Monday, June 08, 2015

Against Misanthropy by Eileen Tabios

I have started a new blog, Mandala Web. a patch of thought about mindfulness and creativity. I hope this one will be a more grown up one than my various Blogger accounts, i.e.: neatness counts! With the link that follows, I give more attention to Against Misanthropy by Eileen Tabios than I gave in my last post here. Still some sloppiness apparent, but please go here.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

New Books by Eileen Tabios

I Forgot Light Burns (Moria Books)

Against Misanthropy (BlazeVOX[books]

Two new books by Eileen Tabios. One is a collection of poetry, the other a collection of interviews with and statements by Eileen. I think Eileen makes little distinction between the genres, and first name basis seems the only basis with her.

I Forgot Light Burns is the poetry collection. Eileen used a poetry generator to create this work. The generator randomly selects material from a database of 1146 lines. Each block of text begins with the words I forgot. Pages consist of one to many such blocks. Each block could be considered a sentence, simple or complex. In the first section the blocks end sans period, elsewhere with an em-dash (my favourite punctuation mark!). You could consider each block a poem, or each page, or each titled section, or the whole book. The door is kept open that way.

So there we are.

The first section (of three, not counting afterword) bears the title “I Forgot the Flamenco Red”. Inspired by if not an ode to red toilet paper that Eileen managed to discover in Spain and is pictured on the book cover. The lines here generated all begin with “I forgot Red”. Here are some random selections:

I forgot Red for the slithering snake freezing to S in Espana [from this I see this weird ass tp pulled sinuously from the roll]

I forgot Red of black heels stamping concrete

I forgot Red of Guernica

I forgot Red as the roses sacrificed to the spiders by the winemaker

This section strikes me as more thematic than the other two.

Many lines carry a sad, surreal quality. There’s an intimacy in these lines:

I forgot a child crayon to form a heart—

I forgot instructing saliva to wait—

I forgot minarets growing within muddy pools—

A few lines seem directed, as if the author were trying to say something. These satisfy me less than the oracular ones that seem to arrive from who knows where. I should add that within the context of random origination—math types always say there is no such thing as random, don’t they?—the compelling voice would want to speak as well.

Against Misanthropy (subtitle A Life in Poetry) is, as I did mench, interviews and statements. Eileen is much thoughtful on the process of writing. Writing seems too delimiting a term to enclose the artistic, political, cultural, aesthetic, and humanistic concerns of this author. This book offers an engaging sampling of her thoughts and concerns. Eileen Tabios engages and supports poetry with unusual zest. That zest shows in every page of this book.

I was about to get wordy but the three words I just used, engages, supports, and zest pretty well map the territory. Lively statements and lively replies about poetry, people, and world. Do drop in.

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Finally saw this second Avengers movie. It was okay. I’m not really keyed into the grand intertwining of story lines. That’s Marvel’s contribution to comics. I didn’t savour the lengthy plot lines when I was 13, and haven’t changed much on that. But anyway.

We got to the theatre early enough to sit thru ads for tv shows. Sorry, not about to watch. The theatre, by the bye, has undergone a redo, to the degree of electrically-powered lounge seats and room for my legs. Wowzer!

In the previews, there’s a movie about a boxer. Rocky redux. To keep custody of his daughter he has to beat the champ. Okay chumps, buy that one again. Old never gets old.

Looking for something else to buy again? Try more Terminator. I never saw the previous, altho of course I have absorbed them all thru cultural osmosis. Arnold’s back. It looks like the same old shit, albeit with shiny new graphics. And while I cannot abide Arnold, his acknowledged status as a cultural thing works well in the two minutes that I saw. Jurassic Park has also received a reshine.

Adam Sandler sits in the middle of a movie in which aliens invade Earth using video game characters such as Donkey Kong and Pac-man. Sort of almost nearly kind of a cute idea but Adam Sandler, the God of Stupid. The Fantastic Four return, also redux. Yeah, I slept thru the last 90 minutes of the earlier attempt. I have to say that I never particularly cared for FF in its comic book evocation.

Ant-Man also hits the screen. I never read Ant-Man. What up with Marvel’s predilection for hyphens? This looked more okay. Paul Rudd seems a funny cast selection, but he does have a bead on comedy, which these stupid movies need.

Anywho, the movie for which good money paid finally arrived on the screen. Popcorn was by then gone.

I was plot-confused the whole way thru. It’s me, Erin claimed that he followed it (them). I don’t even want to recount that which I got. Doesn’t seem to matter.

The plus of this feast is the cast. Robert Downey, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansen, and Chris Hemsworth all snap off crisp banter with charm. Joss Whedon writes crisp banter. Plot, ugh.

We had to get sad because the poncy English AI voice of Tony Stark’s computer system is, er, killed by Ultron. Ultron is voiced by James Spader, a pretty good escapade. I recognized the voice but couldn’t put his name to it. Spader lounges back in the character like an old hammock, if that simile isn’t too much to digest.

CGI still sucks. I think you are supposed to smoke a few joints and then say Whoa!. Look, the greatest movie ever is Monty Python and the Holy Grail—budget three quid—which just let you enter the process and say those men pretending to be on horseback really are. Those blurs on the screen in The Avengers just look like blurs on the screen. And Physics is just a suggestion, not a set of qualities by which we are ruled.

The action scenes are splat. Ridiculous movements all over the screen. Physics should be ashamed of itself for allowing this free for all.

Captain America the character and Chris Evans the actor are surprisingly appealing. I like Cap’s earnestness. He seemed more of a dick in the comics that I read (in the day). Not a dick, really, but just standard superhero.

After a rough superheroing day, the crew betake themselves to the unexpected farm in the middle of nowhere whereat Hawkeye stows wife and fam. I mean please.

Stupid got the game ball with Ultron’s attempt to wipe out humanity. He lifts an entire town with I dunno secreted underground. The idea being that it would drop onto the earth with force enough to wipe out humanity. In the last X-Men that I saw, Magneto lifts a ballpark, and that seemed tuned to idiocy enough, but Ultron trumps. From this disaster and the attack of Ultron’s robotic minions, three gazillion and seventeen nobodies die. Ho hum.

Almost nobody gets hurt amongst the favoured heroes, no matter what befalls, not counting that three gazillion and seventeen. There’s an endless scene in which Iron Man tries to subdue The Hulk. More means nothing, they clash and clash until it’s time to stop. The more that finally beat Hulk is the same more that earlier did not.

This is America in action. Why think when thoughtlessness will fill the bill? Do we understand revenge, at all? It looks like the stupidest intolerance of all. The Old Testament hails the calm satisfaction of us and them. So too The Avengers.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Good and Bad of Pop

I saw this performance on The Voice last night. I found the song and performance surprisingly strong and effective. That is Nate Reuss, singer for the currently quiescent group Fun, out on his own. I don’t know him beyond that but you probably do.

He shows confident command from the start. Kicking the voice out like that, naked. He’s not over-reaching, which many singers do. He has trained the gift. The usual implement describes gifted as loud, or dramatic. Reuss led with his voice, which a singer had ought, in all good conscience.

When the band explodes into notice, a palpable excitement occurs. Reuss demarcates the power chords with full body arabesque. It’s an obvious technique but it visually captures a leaning possibility toward full capacity. Except for that jacket he’s got. The jacket looks like a 50s housecoat, flower-printed even. It fits oddly, especially as Reuss jumps about. The jacket must be his clumsy cousin. The nobody guitarist leaning back in Jimmy Page 1969 is just testament to the picture. However it may sound.

No restraining order has been issued to the show’s claquery, so there is potent waving of arms for the instigation of pop revival. Do we really need to be told to listen? The song is strong, Reuss is confident: that chicanery just collects at the bottom of the tub into which we gaze. POP MUSIC. It is okay to be pop music.

See, I have been reading a bio of James Laughlin, publisher of New Directions books. In that vague day of refined glory, poetry books rose up to public consciousness. People bought books, and poets could expect a soothing smackerel, as if writing poetry were a viable occupation. Poetry was pop, then.

Today, poetry is leaden detritus, whereas music lasts until it’s over. I do not descry a competition, just observe how well the music can be choired into impact while poetry has lost the audience.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Precious and Rank of Here and There

Okay, so we went to New Jersey to fetch a storage unit full of stuff. I could give details, but won't, only the minor thrilleramas. Like say crossing the river on the Tappen Zee Bridge. I know for most people this represents the daily slog but for me there really exists a feeling of Bifrost, bridge to Asgard. The bridge over the canal that my family took, heading towards Provincetown, always was a magic moment/memory.

We left civilization a scosh late, near 1 pm. At Someplace, CT, we partook an early dinner that boasted every indication of breakfast. Usually enough, when we travel, Beth heads towards breakfast while I conjure burgers. This time, I went all breakfasty (the time was around 3:00 or so). The specific restaurant (in CT), was Cracker Barrel. Safe Harbour. I am honestly touched by the sign at the entrance saying no matter what race creed colour, etc, you are welcome. It's the sort of value-packed declaration that companies make. I dunno if CB has had Denny's sort of bad moments, but I appreciate the getting it in writing palm open.

We arrived Sunday eve just a scosh past close liquor stores. After the hotel embrace, including a demanding $100 hold on the credit card for "incidentals", as if Keith Moon had joined us, we went next door to Longhorn Steakhouse for a smackerel of wine.

Monday meant picking up the lucky truck to transport all the all. The offered truck featured fully evident leaky roof. I had roused before 6 am that morn to darkling clouds and whipping wind. Some pittance later sloshing rains. Beth haggled for a better carrier, that being one that had just gone elsewhere, and could be retrieved. This equation meant a somewhat late start at the loading process. That finalized around 6:00.

NJ I must say must be the first example. The possibility that so many people can exist on so fragile a framework seems completely imaginary. NJ is just ahead of the curve, but the tonnage of dissupporting vehicles and mercantile extremism just seems empirically emptying on this stage of sand near ocean. Logic simply says so. We are talking sand castles.

After the much lifting/moving, some of us felt like whoa, I'm like wow = tired. We procured wine and beer, then included dinner. Apres diner, well, it seems Comedy Channel offered South Park.

South Park has soul, and tender, and its advance into inappropriate is oddly warm and subtle. I have not watched it religiously, but it always seems fresh. I especially liked the Towelie character. I cannot explain the appeal of this stoned towel.

Journey home included a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings. Our entrance to the place was like grandpa and grandma got lost. Thumping music, but just ice cream for the asshole age. Not scared yet.

One wall had a ridiculously over-sized tv screen. A college football game. Lo def, with the image scrunged up. All around were normaller tvs featuring that game, or a chatter about sports events, or a fishing show.

The waiter was a youngster who wasn't somehow prepared for anyone who was, like, hey you know what I mean. I don't mean this against him, someone should have told him that creaky vessels might hit harbour. Attempt mooring, that is. He was earnest, but when Beth ordered hot tea, he arrived with an iced tea tall glass full of hot water, and a teabag. Beth helped sort him out that one.

Just from the menu, the wings sounded disappointing and expensive. I just wanted food. The menu descriptions were plangent in laying bacon, honey bbq sauce, chipotle, extra cheese, glop, glop, on a bun. I'm not vegan but it just seemed oppressive. The perimetre of intent seemed to exist solely in cholesterol.

The prime dollop of curious consternation came after the unloaded truck. Brought to lovely Lowell, we found a deserted gas station. A note on the door indicated that we leave paperwork in the vent hole of the garage. This gas station has a pump offering gas at something like $1.60 a gallon. Except the pumps are marked deceased. The garage itself is loaded with trash and junk. One window is boarded up. You can hear a radio playing. I later mentioned a weird gas station in Lowell and the person immediately said Middlesex St. Yup. Beth yawped with the proprietor, there being a deposit to reckon. He delivered it to our door but still, the curious condition of Lowelness. It is something to study. Kerouac came from Lowell, if that makes it easier.

And I just don't know how to hold this stuff, both precious and rank. We have a funny, odd world to defend. Please care about caring.

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Monday, January 12, 2015


Watched the movie Frankenfish, my friends. An intention to see a crappy movie moved me to see what the Internet had to offer. By crappy I don’t necessarily mean inept, but one that does not aspire to proverbial Hollywood notice. Crappy is not used pejoratively here.

I never saw Sharknado but I think the scale here is smaller, and probably good for that. The movie begins as do so many good things, in a Louisiana swamp. A fisherman in a boat catches something that pulls hard. So hard indeed that he is pulled into the water. Panicked thrashing and a reddening of the water tell the story.

Switch to a murder scene, an eviscerated body being investigated by authorities. The sheriff arrives to tell the medical examiner that there’s another job to do, down in the bayou.
First note: I expected accents to be thick and overplayed. In these movies without hope of A-list distribution, there’s always someone chewing the curtain or, amounting to the same thing, not giving a shit. This movie provides an exception.

The medical examiner is a good-looking young black man. I mention race because of the setting and because of some elements later on. There’s really no racial tension here.
The M.E. must investigate the death of the person we witnessed dying. From the corpse the M.E. determines that no alligator caused the death. It shore enough don’t look like a human wounding, but the M.E. is sent anyway. The next day he arrives at the dock to meet the marine biologist who will accompany him.

She’s a young, good-looking white woman. They set off on a five hour journey upriver to the little houseboat community where the victim lived.

The camera work supplies us a rather idyllic scene as they motor upstream. Several times the camera follows behind at roughly water level, allowing the expanse of river and woodland to become central.
At some point, the biologist removes her t-shirt, wears just a halter. The M.E. never, thru the movies, removes his t-shirt with the flannel over. The hottie in halter element doesn’t go far. By the time she reaches the houseboat community she has put the t-shirt back on. She adds a button up shirt later. Continuity hounds might have something to work on.

After some journeying and nascent meet cute, they come upon a scene. The M.E. stops the boat, and there’s some suspense. It proves to be some local up to his neck in the river. The biologist doesn’t understand but the M.E just says watch. Since I’m watching the movie, I do too. Eventually, the local raises his arm to reveal that a large catfish had bitten hold onto the man’s hand. The biologist thinks this is an outré way to catch a fish. The M.E. admires the catch.

The local is exactly the character who should be missing some chromosomes and teeth, and talking with an impenetrable accent. He’s a little weird but nothing overplays. You always wonder what happened when a filmmaker shows taste.

The local agrees to deliver them to the widow of the victim, in the houseboat community. Here we get our chance to meet some swamp weirdos. The local first directs our heroes to the house of some imbedded hippies. They’re no help. Across the way is the brother of the hippie guy. This guy appears to be someone carrying the weight of his war experiences. He talks to no one. The wife of the attack victim agrees to meet with the M.E. and the biologist.

She’s the black swamp witch we have been expecting. She’s a trifle weird but mostly just swamp mom with a civilized daughter. Her daughter is there with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is classic white asshole lawyer; the daughter is legal aide in his office.

Witch mother has, she indicates, been keeping the monster at bay, you know, by lighting candles. I think she mentions an unusually large boat for the bayou run a-ground and boding evil nearby. The M.E. and biologist investigate, led by the local. The hold is full of eviscerated bodies. I neglected to mench that earlier a dead, eviscerated alligator was found, to impel the mystery. WTF could be going on here?

The local is pulled from the boat by a large shark-like fish. The other two hightail it back to witch woman’s place. “Mistah Kurtz, he dead”, basically. No one seems especially emotional about the guy’s death.

There’s a scene in which an Asian hood somehow tracks the missing boat electronically and reports to his boss. The boss is a Southern bossy type, and he orders them all, including a blowhard big game hunter, to go find that boat. I’m a little confused at this point, but happy to know there are layers of mystery to this entertainment.

So okay, their friend the local is dead, let’s have dinner. Witch woman works up a feast of turtle, which the M.E. loves and at which the biologist grimaces. Luckily there are bottle and bottles of Corona, [insert advertising tagline here]. Turns out the M.E. and the witch woman’s daughter knew each other at Nawlins High School, or she admired him from afar. Something. Meanwhile, the lawyer continues being an asshole, directing assholeness at his girlfriend. He also kvetches.

The daughter angrily goes outside and the biologist joins her. There’s a conversation in which the biologist tells the daughter to find someone better, while drinking Corona. The daughter replies, it’s so hard to find a good man, while drinking Corona. The biologist says, who says it has to be a man? while drinking Corona. The daughter doesn’t react nor does the biologist blink. We move on to other things.

The hippie guy next door hears something in the water. Investigating, he suffers a slight head removal by way of leaping fish. The lawyer makes some apt observation like, the fish took his fucking head off.

The hippie wife, in extremis, wants to save the head, I think, so she climbs into a boat, which quickly gets knocked over by the fish. After some helpless shouting, she’s chewed up.

Ricardo, the brother of the hippie guy, manages to kill the fish with a gun—did I mention there was a fish with a gun?—and it was close. The fish got on deck of his houseboat and slithered menacingly towards him, but he managed to shoot it. He then cuts the heart out, throws it on the barbie, then announces that he’s eating the heart of the fish that killed his brother.

Soon enough, a fish leaps from the water and finishes him off. And then the fish makes like Moby Dick and starts crashing into the houseboats, and they start to sink. I’m not sure why, but the daughter offers to ride a basket on a line to the hippie houseboat, to get something I guess. The M.E. shoots the fish that nearly gets her, splashing her with blood.

She goes to the bathroom to weep and look at the blood all over her. Eventually she washes it off, and the wash water drains into the bayou. 

Witch woman gets killed somehow. The asshole lawyer survives. The biologist announces there’s a way that they can be saved, pointing toward Ricardo’s houseboat. Just then, a fire started during the fish attack causes Ricardo’s gun to go off, splat, into the head of the biologist. I didn’t see that coming. Obviously she didn't either. The M.E. dutifully checks the pulse of what’s left of her neck and announces her death. I had tentatively arrived at the same conclusion.

At this point, the hunter arrives with his men in a fan boat. He finally lets us understand that the fish is a mutated version of a popular Chinese fish. He wants it not to eat but because it provides the ultimate hunting challenge: the fish hunts back. Note: I read “The Most Dangerous Game” in fifth grade.

One of the fish manages to leap into the fan of the boat, thereby splashing blood everywhere. Splashed blood has become a theme. The hunter forces everyone to find that derelict boat, which he had used to smuggle the fish to this country. No wait, he wants to track the blood trail of the final smuggled fish. Along the way, the asshole lawyer falls out of the boat and ends up in mud at the shore.

The Asian and the hired hunter quickly get killed, likewise the hunter. The M.E. and the daughter hightail in the fan boat. The fish givers chase. The M.E. does something, and the final fish gets chewed up in the fan, splashing the cutely met couple. Covered with fish gore they kiss then determine to swim home. Last scene, the asshole lawyer wakes. A small fish leaps onto him, then more, and then they start attacking him. The end.

Obviously a lot of edifying points to this movie. The thing is, it did its job. It had a little tension, a little humour, a little mystery. The lack of connected interest in all the deaths could almost be the movie’s point. The actor’s react, but without scale to the event. This seems like a director’s choice rather than acting incompetency.

Variants of that last scene are extremely common. They basically negate the forgoing. Despite the sense that our heroes survived, the locale for all remains Up Shit Creek.
The death of the biologist remains the greatest mystery. First, that she had som
e plan, which never gets revealed. Second, her death isn’t by the fish, which, given her professional status, should be her nemesis as the one who knows fish.

Her death may have been a way to let the real love affair take wind. I just assumed early on that meet cute attractive male and female will develop the much-needed love affair. The lesbian hint wasn’t strong enough to remove her from the game. I’m overthinking. Anyway, whoever filmed it might actually be a professional.
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Thursday, December 25, 2014


I just finished reading The Impossible Profession by Janet Malcolm. It concerns the profession of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is not a subject I am well-studied in, but I have enjoyed reading Jung and Freud, and have read somewhat of others in the field.

I know Malcolm as a New Yorker writer (is/was she the dance reviewer?), so I knew the book would be that sort of book. I used to subscribe to The New Yorker, tho I never read it cover to cover. New Yorker non-fiction follows a clear formula in which the quizzical author gives overview of the subject and interviews salient subject matter experts. The formula is a little superficial (or in the case of another Malcolm (Gladwell), with his proto-seeming “philosophy”, moreso), but it can lead the curious on.

The book’s title aint fooling, psychoanalysis as a profession barely seems possible. Guarantees of success are zilch, the length of an analysis, counted in years, is forbidding, the stern limits that the analyst must maintain seem unbearable, cost is prohibitive, and the whole strain on both analyst and analysand makes for a grueling marathon. And apparently it doesn’t even work for narcissists and psychotics. I should mench that the book was writ in the 80s, its views may be anachronistic.

Psychoanalysis hardly seems freed from the stock characterization of some Viennese sex-obsessed loony studiously trying to unwrap the human mind. And what the psychoanalyst does is, basically, nothing. An analyst does not lead the patient (or client, is that the accepted term now?), the analyst listens impassively (as much as possible) until the patient learns to hear what they themselves say. Imagine the rigour needed by the analyst, as well as the patient.

I avoided the subject of psychology and psychiatry—I’m not sure how to separate the two terms—when I was of an age when I might’ve developed interest. I had burgeoned enough as an artist to worry that reading in this vale of concern might cause me to overthink. I don’t think I was wrong, I needed a firmer foundation at the time, but neither do I believe that the same would be true for everyone.

I know I read at least one pop psychology book in the day, I’m Okay, You’re Okay, but only because it came to hand. It made sense, but it was simplistic. It offered the sort of sensible advice that feels comfortable and goes nowhere.

It surprised me to discover when I finally maundered my way to reading Freud that he was pretty easy to read. His writing, at least what I read, was not loaded with jargon or scientific shoptalk. And depth was evident in his work.

Later still, I read Jung. Jung invites me more than Freud. I appreciate the weird, lively a;;-embracing extent that he goes. He reminds me of Charles Olson. One doesn’t understand them so much as take the ride.

Freud acted like a scientist (which status I, for one, am willing to grant him). Jung acted like an artist. I make these assertions descriptively, and accept that Freud had artistry and Jung had science.

Jung had his Red Book (a version of which you can now (Xmas 2014) get from Target for $27.16 !!!), and at one point, made it a practice to spend an hour a day after lunch playing with toys. Plus he built a castle. Furthermore, he wrote a snidely exacting and hilarious critique of the Book of Job featuring God as a whiny-ass problem child, which a fair reading of that book can hardly gainsay.

I have read other writers in the realm, with pleasure and embrace, but Freud and Jung are the central figures for me. The thing they do, in their yin/yang way, is descry a Buddhist position of still acceptance. We are, finally, what we are. I am not wise enough, still enough, to believe those words, but I can feel the tingle of their truth. We are all positrons seeking electrons. We want a completion that is nothing but everything, and everything but nothing.

Today is Christmas, a day that for some is an assertion of promise and for others an inveiglement. Today more fully is one day that may be the only day, if only we didn’t grasp at wisps.
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