Wednesday, December 29, 2010
About this time of year, when you're a bit hung over and on the edges of a really good flu, don't some of the news stories of the past year and a little before-- just want to make you sharpen a miniature hatchet against the media poseurs who hog all the headlines.
Anti-smoking grinches rich on the public trough.
Health care professionals and their preaching.
The Canadian Cancer Society.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Party- pooper Mayor Bloomberg, of New York.
Power-mad police chiefs, as in Toronto.
Professional Atheists a' la Christopher Hitchens
De Paki Chopra
All health news
Afghanistan--all of it.
Any further news this season from Israel.
All those media hogs.
The only exception, it seems to me, is Sarah Palin.
She is worth her weight in gold as an oddly attractive lightning rod, badly needed food for the talk shows. She's cute, stoopid and says some really funny things.
Like "Happy Hannukah-Quansa, and how's that working out for ya?"
Sarah Palin for President! :)
Friday, December 24, 2010
Christmas is surely a time of miracles, some large, some small. The small miracle is in a number of Ukrainian professors out west, who are demanding a reprint of my first novel,The Black Icon. The book was published thirty-five years ago by the Bradford Witness Publishing company, it is out of print, and so unfortunately is The Bradford Witness. It has been bought by Metroland. I don't have an immediate in with Metroland, but the gods there seem friendly.
So in the short run, I am between publishers right now, but I will surely knock off enough copies from here to satisfy the demand. Better read(again?) than dead!
Sort of a small miracle to have the Icon still kinda shining.
And Merry Christmas, everybody!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
When I first heard it on the radio, I swear the rap I was almost jiving to-- was written by Mark, or Jim or any number of my fellow blogger poets from Michigan.
But no. It was Lil Wayne and Eminem, who last Saturday night went Socko Boffo on SNL.
[Verse 1 - Lil Wayne]
Throw dirt on me and grow a wildflower
But it's "fuck the world", get a child out her
Yeah, my life a bitch, but you know nothing bout her
Been to hell and back, I can show you vouchers
I'm rolling Sweets, I'm smoking sour
Married to the game but she broke her vows
That's why my bars are full of broken bottles
And my night stands are full of open Bibles
I think about more than I forget
But I don't go around fire expecting not to sweat
And these niggas know I lay them down, make their bed
Bitches try to kick me while I'm down: I'll break your leg
Money outweighing problems on the triple beam
I'm sticking to the script, you niggas skipping scenes
Be good or be good at it
Fucking right I've got my gun, semi-Cartermatic
Yeah, put a dick in their mouth, so I guess it's "fuck what they say"
I'm high as a bitch: up, up and away
Man, I come down in a couple of days
OK, you want me up in the cage, then I'll come out in beast mode
I got this world stuck in the safe, combination is the G-code
It's Weezy motherfucker, blood gang and I'm in bleed mode
All about my dough but I don't even check the peephole
So you can keep knocking but won't knock me down
No love lost, no love found
"NO LOVE" indeed.
Not from from Detroit, but from NYC. It is an amazing performance by Emminem.
Yet the performance did bring to mind some of the writing I'd been getting from Detroit.
It is almost rap in places, but it is not Emminem.
In Detroit, Mark is in the coffee house, Jim is in the "jailhouse"... And in any event, they are both white. Better form to have a black guy, Lil Wayne,the other half of Emminem to rock out from that incredible rap piece, heard just about everywhere by now, "No Love."
It was certainly Socko Boffo on SNL. Emminem and Lil Wayne.
After that, it's afta suppa, muddafukka, as Emminem and Lil Wayne practically slay the audience and whoever was watching...Emminem was the best part of SNL last Saturday night, making host Jeff Bridges (Jeff Bridges?!) seem like a tame has-been.
I don't know what it is about Emminem, but singlehandedly, that white angel hipster, even after a five-year absence has knocked regular rapppers practically out of the park.
It's gotta be the poetry, recognized today as a legitimate art form by any number of PhD's from Little Richard (yes!) to Dr. Richard, of Oxford.
Yet sittting over here, looking at the lyrics, I could well be listening to something read by The Walking Man, out of Detroit...He's that good, but definitely not a rapper.
Sample from Mark's new book of poems, THE LINE BETWEEN:
it might have been a wonderful life
If your mother hadn't been so drunk,
she microwaved you to death
She mistook you for the bottle
she was going to feed you
to shut you up with
so she could go
pass out again
Dang. If those Detroit coffee house poets had bass drums!
Seem to me they sometimes get close to even Emminem and Lil Wayne.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It seems to me that when the Holidays come up, Big Brother moves to the top. RIDE patrols here in Canada, arbitrarily stopping motorists, whether guilty of imparied driving or not. You must be caught! Police parked in Beer and liquor parking lots, behind bars--the drinking bars. Mothers against Imparied Driving, certainly with legitimate sorrows and complaints seem to want us all to stop just short of prohibition...Or maybe go all the way with it. they know it can get past the Constitution. I mean, smoking is virtually illegal nowadays, is it not.
And yet the streets are full of gunfire and that underlying malaise is hardly ever addressed. My Region has at least two Mafia families operating in it, but they are molested not.
White collar gangbangers are tolerated, and even the gangstas unless they do something especially heinous... like in Vancouver, where police are forced to actually do something.
If you drink, don't drive. But if you shoot somebody, well, that might just be gangsta crime.
Go after John Q. Public, who goodnaturedly goes along with all suspensions of freedom, trying to do his best.
We live in such a false sense of security, the kind of security you once felt when you drove your powerful car though a hot summer night, the windows open, the wind in your hair, the CD up, singing along with the music,imagining yourself to be free. Uh-oh. They can stop you now for nothing. Especially during the Holidays.
And God help you if you had a glass of wine with your last meal.
It seems to the authorities that it is the middle class and not all the lunks, punks and drunks that are causing the problem. Go after the guy with the two last names. Snooty bastard and his minivan.
I have been planning a book for some time now, whose working title is Generation of Weasels.
Bullied by our politicians, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms vetted by something called the Constitution Committee. We don't know what our rights really are. And where, really, is the Canadian Constitution?
It is locked up in Ottawa.
As I remember the same condition was there in the United States in the Fifties.
They even arrested Harry Belafonte for being un-American.
And now all the false flag operations to keep us all in line.
Zim-boat Taliban, tally me banana.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
Can't set word to screen.
And all his while, they are blockbusting my neighbourhood.
Just next door, where the venerable and much-used hockey arena had been, there is now a huge hole, and all around, the edges of the pit, there is a tall Tyrannosaurus Rex of a Hitachi backhoe, nodding and nodding on its treads, scooping out the once- rich earth and loading onto a truck, itself squat, low-slung and dinosaur-like. Stegasaurus on wheels. Or steroids.
Who cares if two hundred years of history are being scooped up, a pioneer grave or two, the coffins of the once richest among them still encased in concrete, the poorer just brown bones...To Toronto for those ancient cadavers, to the forensic unit. We must build, baby, build!
The same story pretty well all though North America, and certainly England and Europe.
Blockbusting and block scooping. HITACHI and CATERPILLAR lumbering around like Tiger tanks in a trap. No more Irish ditchdiggers. Backhoes and front-end loaders, Italians like grenadiers following the machines, as the cement truck pours out new sidewalks, whether they are need or not.The white-hatted straw boss is impatient, the "grunts" egged on... get those freshly-poured abutments cut to size as soon as dry. They dry super-fast, because of the calcium carbide.
Soon the screech of concrete-cutting diamond saws.
"You did it wrong, Giuseppe! Got to get some sealer!"
And while they are blockbusting, I am mentally blocked.
No longer the boy wonder at university, where I imagined myself as a craftsman, very much a builder of edifices in words, but the words have come tumblind down, and I now work in clacking electronics, into a machine, and where the words go, nobody knows.
And yet with all those servos, I am mentally blocked.
Somehow screwed in the head, like an idiot...Or maybe idiot-savant.One-note artist. Good at one thing only, and as for the rest, an idiot.
One smart cynic at the Toronto Star telling me, "Artists? Look around at the mental hospital, at the patients' art...Exactly like Van Gogh. He was a crazy bastard too."
And yet crazy man can't put a blog together today.
Post Modern times. A policeman with no whistle. A fireman with no hose. All implement replaced.
All that has gone before is shit. Build, baby, build!
They are excavating my neighbourhood. Two hundred years of history. They have taken away my wonderful arena to put in a Wal Mart.
They are mining my brain.
I swear I hear things.
Perhaps the cry of a dinosaur.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Something to think about while doing the laundry:
Perusing my favourite blogs of late, one theme seems constant.
Going hither and thither, suffering damnably, but always returning to self.
But there is somehow redemption for all that travail. We come to realize that only through trouble, much trouble that we find ouselves. And the reality of others, and their trouble as well.
It may be the source of a smile to republish a poem I had put into a page of my college magazine while myself still in my twenties.
Has one really come a long way...baby?
By Ivan Prokopchuk
Through the labyrinth of soul
U p through the maze
Down to the dregs
And sideways, left, right
But always returning to centre.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I forget which blog comment I picked it up from--probably somebody commenting into Razored Zen, or The Walking Man( some of my favourites)--but over and over again I hear echoes of the late and great writer, Joyce Cary: Your plan no good. God's plan rocks.
This seems echoed by a Russian trapeze artist and tightrope walking lady.
You have the skill. But what actually happens is up to God.
How many times have I burrowed like a mole underneath all obstacles, trying in my own underground way to get where I'm going, only to hit a big boulder, and instead of going around-- going mano a mano, rock versus nose, and, of course, ending up with a frazzled nose...Like a young dog attacking a porcupine head-on, with the inevitalble yelp of "Arrowfff, Fuck!"
Heh. Hate that when it happens.
Old Newfie expression:
If at first you don't succeed--give up. No sense making a fool of yourself.
Now we come to writers, seasoned and new.
If at first we don't succeed, we try again. And again, and again, sometimes a much as seventy times. And what do you know, on the seventy-first time you make it.
But you are by now a different person.
You are now like other professionals who themselves had attacked that rock in their path until they picked up an almost woodpecker technique that through sheer vibration (and a by-now very calloused nose)--actually cracked the rock. Perhaps with a resulting crack in the head. No sissy. Sisipus triumphant at last.
I have met these people in Education. Seventy resumes. Seventy no's.
Finally winning on the seventy-first application.
Myself, I had the smugness of getting in first-time out. Three million words in print trumped any PhD.
It had been my philosophy that in life, you don't take things. They are given to you.
...Until I met the seventy time loser who took my job.
Now, I will have to go your way and take on ant-like qualities.
But army ant.
Because you are unproven.
You forgot god.
No, not me. I am not God. He is.
It's really up to Him.
And you forgot to take God into the equation,
Sunday, November 14, 2010
My intention was to produce a yeoman essay on the late Argentine fabulist Jorge Luis Borges, addressed especially to Mona, who often writes-in here. She is a bona fide PhD-- and myself, I think I once got a doctorate in dancing and Voodoo in what was left of a forest in Haiti; an MD of the rain forest.
But in the course of writing my er, discourse, I had some sort of mental blackout, a power failure if you will, but very probably, a Senior moment.
Blank screen syndrome.
Seems I had stopped getting mental blocks once I switched onto the keyboard for writing--can you imagine what it had been like to compose 2,000- word drafts on a typewriter, again and again?--compulsion neurosis--hell that took not only some gung-ho ability--but on a mechanical typewriter, it seemed to take considerable brawn. Let your weary fingers do the walking, and, ogawd! they did, up to the point of cramps.
Well, today keyboarding is infinitely easier, but that doesn't mean ones ideas are any more communicable...Fifteen thousand drunken monkeys in your head don't necessarily produce War and Peace, or even an essay on Borges.
Nevertheless, current mental block or no, we flinch not, neither do we falter. We will press on.
As Borges said in his foreword to a collection of his stories, "It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books, setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them".
Lord, I'd better not do my esay long...Better to pretend the essay already exists an offer a summary of it?
But let's have a look-see at the actual text, at least its beginning. This would be important.
The Approach to al-Mu'tasim
Philip Guedalla informs us that the novel The Approach to al-Mu'tasim by the Bombay barrister Mir Bahadur Ali 'is a rather uneasy combination of those Islamic allegories which never fail to impress their own translators, and of that brand of detective story which inevitably outdoes even Dr Watson and heightens the horror of human life as it is found in the most respectable boarding-houses of Brighton.' Before him, Mr Cecil Roberts had blasted Bahadur's book for 'its unaccountable double influence of Wilkie Collins and of the famed twelfth-century Persian, Ferid Eddin Attar' - a simple enough observation which Guedalla merely parrots, though in an angrier jargon. Essentially, both reviewers are in agreement, pointing out the book's detective-story mechanism and its undercurrent of mysticism. This hybridization may lead us to suspect a certain kinship with Chesterton; we shall presently find out, however, that no such affinity exists.
Well, I know old Chesterton as a pretty good antique horror writer...But I can't even imagine all the other references.
But it is Borges, in his own chaming way, assuming, tongue-in-cheek that we know all his references and we are thoroughly hipped on Muslim lore. He presumes that the Bombay barrister Mir Bahadur Ali is a household name and we are familiar with all his works and the various shades of Islam...Such is the strange, amazing power of fiction. We are somehow convinced that we know all the references and nuances of Borges' tales.
Borges somehow magically charms us on:
The first edition of The Approach to al-Mu'tasim appeared in Bombay towards the end of 1932. The paper on which the volume was issued, I am told, was almost newsprint; the jacket announced to the purchaser that the book was the first detective novel to be written by a native of Bombay City. Within a few months, four printings of a thousand copies each were sold out. The Bombay Quarterly Review, the Bombay Gazette, the Calcutta Review, the Hindustani Review (of Allahabad), and the Calcutta Englishman all sang its praises. Bahadur then brought out an illustrated edition, which he retitled The Conversation with the Man Called al-Mu'tasim and rather beautifully subtitled A Game with Shifting Mirrors. This is the edition which Victor Gollancz has just reissued in London, with a foreword by Dorothy L. Sayers and the omission - perhaps merciful - of the illustrations. It is this edition that I have at hand; I have not been able to obtain a copy of the earlier one, which I surmise may be a better book. I am drawn to this suspicion by an appendix summarizing the differences between the 1932 and the 1934 editions. Before attempting a discussion of the novel, it might be well to give some idea of the general plot.
Its central figure - whose name we are never told - is a law student in Bombay. Blasphemously, he disbelieves in the Islamic faith of his fathers, but, on the tenth night of the moon of Muharram, he finds himself in the midst of a civil disorder between Muslims and Hindus. It is a night of drums and prayers. The great paper canopies of the Muslim procession force their way through the heathen mob. A hail of Hindu bricks hurtles down from a roof terrace. A knife sinks into a belly. Someone - Muslim? Hindu? - dies and is trampled on. Three thousand men are fighting - stick against revolver, obscenity against curse, God the Indivisible against the many gods. Instinctively, the student freethinker joins in the battle. With his bare hands, he kills (or thinks he has killed) a Hindu. The Government police - mounted, thunderous, and barely awake - intervene, dealing out impartial lashes. The student flees, almost under the legs of the horses, heading for the farthest ends of town. He crosses two sets of railway lines, or the same lines twice. He scales the wall of an unkempt garden at one corner of which rises a circular tower. 'A lean and evil mob of mooncoloured hounds' lunges at him from the black rose-bushes. Pursued, he seeks refuge in the tower. He climbs an iron ladder - two or three rungs are missing - and on the flat roof, which has a dark pit in the middle, comes upon a squalid man in a squatting position, urinating vigorously by the light of the moon. The man confides to him that his profession is stealing gold teeth from the white-shrouded corpses that the Parsees leave on the roof of the tower. He says a number of other vile things and mentions, in passing, that fourteen nights have lapsed since he last cleansed himself with buffalo dung. He speaks with obvious anger of a band of horse thieves from Gujarat, 'eaters of dogs and lizards - men, in short, as abominable as the two of us'. Day is dawning. In the sky is a low flight of well-fed vultures. The student, in utter exhaustion, lies down to sleep. When he wakes up, the sun is high overhead and the thief is gone. Gone also are a couple of Trichinopoly cigars and a few silver rupees. Shaken by the events of the night before, the student decides to lose himself somewhere within the bounds of India. He knows he has shown himself capable of killing an infidel, but not of knowing with certainty whether the Muslim is more justified in his beliefs than the infidel. The mention of Gujarat haunts him, as does the name of a malka-sansi (a woman belonging to a caste of thieves) from Palanpur, many times favoured by the curses and hatred of the despoiler of corpses. He reasons that the anger of a man so thoroughly vile is in itself a kind of praise. He resolves - though rather hopelessly - to find her. He prays and sets out slowly and deliberately on his long journey. So ends the novel's second chapter.
It is hardly possible to outline here the involved adventures that befall him...
Yes, yes, of course. Dontcha know?
The trick in Borges seems to lie in one master narrator, for all stories, and all stories being somehow one. Even your story?
It is a given among Borges scholars that the characters in Borges are not like the characters in your own life or experience, but I would like to differ. I sometimes think the omnicient narrator is talking straight to me, but its probably solipsism
There was a time during The Second World War, where my family, though not Jewish, was about to be shot.
Cut to Borges:
The rifles converged upon Hladlik, but the men assigned to be the triggers were immobile. The sergeant’s arms eternalised an inconclusive gesture. Upon a courtyard flagstone a bee cast a stationary shadow. The wind had halted, as in a painted picture. Hladlik began a shriek, a syllable, a twist of the hand. He realised he was paralysed. Not a sound reached him...
Well, as fate would have it, no sound of gunfire reached us.
A tired, beat-up Colonel appeared upon the scene and told the soldiers there would be no more execution of civilians on this day.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Every so often, (at around the even decades), we seem to want to write our memoirs. Some do, but, as in the production of a full-blown novel, some have brained themselves on merely this project. You might be Victor Immmature. Some memoirs might be premature, as the important people in your life may still be alive, and some far from "memoraible" yet.
But now, as so many of the old companions seem dead or dying, it might just be time.
And so, the beginning of a memoir. But I fear, that as in my dry runs at memoirs in the past, I might yet brain myself, for the wall of work knows more wittily than you yourself about your being alive. There is a script on that wall, your life outline that you were really not conscious of. Is it true with Joyce Cary that "Your plan, no good; Gods plan best"?
Nevertheless, in a kind of hubris, I press on with one more memoir.:
A lifetime ago, I was a college professor with a flair for writing fiction. I had a secretary and a receptionist. and a computer hard drive full of emails from important tliving novelists whose work I lectured on. I was still in their circle, at least with the Canadians, and I missed their company, usually at the old but swell King Edward Hotel on King Street, Toronto, Oh, I'd miss the mammoth drunks at that place, from whose upper stories, you cold see the claimed, claimed again-- and reclaimed landfill that was lakefront Toronto, not yet obscured by the somehow Oriental-appearing greed towers that replaced any hopes of waterfront renewal. We merely drank at the club downstairs--or covered convenions on Great Lakes water pollution that never seemed to get anywhere. We were at the old King Eddy to revel and carouse. It was a "Once Upon a Time There Was a Tavern" period. We were young writers, sure to have our way; so sure and exuberant that many times we were asked to leave, after our enthusiastic, animated reconstructions of great sprawling novels, in the smoky air-- back in the days before the tobacco prohibition; nervous, selfconscious waiters who didn't want to hear our ...bullshit, and stop all that smoking, there's a law you know.
Doctor or horses ass, we all loved the place all the same. It was an oasis from reality, though we were all nearly solidly ensconced in our in chosen professions; but he shits were killing us, and we knew it, nevertheless it was fun to rant and revel, to drink the incredible Canadian draught at the time, of which you could drink gallons, feel good, and never get a hangover, back the days when Molson's didn't pay tribute to the chemical industy...Or Toronto the the Peoples Republic of China--or Palermo.
Yet there always came tomorrow, the workaday, and you were at that godawful age of 39, when the artist in you was shouting, now! now! now! while at the college you were parsing the kraut syntax of Franz Kafka.
Some of my fellow teachers had already turned grey. There seemed a restlessness among them, almost a snippiness. "Why should I sully the profession with my own clumsy scrawls?"...But deep in their hearts they knew that writing talent or not, you couldn't make a living of it. So they stayed. Some of them seemed a little ill. Was this the way of writers-turned-teachers?
Ah but there was always the King Eddy where we could often be found, lying, bragging, throwing wild promises to the wind.
During the day, we were pigeon-grey academics in our pigeon-grey pigenhole offices. And we knew, already, in 1977, that things were going to get worse. But Trudeau was in office, the country was in good multicultural hands, and we were sure to have our way.
But the way seemed somehow inauthentic. Something was warping the zeigeist in the midst of the Vietnam war. Further shit was sure to happen, as we watched the completion of the World Trade Centre via New York Magazine and Buffalo TV. And our own CN Tower to almost rival such Faustian projects.
Life was too good. But we all sensed, artistically at least, that things were going to get worse. The Titanic was heading for the iceberg. It would take some time, but the unried monster boat was surely heading for that great white Hoo-Doo.
In the middle of the partying and working, I decided to jump ship.
I went to Mexico to write still another novel.
I got it done by discipline alone. Finished on page 500, but knew in my heart that it was no good. I had to go go to work now, to the old job, or get a new one.
I soon arrived back at the college, where I had once achieved an untenured professorship there by way of an earlier book, a fluke, a local bestseller, an odyssey of novel about about an escape from suburbia, from Tikertown Newmarket, Ontario.
I returned to find not much had changed. There were still lots of restless, greying forty -year- olds in their micro offices in their Dilbert cubes in Toronto who wished like hell to have done what I did, even if it meant loss of security, personal and financial. But they were still in their Dilbert cubicles, and presently, so was I. Return of the native.
I had come home with a manuscript. But what kind of manuscript?
I failed. Bad knight. Broke my lance in the quest. The goal was wrong, my talent somewhat short. At the end of two years of the writing, rejection. Who me? God's chosen?
The Alvin and the Chipmuks song in my head, as if out of a computer: "Yes you." I did not bother to resubmit. I knew that the book was no good. Just knew it. Too wordy, too long, to unstructured for somene who was supposed to be a seasoned pro. I was also broke. I had to get a that job.
Teaching was far easier than writing. Writing was going the long, hard way. Hardest thing about teaching was figuring out what you were going to talk about the next day.It also paid five hundred dollars a day, whereas for an author, the pay was next to nothing The reward would have been fifty thousand dollars flat, and if your book didn't go, you had to pay some if it back. Law of deminishing returns the economics profs said.
But even here, in the ivied halls of Lady Eaton's former estate in King City in my third semseter there, I was beginning to sense there was now even less security at King than in some writer's colony in West End Toronto..
My employer, Seneca College, was trying to fire me.
Even at this, there was now the possibility of failure.
....end of first installment.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Comes to reading, I'm so busy with the blogging these days that I am like the Champion Oyster Eater out of old Bob and Ray radio.
....They are interviewing a man on a very early prototype radio show of something like "Man Versus Food."
They ask the champion oyster eater, "How many oysters did you eat today?"
He answers, "Three"
"Three?...I though you were the champon oyster eater!"
"Yeah, but they're slippery little devils!"
Well, to do a one-eighty, I must admit that I have read one, count it, one novel this year.
For a writer, that's unconsciable....Sure, there were lots of shorts stories and articles, lots of blog read. But one novel?
It was called "The Communist's Daughter" by some Canadian writer, and after myself having married Red Rosie at one point--I didn't want to view another old Ninochka film with Greta Garbo. But "Daughter" was different...an old Commie's excuses for having to abandon a daughter whom he'd never seen. He had to go and find the Way!
It's almost a familiar quest with talented people.
Genius songstress Joni Mitchell did the same thing. Some tabloids said, "Bitch genius abandons daughter," but then don't we all sometimes give it all up for the beautiful songs, or, in our case, what we think are beautiful songs...Compared to those of Joni Mitchell, why in hell did we run off to Tahiti or somewhere e, only to find, after losing everything, that our songs were more like Barry Manifold.
"How many oysters did you eat?"
"Three."...because the oysters of creativity are slippery!
The god has a price, and it might well be your teeth...and even hair...I mean come on, have you ever tried to write a novel? It's impossible!...so you write stuff like I'm writin' now!
For sure I should be reading more, certainly reading more novels. The beast has to feed!
But no, only one novel read all the way through this year.. About the Commie's daughter....He doing a Leon Trotsky and almost getting hammered out, as he explains to his estranged daughter. Got the Trotsky trots. Went for a dump.
Familiar story...Samson, Intending to meet lions on the path. And he finally knowing that he was a mouse. Squeaking his excuses.
Don't he seem a little like you and me?
The gradiose plan, the calclulated risk;
And wham! Rumpelstitskin.
Somebody will call your name.
You'd better get back to reading, would-be Shakespeare. Read some real books besides your clumsy scrawls.
Somebody has already done you, but better.
Hard to top the noble wop.
Ya should have read him/her before you started out on your journey to Tahiti.
But then, you are secretly like a mainland Italian:
...But like Dante's compusive sinner in Hell,
what a past!
This is the strangest of all secrets.
"In the middle of the journey of our lives..."
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
For a while, I tried to re-integare myself back into the Ukrainian community from whence I sprang.
It just didn't seem to work for an Anglicized Slav who had gone too far working in the vinyards of Journalistic English.
But I did take a course in Slavics, U of T, and after re-discovering the poetry of our Taras Shevchenko (on whose grave Canada's PM,Stephen Harper laid a wreath last week), I was moved to write this:
MAYBE, TARAS, JUST MAYBE
Of all the problems that beset the busy mind of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, none was so familiar or so strange as the problem of slavery. Taras Shevchenko wrote 160 years ago, while still a young slave to Russian masters, and yet his message, scrawled across time in bootleg packets may apply to our own time, and even here in my own time, in York Region.
Slavery is as old as mankind, from the first crafty Sumerian seizing an innocent beach boy or girl among the reeds to the slaves of Rome, so aptly described by the ancients, the sixteen-hour days, the blackened faces of the bakery boys, the scarred backs showing through the hemp, the fire-scarred visages, the stink and exposure of loincloths, everybody working, moving all the time, one eye out for the master's whip. As for African slaves, there is a galaxy of literature on this, right from the first seized Nubian in Egypt.
Recently, I visited a sweatshop in York Region. The sixteen-hour days, the blackened faces of the wage-slaves, the scars on hands and back from being caught in machinery, the grease-blackened visages, the exposed privates where the denim had ripped. Yet apparently the money is clean enough, or they wouldn't do it.
Poor Taras Shevchenko. Enslaved all his life, finally liberated because of his talents, enslaved again for excesses committed over his newfound freedom, like many another person today who just can't handle the mantle.
And yet he speaks to us over the tens of decades. The French have noticed him, and certainly do we.
An yet, how far have we come? Marx has come and gone. Those who had nothing to lose but their chains have found themselves again in chains, but tighter.
And who knows what strange shape hulks now again towards our region to set up hectare-sized sweatshops and call it a campus.
Over here, pimps call the new arrivals sex trade workers.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
It's Halloween, and I fear my art has come to this:
Old horse masturbating in his stall.
Doing he steel-toe quatruped shuffle.
Thwack of two-foot long penis against belly.
Oh to be prehensile, like a Houyhnhnm out of Gullivers Travels.
Holding between hoof and pastern.
Look ma, no hands.
Not hard to conjure for myself as the image of an old horse.
Or the image of a poet.
Which I are not.
To which I soon get a letter:
What is horse masturbating?
Just very curious lol.
Bcuz every time i get my gelding out and when i groom him and get ready to ride, his penis comes out and he bounces it on his stomach. It confusing me.
(Me in my degenerate old age):
That was no horse. It was me, the stall-stooper.
And if I catch ya.....
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I've always had trouble with balloons as symbols.
When in love, the balloon is a beautiful symbol of the moon being a balloon, of things going swimmingly, of you being David Niven in evening wear and she in a silk taffeta gown, the two of you in a brisk foxtrot.
Kinda gay, what?
Don't worry, it gets dark.
At least darker.
Little did you know that you were dancing with a witch. You had no way to prepare for this. All your science, all your degrees. She got you by your your female side that you could never see, could never see in a lifetime if you hadn't met this woman who had just written and published a Texas novel, "She's Gone", all about torturing and murdering her rival, her sister. Can a writer's worst enemy be another writer? But no. She seemed a friend.
In between drinks she is is telling you that you had been a clown all your life, a professional clown of course, but a clown all the same.
And even at this, you have already lost your touch.
So she slips you a book, The Clown, by Heinrich Boll, and you see, finally, that you are a clown who is fast losing his skill and it is only the booze, the alcohol and the drugs that are greasing your optimism. That and the blonde Texas girl with the Betty Grable bangs.
She has shown you a part of yourself, the clown part, old guy who'd lost his turns, has been losing them for years in fact, and only the alcohol and cigarettes were in there keeping up what was left of your wind.
You listen to her. After all, she'd just been published by Alfred A. Knopf. Borzoi Books don't come a dime a dozen.
The lady has class.
At least she had some till we reach my aparment,
at the front of which is a fountain with faun in it.
She leaps into the fountain, hikes up her bouffant gown, drops her pants and has herself a pee.
Ah, Fata Morgana. Morgan Le Fey. Witchie-Poo. Strange Cindarella.
In the apartment, she is not yet danced-out. All she wants to do is dance.
Dancing on the dining room table, almost hitting the overhead light, dancing on the end tables. Dancing on floorspace that I hadn't littered with my manuscript pages.
We get to the moment of truth and out of her purse she produces a vibrator, and I'm wondering what the hell I am there for. To be a courier for Radio Shack batteries?
The turn excites me.
She might need a soother through all that action.
Somehow, we got each other off. I was damned if I was going to put on her gown, her idea, but largely for a laugh.
"You like my gown so much? Why don't you wear it?"
Ah, the Night Full of Rain Syndrome. Liberated woman with antique Alpha male.
There is a strange song running through my mind, something from the time I had been in the service:
Her father was a brewer
But she was a ...ing hooer.
No wonder she wrote "Gone". Look what she was doing to me.
In the morning, she herself was gone.
I groped around for her...just the empty side. She had left a drawing on the Parson's table. A big red balloon.
And me on the shoosh end, hanging on for dear life.
I went on with my lonely little life.
The professor with the Blue Angel now so sadly vanished.
Jalbert in the clown outfit. Le Balon Rouge, chasing my balloon. Chasing her.
Crowing like a cock in between my juggling act. Cuck-a-ruck-a-koo.
Disoriented, half-mad,it was only a matter of time until I was fired at my college job.
I applied for a number of jobs, some with a circus. I even offered to be shot out of a cannon.
"We might be able to use a man of you calibre," the manager laughs. I could tell it was his favourite joke.
How does it come upon a man, so steeped in his philosophy, his physics, his science--that he has no idea at all of
the Bob Dylan line: "Don't put on any more airs when you're down in Rue Morgue Avenue
They got som hungry women there
and the'll really make a mess out of you."
Well, one Isis leads to another, and this one a bit kinder.
"She was going to kill you. But you somehow broke the spell, you little warlock you. And you escaped.
"Now I'll lie down with you, but I won't f*ck you." Migod. Another one.
Ah, easy conquests says old Herodotus.
Stay with the easy conquests.
Otherwise you'll be all on fire for the one you can't get, your whole being honed to get her, to get the unattainable.
I found an easier conquest, or, I suppose, let myself be conquered.
The obsession with The One was almost gone.
But the following morning, I peered out the window and say the most beautiful balloon, red-and-white striped, like peppermint or an oldfashioned barber's pole.
Fell into the goddamn rosebushes.
I used to know some wild guys who had been studying for the priesthood, something I was halfway now seriously considering. "Crown or no crown. Get the f*ck out of my rosebush!"
It is twenty years later. I had long ago given up my gig as a circus clown.
I had sensed for years that my Morgan Fey was probably on drugs in the first place, andl likely close to her supply-- in the clutches of the Mafia, like Richard Brautigan, who, some say, offed himself. Or was offed.
My hormones were acting up again.
Had to find Morgan Fey. I was in limbo, and needed to make a move--in any direction.
I had kept following her. Tracked her down. She was living with a Don. Beware of Italians bearing gifts.
I caught her with the don and took a swing at him. Strangely, Don Corleone dropped like a stone.
The next night the phone call. "You'got a problem, Ivan. If you don'lt fix the problem, I will." Musta been high on something. A few minutes later, the ring of the phone. "You got a problem, Ivan. If you don't fix the problem, I will."
"I will, Ivan."
One night the don rang again.
"You've got a problem, Ivan.
"If you don's fix the problem, I will.
"I will, Ivan."
That evening, just as I went out for cigarettes, my aparment exploded.
What is it with middle-aged men?
You set up triangles--and even rectangles.
You can die of it.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Suppose a Martian were to write this blog.
Supposing he saw "spots" out of his saucer window on his way here, and that would have maybe even scared the average alien.
Migod, this is extraterrestrial!
What would he say?..."Well, it's a typical earth-specific phenomenon. Some earth astronauts in their crude analogies for spacecraft have seen 'spots' outside their capsules, and when debriefed by psychologists, they would be asked..."And what did the little spots say?
"Ah, little did they know that those spots 'R' Us ."
"But how come I now see them as spots?
"Likely the ashes of the cremated, now in orbit, since the recession on earth has hardly left any money for anybody to be buried any more. Nobody down there seems to have any Herns, not even change for a Gloopel. And even funeral pyres are expensive. Hindus in Haiti have a hard time. There ain't no wood. And that's not so good. In poor, denuded Haiti, everybody now, has the shits. And there ain't no trees fer to make the toilet paper. So the poor Haitians get worse things, like the awful C word. It's a good thing I have no feelings. I am an alien.
The Martian is my alter ego, I suppose.
In my perfervid imagination, I can see the Martian.
Predictably, he is is vaguely of mongoloid appearance, though very large-eyed, more like a bug's eyes.
He appears to be wearing some sort of cottony white Wookie- weight band on his silvery body, but it extends all the way down to his crotch and his nether quarters; it could well be a kind of shoulder-to-ass diaper. An incontinent Martian?...Well, maybe something here on earth gives him the shits.
He comes out of his craft already yelling and complaining, perhaps like a Canadian immigrant today
Act and don't react. Your planet is shit.Your culture is shit. Earth gives me the shits. And fuck-off."
He taps his hollow chest. " Important Documents! All the way from Uranus.
"At least on Mars, we have communal relief. You guys sit alone on the commode, usually thoughtful.
We sh*t and stink communally.
You have no such thing here. You only shit communally on smokers. And local muslims-- if redneck radio that I hear naturally, with no antenna, is any example.
The Martian has actually landed in Toronto, Canada.
"I see by all the day-after-the- election headlines all around that they now have a new mayor.
Well. It's about time. An overtaxed, fascist city in a Canadian culture obsessed with homosexuality. Even the heir-apparent to the Liberal Pary has a cupid's-bow mouth. What is this planet coming to? Is this the only way to fight overpopulation? Ask. I will tell! And baby, who are you? That's some Halloween outfit!
It may as well be Halloween in this culture. Waiting relatives at Pearson International Airport greeted with a "You-Hoo", as if they were in San Francisco, where eveybody is already airborne, hardly needing any airplanes.
The story is apochryphal, but someone swears he saw former Mayor Miller shopping for puce-cloured chaps down in Yorkville, where all the stars come from Hollywood.
But Sam, you left the ass-end out!
A society gay, and proud of it. And turned intellectual.
"My ancestors were already homosexual while yours were still in the trees."
Giggling cops and U. S. Marines, eager to tell, and even show, break up couples.
People are still snogging!
The emperor has no clothes and is looking for little boys.
The defeated candidate is in a gay marrieage. "Well, yippie shit!" says my Martian.
"No kind of spouse spouse left behind."
But oh, Toronto now has a new mayor.
His name is Ford. He is not sexually mobile.
"Fordy!" says the retard on the elevator.
Says the Martian, who is a hermaphrodite,"They've got it all ass backwards. At least until Oh Henry here got elected. I'd tell them all to go f*ck themselves, but then they would know things, and become like us."
And with that, he scratched his big left ear, and almost had an orgasm.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I am trying to write some SciFi.
Nice work if you can get it.
How do you top Bradbury, Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Anthony Burgess or even Kurt Vonnegut Jr. when he gets the wind up.
Ya don't. These were extremely versatile people capable as much of writing a symphony as a novel...And they probably would have written in either novel or song format--hell even Cobol or Fortran if asked by some publishers, Martian or human, to do so.
And inventiveness, sometimes ever playful inventiveness. Who can forget the ubiquitous Killgore Trout, comical master science fiction writer out of Vonnegut's ego as he haunts the pages of almost all of Vonnegut's later novels. The ghost out of Vonnegut's writing machine. Kilgore Trout--Theodore Sturgeon?----and then Killgore's son, Leon Trotsky Trout. And Killgore eventually goes to live in Cohoe, New York.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
But I'm trying to craft myself a Martian...If he were to land hereabouts today...Hardly original. Voltaire did it with a North American indian named Zadig. Swift and his Gulliver travels, and today all the ET--type movies.
My Martian, I think will be different.
He is capable of taking on human form, in every respect, save one. He has this terrible case of the runs--something incompatible with his digestion on earth--and he has to very nearly wear a diaper to keep clean.
We can imagine our Martian socializing with humans. The Martian out on a date.
"Lars, there is suddenly this smell in the room...You know there are these little animals in this cottage. Sometimes they just crawl into a hole and die."
Lars says nothing. Even his grandpappy, whenever he visited earth, would get the runs.
"What's the matter Lars? You seem in pain, as if you were holding something back."
Lars avoided saying, "I am trying to hold back" out loud for fear of projectile crappping.
There had been earlier visitations of Martians on earth, a whole colony of them on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Japanese called them the Ainu*. They too wore loincloths in summer, largely because they would get the runs from the processed Japanese food traded to them for perfectly good game and fish. The Japanese always said there was somethlng extra-terrestrial about the Ainu. They seemed almost human, but they kept yelling at people, throwing things and shitting themselves. And they insisted on communal relief, almost as a religious practice. Small wonder they were called the Ainus.
The Ainus, like all Martians, knew what all Martians knew--that the seat of intellect was the alimentary system and not the brain. Humans didn't know this, so each rumble and fart of the digestive system seemed to lead to ideas and concepts. Take Voltaire. He knew. But he was probably part-Martian.
And Rabelais. Now there was a man who gave a shit. Likely part Martian as well.
And I wouldn't even begin to consider George S. Honda, well-known scientist and crap climate change prosyletyzer. As a bona fide scientist when young, he would train fruit flies to crap fer to get the DNA. And he, gentleman dapper, would be himself be much on the crapper.
Eschatology. Final causes. The universe has a shit. Big Bang.... Dante's Hell. Your dinner going from the stomach to small, and then the large intestine where De Debbil dwells. No wonder things seem upside down. Vicious circle, mouth to anus. Enter William Burroughs?
Of such is much philosophy, certainly particle physics.
In the beginning there was the Big Bang. Big Fart? Big Baumm!?--Baroque echoes of a Passage to India by E. M. Forster?
Most serious physicists are convinced the universe is queerer than you think. And with Burroughs, queerer than you want to know.
But I prefer Vonnegut, his last big novel (Out of Wikipedia):
Galápagos is the story of a small band of mismatched humans who get shipwrecked on the fictional island of Santa Rosalia in the Galápagos Islands after a global financial crisis has crippled the world's economy. Shortly thereafter, a disease renders all humans on Earth infertile, with the exception of the people on Santa Rosalia, making them the last specimens of humankind. Over the next million years, their descendants, the only fertile humans left on the planet, eventually evolve into a furry species resembling seals: though possibly still able to walk upright (it is not explicitly mentioned, but it is stated that they occasionally catch land animals), they have a snout with teeth adapted for catching fish, a streamlined skull and flipper-like hands with rudimentary fingers (described as "nubbins").
The story's narrator is a spirit who has been watching over humans for the last million years. This particular ghost is the immortal spirit of Leon Trotsky Trout, son of Vonnegut's recurring character Kilgore Trout. Leon, a Vietnam War veteran who is affected by the massacres in Vietnam, goes AWOL and settles in Sweden, where he works as a shipbuilder and dies during the construction of the ship, the Bahía de Darwin. This ship is used for the Nature Cruise of the Century. Planned as a celebrity cruise, it was in limbo due to the economic downturn, and due to a chain of rather unconnected events the ship ended up in allowing humans to reach and survive on Galápagos.
Kilgore Trout -- deceased -- makes four appearances in the novel, urging his son to enter the "blue tunnel" that leads to the Afterlife. When Leon refuses the fourth time, Kilgore pledges that he, and the blue tunnel, will not return for one million years, which leaves Leon to observe the slow process of evolution that transforms the humans into aquatic mammals. (The process begins when a Japanese woman on the island, the granddaughter of a Hiroshima survivor, gives birth to a fur-covered daughter.)
Trout maintains that all the sorrows of humankind were caused by "the only true villain in my story: the oversized human brain". Fortunately, natural selection eliminates this problem, since the humans best fitted to Santa Rosalia were those who could swim best, which required a streamlined head, which in turn required a smaller brain.
Well. Oversized human brain.
I maintain that that it was the oversized human orifice.
Humanity's need every so often to have a good crap.
They call them Renaissances.
I call them the rebirth of the Big Farts. Every so often the asshole of mankind,, usuallly a scientist, rises to take over. I posit that it is the major aperture not the cortex that is the seat of human intelligence.
The heroes of history as shitters, whereas mankind had heretofore been to them, reactionary, retentive.
But the shitters are of alien origin.
The Martian and his diaper.
Einstein and his relativity.
I am positive there is a connection.
The Big Bang.
Humanity going for a shit.
* There are about four thousand people of pure Ainu origin still extant on Hokkaido, Japan...They have been deemed by the Japanese government as an authrentic aboriginal people, whom I do not really want to slight. I probably used the Ainu badly in my attmpt at humour. Please don't sue me. I'm just trying to be cute.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
It was fun being broke and hopefully brilliant-- until what was left of the money died.
So I'm out here beside a supermarket dumpster that they have now sealed because they knew that old moth-eaten Ivan would be there one day holding vigil over the opening that had spewed out all the stale- dated steaks that had somehow escaped the whee-thump! of the automatic compacting process.
No longer can I stand beside the big dumpters and catch my steaks like the late pitcher/outfielder Satchel Paige.
They sealed it with hard rubber and one of the employees of Metro came out to tell me, "If you keep poking inside that machine, you're going to lose a hand."
Migod, I knew that Newmarket was now full of unemployed former camel jockeys, but what is this--the Middle East? Lose a hand?
I am a pilferer, not a thief. I usually poke the open hole in the dumpster with a stick...You can hear the rustle of the plastic as you snag a day-old T-bone. I am trying to avoid losing a hand. I am a stick man...Maybe that's how I got to be the way I am in the first place. Stick anybody. Sure peed off the poor ole lady.
Kicked out like a dog."Out, damn Spot!"
And now virtually kicked out of the Metro Dumpster area.
Rejection--even at this-- failure. Pain.
Migod, I'm going the have to hitchhike to Aurora, the next town south of here, where they have an open dumpster.
And along the highway, the cigarette trees.
What's poor hobo to do?
"Trailers for sale or rent.
"Rooms to let fifty cents..."
"I'm a man of means
and by all means
King of the road."
Ah, old Roger Miller.
And this morning, to paraphrase an old Hemingway book title,
"The Bum Also Rises."
I'm off to Aurora this morning.
The early bird gets the worm.
...Or I might get the worm from all that dumpters fare.
Ah what the hell. I seem to have the immune system of a starfish.
"You been chewing on rocks?" asks the dentist.
"Nah. Just a tough roast.
"They were so much more tender when I got them from the Dumpster in Newmarket.
"There just ain't no quality control any more."
To which, Tom Pearson adds:
You Are Invited! ..........Calling all Musicians and Performance / Artists!!
Oct 17 is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - a day recognized by the United Nations and marked through events held world-wide on that day giving a voice to those in poverty.
York Region has been hosting an event since 2005, most recently at Fairy Lake Park in Newmarket where a mobile stage is brought onsite to the stone amphitheatre and used for the purposes of communicating messages to end poverty.
The event opens at 1pm with free hot food in an atmosphere of drumming and info tents followed by various speakers, including those with lived experience - using an "Open Mic" to voice their concerns. The event runs until 7PM.
At 5PM musicians & performance artists are invited on-stage, with "plug-n-play"for acoustical players and CD play capabilities available. Musicians and performance / spoken word artists are encouraged to create / perform original works that touch on the theme or pieces that reflect it. This is a growing and potentially door opening venue for original artists particularly.The event's design also lends itself naturallyl for "street performers" to set up along Fairy Lake's path and we encourage artists who do so to donate half the proceeds with the organizing group - Poverty Action for Change Coalition (PACC) to help defer event costs.
Thus far 2010's Int Day Showcase features Singer / Guitar/ Composer Glenn Marais - soon to be performing a concert in Africa - as well as Fred Joly, Brenda Bakos, Rappers Krhyme Syndicate, & Hip Hopper' Testament" - who are leading the way in creating an exciting new annual venue for artists to showcase original works - and at the same time help keep the message -to end poverty now- alive beyond the day through them.
If you have an original piece or would like to perform something that reflects the theme onstage contact the talent coordinator at email@example.com by Oct 7 2010.
Organizer, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Day , York Region.
To which I reply,
What, you didn't ask for me by name, God's chosen?
I'm the bum with the fastest mouth in town! I am always talking about the poverty of the artist.
Anyway, I'll be there!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Actually, I had an unhappy childhood, thank God.
How else to be a writer?
But if one only had been born a toff!
Ah, what could have been. I could have been somebody.
I could have been Marlon Brando. I coulda been a contenda! I could have invented 3D!
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Durn. I meant to photocopy and display the image of Mark C. Durfee's receipt of legal deposit for Library and Archives Canada, now that Mark is officially published, at least in this country.
So I had to go the long way, viz,
LIbrary and Archives Canada Bibliotheque et Archives Canada
RECEIPT FOR LEGAL DEPOSIT
RECU POUR DEPOT LEGAL
Legal deposit number
Numero de depot legal
Date do reception
Durfee, Mark C.,1954
Stink: poetry and prose of Detroit/ Mark C. Durfee
Newmarket, Ont. : Island Grove Press, 2009
Island Grove Press
540 Timothy ST UNIT 304
NNEWMARKET ON L3Y 5N9
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
While mainly teaching english and creative writing at Seneca College, I was Shanghaied one March break, when most of the other profs were gone, to teach something called existential philosophy.
What did I know about existentialism?.
The regular philosophy prof seemed to hear me.
Yes, she said. "It's absurd!
"But I really need my March break (At Seneca,we were teaching trimester)...And you, as an untenured prof, need the money, I'm sure.
"You're sort of a dramatist, aren't you? I had been giving them the facts of the philosophy. I'm positive you could supply the drama. I mean, look at you, You're theatrical as hell, and I'm sure in my all-woman class will be intrigued."
The first class went rather well, though I heard one lady exclaim, "He's drunk!" which, of course, I was. Doesn't everybody?...Well, no, not really. Not every teacher needs a drink to get the wind up, but some do.
I had begun with Nietzsche and his observation that people leave marks on each other,manipulate each other, damage each other. ...uck each other up!
There was a pigtail pulled by a lady siting behind another lady. There was some giggling.
I posited that the attitude known as existentialism had been around for a long time.
I made references to Dostoevsky, Kafka, Hemingway....There was no glazing of eyes. Everybody seemed to get my references.
I suddenly realized that this was a bright class, they knew of those authors, and I decided, as I started to sober up, I'd better give them their money's worth. I had earlier joked to the class that the college had hired me "becaue they never saw a drunk before", and I hoped they didn't take self-deprecation for information, though I surely must have given them a bouquet of vodka across the lectern platform.
I went into teaching mode.
How would you define existentialism? I asked. Hands went up.
"It is a literature of extreme situations," said Polly.
"It is an encounter with the absurdity of life," said another woman.
A third had shown to me how good the other prof had been. She had taught them well.
"It is I , in answer to your THOU"...Hell, she had read Martin Buber!
"It's absurd for sure," smiled a fourth.
"Yes, yes," I agreed. " Jean-Paul Sartre would describe it as 'the absurdity of society and the madness of the self.'"
I added a bit of silliness.
"And some would say, "Neetchee is peachy, but Sarter is smarter.'"
This brought up a groan, but here and there a giggle.
They looked up at me up there, on my lectern, needing a haircut, half drunk, baggy Polack pants, looking like TV funnyman Professor Irwin Cory of old. Seems all I needed was a yo-yo.
Somebody whispered, "Ivan's crazy."
But I was building up to my lecture, the core of it, and since I was crazy, I would quote from no other authority than MAD Magazine on the topic of existentialim.
Fifty bucks an hour, is fifty bucks an hour. I had to give them their money's worth, event if it was drama, entertainment...The truth is often couched in humour. At least I hoped it was.
The absurdity of society, and the madness of the self. Well, better no other "text" than one from that scholarly journal, MAD Magazine, issue #2
I introduced the class to the plight of the Jewish intellectual in America just before and after the Second World War. Life in comparatively illiterate America, for the Eropean immigrant with an education, seemed pure hell.... And then McCarthy came and fired any director or actor worth his salt. And the immigrant may have turned nihilist, having barely escaped the hell of the holocaust left behind. It may have led to madness, and even crime. In one comic book instance, it led to a character named Melvin Mole, this strange little apparition out of William Gaines' Humour in a Jugular Vein--Melvin Mole, file-toothed, rat-faced, pimply, whose sole (perhaps only) talent consisted of his ability to burrow underneath all obstacles. The undergraound man, burrowing like a mole, accompanying himself with obsessional mutterings: DIG! DIG! HAH! DIG! DIG! DIG!
The underground man. And when burrowing underwater, the talk balloons would have bubbles attached. GLIG! GLIG! HAH! GLIG! GLIG! GLIG!
Melvin tries to rob The Last National Bank, but the onmiscient police had placed guards there. hE avoids guards by incredible cunning and digging, but surfacing by accident at the Policeman's Ball. He is eschered, caught, at one point pulling out an automatic, which he discharges in all directions, yelling JOHN LAW! JOHN LAW! HAH! HEEH! HAH!....YOU'LL NEVER GET MELVIN MOLE...NEIN! NICHT! NEVER! Eventually, Melvin is dungeoned, and after many escapes (DIG! DIG! HAH! DIG! DIG! DIG!). He is finally dungeoned, escapes, and is redungeoned
Te finaly INdissoluble antinomy had been reached for Melvin Mole. For him, there is the electric chair. Says the jailer, "HAVE A SEAT, MOLE!"
Yes, certainly Orwell, Dostoevsky, Kafka.
How was it that a generation of brilliant luminaries in Europe, was suddenly reduced to being subhuman, cockroach And even mole.
And in America, for a long time, these Displaced Persons
were held as such. Maybe all displaced persons, "furriners" until they became acclimatized.
Melvin Mole never became acclimatized. Like Al Capone, he chose an underground role, but literally. Nihilism. Anarchy. A throwback to another time of Prince Kropotkin and Bakunin. Undermine everything! A life of crime.
And so, DIG! DIG! DIG! HUH! DIG! DIG! DIG!
Would Melvin Mole every become fully human? Would he ever find love?...Perhaps an anarchist potato!
At this they began to titter.
The monkey professor was in.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
The best writing is the best researched-- otherwise what can you contribute with your own awkward scrawls...At least, so I tell myself
Ordinarily, I research all my material--who had said in print what you now say, long before you, and probably better.
But I find I'm more like that ancient noble Frog, Montaigne. He wasn't up to too much research: "How can you square the circle when you're perched atop your wife?"
Saucy fellow....And way before Shakespeare.
The French are somehow superior, and they know it
Who else, in about 1550, could come up with a line like, "My stomach rumbled today...And that made me think of..."
Well, my stomach is rumbling today. Too heavy on the dumpster stew....Hey, I found a filet mignon not yet stale dated in the dumpster...Don't knock it if you haven't tried it!
....But I think it was that stale-dated tomato that is giving the old tum the rumbles. Shouldn't have had it raw, no matter how often I'd washed it. Shouldn't have had that salad with the tomato in it without parboiling it first....Gad, I think of Mexico. You had to practically parboil everything. And still, you wife would get tourista.
My stomach is rumbling today. One of my students insists that all my philosophy come from my rumbling stomach. A thought, a concept an idea...Nah, just the filet digesting.
I hope to feel more together and brilliant soon.
But not as brilliant as Montaigne. His stomach rumbled too, but that rumble came down the centuries.
Consider this observation on philosophy at it applies to teaching children. How does Montaigne compare to today's teachers, who blab, "Give my your input and I'll give you my feedback, or "What's your PTR?"
Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it? ... But in truth I know nothing about education except this: that the greatest and the most important difficulty known to human learning seems to lie in that area which treats how to bring up children and how to educate them.
In his commerce with men I mean him to include - and that principally- those who live only in the memory of books. By means of history he will frequent those great souls of former years. If you want it to be so, history can be a waste of time; it can also be, if you want it to be so, a study bearing fruit beyond price. (Michel de Montaigne)
Myself, I would add, Hip is self destructive. Smart is timeless.
But Montaigne also had a mischievous, almost H. L. Mencken side. He writes, way back in the sixteenth century:
Here in my town, I pay to have my books printed. But all through France people pay money to read me.
Lord, have things changed for some of us in the last four hundred years?
I have printed some novels at my own expense. Now some professors from out of Edmonton, Alberta, want to pay me. Also India.
Ah, Sieur de Montaigne. Inventor of the essay.
Is that what I have been doing for the past fifty years? Writing the essay which somebody had already done, and done better?
I've got to give this some thought. I live in Canada, which was really founded at about the time of Montaigne (never mind the Anglos who say, officially that Canada was started in 1867. Canada is half a millenium old, if you count John Cabot and then Champlain.
I think as a non purloin, I am starting to learn.
We might have Shakespeare, but the frogs had Montaigne.
And even Balzac, the Shakespeare of the novel
Ah the melding of two cultures.
I think I am finally starting to get it.
...But I was sort of schizophrenic in the first place. :)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
The recent interest in Geneology and the source of one's name has me poring through old family records hoping to find a distinguished old Cossack or somebody. I am not English, but with my luck it'll be John of Gaunt, not the most savory of historical characters.
What's in a name, you ask.
Well, suddenly long names are in. New movie stars appear, with easy -to- pronounce names like
Gyllenhaal, Wasikowska and Arulpragasam,
I especially like
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (aka M.I.A.)
Whatever happened to ingriguing, almost literary (Henry Miller?) names like G. Muff Diver?
What do I know? I am just the dumpster diver who happens to have a long name. And no powdered wigs in my background, though I learned is Slavics class that the Queen is ten per cent Ukrainian...Old Norse nobility from the Kievan Princes. I mean, look at Her Majesty's picture and my own odd likeness. Scare the crap out of you, no?
Anyway, failing to find royalty, I had my ex wife design a crest for me and mine. Two crossed hoes rampant on a potato field...I mean, I was born in a potato field in the old country. My first cousin was a potato.
Well, been in Canada pretty well all my life.
Heh. Will success spoil Ivan Prokopchuk?
But how he longed for a real cool name, like the late journalist Seymour S. Elegant?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I am bugged of late by people who want their short stories published here.
Latest supplicant is an old Ryerson U. acquaintance, Tony Mac. I am holding his story on "the ghost out of the swimming pool" on my desk, pending feedback from the "Quarks", my sort-of editorial board...Or is that Editorial Broad? They're all women.
But I felt Tony's story lacked something. What?
And what did I know? I was a mere teacher.
And could I do any better? "You show us, teach!"
This gives me some trepidation. I have been a prof, and am perfectly aware of the riposte by some students, that "those who can't, teach."
Anyway, "Helpless-Can't -do" over here, will now attempt a short story of a kind. The impressionistic kind. And, hopefully intertaining.
My friend Gogol (of Google) had been a hotshot computer whiz and ethnic writer with a string of published books in English, a Joseph Conrad who one day fell into the Rye long before he realized that what he had been drinking and smoking was neither soda pop nor Vicks.
Occupational hazard. Success brings anxiety. There is an impossibility to relax. With alcoholic achievers, it usually leads to a woman or a bottle. Gogol was married, but he took both. This, of course, led to violent protest from his wife, who told this budding Felix Unger to get the hell out, and that he was no odd guy. Just a little too high on the testosterone scale, the result, no doubt of getting calculus mixed up with cabbageheads and all too frequent "love relations" with his computer. "Your lovemaking has gone from the mechanical to the electronic. I've always been here. Have you noticed?"
Out in the street, like Robert Crumb's Felix the Cat, Gogol (of Google) was beginning to notice. Pawning his laptop and down to his last vial of Aqua Velva, he took the standard step.
Starving, he joined the "between you and I" and "please-and-thank-you crowd" and "sign this for me" group of happy, ambitious illiterates who ran the food bank, secretly humming to themselves about how the mighty had fallen.
Now Gogol of Google was a a natural phenom who had risen so far as to teach Boolean algebra at the local university. His published novels gave him such stature that when talking to the dean in the halls, everybody knew who the important person was. People would say, "There goes Gogol of Google." That's how big he was.
Now, fresh from the food bank with his matched set of Price Chopper shopping bags in his hand, people would say, "Gogol-eyed fraud. And "Get a job, Gogol!"
He tried to re-establish his reputation by writing a play with which he had hoped to make some money, but the local theatre company had been adjudicated and found No Good, like the rejected manuscript of the same play he'd sent to a publisher. It had been, in fact marked by some fuzzy-eared slave, "NG".
No Good Boyo. Under Milkwood and all that.
All because of a Vodka habit and an inability to relax ( He'd had a worm in him for some time, not a computer worm, but,he feared, a real one, the same worm that had goaded his ambition. The worm had seemed to set set up residence in Gogols tummy, with full amenities, the DVD player, plasma TV --the entire entertainment unit. "Hey wise guy, splash a little vodka down this way."
Whether the worm was real or virtual, Gogol did not know, He was beginning to realize, that for some time, something had been eating away at him
Getting a girlfriend didn't seem to help. She may have given him an even worse hitchiker in his tum. Maybe in his brain. Pirouettes and spirochettes. "Our Seargeant-Major's got a hell of a dose of clap!
But Gogol's biggest problem was turning forty.
"It was a mistake," thought Gogol. I shouldn't have done that. If I had it to do all over again, I'd never turn forty.
"Who wants to live with a forty-year-old vodka sniffer and gin-sock," his wife, still a hysterical thirty -three had said. So she divorced him --just when he got fired by the college.
"Boy," said Gogol," this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Now I can drink."
"Not so fast," said the worm. "Where's my toke?" And "Who's gonna feed me now?" Gogol somehow felt that he would never again walk alone.
So now there was only Gogol and his little pal the worm. Both were thirsty as hell. No money.
Gogol's girlfriend lived out in West Gwillimbury, something of a beauty, but careless about her personal habits, a real ditch pig, actually, a Moonbeam McSwine and homeless too. He the rake professor. They were made for each other.
Pooling their Canada Pension cheques, bottles in hand, they would chase each other up and down hillsides, past garbage cans and into town, where Irene never said goodnight. She was a nonstop two-four guzzler, always complaining it was too hot at the Bonanza tavern, where she would attempt to take her clothes off. Like Scott's Zelda-- and try to sully the owner's beer, though it seems that women can't aim very well. This was great entertainment for the men, but disgusting for the women. She would dance on tabletops, knock drinks over with her high heels and generally make a fool of herself. Like Gogol.
Soon, they were "disinvited". Thrown out. Professor and Blue Angel from Georgina. The last thing they heard before the door slammed on them was White Stripes singing "Seven Nations Army."
But in fact, the following morning, broke and hungover, they hit the Salvation Army. There had been some trepidation over the decision. Just before they'd been thrown out of the Bonanza, the White Stripes had sung:
"And the feeling from my bones says find a home..."
Now they had to find a home. Hard to do when you're down and out in whitebread Newmarket.
"People just don't behave this way."
It took the Salvation Army two years and six thousand dollars to finally straighten out Google and his Moonbeam.
And would you believe it? Gogol got his computer back. One of his novels became a local bestseller, especially one aided in creativity not by "Seven Nations Army", but by the Salvation Army. Story for ya.
And Moonbeam got an unexpected inheritance from a developer relative. Moonbeam and Gogol moved in together and lived happily afterward.
Now, have you read anything more awkward?
Small wonder that I teach. :)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
It used to be held among big writers gone to seed, that a professional was at least safe among amateurs.
This may have been true in the old days of typewriters-- or among any number of fuzzy-eared incompetents in a creative writing class--but not today.
An idiot on a computer can make a football schedule sound interesting and relevant. Such is the nature of technnology...Just give the god out of the machine an idea, and it'll practically write it for you. We're getting close to Hallmark cards in the creating of fiction. Just give Hallmark the idea. Mark will finish the job.
So the old typewriter pro is no longer safe among amateurs. For them there is automatic thesaurus, spellcheck and Google-goosed ways to go.
So even a raving paranoid can be electronically augmented to actually saying something.
How many bloggers out there now? A billion?....Easy.
And its strange that in this electronic age, where McLuhan said Big Brother moves to the top--everybody still wants to be a novelist.
Well, nice work if you can get it.
Cyberspace, like a Boeing 727, can do anything for you but write your novel.
Keyboard or typewriter. As a novelist you are back to Square One.
Snoopy atop his doghouse.
It was a dark and stormy night.
Strafe marks along the roof and lawn. Curse you, Red Baron!
So when a professional ventures out to join a group of amateurs, or maybe a critique group where all hope to gain sustenance from each other--the unfortunate metaphor of a can of worms comes up--he is just another worm in the jar...and if you don't like what we're doing, get the funk out.
Forty years have passed since I worked for the magazine to which I now write as a supplicant. I used to be a sizeable fish here in the boonies in those days.
Now it's Square One.
Geez, I'm not a journalist any more, but would you take a used novel from this man?....I mean you did in the past. You even serialized my Black Icon novel, even if you left out a chapter or two to save money.
Anyway, here goes. I will thump my tub.
I endeavor, like any ambitious type looking for exposure, to write a news story about myself.
Newmarket's prolific writer, pamphleteer and former teacher Ivan Prokopchuk has written a novel about Bradford, but watch ou! It's pretty Damon-Runyon. Guys and dolls--and some of the dolls have problems.
The Fire in Bradford is a novel along the lines of the antique movie The Professor and the Blue Angel. The professor meets his Marlene Dietrich, and to a straitlaced Prof recently divorced and lonely, this signals trouble right from the word go. Lana is glamorous. Among her other pursuits, she has a job jumping out of cakes at conventions. He is newly divorced and looking for love and identity. It is not a cake walk.
The two personalities clash, there is fire. There is Fire in Bradford, which in the Eighties, was a pretty wild place in some sections, as the call sign then was sex, drugs and rock and roll.
It is into this world that the poor professor is thrust into.
He falls in love with the vivacious, gorgeous Lana, he the mousy Professor Rath and she the racy Blue Angel.
This was not the familiar College, Professor!
This was a world of players, pimps and police and it seems any number could play. Except him.
He was not a weekend man, but a weakened man after separation from his wife. What he wanted was love, understanding, a new start, perhaps a new identity.
He would surely not find it in The old Village Inn environs.
So he is beaten from the start, caught in a menage-a-trois between Lana, her husband-- and even Lana's extra lover.
He soon discovers that five into four won't go.
After years of success and couthness at the college, he is something of a prude, and he just can't keep up with the fast style of Bradford Yuppies at the time.
He is finally dumped by Lana for an apparent drug dealer whom Lana needs to maintain her own supply.
She was not in love with the professor in spite of her love notes and entreaties to him as her possible way out. She was in love with the drug.
And so begins the professor's downfall as he descends into alcoholism and obsession over the lost Lana. "Only you," he cries into his beer at the Bonanza Tavern, while Lana marries the fourth man in what had really been a rectangle, not triangle-- and herself descends into a West End drug existence in Toronto.
But there is something of the Don Quixote to the professor.
He attemps a rescue of Lana, who, of course does not want to be rescued. He botches the attempt and is ever further rebuked and rejected.
Says one reviewer about The Fire in Bradford, "the fire is largely in his pants, Lana is unattainable --and for him and his obsession, there is no exit."
He squanders all his savings, finally travels the world, trying to find in motion what he has lost in space--the unnaturally beautiful but wild Lana--and ends up as a Main Street alcoholic in Newmarket. No exit.
He finally sits near a dumpter at the 404 Plaza where there is at least stale-dated food-- and writes his novel.
Well, what the hell it worked once for me at the Globe and Mail.
Here is hoping for luck at the Strobe and Snail.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
invites you to a Book Launch for
by Chris Benjamin
8 pm, Monday October 4
Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas Street West, Toronto
With musical guests Charms (the duet of Gabe Levine and Jessica Moore) and Sarah Kenvyn
on hand and on stage to celebrate the launch of Chris Benjamin’s new novel.
All those 19+ are welcome to this free event. Cash bar.
902.857.1388 for more info
“Drive-by Saviours is a fine first novel by a fine new writer.”— Stephen Kimber, author of Reparations
FROM THE BACK COVER:
In a crowded world, a single connection could change everything.
Chris Benjamin masterfully, magically weaves together the seemingly disconnected worlds of Mark, a failed social-worker-turned-unhappy-grant-writer coming to the end of an even unhappier relationship, and Bumi, an Indonesian illegal immigrant on the run from his past and the ocd that dogs his present. Their chance encounter on a Toronto subway launches them on a complicated friendship that allows both men to finally confront the demons in their pasts and to find the hope in their futures.
— Stephen Kimber, author of Reparations
Chris Benjamin’s debut novel is part contemporary fiction, part social commentary and part kick-in-the-ass storytelling. Although refreshingly unique in its portrayal of Indonesia’s cultural landscape, with its universal themes of greed, betrayal, family and redemption, Drive-by Saviours transcends both time and place. Through weaving Bumi’s tenacity with Mark’s ennui, Benjamin skillfully elucidates how globalization entangles us all in an artificially exploitive web and how escape can only be found through creating genuine bonds, those that deeply connect us one to another.
— Carla Gunn, author of Amphibian
Chris Benjamin has travelled widely in North America, West Africa, Europe and Asia working as a freelance writer. He writes for several national and regional magazines in Canada on a variety of social justice and environmental issues. He is also the Sustainable City columnist for the The Coast weekly newspaper in Halifax, where he lives with his wife and son.
Read a review: http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/1203544
The launch on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150427638314456&ref=ts
The book on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150427638314456&ref=ts#!/pages/Drive-by-Saviours/128468323858905?ref=ts
On the Fernwood Blog: http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/blog/2010/08/a-conversation-with-author-chris-benjamin-drive-by-saviours/
Trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COQ1KYZUY-g
Listen to readings from the book on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/chrisbenjaminwrites
More about the author on his website: http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/