Watched the first few minutes of American Idol last night, the audience all holding up American flags, red white and blue USA signs, hooting and raising fists. These working class gladiatorial combatants sang with the brittle, heartfelt abandon of talent deliriously conforming to power: triumphant, angry, vulnerable. The whole thing felt like a schizophrenic screen memory for the bombing and machine-gunning of Iraqis. Anyone can be a famous millionaire. How do our artistic ambitions compare?


Pain is like some imposition one has to deal with, though it comes from your own system -- your self-protective system. You get your mind off of it and it's not an issue. But it returns -- like a musical theme. It forces you to take structure seriously. It's annoying -- like a loud egomaniac at a party. Consciousness avoids it at every turn, yet it is an element of the very substance of consciousness. Pain doesn't allow room for delusion the way everything else in life does -- this is it's one redeeming quality. In the face of pain one longs for all things in existence to be temporary.


Ventured out into public last Sunday to hear Alex von Schlippenbach (piano), Evan Parker (tenor and so sax) and Paul Lytton (drums) play at Tonic. Beautiful, long set with simultaneous cohesion, multiplicity and counterpoint. Packed house.

Parker played mostly tenor and leaned heavily on welcoming, splintered, Coltrany sounding twists and turns. There were several moments where, if I closed my eyes, I would have sworn I was listening to Glen Spearman. He also did his patented circle breathing multiphonic soprano playing, which I had never heard live. It made you wonder -- how multiple should something be? How multiple is/are the player/s?

The collective pulse and tonality was highly integrated for the entire hour and a half set. The sound person at Tonic had it up very loud on the board. That and the fact that I was standing at the back of the crowded club made me feel like I was at Bad Brains show. I couldn’t help wondering what it would have sounded like unamplified.

I wonder to what extent cultural transplantation might be at work listening to this: Afro American musical form, pickup up enthusiastically by Brits, and then play back to Americans. Like the Rolling Stones, but without the popularity dimension.

Schlippenbach was very conscientious in his structure building. Measured. He structured a section and then moved on to the next, continually developing and working indirectly form the sax and drums.

The cumulative effect of this music is a bit like some Iranian shenai music -- trance-inducing patterns, though there is almost no repetition as such in this trio. There is an overall effect of a multiplied drone. It involves not a fracturing of musical language, but a way of pairing down the rhythmic, intervalic and tamboural elements to a highly energized, subatomic level.

The overall dynamic of communication and collaborative layering took the subterranean aspects of connectedness and made them explicit.
The blisters are healing and the pain is a slightly better every day. I've been slowly returning to work.

Descending the stairs of the 110th St. subway this morning, I was confronted by a starling flying up the stairs, hovering a few feet from my face, fighting a strong downward draft. I wonder if he made it out...


Shingles is likely to be a disease that affects older people. Of the younger people who have shared their experience of having shingles with me, all of them have been poets or musicians. Since it's stress related, I wonder if there is something about the types of psychological stresses that poets and musicians experience that makes them particularly vulnerable to this disease?
One of the things that makes the interminable wait at the 14th St. post office package pick-up window more tolerable (besides running into John Godfrey, who also has a PO box there) is that I will often have a poem-card from Buck Downs in hand, just pulled from inside the little glass door. These one-poem cards just started appearing a few years ago.

I've always been fascinated by the movements of people and machines you can see and hear behind the honey-combed walls of PO boxes -- as though these things existed in some other dimension beyond the barriers of communication. From this realm I pull:

"those looney sexy FBI
misfits on TV got
carried away again

I am having an Actualist moment!

talking about television
talking to the television"

I realized that I’ve read much of Downs' poetry exclusively in this post office. There's something about the tortorous slowness and tense administrative vibe there that, in some ways, makes it the perfect place to read these short, relaxed, and amusing poems. You might say Downs has been blogging for years though the US Postal Service.
I’m surprised that Jim and David didn’t independently invent flarf on their own, like Leibniz and Newton, since they both use humor and oddness in their writings. In fact, I’m not totally sure they haven’t, since I don’t have large amounts of their work available to read.

For me flarf is primarily about absurdity in the service of elation and subversion. That’s the upper limit. Lower limit is making your friends laugh during their tedious day-job work hours.


Not having a terrific week.

Weird blisters started appearing on the left side of my forehead in a lateral pattern on Sat morning. Katie jumped onto Google and made what turned out to be an accurate diagnosis -- shingles, a recurrence of childhood chicken pox, thought to be caused by stress. The virus is dormant in anyone who has had chicken pox -- it waits in the spine. The blisters follow the nerves, and because of this it is quite painful. It’s like a constant helmet of discomfort with occasional waves of sharp pain dragged over the head like a blanket. It’s basically incapacitated me for the whole week. Some say that it’s possible to get nerve damage from it that can cause pain for months. I started early on anti-viral medication and anti-convusants for the pain. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a kind of writing -- it starts in the central nervous system and is published on the forehead or chest.

I’ve been trying not to go into public for fear of scaring children and pets, but today I had to walk to 14th and 2nd to see an ophthalmologist and make sure it’s not harming my eye. I tied a red bandana around my head, something I haven’t done since seeing Husker Du play at a Rutgers gym in 1986. It kind of brought that feeling back.

It turns out the eye is fine. The ophthalmologist put dilating drops in to check for retinopathy, and this makes it hard to see when you get outside, esp. because of the insanely beautuful 79 degree sunny day blaring in the East Village. Since I’ve had an unrelated problem in one of my ears, I really can't hear properly ether. Squinting and weaving through pedestrians on 1st. Ave, I realized, I have become Helen Keller….

Gary wrote-

"But Reifenstahl, remember, was naive, or in denial. And her work is not an attempt to explore anything--it's very much about surfaces. And "ideals"--physical ideals. To me, however, this is more closely related to a blind sense of "craft"--a puritanical strain in the arts--than it is with consciously allowing yourself, as an artist, to go somewhere you'd been avoiding. For instance, Kathy Acker, especially early Kathy Acker. Whose book, Great Expectations, when I first read it, horrified me--but in a very different way than thinking about Riefenstahl horrifies me. Acker horrified me because she saw the world in a particular, horrifying, way. Riefenstahl horrifies because she *doesn't* see it."

Yes, after I saw that documentary, I thought, anyone who says poetry isn't political- it's a just craft and formal art, is on the same page as Reifenstahl. Triumph of the Will does explore something, though.

Though Reifenstahl's artistic denial is probably the most spectacular example of an artist's denial that the world has ever known, this doesn't change the fact that her art embodies the absolute blind love of unregulated authoritarian state power. That's what Triumph of the Will gets across, that's what it explores. Political values can’t be kept out of art because the unconscious is political. The mind is political.

Acker is maybe the exact opposite of Reifenstahl. She intentionally locates and scrutinizes messed up internalized states and dramatizes them. It almost always comes across as dead-serious social critique. Acker's is a ethical and moral writing, like Oppen's, though it operates with a different mechanism.


Brian suggests in an email that drawing parallels between the rise of the Nazis and the current US government might do more harm than good in alarming people about the erosion of their civil liberties. What would it take to properly alarm people? Do they even know what's in Patriot II, or the current efforts to make it permanent?

I can't help thinking, though, while doing my daily ten minute Fox propaganda check, that the relation of art to power on that network is the same as it is in Triumph of the Will, though with less talent.

I think it's appropriate that the Fox computer animation of a American fighter jet morphing into an eagle is shooting its missiles at the viewer, since the war is being fought on two fronts, in Iraq and in the American imagination.


Rubber Bullets in Oakland

Bring body armor and a motorcycle helmet to the next protest. The police department is now firing into the crowds.

The use of this weapon against protesters is a significant and disturbing act of repressive political violence on the part of the Oakland police dept. It's attempted murder. Pretty simple. I think it's also meant to demonstrate that protesters will have to put their lives on the line if they want to make a statement about the war.

Stephanie Young writes about the Oakland police department's acts of violence against protestors as being an escalation in response to an attack on the war's supply line. No doubt. David Perry wonders on the sublist if this is part of a set of new instructions from "higher up." Maybe. I'm sure Bush will be waiting breathlessly to see if a new Kent State will fly as a patriotic thing.

These weapons kill people and blind people.

These weapons are usually used to kill and injure powerless oppressed people and their children -- mostly Palestinians and Irish are killed by them but also black people in Watts. You can now add American anti-war protesters to that list.

I saw the documentary on Leni Riefenstahl and the beginnings of the Nazis on cable last week. Does anyone else think the country could head in this direction? Ron and Gary both seem to share my fears…

I quote Jordan Davis: "Dude, you've seen the National Guardsgirls with their fingers on the triggers of their assault rifles in the subways. We're already half way there. First comes martial law, then comes war on California and NYC."


Walking home from the subway on 110th St. this evening in the weird spring snowstorm. Morningside Park has never looked so beautiful. Snow covered stairs turning up the hill.


Panic!, Richard Foreman, Ontological Theater, 4/5/03

Set design even more baroque than usual. Lots of dolls.

I had told Gary that there would be plastic separating the actors from the audience, as I’d seen in other Foreman plays -- to continually emphasize the artificiality of the drama? To present the audience with a screen of their own reflection through which to watch the play? No plastic this time. Later we get the voice-over explanation -- "…protect yourself by wearing the transparent blinders with which you have been provided – oh, forgive me – I see you’re already wearing them!" So our own glasses serve as the barrier -- also -- our "perspectives."

Lots of string and rope tied across various parts of the stage.

The protagonists in these plays are always bifurcated. The polarities of inner conflict. In Panic there is a dual bifurcation -- two males and two females.

Crazy Infantile Pirate vs. Tough Guy Burning Man Saracen.

Soft Spoken Girl vs. Angry Dominatrix.

He hugs her -- she feels him up for his wallet.

Magician’s closet on wheels -- chorus (class structure?) stick swords through it. It doubles as outhouse -- and a negative image of self -- bones rattling in a dry box.

Singing Dominatrix stabs guy in ass with sword.

"My mouth is sealed with gold."

"Kiss me, kiss me, where I am most ruined inside myself."

Painfully bright light shining in the audience’s eyes for most of the play. Totally headache-inducing. Intentionally making the audience uncomfortable. At some point a voice over says "watch THIS you bastards!" Art as sadistic gestures toward audience? Like Bruce Andrews' poetry?

The hoodwinked master statue busts used as stools. Vision for the reception of artistic tradition.

The patented Foreman painful electric zap sound that scatters everyone on stage in wincing retreat. Major pain causes major scene changes, as in life.

Shaking the giant bees into the giant vulvas

Vulvas become furry medieval hats. Exit stage left.

"A new perspective can only repeat old patterns."

Licking today’s baked goods

Fish hooked.

Mayhem / see-saws are police dividers.

"This is my ticket to a much better world"

Five foot mobile disco ball phallus.

Lights up and down -- day and night -- like large amounts of time passing -- Cecil B Demille…

Beating on everything with huge plastic clubs.

Beautifully choreographed riff-switching between static dramatic scenes and complex layers of lateral movement. Everything here is choreography, include the acting and the text.

Sporadic uncomfortable laughter from audience.

The contradictions involved in the competition for happiness. The contradictions of guarding happiness.

"Catastrophe is right around the corner."

Giant phallus-gun with white money basketballs as ammo.

Coming out of the bathroom with a decapitated head.

Nothing to join.

Hara-kiri for everyone!

The themes build paratacticly.

"Only my enemies convince me the world is real."

Everyone goose stepping.

The Augusto Boal / Brecht polarity between character as object of history and character as isolated subject is very blurred here. You could think of the drama as an absurd expression of subjective inner conflict, but the conflict always feels equally imposed from history and from the internalization of the terms of exterior conflict, in a comical-schizoid style.

"It’s… Not… Fair…"

"I need tools to accomplish redundant behavior, please"

Getting what you want is an ice cream cone.

The visceral child-nightmare X monster at the end -- "the thing entering the room -- I don’t remember what to name it."


For me it's not helpful to imagine language as an all-inclusive category of consciousness and conflict. Doing that blurs the focus on the inter-dependant mechanisms of power and mind that get people into these disastrous situations in the first place. The problem isn’t language, the problem is an elite with limited accountability waging an unnecessary war for their own enrichment and empowerment using the resources of a complacent population. The war is obviously not in the interest of the people of the US, so the people have to be managed by lying to them. Lying is one of functions language can be used for. Exposing lies is another. Analyzing the propaganda is obviously important, but the strategy used in the propaganda is so rudimentary, it’s persuasive power so weak yet so effective, that I immediately move on the question -- what is the psychological dynamic of the population that wishes to accept stories and rationales that are so obviously not the case?

In the few discussions I’ve had with those who believe, for instance, that the war is being waged as a response to 9-11, I find that people believe this because that is what the TV said. That’s the end of their logical conception of it. It’s not stupidity exactly, it’s that the lack of interest in facts is the direct result of imagining yourself as being on the power grid -- it is ego inflation. My team is strong and knowledgeable and does what’s right so what they say must be true. To do even a rudimentary investigation into their preposterous lie would be a opening into the perception that, in fact, as a citizen of the US, you could be more reasonably described as a part of a group being exploited by it’s elites in the course of this war. You pay for their oil war. Your children die for their personal enrichment and empowerment. Not an acceptable thought. This may even lead to hints of a further unraveling of conceptions of nationality, to the perception that the war is actually a mutual exploitation by the respective elites in each country of the respective populations. The logical conclusion would be to decapitate both sets of elites, and do away with the concept of a “country“ as anything but a dangerous fantasy.

There is also a displacement of anger at work. Many people have trouble directly expressing their anger in appropriate way toward the actual object of that anger. It is often deflected toward some other unrelated object of frustration. This is esp. disastrous when it is picked up and used by elites, and coupled with the irrational ascribing of collective guilt. Since there’s no evidence to justify making a connection from 911 to Iraq, those who accept it must feel that any Arabs out of favor with western power will make an appropriate target of their vengeance.

Accepting the war also seems to involve clinging to naive ideas about the motivations of those in power, wanting to think the best of people, and esp. of those supposedly representing you -- self images and parental images. I’ve been dumbfounded by conversations with otherwise intelligent and sensitive people, political liberals, who really believe that our leaders must be good people who don’t mean harm. More and more I think of this “optimism” as something dangerous to humanity.


Woke up this morning with this call and response refrain in my head:

Imperialist war -- Yea yea
Imperialist war -- Yea yea
It's a mother-fuck-er
Imperialist war -- Yea yea