Tuesday, January 19, 2021

To Set a Flame High in the Air

Eighteen years ago, I read this at the memorial for my brother, Marvin, who had passed away the previous December.  It's an excerpt from Kenneth Patchen's The Journal of Albion Moonlight.  I have to bring it out occasionally to meditate on and to share with others who would care to read it.  It still holds power for me and sets me back on the right path. If I would ever truly make a New Year resolution, it would be to read this every January hoping it would aid and empower me through the coming year.

 So it is the artist’s duty to discourage all traces of shame

To extend all boundaries

To fog them in right over the plate

To kill only what is ridiculous

To establish problems

To ignore solutions

To listen to no one

To omit nothing

To contradict everything

To generate the free brain

To bear no cross

To take part in no crucifixion

To tinkle a warning when mankind strays

To explode upon all parties

To wound deeper than the soldier

To heal this obstinate monkey once and for all

To laugh at every situation

To besiege their cities

To exhaust the primitive

To verify the irrational

To exaggerate all things

To inhabit everyone

To lubricate each proportion

To experience only experience

To deviate at every point

To make one monster at least

To multiply opinions

To work only in the distance

To extend all shapes

To acquire a sublime reputation

To sport the glacial eye

To direct all smoldering ambitions

To masquerade as the author of every platitude

To overwhelm the mariner with improper charts

To set a flame high in the air

To exclaim at the commonplace alone

To cause the unseen eyes to open

To be concerned with every profession save his own

To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty

To lift the flesh above the suffering

To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss

To kneel with the blind and drunk brigands to learn their songs

To happen


It is the artist’s duty to be alive

To drag people into glittering occupations

To return always to the renewing stranger

To assume the ecstasy in all conceivable attitudes

To reel in exquisite sobriety

To blush perpetually in gaping innocence

To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence

To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason

To obey each outrageous impulse

To commit his company to all enchantments



Saturday, January 2, 2021

Unintentional Resolutions-A New Year's Rant

Speaking strictly for myself, New Year Resolutions are a fool's errand.  To me, it's more like New Year, same me. I mutter to myself that I should fall in line and make promises to myself and others that there will be changes.  I realize that yes, I am writing this on New Year's Eve.  My want for change is there, sure.

I have said this one countless times, New Year or not:  I have to get away from social media.  I just think of all the reading I could accomplish if I stayed away from Facebook.I don't want to know what kind of cat I am, or what kind of car I would have driven in the 50's, or anything like that. Half the links posted are scams. I don't want to know about your sourdough bread, which is mostly jealousy since I have yet to make a successful sourdough. I'm glad you're dealing with the pandemic.  It's real. 

Nevertheless, yes, I have goals that I have set for myself, ones I have mentioned and failed at previously.  The aforementioned social media, I'm done.  I want to write more (look at me, I'm writing right now) both on the blog and otherwise.  I want to read more (since I finally have new glasses) and make more art.  I want to go on more adventures, big and small, with Valerie (once the pandemic passes).

The one social media site I am sticking with, at least for now, is Instagram.  It has been beneficial to me since it's the one place I share my art.  I do post non-art pictures, but rarely.  Instagram, although owned by Facebook, is where I go to be inspired. I do not post memes there, although you occasionally will see food I have prepared that I'm especially proud of. You can follow me here

So, I am digging my heels in for the winter.  I have coffee, I have art projects. I have plenty of books to read, although I don't let that stop me from buying more.  Here is a sample of what I intend to read in the coming months.

Monday, November 23, 2020

I Wish Hunter S Thompson Was Still Here


"If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president.  Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning.  Even his funeral was illegal.He was queer in the deepest way.  His body should have been burned in a trash bin"

from "He Was A Crook" by Hunter S. Thompson, originally published in Rolling Stone on June 16, 1994.

That's it.  I have nothing more to add.  I miss writers like Hunter S Thompson.  There aren't enough of his like any longer.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Hermit Time Re-examined


Another six weeks has passed since I posted here. I could offer excuses, but they would be irrelevant.  As loathe I am to say I have been busy, well, that's the case.  I have been busy, just not with writing.  I have been incredibly productive with art.  Carving new linos, printing, maintaining my Etsy shop.  Between that and The Job, well, my days are full.

Still, I haven't even been reading that much.  I am finally getting new glasses, which has been an issue but not the only one.  The biggest reason for not reading (or writing) is one I've said before.  So-called social media.  I spend way too much time on Twitter and Facebook.  It's ridiculous.  And it really needs to stop.  It is my biggest hope that I will be able to cut down on time spent on social media.  I know, I know, I've said this before...

Maybe after the upcoming election?  Is that a lot to expect?  I am getting weary of playing the "what stupid thing did he say today" game.  You know to whom I refer.  It's overwhelming.  But I need to walk away, I need to restore my inner peace.  

I have for the longest time, since deciding to stop doing art fairs, to maintain weekends as "hermit time."  I have pretty much kept that going, spending time at home, taking road trips with Valerie, working on art, watching movies, and yes, reading.  But I also do realize that hermit time is not just tangible, physical.  Hermit time is a spiritual thing.  For me it has to be. I need to remind myself of this occasionally. I wish to withdraw from the world on the weekends in order to face the Monday through Friday grind.  It's pretty simple.  However, by spending too much time on social media I open a window into the outside world that should remain closed.  

If I skip out on Facebook and Twitter on weekends, am I really going to miss out on that much?

The answer is obviously no.  

It takes two weeks to develop a habit, maybe longer to break one.  So, here goes nothing...

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Arson - A Mental Twitch


    The seedling of my world view was nourished by a combination of visionary cynicism and abject poverty.  

    My first place away from home was a decrepit mobile home precariously nestled on the edge of a four feet deep drainage ditch that was home to group of anti-social raccoons and muskrats. 

    I subsisted on beans and rice, store brand coffee and hand rolled cigarettes.  There are only so many ways to prepare red beans and rice.  To this day I still can't look at a plate of beans and rice without a feel of revulsion.  Don't even mention Ramen noodles or Rice-a-Roni.

    Oh, and there was port.  Cheap, sweet, dark, wonderful port.  I drank it on ice and told myself it was grape juice.  It never contradicted me.  It kept me warm in the Winter and drunk in the Summer.  At the time I thought we were friends.

     Behind the trailer park there was a wooded area and a field of scrub grass that had once been considered an abandoned lot.  We were all fair game to the field mice that nightly invaded our dubious shelters.  Every morning I would see tiny scratches, claw marks, in the bacon grease that had congealed in the iron skillet on top of the tiny gas stove.     

    For some reason, though I ate poorly myself, I felt I could afford to feed a cat.  I named him Henry (after Henry Miller) and he was a pathetic mouser.  He tried to make friends with them. We have domesticated our cats too much perhaps.  Their natural instincts have been dulled toward anything that doesn't look like a toy.

    And there were cockroaches.  Not your run-of-the-mill standard American cockroaches.  These were the Asian variety.  Huge.  I had heard stories of large roaches in Texas but they paled in comparison.  There was a group of  seven Laotian exchange students that lived in the trailer next to me. I assumed the roaches had clandestinely come over with them.  Perhaps they were looking for a better life, to colonize new territory. I may have been judgmental, but eventually the cockroaches decided they needed more space and moved into my hovel while I was asleep.

    They weren't anything I had ever encountered before.  They were huge, larger than the aforementioned mice. They had wings. Large, functioning wings.  My cat was even afraid of them.  The field mice moved out almost the next day.  Mice, as you may well know, are very non-confrontational.

    This left me with a bit of a dilemma.  I could spray for the roaches and hope for the best.  But then the mice, seeing the coast was clear, might be emboldened to move back in.  I sat on the couch smoking a cigarette, trying to decide what to do.  A cockroach crawled onto my hand and tried to knock the cigarette from between my fingers.  My choice was suddenly clear.

     I put Henry in his crate and placed the crate and as many belongings as I could in the back seat of my car.  I pulled away and parked the car down the street.  I walked back and torched the trailer.  I sat on the hood of the car and watched it burn.  It wasn't long before I heard the sirens.  Nosy neighbors. Didn't they know I was doing them a favor?

    Weeks later I got a letter from my former landlord thanking me for burning the trailer down.  Decrepit as it was, he had it insured to the teeth.  He offered me a new place, another trailer, promising it didn't have cockroaches or mice.  With a discount on the rent, I felt I couldn't refuse.

It was fortunate that Henry enjoyed hunting centipedes...

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Jazz Appreciation: from Neophyte to Hardcore Listener

I have been a casual jazz listener for years.  When I was attending college, I tried to be a jazz DJ on the student operated radio station.  My career as a radio announcer was a short-lived failure for a variety of reasons. the main one being that I didn't know enough about jazz. 

I don't remember my first exposure to jazz.  It wasn't my parents, who were more easy listening music and vocalist listeners (Sadly, I knew who Peter Nero, Roger Whitaker, and Ray Coniff were at an early age).  I didn't listen to it in high school, it didn't fit into my obsession with Bob Dylan.  So, yes, it must have been college.  I started attending Southern Illinois University in 1981 with a major in Radio and TV.  My advisor, a man named John Holmes, hosted a jazz show on WSIU radio on Friday nights at 10 pm.  Maybe that was it. I will also mention that it was my college years that I discovered Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.  That had to be a contributing factor.

I still didn't take it seriously.  I was the most casual of listeners.  I didn't buy LPs, didn't research the musicians.  Carbondale IL isn't known for it's hot jazz clubs...since there weren't any to speak of.

Years later I moved to Milwaukee and soon discovered WYMS radio. That opened up a whole new appreciation of jazz.  In particular, I listened to Susan Orr in the afternoon.  I learned more about jazz from her than anyone before.  I learned that a real jazz aficionado paid attention to the personnel of certain recordings.  I was fascinated that a record by someone, say John Coltrane, also had other musicians listed on the personnel, but they weren't known as Coltrane's band.  Most of the musicians on the albums also had their own albums.  It would have been easy, had I had the intellectual curiosity, to fall down a jazz rabbit-hole.  

But I didn't have the intellectual curiosity that would have been required.

Like many people, I like a variety of music and go through phases. I like Classical, Rock, Folk, Blues.  I despise Country, New Age, and "Smooth Jazz."  And recently, I have come back to Jazz.  It plays in the studio most of the time.  It's good work music and good morning coffee music.  And as days go on, thanks to streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon streaming, I have unlimited access to jazz recordings.  UNLIMITED!

So while I am working on art, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, and more are playing.  The album above, Cornbread, featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, is a current favorite.  Kind of Blue by Miles Davis?  Definitely!  Moanin' with Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers?  Oh hell yes!  Spyro Gyra?  No.  Never.  It's not allowed on the premises. Jazz, in my opinion, should never be safe.  Smooth Jazz should not be recognized as an art form.

And now I have a reference book to satisfy that intellectual curiosity that I was lacking so many years ago.  The Rough Guide to Jazz by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestly, available of ThriftBooks and Amazon (of course)

Happy Saturday to all!  I am going to make some coffee and listen to...ohh I don't know..maybe some Miles Davis.  Peace to you all.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Catching Up, Moving Forward (A Mental Ramble)


I realized when I woke up this morning that I have been neglecting the blog.  I thought about letting it go, but I don't really want to.  I have been writing and have been working on art, either of which I should just start sharing here instead of direct to social media.  That's something else I have toyed with letting go, but for now, while the pandemic is in full swing, I'm sticking around.  Instagram in particular has been a boon recently for art sales.  You can follow me here.  I post new art and process videos for my printmaking.

Which, after a fairly long hiatus, I have returned to doing.  I took a break because I wasn't sure why I was doing it.  Before the pandemic I decided to take some time off from doing art fairs.  I thought to myself, if I can't sell art why produce art?  Of course, that's not really the point of making art, is it?  I guess that was a mental rut that I found difficult to crawl out of.

But crawl I did.  Although the initial goal, as it were, was not necessarily get back into printmaking.  What led me back was my determination to start a daily sketch practice and a daily journal practice.  Each of these served to clear the clutter and cobwebs in my brain.  Each was a kind of daily meditation.  I have come back to printmaking with a renewed passion and still try to maintain the daily practice of journaling and sketching.

I still am not planning on returning to art fairs.  The pandemic has altered the art fair universe.  I doubt I will go back.

* * * *

And I have started writing poetry again.  Typewriter poetry.  Twenty-five years ago I wrote poetry, aspired to be a poet, read my poetry at Poetry Slam open mikes.  The well dried up pretty fast.  I lost the poetry that may have been inside me.  At the time I guess I blamed (or credited depending on your point of view) that I stopped drinking.  I couldn't get on stage without having a few belts of liquor in me.  

Yet recently I was inspired by a fellow Instagram artist blackadderpress who posts their typewriter poetry (which is amazing) on Instagram along with linocut prints (also amazing).  I started jotting down poems that usually came to me when I was unable to sleep (which is often).  Or I would try to sleep and a seed would be planted.  I have learned from experience you never say "I will write it down later, I will remember it" because you don't. Not ever.

And I bought a vintage typewriter.

I was afraid that I would be viewed as a copycat.  I messaged blackadderpress and let them know that I was inspired.  I was given their blessing.

I have rambled enough for one post.  I will, as always, endeavor to write more often.  This blog is my mental warehouse (or dumping ground for less organized days).  I hope to expand my readership.  I guess that goes without saying.  No one wants to write things that no one reads, right?

Peace and Blessings to you all.