Friday, September 30, 2011
In the Garden of Beasts
Once, at the dawn of a very dark time, an American father and daughter found themselves suddenly transported from their snug home in Chicago to the heart of Hitler’s Berlin. They remained there for four and a half years, but it is their first year that is the subject of the story to follow, for it coincided with Hitler’s ascent from chancellor to absolute tyrant, when everything hung in the balance and nothing was certain.
I first came across the work of Erik Larson in a fantastic book titled The Devil in the White City. Until that time, I had no idea of the author or his work. Larson, who is the author of five previous titles, has now released his best book to date. In The Garden of the Beast is a tale of love, terror, and an American family in Hitler’s Berlin. Larson relentlessly fuses history and entertainment to give this nonfiction book the dramatic effect of a novel. He is an engrossing writer of public and private events, and so good that you find yourself asking how you could not know this story already.
I found In the Garden of the Beasts a gripping yarn, an on the edge of your seat read, so you real that you feel you are there. The prose is superb, and the writing well documented and exceedingly excellent. I found In the Garden of the Beast utterly fascinating. So, if you have the chance, rush out and buy this book right now. If, on the other hand, you are a victim of the current Republican Economic Agenda, either wait until it comes out in trade paper or until you find a copy in a decent used book store. Erik Larson is a writer’s writer who does not compromise his prose.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Born: 1956, Calabria, Italy
Immigrated: 1962, Toronto, Canada
Attended Three Schools of Art: 1979-82
Numerous water-colour workshops 1984-86
Lives in Toronto with her three children.
My paintings are the end results of my story. The spiritual, the universe, plays the main role in how I perceive people and the world.
I revel and take much joy in expressing that certain something that shines through my
subject. There are no set recipes or formulas to follow when I paint, only intuition and opening to the spirit, when brush and colour touch the canvas.
Check out more of Angela's art at http://angelasestito.com/
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
Grand Central Publishing
1. For over 250 years between 1607 and 1865, vampires thrived in the shadows of America. Few humans believed in them.
2. Abraham Lincoln was one of the gifted vampire hunters of his day, and kept a secret journal about his lifelong war against them.
3. Rumors of the journal’s existence have long been a favorite topic among historians and Lincoln biographers. Most dismiss it as myth.
Author Seth Grahame-Smith made his big splash in the literary world with the bestselling Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. Now Smith is back with a unique if quirky piece of Americana. I mean, where can you go wrong, with a titled like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ?
This is just one beautiful, ass-kicking and fun read. For those of you who love your vampires in historical context, you can’t go wrong. And for those of you who are just members of the current kinky vampire subculture, well, depending on if you’re capable of reading, you’ll have a gas with this fine novel. I enjoyed the book, which begins in Indiana in 1818 and ends, well, we kind of know how it ends, don’t we? That freakzoid vampire slave John Wilkes Booth takes Lincoln out and takes a final bow. I do believe that the book has been recently been issued in a trade size paperback edition, but don’t take my word on that. Go bug some underpaid book clerk at your local Barnes and Noble or whatever bookstore Congress has not forced out of business these days. Personally, I think that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a fun and absolutely unique read. So if you’re looking for some light or dark entertainment and really dig lots of blood, buy this book.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I finally saw Four Lions. I saw it through a projector, on a wall, and it made me wish I'd seen it huge in a proper theatre. But... I am significantly glad I did not see it in a theatre. Not an American theatre. This was the nicest-in-spirit thing I've seen Chris Morris attached to (here, directing and a co-writer) and it's still pretty mean. Hilarious, but hilarious in that way whereby you have to glance at the person next to you occasionally to see if you are laughing your face off while they are cringing and taking it straight.
It is a careful film, even if it does not always appear so. The demonization here is not of a religion or a nation, but of stupidity. Well meant stupidity, especially. And, we know these guys, all of us. They aren't some distant figure of a foreign mentality; you've heard these guys talk shit in the late evening, you've seen them trying to pick up ladies in the grocery store, you know? You have probably lent them five or twenty bucks. (Gasp! You have supported terrorism! And you thought it was beer money.) It isn't culture that makes most terrorists, it is neither class nor genetics; it's stupidity. You can prove this with math, but here, Chris Morris proves it with comedy sketches.
Morris comes at our terrorist protagonists with our best sentimentality in mind, using our well-wishing and sappiness to enhance the wrongness of their actions. These are friends and family. Surely, if I cannot trust a British film to support Mama, Truth, and Apple Pie like we good Americans would, I can trust in family. Your friends will always steer you right. And, children? Morris works hard and deft as hell to get the audience to laugh at ourselves and our anticipations that "out of the mouths of babes" real, functional answers will come, answers of peace and decency. And, they do, only from a perspective antithetical to that of the audience sitting in wait of it.
Who can you trust then? If not friends? Family? Children or the authorities? You could try thinking for yourself. If you're through laughing at everyone else and yourself, yet.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Baoku is in Cincinnati where he is married and teaching drum and dance classes full time. He considers himself a Yoruba culture and Afrobeat ambassador. Essentially, that means that he strives to maintain a strong connection with his national and cultural roots as he teaches others through drumming, dancing, and Afrobeat music. Baoku stated,
When people listen to my song[s], I want them to think about the world and the situations we are all facing. As they dance to my groove, I want people to feel the vibe of struggle, suffering, hope, peace, love, and begin to accept that unity is one of the best cures for all our sicknesses (the world is ill and unity is one of the pills to heal the world). United we will stand forever, divided we will continue to fall.
Baoku, whose name means “hope,” has committed his life to this mission of curing the world of its ills and making the world a more peaceful and respectful place to live.
Baoku and the Image Afro-beat Band are playing at several festivals in Ohio and elsewhere, and they are working on their first studio album together. Much of the album features the Afrobeat sounds that many people have come to know and love. But the band is also working on some experimental tracks that combine spoken word, rap, and even heavy metal that will surely highlight Baoku’s creativity and his band’s innovation.
They are hoping to collaborate with artists from any genre of music in their attempts to make their music a universal language with which to spread their message. Also, Baoku and the Image Afro-beat Band are interested in playing events of all variety, including concerts and festivals all over the world.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
East Rockway, NY
The Kama Sutra of Kindness
Position Number 5
in the flame
of a single candle entire cities
my hands tremble on you
my fingers pass through you
your tongue tastes like apples
your flesh is fog
above our roof the jealous moon
has torn a hole in the sky
As the old song goes “here we go again.” Retired California State University Sacramento professor, film maker, and novelist Mary Mackey has released a new and fascinating collection of poetry titled Sugar Zone, and in my opinion it is one of her best collections to date. Mackey has a razor edged perception, sensuous and compassionate with no compromise. There is an edgy lyricism in these poems, and an authoritative use of language, an intense vulnerability of lovers, strangers, and travelers. I absolutely love this collection and strongly recommend it to anybody that has a love of fine poetry.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
UFOs Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities
John B. Alexander, Ph.D
St. Martins Press
The UFO evidence offers a prime example of Alexander’s Law of Appropriate Complexity that states: Every time one believes you fully comprehend your situation in life an entire new order of complexity is encountered. This something else comes along and changes the game. With UFO’s every time is complex. Evaluation of the characteristics of UFOs and related phenomena suggest that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is too narrow, and once again the paradigm shift eludes us.
I don’t think its any secret that I have this thing for UFOs, and this book by John B. Alexander, Ph.D is one of the best books on the history of UFOs that I’ve ever had the opportunity to read. Don’t get me wrong, this is not just some ‘the extraterrestrials are here’ bullshit, this is a well written investigation of a phenomena that has become a myth of conspiracy versus reality. It is just a wonderful 302 page text on a subject that holds a special place in my heart. So, if you’re into the UFO thing, if you wanna know what the real X-Files was about, if you want the balance of a very skeptical I WANT TO BELIEVE, then this book is for you. I highly recommend it. What do you want me to say, four stars or something?
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Chuck Joy almost ended while turning left against oncoming traffic, just yesterday.
Fun Poetry (Lulu.com) would have been his last book. His poems would have remained
with Rattapallax, JAMA, and Chiron Review, among others. Dreamville, his collaboration
with bassist Dick Thompson, would have stopped. Enhanced Poetry, his words-and-music
partnership with Kurt Sahlmann, would be over, but their CD Live At The Jive (CDBaby.com)
would have carried on.
There isn’t enough said or maybe known
about a poet choosing poems for a show.
How to choose just some from all the rest
perhaps something inconsequential first.
One or two short poems about dogs or a trip,
a friendly hand extended toward the audience
which works best if you’re not too angry
and move quickly to something with sex or death next.
If you’re old enough the death can be your mother’s
and you could follow that with one about your father.
A psychiatrist might interpret that choice as reaction
formation, but no matter. What does a psychiatrist know
about poetry shows? If there’s a poem in the program booklet
read it, but read it poorly, as if distracted by a chorus
of a thousand silent voices, reading along.
Remember your books. Read several from each volume,
the ones you love the best or hate the worst, it doesn’t matter
how you feel, or what you think, and you do think
you have strong opinions, so don’t forget to read the one
you wrote to change the world. And did you remember the Maiden
Voyage piece? The one you like reading to warm up your throat?
An exercise, more for the music of it than performance?
Go back, put that in at the top. You can do that,
we’re still choosing here. This is not happening
yet. But it will, and it will end too quickly,
they always do, poetry shows, and you believe in reading
short. And you can end with something existential, stones
on the beach, or fallen trees. Nothing too ambivalent,
not here, where you need to leave a clear line of sight
toward the applause. Someday you’ll get an encore.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
"I went to America for my first visit to explore poetry scene in San Francisco and also to explore my lapsed spirituality in my Benedictine tradition at a monastery called New Camaldoli on Big Sur about an hour past the Henry Miller Library. I am an oblate, so not a monk, but one who participates in prayer and contemplation. I am a devotee of Father Bede Griffiths who lived in India for 40 years. Lastly I am performing with poet/singer Robert Lloyd in Melbourne next month. Shores of American Memory can be purchased on –line via Little Fox Press cost for $22.00."
In the blue hills you wrote of solitude and struggle
The beauty of a broken bird
They wouldn’t know you were a jazz note by Parker
Or a painting by Pollock, a trail of light on canvas.
Polonnaruwa knew you
A giant stone Buddha
A Zen poem wrote you
A journey made you.
Kerouac read you on Desolation Peak
I read in the forest, on trains, buses, and empty cafes
Every word a rough cut diamond of shining silence
With cobwebs of wisdom entangled in fire.
The Ballad of Charles Dougherty
On the streets of the Tenderloin walks a sad and lonely man
Lost in America’s Babylon, living with the junkie killers.
Once a King who strode the Moscow nights.
Vodka and Pushkin
Dostoevsky and darkness.
Teacher of language, simian man with waddle
Fell on Russian ice
Fell through time
Felled by arrogance.
Charles Dougherty whimsical traveller
Came home to Whitman’s dream
Only to find the trees naked of leaves
And the big man weeps.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Harpo Marx with Rowland Barber
New York, NY
I don’t know whether my life has been a success or a failure. But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they came along, I’ve had a lot of extra time to enjoy life.
One thing I am not now and never have been a Celebrity. Strangers never stop me in the street and ask for my autograph. People don’t’ recognize me out of costume.
I’m a lifelong Marx Brothers fan. Like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy, I just could not get enough of these classic clowns. How can you pass up a movie with Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo? How can you pass that up, I mean, we all know that Groucho was the celebrity of the group. He was the Led Zeppelin of Comedy, the Jimmy Page of freeform laughter. But its like Kerouac always said: the real poet of the Marx Brothers was Harpo. How can we not delight in his pantomime antics? He was always knowing that there was a danger and that silence does indeed scream.
So here we are with this great book Harpo Speaks! Written by Harpo Marx with Rowland Barber, although I suspect that was probably Mr. Barber that did all the writing and shaping of this particular text, being that Harpo, by his own admission, dropped out of elementary school, and is always a tad insecure about his education. In a way, that is kind of funny in and of itself; here is an insecure clown as a true cultural genius. In a sense, its like the poem which writes the poet, which is one of my many theories about Allen Ginsberg.
I found this copy of Harpo Speaks! at the best used bookstore in Sacramento, Beers Books, which has been stomping the literary scene in my city since 1939, and I’ll tell you, finding this book, Harpo Speaks, was like finding Meyer Lansky lost treasure. It was like tapping into the mother load of pure oral poetry. So for all you fans of the Marx Brothers, for all you cats who dug Kerouac’s poem about Harpo Marx, for all you mothers who fantasize about traveling with the Merry Pranksters, I highly recommend locating a copy of Harpo Speaks!, be it on EBay or whatever. Find a copy of this book. It is in my opinion one of the most important American cultural statements ever put to paper.
Friday, September 16, 2011
The Poet in Exile
Thunder Mouth Press
New York, NY
“He sucked in a great cleansing breath and then looked at me. His eyes were deep and peaceful. He was a different man. I could look into his blue orbs now. I couldn’t back then; too much turmoil, too much chaos, too much power. A strange and dark power that always mad the green thing in the pit of my stomach stir, its tentacles sending a shiver of fear through my body.”
Let me flat out state that I am a hardcore fan of Jim Morrison, which is not the same as being a hardcore fan of the Doors. I think the band, the musicians Ray Manzarek, Robbie Kreger, and John Dinsmore, were fused conduits of energy invoked by the shaman Jim Morrison. That said, lets get on with this review.
First, I wanna say I kind of like Ray Manzarek. I mean, it must have been really hard being the old man backing up the shaman poet. One time, in Davis California, I had the chance to run into Manzarek at a local bar. I said “Ray Manzarek!” and he said “I never saw the body, it was a closed coffin”. Then I said “I just wanted to say hello.”
So now here we are, years later, I’m this comfortable old fart living in his apartment in Sacramento reading books and watching repeats of that 70’s Show. Occasionally, I make a trip to my favorite neighborhood bookstore, Beers Books, which is convenient because its right across the street from Waffle Square, my favorite junk breakfast joint. So, like I said, years have passed. There are what, at least 7 or 8 biographies of Jim Morrison and the Doors and it doesn’t look like its gonna stop anytime soon. So here I am in Beers Books and I see a book by Ray Manzarek, The Poet in Exile, filed under the section of ritual magic, which is right next to the UFO section, which is right next to the section of walking Zombie Templars, the Virgin Mother, and more UFOs. Anyway, you all know the rumors that Jim Morrison faked his death. There was no body, just a casket full of rocks. AT least that’s the rumor. It was all a hoax, a death hoax thought up by Morrison himself and perpetrated by Pamela and the other members of the Doors. So, I find this book The Poet in Exile by Ray Manzarek which puts forth the proposition that the Lord was indeed Petitioned. In this book, Manzarek claims to have been contacted by the supposed dead lead singer of a band that he does not name. God it takes a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
Anyways, so I think you get the picture. The fictional singer in the novel is actually Ray Manzarek’s creative imagination telling us what really happened with Jim Morrison, and like of all of us Morrison fans know, there is a secret cache of poetry, artwork and empty whiskey bottles lying somewhere in America or in Iran. Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit unfair to Mr. Manzarek. I mean, I think that fans of Jim Morrison realized way before any members of the Doors that Morrison never died. SO, in a sense Mr. Manzarek is a Johnny Come Lately. However, in all fairness, I simply have to recommend this novel, not only because it’s a fun read, but it belong in any Doors fan or Jim Morrison’s fan collection. Now, I understand its hard to find. But if you can locate a copy of the Poet in Exile, I promise you will not regret it. Remember, don’t step on that myth, because it just might bite you on the ass.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Out of the Woods into the Sun
Guy R. Beining
Signed edition $10 (including shipping all over the world)
Limited edition with artwork $25 (including shipping all over the world)
This is an art "chapbook" and everything about it is beautiful. This is first book in the Kamini Press Art Series. This is a special edition of 16 full color original paintings paintings in 125 books signed by the artist. Twenty-five special numbered copies come with a signed acrylic drawing by Guy R. Beining. Mini-chapbook format, in wraps, heavy stock paper throughout, textured cover. The entire book is a work of art. It includes a portrait of artist by Henry Denander who is a well known artist himself. Buy this book from the Kamini Press. Postage is included.
About Guy R. Beining:
Born Guy Robin Nicholas Beining on September 26, 1938 in London to an aristocratic mother from Russia and a middle class Norwegian father.
Beining arrived in New York City in 1940. His first poetry chapbook was printed in 1976. Over the years he has published thousands of poems, and hundreds of collages and drawings have appeared in a number of galleries.
This is the second entry in our prize package.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Ken Russell uses himself to good effect in Gothic. To be more accurate, he uses many people and things excellently in the movie, but it is rare that a filmmaker is willing to use the negative in their public and work persona to better their work, so it's worth mentioning especially. Russell appears to trust the audience to be familiar with at least something of himself, his work, or the historic figures and writings being used, if not all of those elements, and makes the familiarity work to enhance the film or to lure us deeper into its arrangements.
Ostensibly a retelling of the night that Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein, while various literati developed frightening stories of their own, it begins and ends with every hallmark of artificiality, almost absurdly, theatrically. The cinematography (by Mike Southon) is beautiful and deliberate, but the camera work and editing lose their steadiness, their frame or pace at the most effective moments. Thomas Dolby's score is electric and modern and overly excited, not ever what we anticipate from a "gothic horror movie" and a constant reminder that this is only a movie, while simultaneously being atmospheric enough to embed you deeper into the film.
The characters are introduced abruptly, Percy Bysshe Shelley (here, played by Julian Sands) is chased by fangirl maids with all the cinematography and editing of a serious and dangerous pursuit, we know of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) before we see him onscreen by the state of his estate, employees and animals pared or arranged everywhere, an ignored fish flopping in barely ounces of water in stone fountain in removal from narrative befitting a Jesus Franco picture. When the cast settle to read ghost stories to one another, they are shown to us as though ripped straight from a Hammer or Amicus production. The house itself, Gaddesden Place doubling as the Villa Diodati in Switzerland, has been seen in over twenty films; it does not look like the Villa Diodati, it looks familiar. As the night progresses, the characters themselves become increasingly familiar, increasingly typed, from Byron's evolution into an utter devil, but a brotherly manly devil, to the caustic virgin/whore dichotomy set up between Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson) and Claire Clairmont (Myriam Cyr) that anyone who knows more about those women than their names can see is wrong.
So, why run headfirst into stereotypes and familiarity especially when its verifiably wrong, and easily so? Okeh, not everything in a movie is for the diehards and the fact-checkers, but also, everything is not as it seems. This is a movie about fiction, about fears, and if you don't know enough about Byron to go "This is wrong," you may have enough of an inkling about Ken Russell, director of Tommy and Altered States to fear he has got some issues with women, sex, and class on an almost Lovecraftian level. And, in Gothic, Russell wants that. He wants you arguing against the well-powered and functioning artificial stripper that Percy Shelley stumbles upon, the absurd naivete that Mary Shelley is often reduced to. And, to take on the prudes who still want to see something naughty, if only to criticize it later, Russell embraces that he was one of the first English language filmmakers to use full-frontal male nudity respectably and seriously in a film.
Russell teases nudity, refusing to let the camera rest on Julian Sands backside when he is walking on the roof in a thunderstorm being as super-Shelley as he can in delivery and behavior. The orgy scene is superbly tame and quiet casual, as things usually are. These are not teenagers in a pretend-raunchy sex comedy, they're adults. They're Lord Byron and the Shelley's and okeh, Polidori (the brilliant Timothy Spall) acts like a giddy college freshman who will probably end up raping a cheerleader comedically in a Revenge of the Nerds sequel, but that, too, is his neurosis, his huge fear, that he is just this wet behind the ears neophyte sitting temporarily at the grown ups' table.
Sex and blood and responsibility are all present in the movie, as they are present in life, but it is everything they carry with them, that is what makes them notable in Gothic, that they do bear fear with them and are, even while carrying that fear higher and further, omnipresent in our existence. Byron's clubfoot does not need to be shown onscreen, if we know it is there. We need only a few seconds of sex to know there is more going on. A brief glimpse of something horrible and monstrous is more effective than any prolonged visual, a realization used to great effect late in the movie. Gothic is, in that way, a complete film. It requires an entire viewing and perhaps some outside perspective, encourages it. But, as the characters are trapped in the movie and in our mental concept of them as historic figures, Gothic also rewards us to be stuck in the clear wrongness before us on the screen.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I received a delightful package from A.P.D. Press (Another Pleasant Day, All Poets Die, A Periodic Disaster, Albany's Poetic Dynasty,etc.). What first caught my eye was a 16-page chapbook of poetry containing a selection of poems (& then some) from from a poem-a-day exercise, with "Tips for Anxiety-Free Writing from Prompts." This work is by Dan Wilcox, a poet who has been been publishing for many years. Since it was a familiar name I began reading that one. Here's the first piece:
You worry that you are not writing enough poetry
& I can't respond, having written nothing today.
I went out on the porch to shut off the light
saw the Moon behind the clouds, almost full
like your breast behind lace, I imagine
& didn't write a poem about it.
What a great start. This was a little book easy to digest and I also found it encouraging. It makes me want to write again and gives the suggestion that prompts can sometimes produce good poems or at least serve to get a stuck soul out of a murky poemless ditch. Thumbs up here.
From the same press I received To the Husband I have Not Yet Met by Mary Kathryn Jablonski, a poet I was happy to meet in words. Here is a sample:
I hang the man I was married to
for a year more than twenty years ago
to help me remember him, but his eyes
are crazed in the drawing I made
like they never were in life. I want to say
that he was kind. I will search for kindness
in you. He sent me away to find myself
then said he couldn't lose me twice and
married a woman with my name within
a year. Will your name be Steven in a feast
of irony? I would have you fearless,
taking your stones like a true saint, but
not a martyr, and you would never turn me
out. I'll tell you a secret: I still
wear his ring on my right hand like a widow;
not to hold him close so much as for
the gravity of having been chosen.
Not bad at all. I don't think she really wants a husband though but this is probably the point of the collection.
These two publications will be part of the first prize package that is coming together slowly. I encourage you to leave your comments.