Tag Archives: writing

Parsing The Criteria Of Great Art

ancient-blake
"Ancient" by William Blake
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Originally published on September 17, 1996

Landry wrote: This reminds me of an argument I had with my friend Brad who is a painter. He said that painting is art and writing is craft. What do you think?

Someone should kick poor mad William Blake up out of the grave. He called Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples the greatest ARTISTS the world has ever seen about the same time his friend Thomas Paine was facing the wrath of the English & American church leaders with his revolutionary AGE OF REASON, written mostly while sitting in the Bastille awaiting the guillotine for refusing to badmouth his friend King Louis, whom Paine held in high esteem for the king's much needed assistance to the colonies during the war against the English crown. Uh, now THAT reminds me of a peculiar intrigue Tom Wolfe's THE PAINTED WORD invoked with his fictional world reknown artist (this was a book about the NY painting scene where one's greatness as an artist is inseparable from the superior qualities of the particular THEORY of the art, brownie points for the thinker, nee writer once again, it seems) who while sitting in an unremarkable bar in an unremarkable mood suddenly had a great idea. He had only a glass of water and a paper napkin at his disposal. He quickly dipped and began etching, but just as suddenly as the idea had dawned in his mind's eye the world famous artist collapsed on his barstool and expired. Obviously his etching evaporated, but the question remained in Wolfe's assessment, was the idea that the now dead artist had expressed ever so briefly been that artist's, and therefore, perhaps the world's greatest work of art?

william-blake
William Blake
Blake did it all in a sense, a man of deep thought and adroit action like American contemporaries—with his large body of wood etchings, paintings, poetry, his literary criticism, his anti-clericism, his involvement in the politics of his day, his strange mystical nudism, his sagacious love for his wife, all tempered by his touch of madness, and yet he called Jesus the GREATEST ARTIST. This same Jesus who never wrote or painted a damned thing except to draw some line in the sand, and there are those biblical scholars who amazingly even claim this was an apocryphal tale (now famous as the "he who is without sin, please please cast the first stone" scene) they insist was inserted by later scribes. This viewpoint leads of course to the idea that ideas are the guts of art, NOT shapes, lines, colors. Paintings may certainly express an idea, or several, but one is never exactly sure what that idea is unless the artist is part of that Clement Greenberg (the NYC art don) regime boasting an idea per brushstroke...

So it goes without saying that I tend to agree with Blake that it takes everything you've got to create art, but then (to answer your question), can paintings lie, cheat, and steal the way words do?

GT

Premise #1 From The Fitzgerald Files

damsel
A New Development
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I know artists and writers those latter-day Lorenzos ought to be supporting—if they knew what's good for them, and for their posterity. But they mostly don't. So they whip out the checkbooks for Harvard, for Yale, for Princeton, for "peace studies" and for "art" that isn't art, and for teachers of literature who do not teach literature but rather about the ethnic, racial, and religious background of authors, and so on.

Usurpers.

The preceding words of Hugh Fitzgerald, as idealized by this writer, are worth at least a dozen warm meals in harsh times, a triumphant song on an Olympic-sized sound stage, a fully loaded Glock 23 in a plastic picnic knife fight, a grain of sugar in a dirty ocean of whale screams. Don't mock. Just ask anyone who's not invested nostrils first in cherry pits and dark chocolate. Understanding what makes us each different is not just understanding the past but understanding the future each of us will achieve because motivation is always measured in personal steps. Civilizational performances, like the water and blood of life itself, is a snapshot of biophysical strategies—molecules in action—and we, the seventy year set, ebb and flow with or without the consent of our forebears or our neighbors, except to the degree we consent, bow or scrape, a mere pellet melting and mixing into the ocean of time. So according to some, why bother?

My response. If these people claim to be your friends, they are imposters. Know them by the arc of their sucker punches.

Literary Profilers And The Horses They Ride

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Sun Setting On Arlington, VA
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Gleaned from a online post published by Matthew Z:

Reading is almost always an aesthetic preference, unless it[sic] has permission through certain jargon, both "legal" or "political" to engage in praxis. The politician assumes himself to be beyond art because he actually has the power at his fingertips to physically move his ideas around. The artist has no such power of course and is reduced into the realm of aesthetics—that motionless form of subjective preference.

For starters, despite the strategic blandness of a general political attempt at writing, I think it might be useful to consider their words and actions as more along the lines of an aesthetic preference as well. The artist might gasp at this notion, stupidly assuming, through hand-me-down compartmentalizations, that the "brown bagging suit" is not worthy of being even considered in an aesthetic sense. [But, the politician]... is beyond aesthetics because he can actually make things move.

Art is otherwise, happily motionless and heavily protective of its specialized terms in the name of priority and approbation of course, more than anything else really ("Pick me, pick me, I am the best aesthete in the room! This term belongs to me and me alone in order for me to be able to sell my persona, and if you try to apply to something else, my chances become lowered on this front.").

From the first sentence forward, I detect poor writing, poorly constructed sentences, enough ugly grammar to frighten off all but the strangest bird, and a keen need to escape the mundane by driving straight through it with a Mac truck, but that is it's charm, and I jest, only because this first sentence is not true, but is often directed at me and anybody else who struggles to break out of the box of rote linguistics, or worse, profess literary interests for their own sake, with or without the harsh harness of originality further enslaving the urge to explore.

The message, however, is on the money, and yet, one is left with the question of what's next? Most activist aesthetes eschew art in favor of radical politics, but what has radical politics done for us lately? Today's radicals don't seem to realize the frontier has been vanquished. There are few words, and fewer ideas which require our blood sport devotion. We have long since accepted that the golden ages of idealism have passed us by, and now we are left with little but the grunt work of making our lives count one by one, each to our own strengths of reason, inspiration, and passion to make it so. We have certainly been given fair warning.

This call to action is what Matthew Z means by poetry being replaced or fulfilled by praxis, but like so many others before him, his plea falls not on deaf ears but upon cowardly spirits and the cacophony of competing interests. This is not a resolute failure but the patient and conservative spirit of Nature conferring to us its most preferred role. Time is not man's play toy.

But will the poet of today accept this understanding of his own unspectacular clockwork, keen to the literary profilers and the horses they ride?

GT

Lost & Found Art Cannot Be Put Into Context

lost-and-found
Lost And Found Art
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Allow me to explain my predicament. Up until March 29, 2003, I had carefully maintained, organized & archived my entire email history from 1993 when I first joined Prodigy, Compuserve, and AOL all within a few weeks of each other, having been instantly smitten with this new world of messaging and self-publication. I hail from a damned near illiterate background—from an alcohol-hardened household, from a band of brothers who somehow esteem reading and writing of little use above that required by law.

This is not an indictment of them, but a tiny spotlight onto the struggles for my own sense of clarity, given my own poetic nature, and desire for pursuing and comprehending the incomprehensible. I had been fortunate that during my ten years of archiving, I had never lost anything I had ever emailed, or had received from someone. Except for obvious and useless SPAM, and lower tier business correspondence, I cherished and kept every bit of communication I had ever mustered.

And I'd been fortunate to have met and sustained along the way a steady string of aspiring authors, so our email wasn't of the dull flat liner variety that would soon cloak the long silences of previous generations who had transitioned from sincere letter writing to the less literary and more immediate telephone call and special event card. Now we had access to a marvelous combination of the two, letter writing nearly extinct, and the telephone call, often as mundane and flawed for its archival challenges as the polaroid in the digital camera age.

But then came the shock and awe of that March 29 data loss. Ten years of treasured exchanges gone in a keystroke! Ordinarily I kept a rather recent back-up of my work, but for reasons of brevity, let's just say I had little to rely upon that day, so in one terrible keystroke I lost my entire hard drive of personal information while visiting the terminal for my first and only peek at the guts of the operating system. After the week long stress, sweat and toil of data recovery magic, I found that I had recovered maybe two-thirds of my email data. I lost so much more other work, but it was my treasured email that mattered most to me at that point, and the process was too inadequate to worry about the rest of the loss. Now, of course, my email did not recover its former glory. So, instead of each individual mail stored away in personal boxes and folders, where I had immediate access to them in plain text, I now had over 22,000 individual files each named, starting at number 1, increasing in value one file at a time, like this:

Email file (generic) 16784

And since it seems as apropos as a summer shower on a blue heat afternoon, given a rather new MySpace friend’s recent smackdown of a type of Internet personality she called the Intellectual Predator, it’s a keeper; here’s yet another redux, circa 1993-4 from my AOL years (when I signed on there I was among a mere 250,000 subscribers. When I left, over 25 million. But I’ll leave that story to later.) Can’t wait to get more of these posted somewhere new. All I can do is work the process with ev’ry muscle I’ve still got in the game…
And to make matters worse, each recovered file, no, did not include just a single piece of mail, but sometimes two, five, or three, point three emails. And these texts were not alone in their new miserable state. Now each file included huge chunks of header and other inexplicable strands of ASCII gibberish, cast off, decidedly boorish digital DNA that I would have to clear away like so many acres of undergrowth in order to isolate a long lost masterpiece from my friend Steve, or a stroll through Landryville with the wit and sarcasm of her spicy Cajun' upbringing, or merely a well-written communication from back in the day, those early days when so many people inside and outside the industry mocked the functionality, or inspirational value of email, while here we were composing masterpieces, detailing small everyday events of those days of our lives, marching to our exciting times with an eye on posterity.

Yes all this, BEFORE THE DELUGE OF SPAM. Before Internet porn. And for several years, before the WWW itself. Ah, yes, we were there, and we were writers, and yes, we could be bombastic or plain spoken. We could lie with dogs, or we could ride elephant ears. Those were the days where great plans ruled the great plains.

Nostalgic, but that's merely the background noise of my original purpose in posting today. Now here's one of those recovered files I just opened this morning, randomly. I did not write this, it seems to be unsigned, but I did save it. And since it seems as apropos as a summer shower on a blue heat afternoon, given a rather new MySpace friend's recent smackdown of a type of Internet personality she called the Intellectual Predator, it's a keeper; here's yet another redux, circa 1993-4 from my AOL years (when I signed on there I was among a mere 250,000 subscribers. When I left, over 25 million. But I'll leave that story to later.) Can't wait to get more of these posted somewhere new. All I can do is work the process with ev'ry muscle I've still got in the game...

The Writer's Block

Transmogrification
Transmogrification
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Originally published on September 13, 1999

KUBHLAI: Like me, he is markedly unimpressed with the intellectual sincerity of Man. Where he immediately impressed me was by identifying precisely that there is a distinct duality between *Worldview* (''weltanschauung'') and *Philosophy* or supposedly objective human reasonings in general. Now I have never clearly made this distinction between philosophizing and worldview—rather leaving it as an assumption I suppose, that thought (along with other attitudinal modes) is but the building bricks of the total Worldview. In Hulme however, they are at odds from the very start; philosophizing (by which is meant human thought and judgement in a wider sense) lays claim to the humanist value of ''Reason'', but all the while the Worldview, which is defined as the grand picture we have of where our "satisfaction" lies, is exerting a gravitational force tempting us to construct complex arguments which, by an amazing coincidence' as it were, arrive at a point which is ''satisfying'' , which provides an apparent justification for the often crude and simplistic desires which were there a priori.

GABRIEL: Here is an interesting piece I found somewhere under a napkin not of my own choosing, a piece quaintly reviewing Kundera's TESTMENTS BETRAYED: "Kafka, Stravinsky, Rushdie—the modern artist confuses and often outrages critics looking for the clarity of orthodoxy. Kundera, whose talents as a literary and music critic almost match his formidable gifts as a novelist, defends the artist against obtuse or perverse critics, disciples, and allies. Thus he rescues Kafka the artist from the embrace of disciples who want to remake him into a thinker. Likewise, he brings the genius of Stravinsky out from under the shadow of the misguided criticism of a close friend. Similarly, Kundera reclaims Rushdie's Satanic Verses as an imaginative work from progressive intellectuals who have never read it but have claimed it as a political symbol of the need for a free press. Discipleship, friendship, and comradeship can all turn into betrayal. Against such betrayal, Kundera insists upon the creative autonomy of the novelist and the composer, whose works live in an ambiguous sphere outside of all history except the capricious history of human creativity. Though he offers keen insights into music and literature, it is in his celebration of humor in the European novel that Kundera's genial brilliance burns most brightly."

The writer steps down from the podium.

Point, Game, Match, Back To You, Jane

birdcage
Birdcage Premises
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Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 12:41:42
From: Jane

Well, here I am. I guess you deserve to know a little about your "match". In another week I'll be a college graduate (BFA in creative writing); I'm finishing up my studies at Cambridge University in England before returning to the States. By many standards I would be considered a writer or poet, but I know many people who go by the same label, and I don't see any similarities. So for what that is worth...

I did go to the scenewash webpage; because it is still under construction, I hesitate to proffer my initial opinion on it. I tend to be more conservative when it comes to "literary" activities, and the longer I am around, the more I am convinced that being a "writer" is simply a license to broadcast unorganized, confusing garble to everyone, without the slightest regard to coherency. So you can imagine my views on scenewash, and I suppose I just gave my initial opinion despite the reserve. Perhaps it is the DC area that I cannot appreciate; it seems as if there are many draws on that culture in the website which are lost on me. In any case, good luck, but I don't think you'll need it. Most people will love what you've done (are doing). All the best—Jane

Dear Jane, thank you for your feedback. Loved it! Fits right into what most of my detractors tell me, and these detractors are all fellow writers, and local friends, although one might question whether or not the word friendship should be applied to what it is we hang on the hooks of each other's reputation. I would suppose you might have studied Joyce, Pound, and Eliot. Had you lived in their day, in terms of writing standards, you might have said the same about them. And no, I am not comparing myself to those three writers, but use them merely to highlight the principle of shifting waters. This is no place to argue literary theory in a post-modernist setting, especially since my website to date boasts very little of my writing, and is mostly infrastructure for what I wish to develop over time in terms of my own life and where I intend to locate those terms once I write them and organize them, and cross-link throughout. So I certainly do not take offense at what you may or may not know about my writing, but realize that it is the website itself which leaves you dry in the mouth. You probably believe that a website should be carefully manicured to a single topic. That's not my way. That I choose to manifest myself as a whole number, as an entity, and not a topical magazine writer I feel is the source of your confusion. All in all, Jane, I am delighted that the computer at TestTube picked you as my match.

http://www.testtube.com/match/

Gabriel

Sweat, Toil, Sensuality, And Simple Acts Of Temporary Beauty

imaginations-few
Imaginations of A Few
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Date: Fri May 9, 1997 2:00:32 PM

Whew! Well, George, I'm so nearly at the end of this spring toil that I simply must flop down into this chair and get on with something other than the futile work of my stone-cascaded backyard. When this quite modest rowhouse was built in 1925 apparently turning under leftover materials like broken bricks and unscored pebbles was simply the thing to do. Over the ten years much labor and arbor has been lost trying to restake a claim to beauty, but each layer of rubble only leads to another it seems, and since I've only been able to dedicate short sums of time and money to each spring and fall project failure seems my greatest success, but onward. A few days of toil, a few days of beauty until the death rot sets its teeth into the flesh of my flowers, my bushes, even the trees I always hope will survive for more than a season, but I've taken the attitude that the grace won albeit only temporarily is greater than the apathy which would result if intelligence sought reward only in self-flattering terms. But, who am I kidding? It depresses me to realize how much our toil is mere withering on the vine, a fleeting season, a reflection of nothingness infinitely squared as time proves everything is possible but very little of it lasting longer in scale than a blink, a wink, last night's orgasm just another fair folly.

Even in my garden work, which usually is a fine seasonal reprieve for me despite the setbacks I just described, I have been woefully depressed since last Saturday, depressed for no obvious reason at all, zapped of fervor, fire, and energy. Lethargic and grave I breathe feverishly, fitfully. Even your sweet prayers for me, as welcomed as they were, failed to revive my flagging spirit.

The bible is its own testament against organized religion. Jesus used scripture with as much cunning and flair as any Philadelphia lawyer he might critcize as heaping up too much burden upon the backs of the weak and the poor, as he very well often pointed out to those who would defeat his purpose.
Yet, it's still slightly uplifting to be back at the writing tools. Horticulture is such a struggle to me. The annual painting of the porches to wash away all the dirt and grime of the inner city neighborhood is a must, however, to maintain this 20th century dignity I inherited by rights and by rites. I finally bought an aluminum extension ladder, sharing the cost with my neighbor Blumstein next door. Window washing, pulling down limbs caught in the telephone wires, old Virginia creeper ivy runners severed but still clinging to the walls to be snatched to a trash bag...

And yet another hailstorm predicted for tomorrow. But every time I think of the millions of flood victims, hurricane and tornado alleys, earthquakes and riot squads, my own drug-infested paper-littered streets feel somewhat qualitatively protected from quarrels of a gargling earth. Yet beyond the rocky soil, last year it was rain from November until August, this year it is excessive winds and haildroppings. Aggravations yes, but certainly mild disruptions compared to so many other tales of woe spiraling off the nightly news. A century ago before global communication technologies, the human mind scarely was forced to contend with so much disaster-oriented details on a regular basis, up close and personal. And dirt huts of antiquity once the norm hardly sustained the artifact people of their time, and yet with all our modern fetish-driven aims for cleanliness we still feel the dirt swirling deep inside us not sparing our neighbor's backyard. But terror and tragedy is no newcomer to the stage of human affairs, as you well know. Your bible is full of such disasters, but you wrote:

I don't know you well enough yet to know how much metaphysical training you have put yourself through, or what your spin on, what it is we are; why we are here; what are we doing. Most people don't want a real examination of themselves or their surroundings. However, it fascenates me, and weather or not I have a clue or not, I THINK I have apprehended a bit about the subject...and the only thing that ties it ALL together is a metapyysical understanding of the Bible. It is an eastern book, therefore, all (or most) western thinking needs to be set aside, when trying to understand what God is saying to us.

The First step is to believe it: even if I don't understand it all, I am determined to make it first and final authority in my life, and pray for the "strengthening" of the Holy Spirit (the author) in my being to make it clear to me.

Second step is to forget what I know, percieve, or seem to percieve. It is a dream...within a dream. Reality is infinite! I am finite. The I AM is the whole. The George is, is the part...the part cannot truly apprehend the whole, without becomming it. That is the forte of Eastern thought...they call it desirelessness...nirvana! It is simply tapping into the Eternal. (OK... enough ground work)

I don’t fancy this patriotic phenomenon as the holistic Jesus path, but rather the same old tribalistic warrior god. I certainly prefer the spider in the crowd approach to reclaiming the peace of God in this confused world heading deeper into the ditch according to one inspecting it from every vantage point he can muster. And yet, like Jesus, and John the Baptist, I do not condemn soldiering carte blanche. Yet I feel like an awkward spy trapped in a kick the can world of a million miles of promises, complaints, and correlations without a single purpose of my own. You say there is only one person. I say there is only one idea.
Metaphysical training? Of course I comprehend the word at its root meaning, but I've had no "formal" training in intellectual or spiritual matters since a child I must suppose, having only a highschool diploma, an autodidact. But ever since I came face to face with the word "teleological" I've accepted it as the most basic tenet of my otherwise, rather nebulous faith. And while I persist in casting great suspicions at the idolization of the sixty-six current books of scripture, canonized by a catholic gathering in 325 at Nicene, I believe it was, I am still deeply affected by the influences a complete immersion in the book from earliest childhood up through my middle twenties (when I hid among library shelves trying to suck up the very marrow of life I thought this commentary would offer) have subjected me. That said, however, the Everliving God dwelling within and without seems much more powerful to me than a much-argued multi-translated from dead tongues collection of biographies, aphorisms, riddles, terror tales, party politics, and shrouded predictions on a timetable only liars, thieves, and libelers take the time to work up using their own vested-interest slide rules. The bible is its own testament against organized religion. Jesus used scripture with as much cunning and flair as any Philadelphia lawyer he might critcize as heaping up too much burden upon the backs of the weak and the poor, as he very well often pointed out to those who would defeat his purpose. However, the Nazarene came to set men free, we are told he said, not to bind them even tighter to the scrolls of the past as christian history has done. Sin is a robust killer no doubt. Paul's admonition that while he was no longer bound by the Law, therefore making all things lawful to him, not everything was edifying. But churchianity has implemented a stringent law just as deeply rooted in the letter at the expense of the spirit as any synagogue in the days of Christ could have inspired. But Jesus and Paul went one better. They said ANYTHING one might do, do it in joy and love, just as you, George have pointed out. Again, not that all things are edifying, but I detect something in all this that smacks of situational ethics, a phrase that I have read is maligned by every preacher of the gospel from here to there, on radio, TV, pamphlet, and streetcorner (since I too long ago ceased shadowing the doors of churchbuildings where law outranks spirit every time I open my mouth). Fear not those (that?) which can harm the body, but fear those (that?) which can squash the spirit. A pastor, a coalminer, a drinker, a whore. Who among us protects our own body at the expense of our spirit? To what degree does the flesh inform the spirit? To save the 100th still drowning in that ditch over there, as the ninety-nine dress up in Sunday best, shall I get muddy, bloody, or even toxic, by attempting a hands-on rescue, or shall I just stand on the edge of the ditch shouting, "I told you so, you old sinner."? Shades of van Gogh? To be first, one must be last. To be best, one must be worst. Or else self-righteousness is the easiest ditch of all, and is as filthy as the rags of a burning mansion in the sky. Who among us is safe debating the politics of righteousness? Is righteousness self-hatred or self-love? When is the greatest act toward the moral life too much hypocrisy and not enough elbow grease? Is ABC morality the greatest holy activity of all? I've always been perplexed by christian patriotism. Warrior christs-in-the-making, or simple affairs of men? I ask street corner christlovers, what is the greatest act of love one can employ? They always answer in textbook glee, "Laying down one's life, of course!" couched in grand schemes of just and unjust wars, while I push forward wondering about the life of the soldier I am shooting at, a friend, a husband, a son, perhaps even a fellow believer.

George, all this is old news of course in the annals of christian thought, and I appreciate your recent counsel that it's one on one, God and GT. Very Kierkegaardian. Of course, what typical moralists point out is the chaos that follows when everybody is running off doing whatever whenever. True enough, but where is the christian strength of the lion's den? Great chunks of rightwing christians in this country seem to think that ruling under the American flag is their God-given inheritance, just as the Jews did, do, Jerusalem. I don't fancy this patriotic phenomenon as the holistic Jesus path, but rather the same old tribalistic warrior god. I certainly prefer the spider in the crowd approach to reclaiming the peace of God in this confused world heading deeper into the ditch according to one inspecting it from every vantage point he can muster.

It is true all greater artists come to this same conclusion at the end of their lives and parabolic careers. And like every cheater who skips to the back of the book, I grew very old in my early 20s, tossed off the old man in my late 20s and sputtered on trying to save youth by impersonating youth up to my forties. Now I am tired and wretchedly old again, but with a calibrated child inside who keeps me sane if only to the degree that I haven’t stopped writing what I am feeling at every spin of my molecular mind.
And yet, like Jesus, and John the Baptist, I do not condemn soldiering carte blanche. Yet I feel like an awkward spy trapped in a kick the can world of a million miles of promises, complaints, and correlations without a single purpose of my own. You say there is only one person. I say there is only one idea.

One morning as I was rattling off a series of adjectives and adverbs trying to finger just what it was that was keeping me out of the world of intellectual commerce and recognition, that infernal sandbagging that I construct to remain nearly anonymous, unsuccessful, disinterested, culturally paralyzed, my wife stopped me in mid-stream when I uttered the word "irrelevant". She concurred that I found the whole of the world's self-flogging and flogging of others for bucks and mirror-time just so damned irrelevant. And irrelevancy was George's thing as well—this was what drove him to discourage my own youthful zest in any "irrelevant" area of gnosis. It is true all greater artists come to this same conclusion at the end of their lives and parabolic careers. And like every cheater who skips to the back of the book, I grew very old in my early 20s, tossed off the old man in my late 20s and sputtered on trying to save youth by impersonating youth up to my forties. Now I am tired and wretchedly old again, but with a calibrated child inside who keeps me sane if only to the degree that I haven't stopped writing what I am feeling at every spin of my molecular mind. Have I crucified Christ afresh, as Paul puts it, lost faith, sinned beyond redemption, parlayed faith into a miserly fetish? I certainly don't expect to ride in on new Rounthwaite coattails looking for answers over wire or lunch. I'm just thankful you have turned out to be someone whose response mode is up to the task of his faith. Experience prevails. Few are they, as you might say. You wrote:

Yeah, it was a good idea at the outset, but now there is this more interesting idea; or there was that rejection; or FIRST I must go and examine this ramification; or a thousand other distractions that finally dry up the creative juices, and zeal for the original spark that started it in the first place! I know of what I speak, because of a file cabnet full of inventions "waiting" to be built, and marketed! Yes I have patents, and even machinery now used in industry...but the financial fruition of creative genius...ahhhh, well...now we come to it! What, about worldly success, are we avoiding? We are not the first to deal with this impediment. If you/we could outline a stratagy for overcomming it, you/we could publish it, be on the best seller list...and creative geniuses all over the world could put it on their "never to be read" shelf to gather dust.

I believe the era of the fishers of men is dormant, the world having already skidded into the era of the hunter (Jeremiah 16:16). This is a one on one, two on two scenario. Both the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses, whatever their claims on righteousness, truth, and morality, and to a lesser degree, the Seventh day Adventists, have helped usher in this understanding that in a world of bloated competing spiritual forces, blanket legalisms, revolutionary chatter, international communication and worse, no communication at all, the fisherman types have become "appearances" charlatans, moneygrubbers, designated seating moguls, so that only the secret exchanges fostered by lonely hunters and the hunted shall endure the pressures of Babylon the Great. Yes George, walled with my back against knowledge, the handwriting of most of my metaphorical and metaphysical baggage is caught up in the biblical languages. And despite the fact that I do not consider myself a christian on the grounds that I could not begin to decipher what that phrase means anymore in light of what I know of both good and evil, I do however, consider Jesus and his God, a big brother, a guiding force, a literal reality, the only source of my plodding continuation on this wreckage planet. If this is merely a cultural coincidence, so be it.

We have certainly shared more in a short time than either of us probably expected. You say have courage, and I thank you for the sentiment because courage is indeed my most spiritual need right now as always. I have long been a coward, and therein lies my greatest mischief. I must overcome this flaw, thanks.
However, I am afraid of the word—Lord. I never use it. Slavery and its modern counterpart, racial self-consciousness, has tainted the word with roaring poisonous fumes for now in my southern-poxed vocabulary. Lording over anybody as celebrity or bankrolled sophisticate as a concept drives my fear of success. Bride and bridegroom? I dunno my friend. The last will be first. We cannot keep building on a crippled past, despite all the famous names in that past. Remember, none greater than John the Baptist (uh, David, Moses, Abraham, Jeremiah, Ruth, Solomon, all less than?) but even the least of those in the Kingdom of God will be greater than even John. Jesus is defiantly in league with anti-fame forces, while becoming quite famous himself, although only a minor figure in his own lifetime. And of course the numbers are legion with two milleniums of artistic pretenders to this throne who have eschewed fame only to position for fame just the same. I would just like to make a living.

Ah, you have quoted William Blake. Mmmm...something I can not imagine my other George to have done. Are you familiar with Blake's penchant for nudism and his theories of Jesus and the Apostles as great artists, as great as the world has ever seen, and in Blake's terms, definitely not moralists, for the world was not lacking for moralists said the English romantic poet. There after all was Zoroaster, Moses, Confucious, Socates and...

George, you must realize that smug between these lines is not some call to unbridled profligacy. Quite the contrary. I am merely seeking to draw out your own perceptions as to what is wrong with the church and its relationship to the world, because it seems I do not care for either, having made somewhat of a mess of myself trying to find some common ground with one or the other, failing I fear on both counts.

So as you see, I am not always bright and cheery. I had not been depressed in several months until last Saturday morning when I awoke very tired, but here I am, and now I burden you with my own cryptic despondency. I pray that this reality of mine is not too disheartening for you. We have certainly shared more in a short time than either of us probably expected. You say have courage, and I thank you for the sentiment because courage is indeed my most spiritual need right now as always. I have long been a coward, and therein lies my greatest mischief. I must overcome this flaw, thanks.

More later! Take peace...take the next step...have courage, and keep moving...you are an awsome man! Your writing WILL be bought and removed from the shelves by avid readers, just like you envision...only you have to do it for you, none of us matter, or even should be given the right to have a say...in what you and The Big Guy agree on as to your greatness, and usefullness is in His plan. Blessings!

George

Best to you and yours,

Gabriel

Dollhouse Jitters v3.1

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Mysterious Ways
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Breathing together elbow to elbow on the couch, we were finally alone and ready to explore the next phase of this mildly racy psychodrama that I'd a zillion privacies ago secretly escalated into my flagrant private war. After a few minutes of jostling for favored logistics in reading and mutually editing the WordPerfect data file stored on the spanking-new IBM laptop her parents had given her for Christmas, I was quite anxious to filter the single-paged coverletter Jennifer wanted to include in her application for poor grammar and redundancies. Regular post-graduate status at Cornell was absolutely imperative. Her one year of special study in the Indonesian language curriculum would end soon, and once completed, she would have nowhere to go since she had failed to secure grant monies that would allow her to conduct fieldwork among the volatile social upheavals of Indonesia itself. I had read some of her academic writing before, and knew some of her tendancies, and here they were again. This was not a very well written piece. I read the whole thing once, but then hemmed and hawed in leveling any sort of critical assessment. There was much to do in every paragraph.

"Well, your vocabulary is quite strong, and you seem to make your points adequately clear and concise enough, but..."
     "Well, what?"
     "I don't really know what to say. As I said to you and many others before, I really don't like being critical of other people's writing. I'm a writer, not a critic of writing. Now, character flaws, that's a whole other..."
     "Well, what is it? I wouldn't have asked you for your opinion if I didn't respect them and want them. Spill it baby..." she commanded in sultry vox crypto-doll she played so well. Know the rules, break them only if you can persuade others that this rule or that rule must be the first to go (with the flow, or against the toe). We both knew that game.

My defenses were slowly melting away. Of course, knowing how much psychotopology had rushed under the bridge in these past few months between us, I was trying to keep from hurting her feelings with unnecessary criticism or insult since I was worming my way closer to her, my confidences balanced by fear of driving her beyond my reach, especially in light of the catastrophe of a few years ago when my brother Chaz suggested I critique this Atlanta woman's poetry. She was the sister of his ex-fiancee, a mother of three teenagers, she about my own age, and a devotee of G-d, which of course meant that she was brimming with Jewish false pride, sparring with vowels. But she certainly could not write a phrase remotely resembling modern poetic seasoning. Not an single original thought or sentence pattern made it to the thirty or so pages she mailed me.

Dead vocabulary of the eighteenth century romantics, or more precisely, the mock language of a junior highschool sensitive emotional type was etched into her perfectly typed double spaced pages. She broke up lines into short fragments of three and four words imitating Cummings I suppose she thought (or worse, she'd never even READ ANY 20th century poesymakers), or else longer lines consisted of three or four of these fragments separated by a double-space. Floating like penguins on a small iceberg of whitespace each fragment began with a preposition or conjunction. Well, there WERE the few fragments which started with the personal pronoun, you or I (no he's or she's). Her pathetic attempts at corrollary were as flat and indistinct as a penny plucked from the locomotive railing just after a long slow-moving train had rattled by, page after page after page. Dozens of pseudoinspirational references to Gee dash Dee marred the reading.

I think I was married to her in another lifetime. But that's another story. One thing she did add which offered me the way out I needed to survive this holocaust with my artistic integrity intact. She said that Chuck had told her that she could be sure of one thing. That I would be “meticulous and bluntly precise”. Those were her exact words. Saved by the bell! Now I could really get into the guts of the matter. Within a week the slim package arrived.
So how was I going to break this news to her? Well, I stepped into every buffalo chip imaginable on the path to righteousness, honesty, and critical inertia. After a long-winded conversation on the phone trying to escape this lose-lose situation she pinned me down, insisted I critique her work as it existed. Honest opinions. Hold nothing back, blah, blah blah. I took her to task, very politely mind you, knowing that I was dealing with a very naive but controlling woman on many levels. This was a woman who had tantrumed my brother out of her family for not being Jewish because no sister of hers was going to marry...

Conversion was not an option. No good enough for her sister. Chaz had no choice but to hit the road. But here she was two years after that aborted marriage, two years after my brother had weathered one storm this high-strung princess had tossed, maintaining a friendship with the beloved younger, again begging for applause, and as I learned later in a rebuttal letter, as a gentile, I was commanded by Gee dash Dee to give it to her, straight from scripture, chapter and verse, applause. I had TRIED to be gentle. I suggested she package her poems to give them and read them to her forthcoming grandchildren. I counseled her on the abuse and redundancy of prepositional phrases, marking them with colored marker on the pages. And finally I suggested she treat her writing like she would her bedroom. Vigorous, sweaty, acrobatic language was far more powerful than langauge that just flattened out on the page. Modernize, use real life images, not staid boring recycles from the past, I urged her, writing these comments out along the margins of specific chunks of floating icebergs...

To nobody's surprise but her own, this fiendish Jewish woman was neither amused, nor inspired by my biting criticisms. Well, hell, on a whim as I wrote this I checked my database and sure enough I found traces of the events I described above from memory. Let's check the record:

Finding a piece of mail dated April 21, 1989, in my file cabinets where I kept records of every copy inch of correspondence I had alphabetized, running the eighties and nineties, I am now swelling up with geek pride, geek pride in my record keeping. In the shallow absence of a sporting life I'd changed in a twinkling of a cobra's eye into an information inker ruthlessly chained to the same pride and energy an old school baseball statistician had for esoterica and scorebooks.

The letter is a killer in the trees. To add to the irony, I received it while in jail, serving time for a DUI. I had been laid off from my party chief surveyor's gig, and was collecting unemployment. Excellent time to experience and experiment with the Big House. Sure beat hauling butt into Baltimore once a month for a year's worth of unoriginal horror flicks and dry lung lectures. About two months before I was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs bound straight for jail, I received a phone call from a strange woman donning a thick Brooklynese Jewish clip asking to speak to me. I had been recommended to her by my own brother "Chuck". I had to think for a moment before I realized that I did indeed have a brother, who in some circles, might be called "Chuck". See, my entire sibling generation has one by one fetishized name-change operations. We wear out one name, then try on another for look and feel. She introduced herself as Barbara Kosmal. She definitely sounded like a Barbara...

I said hello. It would be the last time.

Her line was this. She wanted me to critique her poetry manuscript. I was quite flattered, but told her that I was not comfortable in the role of critical voice over someone else's work, and like the chicken hawk that I sometimes pretend to be as I try to avoid the social butterfly net, I tried to back out. I could criticize anything under the sun, but by whom was I now justified to insist she write to my own tastes.

And yes, I still despise being forced to wear the mantle of “objective” critic, so as I shut my eyes, imagining the warmth of death (although I hear it is chilling), the words of Goethe echo through the broken alleys like gunfire the gangs incite, “More light, more light!”
Yes, I was sure she was troubled kettle, a disgruntled gerund, a flea in a sand castle, a foul ball, a called third strike, a soggy mess in a hard shell just waiting to be opened up like an oyster. She insisted that I look at her poems after I confessed to that common ground of "writer's urgency". She laid bare the dangling facts that although she had not found a publisher for her creativity, she had received several very "personal" replies from several New York houses admonishing her continued efforts, but no, there was not a slot for her at this time.

The fact that Kosmal was for all intents and purposes a cunning, sweet and sour, pretentious New York to Atlanta transplant, all of which with a few minor changes, spell bitch in any language, did not leave me much of a choice—reject her plea for my accommodations, reject her poetry as the undernourished junior-high saccharine joke it proved to be, or lie through my wolf's teeth hacking off a few greasy superlatives just to be "nice". The third option had early on been written in stone cold spaghetti as being against my religion, as was the first. So I agreed to see the manuscript. I mean, any numbskull illiterate enough to classify a work of serious intent as a cross between e.e. cummings and Rod McKuen, had my attention! Hell. I had even been known to toss off an easy, "well if you really need to know, I feel my work is a dress hybrid T.S.Eliot & Allen Ginsberg style and content..."

But those words had rippled off my tongue when I was so much younger (& a lot less crass), with frank eyes to the ivory tower crowd. Ms. Kosmal stated that she was a fortysomethingish mother of three teenagers. I think I was married to her in another lifetime. But that's another story. One thing she did add which offered me the way out I needed to survive this holocaust with my artistic integrity intact.

She said that Chuck had told her that she could be sure of one thing. That I would be "meticulous and bluntly precise". Those were her exact words. Saved by the bell! Now I could really get into the guts of the matter. Within a week the slim package arrived.

My advice to you is that you had better be more discreet when making statements about the Jewish people because you do not understand the truth in G-d’s laws and statutes contained in His holy word. You’d better find out just what your boundaries are for you as a gentile.
The sad shame of her lack of depth in vocabulary and vigorous metaphor was too much for me to bear without the sarcastic mean streak of my own rabid frustrations edging into my critical voice. I played hardball, sticking it to her with little pity. I casually (without prior comment) showed the poems to an associate, who likewise panned the woman's attempts at serious work as mere self-delusions, mediocre schoolgirl mumblings. I suggested to her that she retain her work to read to her grandchildren. Her language was ruthlessly barren, too many repetitive prepositions blocked the cross pollination which may have occurred if only there were even a pair of remotely active buds to work their magic on the reader's mind. (Or in deference to her supposed attachment to the style of the poet, e.e. cummings, the reader's eye.) But there was no evidence of her having even read cummings, other than the unwarranted clustering of five or six words to a clause, a few open spaces, and then another cluster of preposition, adverb, adjective, noun. This format continued across and down the page. Except for her naive feelings of spiritual superiority spred thinly across the white innocence of virgin paper, no one ever exposed to a single page of poetry would mistake Kosmal's act of writing as art. On second thought perhaps she considered the contraction "it's" where the possessive "its" was appropriate, as her contribution to poetic license. Throughout the entire manuscript she made that mistake—some fifteen or so times. Vague, uneventful adjectives filled her page. The same five or six. Beautiful, good, happy, pretty, great, wonderful. The work cracked "immature" like dry mud splitting under the rule of equatorial sun. Her uninspired usage of dime-store adverbs left her praying but unredeemed. No galvanizing imagery but old, worn-out, romantic imitations in sterile congealed forms breathing no more vitality than I possessed while reading them. Regretfully I have no copies of Kosmal's compositions to share. I would publish at least one to assert that indeed I care not to make such editorial judgements in the name of the linguistic freedom I embrace without diamond-studded proof.

However, I lament sometimes that I had not been a "kinder and gentler" critic to this poor "poet". After all, the woman had done me no visible harm. And my own efforts at the poetic task have hardly set the world aflame. But I reported my opinions to her. Her reply speaks for itself. Yet I must remark further on what she labeled [my]"filthy language". In trying to transmit the essence of my rejection of her stuff, I drew upon the sexual metaphor of one's behavior in bed. Does language just lie there, stiff, emotionless, uninvolved in the special act of enchanting communication? Poetry is like sex, I scratched in the margins. It must scream, caress, impose friction. I suppose I now know the answer to both questions. Vulgarity was not my intent. In fact, I never used a single expletive, as they say. Nor did I criticize her Jewishness. I merely questioned her incessant repetition of the g-d rendering of her Lord's name. But I cannot supply the wealth of information I have at hand to rebut her reply here. Read the lamb's bleat, bless her heart.

April 28, 1988

Gabriel,
     It is sad to me that I had the misfortune to have to deal with you and that such an unkind, inconsiderate, immoral individual crossed my pathway. You are a very unhappy, frustrated and miserable excuse for a human being. I truly feel sorry for you and everyone who has to come into contact with you.
    As far as my style, technique and abilities in the writing field are concerned, one thing you pointed out strongly in your critique is that you are NOT a critic. Anybody with half a brain would never have used the filthy language you used to tell me you did not like my writing. You really ought to re-establish your relationship with your family because one thing I remember about them is that they are sweet-natured, considerate and sensitive, all the qualities which you lack. You might be able to learn these important lessons from Chuck.
     As far as my religion is concerned, Jewish people are not allowed to write the name of the Lord; thus G-d. Gentiles are free to pursue their worship of G-d in any way they see fit. It's again, unfortunate that you chose the name Gabriel, as human beings are supposed to aspire to their names and you have clearly exibited deficiency.
     You instructed me to do whatever I wanted to do with your work, so, I threw it away, simply and easily, along with your insolent and prudent remarks contained within the borders of my poetry. Just remember that in Scriptures G-d defines for the world: "Them that curse you, I will curse and them that bless you, I will bless." Genesis 12:3. This passage means clearly that: those who curse the Jewish people will be punished and those who bless the Jewish people will be blessed. You are free to accept or reject this allegation, but it will not in any way change the truth.
     My advice to you is that you had better be more discreet when making statements about the Jewish people because you do not understand the truth in G-d's laws and statutes contained in His holy word. You'd better find out just what your boundaries are for you as a gentile.

Barbara I. Kosmal

Enough said. The woman is neither linguist or bibliophile. But Barbara Kosmal had her say. I honestly wonder if she has found a publisher. She probably went vanity, or self-published. I wish her well, but she as baiting the wrong Gentile she if she thought she had me over a barrel, or would not only recognize her kind, but refuse to play her stupid game of let's call anybody a poet, especially if she's Jewish. And yes, I still despise being forced to wear the mantle of "objective" critic, so as I shut my eyes, imagining the warmth of death (although I hear it is chilling), the words of Goethe echo through the broken alleys like gunfire the gangs incite, "More light, more light!"

GT

Back In The Saddle, Soap And Shapely

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Back In The Saddle
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Originally published on January 31, 1997

I am forwarding these two recent notes I sent to Steve (who has been remarkably steady in recent days after months of little to say), only because since I've been so busy and completely absorbed by Bracken's project my own e-mail generation had dropped to almost nothing. I didn't want you to think I had blown you off or anything as vulgar or self-preserving like that. Quite the contrary. I've been feeling guilty and depressed that you've written interestingly on several topics that I failed to engage because of my current workload, while simultaneously neglecting my own hefty writing project describing those sordid details of the changing of the guard here at the Dollhouse.

Steve meanwhile weighed in with his interest in hearing more about the book project. You did not, but hey, you certainly caused a stir at the Situationist camp a few weeks back that I thought you might still appreciate a few details while they were still warm in the oven.

After a month of working diligently for someone else I had a few general Mac housekeeping chores to manage, a major crash to weather, and I am now on my eighth day of flu sickness without antibiotic calvary persuading me that the end of this misery is yet in sight. So I face the hiss and boos of the faceless crowd as I admit that still the first line of the "Great Storm" ending 1996 has yet to find its way to page, although this Sunday, Groundhog's Day will mark the first month's anniversary of Tim and Jennifer's exile from the Dollhouse fevers.

Speaking of anniversaries, what day exactly do you turn 31 in all your sass and bosomly anthem? Have you managed to seduce a frozen Swede onto your corporate tab? Would you tell me if you did? I dropped my soap. You wouldn't be pulling a Jack, now would you Landry, all bathed in secret lights and bold rationalizations while flogging community standards with one hand tied behind your back and the other on a stack of sci-fi novels, with nothing but your feet and your mouth to accomplish the dirty deeds, now would you Landry?

Of course I jest with you, but you know as well as I do that in the eye of the hurricane, few details are lost in the saddle. It's out there on the swirl that conflict states its name and bends the rules to suit its own game. Wishing you a swell Minnesota memory. Nothing lasts forever, not even a Green Bay Packers grin....

Of Folly & Fodder: Death By Explanation

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Death Journal
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Orginally composed on January 28, 1997

WELL...since everyone else is spilling all in declaring the spikes and spokes of their past and present journalkeeping habits, I may as well add my own finer edges, having kept a rather informal text of this sort rather irregularly over the years in old-fashioned notebooks and later, on disk.

After giving up the traditional journal task several times I've come to recognize that I don't really appreciate the form as much as I do the E-mail discipline. I suspect my need for instant gratification by way of external response, plus a general distaste for maintaining secrecies result in a preference for calling the bluff on private thought processes and identify the latter form as my own favored form of natural journal. Fortunately for me in this case, ever since the spring of 1992 when I first logged on to AOL and Prodigy, I've always had at least one equally prolific correspondent with whom I have been able to vent any issues of the hour mixed with any general ponderances which the modern mind might tend to address. And presently I can boast that "pour moi" this softly fluctuating group buoyed by Steve Taylor and Lynn Landry in a bicoastal cheek to cheek is indeed the golden age of "writing to keep writing" form the journal has traditionally meant to its creators.

That said, of course all my journals of the past and E-mail are in custody, hardcopies alphabetized and filed according to the name of my correspondent. My computerphobe but oh so revolutionary pal Len Bracken and a few other hanging-wit know-it-alls have taken me to task for my energies focused in this area. Death by explanation. What is that? Why must I explain every detail of the literary approach to those who taunt me as if they even care. My autodidactic education speaks for itself, and so I have no qualms gathering forces by exploiting my own preparatory habits. There's nothing really original about it. Writers major and minor will be writers great and small whether and wherever they write tedious volumes or short declaratives. Style is always experimental until it sticks and becomes habit. I really don't cotton to these arrogant tones toward E-mail and my own exercises in linguistic riffing, but to utilize a line from a long forgotten poem I once wrote might be a propos:

Ignorance and virtue STILL suck on the same straw...

GT