Art

August 29, 2015

BooksPntg

I remember when we went to the Louvre.

Strolling down a long hallway of Italian Renaissance.

Here was a viewer viewing.

There was a person looking with wonder.

Here a person, there a painting

Here a painting, there a person

Here and there along

the hallway.

Interesting.

Arriving at the end,

we entered a large room.

Over on the other side of the room:

maybe a hundred people

looking at one painting.

Go figure.

Mona Someone.

That’s art for ya.

 

I read something the other day,

whether ’tis true or not I cannot say.

When the British were pulling out of India

they were upset, and they had gone

daft.

Some potentate gave the order to

destroy a sacred building, you know,

like blow it up. But

at the last minute, the Viceroy issued an order:

Don’t do it.

So they didn’t.

Tajma somethingorother.

That’s art for ya.

 

Then there was the time some Brit

archeologist or whatever he was, took possession of

a Greek statue, a lovely lady she was,

or had been, back in the day.

Well this caryatid lady had five sisters

back in Athens, and she really

missed her sisters, so the Greeks tried to get her

back from the British Museum where she has been

imprisoned all these years, and still is but

The Brits won’t let her go,

a captive Carytid.

That’s art for ya.

 

Streamin’ through some flix

on the Net

I stumbled upon a story about a

Woman in gold.

A precious portrait of this lady

was stolen by the Nazis when they were taking were over

the world, or so they thought,

and they had the pic hidden for a long long time but then

it was found.

The Nazis didn’t own it any more, but a museum did and

they were not inclined to

give it back to

the rightful heirs.

But then a judge in America got it back for the family.

So the Woman in Gold came home,

‘though it was not the home she had known; it was

a new home. She had never been there. May she rest in

peace.

That’s art for ya.

 

The men come; the women go,

looking for another Michelangelo.

That’s art for ya.

 

When I was young man, and I didn’t

know much about anything

there was a fella who made a big pic of a

Campbell’s soup can and

they called it. . .well

that’s art for ya.

 

And somewhere in my memory there’s cave art,

that I learned about in school or somewhere

where they found these caves in France.

Neanderthals or somebody kin to them had painted

these animals on the cave walls.

I guess this impulse has been with us for a long long

time.

That’s art for ya.

 

 

This morning I wandered lonely as a cloud

into a little gallery, to see

pictures at an exhibition,

as it were.

I saw a photograph:

a wooden dock upon a calm pond

with large polka dots painted on the little pier

in an orderly way. Beneath the the image was

another photograph; this time one of a

a similar boardwalk with the same

large polka dots on the boards,

extended not upon a watery pond, but

out upon a desert scene,

like, no water in between

or underneath.

How clever these spots seem.

Well I just had to laugh;

I saw a photograph.

That’s art for ya.

 

Now as I was saying before.

So there we were at the Louvre and

we were strolling around a big room where

Marie de Medici had commissioned–or maybe it was Catherine–

some special painting to be done.

It just so happened that I glanced

up at the ceiling and

there I noticed a big clump of pink flowers–or maybe they were mauve–

painted in the middle of

a blue sky background.

Then my eye wandered across the sky blue to behold

a muscular black man extending his hand down

to me.

Who me?

He was smiling.

As if to say. . . come on up. It’s okay. Your time has come.

And as I took in the rest of that ceiling scene there were other people

around him. Upon closer inspection I discovered they were, like,

baby angels, and so I suddenly realized

I was at my funeral.

Someone had thrown a pink bouquet on me.

Or maybe it was mauve. And the smiling man was offering me

a hand up.

So shall it be for me, someday, as it was for Marie.

That’s art for ya.

 

Glass Chimera

Robert McNamara’s Tragic Choice

August 27, 2015

My freshman year of college at LSU was a real eye-opener. The world I entered that September was remarkably different from the high school existence from which I had just graduated.

There was a lot going on in 1969. I understood practically none of it, so my college education would be a huge learning experience–not only about the subjects of classic university study, but about the tumultuous times that we lived in then.

If you have, in your life, spent a freshman year at a large university, then perhaps you know something about the changes I was dealing with. But if you were a baby boomer like me whose collegial initiations happened in the late 1960’s, then you might agree that our experience then was even more intense that most college frosh would typically experience.

Nowadays, in my 64th year of life, I have undertaken to write a novel that is centered around this experience. The book, which will be a fourth novelic publishing project, is called King of Soul.

Who is the King of Soul, you may ask. You’ll have to read the book to find out. But of course you cannot read it, until I finish writing the dam thing, probably about 3 years from now.

Now when I’m doing this sort of project, I’m heavy on the research. The direction of my research will determine much of what happens in the story. For the last six months or so, I’ve been reading many books and articles about the 1960s. My historical novels are subjective explorations of selected time periods. The three previous novelic projects were propelled by research explorations in these years: 2005 (Glass half-Full), 2000 (Glass Chimera) and 1937 (Smoke).

1969 was, as Frank Sinatra might say, a very good year. On the other hand, in some ways it was a very bad year.

Just like any year, I guess. Depends on who you are, where you are, and what is happening around you.

What I found was happening around me and the other college students of 1969 was this: a helluva lot of change, and it was going down at a very fast clip. Most of the change revolved around three areas of societal ferment: civil rights, the Vietnam War, and sex.

I wandered, like millions of other high-school graduates, into a maelstrom of disruptive events and ideas.

My current enquiry about that anarchic decade has identified three main influences:

~the civil rights movement, which had started long before, but was accelerating in its intensity during that time

~the Vietnam War, and the draft

~the metamorphosis of the 1950’s “beats” into something new called the hippies

My first great discovery has been that the groundbreaking civil rights activists of the 1950s-60s taught the antiwar activists of the late 1960s how to mobilize and organize in order to get things done. The “Freedom Summer” of 1964 is the clearest expression of this development. That’s when bunches of white kids from up north spent their summer going down south to help blacks in their struggle for civil rights, and America was never the same after that.

My second great revelation is (as if we didn’t already know) the elephant in that era’s living room: the war in Vietnam.

This may seem obvious to anyone who was there, in the USA at that time. But God, and my advancing age, have taught me a great lesson in recent years. And the lesson is this:

One of life’s greatest satisfactions is to, by study, delve back into the time in which you were growing up, and learn about what the hell was going on then when you were so young and clueless about it all.

Toward that end, I am reading a great work of jouralism now, one of the best I’ve ever picked up: David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-Brightest-David-Halberstam/dp/0449908704

Today I encountered in that book a startling realization. You can perhaps discern what it is by reading this selection from page 242 of the 1972 Ballantine paperback edition:

“. . .in making his (Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s) arguments against nuclear weapons, forcefully, relentlessly, he had to make counterarguments for conventional forces. We had to have some kind of armed might, so he made good and effective arguments for conventional weapons (and if the Chiefs wanted to use them in Vietnam, to send American combat troops without nuclear weapons, he had to go along, since he had developed the thesis, the mystique of what conventional weapons could do with the new mobility). He gave them a rationale, for his overriding concern was quickly to limit the possibilities of nuclear war, to gain control of those weapons.(emphasis mine).”

In other words, the slippery slope of  conventional warfare in Vietnam war escalation came about as an effort to prevent ultimate nuclear war with the Communists!

That’s something to think about. Who knows, maybe the strategy worked. Maybe it will help us understand how that war slid, over the course of a dozen years or so, from a few military advisors deployed in 1961 to 54,000 Americans dead by the time we finally got out of there in 1975.

There was, admit it or not, a rationale to the tragedy of Vietnam.

As we (still) face a 21st century situation of potential nuclear disaster, maybe the strategy of conventional war–a lesser evil– can fend off the worst possible bellicosity–nuclear war against the “Communists” of our present age, the Islamic State of Iran, or North Korea.

Our detonation of atom bombs over Japan in August 1945 has changed the world–and the world’s strategic inevitable realities–forever. We’d best not forget that. For the preservation of human life on this planet, any bellicose nations who strive to develop nuclear warheads must be kept in check.

 

Smoke

Song

August 23, 2015

A few years ago some friends helped me record this song:

We’ve got a song to sing.

Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit

August 22, 2015

ChicScrap1

Dad Gummit and Daw Gonnit were sittin in the tavern one Friday evening. It was about going-home time and they were tippin a couple o brewskies while discussin the state of the world.

Ole Dad Gummit was on a roll with his opinions about the way things are and the way they use to be. “The trouble with this world today is folks don’t know how to do anything anymore. Why, back in day when I was still wet behind the ears, we could crank out things on the assembly line like they was goin outa style. Then along came nafta and before anybody knew what the hell was happenin everything we use to make was comin outa China or Mexico or Bangladesh or some such place where people work for next to nothin.”

“That’s just the way of the world,” Daw Gonnit explained. “It’s free enterprise. Companies that manufacture things are always tryin to get the price of their goods down to make ’em more affordable for the average guy– regular people like Joe Sixpack and Joe Blow, John Smith and Jane Doe.

“So companies got to find employees who’ll work for less money. But folks in this country are relatively rich, compared to the rest of the world. Companies wantin to get their costs down relocate their production facilities in other countries where people can afford to work for less money, because they don’t have the big cars and trucks to keep on the road, and they don’t have the big mortgage payments and the refrigerator and the dishwasher and the microwave and the range and the mixmaster and the blender and the washin machine and the dryer and so forth and whatnot that go along with the vehicle and the house and the lawn and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” Gosh Darnit chimed in. He had sat at the table and had been listnin to their spiels. “But that’s nothin new. This has been goin on for hundreds of years. Why, there was a time, back in the 1900s, when most of our clothes came from England, because the limeys were the first ones to figure out how to mass produce textiles and clothing. They made the fabrics and the finished goods in places like Manchester and Lancashire and sent ’em over here on boats so’s we Americans could buy ’em with our up n comin’ dollars.

“After a while, we yankees figured out how to do it, and so we set up our own plants in New England and started crankin out similar goods (maybe not as high-quality) that were cheaper because Americans worked for less money than the highly skilled limeys did, plus we didn’t have to pay the transportation costs of floatin’ them pants and shirts and dresses and so forth and whatnot across the big pond.”

Then Dag Nabbit, who had ambled in, threw in his two cents worth. “I catch your drift, Gosh. But then after awhile, there were upstart mills down south, in places like the Carolinas where folks were workin for less than the New Englanders, and so a lot of that textile and clothing work went down south.”

“Yea,” Daw Gonnit agreed. “And nowadays, with so much manufacturing goin’ to Mexico and the like, it’s just more of the same pattern as before. Owners and bosses chasin’ after lower labor costs. It just all keeps goin’ south.”

“Or east,” Gosh Darnit pointed out, “. . .even across the Pacific ocean. like the Japs did with cars while Detroit was snoozin and countin their assets. After awhile the big boys in Michigan couldn’t get their innovative assets in gear any more, so the Japs and Koreans started crankin out lean n mean little econo wheels after the Arabs ran the oil prices up with their embargo and folks was waitin in line to fillup their tanks and so forth and whatnot.”

“I hear ya,” quipped Dag Nabbit. Things that had been changin at freeway speed were  changing all of a sudden at the speed of light. Then, as if that weren’t mystifyin’ enough, Gates and Jobs started crankin the silicon dreams out on the west coast and before you know it everybody was lookin at the world through new windows and takin a byte outa the good life. Between Redmond and and Cupertino electronic techie prosperity was leapin like blue blazes. But then Steve and the guys started farmin out the manufacturin work to the Chinese and the Sings and Bangalores and so forth and whatnot.”

“You fellas got that right,” said Dag Nabbit. “Most of the American manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, and so now service industries are taking over in American employment venues. Now folks are doin haircuts and pedicures and uber and pizza delivery and so forth and what not.”

“Flippin’ burgers, pitchin’ fries, waitin’ tables, detailin’ cars, sweepin’ floors, with the car-wash blues, recyclin’, mass transit, interior designin’, website designin’, programmin’, unstoppin toilets, flippin’ real estate, things like that,” said Old Dad Gummit.

“. . .not to mention lawyerin’ and doctorin’ and bankin’ and financial consultin’ and day-tradin’ and mortgage brokin’ and so forth and whatnot. The service industries are not all on the low end, y’know.” quipped Dag Nabbit.

“True dat,” agreed Old Dad Gummit, nodding his head slowly as if pondering on the essence things. He was thinking of what Sun Yat-sen had said about looking into the nature of things. “The world has sho’nuff changed since I was a Nehi,” he mused.

“Yeah, but you know what?” queried Gosh Darnit. “When you get right down to it, every person needs their shot at makin’ it in this world. . . makin’ somethin! whether its goods or services, high multiplier or low multiplier, whether they’re in America or Greece, or Asia or South America or Africa, in Shenzhen or Pleiku or the Outback of wherever place on earth. Everybody wants to get a piece of the action; everybody wants a slice of the pie.”

Dad Gummit looked strangely content, as if he was about to slip into another realm. “Everybody gets born with their own little window on the world, and desirin’ to get a byte outa the big App,” saith he, thoughtfully.

Daw Gonnit mused, “You so right, boss. Everybody git to take a shot at life, even though they’re born into times and maybe circumstances different from what their mom n pop were born into. And I guess they got to work with whatever they got–whatever they’re born into, wherever they be borne into it, whether they’re in Peoria or Seoul or Bangalore or Timbuktu or wherever.”

“But sometimes I catch a glimpse of the big picture, and I think it’s all on a long, downhill slide into hell,” Gosh Darnit opined. “. . .what with the perpetual wars, and terrorists and riots and police shootings and oppressions and so forth and whatnot. . .”

Ole Dad Gummit straightened hisself up; he looked around the establishment as if he wanted to say something profound, which he did: “As long as God Dammit don’t show up, I think we’ll be all right.” He drained the last of his IPA, then looked at Daw Gonnit in the eye.

“Maybe that’s what’s needed,” said the younger man.

“Could be,” crooned Dad Gummit.  He smiled, stood up. “Catch you boys on the flipflop.” And with that cloture, he strode out like a cricket among the embers.

Glass Chimera

Communism

August 16, 2015

It was an idea whose time had come

or so they thought.

First there was the original, the Marx

version.

It seemed to be a great idea, everybody equal

pulling their own weight in a

great society. You might say it was the French

philosophers who started the whole damn thing

when they sliced off the king’s head

in the Place de la Revolution, 1789

to, you know, get him and his royal legions

out of the way

so Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite could

rule the day

instead of the  divine right of fuddy-duddy

kings

which was an old disproven

notion. It had fallen, like the guillotine upon the king,

by the wayside. Later,

When the Bolsheviks got a hold of it

it became something else, and so

there evolved the Russian

version

which morphed into the Lenin

version

and eventually degenerated into the bloody Stalin

purge version

Then of course there was the Chinese

version

which, when Mao got a hold of it became

some great bloody leap backward and

a cultural revolution the likes of which the world

had never seen

since Pharoah, or whoever the hell it was that collected

all those sweating men out in the desert to stack

stone upon Ozymandian stone

up to the sky

but who knows why.

But I digress. It was the Ho Chi Minh

version

that really tripped us Americans up because

that great idea whose time had come had

proven to be not such a great idea

or so we thought.

And the whole damned ideological notion of

Communism

had become a terrible bogey man, an ogre in

the furtive minds of Capitalist men that

eventually got mired in the bogs of

Vietnam

And what a helluva thing that was.

Oh, and while all that was going down

along came the Che

version

and then the Castro

version

but the jury’s still out on all that or

so it seems,

‘though things are never as they

seem.

Maybe it was all just a bad

dream.

Smoke

Equal Incomes or Outcomes?

August 8, 2015

For some of us life is a race;

for others it’s a spectator event.

While few gather booty with style and grace

many manage only to pay the rent.

 

Now progressives want to yank everything

towards establishing income equality,

while conservatives hate to support anything

except equal access to opportunity.

 

Is opportunity our great American playing field,

or is income the gridiron of our success?

Should we rig the system for equal income yield,

or tweak it to assure the same access?

 

As if such a thing could be done,

manipulating society to evolve a certain way:

everyone marching to the same equality drum,

consuming consumer goodies every day!

 

This sometimes great notion to level the playing field–

do we apply it toward the start-point or the resultant end:

should we guarantee incomes with diverse outcomes to yield,

or provide equal opportunities that equally pretend?

 

This question is for each person to decide,

and I know not course most make take.

In which theoretical society will you reside?

Will you excel, or make as everyone the same mistake?

 

Glass half-Full44a6b-6a0120a79e132f970b01bb08290e66970d-pi

Vietnam in US

August 2, 2015

59500-6a0120a79e132f970b01b8d13d5000970c-pi

We were there for a long long time.

Our military presence there was a sign:

America would uphold capitalist resistance

against Viet Cong communist insistence.

In the end it didn’t work out that way:

The North moved onto the the South to stay.

Sound familiar?

After years of war hemophilia.

We started with an idea to protect the world

against communist incursion that swirled

throughout Asia and Europe and South America,

so dominoes wouldn’t fall on US in America.

 

Kennedy had good intentions,

as Cold War assumed gargantuan dimensions.

He sent in the advisors and trainers,

as if the whole project were a strategic no-brainer.

 

Johnson stepped up the escalation,

had his guys doing all the right calculations.

But when McNamara found doubts and resigned,

then Cronkite and New Hampshire consigned.

Old Lyndon’s stress and strain were now showing.

He could see where this whole damn thing was going.

So Ho and his insurgents unearthed new determination

to turn Vietnam into a Communist nation.

 

Along came Nixon with all that American bluster,

and the waning resolve that a silent majority could muster.

Although Nixon was stubborn, he got paranoid and stumbled.

I guess he, and we, needed to be humbled.

 

There began, during that time of our national distress,

a cultural fissure we find it hard to redress:

there’s them that went, and them that didn’t go.

As one who didn’t go, I want you to know–

you who fought in the shadow of the Ho Chi Minh trail–

you went and you fought; you did not fail.

 

In some lessons we stand, but in others we fall;

the truths you taught us were the hardest of all.

You were the brave; you who bore the burden, the few.

We couldn’t have known what to do, but for you.

The battles that men make and the wars that we fight

are borne, in our own American way, in the desire to do right.

Looking back on it, I think it’s plain to see:

all we were wanting was to make the world free.

 

That old war began with us in Vietnam,

but it ended with Vietnam in us,

a haunting memory that’ll never go away: jungle patrols long gone,

body counts and trumpets that end in a hush.

 

If you visit the Vietnam War Memorial today,

you’ll see Washington’s Memorial beyond the long wall, granite gray.

At the end of the other angled plane, set your sights on Lincoln’s dedication:

to honor those who bled and died for our upstart nation.

Remember those brave slain at Gettysburg, Verdun, the Bulge, Korea, Saigon,

who lifted freedom’s defense at Iwo Jima, Ia Drang, Hue and Khe Sanh.

 

Yes, now it’s time, our old grievance to acknowledge:

some served in hell while others were in college.

But hey, let us now endeavor,

because we hope our noblest intentions can live forever.

Let us give honor to those brave souls who, in firefights across the ocean,

paid the dear price of our liberty with their last full measure of  devotion,

whether they be now dead,

or with post-traumatic stress instead,

still alive.

That aint no jive.

Strive.

Don’t ever give up.

Now wha’sup?

 

Glass half-Full

The Old Men and the Young

July 25, 2015

If ghosts could speak, they would probably agree with what the old man said. Sitting on the lowered gate of his black pickup truck, Ramus was saying that old men make wars; but young men fight them.

Now while we understand there is some truth in such a statement,  we all know that it’s not really as simple as that. Nothing in this life is so easily explained, especially the thing called war.

Ramus blinked both his eyes at the same time. It was a habit he had. Some crows were making a ruckus in the nearby hickory, but he paid no attention to them.

“Consider Medgar Evers: he was a young man,” Ramus said. “He slogged his way across Europe, along with thousands of other Allied soldiers, to arrive triumphantly in Germany and then knock the hell out of the Nazi war machine. So he contributed to that great collective effort through which we won the big war. But then he came back to Mississippi and was told to go to the back of the bus.

“So, at the end of his homeward journey, Medgar entered, almost involuntarily, into another great war. It was an old war that had been started by old men. That is to say: men who we think of as old because they had lived and died long ago—men who, in centuries past, had embodied the fallacies and the limitations and atrocities of their own era. Those men had brought his ancestors to America in slave ships. It was a helluva an evil thing to do, but that’s what was happening at that time; there was shit just as bad going on over in Africa that enabled the slavetraders to do what they did, and that’s what started all this trouble we got now.

“Any trouble you find on the face of the earth is traceable to shit that happened a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t know if it ever ends. I hope one day. . .”

Behind Ramus and his truck, the morning sun was peeking up from behind distant pinetops. For whatever reason we know not what, the nearby troop of bothersome crows decided to vacate the hickory tree they’d been in, and get the hell out of dodge. Their sudden departure presented a scene of black wings flapping out against a cloudless summer sky. Ramus glanced at their disturbance, but gave it not a thought. In these mountains, their antics were as old as the hills.

The volume of Ramus’ speech, which had steadily increased in order to compete with the birds, now rescinded to a soft, summary tone. “The Mississippi man’s newfound battle—a great struggle into which he found himself caught up, by default—it eventually killed him. So he was a young man who never tasted the privilege of becoming an old man. Although he had marched with the victors in World War II, the battle that he found simmering back home was the one that put him in his grave.

“In 1963, only six months before Kennedy was killed, Medgar Evers was shot dead in his own front yard in Jackson Mississippi. He had just come from speaking to some brothers and sisters at the New Jerusalem church.”

That quiet following the crows’ departure was blissful.

“But I got to go now: places to go and people to see.” Ramus said. He slid off the tailgate, called to his old hound dog and prepared to leave. His talk about old men, young men, and old wars was put on the shelf of memory for a while.

Now in 1969, a new war, hot off the press, was being waged. But it was fast becoming an old one. Young men were dying by the thousands. Old men too, and women and children. What else is new?

VietMem2

The scene above is an excerpt from the new novel being written:

King of Soul

The Child’s Laughter

July 19, 2015

ChildLaugh

 

 

Why here’s a sudden torrent of joy

spouting from a toddler boy,

an eruption of laughter spontaneous

provoked by his cousin’s zaniness!

Where in heaven’s name could it come from?

 

 

It’s as if this untrained burst of mirth

hath bursted from some reservoir beneath the earth

maybe from some fountain of amusement so vast

that its flood comes sloshing so fast!

 

There must be some great ocean of mirth

that preceded the boy’s recent birth

a love from which his joy suddenly rises

like in a carnival of silly prizes.

 

Evidence it is, I think, of some vast wellbeing unseen,

as if it’s spurting from a divine dream!

This bright shower of silly serendipity

must be a substance of the happiness we hope will be,

and now we suddenly see.

Yes! now so joyously we hear

a perfect laughter that casts out all fear.

Tussling

The Wind

July 12, 2015

I don’t remember the first time

I ever felt it,

or saw or heard it, but

I know it is there.

I mean I know its here

or at least it was a minute ago.

And before that I saw a picture of it,

evidence that it was there

or here or somewhere.

It was in an art gallery where Mr. Wyeth had

done something or other that

moved me, really moved me although

I don’t know why.

This involved brushing paint on a canvas.

Wyeth

It was a wistful scene but then a few minutes later

I saw another work that some artist had left behind

about a shipwreck, and it looked pretty severe.

Shipwrk

So it works both ways.

Don’t know how or when

but I remember too, some poet or his

singing about it, and he said the answer was

blowing in it,

the answer to what I don’t know

maybe how many times must the cannonballs fly

or the winds of war blow or

the winds of change rearrange

everything that is or ever was or ever will be.

A few days ago I was in that windy city

HorsMnCity

where stuff had happened

long ago, back in the day,

and I remembered

part of what had happened

but I wasn’t sure if it had happened to me

or if I just remembered it from some

news report I saw or some

painting I viewed or collective memory from

my g-generation

HorsMnSky

and then I remembered that ye must be born

again. The wind blows where it wishes and you hear

the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from

and where it is going; so is everyone who is born

of the Spirit

and that’s enough for me.

You feel it?

I’m not making this up.

 

King of Soul


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