Wednesday, April 29, 2009


[circa Arlen Specter]

After Dubya’s
smirk flees from
Obama's smile,

Specter crosses
the aisle while

brassily beep:

No! No! No!

(29 APR 09, Santa Clara CA)v12

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mailing myself in

Sun. eve, friends tried to persuade me to attend my 50th (class of ’59) reunion at St. John's Prep., Danvers MA (25 mi. n. of Boston, 3152 mi. from Santa Clara), but anxious over swine flu circulating in subways, trains, & planes (as Joe Biden warns), I'm mailing myself in by USPS letter, e-mail & website post, as I usually do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

less about less

a Tweet saves space in minimalist, multi-tasked times: short-attention-span messages shorten. As the economy slows down, this'll flip: we'll say more about less (cf., watchbands, below.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeking watchband

Whatever happened to that grosgrain black nylon USD$2 watchband I used to get every few years at Meijers’Thrifty Acres in Ann Arbor MI? Mine's badly worn-out now.

I’ve just spent a few hours on the phone & on-line, trying to track down a black grosgrain nylon watchband for a wristwatch I’d thought I had lost, but suddenly found again.

Most dept. stores no longer sell watchbands alone; watch shops that do, don't seem to grasp what a grosgrain watchband is like anymore (Asians may be expecting me to call it a watch-strap.) Rubber, yes, nylon, no; velcro yes, grosgrain, no. It seems to be mainly USN SEAL gear nowadays.

Military suppliers do have it (in 16-20-22mm Kevlar), but won't sell to the public; so-called army & navy suppliers do, but only in lots of 3; Chinese manufacturers, in lots of 100. I may just have to get a D-ring style band custom-made in NC for USD$8.95; I expect to hear back from them tomorrow if I can get it in black. (I can't.)

Fortunately, I got a tip to look at Long's (soon CVS) where I found a TIMEX black nylon 18mm watch band for USD$4.95; Made in China. (I'd forgotten that drugstores sell watchbands.) Slid into my Armitron wristwatch, it's a tad tight, but functional.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Batter uP!

Obama offers the World
the USA's mature hand,
while its global footprint's
politically & materially
overwhelming: still time
to try to save the planet.
Step up to the plate, O!

(21 APR 09, Santa Clara CA)v4

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Matchbook Traveler

As a GE factory kid on MA Bay
I fantasy-travelled by collecting
empty matchbooks discarded
by brakemen on the lay-by tracks
across the street, advertizing
hotels, restaurants, diners & bars
far away from coastal Lynn MA.
Now I’m writing from fabulous
Silicon Valley in fabulouser CA,
where I've recently retired; O,
where did my matchbooks go?

(17 APR 09, Santa Clara CA)v4

Thursday, April 16, 2009


"This is not some fanciful,
pie-in-the-sky vision of the future.
It's happening now. The problem is,
it's happening elsewhere."-

I fantasize myself hopping
an intercity bullet-train &
popping to S.F. in 10min.
Just now it’s 67min/48mi.
Cutting it to 10min would be
just enuf time for me to pop
my current reading & plow
thru 10 pp. (I read slowly);
the peninsular 'baby' bullet-train
takes 57min. to make 5 stops,
but none of them in my city.

(16 APR 09, Santa Clara CA)v4

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Taxing jitters

I’ve been up since daybreak, trying to control my rising anxiety as I approach tax-filing day (tomorrow, April 15th) here in the USA; later this morning I’ll visit a volunteer tax-preparer for senior citizens (I’m now 66) who will review my notes & initial attempt at filling out a 1040-A form. What confuses me is that since I hadn’t worked for pay & so earned anything in 2008, I owe no taxes, or so it appears (tho I did collect Social Security monthly.) I could be described as 'living on a fixed income' now, but because I have usually worked for pay & paid some taxes each year, it just doesn’t seem quite real to me. Most people would be be glad to pay no taxes, but all this bewilders me; I must not be alone. UPDATE: It was confirmed that I owe no taxes for 2008. A sympathetic AARP volunteer (I'm a member) reviewed my documents & e-filed my 2008 return, telling me to expect a $250 check as part of the economic stimulus pkg. After sitting a while in the pine-paneled library of the senior center, browsing thru Elisabeth Kostova's novel THE HISTORIAN (2005, set in Romania, about Vlad the Impaler), I rode my black bike back against a strong headwind & soon fell asleep at my keyboard. I woke to finish writing this.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Existential BOOKITUDE (footnote)

As a teen, I read used books with a sharp Staedler 3H drafting pencil in hand, lightly marking in the margin those sentences that were most meaningful to me. The only book that I found entirely meaningful, so that I could only mark its entirety, was Erich Maria Remarque’s ARCH OF TRIUMPH (D. Appleton Century, NYC, 1945 ) I fell into it like an open window.

I identified entirely with its protagonist, German-exile Ravic (Croatian pseud.) trapped in Paris during the Nazi occupation, working as a ghost surgeon for incompetent French society doctors. Why? You'll have to read the book to understand.

Or see the 1948 film (with Charles Boyer as Ravic, Ingrid Bergman as Joan Madou.) There's a 1985 made-for-TV remake (with Anthony Hopkins, Leslie Ann Down, Donald Pleasance), but I haven't yet seen it. It's been available on VHS at public libraries/Blockbuster, & now it's probably on DVD, too. Hopkins would make a good Ravic. Some people are "Casablanca" (original script-title "Rick's Place") addicts, but I'm an "Arch of Triumph" one.

Remarque wrote many of his novels based on people's actual lives, starting with his own. I've never been the same since I read ARCH OF TRIUMPH; I feel it has & continues to project a life analgous to mine, decade after decade. My (political) hatreds are Ravic's, my losses are also his (Carolin Combs' death, the latest.) My life is still mine.

Saturday, April 11, 2009



The Art of the Book
4th Annual Exhibition of Handmade & Altered Artist Books
Donna Seager Gallery, 851 4th St., San Rafael, CA 94901

April 2 - May 31
Reception for the Artists: Friday, April 10, 6 to 8pm

My poet friend Karl Kadie & his wife Carol Korsow drove me up to an art gallery in wealthy Marin County (on the north side of S.F. Bay) for the opening of an annual show of books & book-like objects, packed to the walls with people who have money to spend. Sitting on one of few chairs available, I spoke to a local who was amazed that I'd come all the way up from Santa Clara (63.7 mi.)

It was all Karl’s idea. He wanted to see a book (made in an accordion-format) containing a few burning house poems because he’s writing a series of them. One’s about the personal experience of Pico Iyer – which he’s sent to Iyer (via his publisher.)

I keep telling Karl he’s writing the hottest literary subject I know of: burning houses in a time when, due to real estate madness, house values have suddenly plummeted. People are actually burning their now unaffordable houses, or abandoning them to the bank that actually owns them. The increasingly deranged housing bubble has finally burst. Reality (as they'd imagined it) is going up in smoke.

But back to books. A range of real-, semi- & quasi-books attracted quite a crowd, proving that despite Amazon’s Kindle or Sony's eBook readers, people are enamored of paper books or objects that look like them. Why? A lifetime’s conditioning. Who hasn’t happily read at least one book in their lifetime? Thus, replicating a book has virtue, striking a deep chord in the mind, bringing people out to stark-white art-gallery on a Friday nite, where I was handed a pair of transparent plastic gloves to turn the pages of an ironical book of Aesop’s Fables that I was reading bare-handedly because I’d forgotten what I was reading was also an art-object! This is at the opposite end of the utility spectrum from buying books by the linear foot to fill a bookcase for purely decorative purposes. Yes, some visibly pretentious Americans do this to look literate, displaying books they have no intention of reading.

Books have come from being incunabula to wallpaper, but this exhibition proves some people still treasure them, or something resembling them. Books as art objets is a retro-trend. Some are real, some not. Some are fine books, some not. Some are decks of cards. All demonstrate high-, middle-, or low-bookitude. (cf. Susan Sontag’s “Notes on camp” in her AGAINST INTERPRETATION & Other essays, 1963.)

Is there any one book I personally treasure? Yes; a hardbound of Erich Maria Remarque’s ARCH OF TRIUMPH (D. Appleton Century, NYC, 1945 ) I've had a copy in the original dust-jacket, with a Book of the Month Club pamphlet in it, since my teens. Its meaning to me increases with each decade I live; it began my early existential bookitude.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Ivo details all the reasons why
Turkie has been & is hated in Europe,
forgetting its wars with Russia:

Russo-Turkish War (1568–1570)
Russo-Crimean War (1571)
Russo-Turkish War (1676–1681)
Russo-Turkish War (1686–1700)
Russo-Turkish War (1710–1711)
Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739)
Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774)
Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792)
Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812)
Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829)
Russo-Turkish War (1853–1856) (Crimean War)
Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878)
Russo-Turkish War (1914–1918) (World War I)

Concluding: “Who doesn’t hate Turkie?”
Armenians, Austrians, Greeks, Hungarians,
Kurds, Poles, Russians; British, Anzacs do;
the ECU has no reason to invite Turkie in.

What in hell is Obama thinking?

(08 APR 09, Santa Clara CA)v3

Reggie & music

Reggie, Carolin's-chosen Maine Coon cat often sleeps during the day in a 3-storey carpeted cat-tower behind me as I type at my computer keyboard. A few minutes ago he was listening intently (with his eyes closed) to Dimitri Klebanov's viola concerto (ca. 1990) played by Mela Tenenbaum & the Philharmonia Virtuosi under Richard Kapp (Ess.a.y CD 1052, 1997 ) coming from the old Criterion W4 speakers nearest him.

Conlon Nancarrow?

An Abraham Lincoln brigader who subsequently chose Mexico over anti-Communist USA, Nancarrow (27 OCT 12 – 10 AUG 97) was a thoroughly experimental composer. (from Wikipedia) The complete contents of his studio, including his player piano rolls, instruments, libraries, documents & other objects are now in the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel. Germans Jurgen Hocker & Wolfgang Heisig are the current live-performers of Nancarrow's player-rolls using similar acoustical instruments. Other performers of his works (often in arrangement for live musicians) include Thomas Ades, Alarm Will Sound & Netherlands ensemble Calefax who also recorded his Studies for player piano, already named 'Best CD of 2009' by Dutch newspaper Het Parool.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seeking, but not asking,

It’s a typically cloudless sunny Sunday morning, here at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. I’ve just had strips of burnt wheat toast dipped in yogurt with dill-seeds & pre-cooked rice (having finally run out of margarine.)

As I type this, I’m listening to Peter Benoit’s massive “Hoogmis” (21 JUL 1861; Pt. 2 of his ‘Religious Tetrology); with the BRTN Phil. Orch, & Phil. Choir, Brussels, under Alexander Rahbari, (Discover DICD 920178)

Currently I’m reading Jane Redmont’s WHEN IN DOUBT, SING Prayer in Daily Life (paperback edition, 2008; Sorin Books, Notre Dame IN loaned to me by her cousin Nancy (Rothenberg) Tepperman who sings in the alto section of the San Jose Peace Chorale, sitting directly in front of me in the bass section.

Until today, I've been trying to ignore Jane’s autobiographical chapters’ insistence on the social context of prayer. I long ago (ca. 1962) abandoned it with Roman Catholicism, & did & do not want to reacquire it now that I’ve long been an Episcopalian with Carolin Combs, who’s now dead these past 2 years, & I’ve returned to the radical loneliness of my solitary late-teens.

But a paragraph of Jane’s (p.17, par 1) stopped me a few minutes ago & I began to think of writing about thoughts that ensued. It was: “Our context is not just our social world. We pray also as inhabitants of planet Earth and participants in nature. The mountain ranges, the corn, the grass pushing up between the cracks of an urban sidewalk – they are part of our community.” (attributed to Elena Stone.)

This thought isn’t exceptional, but it forces me to see myself as somehow praying as I ride one of my ’70s Shogun 10-speeds here in flat urban Santa Clara. Praying is something I’d long studiously avoided. For me it had always been intentional, if not petitional. Seeking, but not asking, not receiving. Until Carolin died (26 JAN 07); since then I’ve frequently asked my Guardian Angel for help. Any help. I assume I’m getting it, somehow, whether I can recognize it or not. I do need that help.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ades, happening

Last (Fri.) nite (03 APR 09) at the S.F. Symphony, I heard Thomas Ades' [so far, 1st] Violin Concerto "Concentric Paths" (played by Leila Josefowitz); at the donors' reception after, I suggested to him he ought to write 2 more, claiming all 3 need to be heard together to be understood. "Musicologists thrive on this", I told him; it's been done+ before: by Vivaldi in his Op. 8, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (contest between harmony & invention, 1725); its 1st 4 of 12 are Le quattro stagioni (4 seasons); but violin concerti have come a long way since 1725. Maybe all 3 could be played together? I mused; maybe even by 3 violinists? Promoters thrive on such bravura; meanwhile, all-Ades festivals are already happening (2007: London, Paris, Helsinki...) PS: Ades' fave USA composers are Ives & Nancarrow.