WHERE NEXT, COLUMBUS?
February 15, 2015
May 18, 2009
ecstatic fucking and creation.
clinched the past week as being my most glowingly prolific and creative in a while. got a nice sunburn, painted a sheet mural on eric’s roof, jammed with the Blue Fucks (as the Blue Fucks are fluid and eternal), magically recorded on someone’s iPhone as a personal treasure (maybe the song was called Animal Patterns), rode to millvale for a job interview where they wanted experiences i have not yet had, but could give them if they’d only asked. saw star trek at 10, woke up at 630, galavanting around the city in lindsay’s stolen volvo, all doors locked, so i got out and rode a vehicle with no locks, no brakes. there is blood smeared down my shirt and i’m not changing. last night i drummed like Buddy Rich vs Animal, all the fills stretching out space like a black hole, always coming back to the downbeat. i’m missing a knuckle and my left index finger doesn’t move all the way any way any longer. playing games with time, twisted.
i facetiously counted seven reasons (after the first three concrete ones) for why i should have brought my DV camera along for the full day yesterday, the one that i took to catch the implosion of the senior high-rise in east liberty around 830am. other reasons: beautiful herb garden off mellon park near PCA; the hazy sunset, a huge orb of gold light filing through the cast iron fences and bramble of bigelow blvd into downtown last night around 730, the golden shadows cast on the entire city as we panned horizontally across the landscape; the secret garden ivy on the other end of a building a block from tim and frank’s house on locust st; the balanced light on tim’s roof, as the red tweed lawn chair confused itself with the red tweed bricks of the chimney behind it; the half moon and its beard of halo shadow, creeping in and out from behind corners of tall empty warehouses; the way your eyes open at the O; BDR sitting solo centered at the bar watching copulation on Six Feet Under in the empty sunday night saloon called the Castle, framed in gauche christmas lights around the mirrored liquor racks, with dark back-room no-light smoke and slot machines calling business to order on the man’s (BDR’s) left–a silkscreened peashooting revolver; the marauding vibe created in the basement of locust st, one key light pointed downwards in the windowless, black-walled room.
maybe that’s eight, even.
May 6, 2009
Along the same lines as the first one–just an experiment with a new camera–but slightly more post-structural and abstracted. Sounds like BS if you ask me.
I recorded the Midnite Snake set from April 20 when they played in our garage with Greg Ashley and Gateway Clipper. Very neat moments. I have a few other shorties to upload, as well, including a slamming reading performance. Lots of storms in my brain, lots of writing up and down my hand (and arm when the hand runs out of space) with big purple pen (write it in purple and you’ll remember it forever), lots of meetings of the mind with some noble colleagues including Hickling, Benson and Clearfield. Jason hung all this shit on Paul’s record shelf with chewing gum. Next meeting is tomorrow night.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a site to host a 40 min. concert video?
Yesterday afternoon I began reading The Teachings of Don Juan, a book by Carlos Castaneda which my mom gave me (one more gift in a strange lineage of things that she somehow knows I’d be into) and which details an apprenticeship under a Yaqui indian shaman. I’d just finished a chapter after an hour and a half or two without moving from my seat at the darkened dining room, no lights on, very dark outside, closed the book, stood up, and just then my cell phone on the table vibrated a call from Alex, with whom I later shared a long conversation that somehow revolved around the subject of the very chapter I’d just finished: the “four natural enemies of a man of knowledge,” and mainly the concept of fear and how to overcome it. I finished the book (not to mention that long whopper of a sentence right there) early this afternoon, sitting shirtless in the back patio sun. Now, to Armands.
“Yes, there is a way.”
“Is it a formula, a procedure, or what?”
“It is a way of grabbing onto things. For instance, when I was learning about devil’s weed I was too eager. I grabbed onto things the way kids grab onto candy. The devil’s weed is only one of a million paths. Anything is one of a million paths [un camino entre cantidades de caminos]. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere, but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”
April 20, 2009
you’re going to melt your brain
and put it out in the rain–
which is a shame because it’s such a nice brain,
and it took so long to grow
–too cool it down
don’t it mix with water and float down the drain?
April 14, 2009
Been a busy boy lately. Tonight I’m cleaning my mess of a room at 4:15 a.m., and I came across an old crinkled fortune with the titular advice. I wonder when exactly I cracked that out of the cookie… Note the word “confronted”. Its nice timing coincides with the draft of a paper I’m writing called “Alive in the Sea of Information,” named after the vastly dreamy Emeralds song. The piece superficially targets the internet as the Great Paradigm Shifter, but is coming around to a more basic theme/fear of what to do once the university ejector seat launches me finally into oblivion, and moreover to the somewhat deeper question of how anyone can (or can’t) decide to do anything at any moment. Subtlety is my best and worst idiosyncrasy.
In the in-betweens of spare spare time (i.e., when I should be doing something else, like sleeping,) I’ve been working with Frank Ombres on his short 16mm film “Decline,” recording hours of guitar and saxophone parts to later mine for snippets that we’ll use to score the five-minute piece. Tim has recorded some really haunting organ bits too, on the new Yamaha. I have to admit I’ve been a little overzealous about the whole process, getting very detail-oriented. Frank and I have worked one-on-one, me jamming discreetly, him listening for the ten seconds and watching the exact placement of the screwdriver between which strings, how I bow a certain string with a dime. It’s fulfilling work.
Easter Sunday was yesterday. Felt particularly empty this year. Something about being invited to church offhandedly Saturday night, unexpected to go, not going, not doing much of anything. Grandma is a year older, 80 in fact; my cousin K took pains to tell the whole family exactly how Grandma microwaved a stick of butter for a minute and proceeded to pour it all over K’s toast. She didn’t mention taking for granted how Grandma’s been buttering our toast our whole lives. It’s not like she’s senile, either. I didn’t like that moment much. Barely spoke to my cousin M, who graduated two years ago and has been working near Beaver County since. Though Jeff and I arrived late, everyone was at Grandma’s. The family’s only grown, and maybe that’s the thing. The babies are older and quieter, the kids are sullen adults, the adults are senior citizens, the senior citizen…
Grown apart, grown away, all of us, I guess. I’m complicit because instead of going to evening mass with mom and her mom, I watched “What About Bob?” with my dad and ate ice cream. I cling to immaturity. I’m the one my six-year-old cousin Marc begs to play outside with him, probably because I’m the only one who actually responds. I told him I’d play croquet with him (he and his brother set up the old set from Grandma’s attic in her front yard) only if he helped me work on some papers afterward, which he did. I told him I needed to tell the company why I wanted to work for them and didn’t know what to say. He thought for a split second. His big brown eyes opened up as he pointed his finger and said, “Well usually I say, ‘Because…’ and then the rest of the sentence.” The sentence ended up reading, “Because I really like working,” to which he added “…and my mom and dad would like it.” That part hits it on the nose, no?
He read my papers out loud. Great phonics for a first grader. But before all this he beat me in croquet (more or less, seriously, kind of) and chased me in dizzying circles of tag (where else can you run but around?). “I got faster!” he yelled, and he did. We threw pine cones across the street in front of Grandma’s backyard, and when I accidentally pegged a new SUV on the lot instead of one of the lined-up delivery cars nextdoor, we hid outside the derelict printing shop that serves as a buffer between Grandma and her less familiar neighbors. It was a beautiful day, and Marc and I seemed to be the only ones who really got it. We picked up blue and silver slivers of vinyl from the grass, the same ones that I used to pick up and tie around my head like a ninja turtle on my long afterschool walk from the bus to Grandma’s. It wasn’t til yesterday that I realized these plastic scraps had been falling from the car dealership for so many years.
We also found a hubcap and surprising new terrain and vistas in the tiny but ivy-covered lot before he begged to show me the “big, huge tree” that his dad used to climb, on the other side of the house next to the torn-up playground and field that’s now covered with the heavy machinery they’re using to expand the elementary school. We climbed down through the dumping zone which “isn’t filled in yet” by the flora of summer, although a bulk of the bramble that used to grow there has been thinned out, scattered with broken beer bottle glass and countless chunks of foam from the construction site above. When we made it to the other side of the “woods” (Marc says he and his dad have plans to go exploring. When I asked where, he told me “the woods”) to the guiderail of Kennedy Boulevard (the street that connects Rt. 60 and Brodhead to Franklin Ave. and downtown Aliquippa, home of St. Titus, the place Marc and I used to go to elementary school), his eyes opened wide again. “I didn’t know that’s where we were!” Finally after trailblazing through vines of burrs and spines, trudging through the mud, picking up and carrying back a rusty piece of wrought-iron that could have belonged on Grandma’s porch (“in case the wind ever blows hers down,” Marc explains), sitting down in and messing with the bright yellow bulldozer and crane controls (not the parking brake–we didn’t want to end up next to the Big Huge Tree again), and spying remnants of the old plastic playground stacked behind a fence, we headed home, Marc a little wiser, and me a little younger. Though he was no trouble to me, his mom thanked me for keeping him occupied. He’s such a handful, she says.
I wonder where that wonder goes. This may be an attempt to recapture some of it:
Last week some late night I charged a new digital video camera (just video, records straight to SD cards) and messed around a little. It’s far from great, but it’s inspired by a 16mm short I saw at Jefferson Presents last May with Marlee, this one long take where the camera was continually moving out and out and out, horribly slow, completely silent, revealing (or letting your mind create/make sense of/imagine) a new image with each step backwards. There are several of varying degrees of success/interest, but this is the first I’ve uploaded:
Check out its proper youtube page for a sort of artist’s statement. (Pretentious, or full-spectrum? Tonight I prepared statements for a debate Wednesday in Spanish: Yo trabajo en el arte, y el arte trabaja en mi vida. Es mi trabajo tomar el arte que yo vio y convertirlo en algo puedes ver, leer, oir.)
News: Got a letter from Chuck Kinder notifying me that I won second place inn the year’s Undergraduate Creative Nonfiction Award for “I See No Evil,” the piece I wrote on getting towed in January. Color me psyched: I’ll win back $60 of the $215 it cost me to write the damn thing.
Also, I’m cleaning up the piece that should run in Thursday’s Post-Gazette as my first published work. Details and the text when I’m finished with it.
March 31, 2009
Short take 6
Biss – On Style
Eula Biss treads quite a bit of territory in her piece “The Pain Scale,” using mathematics, several graded scales and Dante’s Inferno as frames or skeletons to hold this harrowingly unique, blinding force called pain.
Biss’ essay details the various modes of pain, its medical definition and the tolls it can take on a mind, but its mathematics of pain are only concerned with the positives, or the enigmatic lack—the zero. Never does Biss voyage to the other side of the spectrum, of a euphoric, happiness-inducing Pleasure, not even in contrast. Though pain and pleasure are opposites, they’re not mutually exclusive, she says.
To talk about one’s own struggle with pain or pathology is difficult, and to write about it is plain dangerous. Biss knows this: her essay speaks of pain as a concept, distant and procedural, and even her descriptions of pain’s sources are objectified, muted. On page 32 Biss mentions the two lovers whirling around the second circle of Dante’s Inferno. However her neighbor rejects that this is Hell, and Biss in return admits that “it depends on the wind.” Of course this entire discourse comes after the author’s admission that she believes part of this pain (of the treatment for the initial pain) is pleasurable, and that the entire concept is somehow indecipherable or arcane.
Never do we get a window into the specifics of the locus of Biss’ pain; she says on page 35 that no MRI or X-ray has found a thing, but neither does she say exactly where she feels the pain, or how. Though I understand the narrative desire to keep what could be come off as pathetic or whiny off the page, reading this piece was a bit of a pyrrhic achievement (pun intended, I guess). Biss’ focus on the impossibility and irrationality of numbers, specifically zero and the square root of seven, centrifuge the disparate fragments of the narrative, told in ascending order on the scale from “No Pain” to “The Worst Pain Imaginable.” She describes the futility of the Wong-Baker scales and the hospice-born one-to-ten system (the latter of which was used to distance the doctor from the disturbing language of pain in the first place), yet she uses the same system to anchor her essay. Instead of looking for a new outlet or mode of discussing this exasperating thing, she rehashes the endless process and in fact emphasizes it. In doing so the author has found that new mode, or at least put it into a new form.
“The Pain Scale” is carefully assembled, with each number carrying its own meaning. Five is the median between zero and ten; two marks its vast distance from one; six cites the Beaufort scale’s “Strong Breeze” before launching into the (admittedly fascinating) tangent of infernal cartography and musings on pain memory. Biss calls herself anchorless in pain (37), and maybe this scale is the only thing she has to make sense of her sensations. Even so, the scale to me feels conceited—a structure for hazy, aloof navelgazing.
An example that strikes me as insincere is in section three, where the author is questioning how to assign value to her own pain, after she learns that she shouldn’t rate herself in the arena of world suffering—“It unburdens me of factoring the continent of Africa into my calculations” (33). When I conjure my own memory being afloat in a weeklong bed stay with my only escapes being trips to the bathroom, when I couldn’t sleep and instead had to sit in my sickness, I wasn’t burdened by anyone’s suffering but my own. But at the end of the same paragraph, she (still distantly, not talking about the feeling but rather how she hates the feeling) admits that she is “isolated in this skin—alone with my pain and my own fallibility.”
My feelings on the piece are a bit conflicted, as Biss has incredible insight into pain but seems to hold so much of it back. Despite the myriad information she provides, I’m not convinced that this scale was the best way to test her subject.
Short take on style-DFW
DFW on style, or “the particular individual magic of a particular individual writer’s personality, style, voice, vision, etc.^”: “The quality’s almost impossible to describe or account for straight out–it mostly presents a vibe, a kind of perfume of sensibility–and critics’ attempts to reduce it to questions of ‘style’ are almost universally lame.” 
It can happen to anyone, I suppose. Even an author as brilliant as David Foster Wallace can be pigeonholed6 in university nonfiction seminars as the (Profuse) Footnote Guy^[2,5] as students read one, two, five, maybe seven writers for two classes in one week (workshop critiques notwithstanding), essays of all kinds washing against and over them like the sea into a pier7 (or capsized boat).
In my secondhand copy of the collection “Consider the Lobster” there are several questions written above this essay’s title, including “Is this essay really about Dost.?” and “Is this an attempt to make literary criticism hip?”. Given the intertextuality of “Joseph Frank’s Dostoevsky” and the attention paid to the lifespan and arguable relevance of the Great and Old Book, its crisped yellow pages sealed shut and moldering on the shelves of our very own Hillman, it’s hard not to address these questions as if they’re spring green shoots, proof of the lamentably deceased’s enduring vitality, evidence of recent activity, thought, growth, stemming from his page. Still, when I started reading, I found those conceptual spoilers carving out the same recesses where the pigeons would eventually nest6.
As DFW’s footnote 10 describes the compulsory teaching of “classic” literature as textual murder, we writers kill our darlings, e.g. our generation’s established/future/possible/never-gonna-be “classics”, in the negative space of the very first page. If you were writing a 20 page essay on four biographic volumes on a long dead Russian (whom you self-reflexively call FMD as others will call you DFW)–nearly the whole time lauding the moral engine that the author used as the driving creative force for his work, for his life–would you be concerned with hip? Instead of looking at the earnest, universal elements throughout the piece, we are drawn to the quirks, to the assumed ins and outs DFW must have schemed for his literary ascent.
- *Well, trying to connect a distanced generation to the relevance and distinct essence of a foreign body of work could be seen as bridging the gap of basic human understanding, of existence and empathy. Besides, what does “hip” mean, exactly, and why would someone try to be it? To grab someone (anyone) else’s attention, and eventually bridge his own gap of Total Noise4? Maybe in a sadder, lonelier definition of the word, DFW is trying to be hip. But how much will a word stretch before it breaks? And a man?**
 This is but a ruse, a gimmick to distract you from the fact that the connecting information you seek lies directly below the marked word “style”, partly because I still haven’t completely figured out this bullshit processor called MSWord 2007, partly because it’s probably bad form to link a footnote to the body anyway, and because I want this to be read as fun or somehow even funny. Footnotes just aren’t my style^…
7 Thank you, David Berman.
3 Neither is written humor.
4 “Fiction’s abyss is silence, nada. Whereas nonfiction’s abyss is Total Noise, the seething static of every particular thing and experience, and one’s total freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to and represent and connect, and how, and why, etc.” From Best American Essays 2007, Introduction. See also: existential despair.
5 …(nor are they DFW’s).
What is what?
What is a mystery to me
What isn’t a mystery to me
We rap battles with philosophy
March 30, 2009
Late Friday night jams continued for a third consecutive week, this time with Spencer Longo, Taichi Nakatani and me playing various instruments, the two of them mainly on synth/Casio keys and me on guitar. There are also trumpet, drums, amped organ and Wurlitzer piano cropping up throughout. Some moments plant you in a spooky and smoky lounge of harshness owned and managed by John Zorn. Some drum segments are slightly Black Diced, and others could find harmony on an Ash Ra LP’s B-side.
This is the first time the three of us have played together and as such it’s pure sonic exploration. 1hr long (fits on a CD-R, baby).
That’s the first half of the night’s output. After a break we sat down for another hour-plus on a slightly more cohesive triple-keyboard-cum-guitar/drum/synth loop/trumpet jam that leaned Kraut, unfortunately not recording it.
And “just for kicks,” Taichi edited down a noisy section of a Harangue set at Gooskis: