Posts from — August 2013
A Language of Leaves
There was a period that started in September of 2011 when I had a lot of free time during the day and I filled this time with long walks with my dog. Part of this daily routine involved watching the ground where we walked, so it was easy to observe the leaves that were falling with the approaching autumn. The surprising thing about these leaves was how they changed, both over time and even from street to street, as if one street had a variety that was entirely different that the very next street. Each street had a different set of plants and trees that contributed to a language and dialect of this particular environment, as two countries might have different spoken languages.
I began to pocket some of the interesting leaves I found and brought them home to examine them more carefully. Although they were essentially a flat structure, the process of drying out would twist them into complex distorted shapes and curves that obscured their variety of color and made them uninteresting masses. In order to examine them better, I began to flatten them between two sheets of glass so I could see both their true shapes and their delicate patterns of colors and veins. And then there was the brief time that these leaves remained vibrant and alive — as they dried out, their colors dulled and the pattern of veins within them faded away — and I had to find ways to photograph them before they were gone.
– Tom Bovo
Tom Bovo / The Autumn Leaves
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• Language of Place featuring work by Katherine Colona Hopkins, Tom Bovo, and Gail Flanery, in the Project Space at 440 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, September 12 through October 20, 2013.
• Genius Loci, a solo exhibit of work by Tom Bovo in the front space at 440 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, October 24 through December 1, 2013
Tom Bovo is a second generation Brooklyn, NY native. He studied painting and printmaking at Columbia University under noted artists such as print makers Andre Racz and Robert Blackburn, as well as painters David Lund and Leon Goldin. Tom has been working almost exclusively in photography since 1985, doing commercial photography for 10 years. He now concentrates on his own work.
Although heavily influenced by abstract expressionist painters, his photography influences are Eadweard Muybridge, André Kertész, and Diane Arbus.
To see his other works, visit www.tombovo.com.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Tom Bovo/Photography
BLUE VELVET /7:39:00
“FIRST LIGHT” is a photographic series I started in the winter of 2008. I had moved to coastal Maine where the winters are long, dark and very cold. Insomnia became the unlikely catalyst for this three-year-project to capture images of the first light rising over a nearby island. Night after night I found myself staring out of the windows at 3 a.m. watching the indigo sky begin its morning glow – and I was completely enthralled.
All photography is light-dependent and all photographers know the sweet spot of early morning, but I had never experienced the dynamic complexity of colors emerging over the sea as the earth rotated from darkness into the fierce rays of the sun. The panoramic view was dazzling and I became a zealous participant in this daily rhythm, eagerly moving into the frigid air with my camera for another attempt to record the moment.
These images represent some of those moments. Moments that I replay like a slide show in my mind’s eye. Moments that are deeply humbling for their reminder of the infinite vastness and unending gifts of our universe.
I have long believed that we are all simple travelers on this earth, humans and other species alike, and that all creatures share the same right to peace, without threat to life or habitat. We humans have lost our way. This earth, our home, is not a limitless resource for us to ravage at will for it does not belong to us; we are but trustees. And, we are failing our mission.
– Cheryl Carter-Pierce
Cheryl Carter-Pierce / First Light
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The photographs in this feature are on exhibit at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO. The exhibition is on display until September 28, 2013, and include images from the Maine coast.
Contact the photographer at email@example.com
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Cheryl Carter-Pierce / Photography
Photo: Courtesy of Joseph Burke, jwburkephotography.com
Roads and Windows
by Jaron Serven
Monday morning. On my way to work a stone the size of a golf ball swings up from the utility truck in front of me on the highway. I see it in my peripheral vision, a sine curve in the morning blue, and focus on it squarely when it smacks into my windshield, leaving a smooth crack on the passenger side about an inch across, a black smile.
For a moment I’m angry, but it passes; there’s nothing I can do. Instead my mind turns to past misdeeds: I’ve done something to own this, I think. That’s just the way I am.
That time I pulled into a parking spot too fast and hit the car parked in front of me, visibly cracking its bumper. My car – my first one, a ’92 Honda, that kind of first car where only I knew how to open the driver’s side window – looked untouched. Despondent about my first accident, I entered the store and walked around for a couple of minutes, browsing the shelves but not seeing anything. I was twenty-years old, on my parents’ insurance. I had barely enough money to buy beer on the weekends when I went partying with my friends. After ten minutes in the store I walked out without buying a thing and nothing had changed. No unknown person standing there, looking angry. No police car sitting behind mine with the lights flashing.
So I drove away.
I haven’t told many people that story.
Years pass and I consider this, possibly, to be the worst thing I’d ever done. If that’s true, then I guess I can safely say that I, at best, have inflicted minimal damage to the world, or that, at worst, I’m another average stupid kid.
In my mind’s eye, the stranger whose car I hit is angry, frustrated. He could have insurance, he could not. His face is unclear, seen through a fudged lens. Unknown. There’s comfort in that on top of the guilt: for all I know, the guy could’ve called his insurance company, filed a claim, and came away fine. If he was a guy.
Now I work in a daycare in a city, taking care of infants by day, going to grad school at night. The city I work in is one of those small urban areas, where there is crime and poverty, but nothing truly frightening. As one friend described it once: “It’s like New York City but without the fun.”
I get to work, go into the break room with my insurance information. My first accident prevalent in my mind. Stand against the window with the phone to my ear. My diaphragm pulls up toward my heart in a slight panic; I can’t remember if I waived the glass coverage to get a cheaper monthly payment. Twenty-two years old now, my first insurance policy, my first new car (a lease, stupid, but I’m young and I don’t know where all of this is headed yet), my first apartment, my first job with benefits. So many other times when the sharp snap of a rock off the windshield brings you to look at the glass in wild bewilderment to find nothing there and nothing there — and now another first. The real world throws curve balls.
But the panic lifts when the operator assures me that I have coverage, I won’t even have to pay the deductible, the glass repairman will come tomorrow and fix the windshield while I work.
The window in the break room looks out into the back-alley streets of, really, any poor urban city in America. I like it here; it reminds me of my childhood, because I lived here for a time then, after my parents divorced, back when life was simple. Not easy. Simple. I remember running along the cracked sidewalks, uneven and with sprouts of weeds dotting them. The sour stink of the river, the smell you only noticed on your way back into town. The old abandoned garages in my neighborhood, their windows busted out with stones. I came back here after undergrad because it was cheap living, but there’s always something else going on beneath the surface. People tend to move in circles, after all.
One day I’ll leave this place for good and I will never look back, but for now I need to remind myself why I can’t live here, remind myself of what it is I came from. The turns that I’ve made. It’s like a self-taught lesson in humility, but there’s also a call for the past as well. I live four or five blocks up from my grandmother’s old duplex, where we lived for a year after my parents split.
The window in the break room is criss-crossed with diamond wiring to keep out thieves, pedophiles, drunks, gang members… but I can still see the man standing next to the abandoned derelict across the street, not twenty feet away, as he starts to unbuckle his pants.
The operator from the insurance company asks me to verify my birthday, and I do.
The man across the street pauses, looks around. He’s dressed in a heavy brown coat, almost the same color as his skin. We lock eyes for a second, and it is I who looks down, who turns away, ashamed, as he crouches over the bare sidewalk to take a shit. Another first for me.
It was when he looked at me that I had to look away. There are things online that are horrifying. Videos of murders and suicides, endless pictures of graphic violence. In undergrad there was a website, Rotten.com, that used to just be pictures of crime scenes and grisly deaths, and I remember sitting around a laptop with others in the common room of our dorm and looking through the pictures in apprehension and horror (the government took the site down not long after our voyeuristic look-through). But such videos and pictures don’t allow for the true horror of confronting the humanity of a person while such things are happening.
The man across the street, he looks at me, not with disrespect, not with hatred, not with defensiveness (the fuck you lookin at?), not even cunning (check this shit out…). No; when I saw his eyes, I saw nothing. It was like he didn’t see me at all, though I was plainly obvious in the window, so close, and we looked into each other’s eyes, if only for a second. That is the worst part – not the fact that humanity is ripped apart by violence or horror or the system, but the fact that it is eradicated completely, that there is no humanity left.
In that moment I see myself, walking through the store after my fender bender. Looking among the shelves of DVDs and albums. Searching the windshield glass. Bewildered. Most of the time, seeing nothing.
But every now and then you can catch a glimpse of the darkened curve, the illusion of the glass. We like to think we know these terrible things because we see them, but we’re only looking. We’re on the other side of a window looking in. And there’s a fear there, somewhere inside of me, that one day the glass will shatter, and wild and terrible things will fill my life.
And what’s more, what does the man who shits on the sidewalk see when he looks at me? What is the window to him?
The man, squatting over the concrete, looks at me, but doesn’t see me there. Fudged through the diamond wire. Incomprehensible. Unknown. And while I came here to live and learn tough, there will always be some disconnect, a glass wall, that keeps me from truly being a part of it, from truly knowing it. The window for him is a barrier, the same as it is for me and others, except it keeps him out, in the cold.
Things happen, the world is full of windows, some open, some shut. As you go along, and if you’re not careful, more and more windows shut, until you’re stuck outside forever, and the only place you can relieve yourself is on the sidewalk outside of a daycare center in downtown.
When I finish my call I look up again, but he’s gone.
Maybe it’s why I do what I do. I go downstairs, back to my classroom. All of my kids are so young, working on developing their fine and gross motor skills. It’s not my career, but I think maybe it ties in with my whole going back to childhood thing. Maybe my work is a wish to repress all the pain I see in the world, but I think it’s more about using the great luck I’ve been given for a better purpose. Everyone deserves to shit in a toilet after all.
One of my infants, John, fourteen months old, has been having difficulty walking. He’s behind developmentally, nothing serious I think; there’s just some windows shutting against him already. I’ve been trying to expedite the process, leading him by the hands on walks around our little classroom. I hang his finger-paintings on the walls, pictures of him and the other kids blown up large over their cribs. Lunch is chicken-fingers and peas today, a big favorite. Nothing gives me as much satisfaction in this job as when the kids eat a full meal.
I enter the classroom after I get off the phone. Today, as I crouch and hold my hands out to John, he takes one, wobbly step toward me on his own — his first. I cry my jubilation so suddenly and loud that, startled, he falls on his diaper-covered bum, bewildered.
So I pick him up and lead him by the hands again, around and around the room. Always in a circle. To build his confidence.
To help him remember:
You came around this bend before.
It’s all right to let go.
About the author:
Jaron Serven graduated last year with his Master’s in English, and is now a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a host of other things that end in “er.” He lives in the Greater New York City area. Follow him on Twitter @j_serv and check out his blog at www.jaronserven.com.
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WALTER GURBO’S DRAWING ROOM
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Jaron Serven/Creative Nonfiction
An excerpt from Something Wrong With Her,
a memoir by Cris Mazza
(Jaded Ibis Press, October 31, 2013)
Any Lower than the Floor?
by Cris Mazza
In grade school, I regularly neglected to pee at the end of the school day before starting my mile-long uphill hike. One by one, the classmates I walked with would peel off when they arrived home. I was always alone the last 200 yards. During this span my urgency to pee peaked. I would hold myself, stop and contort, legs twisted together like pipe-cleaners.
In my final stages of distress I squatted on the dirt shoulder of the road, my Achilles tendon jammed into my crotch, resisting the fierce convulsions of my bladder and surrounding muscles. I pretended to be tying my shoe, in case anyone drove by. Or I completely removed my shoe and pretended to remove pebbles from it.
Meanwhile my body was a shuddering pressure-cooker: If I stood up, I would pee my pants. On more than one occasion, however, while I crouched on the roadside — rocking, squeezing, squirming… fighting the muscles that were straining to relieve my bladder — there was a distinct snap. Something broke. My muscles went instantly lax. Pee flooded out of me. I could do nothing to stop it. By later that same day, I would be once again holding my urine.
I know now that the pelvic floor musculature is the muscle that prevents one from peeing oneself. I have never in my life, other than those times alongside the road, been incontinent. But now — as I try to get at the heart of why intercourse has frequently felt like I’m wearing an inflexible transvaginal chastity-belt, causing sharply painful penetration, which I also blame for a lifetime of dysfunctional sexual relationships and anorgasmia — I can’t ignore those childhood incidents. Maybe I didn’t damage the pelvic floor muscle into incontinence-causing weakness; perhaps I only confused it as to what it was supposed to be doing and when.
* * *
I have had vaginismus most of my life, and the defective sex life to go with it. Call it frigidity if you like. Vaginismus, an involuntary habituated spasm of the pubococcygeus muscle, affects a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration. I recently discovered that vaginismus sometimes has a conjoined-twin: pelvic floor dysfunction. According to the refreshingly wry Dr. Robert Moldwin, (Director of the Interstitial Cystitis Center, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.), pelvic floor dysfunction is “uncoordinated behavior of the pelvic floor musculature. … [T]hese muscles need to contract when you walk around without urinating. When one voids, the muscle of the bladder contracts, thereby forcing out urine. At the same time, the muscles of the pelvic floor have to relax. They also need to relax during both a bowel movement and during sexual intercourse. Even more importantly, one part of the muscle may be contracting while the other is relaxing: You would most likely rather not have a bowel movement while you are having sexual intercourse.” Thus, pelvic floor dysfunction is related to pain-based frigidity because it can cause one or both of “two different types of complaints regarding intercourse: either there is terrible pain during intercourse because the penis is coming directly into the rigid muscles, or there is discomfort a day later.”
It took me thirty years (thanks to my own silence on the gyno table) to discover it might not just be me being a frigid nutcase in the world of open sexual pleasure.
Therapies for vaginismus and pelvic floor dysfunction are distinct from each other, semi-controversial, and both somewhat gnarly. Marketed home therapies for vaginismus comprise a set of “dilators” (objects resembling vibrators of graduating sizes) and a DVD program to use them, all offered at prices $40 to $100. None of the doctors I went to even vaguely alluded to this kind of therapy.
Despite a prevalent misunderstanding, pelvic floor therapy is not just for incontinence. Possibly because most women with vaginismus, like me, silently assume there’s something wrong with them, the majority of pelvic floor therapy patients seem to be those with menopausal or post-childbirth incontinence. My urologist and pelvic floor therapist, however, knew I was not in the wrong place. Treatment protocols for pelvic floor dysfunction range from biofeedback, electrical stimulation and Kegel exercises of the pelvic floor. I partook of all three.
The electrical stimulation was only as painful as a 15-minute pelvic exam, and included a probe jammed inside my vagina, and a rhythmic insect-sting somewhere deeper inside. My understanding is that electrical stimulation causes the pelvic floor muscles to tighten and relax on a non-spastic schedule, ideally simulating normal function. My therapy was taking place before the mediastorm over laws to require transvaginal ultrasounds before an elective pregnancy termination, so I missed the opportunity to rise above the undignified absurdity with empathy. My therapist, bless her heart, did her best to distract me by talking about my role as a college professor, my work as a novelist, while I sat impaled by an electric probe (which my insurance company required me to purchase myself).
Biofeedback consisted of a split screen, the top part showing the activity of my pelvic floor muscles, and the bottom part showing a graph of my abdominal muscles. It took just one session for me to isolate which muscle I needed to control: Watching the graph on the abdominal screen flare-up, my brain instantly registered which muscles I was using that I shouldn’t be using. The most interesting feedback on the graph, however, was in the weeks after I’d successfully isolated which muscles to exercise. During the rest period when I was supposed to be relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, sudden spikes would appear in the graph that the therapist explained were muscle spasms. I couldn’t feel the spasms, but possibly would have experienced them as pain if they’d occurred during sex. I was sitting there with a probe inside me, but since the probe wasn’t moving, it possibly didn’t have the same effect of meeting, over and over, a spasming/rigid muscle and resulting in pain, as might happen with a thrusting penis. The therapist said that the Kegel excercises I was doing at home would strengthen the muscle so that it wouldn’t spasm.
Could a pelvic floor muscle weakened in childhood learn to be spastic? Is it possible pelvic floor dysfunction initiated vaginismus, which then took over my brain — the organ we know to be the most powerful sex organ? Could it be that my brain then translated vaginismus into anxiety, stress, even panic, perpetuating not only the physical pain, but a cycle of fear? Even so, none of this can explain why I felt no sexual desire; why my hand never moved instinctively/unconsciously to touch myself; why I didn’t know what “horny” meant when everyone was saying it and doing whatever they could to assuage it.
Pelvic floor therapy doesn’t undo a lifetime of anorgasmia. In my case, it didn’t have the slightest effect on anorgasmia. But after three months of therapy, the seemingly freakish pain I felt during intercourse was alleviated. To this I can attest; I can endorse. And with the alleviation of pain, the fear also dissipates, though more slowly.
Pelvic floor physical therapy did more for me than any sex therapy or books about fantasy and masturbation, or friends steering me toward a vibrator, because the therapy targeted an actual source of pain: a weak pelvic floor muscle. Not all women with these conditions have been raped or are believers that sex is bad and dirty. That’s the cliché in which a sex therapist was mired when I tried to solve this problem 25 years ago.
But I know eliminating pain is not the same as experiencing pleasure. There are roads — that I’ve been the one to construct — yet to be cleared.
About the author:
Cris Mazza, a native of Southern California, professor, novelist and editor, directs the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. An interview with Mazza appeared in Ragazine.CC about the time her book, Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls, was published in 2011. Click here to read the interview by Kristin Thiel. Her memoir, Something Wrong With Her, will be published in October 2013 by Jaded Ibis Press.
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ILLUSTRATION: JONATHAN KELHAM
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Cris Mazza/Creative Nonfiction
by Fred Roberts
When I returned from work the other day my son (16) was waiting to ask me something. He sat on one end of the sofa, on
the other end was a record we’d brought back to Germany from a stateside visit in March. A 78 rpm single of Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me” b/w “A House Without Love” (1950). It’s an item I got at Everybody’s Records, one of those outstanding traditional record shops known in the region of Cincinnati. Still, it is not often that one finds 78s in shops like this. It happened to be out on display, the only one of its kind in sight, and marked at just a few dollars, so I couldn’t resist taking it with me. My son had gotten curious about the old records, and asked if we could play it. The record player had been put away for the last ten years or so, a portable Phillips model from around 1960, found at a Dutch flea market in the early nineties. It had cost five gulden and despite the assurances of the boy selling it, did not play. Not straight away. But after taking it apart and spraying the spindle with some rust dissolvent it was fine.
I placed the Hank Williams record onto the turntable, pulled back the arm to switch it on. The motor rattled a bit, but it still worked. Then we listened to the Hank Williams disc for the first time in all its glory, that rich, booming sound that only vacuum tubes can deliver, the inherent scratchiness accompanying the 78 rotations racing against the minute, adding character to the sound but never overwhelming it. This is the experience of music that anyone born before 1950 grew up into and which quickly vanished once vinyl was introduced.
I tried to play some 78 records for my son years ago, but he wasn’t interested.
“What made you want to listen now?” I asked him.
“They played some music on ‘The Great Gatsby’. It sounded so different.”
I never liked vinyl. I was ambivalent to it at best, yet in 1985 when I bought my first stereo setup, I had so many records I decided to stay with the technology. But I disliked the imperfections, the pops and skips that eventually crept into the sound, the constant worries about dust, the lack of durability. I wanted perfection. A few years later I switched to CDs, and in 1995 I sold most of my LPs, except for the ones I thought were too rare to ever part with. At the same time I started collecting 78s.
Now my son and I sat beginning a tour through the records I had amassed a few years before he was born. We played “J’ai Ta Main” by Charles Trenet with its mournful trumpet opening, then guitar and piano coming in with happier notes leading up to a swinging vocal and orchestra, all in all capturing the innocence and optimism still alive in Europe in 1937. That was a record I found in Holland, where pre-war recordings like that were readily available. The elderly gentleman selling them made frequent forays to a market in Brussels, he claimed, and brought back the wares to resell in Arnhem at the weekend market. Most of my best swing records originated from his booth.
We played “Portrait of Jenny” by Nat King Cole, a dreamy sound that brought us into the forties. The early, jazzier Nat King Cole Trio is great on 78. I found several in Netherlands, including “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. Next I put on “Smoke Rings” by Les Paul and Mary Ford. When my son was just a few months old that was the song I played when it was time for him to sleep, unconcerned that it was a song about smoking. I’d rock him in my arms while the record spun and by the time it was finished, he was fast asleep. It worked every time! Now he listened intently, but couldn’t say that it sounded familiar. So much for primal memories.
My dream when collecting had been to find some of those seminal recordings of Coleman Hawkins with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. I wound up locating a few of Coleman Hawkins, including “Woodyn’ You” with Dizzy Gillespie (1944) and various of the Hot Club, but never those particular recordings. We listened to Django’s lively “Les Yeux Noirs” (1940), and then I put on something truly special. An early release on the French label Swing, which had issued those 1937 Coleman/Django recordings. This was Garland Wilson on Swing #19 “The Blues Got Me” b/w “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön” (recorded 1938). We listened to the B side, an incredible piano interpretation of that Yiddish standard, starting with a couple of slow, deliberate variations of the melody, then exploding into a wild improvisation. What a disc! “Beale Street Blues” (1931) by Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti was a worthy tune to follow it, with Jack Teagarden and an early (uncredited) Benny Goodman. I never saw my son paying such enraptured attention to something.
We turned to a stack of German records. The most interesting music in Germany was before Hitler seized power in 1933, that great decadent music of the Weimar Republic. I have a couple of records of Claire Waldorff with songs written by Friedrich Hollaender – who played piano in the classic film “Der blaue Engel” (1930). I never found a record by Marlene Dietrich, and I suppose those would be the scarcest titles in the world. The immensely popular Richard Tauber is easy to locate, and never the same record twice. He was a Jewish-Austrian tenor who fled to England after Hitler annexed Austria. His renditions of German folk songs are timeless. Lotte Lehmann, of operatic fame, was banned early on in Germany and is harder to find. We played a silly song interpreted by Bernard Ette’s orchestra “Die süße Minna (wird immer dünner)” – Sweet Minna is getting thinner and thinner – sounding like a tongue in cheek song about bulimia. Then a raucous mid-thirties schuhplattler version of “Die Dorfmusik”. Fun songs, even if the former is in somewhat poor taste.
Though jazz and swing were banned in Germany during the Hitler years, there was some decent popular music produced. A singer who stands out is Rosita Serrano, originally from Chile, who began performing in Germany in the mid-thirties. She had a lovely voice, often compared to that of a nightingale. Performers like her and Zarah Leander (from Sweden) kept up the illusion of a multi-cultural society under fascism. We listened to two songs by Rosita. Her rendition of “Mein Herz sehnt sich nach Liebe” (My heart yearns for love) is stunning – combining hope with a trace of melancholy. Whenever I hear it I get the image of German soldiers on the front, listening via shortwave, and escaping for a moment the futility of war. It gives me chills. “It sounds so WWII” my son commented. “Onkel Jonathan” with music by Victor Jary (1938) is as close as one could get to jazz in the Third Reich. Rosita sings an incredible scat vocal, revealing unexpected blues sensibilities. Her fate was not so happy. In 1943, on tour in Sweden, she learned that she was to be arrested upon her return, accused of spying. She escaped to Chile, but despite several attempts, never recaptured the success she had enjoyed in Germany.
My son was interested in the set of Russian records. I had obtained most of those from a lady who’d been a journalist in East Berlin, and later a professor of art. Married to a Russian, she often visited Moscow, and returned with the odd record each time. These she had sold to me. There were some folk songs, some popular singers, all of it unique glimpses into the Soviet period, but also several records of Paul Robeson. She had seen him perform live in Moscow and spoke glowingly as she recalled it to me. I was ashamed to admit I had never heard of him, but later understood why. He had become an un-person in America: blacklisted during the McCarthy era and his passport confiscated, he was unable for several years to tour outside of the USA. It was misguided to believe in Stalin, as Robeson had done, but at least it shows how kindly our democracy handled dissent as opposed to the way it was under fascism.
Finally we had worked our way to the end of swing and the beginnings of rock and roll. We listened to the entertaining “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” by the Four Lads, then that massive hit record by the Platters: “Only You” b/w “The Great Pretender”. Next a set of discs on Belgian labels, found at a record dealer in Bielefeld who said he had gotten them in Holland: “Where You At?” Lloyd Price b/w “Let Me Give You All My Love” Roy Milton and Orchestra featuring Camille Howard on piano, then sides with Earl Dennis and his Rock n Roll Five, The Matys Brothers, Joe Hough and the Paraders, Big Edgards, The Jitters. Although I’d never heard any of these songs or artists, they brimmed with authenticity, rock and roll in its formative years. Finally we got to the best record of all. Elvis Presley: “Blue Suede Shoes” b/w “Tutti Fruiti”, discovered at a Dutch flea market at the price of one gulden. “Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go!” As it played we felt the revolution that Elvis Presley ignited. Amazing that a spinning shellac disc can convey so much charisma! We played it twice.
The next nights I looked into the living room to see my son on the couch, studying for school, while systematically working through the old records. He’d pause when a song finished, Fats Waller “Two Sleepy People”, place it back in its envelope, then put on the next one, returning again to his notes. It was sweet.
Fred Roberts takes a look back at 78s and other early cuts and pressings.
Elvis Presley[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gramophone-days/thumbs/thumbs_elvis_presley_promoting_jailhouse_rock.jpg]00Jailhouse Rock Promotion
Jailhouse Rock Promotion[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gramophone-days/thumbs/thumbs_garland-wilson.jpg]00Garland Wilson
Garland Wilson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gramophone-days/thumbs/thumbs_garland_wilson_between_1938_and_1948_william_p-_gottlieb_09351.jpg]00Garland Wilson between 1938 and 1948; William P. Gottlieb photo
Garland Wilson between 1938 and 1948; William P. Gottlieb photo[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/gramophone-days/thumbs/thumbs_records-in-bookcase.jpg]20Books & Records
Books & Records
Fred Roberts takes a look back at 78s and other early cuts and pressings.
Hank Williams “Why Don’t You Love Me”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVc3lfrKGkg
Charles Trenet “J’ai Ta Main”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL4RQGPXCV4
Nat King Cole “Portrait of Jenny”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFwGtFiTCE
Les Paul and Mary Ford “Smoke Rings”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK3APtfqp5Q
Django Reinhardt “Les Yeux Noirs“ : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua-MWLJvGvM
Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti “Beale Street Blues”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF3f1G8xUaA
Rosita Serrano “Der Onkel Jonathan”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0XtCzblMx8
Rosita Serrano “Mein Herz sehnt sich nach Liebe”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob7E2NAI6jA
Four Lads “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st5F_MP_Bmg
The Platters “Only You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZs-e_x0PGM
The Platters “The Great Pretender”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gBxeslnd0Y
Lloyd Price “Where You At?”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2r2AVSGMo
Elvis Presley “Blue Suede Shoes”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1Ond-OwgU8
Fats Waller “Two Sleepy People”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb_-NsrKP5c
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Fred Roberts/Music
Lucius Peter Larson Photo
by Jeff Katz
For most, this may have been the summer of “Blurred Lines,” the rapey Marvin Gaye rip-off, but none of that for me, bub. My summer playlist was dominated by two bands – Lucius and Oxygen.
Led by the ultra-cutie, modly dressed duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, Lucius gives off a girl group vibe, but that’s not really their sound. It’s pretty straightforward pop stuff in Agent 99 wrapping. That’s not meant to be a slight, not at all. The pair’s harmonies are strong and yearning, more heart-tugging than frothy. The rest of the band, in total a five-some, shines in a completely catchy and made-to-linger-in-your-brain four tune EP. I love ‘em, and so does Paul Krugman. A full blown album, Wildewoman, is set for a mid-October release.
I saw Lucius at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival at MassMoca and they won me over, but not as much as Foxygen, who blew the doors off the weekend (except for Wilco’s all request show, Foxygen was the hands down winner of the two days I was there).
Blisteringly loud, Foxygen was as good a show as I’ve seen lately. Sam France, lead vocalist, Jagger manqué and resident loony, lorded over the crowd, hanging on the lip of the stage, gesturing above the masses. He was a crazed genius, casually chatting with individuals he picked out in the audience, heading into the crowd for total immersion.
Strangest moment – France, who would occasionally knock himself on the noggin with the mike and take ridiculous pratfalls (a true clown he!), began to ascend the metal support towers that held up the stage. A crew member came running from behind stage and violently pulled him down, looking for a brawl. France whispered in his hair, seemed to kiss him on the ear and begged off, crisis averted.
Their album, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, the work of France and Jonathan Rado, was released at the tail end of last year. A pastiche of mid-‘60s Stones, late ’60s airy psychedelia, late period Elvis and Nuggets style garage, is fun fun fun!
So you can take your Robin Thicke and do with him as you please. He’s nothin’ compared to Lucius and Foxygen. Plus, he’s suing Marvin Gaye’s family, because, I guess, Marvin had the nerve to write “Got to Give It Up” before Thicke could steal it.
About the author:
Jeff Katz is the music editor of Ragazine.CC, mayor of Cooperstown, N.Y., and blogs at http://missionofcomplex.wordpress.com/. This is his first column after a several-month sojourn during which he was working on a book, Split Season, the story of the 1981 baseball season and strike, to be published by Thomas Dunne Books. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Jeff Katz/Music
By Jim Palombo
This edition contains two segments that pertain to current affairs. It would seem that both offer some insight into problems we face but may never fully resolve. Of course I’ll let you be the judge of that, so please read on.
Having recently returned from a six month stay in Mexico, I’ve been frequently asked about the crime and violence there – usually framed in the question: “Is it safe in that country?” My response hinges on “that depends” and I’ll note that for the most part it’s as safe as anywhere else in the world. This of course does little to put most people at ease. But to the point of this brief commentary the nature of the inquiry most often leads to more discussion, particularly concerns tied to the illicit drug trade. And this in turn leads to several considerations which at first glance may not be readily detected.
The most predominant consideration is the comparison of the current state of affairs in Mexico to elements pertinent to U.S. struggles during prohibition. Clearly, that period was marked by terrible violence linked to the illegal alcohol trade (consider the use of the rapid firing Browning automatic rifle and the Tommy-gun back in those days,) while banditos filled the police blotters with crimes including not only illegal substance making and distribution but also murder, kidnapping and bank robbery. As significant, the period helped to create an illegitimate opportunity structure whose frame remains in effect to this day. And of course the development of this structure also paved the way for avenues of corruption which continue to be well traveled.
The comparison also allows for consideration of the decriminalization (and legalization) strategy, which for all intents and purposes took the illegal profit out of the booze trade, leaving the business more sensibly in the hands of legitimate interests. Although a difficult strategy to pursue in terms of the contemporary drug trade in Mexico, especially when noting that the demand/addiction concerns lie primarily within the U.S., this may be the only acceptable response to what is happening in the country. I should mention that this type policy action has been thoroughly discussed there, particularly as a lesser of evils, but at this point nothing more than discussion seems to be forthcoming. (Note that this “discussion only” circumstance also applies to the U.S.)
Finally, the situation in Mexico brings to mind another comparison to the U.S. In short, how does the U.S. addiction to oil, which has resulted in a significant amount of violence in terms of war and other more covert activities, compare to that of the drug trade in Mexico? It would certainly seem fair to suggest that both have resulted in almost unfathomable damage, collateral and otherwise, presenting problems of national and international concern for the two countries. And once again, this is especially problematic given the difficulty of acting upon potential solutions at hand.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…”
Speaking about problems talked about on my return, it’s no secret that a number of those high-up in our government, including the President, are in hot water for a number of situations where national security issues and our sense of liberty are at odds. It seems that we are in the midst of a national debate over how much power the government should be allowed in order to protect our society, and what that power may translate into relative to the balance of the need for both secrecy and transparency. Of course, security versus liberty interests are nothing new in terms of constitutional concerns, particularly as they extend to all areas where both free speech and reasonable expectation of privacy are of concern. But in today’s terrorist-ridden, cyber-spaced world there seems a stretch in all directions for the policies on the table. And because this calls into question any number of governmental strategies, including those connected to profiling and data and personal surveillance – where concerns like wiretapping and warrantless searches and seizures come into play, the situation is indeed difficult to sort through. And as the President himself has indicated: “It’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We are going to have to make some choices as a society.” Suffice it to say that, especially given our times, we are faced with some confusing and complex decisions.
In the context of this confusion and complexity, there appears another worry, one that relates to how well the public will actually come to better understand the difficult times we are in. In other words, it appears reasonable to think that in the midst of the extremism (whether right or left wing), the finger pointing (whether right or left), the want for sensationalism (ah, the media), and of course the whistle-blowing and “leaking” (treason, bravery, or?), our public may have a hard time distinguishing the issues on the table. Put another way, how will we manage to sort through all the variables and come to some reasonable ground from which we can proceed?
Embedded in this concern is a particularly disturbing element, one linked to what can be called “the art of the narrative.” By definition a narrative is generally an account that connects events in a way that can help explain an occurrence. Traditionally this account can focus on an individual and/or a scenario and be either fiction or non-fiction in content. The expectation is that those who hear or read the narrative will better understand what happened given the elements at hand. Now this all sounds simple enough – until we begin to consider what is actually fact or fiction, and to what extent one can be used to offset the other given any particular private or public agenda. In other words, and especially with the use of disinformation (misleading or non-relevant material), what is it that we are actually hearing in terms of what actually happened in any particular event? In essence, and especially taking into account that truth may indeed be stranger than fiction, well, it doesn’t take much to realize what a pickle we are in.
And there is more as to this “narrative” point. It can be argued that a degree of deception, delusion or simple ‘story-line’ creeps into most of our own narratives when experiences get explained. But it seems that in certain arenas, like the government or the law, the ‘crafting’ of any particular narrative related to any particular agenda is a valued and even revered art form. This means that it is very likely that no matter what the situation or problem, whether in Benghazi or in the IRS, NSA, AG offices or anywhere else, the translation of events will be such that what we ultimately hear may not lead us any closer to the truth.
And it is also important to note that in business/the private sector there is also room for concern. Certainly truth in advertising is a misnomer and there are private deals happening before our eyes that we simply will not be able to clearly see. (One can’t help but think of the man behind Oz’s curtain that Dorothy and her companions are told to ignore.) I offer the China-Smithfield pork deal as an example – where under the umbrella of the Committee on Foreign Investments, a U.S. government agency shrouded in secrecy cuts deals affecting all of us to significant degrees without legitimate public notice.
To be honest, I’m not sure we can untangle all of this, in effect eliminating all the “bull” and getting to a point where we can clearly understand the nature of our problems. In fact, given our current state of affairs, it might just be easier to adopt changes that match better with our reality. As an example, consider preceding any formal testimony with “I swear to tell the half-truth and nothing but the half-truth…” This may simply be a better way to proceed. Indeed, this brings into worry the “doublespeak” fashioned by Orwell in his book 1984: “to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing both to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.” As shameful as it may be, perhaps we should we just let this be an acceptable mode of dialogue. (As a corollary to these considerations, imagine what the overall effect of the situation does in terms of courses like Ethics and Public Policy taught across our higher learning spectrum. Clearly, with practicality in mind, honesty, integrity, trust, principles, etc. have to take a back seat to the “crafting” of what the public “needs” to know.)
These are indeed crazy times. But again just pointing out some things that may be in the way of us getting to the truth should be helpful. In this light, and as with the aforementioned drug trade concerns, perhaps we are in need of some type of national forum on issues, perhaps one where, with the help of the post-secondary education process, we might more clearly define/understand the problems facing us, allowing us some reasonable, non-partisan ground from which we can proceed. This would not be a panacea but it would certainly serve to at least create a more legitimate dialogue over what we can and can’t do with the issues at hand.
On that note, I’ll leave you with the mention that this will be the topic of an upcoming article at Ragazine. As I will be attending a gathering that has at its core the “national issues forum” concept regarding developing legitimate civic dialogue, I anticipate informing you of what happens, accordingly. So stay tuned – I trust you will return to read more in our next print.
About the author:
Jim Palombo is politics editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
Joe Orton, Paddington Bear. Jonathan Kelham drawing.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Jim Palombo/Politics
Les Tortures Volontaires
by Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret
The “Les Tortures Volontaires” series consists of 81 works of which Annette Messager has made available 40 diptychs in their original formats as gelatin-silver prints. Early in her career, the artist called herself “Annette Messager the collector”. As a female, she was at that time considered as a minority artist; thus, she became interested in the “devalued arts”. She worked to draw attention to women’s territory, which was obscured and repressed. Hence, her addiction for popular art and photography, “Art Brut”. This attitude ran counter to the art of ’70s, which was dominated by conceptual art.
For these works, Annette Messager had no title. She invented one. In that way, she became a female artist with a defined character. She found an identity through different personalities: collector, artist, practical woman, peddler and trickster. In her bedroom “studio,” she collects, studies and clips things out of books and magazines. Then she gathers them in her “Album-Collection”. “Les Tortures Volontaires” are the result of an “Album-Collection n° 18”. There are photographs of faces covered by masks, cream, of bodies enclosed in awe-inspiring scenes and other women’s tortures worthy of the “Inferno” of Dante.
A few month ago, while putting some things away, she found this “Album collection” that she had completely forgotten. That gave her the idea of this book with Hatje Cantz. For Annette Messager, this wall of photographs is always interesting in these days where peoples’ bodies and faces are remodeled, regenerated and transformed to adhere to fantasized socially defined standards.
For such an artist, frontiers between art and marketing are permeable. She took old marketing into account in her thought and practice. One could call it recycling but she also recycles artistic concepts. With “Les tortures volontaires,” her interest was focusing especially on popular culture that concerns a great number of women, even if only for a brief period. But even this period remains actual. So, if the artist’s interest was motivated by curiosity, the feeling of affinity is mainly motivated by a critical pattern. Old advertising appeals to the same alienation as contemporary.
Messager’s work can be seen and purchased at Marian Goodman galleries, including Galerie marian Goodman, 79 Rue Du Temple, 75003 Paris. Tel.: 33-1-48-047052: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the reviewer:
Jean-Paul Gavard-Perrett writes about music and the visual arts. Born in 1947 in Chambery (France), he was a professor of communication at the Université de Savoie. He has published several essays, mainly about Samuel Beckett and painting, and short fiction, most recently “Labyrinthes,” Editions Marie Delarbre.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Annette Messager/Art Review
Shots in the Dark
For Trayvon Martin
a single round,
in every way
of signal flares,
looking for help:
asking for it?
a two-way radio,
was a man not
this circle, self-
in the tightening
of a circular
I want to call it
but that would be
late and less,
so late and less than
death and death
to stay on top,
and that’s all,
without one eye
The Greeks gave us paradeisos
from peri-, around; teichos, wall:
A grove that knows
no bounds beyond those
of its own slow
conversion to elsewhere,
elsewhere’s version of—
itself? The gated way.
Closure, we say,
is what we want.
The walls we drew.
Paradise so tight
it could squeeze us out.
I couldn’t say I.
Not that I
but that I
a space will
at a touch,
like an old
with two men
in his names
is the art of
if we could
at his word.
hold its own
and that seemed
to me, in this excess
success of selves,
without a torch,
which is only
a dark of fingers
and a face
full of web, only
to know now
(on a rotating stage
of an age)
that nothing after
only ever is.
About the poet:
Christopher Phelps works in a small sculpture workshop and as a freelance editor. His poems appear in magazines including The Awl, Boston Review, Field, The Kenyon Review, and Washington Square.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Christopher Phelps/Poetry
Poems by Luis Raúl Calvo
translated by Flavia Cosma
The Empty Chair
Facing the sun— our history
recognize only one side of this chair.
This emptiness imprinted
in the mirrors’ depths, turns
the innocence of the spies lugubrious—
these miserable hearts
who hide themselves at the start
of the night.
Beyond the decrepitude of hell,
sleeping bones, scalded and stiff,
recognize each other.
Day after day,
in this room a man
allows himself to die slowly.
Many of these beings also take today
the risk of passing the night
They wake up in the morning, drink
a sip of coffee and imagine
that beauty in all its plenitude,
resides somewhere at the other end of the world.
De cara al sol nuestra historia
reconoce sólo una parte de la silla.
Esa vaciedad que ha quedado grabada
en la raíz de los espejos, torna lúgubre
el candor de los espías
que se esconden al despertar
de la noche.
Más allá de la crepitud del infierno
los huesos dormidos se reconocen
tiesos y escaldados.
En esa habitación un hombre
se deja morir día tras día.
Muchos de esos seres hoy
también se aventuran a pernoctar
en el olvido.
Se despiertan por las mañanas, toman
un sorbo de café e imaginan
que la plenitud de la belleza
está del otro lado de la tierra.
In a Hotel Room
In that hotel room, a man and a woman
sealed a pact of biblical images,
drank the Eden’s wine and surrendered themselves to the carnal
passions of the desire.
She carried in her history, fragments of watery pains,
a slow pilgrimage through the rocky grottoes of oblivion,
the feigned voice of clemency.
He undressed her and found in these gestures of prohibited temptation
a raw report
of pleasure, caressed her ample breasts and penetrated slowly into her
She moaned with pleasure until she died.
En un cuarto de hotel
En ese cuarto de hotel, un hombre y una mujer
sellaron un pacto de bíblicas imágenes
bebieron el vino del Edén y se entregaron a las carnales pasiones del deseo.
Ella traía en su historia, fragmentos de acuosos dolores
un lento peregrinar por las grutas rocosas del olvido
la fingida voz de la clemencia.
Él la desvistió y encontró en esos gestos de prohibidas tentaciones un crudo relato
del placer, acarició sus grandes pechos y penetró lentamente en su íntima orfandad.
Ella, gimió hasta morir.
It cost us to see and to listen with the same
this short narrative which we know it’s
repeated. It is not that we don’t believe now in
the good intentions,
or that we put aside these new credos that
impregnate the faith of the believers.
What happens is that we are tired to permit
now and again
that the irreverence of the old sentiments takes
of our souls, after all
we are humans and mortals and we saw
falling many times through the groove dreamt
the lost glance of innocence.
*González Tuñón, Raúl (1905-1974): Poet and journalist from Argentina
Cuesta escuchar y ver
con los mismos sentidos, esta breve narración que
repetida. No es que uno descrea de las buenas
intensiones ni haga a un costado estos nuevos credos
que salpican la fe de los creyentes.
Pasa que uno está cansado de permitir una y otra vez
que la irreverencia de los viejos sentimientos se
de nuestros estados de ánimo, al fin y al cabo somos
humanos y mortales y vimos caer muchas veces,
por la ranura soñada por Tuñón*, la perdida mirada
de la inocencia.
González Tuñón, Raúl (1905-1974): Poeta y periodista argentino.
The skin that desperately wants the skin of this woman
make itself skin anew in the epidermis of its desire.
Even if all signs of reason invoke
other beliefs, other apostolate,
the burden of this passion summons them to allow her
to perpetuate irremediably in their bodies.
Now they know that the roads
that separate their story are as lengthy
as the fruitless hope of them meeting again
and that’s why they turn back and relive every second shared together
and stop the time in that second.
Esa piel que desea la piel de esa mujer
se hace piel en la piel de ese deseo.
Aunque los signos de la razón invoquen
otras creencias, otros apostolados
el peso de la pasión los llama a perpetuarse
irremediablemente en sus cuerpos.
Ahora saben, que los caminos
que separan esa historia, son tan largos
como la infructuosa espera del reencuentro
por eso recorren cada segundo compartido
y detienen el tiempo en ese segundo.
in your belly
regions unexplored as yet.
To recognize Eros,
in the origins of your skin.
And to discover at day-break
the fascination of a love
pregnant by absence.
Invocación de Eros
Reconocer en su vientre
Reconocer en los orígenes
de su piel
a Eros, invocando.
E inaugurar de madrugada
la fascinación de un amor
preñado por la ausencia.
The lowest depths of the soul
Let’s think for a moment
(after all, thinking is one of the ways
Of reinventing the sacral)
The old sage used to say:
“Imagine that on the other side of the tall gates,
there are other truths,
and also, certainly,
Ashen, we would return home,
examining the gate more than once,
now from one side,
then, from the other.
There, we did understand forever,
that in reality
there isn’t a worse predicament facing a man,
than a doubt that secrets in itself
Bajos fondos del alma
Pensemos un poco en nuestra infancia.
(Pensar es una forma de retornar
a lo sagrado.)
El viejo sabio decía: “Imagina que
del otro lado del portón hay otras
verdades. También, claro, otras mentiras “.
Uno regresaba pálidamente a su casa
y miraba una y otra vez ambos lados
Ahí comprendíamos para siempre
que en realidad no hay peor estado
para el hombre, que la sospecha
que encubre otras sospechas.
About the poet:
Luis Raúl Calvo was born and lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina (N 1955). He is a poet and essayist, author and musical composer. He has a Diploma in Psychology and is the Editor in Chief of “Generación Abierta” (Letras-Arte-Educación), a prominent cultural magazine founded in 1988 in Buenos Aires and which was distinguished in 2000 as a Magazine of Cultural Significance in the city of Buenos Aires.
He is the president of the Literary Café Antonio Aliberti, located in Café Montserrat, Buenos Aires, director of the weekly radio show “Generacion Abierta en Radio” broadcast from channel 97.9 FM Cultura, Buenos Aires, Argentina, a member of the Poets’ Associacion of Argentina and the Directorate of Argentina para poesia foundation. His work is represented in many anthologies, both in Argentina and internationally. For his literary achievements he received a series of important literary awards.
About the translator:
Flavia Cosma http://www.flaviacosma.com is an award-winning Romanian-born Canadian poet, author and translator residing in Toronto, Canada. Flavia has published twenty-four books of poetry, a novel, a travel memoir and five children’s books. She is the Director of the International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, Val David, Quebec, Canada, and of The International Biannual Poetry and Arts Festivals of Val-David. http://www.flaviacosma.com/Val_David.html
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Luis Raul Calvo/Poetry
CLIO, MYTHIC ONE
Given that your charge has been
to attend every self who has lived
since you were born of Zeus,
given that each one had a soul,
a personal psycho-physiology,
a unique sociology and geography,
given that we aspire and shirk,
are wise and improvident,
are fortunate and hapless,
what can you tell us, Immortal One,
about our tentaive progress
through the numerous years?
What is happening here?
GOSSIP OF HIS NEURONS
Morning rush hour,
the el passing behind a tenement,
through utter sociology.
He imagines his likeness there at breakfast,
alert to causalities as old as the pancake.
In a room looking out on seagulls,
taking bearings on his being,
he hears the whales complaining
that the stars do not shine by day,
that they resent Earth’s bathwater,
and answers it is the only nature we have.
He is walking with his mother.
At eight, or nine.
Nothing is happening along their street.
Only that Miss Edith sits on her porch.
Thinks that someone, just someone,
would want to take her picture.
And thinks to look up at his mother.
Perhaps it is the beginning
of the end of his innocence.
He has wandered out of modernity
into his grandfather’s life,
a deer poised at the edge of the forest,
head up, gazing, still,
a hawk oracular against the sky,
he in his own afternoon,
eroticised by the sun.
He lies on the sofa in the den,
listening to the intent of things,
the worst happening as often as the best.
They stand at a window in Florence,
white oxen plowing in the distant fields.
He is trying to explain himself to a stranger.
It seems a real place, a real time.
A tiny serpent peers in through the screen,
quivering with aggression,
in the thirty-ninth human situation.
Out confirming that the world is real,
as are rumors out of the undermind,
he takes a tourist’s ride on a camel
in sight of the Sphinx.
As if we ever play.
He visits a cemetary for foreign dead,
snacks at a truck stop,
fishes off the tidewall of the bay,
bears his share of the cultural weight,
his molecules remaining devoutly at home.
Hustling along with the crowd
through the restless lore,
the story that emerges from his wits
has something to do with
the feather of a bird floating on a puddle.
Reading the newspaper to his ancient neighbor,
a woman who has no secrets now,
whose self is left unfinished,
who is not outraged, after all that,
to find herself so,
he listens to the faint rumble out there,
the friction of overlapping eras.
Very old instincts escort him on the subway.
Dawn along the Rio Grande.
Cliff swallows muttering in their mud nests.
What, he asks, does the undermind know
In his reverie on the freeway
his garden is in ruins,
the absence of décor is a décor,
the vulgar too have rights, and the fatuous,
snowbanks glow in the moonlight.
THE QUESTION BEING, THEN
The genes charged with creating dreams
are significantly more comprehensive
than those that script mere fantasies,
more frenetically encyclopedic,
their motives more psychopathological.
Instance as cinematic location
the sleeping head of Person X,
where he is abjectly lost
in an unknown city
without access to friendly assistance,
growing increasingly frantic.
Instance the wily auteurs,
exasperated by reality,
placing him in dark streets
with overhanging balconies,
muted wailing music,
antithetic, cunning, leery faces,
the ambience dissolving
into the lobby of a grand hotel,
himself in his old plaid bathrobe
among bustling expensive people,
fleeing down a corridor,
up a flight of stairs with no exit,
another and another, ending
on swinging doors into a maze
of dingy passages and vacant spaces
strewn with ragged papers,
scrap metal, broken furnishings,
crude windows exposing dioramas —
a kitchen, things unattended to,
with a berating ex-wife,
a military airfield,
the ruins of a farmstead overgrown,
a university café,
a bazaar, a din, a free-for-all,
shrewd healers, acrobats,
toys for sale, fruit, shoes, razors,
wild cows and llamas grazing
around the ruins of the Smithsonian,
the screen fading without recourse
The question being, then,
are these genes of Person X
teaching him, taunting him, neither?
In any case, what is their relationship
with his soul?
About the poet:
Oliver Rice’s poems appear widely in journals and anthologies in the United States and abroad. Creekwalker released an interview with him in January 2010. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, is published by Cyberwit and is available on Amazon. His online chapbook, Afterthoughts Siestas, and his recording of his “Institute for Higher Study” appeared in Mudlark in December 2010.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Oliver Rice/Poetry
Red as a stained wooden Indian,
But soft, yielding,
They lay you in my throbbing lap,
Bare and bewildered.
Me too, baby.
Your black eyes search for a dark retreat.
You suck my arm, the side
Of my breast,
It’s brown nipple bursting
My full breast covers
Your entire face.
Like first night lovers,
We grope in warm, confused flesh,
Our secretions oozing into paper wrappings
That separate our skins.
You grasp my finger, cling
For your life. Our life.
You are as much a part of me as my arm.
I am an amputee.
I will name you Michael,
My first angel,
And we will cling together
As long as your hunger
From ‘Songs of Moored Airships and Bottlefed Babies’
© 2007, Edith Angelo
About the poet:
Edie Angelo is the author of three books of Poetry: ‘Songs of Moored airships and Bottlefed Babies’;
‘Stick a Needle in My Eye, Songs of Love and Heartache’, and ‘Neon Fish Strangling; Poems of a Great Depression.’ She is working on a novel, gives private art lessons and coaches creative writing. You can connect with her on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Edie.Miller.Angelo/info.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Edie Angelo/Poetry
When your mother grew ill
you say he knew and kept watch,
curled at her sick bed. He whined,
you say, and licked her toes
like Jesus washing the apostles’ feet.
When she died, you tell me
he whimpered in the room
where she took her last breath
and barked from the corner.
In pictures, he looks like a shaggy
little Charlie Chaplin, a mutt
grown mute and wobbly,
a thin old boy who has known
too much pain and fear to keep
his saucer eyes from shivering
into the handwriting of tears.
You long for an irretrievable cursive.
You believe animals have souls
because of this dog and maybe
they do, if souls are the spaces
that fill want with more want
and break a feeling of loss
into one long low throaty howl
in a house I would fill for you
if I could, but which remains
empty except for the angel
figurines that collect dust
in the basement and the angels
who bare their teeth at the sea
less than a mile from its doorstep.
On a day my father almost died,
I watched middle school children parade
by the window of the cab I sat in
as we waited for the light to turn
and York Avenue opened up like his sutures,
poorly stitched. I watched them walk on tiptoes,
woodwinds under their arms, necks free
of lacerations, tracheae intact.
I saw them disappear down 68th Street
and thought of the orchids that surround
all the waiting rooms in Sloan-Kettering,
how their heads dip downward, as if heaven
were a hollow beneath the earth.
The Angel of Poetry
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
— Christopher Smart
Well done is better than well said.
Glory be the angel who opts not to use
his wings, who flings himself upon wet leaves
and stays, who wakes on earth and walks
around, who talks to those he meets
as if continuing a conversation after a short
awkward pause. Glory be he who doesn’t
dwell on heaven, but is apt to ponder
the architecture of a single leaf. Glory be
the angel whose eyes stall on stars and start
on fireflies. Let him be grateful. Let him
listen. Let him stay small. For a penny saved
is like a fish between two cats. Glory be
the angel who wonders about life under
the ocean. Glory be he who wrote a poem
about a doorway he passed by and slipped
the paper it was written on down a sewer
grate as if he were mailing a letter. Glory be
the angel who understands how hard it is
to love your neighbor when your neighbor lives
next door. Glory be he whose wings twitch
while dreaming of flight, but who prefers
the work of earth to the comforts of sky,
and who knows that even angels age and die.
About the poet:
Dante Di Stefano’s poetry and essays have appeared in Shenandoah, The Grove Review, Brilliant Corners, Bayou Magazine, The Hollins Critic, and elsewhere. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at Binghamton University and works as a high school English teacher in Endicott, New York.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on Dante Di Stefano/Poetry
Writings of Kurt Tucholsky (Berlinica)
by Fred Roberts
When I was in high school in the 70’s, I had a book called “Prelude to War”, the first in a Time-Life series about World War II. The most fascinating chapter of the book was a collage of photos documenting the Weimar Republic days of Germany’s capital, “Dizzy, Decadent Berlin”. The collage of photos, many of them rather risqué, portrayed the gaiety and wildness of Berlin’s nightlife. My newly found interest led me to two films of the era. “Der blaue Engel” (1930) with Marlene Dietrich captured the decadence and perhaps cold-bloodedness of that cabaret scene. Fritz Lang’s “M” (1931) showed another side of Berlin, as the police and the underworld raced against each other to capture a child murderer. These ran on PBS at the time, and both left lasting impressions on me. A pair of silent movies “Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt” (1927), a film collage of one day in the life of that metropolis and “Menschen am Sonntag” (1930) – co-written by Billy Wilder, showing the typical Sunday pastimes of Berlin’s residents, complete a well-rounded cinematic documentation of 1920s’ Berlin. Add to that Berthold Brecht’s film “Kuhle Wampe” (1932) which is more political and portrays the working class experience of that era. If you never felt a fascination for this unique period in history a viewing of these films will whet your appetite for an important English-language book release “Berlin! Berlin! Dispatches from the Weimar Republic”, writings of Kurt Tucholsky in Berlinica, translated by Cindy Opitz and edited by Eva C. Schweitzer. It is surprising that someone as brilliant as Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) could be virtually unknown in the English language. Tucholsky, a Berliner himself, was a leading satirist in Germany whose keen cultural, social, and especially political observations were unparalleled for the time, and maybe even today. His political satires, compelling and prescient warnings against the right wing tendencies of the time, would be enough to cement his reputation. The statements he made are so honest that they somehow set themselves above agenda, they are more in service to justice and democracy than to a transient political whim. It is not about preaching to the converted but rather making the guilty uncomfortable. Perhaps that is why the Nazi’s hated him so much. The Berlinica collection establishes that feeling early on in the piece “Three Biographies”: “Peter Panter … Born May 8, 1891 … The premature child is so hard of hearing in his left ear as a young boy that he already seems destined for a career in justice.” “Berlin! Berlin!” is an excellent first acquaintanceship with Tucholsky. The foreword by Anne Nelson and Introduction by Ian King give a good synopsis of the zeitgeist of the period and of Tucholsky’s biography and significance for anyone completely unfamiliar. The selection shows the many sides of Tucholsky in articles and a small selection of his poetry, interspersed with numerous photographs. Ample footnotes explain the background of the pieces as well as any references that might be obscure today. The volume follows a clear concept, namely Tucholsky’s writings centering on Berlin, organized into four distinct historical periods. The writings span the years 1907 through 1932. This was surely the only way to do it, given the amount of articles, stories and poems that Tucholsky wrote in his lifetime. In that respect the focus on Berlin is clever, given the general interest in that time and place in history. The volume contains several titles that are considered classics in the German language. One gem “Ape Cage” about a baboon exhibit at the Berlin Zoo reads like a cousin to Franz Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”. A number of wry observations lead us to ask, who is the real spectacle? The apes in the cage, or the visitors? My favorite, “Where do the Holes in Cheese Come From?” is one of the first pieces of Tucholsky’s that I read (in German) I had considered it untranslatable, so was happy to find it accomplished here. A child asks his parents an innocent question his parents can’t answer and receives a runaround in return. The child is finally sent to bed but the question enters into the conversation among the evening party, leading to absurd extremes. “Central Office” is a timeless Orwellian snapshot of the decay inevitable in any organization. Just as timeless is the “Brief Outline of the National Economy” which teaches more about economics than an Economics 101 class. “The Times are Screaming For Satire” is another famous piece of Tucholsky’s which has fortunately been included, showing how the profit-oriented theater business transforms the richest satire into toothless entertainment. Echoes of Saturday Night Live in that. Here and there one encounters passages that ring eerily true today, about the complacent mainstream media, the absurdity of war, the disappearance of the middle class, wages that no one can live on, bitter attacks on child poverty (“A Children’s Hell in Berlin”). On an allegorical level the piece “Lion on the Loose” reminds of the recent manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. In “Leaving Berlin” one encounters the quote, “Now that’s the typical money man of our time… A tough guy when the going gets tough. He won’t let anyone get him down. Doesn’t sweat the small stuff; doesn’t read books; doesn’t give a damn about anything but his business.” Sound familiar? The most remarkable piece is the article “Röhm”, written 1932 about the head of Hitler’s SA, about whom accusations of homosexuality had been publicized. It shows the high standards to which Tucholsky adhered in his writing. He did not mock the man but took to task the “radical leftist press” for doing so. As long as Röhm did not abuse his position to seduce his subordinates, his private life should be off limits. Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken and Mark Twain are the historical names I think of when searching for writers on a level with Tucholsky. Tom Lehrer, in the 1960s, comes to mind, too. But one is hard put to find satire of this caliber in America today. One thing in recent times that comes close is Stephen Colbert’s speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, that ironic speech directly challenging the Administration and Press in ways that no one had dared during the five years previous. In reading “Berlin! Berlin!”, that place and time in history becomes something universal. Berlin is today and now. The social and political battles fought then are the same challenging us today, the human observations as applicable today as they were then. The translation by Cindy Opitz is contemporary English, but for my feeling the thoughts sounded exactly like Tucholsky. It is the first time I’ve read him outside of German. Compliments to Ms. Opitz. It is not easy to capture Tucholsky in English. I hope that more translations will be forthcoming, especially a volume focused on his political satires. The times are screaming for satire. Berlinica Publishing 255 West 43rd St. New York, NY, 10036 ISBN: 978-1-935902-21-8
Tucholsky in English: kurttucholsky.blogspot.com (my own translations)
August 31, 2013 1 Comment
A Stunning Brew of Shadow Operatives,
Double Agents, Renegade Scientists
and Secret Societies…
A Review of William Tyree’s The Fellowship
by Matthew Hoffman
In The Fellowship, author William Tyree infuses the variety of literary work often described as a “page-turner” with a smart and stunning brew of shadowy operatives, double agents, renegade scientists, secret societies, historical precedent and globe-hopping action that is both immensely entertaining and startlingly plausible. Tyree’s fiction picks up where his previous novel (Line of Succession, also a great read) left off and places the reader in a world where the United States is recovering from an attempted coup in which a series of coordinated terror attacks have nearly toppled the U.S. government. The body count of those in line for the position of “leader of the free world” is high, and sitting in the White House, thanks to the heroics of intelligence operative Blake Carver, is President Eva Hudson, former Secretary of the Treasury.
Carver is on exile from field work while congressional hearings attempt to get to the bottom of just what has happened and who was involved. Carver, laying low and confined to deskwork is part of a team monitoring Operation Crossbow; a project ostensibly designed to track the involvement of Adrian Zhu, a brilliant bio-engineer, and his involvement in any military projects. But Crossbow has spun out of control. Zhu, last seen attending the opera in Rome has disappeared into an armored vehicle and been involved in a shoot-out that has left a number of fatalities and a tantalizing clue: An octagon-shaped piece of red silk inscribed with a Latin phrase translated roughly as “Prepared for pain and torment, in God’s name.”
Shortly after Zhu vanishes, events involving high-ranking political figures subjected to a rather grisly form of torture hearkening back to the Inquisition, begin to unfold in other parts of the United States and Europe. Thus begins an adventure that compels the suits in the Intelligence Agency to release Carver back into the field to unravel a byzantine tapestry involving religious zealots, holy relics, lethal nanotechnology, reanimating biotechnology and a metaphysical obsession and rivalry of two former members of the Third Reich that leads to a heart-pounding showdown in the bowels of Vatican City.
Intrigued? I hope so, but it would be a disservice to Mr. Tyree’s wonderfully ornate construction to reveal too much of the storyline. Similarly, it would be unfair to the reader to compromise the thrill and pleasure of untangling the thread of the underlying mystery that motivates the various factions commanded by the fascinating characters who populate the world of The Fellowship.
Speaking of these characters, Mr. Tyree has created a magnificent anchor to his novels in the personage of Blake Carver. Neither a martini-quaffing, suave, super spy like Bond, nor a whisky slugging loner out of Chandler or Cain, Carver is a rock-solid, clean-shaven, lapsed-Mormon whose psychological tic is a hyperthymesia, or photographic recall of all that he has experienced. (A word one will no doubt find useful for casually dropping at the next cocktail party or chance encounter with Oliver Sacks.) In addition to the book’s engrossing dramatis personae replete with political functionaries, fugitive hackers, double agents and religious fanatics (among others) The Fellowship spirits the reader on a journey to a fascinating exploration of the trajectories of two characters critical to the action of the story, Heinz Lang and Sebastian Wolf. In a fascinating detour from the current day action, The Fellowship chronicles Wolf and Lang’s years as Reich School cadets and Tyree displays a genius for introducing an unsettling ambiguity into these characters. The novel leads the reader to a climax and denouement that is entirely satisfying, yet which intimates a possible, and for this reader, much-wished-for sequel.
Paperback: 526 pages
8 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
Massive Publishing, 2013
About the Reviewer:
Matthew Hoffman co-wrote the screenplay for the hybrid-documentary “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” and he also researched and authored for Metrobooks the first published mass-market biography on legendary crooner Tony Bennett. The musical, “Presidential Suite,” which he co-authored will receive its world premier in Los Angeles this September with an exclusive five-week run.
August 31, 2013 Comments Off on The Fellowship/Book Review