By Rip Rense Let’s see, let’s see. . . A million point two total infections in Uncle Sam Land. Seventy-five thousand-plus brand spankin’ new corpses. With those cute rigor mortis grins and blind dry eyeballs. Hospitals little more than clearing houses for the Great Beyond. Or probably not so great. Refrigerator truck doors bursting open …
Contributed to ThisCantBeHappening! by Rip Rense It’s lurking. It’s salivating. It’s breathless, waiting in the pandemic quiet. And at first opportunity, it will step out, roaring, spitting fire, devouring free will yet again as it commands you, you, you, and you to consume, consume, consume. All in the name of “returning to normal.” Well, I …
By Kris Neuhaus, MD, MPH If you’re like me, you probably take advice from experts with the proverbial “grain of salt”. That is just part of our midwestern heritage. As often as not, the warnings turn out to be over-blown, or at least seem to be when viewed from the rear window. Think Y2K bug, …
By Allen Baker Benjamin Franklin was a prolific inventor and a brilliant thinker. But even he would be amazed at the vast profits that arise simply from printing his portrait on the U.S. hundred-dollar bill. Here’s how it works: Each year, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing rolls out roughly a billion crisp …
July the Fourth
And people blow up gunpowder devices
Indulge all cheapshit vices
Gobble down cows and pigs
Smoke clouds of pot and cigs
Fornicate and regurgitate
Bloviate and crepitate
Making America great again
Increasing sewage rate again
Trash landfill refill
Plastic bottle overkill
Rivers of wrappers and
Run to the ocean
Crippling wave motion
Making you wish that you weren’t
Living among buffoons
Sending earth to doom
So lift a can of American beer
To still being here
In the land of the me
and the home of depraved
Where all is instant gratify
‘Cause pretty soon, in the bye-and-bye
Jesus gonna fly you home
Where nobody got to moan
About houses you can’t afford
and being fired and being bored
And kids and teachers blown apart
By some alt-think punk upstart
With a forty-seven AK
Children to the Mountain by Gary Lindorff (Hiraeth Press, 2018)
Most so-called poetry today is the detritus of narcissism, and banal, vulgar narcissism, at that. Every other tattooed poseur of no particular ability, skill, insight merely declaims primitively, idiosyncratically about his/her suffering, perceived injustices, hatred, betrayals, (usually pornographic) affairs, with requisite denunciations of politically correct targets, and then lays claim to “poet.” It’s wretched, it’s pathetic, it’s embarrassing, and it’s epidemic.
It is also, of course, stoked by the Machiavellian corporate machinations of the so-called popular culture, which found an industry in creating and exploiting self-interest, self-adoration, self-glorification. Me sells. Coupled with avaricious dumbing down of culture, using the fake pretext of populism to mask profit motive, this has given way to outright sneering at actual intellect, study, reflection, hard-won accomplishment. Trump and the “alt-right,” of course, are the sneerleaders.
The idea of working at poetry, at investing thought of weight and consideration, of attempting to express an idea artfully, heartfully, in order to move, elevate, inspire, is uncommon to the point of freakish; almost to being dismissed as the arcane pursuit of stuffy old intellectuals. It’s so 20th century!
Which is why I find it ironic, and a bittersweet privilege, to tout a just published collection of poetry by Gary Lindorff, (poet in residence at ThisCantBeHappening.net).
breaking the little bones of earth
(bones of coral, bones of red wolf,
bones of bat and bee,
bonobos, their little fingers) . . .
Now that all the bigger bones have been broken
to extract the marrow,
we are breaking all the little bones . . .
to make ourselves powerful
to defeat our enemies in battle. . .
— from “Sucking the bones of the bee.”
To read the poetry of Lindorff in his new collection, Children to the Mountain (Hiraeth Press), is to understand that the pastoral poet is not dead. Lindorff is, in part, the 21st century spiritual descendant of Spenser, Shelley, Milton, Andrew Marvel. Like them, he “retreats from the trappings of modernity,” as the cheat-sheet definition goes, but unlike them, he does not merely rhapsodize over nature. He celebrates it, loves it, but chiefly mourns its degradation, while ruminating with the distillation and almost scientific eye of, say, Annie Dillard, or encoding in haiku-like condensation, or expositing in prose-poem. It’s a major theme in his work, along with temporality: the destruction of ecosystem by humans. As he says: “Living close to the forest means everything to me.”
The so-called music in this café would be very good for murdering giant lizards in hell. Then gutting them and eating their organs raw, and smearing yourself with their cold reptilian blood. While being flogged by Satan.
Other than that, it’s okay.
Which is to say, go and see Cooder-Skaggs-White. Hurry. It is music as good, or good as music. Well, it’s good music. It’s what music used to do, is supposed to do, for you. Not a murdered lizard in sight, no fires, no pitchforks. You know, like a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie. It is no bit of careless whimsy that the tour is billed, “For the Good People.” Me, I wasn’t sure there were any “good people” left in this country, but that’s beside the point. If you build it, they will come. . .maybe that’s the idea here.
Yes, that’s Ry Cooder, the six-time Grammy-winning, musically peripatetic champion of Cuban, African, Indian, Hawaiian, Mexican music, and blues, jazz, norteno, folk, various fare too conveniently summed up as “roots music.” Now, at 68, he is delving into an archaeology of tunes from a bygone era called the 20th century. From a country even more out of reach than Cuba was, because it no longer exists. Think you know what American music is? You might, but then again, you might not.
Among the repertory: The Delmore Brothers, Flat & Scruggs, The Louvin Brothers, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Bill Carlisle, Merle Travis, Hank Snow, Blind Alfred Reed, Ralph Stanley. Among the tunes: “The Family that Prays,” “Take Me to Your Lifeboat,” “Sweet Temptation,” “Mansion on the Hill,” “On My Mind,” “Cold Jordan,” “Daniel Prayed,” “Hold What You Got,” “Pan American Boogie,” “A Fool Such as I,” “Above and Beyond,” “No One Will Ever Know,” “Gone Home,” “Wait a Little Longer,” “No Doubt About It,” “Wait A Little Longer, Please, Jesus,” “Pan-American Boogie,” “Unload,” “Above Yer Raisin,” “Reunion.”
New to you? Hie thee to hear it. Old to you? Hie thee to hear it. Not your favorite kind of music? All the more reason to go. I did, a couple months ago in Santa Barbara, Calif., not quite knowing what to expect. Wound up with an education, and no socks. Fields of clover spread before me as I walked out of theater.
I once did know a President
A way down South, in Texas.
And, always, everywhere he went,
He saw the Eyes of Texas.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, all the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn
The Eyes of Texas are upon you ’til Gabriel blows his horn.
Sing me a song of Prexy, of days long since gone by.
Again I seek to greet him, and hear his kind reply.
Smiles of gracious welcome
Before my memory rise,
Again I hear him say to me, “Remember Texas’ Eyes.”
“The Eyes of Texas” by John Sinclair, 1903
(This was the last song JFK ever heard. President Kennedy was serenaded by the Texas Boys Choir in Ft. Worth on the final morning of his life.)
(Continued from Pt. I of Lori Spencer’s report from the nation‘s capitol.)
When Led Zeppelin attended a reception at the White House in advance of the Kennedy Center Honors, they were just as shocked to find themselves there as most everybody else was. Being personally roasted by the President of the United States — along with fellow Kennedy Center Honorees Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, and Buddy Guy — was an experience Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page could later only describe as “surreal.”
Page, Plant, and John Paul Jones also enjoyed getting the royal treatment during a weekend of festivities in Washington, D.C., including a State Department dinner on December 1 hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton.
Secretary Clinton described the honorees as “a group of legends and icons as diverse as they are talented. We have in our group of honorees tonight a broad cross section of talent and energy from comedian to chameleon, ballerina to bluesman, and three men so synonymous with rock and roll they need no more description than Page, Plant, Jones,” Clinton said.
“Now, in my line of work, we often talk about the art of diplomacy,” she added. “I really like saying that because so many of the building blocks for art and diplomacy are the same. We have to be willing to try new things, occasionally take big risks. … So the arts and diplomacy actually do go hand in hand. They play out on world stages and reflect our common need to build bonds of understanding with others.”
(Now, if only Secretary Clinton would listen to more Led Zeppelin, perhaps she could manage to tone down the warmongering and actually live up to her words about building bonds of understanding with others. But I digress…)
This is the first part of a two-part series on Led Zep in DC. Click here for Part II
It was a few days before Christmas, 1970, and Elvis Presley was suddenly obsessed with a strange notion. Not another late-night private shopping spree for Lisa Marie, or a cross-country hamburger run this time. No, what Presley had in mind was far more important: the trumpet of destiny was once again beckoning him to her siren call. It had been decided somehow in his drug-addled mind that the King of Rock and Roll should meet the President of the United States. Not next week; not next year, or in the next decade: this had to happen right now.
Within hours, and without telling anyone in his Memphis Mafia entourage, Elvis was on a red-eye flight to Washington, D.C. – alone. Before Vernon Presley could say, “Has anybody seen Elvis?” (thus setting off a full-scale panic back at Graceland), Presley had arrived at the White House gates uninvited, asking to see the president.
Elvis explained to an astonished security guard that he knew the president was very busy, but that he would just like to say hello and give him a gift (a commemorative World War II .45 caliber pistol). He also bore in his hand a six-page handwritten note requesting – incredulously enough – to be appointed a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.
Once it had been determined that the letter was genuine and that this heavily armed, velvet-and-suede-clad man at the gate really was the Elvis Presley, phones began ringing frantically all over the White House. “What the hell do we do with this guy?” was the question of the day. Elvis waited patiently in his three-room suite back at the Hotel Washington while the president’s men scrambled to accommodate his bizarre request.
In a staff memo fired off quickly to Nixon’s Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, the president’s Special Assistant Dwight Chapin suggested that “If the president wants to meet with some bright young people outside of the government, Presley might be a perfect one to start with.”
Haldeman scribbled in the margins of the memo, “You must be kidding.”
Nevertheless, he approved the visit, and Presley was finally allowed entry into an inner sanctum that no rock-and-roller before him had ever penetrated: the Oval Office.