Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lungs of the City: Before vodka, there was Zen

Lungs of the City: Before vodka, there was Zen

Before vodka, there was Zen

I was doing laundry last night and this poem followed me upstairs amidst an armload of clothes. This was written on the back of the piece of stationary:







On the other side:

The Mind of Absolute Trust

By Seng-Ts'an

The great way isn't difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences.

Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear.

When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.

If you want to realize the truth, don't be for or against.

The struggle between good and evil is the primal disease of the mind.

Not grasping the deeper meaning, you just trouble your minds serenity.

As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.

But because you select and reject, you can't perceive its true nature.

Don't get entangled in the world; don't lose yourself in emptiness.

Be at peace in the oneness of things, and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don't live the Tao, you fall into assertion or denial.

Asserting that the world is real, you are blind to its deeper reality;

denying that the world is real, you are blind to the selflessness of all things.

The more you think about these matters, the farther you are from the truth.

Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can't go.

Returning to the root, you find the meaning;

chasing appearances, you lose their source.

At the moment of profound insight, you transcend both appearance and emptiness.

Don't keep searching for the truth; just let go of your opinions.

For the mind in harmony with the Tao, all selfishness disappears.

With not even a trace of self-doubt, you can trust the universe completely.

All at once you are free, with nothing left to hold on to.

All is empty, brilliant, perfect in its own being.

In the world of things as they are, there is no self, no non self.

If you want to describe its essence, the best you can say is "Not-two."

In this "Not-two" nothing is separate, and nothing in the world is excluded.

The enlightened of all times and places have entered into this truth.

In it there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years.

There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes.

The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;

the vast is as small as the tiny when you don't have external limits.

Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.

Until you understand this truth, you won't see anything clearly.

One is all; all are one. When you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?

The mind of absolute trust is beyond all thought, all striving,

is perfectly at peace, for in it there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.

Compare it to this piece by Charles Bukowski. Why? I'm not sure.


there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Monday, December 22, 2008

I lost a bit more of my technoginity today

I just popped my video-interface cherry.
Yep, I lost my Skype virginity to one of my favorite people, Lindy, who is on break from her teaching job in Madrid. She just got a computer with a camera in it, so I got to have an hour long chat with her while I froze my toes off in my apartment, finished waking up, ate pizza and watched her look into the screen and smile that smile.
I'm going to see her during her Easter break, so we were pretty giddy and the oddness of speaking to one another for free from so far away and me being granted the vision of her face is currently overriding all other impressions, but I wonder how odd it will be when we are all carrying on this sort of correspondence. I'm guessing it won't seem so odd when the microphones, cameras and video feeds are of better quality. For me, it was a bit uncomfortable because I am stuck to this desktop and had my head attached to the PC via headset and a short chord. Pretty geeky. Very nerdy, but not so bad, I have to admit.
Is this what it felt like to speak on a telephone in 1895?
But, thankfully, I get to go back out into the world briefly to interact with you and the rest of the human race and the hot shower I'm about to enjoy will ready me for some good, dirty work and fun on this cold night. I'm not ready for an solitary existence in this cocoon quite yet.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lungs of the City: Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Lungs of the City: Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Do Your Ears Like Magic?

Test your ears to see if they're still receptive to magic.
Go see some electro-acoustic musical performances.

Just got this news from Josh Levi and Apop Records:



3301 Lemp Avenue (at Utah)
St. Louis, MO 63118
8PM // $5 // All Ages

I snatched this description from the interwebs:

"Rainey’s saxophone playing eschews standard techniques; in fact, it rarely involves what have become common extended techniques. Yet, his sounds have a peculiar directness, integrated into a music that is at once meditative and disquieting. The saxophone is forgotten as one becomes immersed in pure tones, metallic chords, palpable breath, and always that primal silence, both mesmerizing and volatile. Rainey’s music, although entirely acoustic, is in close kinship with electronic music, as evidenced in his collaborations with Gunter Mueller, Lionel Marchetti, Kevin Drumm, Ralf Wehowsky, Jerome Noetinger, and Jason Lescalleet, to name a few. With trumpeter Greg Kelley, he is the cofounder of the unlikely improv supergroup, nmperign, and is also the founder and director of the premier electroacoustic ensemble, the BSC."

If you find that your are receptive to this type of experience, I invite you to listen to KDHX on Christmas Eve because I'll be hosting Beep Beep, Boop Boop for Kate from 10 p.m. to Midnight.
I'm going to take some liberties, however, in swaying from the weekly gist of her dancy electronic and hip-hop offerings. For the last two hours before your beloved Christmas, I'll be spinning a sort of revisitation of The No Show, blending improvisational and experimental visitations of the holiday season with some remixes and two incredible spoken word pieces. Filling out the show will be plenty of local offerings from the likes of my friends from the late-great Fred's Variety Group, Grandpa's Ghost, The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars and Echolocation Recordings. I hosted The No Show for several years and always attempted to produce and deliver holiday offerings ranging from the sublime to the irreverent to the ridiculous and humorous. This will be more of the same. I'm like a lot of you: I quickly tire of obviousness.
The interminable barrage of holiday music delivers the faulty mythology of Christmas as a magical time of giving and happiness. There is an entire essay waiting to erect itself from the groin of that last statement but not quite now. I'll finish programming the show and let it do the talking for me.

Not only will that program be on the radio airwaves, but it will be streaming live from the KDHX website and will be listenable there as an archive for two weeks following the show, a feature true of all the programming on 88.1 FM.

We shall survive!

...and when we do, there is more magic in January:

Josh and Apop have more in store:


A special daytime workshop will take place followed by an evening concert featuring a collaboration including local performers

3301 Lemp Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63118
8PM // $5 // All Ages

I met Tatsuya the last time I was in Detroit at the late-great Bohemian National Home.

He is an incredibly gifted percussionist. One of many I've seeen at the BoHouse. What sets Tatsuya apart in my mind are two moments. The first moment came after I'd seen him perform twice. It was later on Saturday night after a long day of many different performances and sessions and the place was hopping to the sounds of an ensemble on the big stage upstairs. I was weary of walking up and down steps and standing, so I found a place on the floor against a wall at the far end of the auditorium from the stage and sat down to listen and enjoy a beer. After the ensemble had wowed the crowd, I introduced myself and told him how much I had enjoyed his playing. A couple other folks had gathered the pow-wow by now and various discussions opened up about Tatsuya's past as a sushi chef in Japan and his present life in NYC. We, of course, talked about the wonders of being at the BoHouse and seeing Detroit and Corktown with such incredible folks as Joel Peterson and Rebecca Mazzei (the couple who heads up the group that used to run the BoHouse). I mentioned that I found the festival through my friend Thollem McDonas and that Thollem had found me due to the fact that I used to host The No Show and then we spoke of his experience playing at the Lemp. It was the normal chit-chat between strangers and the language barrier was bridged entirely by his English, of course.

As we got through the first round of back-and-forths (and I'm not much of a talker in such settings, especially in the shadow of musical luminaries), I returned to the topic of his former life as a sushi chef. I probably mentioned that I'd worked in Japanese restaurants, but I for sure asked him what that life was like and if he still liked to indulge like most restaurant workers I know. So, he told us a story about various daliances in the night with sake'...and remarkably we didn't end up doing a shot later. I don't remember how he managed to escape.

The seond moment came at the end of a small workshop session early on the Saturday during last summer's Jazz and Improvised Music Festival at the BoHouse. Tatsuya had discussed various philosophies of the art of sound and the importance of minimalistic percussion instruments to the drummer who is travelling by bus or bicycle. I don't remember the rest of his talk exactly, not because it wasn't fascinating, but because I failed to document any of this earlier, but he went on to lead an impromptu improvisation session with a circle of those assembled. Some of them were master musicians and some of them had much less experience. I enjoyed myself as they played in that auditorium and I sat up near a window that was admitting a breeze to bath the whole experience in forgiveness for certain Friday night over-indulgences. There were various percussion implements and others of the string variety. Tatsuya employs a wide variety of "instruments" in his percussion including traditional drums, gongs, “singing bowls” ,common-place objects and more. He was closing out the collaboration, bowing a cymbal as he had some of the singing bowls and as the sound dissipated and completely vanished, there was a moment of silence. It lasted perhaps less-than-a second because all peace was ripped and blasted by the sound of a speeding motorcycle (a crotch-rocket, to be exact) screaming down the street outside.

To my mind, it was perfect!

"I hoped at one time to become Commissioner of Sewers for St. Louis County. "

Check out this treatment of Burroughs recalling how his aversion to politics kept him out of the shit:

"The Sultan of Sewers," by William Burroughs

This piece was written to Harper's Magazine in response to the question, "When did you stop wanting to be President?"

When did I stop wanting to be President? At birth, certainly, and perhaps before. In this life or any previous incarnations I have been able to check out, I NEVER wanted to be President. This innate decision was confirmed when I became literate and saw the President pawing babies and spouting bullshit.
I attended Los Alamos Ranch School, where they later made the atom bomb. And bombs bursting in air over Hiroshima gave proof through the night that our flag was already there. There was the Teapot Dome Scandal under President Harding, and I remember the unspeakable Gaston Means. Scion of an aristocratic Southern family, infamous private eye and go-between in this miasma of graft, I remember him walking into a hotel room full of bourbon-drinking, cigar-smoking lobbyists and fixers with a suitcase he puts in the middle of the table. "Fill it up, boys, then we can talk business."

I do not mean to imply that my youthful idealism was repelled by this spectacle. I had by then learned to take a broad, general view of things. My political ambitions were simply of a humbler and less conspicuous caliber: I hoped at one time to become Commissioner of Sewers for St. Louis County. Three hundred dollars a month with every possibility of getting one's slimey little paws deep into a slush fund. And to this end I attended a softball game, where such sinecures were assigned to the deserving and the fortunate. And everybody I met said "Now, I'm old so-and-so runnin' for such-and-such, and anything you do for me I'll appreciate."

My boyish dreams fanned by this heady atmosphere and three mint juleps, I saw myself already in possession of the coveted post which called for a token appearance twice a week to sign a few letters at the old courthouse. While I'm there, might as well put it on the Sheriff for some of the marijuana he has confiscated, and he'd better play ball or I will route a sewer through his front yard. And then across the street to the courthouse cafe for a coffee with other lazy worthless bastards in the same line of business as we wallow in corruption like contented crocodiles.

I never wanted to be a frontman like Harding or Nixon, taking the rap, shaking hands, and making speeches all day. Who in his right mind would want a job like that? As Commissioner of Sewers, I would not be called upon to pet babies, make speeches, shake hands, or have lunch with the Queen. In fact, the fewer voters who knew of my existence, the better. Let Kings and Presidents keep the limelight; I prefer a whiff of coal gas as the sewers rupture for miles around. I have made a deal on the piping which has bought me a 300 thousand dollar home. Although there is talk in the press of sex cults and drug orgies, carried out in the stink of what made them possible, fluttering from the roof of my ranch-style house, over my mint and marijuana, Old Glory floats lazily in the tainted breeze.

But there were sullen mutters of revolt from the peasantry: "My teenage daughters are threatened by this immorality! Is this the American way of life?"

I thought so, and I didn't want it changed.

Sitting in my garden, smoking the sheriff's reefer, coal gas on the wind sweet in my nostrils as the smell of oil to an oilman, or the smell of bullshit to a cattle baron. I sure did a sweet thing on those pipes, and I'm covered too. What I got on the governor wouldn't look good on the front page, would it now? And I have my special police to deal with vandalism and sabotage. All handsome youths, languid and vicious as reptiles. Described in the press as no more than minions, lackeys, and bodyguards to his majesty the Sultan of Sewers.

The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts. Then I met the guvernatorial candidate, and he looked at me as if trying to focus my image through a telescope, and said in effect, "Anything I do for you I'll depreciate."

And I felt the dream slipping away from me, receding into the past. Dim, jerky, far away, the discreet gold letters on a glass door:

William S. Burroughs, Commissioner of Sanitation
Somehow, I had not intersected. I was not one of them. Perhaps I was simply the wrong shape. Some of my classmates, plump, cynical, unathletic boys with narrow shoulders and broad hips made the grade and went on to banner headlines concerning two million dollars of the taxpayers' money, and a nonexistent bridge or highway, I forget which. It was a long time ago, and I have never aspired to political office since. The Sultan of Sewers lies buried in a distant, 1930s softball game.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

I've spent the last 24 hours in my apartment. That is mostly my choice. I thought I might take a walk today at some point, but there is enough to keep me occupied right here if I don't get too restless or hungry and I've interrupted several activities preparing and drinking or eating tea, bread, carrots and various other tenants in my refrigerator in an effort to stay clean for an early-morning walk and late-morning massage. I spent most of the day resting and patching up the damage of cancellations in the entertainment schedule that I curate. There is always plenty of "catching up" to do online and if the phone rings a couple of times, I don't even want to go out, so I'll start digging a little deeper for reasons to stay home, something I don't get to do but (maybe) one-day-a-week.
A couple hours ago, though, I started rooting through a block of cardboard files that sit on the floor in the middle room where I don't spend much time. I found plenty to weed out. I found some amusing notebooks from the time when I was hosting The No Show and organizing events outside of my present confines. I found part of a collage that I will immediately turn into something more substantial as soon as I get back to cutting and pasting some collages from the piles of detritus...and that needs to happen soon, so I can send out some cards to the physical world.
Several minutes into the excavation, I found one page in a notebook that has me somewhat confounded and I'm going to type it up here, because I have no recollection of writing the words and don't remember why I wrote them either.
I am guessing that it was to be some mocking middle-of-the night diatribe to be performed on that late-night radio show of mine, but I honestly don't know. Perhaps I was riffing and scribbling in the hopes of getting on to something other.
At any rate, this is how it goes:
"Rock n' Roll consists inherently of a poopy nature as it is the excrement of rage that, when you trace its origins, reveals itself to be an embryonic and chaotic crapstream which is suckling at the poisonous tit of fear--the commercialism and hurried mess that is the Western Bowl.
The Western Bowl is a swirling cesspool of regurgitated acid which poisons everything in digestive fluids and man-made chemicals of the modern and post-modern age and carts it all around with the fuel of guilt and repression.
The tit of fear---an air-brushed spigot of enticing death with piglets, puppies, pedophiles and shoppers---yes, you the dumbstruck consumer---lapping at the alabaster secretions of nothingness held in its vacuous white noise."

Like I said, I have no idea, so don't ask me. I recognize "tit of fear" to be a fragment of something I read once about television viewers "suckling at the glass tit of fear" (Jerry Mander's FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION?), or something to that effect...and The Western Bowl sounds like something Burroughs would write, but all-in-all it reads like something you might hear on a religious station through the static of an AM signal.
In other words, it sounds like something I've heard a lot of throughout years of insomnia.

After having sat in this chair for the better part of seven hours today, I think I'll go to bed and see what's happening on the airwaves. Kate is almost finished with a fine episode of Beep Beep, Boop Boop and I'm ready to read a book, play with the static and listen to various oddities before I doze off.

If you can't sleep watch this:
"God's Angry Man is a 1980 documentary film about Gene Scott, directed by Werner Herzog. The film was produced for television.

The film consists of footage of Scott on the set of his television program Festival of Faith and interviews with Scott and Scott's parents conducted by Herzog. The footage from Scott's television program focuses almost exclusively on his fundraising efforts and an elaborate rant against the FCC. Scott at one point refuses to speak until his viewers pledge an additional $600. After a minute's silence, he yells angrily at the camera until a production assistant informs him that they had already received $700. Scott represents the FCC on his show by a cymbal-banging monkey toy."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Right angles: wrong?

I've been reading Thomas Berger's LITTLE BIG MAN.
Somehow, I have failed to pick it up before despite a childhood of summers chasing Sitting Bull and other western legends in a van with the author, Larry D. Underwood, my father. I've met Dee Brown, author of BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE and read several of his books. I've spent much of my life ruing and pondering the origins of our nation: the genocide of a rich and well-founded tradition of worshiping the natural progression of the universe.
In conjunction, I've been continually confounded in my living space and can't figure out how to arrange my possessions. For nearly two years, I've operated under an operating philosophy somewhere to the left of surfing on whoopie! and mazes of clutter, but it appears that I'm going to be here for some time. The space is all right for one of my mindset. I mostly sit, sleep, read and ponder here. It is becoming painfully apparent that the space is not all that good for a deeper health and is certainly not very welcoming of guests. It serves its purpose if the guest is O.K. with drinking in the backyard, crashing on the futon or in the sack with me and vacating for lunch the next day. The confines are sorely lacking for activities such as listening to music, watching movies or other such pursuits I might like to share with like minds.
So, I've begun to clean the place in hopes that I can figure out what to do with it all and as I was dozing off into a nap after putting down this fucking beautiful novel, it occured to me that it would be so much easier if I weren't trying to fulfill my cycles and dreams in these boxes, set along these grids.
Does anyone have any circular space for rent?
I really don't think these right angles are right for me.
I need some curves in my life.
...and that's a whole different subject isn't it?
Maybe that's why the pint glass and the baseball feel so comforting in my fingers?
Time to go grasp lots of glasses and catch as many curves as I can from behind the bar.
I have a feeling I'll be expanding upon these thoughts soon.
Until then...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Chainsaws Say "Get Up!"

A crisp and explosive morning
does not meet well with blase'.
Chainsaws and the digital rings
of telephones; stomping of feet
and slamming of doors; grinding
and whining of street-cleaning
trucks do not meet well with blase'.
They spell the absence of sacred awakening.
Now, the sunshine has set the sky
to flames and they lick at the edges
of living space.
Sleep is impossible amidst such
industry, but now even nature
demands arousal.

Chainsaws, leaf blowers and
lawn mowers in "quiet"
neighborhoods replace gunshots and thunder
until the whole thing meets bombs.

The saxophonist can't sleep and now you are restless,
but when the man in the coveralls
puts down his hand-held engine
and the jazzman hears the humming of his
nervous system to the ticking of the
clock, the sunshine through the partially
open curtains is enough to relax
venomous vim and dash all hopes
of ever doing anything about it as
a child screams on a nearby ashphalt
playground, a delivery truck
roars the wrong way towards a dead end
and the church bell rings nine.

Brett Underwood