Thursday, March 31, 2011

Si, se puede!

In my home, growing up, Cesar Chavez was a hero. We didn't eat lettuce or grapes for two years, in support of the United Farm Workers.

This was, of course, before the Christ-in-Concrete crowd took hold of my Mom, and turned her into a Republican automaton, along with most other white people.

A testimony to Cesar's significance is the effect his name has upon the monied classes; what little pigment they possess is drained instantly from their faces, and spit-flecked apoplexy inevitably follows. They fucking hate him. Where I come from, there are streets and schools named for him, and it's like a little stab in the heart every time they see it. Which is great.

Cesar Chavez oughta be 84 today. The labor movement needs his kind of leadership—and determined optimism—now, more than ever.

Finale: Ted Hughes explains Crow

This is the final portion of Ted Hughes reading at Adelaide, explaining his take on the Crow myth.

I will write more about it later, but from my perspective, having read it again after setting it aside for awhile, I can tell you that it makes me very sad, indeed. Very sad.

Perhaps I'm too invested in the characters involved, or perhaps my interpretation is skewed by other factors, but right here, right now, the brilliance of this poetry, and the imaginitive narrative sewing it all together, is rather overwhelmed by the human implications; in this telling, no one gets out alive, and that's fucking too bad.

Isn't it?


"This is another of (Crow's) little plays. This is just notes for a play, since apart from when he just writes a song about what happens, he just writes notes for a possible director or producer. Just the notes that you might base a play on - no dialogue, no anything else, but the same two characters that he's stuck with:"

(Notes for a Little Play)

First — the sun coming closer, growing by the minute.
Next — clothes torn off.
Without a goodbye
Faces and eyes evaporate.
Brains evaporate.
Hands arms legs feet head and neck
Chest and belly vanish
With all the rubbish of the earth.

And the flame fills all space.
The demolition is total
Except for two strange items remaining in the flames —
Two survivors, moving in the flames blindly.

Mutations — at home in the nuclear glare.

Horrors — hairy and slobbery, glossy and raw.

They sniff towards each other in the emptiness.

They fasten together. They seem to be eating each other.

But they are not eating each other.

They do not know what else to do.

They have begun to dance a strange dance.

And this is the marriage of these simple creatures —
Celebrated here, in the darkness of the sun,

Without guest or God.

"He goes through all his trials and eventually he comes to a great river. Beyond this river is the Happy Land but sitting beside this river, on his bank, is a horrendous woman, an enormous, grotesque and gigantic woman, who forces him to carry her across the river. By one means or another, she gets up on his shoulders and he enters the river. And he wades out over the gravel and the current deepens, and as he gets deeper into the water her weight begins to increase until he finally has to stop. But her weight goes on increasing and drives his feet down into the gravel of the bed of the river, and the water rises to his mouth, runs past his mouth, and at that point she asks him a question. He has to sing the answer and he has to have the right answer. He begins, and he sings and, as he sings - as he gets a little bit of rightness here and a little bit of rightness there - her weight lightens. He keeps on trying to chip a bit of her weight off with little rightnesses until, finally, she's back to the weight she was and he's able to climb out of the holes and go on across the river. But as he goes on across the river, her weight begins to increase again and the whole thing happens again. She asks him another question.

"All the questions relate back to his encounters and his experiences with this being that he's been looking for. So they are all questions about the relationship between man and women - or Man and Woman. So they're all really love questions. And they're all dilemma questions, because they don't have an answer. So, this is one of his answers. And the question is "who paid most?". So he begins with the river running past his mouth. And he's only a half creature, so he's completely unmusical. He begins to try and chip little bits of her weight off him:"


He loved her and she loved him.
His kisses sucked out her whole past and future or tried to
He had no other appetite
She bit him she gnawed him she sucked
She wanted him complete inside her
Safe and sure forever and ever
Their little cries fluttered into the curtains

Her eyes wanted nothing to get away
Her looks nailed down his hands his wrists his elbows
He gripped her hard so that life
Should not drag her from that moment
He wanted all future to cease
He wanted to topple with his arms round her
Off that moment's brink and into nothing
Or everlasting or whatever there was

Her embrace was an immense press
To print him into her bones
His smiles were the garrets of a fairy palace
Where the real world would never come
Her smiles were spider bites
So he would lie still till she felt hungry
His words were occupying armies
Her laughs were an assassin's attempts
His looks were bullets daggers of revenge
His glances were ghosts in the corner with horrible secrets
His whispers were whips and jackboots
Her kisses were lawyers steadily writing
His caresses were the last hooks of a castaway
Her love-tricks were the grinding of locks
And their deep cries crawled over the floors
Like an animal dragging a great trap
His promises were the surgeon's gag
Her promises took the top off his skull
She would get a brooch made of it
His vows pulled out all her sinews
He showed her how to make a love-knot
Her vows put his eyes in formalin
At the back of her secret drawer
Their screams stuck in the wall

Their heads fell apart into sleep like the two halves
Of a lopped melon, but love is hard to stop

In their entwined sleep they exchanged arms and legs
In their dreams their brains took each other hostage

In the morning they wore each other's face

"Finally, this is a song taught to him by an eskimo guide that he meets, who teaches him a lot of little stories and songs which become his defence. This eskimo shows him how to adjust himself to the circumstances - in a series of little childish stories. This is one of them. 'How Water Began to Play':"

(How Water Began to Play)

Water wanted to live
It went to the sun it came weeping back
Water wanted to live
It went to the trees they burned it came weeping back
They rotted they came weeping back
Water wanted to live
It went to the flowers they crumpled it came weeping back
It wanted to live
It went to the womb it met blood
It came weeping back
It went to the womb it met maggot and rottenness
It came weeping back it wanted to die

It went to time it came through the stone door
It came weeping back
It went searching through all time and space for nothingness
It came weeping back it wanted to die

Till it had no weeping left
It lay at the bottom of things
Utterly worn out
utterly clear

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It's Eric Clapton's birthday. Reckon he and Jimi are my favorite guitarists.

I strongly believe in the healing powers of rock and roll. It restoreth the soul.

Doesn't get better than Cream, does it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Tyler Rose

I've always been a Cowboy's fan, which often as not the past decade has been like hitting myself in the head with a two-by-four once a week, come autumn. Never gave a damn about the Oilers (and give less than a damn about the Texans).

And as much as I loved Tony Dorsett and Emmett Smith, and respected Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, the greatest runner I ever saw was the Tyler Rose, Earl Campbell (who is 56 years old today).

And though I never saw Jimmy Brown or Gale Sayers play, I don't think it possible that they were better than Earl; though his career was brief—perhaps it's just not possible to play with that kind of intensity over a long career—for five seasons or so he was as good as anyone who ever played the game.

He was pretty damn good at the University of Texas, too, of course, winning the Heisman Trophy during a time when it still meant a little something. Barry Switzer (a total fucking wanker, who knows a little about football) said Earl was the only 18year-old he ever saw who could've gone straight to the NFL, and been a star.

I never saw a guy who punished opposing players like Earl did. Though he was just under six feet tall, he weighed nearly 250, and ran a 4.5 forty. He had 34 inch thighs—fuckthink about that!—34 fucking inches, man. That's just scary. And saying he ran a 4.5—which is fast—is still deceiving. He had another gear, that only great players have. When he needed to be, he was the fastest guy on the field.

The first video is a highlight reel. At around 2:50, watch him headbutt Isiah Robertson—an all-pro linebacker—and knock him on his ass. Earl did that kinda stuff all the time. Next is video of the culmination of his famous Monday Night Football performance against the Dolphins, an 81 yard sweep, that caused Howard Cosell to vibrate. No one did bombast quite like old Howard; what Earl was to grace and power, Howard was to hot air.

More Crow, more explication

This is part three of Ted Hughes' 1976 reading at Adelaide, in which he interspersed a number of his Crow poems with a pretty detailed account of Crow's origin.

These poems were begun a few years after Plath's death, and from what I understand the last was completed during the week prior to Assia's suicide (and Shura's murder).

Make of that what you will.


"As (Crow) goes along and has many adventures, everything that he meets tells a different story about what he does or what happens to him. So these are just various little episodes from it. This one is about the Black Beast:"


Where is the Black Beast?
Crow, like an owl, swivelled his head.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow hid in its bed to ambush it.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow sat in its chair, telling loud lies against the Black Beast.

Where is it?
Crow shouted after midnight, pounding the wall with a last,
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow split his enemy’s skull to the pineal gland.
Where is the Black Beast?

Crow crucified a frog under a microscope, he peered into the
brain of a dogfish.

Where is the Black Beast?

Crow roasted the earth to a clinker, he charged into space -
Where is the Black Beast?

The silences of space decamped, space flitted in every direction - Where is the Black Beast?

Crow flailed immensely through the vacuum, he screeched after the disappearing stars -Where is it?
Where is the Black Beast?

"A certain question begins to trouble him more and more and more - a fundamental, simple little question, "Who made me?". This turns into a quest for whoever it was that made him and he's quite successful in this quest. He keeps getting very close to whoever or whatever it is that made him, and whatever it is that made him always appears, or nearly appears, in some female form. So his journeys are a continual adventure or recurrent adventures with the Female in various forms. He has a series of encounters, and his misfortune is that he always bungles the encounter. He never understands that this is what he is actually looking for. This is just an account of one of his bungles:"

(A Horrible Religious Error)

When the serpent emerged, earth-bowel brown,
From the hatched atom
With its alibi twisted around it

Lifting a long neck
And balancing that deaf and mineral stare
The sphynx of the final fact

And flexing on that double flameflicker tongue
A syllable like the rusting of the spheres

God's grimace writhed, a leaf in the furnace

And man's and woman's knees melted, they collapsed
Their neck-muscles melted, their brows bumped the ground
Their tears evacuated visibly
They whispered 'Your will is our peace.'

But Crow only peered.
They took a step or two forward.
Grabbed this creature by the slackskin nape.

Beat the hell out of it, and ate it.

"God, who was first of all indulgent to him, becomes worried, because he sees that this is an alert little beast. So he begins to try and frustrate him. And the more he frustrates him the more able this creature becomes - the more obstacles infront of him the stronger he gets. So he becomes wiser, cleverer, stronger, and he becomes involved in all the cultures, intrigued by all the possibilities and the interesting tales. And early on, he encounters the literature of Oedipus, since he's so involved with his own search, and he reads Sophocles, and he reads Seneca, and he reads Freud. He sees, obviously, that this is open to everyone and he makes his own version. And by now he's begun to produce his own literature but his own literature is very crude. He produces plays and stories but he can never get more than two characters into the plays and stories - always the same two characters. So when he comes to deal with the Oedipus theme, he's stuck again with these two characters. This is a song from one of his plays - presumably the play is mimed while somebody sings the song - and, as a matter of fact, he steals the entire thing from Seneca:"

(Song for a Phallus)

There was a boy was Oedipus
Stuck in his Mammy's belly
His Daddy'd walled the exit up
He was a horrible fella

Mamma Mamma

You stay in there his Daddy cried
Because a dickeybird
Has told the world when you get born
You'll treat me like a turd

Mamma Mamma

His Mammy swelled and wept and swelled
With a bang he busted out
His Daddy stropped his hacker
When he heard that baby shout

Mamma Mamma

O do not chop his winkle off
His Mammy cried with horror
Think of the joy will come of it
Tomorrer and tomorrer

Mamma Mamma

But Daddy had the word from God
He took that howling brat
He tied its legs in crooked knots
And threw it to the cat

Mamma Mamma

But Oedipus he had the luck
For when he hit the ground
He bounced up like a jackinthebox
And knocked his Daddy down

Mamma Mamma

He hit his Daddy such a whack
Stone dead his Daddy fell
His cry went straight to God above
His ghost it went to hell

Mamma Mamma

The dickeybird came to Oedipus
You murderous little sod
The Sphynx will bite your bollocks off
This order comes from God.

Mamma Mamma

The Sphynx she waved her legs at him
And opened wide her maw
Oedipus stood stiff and wept
At the dreadful thing he saw

Mamma Mamma

He stood there on his crooked leg
The Sphynx began to bawl
Four legs three legs two legs one leg
Who goes on them all

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus took out an axe and split
The Sphynx from top to bottom
The answers aren't in me, he cried
Maybe your guts have got em

Mamma Mamma

And out there came ten thousand ghosts
All in their rotten bodies
Crying, You will never know
What a cruel bastard God is

Mamma Mamma

Next came out his Daddy dead
And shrieked about the place
He stabs his Mammy in the guts
And smiles into her face

Mamma Mamma

Then out his Mammy came herself
The blood poured from her bucket
What you can't understand, she cried
You sleep on it, or sing to it

Mamma Mamma

Oedipus raised his axe again
The World is dark, he cried
The world is dark one inch ahead
What's on the other side?

Mamma Mamma

He split his Mammy like a melon
He was drenched with gore
He found himself curled up inside
As if he had never been bore

Mamma Mamma

Monday, March 28, 2011

Crow explicated, part 2

Ted Hughes, at Adelaide, continued:

"But this world he appears into is a world where everything is happening simultaneously, so the beginning and end are present, and all the episodes of all history are present, as in all the different rooms of a gigantic hotel. And God, having come down into the world to see how this creature is going to size up - he, first of all, seeing what a wretched, black, horrible little nothing it is - he's rather indulgent toward it and tends to show it the beauties of the creation, and let it look on whilst he shows the marvels of the beginning.

"So this is an episode from the beginning, where God has created Man's and Woman's bodies and he's trying to get souls into them. The Talmudic legend is that, when God created Adam and Eve, he took soil from the four corners of the Earth, so that Man shouldn't feel lost whenever he wandered on the Earth. He moulded these two beautiful people but then he couldn't get the souls into them, because the souls out in the gulf - being just souls - were completely clairvoyant and knew everything that was going to happen to them. They didn't want to go into the bodies. So the great problem, before anything can happen at all in Talmudic literature, is how is the soul to be got into the body? God has this problem - a permanent problem - and Crow sees a short-cut (a very obvious short-cut) which has great consequences in the story later on. So this is what happened:"

(A Childish Prank)

Man's and woman's bodies lay without souls,
Dully gaping, foolishly staring, inert
On the flowers of Eden.
God pondered.

The problem was so great, it dragged him asleep.

Crow laughed.
He bit the Worm, God's only son,
Into two writhing halves.

He stuffed into man the tail half
With the wounded end hanging out.

He stuffed the head half headfirst into woman
And it crept in deeper and up
To peer out through her eyes
Calling it's tail-half to join up quickly, quickly
Because O it was painful.

Man awoke being dragged across the grass.
Woman awoke to see him coming.
Neither knew what had happened.

God went on sleeping.

Crow went on laughing.

Crow, explicated

This is from a reading Hughes gave at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, in 1976. None of this was ever committed to the page, though he talked of it publicly many times. I think it's safe to say that the story is as remarkable as the poems themselves.

Ted Hughes, at Adelaide (part one):
"I'll read some poems from a long children's story that I wrote which concerns a character who I called 'Crow'. These are just poems from along the way of the story.

"The story begins in heaven, where God is having a nightmare. The nightmare appears to God as a hand. And this hand, in his nightmare, is also a voice - so it is a voice-hand or a hand-voice. And this thing comes the moment he falls asleep. This thing arrives and grabs him round the throat, and throttles him and lifts him out of his heaven and rushes him through his universe and pushes him beyond his stars and then ploughs up the Earth with his face and throws him back into heaven. And...whenever he drowses off and falls asleep, this hand arrives and the whole thing happens again.

"God cannot understand what there can be in his creation which - (after all he is responsible for every atom in it) - he can't understand what there can be so strange to him and can be so hostile to him. So there's a long, long episode in heaven where he tries to get this nightmare to divulge its secret. Eventually, the voice which is the hand speaks. And the speech of the voice which is the hand is a terrible mockery of God's creation, particularly of the crown of his creation, which is Man.

"So this begins a great debate in heaven between God and his nightmare - about Man. And God is very defensive of Man. Man is a very good invention and a successful invention and, given the materials and the situation, he's quite adequate. The voice just continues with its mocking that Man is absolutely hopeless.

"It so happens, that while the debate has been going on, and even before, while God was continually absorbed in his nightmare, Man, on the Earth, had sent up a representative to the Gates of Heaven. This representative had been knocking on the marble gates and God had been so preoccupied with his nightmare that he hadn't heard him. So this little figure was sitting in the Gate of Heaven waiting for God to hear him. And now the voice which is a hand, as the absolute last, triumphant point of his argument, asks this little figure to speak - this little representative of Man. And it so happens that Man has sent this little figure up to ask God to take life back because men are fed up with it. God is enraged that Man has let him down in this way infront of the demon, so he challenges the voice to do better - given the materials and the whole set up - just to do better - produce something better than Man.

"This is what the voice has been negotiating for. So, with a great howl of delight, he plunges down into matter and God turns Man round and pushes him back down into the World. Then God is very curious to see what the production will be when this voice has produced whatever it is he wants to produce. Anyway, the voice begins to ferment and gestate in matter, and the little thing begins to develop - a little nucleus of something or other - a little embryo begins. But before it can get born, it has to go through all manner of adventures, which it goes through and, finally, it gets to the point of being born. Then, just before it can get born, there's an examination.

"This is his examination at the womb door - and it's a sort of vocal examination. So, I give you the question and the answer. And because of all the adventures he's been through, he's a very canny embryo - little figure now. So his answers are circumspect. And the first question in the examination is, 'Who owns these scrawny little feet?'. And he thinks - and thinks he's going to be outflanked in some way - so he thinks long thoughts, short thoughts, and he answers - 'Death':"

(Examination at the Womb-Door)

Who owns those scrawny little feet? Death.
Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death.
Who owns these still-working lungs? Death.
Who owns this utility coat of muscles? Death.
Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.
Who owns these questionable brains? Death.
All this messy blood? Death.
These minimum-efficiency eyes? Death.
This wicked little tongue? Death.
This occasional wakefulness? Death.

Given, stolen, or held pending trial?

Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
Who owns all of space? Death.

Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.

But who is stronger than Death?
Me, evidently.
Pass, Crow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Typical Plathian brilliance...

...especially impressionable upon dumb asses who happen to be awake (for no fucking good reason) at four ayem.

This poem scares the crap out of me.

Death & Co.

Two, of course there are two.
It seems perfectly natural now—
The one who never looks up, whose eyes are lidded
And balled¸ like Blake's.
Who exhibits

The birthmarks that are his trademark—
The scald scar of water,
The nude
Verdigris of the condor.
I am red meat. His beak

Claps sidewise: I am not his yet.
He tells me how badly I photograph.
He tells me how sweet
The babies look in their hospital
Icebox, a simple

Frill at the neck
Then the flutings of their Ionian
Then two little feet.
He does not smile or smoke.

The other does that
His hair long and plausive
Masturbating a glitter
He wants to be loved.

I do not stir.
The frost makes a flower,
The dew makes a star,
The dead bell,
The dead bell.

Somebody's done for.

—Sylvia Plath

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Poem for a cold, cold night

Today is the birthday for two poets I admire, A.E. Housman, and Robert Frost; and the centennial for another kind of poet, Tennessee Williams.

Not in the mood for any of them though, just now, great as they were. Having awoken, and found the dawn... gray....

Being therefore...desolate...and all that follows

Thomas Hardy, instead.


Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Were you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever consigned to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
And the woman calling.

Friday, March 25, 2011

He wasn't always ridiculous

There was a time when he was known for more than catfights with Lady Gaga.

It's Elton's birthday. He is 64.

He is so young, and sincere in these videos, you can forgive him anything. I think Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters—the second video—is my favorite of his songs, but just about everything up to Madman Across the Water was superb. He was a great artist.

U.S. woman drugged banker husband with milkshake, then beat him to death

Can this be the beginning of a socially responsible trend?

Read about it here.

Perhaps her motives weren't pure—it's results we're interested in.

A little Yeatsian nightmusic

Remorse for Intemperate Speech

I ranted to the knave and fool,
But outgrew that school,
Would transform the part,
Fit audience found, but cannot rule
My fanatic heart.

I sought my betters: though in each
Fine manners, liberal speech,
Turn hatred into sport,
Nothing said or done can reach
My fanatic heart.

Out of Ireland have we come.
Great hatred, little room,
Maimed us at the start.
I carry from my mother's womb
A fanatic heart.

—W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The 400

As Michael Moore pointed out not long ago, 400 families in this country control more than half the wealth—closer to 60%, actually. They use this wealth to influence—fuck that, control—every branch of government, as well as the news media. Not merely to maintain their wealth, but to create more of it—they are voracious, without conscience.

And yet, they are relatively secure in their persons. Walk among us, as if they hadn't a care in the world. Go to restaurants, theaters, ballparks—stroll down our streets—with seeming impunity.

Why is it, I wonder? These Attilas and their families have wreaked devestation upon us, stolen our prosperity, right from under our feet. Ruined families, bankrupted nations, even led us into needless wars, killing and maiming thousands—you'd think they'd need armed escorts wherever they went, wouldn't you? How can they enjoy a meal at a public restaurant, unmolested—O.J. Simpson couldn't. How much worse are the Koch brothers, or Donald Trump, or Richard Mellon Scaife?

Perhaps this is the last weapon in our arsenal, outside of a Michael Collins-type resistance (bringing war directly to their front porches). Perhaps if people would respond to them with catcalls and disgust, along with various projectiles, some behavior modification might be accomplished. Maybe if little Buffy or Bitsy regularly came home from a night on the town wearing tomato-stained clubwear, or if Skippy or Biff was to lose a molar or two every now and again just for the hell of it, a tempering might occur. No one wants to be a pariah, not even sociopaths like The Four Hundred. And really, who deserves it more?

I dunno, just an idea. In any war, one must use the weapons at one's disposal. When the game is fixed everywhere you turn—when even the so-called Change President turns out to be an employee of Goldman Sachs—every form of resistance is on the table.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


No special reason, just cause I love her.

This is from a guest spot on the fucking Cavett show.

Her vulnerability kinda breaks your heart, doesn't it?

Ten ways to protect your home from Zombies

One can't be too careful, these days. Glenn Beck gets em all riled up, before you know it they're all over your front lawn.

From Weekly World News:
1. Build your home in a remote area: on a mountain, in the woods, in the desert or on the moon like MJ did. Zombies concentrate in areas with large human populations since human flesh is their source of sentience, so living in a remote area with few inhabitants with increase your chances of survival.
2. Tall Fences: Building a tall smooth surfaced fence will prevent zombies from entering your property. Muscle tissue deteriorates in the transformation process rendering zombies incapable of scaling walls.
3. Pit traps: Dig several large holes in the ground and cover them with big tree branches and leaves. If a zombie finds a way to breach your perimeter, the pit trap will provide the same defense as the tall fence.
4. Build all doors out of solid wood or metal: Zombies do not have a great deal of strength due to the muscle deterioration as mentioned above. The strength of a zombie will be no match against a well enforced door. Windows should also be reinforced in the event of a zombie invasion.
5. Well water vs. public water: Have a well on your property, in the event of a zombie outbreak you cannot rely on public water supply. The workers at your local water treatment facility might be zombies and everyone knows that zombies have absolutely no work ethic.
6. Generators and fuel: Knowing the work ethics of zombies, or lack there of, it is best to have a generator at your residence in order to maintain your preferred quality of life. A hearty supply of fuel will be needed as well to insure continued use of your generator.
7. Sound diversions: Zombies have an acute sense of hearing. If your property is large enough, install speakers at the perimeter of your property. If a perimeter breech occurs play loud sounds to lure the zombies away from your home and loved ones. Your generator will come in handy here.
8. Weapons: If you find that you have no other choice but to fight, a sharp long machete or a scythe are good weapons of choice as you will be able to maintain a distance whilst decapitating your undead assailants.
9. Own a mobile home: The best way to evade a zombie attack is to constantly be on the move. A mobile home is a good option as it allows you to flee from an attack of the undead without sacrificing the comforts of home.
10. If you can’t beat them, join them: You might end up eating your first born but at least you won’t have to pay for their college tuition.

Number ten is obviously a joke. Better to douse yourself with lighting fluid, and ignite.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Bumper-Sticker Hate"

Just when you think you've heard it all.

Moon-faced white men in Minnesota have proposed making it a crime for families geting government assistance to access more than $20 a month.

From FightBack!NEWS:
Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all. On March 15, Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee testified in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on House File 171. Buechner told committee members, “We would like to address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of the MFIP grant - and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?”

House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP - and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid - could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card. The bill also calls for unconstitutional residency requirements, not allowing the debit card to be used across state lines and other provisions that the Welfare Rights Committee and others consider unacceptable.

Buechner testified, “We’ll leave you with this. It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. You in this room could have a pretty rough time if that was the case. It is not right to stigmatize and dehumanize women living the hard life of trying to raise children while living 60% below the poverty level. It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”

What can you say? Another day, another outrage. Or 2, or 3, or 5.

They are relentless, and incapable of shame.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Harlow

Jean harlow is TCM's Star-of-the-Month. This is the video they constructed to promote it. I love practically everything they do over there, but this sorta knocked my socks off—demonstrates such a keen understanding of who Harlow was, why everyone who loves movies should see her's. Included, also, is a short video tribute.

TCM is class, all the way.

This month is the centenniel of Jean harlow's birth. To learn more about this great actress, click here. She's one of a kind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jerry Jeff

Summer's nights in Texas City were usually thick with heat and fireflies. Mosquitos, too, if there was rain, recently, and there usually had been. One such night, and into the early hours of morning, found Mike Titus, Bobby Hendrix, and me drinking beer in my pick-up, parked in front of the library, on the cruise. We were listening to Waylon, and Willie, and Jerry Jeff, like always, when the subject of Luckenbach came up. Jerry Jeff was always talking about Luckenbach—he was big friends with Hondo Crouch, the Imagineer who owned it, and had recorded "Viva Terlingua" there—and Waylon had made a song about it that we were all very impressed by. It seemed like the epicenter of everything—next to Austin, of course.

It was nearly August, and we were feeling a little jaded, and a little disgusted by the scene; sorta bored with everything. About 4 am, it was decided that we were gonna meet up at Mike's at 7, and head up to Luckenbach.

Bobby never showed. We waited till 8 to call, and his mother said he was sleeping, and that she couldn't wake him up. We didn't wait.

Luckenback is located a little ways off Hwy. 290, in the hill country, about 80 miles due west from Austin. Near Johnson City, if you know the territory. Neither of us had ever been there, though it's not all that far from Cherokee, which is my home town.

Took us about 6 hours to make it there, so we rolled in about 3 pm. It was dusty, and hot. Lots of grasshoppers, working real hard at becoming locusts. There were two buildings, that I can remember, a post office and a general store. We didn't see the dance hall. There wasn't a soul around.

We walked into the store, which looked something like the pictures from Jerry Jeff's record jacket. Npbody there, either, except an old lady with stringy hair, perched on a stool behind the counter. She was reading a romance novel, but set it down when we walked over. "Howdy, how 'y'all?", she said, sounding interested in thr response. We tipped our hats, said we were doing pretty well. Made a little small talk.

Finally, I asked, "Has Jerry Jeff been around?"

No, she said, she didn't know anyone by that name—she knew someone once named Jacky Joe, but no Jerry Jeff.

"What about Waylon?"

She scrunched her eyes. "No, I don't think—Oh, you mean that big-shot singer? What would he be doin here?"

As we walked away, we could hear her laughing to herself. "Lord, I had all his money, I would'n be nowheres near this ol place."

We didn't know that Hondo had died, the year before. Place was sort of in limbo, I guess, But we'd believed if we played our cards right, we'd run into Jerry Jeff, and/or some of the boys from Lost Gonzo Band—or Waylon or Willie, at least—just hanging around. Picking guitar, on the porch. Like on the record jacket. Well, maybe we didn't completely believe that—but we sure thought we'd find more than just bugs and stringy hair and romance novels.

We headed back to Austin. I'd heard Jerry Jeff lived somewhere near Convict Hill, southwest of town. We'd just cruise around and ask, listen for him playing—no one sounds like Jerry Jeff. We did party in town a few nights, and had a pretty good time. On the third day, we found Jerry Jeff's car.

It was at a filling station right next to convict hill, where 71 West makes the turn to Llano. A '57 Chevy, I believe it was. And the sign on the windshield, big as life, said: FOR SALE BY JERRY JEFF WALKER.

The guy in the station said Jerry Jeff had dropped the car by that very morning. Said he didn't know where he lived, though it was nearby, and that he would be stopping by again some time, though he wasn't sure when. "You never know, with that feller," the man laughed.

We were running low of money, but did the only sensible thing we knew to do. We camped in the parking lot of an empty building across the street, and we waited. Two days, and Jerry Jeff never showed. Beginning of the third day, Mike tried to turn his truck on for a little AC—cause it was hot—and all we heard was the solenoid clicking. The damn starter was out, which cost us forty dollars, which was most of our cash. The guy at the station lent us some tools, so we replaced the thing that evening, when it cooled down. Around midnight, Jerry Jeff still hadn't showed. After gorging ourselves at Whataburger, we weren't sure if we had enough gas to make it, but we headed home.

We made it as far as Alvin, before the truck limped to the gas pump of a convenience store, around 5 am. We had fifty cents between us, and we were emptying out Lone Star bottles so that we could return the empties for gas (we still had nearly two cases of beer on ice—at least our priorities were right). We'd poured out a couple of six-packs when this old guy walking by started laughing like hell. He asked just what in hell we thought we were doing, and we explained our dilemma. Our trek to find Jerry Jeff. The dust, the heat, the grasshoppers. The '57 Chevy. The starter. He handed us five dollars. "Will that get you home?" he asked.

We offered him the rest of our beer, but he declined, but did give us his address, so we could mail him the money (which Mike did, the following week). He said he didn't drink Lone Star, and he didn't know who Jerry Jeff Walker was, but figured he must be pretty important, for us to go to all that trouble. And, of course, to us, he was. We may have been stupid and naive, but we loved Jerry Jeff, with hearts that were relatively pure.

We were back on the cruise that evening, a Saturday. By 2 or so, we were at the parking lot again with Bobby, drinking beer and complaining, about the sticky heat, the mosquitos, and the waning cruise.

It's Jerry Jeff's birthday, celebrated in Austin by a night at the Paramount, and another at Gruene Hall. Wish we were there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Paula Jane posted a link on her facebook to Rufus and Chaka Khan doing a couple of songs—including the incredible Tell Me Somethin Good—and it reminded me of the first time I saw em—it was on Soul Train, which I watched faithfully on channel 39, every Saturday at noon. I was pretty young, but I gotta tell you, Chaka had quite an effect.

Don't get me wrong, I loved Rufus—they seemed like about the coolest motherfuckers on the planet—I loved how the guitarists dressed, their Panther-like personas—you know? This badass Bobby Seale kinda thing, tall and defiant, using their guitars like weapons in the social revolution we all imagined was happening around us. And that sound—it just sorta cut right through you. They could fucking play.

But Chaka.

Oh, Chaka.

Chaka moved me.

Chaka affected me in a special way—the kind of way that my football coaches had warned me about.

Understand, I am the son of a beautiful woman. All my friends had crushes on my Mom. I didn't like having them over to my house, cause they would construct reasons to be around her. They would sit at the kitchen table, and stare at her. Wherever we went, I would see men gawking at her—winking, whistling, surreptitiously ogling. It was sickening, and I hated them—hated that leering, wet-lipped countenance that would transform them, from Jim, the produce manager at the Texas Super, or Cooter, the smiling half-wit who bagged our groceries, into disgusting, degenerate assholes. "Not me," I would tell myself, in my most earnest, aggressively certain inner voice. "I will never be like that."

And it was true. I was not like that. Until that day. And Soul Train. And Don Cornelius—the real Godfather of Soul, with apologies to James Brown—telling us about a new band. And Chaka beginning to move, and sing, and move some more.

I felt a tremor. What was that?, I asked myself, perplexed. How odd. Hope I'm not coming down with something—Coach won't like it if I miss practice. Chaka is writhing, though. Thrusting her hips a little, on the chorus. The room begins feeling warm. I feel another tremor—then another. Then it was like the scene in The Wolfman where Lon Chaney Jr. watches himself, helplessly, and in mute horror, as he becomes something else. Something monstrous. I felt my face burning, my lips become dry as ash, my eyes narrow into a pathetic approximation of a leer—and I realized: I was becoming like them.

I had previously been affected by Laura Petrie and Emily Hartley—though my attentions were, in comparison, vastly more chaste. Coach Green wouldn't have condoned my furtive admiration, but he would've let it slide. Not this, though. Not in a million years.

Just looking at Chaka could cost our team 2, maybe 3 wins. And I didn't care.

I was no longer pure, of heart or mind. And body was operating on borrowed time.

When she finished, I sat there awhile. I resolved to do more sit-ups, more push-ups, for the next week. Run a few extra laps. I would avert Coaches look, the next few days. Maybe he wouldn't be able to tell. Maybe everything would be as it was. Maybe we could still win district.

But deep down, I must've known better. We didn't win district. And it was never the same.

Two videos, for your perusal. First, the very recording I told you of—Rufus and Chaka Khan, premiering Tell Me Somethin Good, on Soul Train. I'm sure you'll understand, after you see for yourself. And please—for God's sake—hide the small children and the Republicans.

Next, Soul Train line-dancing to Love Train. My Mom told me line-dancing came from the fifties—said they did it on American Bandstand sometimes, to songs like CC Rider, and The Stroll, which was actually written as a line-dance. I fucking loved it when they did it on Soul Train—it was just so damn cool.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Late Show

My love affair with the 1940's began with Raymond Chandler, pages and pages of prose as lyrical as anything you'll ever read, filled with sentences so gorgeous and evocative that the pleasure of reading them might conceivably take the top of your head off (if you're greedy, and don't pace yourself). It is work grounded deeply in its place and time. Human nature may be changeless, but the digs in which it occurs can be catalyst for the best and worst of its expression; the new urban landscape that birthed Le Fleurs du Mal drove Eliot to despair, Yeats to the artifice of eternity, Pound to the artifice of the fascista, and poor Hart Crane, who desired to create something bright and new from a cultural vacuum, to the very real depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

This new reality was confronted directly by numbers of new American writers in the latter days of the (first) great depression, writers untroubled by the mythos of some unrealized shining city on the hill, who scarcely acknowledged remembering the existence of other centuries. Chandler was best of these, by far, and not only because of his poetry. His detective, Marlowe, waded into the corruption, and did what he could; and though he girded himself with sarcasm, irony, and cynicism, he could be counted on to confront the inhumane with every bit of humanity he can muster. It was usually enough, though not always—yet another example of how Marlowe—whose name is an allusion to one as morally ambiguous as as the mean streets of prewar America that Chandler's hero travelled—was a man for his time.

Oh, and Chandler could write!—paragraphs like this:

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge." (from Red Wind)

I just finished re-watching a film that is criminally underseen, and underappreciated, Robert Benton's The Late Show, starring Art Carney, and Lily Tomlin. Though it was made in 1977, it captures every every essence of what I love about the art of the 40's.

Carney plays Ira Wells, a sixty-something retired PI with a limp, a flowering belly, and an ulcer that's kind of like Mt. St. Helens. While he doesn't exist mainly on heat (like General Sternwood in The Big Sleep), he does make do on vanilla ice cream and canasta, along with the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. It seems that everything about Ira is passe, in late seventies LA, from his rumpled suits to his square-cut neckties, his hard-boiled sensibility, his inviolable moral code. He is an anachronism, and that's okay with him; the world is a stinking place, and Ira's reached a stage in his life where he's just waiting it out.

When his partner from the old days shows up at the door one day, with a .45 slug in his gut, and a death-stunted boast of a grift on his lips, Ira is moved to action. He discovers that his friend was working on a penny-ante cat-napping case for Margo (Lily Tomlin), a thirty-something new-age hippy-type screwball, introduced to him by an information peddler from the old days, Charlie. He agrees to finish the job, thinking that it will lead him to the murderer. Which, of course, it does.

I should mention that in spite all of the noir elements I spoke of, this is a film chiefly about human relationships, about Ira and Margo, two misfits adrift in an era too pleased with itself by half. Along the way, they find one another, in a way that is surprising, screwy, and tender, maybe the best commentary one can make about these zeitgeist-addled times: There can always be hope, if you will look for it.

Everything about this film works, from the funny, stylized, literate screenplay, to the superlative performances, beginning with the two leads, Carney and Tomlin. Ii's well worth your time, and I urge you to see it (available, on DVD, from netflix).

Occurred to me, as I watched the last minutes of this picture, that it might be seen as a swan song, of sorts, for the 40's, all those great films, those great actors and writers—Chandler, Hammett, Bogart, Bacall, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Mike Mazursky, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., John Payne, Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy—so many more. And it's rather moving, the way the best of an era can be epitomized by the best of its pictures—even when they're released 30 years late.

So, yeah. Like Ira said, there's too damn much talk in the world as it is. Put this picture in your queue, you'll thank me later, I promise.

One more Chandlerism, the way out the door:

"What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill. You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now."

Yeah...*sigh*...Now on to the The Late Show trailer....

Sunday, March 13, 2011


All over the web (Reuters, here) it is being reported that Atlantis may have been located.

"A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain. "This is the power of tsunamis," head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters.

"Using satellite photos, Professor Freunds and his freunds say they've found the remains of a city, just north of Cadiz in Spain. They say that it has the multiringed characteristics that many associate with the legendary Atlantis. And they say that it was wiped out by a tsunami."


It's gotta be real. It's gonna be a National Geographic special, and everything.

Well, would it be on TV if it warn't true??? Didn' think so.

In tribute:

Hail, Atlantis!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hey Jack Kerouac

A fucked-up self-loathing Catholic living inside a pretty immense talent, Jean-Louis Kerouac was born this day, in 1922.

From a letter he wrote to Edie, in 1957: "I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity.

It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about.

I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Some Truths Remain Self-Evident

Found this graph at Think Progress. Stats were compiled by Karla Walter and David Madland of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Kinda speaks for itself, don't you think?

Unions created the fucking middle class—how can this even be debated, by serious, intellectually honest people?

The Truth About Love

Awake again at a ridiculous hour. Been reading the news from Wisconsin, etc., all day, and my head hurts.

There will be time enough to save the world. Without poetry, though, it's really not worth saving, is it? And Auden is always a fit, no matter how you're feeling, but especially when things seem to have stopped making sense. A poet of uncommon humanity, humor, moral clarity. Unlike some—Eliot, Yeats, Stevens, for example— he provides a progressive model of how to live in a ruined century on its own terms, to survive somehow in urban landscapes in a way that is consistent with our ancient hopes, and our liberal values. Don't know about you, but just now, I'm needing some of that.

O Tell Me The Truth About Love

Some say love's a little boy,
And some say it's a bird,
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that's absurd,
And when I asked the man next-door,
Who looked as if he knew,
His wife got very cross indeed,
And said it wouldn't do.

Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite smooth at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.

Our history books refer to it
In cryptic little notes,
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats;
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides,
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian,
Or boom like a military band?
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand?
Is its singing at parties a riot?
Does it only like Classical stuff?
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

I looked inside the summer-house;
It wasn't over there;
I tried the Thames at Maidenhead,
And Brighton's bracing air.
I don't know what the blackbird sang,
Or what the tulip said;
But it wasn't in the chicken-run,
Or underneath the bed.

Can it pull extraordinary faces?
Is it usually sick on a swing?
Does it spend all its time at the races,
or fiddling with pieces of string?
Has it views of its own about money?
Does it think Patriotism enough?
Are its stories vulgar but funny?
O tell me the truth about love.

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

—W.H. Auden

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Outrageous: A Call to Action

I'm sure you've read the news out of Wisconsin.

And have seen the headlines from Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, New Jersey, etc...

We are under attack.

That's the long and short of it.

Our values, our hopes, our core principles, our possibility.

These twisted freaks have been waiting for their chance for a long time. Their grandfathers tried to take out FDR, and their gambit lost—but do not believe for a minute that America's corporate elite did not long for fascism when that train was running on-time in the thirties, and are not panting for it now. This is not only about money, I hope you know that. Over the past 40 years, they've taken most of that already, and the Bush years were a free-for-all-corporatists that the Obama administration has shown no inclination to remedy. This is about power. Hate. Destruction. This is about the erection of a fascist state.

Maybe I'm too angry to be writing this, just now. Then again, maybe I need to try and bottle it—keep it—maybe I need to stay angry, maybe all of us do.

Maybe we need to be willing to make the same sacrifices that some of our ancestors made. Maybe, before it's over, we'll need a Michael Collins, to make our case.

But this is intolerable. This cannot stand. We cannot allow this to stand.


If you haven't been reading the bullshit fucking piece of shit story regarding a couple of NPR fundraisers getting punked on camera by the Nazi-faced creep pictured on the right, you can do so here. Notice how, in this story posted at the Huffington-fucking-Post—an on-line news source that was built by liberals, for liberals—the word SCANDAL is repeatedly used.


What fucking SCANDAL?????

The only scandal is that NPR's gutless board didn't stand up for her.

Where is the fucking story here, even? A couple of fundraisers letting offensive comments made by an offensive prospective giver of five million dollars go unchallenged? Wow, that's really surprising, isn't it? Or being caught saying nasty things about the tea-party loons—or the republican pricks who are constantly trying to defund them? And these two weren't even involved in fucking programming!!!!! They're fundraisers, for God's sake!!!!!

Why is this a story?—I'll tell you fucking why—because the news media is corporate owned. And because the twisted little Hitler-Youth fuckwad behind it MUST be reported, as if what he was doing mattered—as if it was legitimate news, deserving comment by serious people— either because of the corporate influence, or because they've been cowed into doing it by these idiotic arguments of balance, and fairness, which produce news that is neither balanced or fair. False equivalencies—Michael Moore is the same as Ann Coulter, Keith Olberman is the same as Bill O'Reilly, Rachel Maddow is the same as Glenn-fucking-Beck—and it's absolute bullshit. Anyone with an IQ north of 90 can tell it's bullshit. But it gets reported, anyway.

But dammit, the Huffington Post is supposed to be different.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another poem, for a ridiculously early morning...

...And why am I awake, so ridiculously early? Or late, such as it may be? It is masochistic.

O, always the soft idiot, softly me, as Mr. Auden has said.

There is no good answer, especially at four ayem.

Merely commiseration.

Tomorrow (or, um, later today) I shall walk about like the monks in the Holy Grail:

Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Oh, well.

It's only a flesh wound. Figuratively, of course.

Law, Like Love

Law, say the gardeners, is the sun,
Law is the one
All gardeners obey
To-morrow, yesterday, to-day.

Law is the wisdom of the old,
The impotent grandfathers feebly scold;
The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

Law, says the priest with a priestly look,
Expounding to an unpriestly people,
Law is the words in my priestly book,
Law is my pulpit and my steeple.

Law, says the judge as he looks down his nose,
Speaking clearly and most severely,
Law is as I've told you before,
Law is as you know I suppose,
Law is but let me explain it once more,
Law is The Law.

Yet law-abiding scholars write:
Law is neither wrong nor right,
Law is only crimes
Punished by places and by times,
Law is the clothes men wear
Anytime, anywhere,
Law is Good morning and Good night.

Others say, Law is our Fate;
Others say, Law is our State;
Others say, others say
Law is no more,
Law has gone away.

And always the loud angry crowd,
Very angry and very loud,
Law is We,
And always the soft idiot softly Me.

If we, dear, know we know no more
Than they about the Law,
If I no more than you
Know what we should
and should not do
Except that all agree
Gladly or miserably
That the Law is
And that all know this
If therefore thinking it absurd
To identify Law with some other word,
Unlike so many men
I cannot say Law is again,

No more than they can we suppress
The universal wish to guess
Or slip out of our own position
Into an unconcerned condition.
Although I can at least confine
Your vanity and mine
To stating timidly
A timid similarity,
We shall boast anyway:
Like love I say.

Like love we don't know where or why,
Like love we can't compel or fly,
Like love we often weep,
Like love we seldom keep.

—W.H. Auden

Monday, March 7, 2011


Townes Van Zandt oughta be 67 today.

First, a really excellent version of Waitin' Around to Die. Next, a brief interview and song from 1984's Austin Pickers (Townes does Racin' in the Streets). Third, His son JT sings Blaze Foley's Clay Pigeons, on the patio over at Threadgills, looking and sounding a helluva lot like his daddy. Last is probably my favorite of his songs, Lover's Lullabye, recorded not long before his death.

Townes lived hard, and died way too damn young. He was a truly one of the greats.

A Poem for You

A few lines from the greatest poet to write English amid the ruin we refer to as the twentieth century.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

—William Butler Yeats

Admittedly, this poem, written when he was scarcely 30, is emblematic of the early romantic period some scoff at.

I rather like it.

Besides, even minor Yeats is better than most anything else.

Where does it go, you think? That which dwindles, into air?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Remember the Alamo

175 years ago today, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Barret Travis, and 179 of their compadres died at the Alamo.

Col. Travis died in the first hour of the final assault, defending the north wall. Emptying his pistol into the invaders, he perished from a single gunshot to the head.

Col. Bowie had been ill for days, and mostly bedridden, suffering either from typhoid or viral pneumonia. He died on his cot, back against the wall, spent pistols at his side, enemy troops on the floor.

Col. Crockett died in the final assault with the rest of his volunteers, defending the low wall front of the church. Eyewitnesses have said there were a total of 16 Mexican troops dead on the ground around him.

Just as he would so inadviseably order at Goliad several weeks later, no quarter was given. Just as at Goliad, the bodies of the Texas dead were piled together and set on fire, left for the critters. Santa Anna believed this would scare them away from engaging his army again, just as others, in subsequent years, thought shock and awe to be enough. Instead, he intensified the Texas resolve, and volunteers began pouring in to defeat him. Had he shown a little mercy, who knows?—he may have won, and history may have been quite different .

Bob Wills Is Still the King

Today is Bob Wills birthday.

If you don't know who he is, you probably don't come from Texas, so don't admit it.

My Granddad told me that he saw Bob and his Texas Playboys dozens of times; for awhile in the thirties, he said, seemed like every weekend you could find em playing at some fair or rodeo thereabouts.

Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys for the price of a ticket to a damn rodeo. Blows my mind.

In the little towns of Texas, they still play Bob's music all the time. If you had to choose a soundtrack for Texas, it could be no one else, not even Willie, not even Waylon, cause they couldn't have happened without him.

First video is my favorite of his songs Big Ball's in Cowtown. Fucking rocks.

Next, the favorite song of my Grandmother (on my mom's side), and probably their best known tune, San Antonio Rose. This was recorded at the Grand Old Opry according to the title, though it doesn't look like the Opry to me, plus they're not wearing their hats, and they look like they're all slicked up to be presentable to Yankees, or some other foreigners, though, hell, who knows. Bob and the Opry didn't always get on real well, being that he insisted on using drums (they weren't allowed at the Opry in those days. Bob began his career working in tent and minstrel shows; you'll see that he's pretty active on stage, and emits odd noises. Do not laugh. It's like admitting you don't *get* the Great Bob Wills, and you will be required to sit back of the class. And if people throw shit at you and call you rude names, oh well.

The third is a weird curiosity kinda video, the Stones doing Waylon's immortal Bob Wills Is Still the King, from '07, at Zilker Park, in Austin. It is strange, but respectful, and it's really funny to hear Jagger trying to sound Texas-y.

Last is an incredible video. It's the favorite song of my other Grandmother (on my Dad's side)(in Texas, what Elvis is to moms, Bob Wills is to grandmoms), Faded Love, one of the first songs Bob wrote. It was recorded long after Bob had passed away, sometime in the eighties, at the Texas Playboys' final performance. It is, in fact, the final song they ever perform, together, and I urge you to watch it. It's very affecting.

(If you see acts calling themselves the Texas Playboys, they are really just a tribute act. Most of em are long dead)

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Charlie Goodnight, upon whom Captain Woodrow Call was loosely based, was born this day, in 1836.

If you're not familiar with Charlie's life and accomplishments, you can read more about him here. In 1867, when he and his friend Oliver Loving were taking a herd to New Mexico, Loving rode ahead with one of the scouts to negotiate a price before their arrival. He was reckless, though, and travelled during the daylight. Mortally wounded by Comanches, he managed to make his way into Fort Sumner, and died there, of gangrene poisoning. Loving made Goodnight promise to bring him back to Texas for burial. Leaving Loving's body there to winter while he drove on ahead to Denver with the herd, he fetched him in the spring, and kept his word.

It's also said that the gravestone that Captain Call carved out for Deets is based on one that Charlie carved for one of his riders:


Yep. Best not start thinking about old Deets.

J. Frank Dobie said that Charlie Goodnight was the greatest of all Texas cowboys. In the parlance of my Granddads time, that's a lotta country. Perhaps it's symbolic that he came into this world while El Deguello was drifting over the Alamo walls, making the fitful sleep of our boys there, their last night upon this earth, more mournful, still.

175 years ago, today.

Friday, March 4, 2011


The first thing you should know about Jean Harlow is that she was referred to among her family and friends as "Baby". She did not know her given name—Harlean—until she began school, at age 5.

The crews on the movies she worked on loved her, for her kindness and her lack of pretension. Between scenes, she'd be more likely discovered shooting craps with them than back in her dressing trailer. She had a soft heart, and was known for it; many was the time they'd come to her, with a problem, or for a loan, and she never turned em away.

She never wanted to be an actress. That ambition was all her mother's (as was the name—Jean Harlow). She was discovered by accident, at 17 years old. She drove an actress friend to the Fox Studios. While waiting in the car, studio execs noticed her, offered her work. After relating the incident to her mother, her resistence was worn down, and she was on contract later in 1928. The following year, she was noticed by Howard Hughes, who cast her in his megahit Hell's Angels. She was a sensation, though not because of her acting. In fact, the critics universally agreed that her performance not only in Hell's Angels, but in each of her early pictures, was pretty awful. Variety pointed out the obvious, though, in 1930. "It doesn't matter what degree of talent she possesses—nobody ever starved possessing what she's got."

It was often her mother's persona you'd see on screen. She was always quick to say that she was nothing like the women she portrayed, and her friends back her up. "Jean was always cheerful, full of fun," said Myrna Loy, who was one of her closest friends, "but she also happened to be a sensitive woman with a great deal of self-respect. All that other stuff --that was put on. She just happened to be a good actress who created a lively characterization that exuded sex appeal."

She never wore underwear. And though she slept in the raw, every morning she would crumple up a nightgown, and leave it on her bed. She was embarrassed for her maid to know.

Though she was popular, her pictures were pretty bad, and her acting did not elevate them. Audiences flocked to see them, though, by virtue of her...charisma. It wasn't until 1932, when she was noticed by Irving Thalberg, and her contract was purchased by MGM, that she was given the opportunity and the guidance she needed to become a legend. It was simply a matter of relaxing on-screen. Once she did, audiences could sense her earthiness and her sense of humor—she was goddamn funny, had a natural comic gift—which, if anything, only enhanced the sensuality she projected on-screen. Red Headed Woman and Red Dust were the first two films she made there, both opposite Clark Gable. If you haven't seen her shower scene (in a rain-barrel) in Red Dust, you are film-deprived. "She was 21 in Red Dust," observed contemporary producer David Stenn. "I audition hundreds of actresses every year and I have yet to see one with that kind of poise, that grace. The physicality of Jean Harlow's performances, the comfort she has with her body, you don't see that today because actresses don't learn it."

I love her in those pictures, as well as Dinner at Eight, China Seas, Libelled Lady, and a number of others—but it was Bombshell that really sold it, for me. My words could never do justice to her performance—just thinking of the scene on the staircase, where she tells em all off, I feel a little thrill, the memory of something absolutely unique and extraordinary—and how she was able to be so fucking funny, so fucking vulnerable, and so fucking sexy—simultaneously—I cannot tell you. It's a damn rare feat.

The original Rin Tin Tin and his trainer, Lee Duncan, lived across the street from Harlow. In 1932, he and the German Shepard were fooling around, when the dog—14 years old at the time—was stricken with some kind of illness. Harlow ran across the street to help, and while Duncan was fetching a vet, Rin Tin Tin died, in her arms.

She was quoted as saying: "Men like me because I don't wear a brassiere. Women like me because I don't look like a girl who would steal a husband. At least, not for long."

From childhood, Marilyn Monroe idolized her, patterning herself after her, and later becoming rather spooked at the similarities in their lives. "I kept thinking of her, rolling over the facts of her life in my mind," Marilyn is quoted, in 1957. "(It's) kind of spooky, and sometimes I (think), am I making this happen? But I don't think so. We just seem to have the same spirit or something, I don't know. I keep wondering if I will die young like her, too." It was her dream to portray Harlow, in a bio-pic, and she went so far as to meet with Harlow's mother, a month before she died. It was to be her next project. Interestingly, her last film was The Misfits, with Clark Gable. Harlow's, of course, was Saratoga—with Clark Gable.

"She didn't want to be famous," Gable has been quoted as saying, about Harlow. "She wanted to be happy."

There are many misperceptions about Harlow, but one of the most persistent is that she died because her religious beliefs precluded medical treatment. Another is that she was misdiagnosed by a quack, and died needlessly. In truth, she was receiving constant medical care, and while it's true that her doctor missed the diagnosis, it didn't matter. She died from advanced kidney disease, caused probably by a case of scarlet fever she suffered when she was a child, and there was no treatment in 1937 that could've saved her.

William Powell, her fiance, and Myrna Loy, maybe her closest friend, were filming Double Wedding when Harlow collapsed. Production was interrupted, of course, for many months. After lapsing into coma, Jean Harlow died, June 7, 1937. She was 26.

Her death affected many. MGM writer Harry Ruskin is quoted as saying,”The day Baby died there wasn’t one sound in the commissary for three hours...not one goddamn sound." At her funeral, though her pallbearers included directors (W.S. Van Dyke and Jack Conway), a film producer(Hunt Stromberg), a famous actor (Clark Gable), her business manager (Edward Mannix), the film crews were represented, too, by cameraman Ray June. It is said that William Powell, who paid for the $25,000 tomb (a lot of money, especially then—more that a quarter of a million, in today's dollars), slipped a single white gardenia into her casket, and a note in her hand. For the remainder of his life, he sent her fresh flowers.

The inscription on her grave is simple, and to the point. "Our Baby," it reads.

Jean Harlow, born Harlean Carpenter, was born this day, in 1911. Today is her centenniel. If you do not know her films, please, give them—give her—a chance. If you love movies, as I do, she is indispensible.

The first film clip is of the shower scene I referenced, in Red Dust. Next, a clip from Bombshell, beginning with Harlow's character entertaining women from the orphan home from which she's attempting to adopt a baby. She's trying to maintain a facade of a tranquil domestic life, which her family and her studio publicist take a wrecking ball to, with characteristic self-centered zeal. The scene I told you about, where she goes off on the lot of em, begins about 9 minutes in.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


To anyone being honest, it is clear that world capitalism, especially at it is practiced in these United States, has evolved into a model far different than anything Adam Smith or David Ricardo ever imagined.

With that in mind, let us celebrate the anniversary of the birth of modern capitalism's spiritual father.

Charles Ponzi was born this day, in 1882. While there have occurred a number of refinements since his time—we can only imagine how impressed he would be with the idea of credit default swaps—I think it's fair to say that whenever suckers are being screwed anywhere, old Charlie's in the room.

His were different times, of course, and poor Charlie spent some time in prison, and was ultimately deported. Today, of course, he would work for Goldman Sachs, probably as chairman. Instead of strutting around with a gold-tipped walking stick (per the photograph, at right), he could gird himself in his golden parachute, and tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself.

Yeah, happy birthday, Charlie. You're being feted in boardrooms all over Wall Street, I'm sure.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Ravens, Republics, and Revolutions

175 years ago today, Texas became a free and independent nation (in theory, cause Santa Anna and his armies were swarming around, paying particular attention to our boys bottled up at the Alamo). We had no real army, no great store of munitions, very little wealth, no constitution, and not even a real flag. But we had our declaration, damn it (if you doubt me, just peek over to the right—see it? Reckon you won't be so quick to crowd me next time, will you?)

The great document was signed at a mudhole on the Trinity River, re-named, thereafter, with the usual Texas flair for understatement, as Washington-on-the-Brazos. The most auspicious deed performed that day, though, was the re-appointment of Sam Houston as Commander of all Armed Forces (all 12 of em).

Houston was quite a guy, as you may have heard. Great soldier, and statesman. Lived among the Cherokee on several occasions (it was they who tagged him as Colonneh, or The Raven), and advocated for them in Washington, beating a yankee-weasel congressman damn near to death along the way, which would justify a career for most guys. Sam was just gettin started though, arriving in Texas in 1833, fashioning an army from the ragtag bunch of malcontents and hotheads at his disposal to beat the far superior forces of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, before becoming Texas first elected president. He also served as Senator, once Texas joined the union, and as Governor (he was once Governor of Tennessee, as well, but that's a long story for another day).

Yeah, you might say that Sam and Texas are inextricably linked—you cannot delve into the essence of either without discovering the other. How fitting, then, that on this day, the birthday of Texas, we also celebrate the birth of the man who made it so. Sam Houston was born this day, in 1793.

Depicted atop his famous steed, Saracen, at right, Sam was a fighter to the end. As Governor during the build-up to war and secession, he was nearing seventy years old, but was often known to scrap in the streets of Austin in defense of the Union. He warned em all what would happen, but they didn't listen, of course. Lincoln offered him 50,000 Federal troops to quell the rebellion, but Sam reluctantly refused. While he couldn't fight against the union, he couldn't shed his own people's blood, either.

Deposed from his office, he retired to Huntsville, dying in 1893, with Texas on his lips. His last words are reported to be "Texas! Texas! Margaret..."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sociopaths, in Tailored Suits

Don't delude yourself that the creatures of Wall Street are people like you and I—that they have human feelings, like empathy, or any kind of appreciation for morality. They are entirely self-centered, pitiless, and the damage they cause is limited only by the barriers around them.

Knowing this makes the aftermath of their behaviors less shocking.

Case-in-point: Certainly you are familiar with the proliferation of check-cashing and pay-day lending outfits over the past few years. Hell, they're on every street corner, it seems, charging poor people 200% on loans, charging exorbitant fees to cash checks. They prey especially upon illegals, who have nowhere else to go, and upon those with bad credit. During this check-cashing and pay-day lending boom, banks have also tightened up on the availability of bank accounts to the aforementioned, no coincidence, given that the predatory lenders and check-cashers who fill the subsequent void are bankrolled by Bank of America, Wachovia, Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, et al. Yeah, you read that right—Cash America is in reality just a branch of Chase or BOA (just a little more honest in their principles).

One of the few good things to come from the watered down Wall Street Reform Act was the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tasked with regulating consumer financial products and services in compliance with federal law. Seems to be a common-sense, uncontroversial mandate, right? Well, from the squalking Wall Street has made about the provision, you'd think that it was the end of the fucking world, especially after Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law proff known for her brilliance, her ethics, and for her clear-eyed understanding of the Big Banks, was appointed to lead it (a bone Obama threw to his crumbling liberal constituency—after months of intense lobbying by same—though if she'll ever be confirmed, God only knows).

Wall Street is currently pulling out all the stops to gut the Bureau (or, preferably, kill it) and predictably have enlisted their usual lapdogs (aka, The U. S. Chamber of Commerce) to lobby it, engaging in their usual misdirection. Their M.O. is to hide behind other organizations, knowing the unpopularity of their brand. Their new partners (shills) are interesting, though.

From today's Huffington Post:
During a Tuesday conference call organized by the Chamber, coalitions ostensibly comprised of companies outside the financial sector argued that the nascent federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will hurt their bottom lines. But while those groups, the International Franchise Association and the Manufactured Housing Institute, include payday lenders, check-cashing agencies and mortgage lenders-- exactly the kinds of firms the CFPB is designed to regulate.

Kinda precious, ain't it? Their sociopathic brains are irony-immune, obviously.

Once more, remember who the enemy in this battle is. Despise them, for what they are—and do not delude yourself. They will not be beaten with negotiation.