any act you can devise, any psycho-spiritual act at all, that embodies a willingness to wait for the world to disclose itself to you, rather than to disclose yourself, your altruism, your creativity, skills, energy, ideas and (let's face it) agenda, myopia, preconceptions, delusions, addictions and inappropriate trajectories to this world

let 'em cry in the dark

Last weekend I went to Curtis with Molly. Her family lives there; her dad is a lawyer and her brother plays guitar in a literal garage band.

Curtis is like any other small Nebraska town, and of course it's also not. The Southwest quadrant of the state differs some from the places I have lived lately; the geography and the people have a different shape to them. Still Nebraska, but I guess there is also more of the West about it, something you don't feel at all in Cedar county or the two, maybe three honest-to-god cities. There are other small differences, too - the tiny ag college, the volunteer-run theater on main street, a lumber yard still hanging on just outside the full reach of Menards and Home Depot.

You have to pay attention or none of it signifies all that much, and even then it's doubtful you could come to any conclusion without really being immersed in the local life. In a place like Curtis, that might take a lifetime or better.

The reason we drove out was Six Pack and a Pepper, a rock festival for which Molly's brother was at least partially responsible. There were half a dozen bands; punk, punk edging into metal, genuine and amazingly energetic hardcore, and relatively straight up rock. There was not much of a crowd, there is never much of a crowd, but I remain amazed to have seen something like this in a Nebraska town where the population number on the little green signs is unlikely to ever top 900.

One of the bands there was Leo's Invention, who played here some time back in January. (See this LiveJournal entry.) They're playing Knickerbockers tonight, and if there were any justice in the world it would be a packed house.

and on a side note

Levente, you suck.

(He said purely in a spirit of minor envious pique.)

Tuesday, August 5

Not to go into random blogging mode, but this guy writes a good journal which also seems worth reading.

I figured out a while ago that what makes for a good journal or diary, or even correspondence, doesn't necessarily make for the kind of thing other people will get much out of. Sometimes I think useful private writing is exactly the opposite of good public writing.

Of course that doesn't always hold true. Some of the best things I've ever found in literature are journals and letters. The character of really honest private poetry seems to be such that it's worth reading no matter how subjective.

eric arthur blair

Brent writes again, on The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, or at least the bit I quoted. I hadn't read the rest of the essay when I did a copy-and-paste; Brent's entry leads me to assume that he hasn't either.

Given that rather context-free paragraph, I haven't any major bones to pick with Brent's perspective, but it's important to understand that the Orwell piece was a political pamphlet written in 1941, during the Blitz, at a time when British defeat was a frightening possibility. We know that Hitler's brand of fascism failed; in 1941 such assurances were harder to find. It could not have been difficult to see successful warmaking as a straightforward measure of a political and economic system's real power.

Monday, August 4

If thou wilt be observant and vigilant, thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action. Be observant if you wouldst have a pure heart, for something is born to thee in consequences of every action.

Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi

Sunday, August 3

Brent writes:

Moreover, it's easy to forget that there was a time before 1984 and Animal Farm. Those books made such an impact precisely because they were so shocking to their culture.

We forget that, decades ago, a whole lot of people romanticized the Soviet experience, sugar-coated it, or were just plain ignorant of it. A whole heck of a lot of people living 50 years ago thought that socialism and command-and-control governments were fundamentally good and would inevitably lead to world peace. I'm not exaggerating; many magazines published thoughtful opinion pieces about the shining governmental example of Soviet Russia.

The literary and intellectual fascination with Soviet Russia, and an accompanying blindness to its flaws, was real enough. It's something I need to spend time getting a realistic picture of, since it comes up again and again in the writing I'm interested in, and it still has pretty big repercussions. An Orwell essay I pointed to earlier was principally an attack on said blindness.

However, as regards socialism and the folks who thought it would be a good idea, I'm going to throw out another Orwell quote:

What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism - that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit - does not work. It cannot deliver the goods. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. Argument and propaganda got one nowhere. The lords of property simply sat on their bottoms and proclaimed that all was for the best. Hitler's conquest of Europe, however, was a physical debunking of capitalism. War, for all its evil, is at any rate an unanswerable test of strength, like a try-your-grip machine. Great strength returns the penny, and there is no way of faking the result.

— The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, Shopkeepers at War

I don't think he was all that right - I don't think planned economies work all that well, or more exactly, I don't think planned economies really exist - but Orwell seems to have believed in their value. I don't think this is a minor point.