Monday, June 28, 2010
I gave up politics when I'd check the phases of the moon
before campagning. Never campaign on a full moon! Gnotis sauton, says Socrates Know thyself. I mean, be realistic.
Know thyself for a madman-- and a politician can't be friggin' crazy. Neither can a teacher be batshit.. So I had to be a writer.
A writer is a person who writes.
But you can't just write into a vacuum, or all of it going into your drawer... Or drawers?
Writing has for you has to become a social act, or you're just one of those "precious" people, you know tht type, the tarot cards, the I-Ching, the black leotards, the ouija board. Occasional Goth... The unskilled guitar player. The black stockinged "chess broad" of the coffee house Fifties, where are they now?
So you can't just write into a box.
Sometimes I think even online writing is a little bit like masturbation. Feels good, but it's damn lonely, old Jerry Rubin notwithstanding. "If it feel good, do it." Well, forty years later, it seems that this was all he and Abbie Hoffman were good for. What did the Yippie-Dippies actually accomplish? More wars and more ideas for the fashion industry.
So, to borrow a phase from that generation (my generation?) one has to get ones shit together.
Ya gotta start. Start making your writing into a social act.
Start anywhere. Start where you stand.
In my case, it is right here in Newmarket Ontario.
So like any Canadian, usually wimpy, I will sally forth into
definite creative act. Heh. I will write a lettor to the editor!
Bigod, I have hidden talent and I want to write!
But writing and gettin published are two different things.
You must publish, or perish--publish anything anywhere.
Start with your local newspaper. Pick an issue and comment on it.
Break the mold of being unpublished. At least if they publish your letter, fifty thousand people are going to read it in the area paper.
Find an infomation hole and fill it. People get tired of reading about movie and rock stars. There is a real world out there! And that real world is one of something oily and corporate having encrusted itself onto you soul.
But start right here in your town, where you stand.
What is the biggest problem around here, right here where you started? Well, it would appear, broadly, from where you live perched atop Toronto,
Cities appear to be dying of starvation, now that suburbanites hate living in cities and would drive as long as an hour to get to The Big Smoke, which of late is showing very nearly a rotten core. Are suburbanites killing the province and globally warming the planet with their minivans?
Do something useful about this flight to the burbs. Write a letter to the editor.
So here goes:
Urban sprawl hurts us all. It makes public transit almost unworkable, it clogs highways, pollutes our air and warms the planet.
Except for myself, who once ran for mayor of Newmarket, no local politician has ever been against it. Many councillors are backed by developers in campaigns.
And yet, what in tarnation is going on here in tiny Newmarket? Sixteen square miles of town so developed by now that the new shibboleth is to build up, way up. We can no longer spread. We have to have highrises. New York in Newmarket.
Too many people, too many buildings in too small a space...Sixteen square miles. And the urban affairs ministry is still saying, build, baby build!
At a recent meeting in Newmarket, poor, sincere Ward 5 Councillor Joe Sponga brought some of these issues up, but threw up his hands in resignation." What can you do against Queen's park?" (Queens Park is like Albany, New York, State Capital)
I had offered, at the meeting "What are they smoking at Queen's Park?" Why do they want to glut already gridlocked highways with even more cars? Why should Newmarket build up? More people with more cars. Screw public transit. Anybody middleclass knows this is for peasants.
Urban sprawl and congested highways is not what the people of Newmarket wanted. But politicians seem to ignore the wishes of citizens and pander to developers.There seems to be no other industry around. Well, there is the Cancer Industry. In Newmarket today, Cancer is the bigmoney generator and we've got a state-of-the art cancer hospital... New doctors and professionals in town buying up any available homes or condos. Elbowing the poor and the working poor into the slum that has become downtown, as all the business has gone to the big box stores just outside of town.
What indeed are they smoking at Queen's Park?
Citizens have tried to fight this in nearby Markham.
And today, they lost. Again. The Devoloper-Mayor has won.
To veer towards bad taste, there is a primitive form of man called Austraulopithecus Boisson.
Hereabouts, with the developers, it might as well be "Ausraulopithecus Paisan."
Build, baby build. Even if there is nowhere left to build.
Hey, you can really get a rant off in a letter to the editor.
And someone might actucally read it!
Friday, June 25, 2010
A tale of two letters.
Every so often, when frustrated by one or another of
the government's behaviour modification schemes, one is forced to rail against the Ontario government's wrongheaded plan to tax cigarettes out of existence.
Of course, Mafia Miltie always has other ideas....A thriving black market cigarette trade at an eighth the cost of overground cigarettes.
And so I sally forth in the TorStar chain of local newspapers:
HIGH TOBACCO TAXES BEHIND ILLEGAL SMOKES
The current witch hunt over illegal cigarettes gives me images of Keystone Kops
Our governments have, over the last decade, tried to tax cigarettes out of the market.
The predictable result, is,instead, this has created a black market that delivers cigarettes to Canadians for the price of a song.
The RCMP says these imported black market cigarettes are available for sale on our streets and around our schools.
It is estimated they account for more than 30 per cent of Canadian consumption and much higher than that in Ontario and Quebec.
I would say this points to the government's lack of commitment to enforce and contol the distribution of illegal cigarettes.
This was entirely predictable based on the previous attempt 15 years earlier, when taxation was tried as a way to encourage smokers to quit.
The result, then as now, was smuggling increased.
Astronomical legal tobacco prices have encouraged higher smoking rates among young people by tolerating the proliferation of cheap, black market cigarettes.
Premier Dalton McGuinty, be at least as smart as former prime minster Jean Chretien, and cut tobacco prices by half.
You'll find tobacco tax revenue to be about the same as now, with fewer smugglers.
To which the paid help from the Canadia Cancer Society replies:
Re: High tobacco taes behind illegal smokes, letter to the editor by Ivan Prokopchuk, June 10
HIGHER TOBACCO TAXES DON'T ENCOURAGE SMOKING
As a leader in the fight against illegal tobacco, I can tell you you're fundamentally wrong in saying higher tobacco taxes encourage higher smoking rates.
Numerous studies have shown increasing the price of cigarettes if one of the best ways to encourage young people to stop smoking, and prevent young people from starting to smoke.
If the price of tobacco is increased by just ten per cent, consumption will generally drop by four per cent--more for youth.
Ontario has the lowest tobacco tax rate in Canada, almost half that of other rovinces.
For years, the Canadian Cancer Society has led the fight against illegal contraband tobacco at the provincial and federal levels.
We encourage everybody to go to cancer.ca, join the fight and take action on contraband tobacco.
CANADIA CANCER SOCIETY
HOLLAND RIVER UNIT MANAGER
Myself, I can hear Al Capone laughing out of his grave.
...Too much to do this morning. Survival!
In the meantime, I'll offer something from vintage SNL, at the heady time when Nancy Polosi became speaker and Mr. Obama was on his way to the Presidency.
SNL has since pretty well gone downhill, but it took Kristen Wiig and some brilliant writing to get the show back on speed: Here is Episode 5 from Season 32:
A Message from the Speaker-Elect of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Nancy Pelosi...
[ open on Seal of the speaker ]
Announcer: The following is a message from the Speaker-Elect of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
[ dissolve to Nancy Pelosi sitting stern and proper at the desk in her office ]
[ the audience applauds enthusiastically ]
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
Good evening. I'm Nancy Pelosi. For the past nineteen years, I've been a member of Congress in the eighth District of California, proudly representing the citizens of San Francisco.
As of this January, however, I will, in a sense, represent all Americans, when I am sworn in as speaker of the House.
[ the audience cheers ]
Despite the efforts of this administration to frighten Americans about the Democratic Party, and its alleged [ makes quotes signs with her finger ] "San Francisco values", last Tuesday you went to the polls in record numbers, and you sent this White house a message:
that "stay the course in Iraq" is not a plan; that our health care system should serve ordinary citizens, not pharmaceutical companies;
that so-called rough sex can be a necessary and fulfilling adjunct to a better sex life - partiularly when it involves fantasy role-play scenarios, such as kidnapping or forced interrogation, provided, of course, that both participants are willing and disease-free, and have agreed on what we call a "safe word" - for example: "Palomino";
that an increase in minimum wage is long overdue; and, finally, that U.S. citizens do not surrender their Constitutional rights, the moment they engage in multiple partner or group sex, provided, once again, that all participants are willing, at least twelve years of age, and no peanuts, or peanut products, are used.
We Americans have always been a religious people, a member of my staff tells me.
And whatever you may have heard, the Democratic Party is not anti-religion.
Whether you're a Wiccan priestess, a Druid, tantric Buddhist, Servant of Moloch, Lord of Fire, Presbyterian, or a member of the Cult of Collie - your faith will be respected, so long as no animals are harmed during your ceremonies - except, of course, gerbils.
And when the new Democratic majority Congress convenes in January, it will truly be a Congress as diverse as the nation it serves.
[ show photo of each individual as she names them ]...They are mostly black.
Chairing the Judiciary Committee: John Conyers;
at Ways and Means: Charles Rangel;
at Homeland Secueity: Benny Thompson;
at Government Reform: Ernesto Guevara, Jr.;
and Agriculture: this naked hippie.. and his old lady;
and Small Business: yet another black dude;
and Finance: the drummer from Rage Against the Machine;
and, at Intelligence: al-Qaeda number-two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Truly, a Congress that looks like America.
[ Nancy nervously looks offscreen, as a leather-clad S&M enthusiast enters ]
What is it?
Dana: Nancy, uh, you need to okay this. [ hands her a memo ]
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: [ to the audience ] Excuse me. [ turns to her aide ]
Uh, Dana - I'm kind of in the middle of something.
Dana: I'll come back.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: And, Dana, about your outfit - it's alright now, but, as of Jauary, you might have to go with more of a business look for the office.
Dana: [ slightly embarrassed ]
Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: No, no - it's fine for now, but, you know, but after the transition --
Dana: Sure. No problem.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: [ glances offscreen ]
Who's your friend?
Dana: Oh, uh, this is my slave - his name is "Filth" --
[ an S&M bondage slave, with a chokehold covering his mouth, enters the scene ] He's, uh, a human ash tray.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
Dana, this office is non-smoking.
Dana: Just pot.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
Oh. Okay! [ extends her hand to "Filth" ] How do you do?
"Filth": [ muffled ] It's a real honor to meet you, Congresswoman. Congratulations on becoming House Speaker, that's so great!
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: Thank you, I appreciate that.
"Filth": [ muffled ] You are great.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
"Filth": [ muffled ] You are great.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: Dana, I'd better get back to this. [ points to the camera ]
Dana: Oh! Absolutely. Sure. [ drags "Filth" offscreen with him ]
[ Nancy returns her attention to the camera ]
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
With your votes last Tuesday, you have offered us your trust. I promise you, we will not betray it.
[ buzzsaw sound effects suddenly blare from offscreen, as Nancy holds a nervous pose in front of the camera ]
Dana's Voice: Palomino! Palomino!
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: [ glances offscreen ]
[ to the camera ] Excuse me, I-I have to take care of something -- [ rushes offscreen ]
Palomino! He's not breathing! [ runs back onto camera, with a panicked expression on her face ]
"Live, from New York, it's Saturday Night!" [ ducks back offscreen ]
---I am still peeing my pants laughing over this. Palomino
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
While I won't pretend I've read all of "The Fire in Bradford",
I do notice it has lots of local colour. This is important.
Good luck with all your enterprises.
Monday, June 21, 2010
FROM AN OLDER BLOG:
My friend -- we'll call him Seymour-- was a mass of contradictions--and he had a really short fuse.
In the middle of a drinking bout, he's pipe up and say, "You know, Ivan you bring out in this feeling of inferiority/superiority in me. Sometimes you piss me off."
Well, I noticed that wine sometimes brings out the Jekyll and Hyde in you, certainly an old girlfriend, but never Seymour. At least, not till tonight.
I try to change the subject. Talk about writing. Where it leads to...And Seymour had for years been so supportive. For instance, he started, without my prodding, "The Black Icon Fan Club", after I published that zippy little book... Fans from Detroit to L.A.
Seymour, a computer whiz, had said, "You now have fans all over the world," for which I thanked him.
But something was going on with Seymour He was surely not himself. Something wrong with his family? A touch of petit-mal, borderline epilepsy? Seems that of late, anything "left"-- lefthanded-- that he had to do, was leading to pain and disorientation. Certainly when he turned left to look at me.
He seemed tired, irritated by the things I I was saying.
Drink in hand, Seymour goes to my work station. Boots up the computer.
Somehow, he finds my blog.
Flat out he declares, "Creative Writing... Nice. An ugly man has created a beautiful blog!"
I wonder what he meant by that.
I said I knew he wasn't feeling well and I was going to avoid an instictive response. Seymour and I had been friends from Mexico to Copenhagen, to L.A.
But he did not desist. "Look at you. Shot nerves. Trying, almost visually, to feel better. Rumpled suite and baggy Polack pants.
He smiles. "You're not from L.A."
"Well, Bukowski sort of was."
"But you're not Bukowski. Not even close.
"Your latest novel was about a guy who was nothing but a big raw nerve. Everything in life was pissing him off."
"Seymour,I could say something..."
"Say nothing. You've lost your wife-- who is a nice person-- your money and your sanity over some damfool 'artistic quest'. "
I gather friends around me who are of use to me. To me, you're a shadow of your former self. Almost a dead cat. Useless."
Oh Seymour, Oh Seymour. I fear you might be on your ninth life yourself. You seem to have a stroke coming on.
Otherwise, I'd kick your ass right now.?
I emailed Detroit recently.
Poor Seymour did have a stroke, a big one. Anything left to him was nigh onto impossible.
I weep for a friend, a productive, intelligent, hardworking friend,family man,who, I think, has gone mad. Certainly very ill.
And we dead cats somehow clasper onto a tenth life.
Looks like Seymor and I aren't quite dead cats yet..
He emailed me yesterday to proudly write of his first son's recent wedding.
Seymour has been very ill, and I trust he is returning to health.
How appropriate. A note from Seymour. On Father's Day.
And I too, am a father.
Things in common in a forty-year friendship which I thought had died--worse if Seymour had died...We go back such a long way in Singlehood and fatherhood.
But he didn't die. And he said he was sorry that he had dropped to ball when it came to our friendship.
This sort of love doesn't seem to die.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The quest at first seems noble.
Listen up, all you poseurs and incompetents, writer manqués, poseurs, English teacher all.
I will go to Tahiti, do what I have to do there, and when I come back, I will go to the auditorium, read my stuff and bring the house down.
Well. Certainly great expectations.
But the allure of a new paradise, the smell of eucalyptus, the vodka taste of alcohol, the gleaming limbs of women, most distracting to the ordinarily closeted writer.
The rewards seem there before the accomplishment, the novel, the painting.
For Gaugin, it was beautiful Wahine women. For Joe Orton it was lightfooted Arab boys in white, and for me it was a Hollywood starlet.
But both Gaugin and Orton got the work done.
Thirty years later, I'm still stuck at the work, the nuts and bolts of it, before I go up on the podium.
Oh sure, there were the palliatives the little romans a clef to spite your underachieving peers, The poetry readings, the coffee house grind. But it was largely dreck, coffee house leftovers from the magnum opus that was to have been your novel.
Well, I'm finally ready. Not with the novel that I had meant to write (though it was somehow shoemakered together) but with a knock-off, my Fire In Bradford, with which I hope to read on the podium--hoping to bring down the house.
Something is happening to Professor Irwin Kovalenko.
It is happening, is happening, as he had always dreaded, happening to him in public, before students, yes, a public breakdown.
Yes, a crack-up on this glorious, but unnaturallly chilly campus in summer, with its stone arches and lentils among the flowering tiger lillies and cultivated roses, the college a jewel in the Caledon hillls of Ontario, and it is here that Professor Kovalenko freezes up.
He had laboured mightily, toiled for years, thought, fucked, drank.
And now this.
A friggin' clown.
But somehow he gets through the reading.
There is faint applause.
He bows, goes in among he audience, takes off his mortarboard hat, turns it upside down, uses it like a panhandler's cup.
And strangely, there is the first hollow click of coin.
And the tragicomedy of this is that there is suddenly wild applause.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
It has long been a lonstanding maxim of mine to never take advice from a student. Last time, it was disastrous. During a dark night of the soul, I asked a mature student what would she do if her life fell apart and she could not go home again.
She had said, "Listen to the voice of inexperience. Go home and beg."
It isn't what my estranged one had aswered It was sort of Brooklyn.
Seems one has indeed been dead these past thirty years, though there have been lovers aplenty, but not like the One.
"You took my bud of love and threw it into the dirt."
Oh Pig Pen! You got your pants dirty.
"A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His manners are a terrible disgrace...?
"...And if you don't care a penny or a fig..."
Sort of a Greek cat. A peri oink-oink.
Bay of Pigs
Ending up in Reader's Digest land. Points to Ponder.
Man devolved into pig.
Well, pigs seem a lot like people. They will eat anything and they don't give a shit.
Seems to me, that is what a man is like when young.
Meaner'n' a Peach Orchard Shoat.
Older now, but not really wiser. When Miss Piggy comes around, you follow. Anything for her approval. Do anything, anywhere with anybody just so not to be alone. There is no wisdom here in this rut. And I mean rut!
One is now seriously considering the priesthood.
But there's dirty vicar here too, likely.
Oh to meet somebody from the past. Sane, sensible woman. We talk of making oxtail soup, and is it better with HP sauce thrown and pearl barley, and how is the family and all the normal supermaket things. Sanity.
No matter what is going on with you, you've got to shop.
And you'll meet more singles there than Lave Life.
One has let oneself go to seed. Eat out of cans. Get canned. No longer use deodrant. Who's around?
Last guy on the block to buy Playboy, for the articles, you understand.
Shades of Tom Waits.
Sitting there by myself.
...Took advantage of myself.
There is the possibility of romance on the horizon.
Says my techie, "Beware of what you want"
An Army parody of Tony Bennert's Rags to Riches is ringing in my head.
"Or will I go from bags to bitches."
The hell of it all is that none of the women in my life (well, maybe one) have been bitches.
"I tried to help you."
Well, maybe they did.
Say what you want.
The kindness of women.
Martha, I think I'm making it.
Monday, June 07, 2010
Somehow it happened.
Thirty years of stumbling around, mislaying parts of family, business, houses--many houses--good friends and at least seven of the best women one could love--to finally crash land on Main Street Newmaket ON, accompanied, at least metaphorically, by two Mexican goats (have noticed how adorable young kids are as they tentatively clatter along?)
Ivan and his goats on Main Street, pursued by the health department. Yeah. People finally got my goat.
A cartoon frame pushes it's way into my consciousness.
In Mexico, I had worked once again on my thesis on MAD Magazine. It is the image of Melvin Mole, finally chained and dungeroned, Melvin Mole, the Man out of Control, rat-faced, file-nosed, bepimpled.
There is a jailer, grating, while he picks his teeth after a KFC meal. "You've dug you last hole, Mole. You're under control!
But somehow it happened.
Just befoe electrocution, there is a letter pushed through the bars. It is from a Montreal publisher.
"We like your novel, and we'd like to do it."
Thirty years on the wilderness. Thirty years of risking all, thirty years of being Melvin Mole, underground man, though like in the song about The Bastard King of England, somehow having ones women by twos and threes. Women can sense extreme stress in a man, and that somehow makes him attractive to them, no matter how ragged and funny the man.
Melvin Mole about to be executed but reprieved not by the governor, but a Montreal publisher.
"But don't think it's all gonna be roses from now on," the keeper hisses as he grudgingly opens the cell door. "You got a lot of suffering yet to do."
Free. Out on Main Street, Boogie Street, Leonard Cohen without the talent, but very nearly as old, Christ out of the tomb, but this time cagier, more careful.
It was a surprise that the turnkey actually had had a sense of humour, "You've got a hard Icon to bear" (referring to my novel, The Black Icon which steadily sold through private publishings but never by a big publisher).
Yep. Incongrous image. Melvin Mole carrying this huge church icon on his back. Did he steal it? Clucking Serbo-Croatian abbots in pursuit, thinking he had stolen from the sacristy.
There is a temptation to do a caper here. JOHN LAW! JOHN LAW! YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO GET ME!. NO, NOT ME. NOT MELVIN MOLE. NOT ME. NEIN. NICHT. NEVER!
But these are talk balloon out of a perfervid brain full of reaseach on what many would say the ridiculous. Master's thesis on MAD Magazine. The fucking guy is MAD!
A mole with an icon on his back. Incongrous image.
One could see a cat with an icepack on his back as being cool, but a mole with an icon on his back? What up?
During the McCarthy hearings, a young lad was brought up to testify as to EC comics seducing the innocent. "It was the comic books that dunnit to me."
Well, it was the comic books that dunnit to me for sure.
Yeah. Yeah. The zany thesis.
But the plan, after graduation was to write the big book.
And like with everything else, it takes a very long--too long-a time.
Thirty years in the wilderness. Fragments of headlines while working as a headline writer.
The hicks were not enamoured over a novel I had done and published about them. I called them The Main Street Soldiers,
riff-raff on the street, townspeople becoming paupers before the Wal-Marts finally did the town in.
...But one is free now on an empty street, full of CLOSED and FOR SALE signs.
Dilapidated Mole Man, clutching manuscripts.
And carrying this huge Icon!