“Starting With Black”

... But Not Necessarily Ending With Black

… But Not Necessarily Ending With Black

The following is a poem by Jim Haba, which appeared in today’s Salon.Com. Let me start with the text of the poem:

Starting With Black

In a dark place
In a dark time

Start with black.
Stop. Soak up its energy.

Remember the circle
However bent and broken.

Prize balance. Seek pleasure.
Allow surprise. Let music

Guide your every impulse.
Support those who falter.

Steer by our fixed star:
No Justice. No Peace.

I like what the Haba said about his feelings writing this poem:

The profound and expansive confusion that consumes us today requires much more than a momentary stay (even though any respite can help) and I cannot overestimate the danger of immediately grasping for the solace of normalization or simple denial. When the gravity of our current confusion somehow reminded me of Matisse’s remark that ‘black is also a color’ I began to see the necessity of squarely facing the darkness of our predicament. It seemed that only when we stop and give ourselves over to fully taking in this darkness can we begin to gauge its scope and scale. And then, paradoxically, we may discover within that very blackness the energy that will sustain our resistance, our struggle for clarity. Deeply inhabiting a work of art (letting ‘music/guide our every impulse’) strikes me as an important way to tune ourselves and to provide a life-preserving rhythm for the long struggle that lies ahead.

So, Happy New Year to all of you. My fingers are crossed.

The Commie Sub Commander Who Saved the World

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov and Wife

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov and Wife

Not since the fall of Communism has America become so confrontational with Russia. Perhaps now is the right time to remind you that a Soviet submarine officer prevented the outbreak of a devastating nuclear World War III.

It was October 1962. The United States military had detected that Soviet nuclear missiles had been set up in Cuba: Kennedy was determined to face down Nikita Khruschchev in the world’s most dangerous nuclear confrontation to date. According to Wikipedia:

[A] group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the diesel-powered nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba. Despite being in international waters, the Americans started dropping practice signaling depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days and, although the submarine’s crew had earlier been picking up U.S. civilian radio broadcasts, once B-59 began attempting to hide from its U.S. Navy pursuers, it was too deep to monitor any radio traffic. Those on board did not know whether war had broken out or not. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, decided that a war might already have started and wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo.

Unlike the other subs in the flotilla, three officers on board the B-59 had to agree unanimously to authorize a nuclear launch: Captain Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the second-in-command Arkhipov. Typically, Russian submarines armed with the “Special Weapon” only required the captain to get authorization from the political officer to launch a nuclear torpedo. However, due to Arkhipov’s position as flotilla commander, the B-59s captain also was required to gain Arkhipov’s approval. An argument broke out, with only Arkhipov against the launch.

Fortunately, it was Arkhipov’s voice that prevailed. He persuaded Savitsky to surface and to await further orders from Moscow. Had the nuclear torpedo been fired, war would have ensued within minutes.  According to U.S. Secretary of Defense under Kennedy, Robert McNamara, we came very close to nuclear war, closer than we knew at the time.

The important thing to remember here, I think, is that neither side had an exclusive claim on truth or morality: The “enemy,” a Communist sub commander, saved the world. If you’re interested, here is an interesting account on the subject in The Guardian.

Vladimir Putin is, to some, evil incarnated—but is Donald J. Trump any better? Sometimes there’s little to choose between a KGB officer and a New York real estate developer.

It’s Uayeb Again!

It’s the Shortest Month of the Year

It’s the Shortest Month of the Year

This is a slightly edited reprint from my posting of December 31, 2012. As you may recall, there was widespread fear among New Age types that the Mayan calendar was coming to an end … and we would all be doomed!

We’ve been hearing a lot about the Mayan Calendar lately, mostly in connection with The End of the World last week. Well, it didn’t end; and the Mayan Calendar goes on into a new baktun.

In the Haab’, or Mayan Solar Calendar, there are eighteen months of twenty days each. Where does that leave the other 5.25 days? To account for the difference, the Mayans created an intercalary five-day month referred to as the uayeb. Unlike other days in the Solar Calendar, the five days of the uayeb are thought to be a dangerous time.

According to Lynn Foster in Handbook to Life in the Ancient Mayan World, “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.” It was a time of fasting with abstention from sex and all celebrations. People avoided washing their hair or even leaving their huts during this time.

As we in the United States come to the end of another uayeb, I hope we are ready for what 2017 brings. Because, ready or not, here it comes….

Belief and Technique for Modern Prose

Jack Kerouac and Friend

Jack Kerouac and Friend

The following is an itemized list in its entirety of how to write modern prose like a beatnik by Jack Kerouac. It was published in The Evergreen Review, Volume 2, No. 8, in 1959. As usual, Jack varies between the profound and the mundane, all mixed up like:

  1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
  3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house [a rule often violated by Jack]
  4. Be in love with yr life
  5. Something that you feel will find its own form
  6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
  8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
  10. No time for poetry, but exactly what is
  11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  15. Telling the story of the world in interior monolog
  16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  19. Accept loss forever
  20. Believe in the holy contour of life
  21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  22. Dont [sic] think of words when you stop but to see the picture better
  23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning [eh?]
  24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  27. In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  29. You’re a Genius all the time
  30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

The above is reprinted in Fred W. McDarrah’s book Kerouac & Friends: A Beat Generation Album, a not bad introduction to the movement together with photos of its main characters.

If there is a lot of unevenness in the whole beat vision, I think you can see why.

 

“Time Is Another River”

The Vermilion River

The Vermilion River

Here is a poem by Jorge Luis Borges called “The Art of Poetry”:

To gaze at a river made of time and water
And remember Time is another river
To know we stray like a river
And our faces vanish like water

To feel that waking is another dream
That dreams of not dreaming and that the death
We fear in our bones is the death
That every night we call a dream

To see in every day and year a symbol
Of all the days of man and his years
And convert the outrage of the years
Into a music, a sound, and a symbol

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
A golden sadness, such is poetry
Humble and immortal, poetry
Returning, like dawn and the sunset

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
That sees us from the deeps of a mirror
Art must be that sort of mirror
Disclosing to each of us his face

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders
Wept with love on seeing Ithaca
Humble and green. Art is that Ithaca
A green eternity, not wonders

Art is endless like a river flowing
Passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And yet another, like the river flowing

When Betty Boop Was a Dog

Wanna Be a Member? Wanna Be a Member?”

“Wanna Be a Member? Wanna Be a Member?”

Today, Martine and I went to see a program entitled “The Greatest Cartoons Ever!” at the Alex Theater in Glendale. It was the 6th Annual show of cartoons put on by the Alex Film Society. Most of the cartoons were outstanding, but the one that caught my eye was a pre-Code black and white cartoon released in 1931 by the Fleischer Studios. Directed by Dave Fleischer, it starred Bimbo the dog and a very early Betty Boop.

Bimbo is trucking down the street when he falls through an open manhole, slides down a ramp into a strange kind of funhouse, and is accosted (see picture) by a bunch of strange members of a secret society who ask him: “Wanna be a member? Wanna be a member?” When Bimbo loudly answers, “No,” he is sent further into the funhouse where there are various life-threatening traps including knives, an anvil-like device full of sharp blades, and other threatening traps.

Several times, he is asked by the members of the secret society whether he wants to become a member. Each time he vociferously refuses. Finally, one of the members takes off his costume and is revealed to be Betty Boop, which makes Bimbo change his tune. He becomes a member, and all the garbed members are revealed to be Betty Boops.

There is one difference, however. Betty and her backup dancers all have floppy dog ears. No matter: Bimbo is now delighted to join with such “pips.”

If you have six minutes, you can see the cartoon on YouTube. It’s pretty wild.