Archive | December, 2010


20 Dec

Just like the the song says that’s it folks. That’s it.

‘Til the second of the first February of the teens that is. That’s Two-Oh One-One y’all – 2011. Wonder what the teens will be like.

It was about 94.33333 bits of scribble ago that I first wrote it: There is the human race. Some things change, some stay as they are. There has always been art and there has always been politics. The power structure and the mysterious need to make marks; to design and arrange.

Nothing’s changed there except ever so slightly. But I’ll keep scribblin’. Meantime a few lists of my favourite bits will appear below for your distraction. But above that the last great painting by this country’s finest.

Auld Lang Syne and Happy Hanukkah.


“The 15 Great Dog Pisses of Paris”, 1989
Brett Whiteley (1939-1992)


1. The Arrogance of Beethoven

2. Prose Poem For October

3. This Machine Kills Fascists

4. Tariq Ali’s Coming To Town

5. Living Like The Jetsons

6. Drinking From A Broken Cup

7.Sad Songs And Merry War

8. I Got No Kick Against Modern Jazz

9. The Sea And the Old Man

10. Thirteen Billion Trips ‘Round The Sun


1. Shadow Men Saints Inc

2. Alt/Me

3. How Could You Forget Your Yellow Bird

4. The Prophets

5.Rejoice And Be Happy

6. Rule By The Mist

7. Nobody Feels Any Pain

8. Nature’s Cruel Staros

9. Beautiful For Spacious Skies

10. What Capitalism?



19 Dec


“Indefinite Divisibility”, 1942
Yves Tanguy


19 Dec

Aaron Neville

There’s two ways you can go, one easy and forgotten, the other hard. But you’ll be remembered.


19 Dec


I think Parker is a casualty of the Information Crisis. The world has had a good seventy-five years of Freud, Darwin, Pavlov, Max Weber, Sir James Frazer, Dr Spock, Vance Packard and Rose Franzblau, and everything they have to say about human motivation has filtered through Parker and all of Parker’s friends in college, at parties, at lunch, in the magazines and novels they read and the conversations they have at home with their wives who share the same esoterica. As a result, Parker understands everybody’s motives including his own which he has a tendency to talk about and revile.

He understands, for example, that he is now forty-six years old and close to becoming vice-president of the agency and that at this particular age and status he now actually feels the need to go to the kind of barbershop where one makes an appointment and has the same barber each time and the jowls are anointed with tropical oils. It is as if Parker were looking through the microscope at a convulsive amoeba, himself, Parker. “I can’t go into any other kind of barbershop,” he says. “It has gotten so I have an actual, physical need to have my hair cut in that kind of barbershop.” He can go on like this about the clothes he buys, about the clubs he joins, the music he listens to, the way he feels about Negroes, anything.

He understands why pot-smoking is sort of a religion. He understands Oneness, lofts, visions, the Lower East Side. He understands why Ben has given up everything. He understands why his wife, Regina, says he is a ______ and has to do something. Her flannel mouth is supposed to goad him into action. He understands everything, the whole thing, and he is in a hopeless funk.

So here are Parker and I walking along Avenue B on the Lower East Side. Parker is wearing a brown Chesterfield and a Madison Avenue crash helmet. Madison Avenue crash helmet is another one of Parker’s terms. It refers to the kind of felt hat that is worn with a crease down the centre and no dents in the side, a sort of homborg without a flanged brim. He calls it a Madison Avenue crash helmet and then wears one. Inevitably, Parker is looking over his shoulder, following his own progress down Avenue B. Here is Parker with his uptown clothes and his anointed jowls, walking past the Old Avenue B Cinema, a great rotting building with lion’s heads and shattered lepers’ windows. Here is Parker walking past corner stores with posters for Kassal, Kaplan, Aldrich and the others, plastered, torn, one on top of the other, like scales. Here is Parker walking along narrow streets with buildings all overhung with fire escapes on both sides. Here is this ripening forty-six-year-old agency executive walking along amid the melted storefronts. There are whole streets on the Lower East Side where it looks as if the place had been under intense heat and started melting and then were suddenly frozen in amber. Half the storefronts are empty and there is a gray film inside the windows. Pipes, bins, shafts of wood and paper are all sort of sliding down the walls. The ceilings are always covered with squares of sheet metal with quaint moldings on them to make an all-over design, and they are buckling. The signs have all flaked down to metal the color of weathered creosote, even the ones that say Bodega y Carneceria. Everything is collapsing under New York moss, which is a combination of lint and soot. In a print shop window, under the soot and lint, is a sample of a wedding announcement. Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Arnschmidt announce the marriage of their daughter, Lillian, to Mr Aaron Kornilov, on October 20, 1951. This seems to deepen Parker’s funk. He is no doubt asking himself what sort of hopeless amber fix Lillian Arnschmidt and Aaron Kornilov are frozen in today.

Parker sticks his head inside a doorway. Then he walks in. Then he turns around and says, “Are you sure?”

“You said 488,” I tell him, “this is 488.”

“Nifty,” Parker says.

Here is Parker in the entryway of a slum tenement. Slum tenements are worse than they sound. The hallway is painted with a paint that looks exactly the color, thickness and lumpiness of real mud. Parker and I walk in, and there are three big cans of garbage by the stairway. Behind them are two doors, one to the basement apartment, one to the first floor apartment, out of which two or three children have over-flowed when the mother rises in the doorway like a moon reflecting a 25-watt light and yells something in Spanish. The children squeeze back, leaving us with the garbage and the interesting mud tableau. At some point they painted the mud color over everything, even over the doorbell-buzzer box. They didn’t bother to pull the wiring out. They just cut the wires and painted over the stubs. And there they have it, the color called Landlord’s Brown, immune to time, flood, heat, arctic chill, punk rumbles, slops, leprocotic bugs, cockroaches the size of mice, mice the size of rats, rats the size of Airedales, and lumpenprole tenants.

On the way up there are so many turns amid the muddy gloom, I can’t tell what floor we stop at. But Parker finds the door up there and knocks.

For a while we don’t hear anything, but there is a light through the door. Then somebody inside says, “Who is it?”

“Ben!” says Parker. “It’s me.”

Tom Wolfe
“Putting Daddy On”, 1964


17 Dec


I can settle down
And be doin’ just fine


‘Til I hear an old freight
Rollin’ down the line


Then I hurry straight home and pack
And if I didn’t go, I believe I’d blow my stack


Some folks might say that I’m no good
That I wouldn’t settle down if I could


But when that open road starts a’ callin’ me
There’s somethin’ o’er the hill that I gotta see


Let me travel this la-and from the mountains to the sea
‘Cause that’s the life I believe He meant for me


I love you baby, but you gotta understand
When the Lord made me, He made a Ramblin’ Man

(Lyrics: Hank Williams)


17 Dec


In September of 1973 a trust-fund rich kid checked into the Joshua Tree Inn at San Bardino County, California among the spooky Death Valley desert with its iconic jagged rocks host to a thousand classic Westerns. He would never leave.

Oh he was troubled this golden boy from Tennessee. His mother Avis’d been a manipulative drunk, heiress to a fortune based on oranges and lemons. His father, ol’ Coondog Connor, came from an even wilder branch of the Southern tree. A charming sort, Coondog, with music in his soul but it was never a happy home. He worked for his wife’s family the Snively Clan at some desk and finally blew his brains out when he couldn’t take it anymore. So here’s the kid and his young sister trapped in the weary gilded cage of loveless wealth. But the kid liked Elvis. Worshiped Elvis. He’d snuck backstage and got his autograph and he was gonna do the same thing sometime. So his mother sends him to military school. I guess she thought he was trouble. Why who knows. Everyone who ever knew him commented on his impeccable manners – a true Southern Gentleman.

About five minutes after they planted Coondog, Avis married a slick salesman with a greasy smile and a reptile’s heart. He spent her money, cheated on her all over town, didn’t bother to cover it up. Soon enough the bitter old gal drank herself to death and the kid and the sister had no-one except each other. It was pretty obvious that Robert Parsons was a snake but he’d made the right moves, adopted the kids and now there was no getting rid of him. Later the kid got married and he had Parsons preside over the ceremony. After all he hadn’t come to expect much by way of love and his step-dad was all he had left.

And money. Money helps. He made it to Harvard where his interests in music deepened and hearkened back into country and bluegrass. He formed bands, convinced stardom was his destiny. Another bit of unloved flotsam from Flyover, USA looking for what his parents never gave him in the adoration of a million anonymous fans. He had money, he had talent too but the money queered it. He couldn’t deliver on time, couldn’t summon the goods at will.

His inheritance was a fortune in gold and a powerful thirst for oblivion. He was a boozer just like his parents and their’s before them. And this was the ’60s, so naturally he tripped the light fantastic as well. His first real band, the International Submarine Legend, featured in the Roger Corman LSD fantasia The Trip. With a name like that how could they not appear. The kid had half-arrived, already a semi-legend. He’d found himself out in California where he played the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and sampled the pot and acid West Coast flavors of Hashbury and the Freak Kingdom. After the ISB fell apart he patched up the freshly busted Byrds and had them go to Nashville to record The Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Almost no-one bought the album, it was the lowest selling Byrds disc yet. But somehow it changed the direction of rock music away from the Blues and toward bluegrass. People who met him often say they didn’t like country music beforehand, that they didn’t get it. He helped ’em get it. Even those who’ve subsequently written him off as a rich-kid fuck-up give him that.

Sometime around then he fell into the Mephistophelian circle around the Rolling Stones. Became tight with Keith. They played, they partied. And he took Keith and his lady Anita Pallenberg to his favourite place Joshua Tree, California to climb the mountains, drop acid, take in the sunset and wait for the UFOs that were known to appear around there.


This was the Stones’ great era: Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers: their high point. The country inflections and the ascendance of that style of music in their albums has been attributed to Richards’ friendship with this young southern gentleman. The gentleman’s demise has frequently been attributed to the Stones. After this hat trick listed above the Stones repaired to a mansion overlooking the sea where they would record the record that for some was their greatest and for others the start of their long slide down – Exile On Main Street.

The place was awash with sycophants and crocodiles. Everyone except maybe Charlie Watts was high and all the time. Richards was the conductor and impresario of this Fellini-esque circus. Some guy delivered a large bag of pink heroin on a weekly basis. Wires snaked thru the house from the portable studio into the basement where the various players would spend their nights pushing out this tribute to American music thru the Eurotrash haze. Richards spent the afternoons with the kid, writing country songs and snorting coke and then he’d leave him there and apply what he’d learned somehow in the basement. And the kid? He was trouble.

Trouble? This was a place where knives got thrown around on a regular basis; garbage, bottles and burnt spoons everywhere. Everyone was throttling it. But still someone in the Stones kicked the kid and his too-young, constantly whining wife out. He was trouble! Strange considering the lizards and moochers that stayed. But I guess they were concerned about him attracting inviting inconvenient intervention by the authorities by dropping dead.. He was dropping off all the time, out of it. So they gave him the boot and when he flew back to England and asked for the key to Richards’ London flat. The guy who held it said he’d lost it. Someone had phoned from the mansion in France and ordered him to lie.


Still the kid picks up, licks his wounds, takes the cure and back to California. He got on with it, recording his solo stuff, hanging out with Emmylou Harris. But the damage was apparent. This fresh looking boy was now a seedy, fat, ruined drunk. He’d go back to Joshua Tree to clear the webs from his soul but what good did it do? Every bar in town knew his face. So here he was, September ’73, checking in one last time. On phenobarbital to treat the after-affects of a motorbike accident three years before. It didn’t stop him drinking.

Different accounts argue the point but the story says that a young girl whose boyfriend or something pinched morphine supplies from the local Marines base came over late the next night and shot the kid up – twice. His request. He was already loaded on the barbituates and the booze and he wanted more. The girl gave him his second helping and ran. She saw the blue in his face and knew what it meant. The kid’s friends in typical style tried all the home cures before it snapped that they need medical assistance. Sometime about midnight coming into September 19th an ambulance picked up a near-corpse. He didn’t make it to the hospital.

Outside New Orleans there’s a simple grave you can visit. For years there was a simple wooden marker with the name next to the word ‘singer’. No-one gave a shit. The Snivelys didn’t bother with the funeral. But later on the kid sister came around and fixed it up a little with a decent headstone that now reads: Gram Parsons: God’s Own Singer.


16 Dec


In 1925 the man who was, arguably, that decade’s most acerbic wit went to Dayton Ohio where a Biology teacher was on trial for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. However HL Mencken did not cover the trial of John Scopes instead taking on the role of the bemused anthropologist, describing the rube environs in which the The State of Tennessee v. Scopes played out: the heat, the crowds of hellfire amateur theologians spouting The Revelation of St John on the courthouse lawn, the woman who thought Coca-Cola “a levantine and Hell-sent narcotic”.

But the preachers who actually lived in this town struggled to make a living, picking strawberries on the side, cutting hair to supplement their meager income from half-empty churches squatting in weed-choked lawns. The bible-bashers were mostly from out of town. They came from places like Blue Mountain, Mississippi. The Butler Act forbad the teaching of science inconvenient to Christian theology but it did so amongst a population whose faith had waned in favour of hot dogs and corn liquor.

Then the story moves even further away from the courthouse courtesy of a woman reporting for a Chattanooga rag who invites Mencken up into the wilderness to see a pentecostal gathering replete with the speaking in tongues and bodies collapsed, the one on the others, in ecstatic torment. Testimonies too. A young woman proudly declares that she refused to trade with a book salesman. “Why, indeed, read a book? If what was in it was true, then everything in it was already in the Bible. If it was false, then reading it would imperil the soul.” For this crowd “speaking in tongues was real” and “education was a snare”.

Back east maybe the sophistos reading the Baltimore Evening Sun may have chuckled at Mencken’s word-pictures of these desperate yokels suffering from deprivation and shunning the one thing that might’ve lifted them out of it. Perhaps the joke gets stuck nowadays in the throats of similar personalities. Are there so many similar personalities? Mencken’s prose would be, I’d wager, regarded by his contemporaries as bearing the simple economy that came to define American writing in the 20th century. But would any newspaper in the English-speaking world these days hire a sub-editor who would understand a phrase like “there was a strong smell of antinomianism” without reaching for a dictionary? Could such be found? And if so would the editor let it pass?

I have my most sincere doubts. It does not pay in the current climate of consumer indulgence to remind those reading hi-falutin’ stuff in the quality press of their ignorance. The word ‘antinomianism’ would be banished replaced instead by an entire paragraph explaining the tendency of religious extremists to disregard the laws of their country out of the supposed exceptionalism bestowed by piety. Moreover this might, among the nefarious liberal press, be supplemented with a diatribe as to the dangers of such tendencies. An explanation would be warranted.

The slick ‘liberals’ – the American kind – with their half-baked Continental Philosophy mashed by mediocrities like Derrida and derivative pedants like Foucault, with their delusions that knowing the work of Epictitus somehow grants them enlightenment; these people with their confusion of the principles and consequences of liberalism and socialism, with their cowardice as to their own principles – they would deem it necessary to explain to their dwindling readership that a religious zealot, convinced of the inextricable Evil of the State and therefore dedicated to cleansing the country, was a dangerous person. The sad truth is that they would be right. As Frank Zappa writes, how can be people who’ve never read the Constitution possibly care when somebody tears it up? Few care, because so few are left that understand.


The belief that the reading of a single holy book is enough – and anything else too much – is familiar to anyone who has been in range of Western war propaganda these nine years past. We know about the schools in Pakistan, in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia where boys are taught to read only the Qu’ran and only thru the prism of the righteousness of a violent political struggle with the West. Girls are not taught to read in these places. And where, as in Afghanistan, this ethos is alone predominate, no girl learns to read and if she tries there can be dire consequences.

But these people are crazy, right? This is the Evil we must fight? Yeah?

Strange then, that the notion that learning is sinful is catching on in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Ann Coulter’s Godless deploys the standard rhetorical diversion of accusing one’s opponent of every wrong one is, one’s self, guilty of. Ms Coulter is a lawyer, a jurisprudential activist who seeks to overturn the secular foundations of the US Constitution and institute the apparatus of theology. I do not believe she does so out of adherence to faith. In one of interviews promoting this opprobrious assembly of sheer bollocks she’s asked to tell us her favourite prayer. So she shoots off The Lord’s Prayer says something like Our Father, Who Art In Heaven etcetera. Recited with all the soul of a Soviet apprentice apparatchik.

She’s full of shit. She wants the very people who’d most benefit from public education to shun it, nay demand that it be converted into an academy for theocratic bone’d heads. The ignorant are easy to manipulate and it’s only a matter of time before the intellectually impoverished masses of the United States make the connection that their false prophets and the corporatist interests with which they’re connected are responsible for their woes. How much longer will white trash rednecks and hard ghetto-bred brothers gonna take serving up their youth and health and lives in stinking deserts only to be discarded with smarmy self-righteousness by blue-bloods who pretend to be like them? How long before they simply just take charge of the country which they alone die for and they alone actually, truly care about? And if they ascend to the stage where they can exercise great political will and if their understanding of the Constitution and what it seeks to effect have eroded to the extent that a merger between Church and State seems like a good idea….


I have writ elsewhere that I believe in God. It’s true, I do. I, as they say, speak to the sky, and I imagine an enormous man, ancient yet vigorous with a white beard. This is Catholic imagery. The attempt by small creatures to put a face on the Infinite. Still I know that, according to the facts, there is no evidence of God save Creation itself. And that Creation is created by the whorls of simple energy organizing itself into complex patterns. I know the Universe is vast and might not be the only one. I wonder why Fundamentalists have so much trouble with Darwin when Hubble is so much the greater blow. Sorry guys the Buddhists were right, we’re just moss on a wheel within much bigger wheels.

What face or name can we put to the God of that?

Still there’s something to it – the starry skies above and the moral law within – there’s an idea that lingers on even as it morphs with our expanding horizons. An idea so powerful people will die and gladly in its name. Evolution more than geological history or the fact of an incomprehensibly massive universe, offends the fundamentalists because, as Bill Hicks quipped cruelly, they always ‘look so unevolved’. The faces of the crowd attending TV Preachers’ studios always seem so torn and crushed. They do not want to hear that they are monkeys because where they are, without the vicissitudes of culture to enhance and cultivate their instincts and persons, it’s all too obvious. And without a share in the benefits of the modern mind they reject its broader horizons.

They ain’t going there, ain’t goin’ anywhere… So why should you?