Thursday, October 23, 2008

As You Do

As you do, I'd forgotten this. As you do.

Until the other day. I got a call from my brother and friend, V, from County Meath.
(I'm tempted, sore and sorely tempted, to say "a ring-jingle from my pal Val...")

And since he's wont to rhyme at you and inclined to recite and declaim, say, much more than merely speak small and sensibly (many another friend of his will attest and affirm to this fact, and that's why we're all his friends, so don't dismiss this as a dis, dear Miss... ) well, now, anyway, as you do, I'd forgotten that of an afternoon this last midsummer, in Paris, in le Jardin Communite', unable to do my Proper Work for some damn reason, after days and nights and nights and days and middays and midnights and dawns meeting me rolling and strolling around in Eire for the first time in donkey's ears' years, after gladly receiving the gift of sight and sleep and sense and salmon from Donla, and the full Irish in the morning as well, after, as ever, being received by Onrai in his own sacred home as the very incarnation of the burr under his saddle that starts and stirs the itch that forces him to stay up scratching late into the night (he needs an excuse akin to myself, does Onrai, as we all know) after being ushered into tents in Kilkenny that resembled tents in Tibet, and into other tents in Kilkenny that resembled Boy Scout outings in Glastonbury, and into still other tents where wine glasses and glasses of stout were urged upon me, and other tents, tents from Japan, perhaps, or Thailand, paper flying sky tents, were lit and sent glowing, squadrons of light, into the sky... whilst a session of serious saints piped and fiddled and accordionated, and I changed reeds like a harried hurried Hessian sent to Pennsylvania on extra-curricular musical reconnaissance....and I think it was it that point that The Grey Guy came tumbling down the hillside and down the stairs and through the door and if I'd only been quicker of mind and intent, I could have swung the front door open and let him roll off toward the millpond or the monastery...


Well after this, this long but short weekend wedding au Kilkenny, and days of Dublin, and County Meath, it was my intention and my duty and my concern that I get right straight back to work on That Dumb Book that all and sundry, those that know me well, and those strangers et etrangers who repeatedly encountered me muttering along the green-broomed gutters of Paris uniformly all advised: Shut up for once and take the damn money, and, above all, quit calling it a stupid book. Or, as the Sufis and the saints and the sensible and the sane and the seanos singers and all the visiting Irish lasses and those in shouting distance of sanity, and several other sage counselors said, in short, and repeatedly, like a dang mantra:
Be Grateful
Accept.
Oh, and shut the fuck up, ok?

Ok, so anyway, I was supposed to get back to work on what I was ungrateful for, and of, and about, and because of, and besides, and, well, I wasn't working and I wasn't grateful. I may, you'll be surprised to know, have been grumpy.

Instead, though, to my credit, I went to the garden, le jardin, the community garden in Le Dixhuiteme, and played steel guitar or accordion or something. I smelled that the artichokes were still early yet and unripe, and the rose-colored roses weren't quite ready, even though we'd had a better, warmer, sunnier, artichoke-ier summer this summer, than last summer's nearly- rose-free grey-nosity. I could hear the bees, tending to business better, far better, than, say, moi. They had deadlines to meet.

V, a Meath man set loose among the bulls he was meant to herd, had turned me on to John Boyle Reilly, yet another astonishing man of Meath, a man among men, a man among men in a large and ever-growing world of ever-lesser men, a poet, a journalist, a Fenien, a transport, a trouble-maker, an adventurer, a prisoner, an escapee, an Irishman and an Australian and an American, a man who dared dig deep and then deeper, and reading him, I got given, "out the blue," as we'd say in New Orleans, this one, lo these many years away from having written poetry, and lo these many centuries away from lyric rhyme.

I'd be inclined to call it doggerel and be done, but I know that the ladder I was climbing was far too sturdy and too special to be dismissed so. And thus it wasn't mine that I climbed.


Val, I never ever write poetry any more, and certainly never lyric poetry.
That's for damn sure. Yet the day I got back, with lots of
work to do and deadlines to meet, life kept
interferring with my
life.

I went down the street to the community garden, which lies alongside some
deceased train tracks in what might as well be a riverbed.

I had the book on John Boyle O'Reilly there, and lo
and behold, I scratched this one out.

Life is long
And far too short
A game played loose
On a shifting court
A pitch, a swing
A bell, a ring
An echo, a cry
We wake, we die.

Life is short
And far too long
The graveyards fill
With the names of songs
We sing, we cry
We laugh and sigh
We cannot see
The other eye.

Life is quick
Yet life lives long
We lose ourselves
Amidst the throng
We dream, we wake
We wake, we dream
We cannot see
Our own clear scheme.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Aphorism Number 17; (Collect the Whole Series!)

Always a parade, rarely the rodeo.

I actually reviewed The Breakfast Club! Swear to God! It sucked too, boy....probably still does...

(Ok, for almost an exact year, I worked -- well, they gave me a paycheck, anyway -- as the movie critic for the Arizona Republic's City Life section. It almost pretty much entirely ruined my ability to sit still in a movie theater for, gee, at least a decade. Or two. Three, maybe. I'm still counting.)

As I believe I’ve already mentioned, movie reviewing is exactly the easiest job in the world. But just like everybody else, movie reviewers like to think they got it rough otherwise how could they come home and bitch about work?

The really, really tough part about being a movie reviewer, the really rotten, awful, painful, muscle-creaking,
undignified part about being a reviewer of movies is that you’ve got to go see lots and lots and lots of movies that are, at least ostensibly, “geared for younger audiences.” Which is way, way, way below your dignity. You’re an intellectual, a critic, a big drinker of espresso. You’ve got a whole wardrobe’s worth of grey sweaters, some of them with leather elbow patches.

But now a movie like The Breakfast Club, hey, we’re talking a whole different thing here. You bet! this is bonafide intellectual fare this time, boy. Here’s one teen movie without an eye-stabbing maniac, without rude sex, without car crashes, with literary quotes (or David Bowie song lyric quotes, anyway) and only one tiny video-style dance routine. And not even any nudity or crudity in that... A movie about real teen life today, with lots of touching real teen life traumas and everything. If only all those darned other unruly teen movies would just behave like this!

So maybe you can’t blame all the movie reviewing whores for matching their copy to precisely fit the film’s publicity, but it doesn’t mean you're obligated to buy in on the project. The Breakfast Club is a stagey little movie, five high school characters sentenced to a Saturday in library detention and thus spending most of the movie in one room. There’s such a thing as a good stagey movie but the immutable laws of drama are a lot tougher to evade when you can’t crash the General Lee though the library window for to rescue Bo 'n' Luke Duke. In other words, if it’s a weak play, it s going to be a crummy movie. The Breakfast Club is a crummy movie.

All the acting in the movie is uniformly just fine, and the little ensemble group of young talents is uniformly young and talented. Director producer writer John Hughes, who’s currently being lionized as “the kind of adult who understands the way kids are today” has provided all the uniform young talented actors and actresses with what is uniformly the sloppiest, dopiest material imaginable

If Hughes is the kind of adult who understands the way kids are today, then kids today are: poor-but-intelligent teen hardguys who play air-guitar to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida; student-council socialites who eat sushi from lacquered enamel lunchboxes but nonetheless are really caring individuals underneath; muscle-bound lunkhead jocks who are deeply disturbed by their own brutal treatment of smaller classmates; near-catatonic manic-depressive punk bag-girls who need only brush the hair from their eyes to bloom into a glowing teen normalcy; skinny little straight-A dorks who break up fights between guys who are twice their size.

Kids today, according to Hughes, are also in trouble because they have bad mean parents and bad mean teachers, and because all those bad mean adults keep forcing them to see one another as stereotypes stereotypes like student socialites and lunkhead jocks and skinny little straight-A dorks. (Not Hughes, however; Hughes only has them be lunkhead and socialite and hardguy stereotypes in the beginning so that we’ll eventually be able to see that deep inside they’re all just one big warm sensitive soulful stereotype.)

And if you take five typical stereotypically untypical kids of today and make them all do detention in the school library together, well, they nearly bust a gut racing to bare their souls to one another, and falling into deeply traumatic psycho-dramatic states, and offering one another deeply revelatory personal thoughts on life and sex and then leaping up to dance on their desk. You know, real contemporary teen life stuff.

Now it’s entirely likely that some teen-agers are going to fall for this puerile garbage (nobody but nobody can feel as sorry for themselves as a teen-ager, and there’s no better balm than the Clearasil-creamy concept of bad, bad adults being to blame for everything) but I’d bet that most high school kids will recognize The Breakfast Club for the transparent shuck that it is. Teen-agers know just exactly how sensitive the student council socialites are, which is why they pack the theaters for the teen-slasher movies, and why they cheer uproariously when the bitchy glamour queen and the muscle-bound lunkhead and creepy gothy punk-rocker and all the rest of the stereotypes who make high school miserable finally get their bloody just desserts.

On the other hand, if The Breakfast Club does pay off, just wait until the plague of imitators begins later this year. We’ll have any number of knock-offs featuring sensitive young teens spreading their traumas across library tables before leaping up to dance all over them, beginning the movie as potential ax murderers and ending as tearful-but-reformed healthy and adjusted and productive teen members of society. We’ll be bombarded with the teen sensitivity formula as a substitute for the slash-a-teen violence formula and the horny teen virginity formula, and it will be twice as phony as Halloween At Porky’s VII, but you can’t say that movie reviewers won’t deserve it, even if you don’t.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Aphorism Sixteen: (One of a Series; Collect The Whole Set!)

Grammar and syntax and vocabulary skills take time, but clothes are something you can shop for next Saturday morning.

Friday, October 3, 2008