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Pacific Northwest, United States
Writer, actor, artist, teacher, exploring the world and its levels in fiction, poetry, memoir, photography, fine arts.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

"T2 - Trainspotting" boggles the mind

Danny Boyle’s new film "T2 Trainspotting" is a flamboyant hoot. Just check out this trailer! (There are more on the film's FB page.)

“Shoo-er yu cunt unnerstanna wurrud th’r sane mowust uh th’tame…” – but it doesn’t matter that much. Boyle delights in tropes of his 1996 cult film, and in the complicated relationships among the surviving troupe of low-lifes fans will remember from the original. The success of exuberant, flashy, utterly watchable “T2” is in part that Boyle doesn’t seek to imitate, but to surpass. He does so, creating a gripping, funny, violent, vulgar, trashily intellectual piece of post-modern filmmaking.

“First there was an opportunity, then there was a betrayal.” That’s the theme in a nutshell. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his hometown after a 20-year absence and at once confronts long-postponed consequences of his past. One by one, we are re-introduced to Mark, Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Martin) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), as their stories intersect. Sparks fly – and blood, and other fluids, but I don’t want to spoil the astonishing fun of it all.

The film is visually arresting: fast, loud, kaleidoscopic, and often incomprehensible despite the floating subtitles that appear at the start, an ironic nod to the complaints of non-Scottish audiences about “the language barrier” in T1. I had a brief hope the titles would run throughout, but no; once they disappear you’re on your own to make sense of the story by riveting your attention to the action and vivid settings.

Kid videos and snips from the original film create an almost poignant sense of the passage of time. All of the characters in their unique ways deal with being suddenly middle-aged, and the world they live in has definitely moved forward as well. Some time sequences get confusing. For instance, at the end of a knock-down bar-fight between Mark and Sick Man, Mark walks away from the pool table without a scratch on him, as Sick Man sits on a bench at the side of the room. The floor is spotless, not a trace of upturned furniture or shattered glass. Is this a jump ahead (or back) in time? Or is it Boyle poking fun at the trope of the barroom brawl? Probably the latter, but one grins a little uncertainly.

Another question: has celebrity ruined Ewan McGregor? I hate to ask, because I love Ewan McGregor – who doesn’t? But of the four characters (a fifth, Tommy McKenzie, played by Kevin Kidd, dies in the first movie but makes an appearance in a flashback), McGregor stands out, and not in a good way. His screen presence is self-conscious and faintly unconvincing, as if he barely had his lines memorized. I noticed this quality in him in his recent appearance on Stephen Colbert: like a man talking to himself in the mirror.  I wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, if you are a T1 fan, don’t miss T2. Or even if you never saw the original, you'll find everything you need in this “sequel.” Take it as a cartoon, a send-up of itself, a mockumentary about a generation of Edinburgh’s heroin underground facing mid-life crisis. It’s funny, memorable, and cathartic – a must see for your inner demons.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Shot" by Spectrum Dance Theater

You might go to a Spectrum Dance Theater performance for many reasons: you never go see dance, and you think it’s about time; you heard Spectrum is controversial, and you’re feeling feisty these days; you got the ticket from a friend who came down with the flu; you read that Spectrum’s current show, “Shot,” is about Black Lives Matter, and you want to do something political and be a good citizen. 

Or, maybe you're a season subscriber welcoming another adventure. Any of these might be your reason to see this show during its brief run at Seattle Rep.

Let me give you one more: this is a moving, fascinating, flawed, memorable piece of political dance theater, coinciding with the inauguration of an administration that is going to require a lot from brave artists willing to put their work out there and have an influence.
Ensemble members
Paul Giarratano and Fausto Rivera Contreras; Photo by Nate Watters

In “Shot,” Byrd starts with facts: killings of unarmed black men and women by police happen with tragic frequency in America. You’ve heard about it, talked about it, perhaps argued about it. As with so much in our public discourse, the narrative is often reduced to simple extremes: Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter.

"Shot" highlights these polarities, and is able to transcend them by crafting an idiom of the body, focusing on human beings caught up in the machinery of institutional racism and oppression.

Byrd places his discourse of movement on the steps and street in front of a massive, multi-level, whitewashed screen, embedded in which stands an arched doorway and rising steps flanked by two glass-globed light-posts: a hall of justice, or perhaps the impassive façade of a precinct police station. Fourteen young dancers enter as lights flicker and flash; sounds of police action rise; a mosaic of images flutter like torn pages of a newspaper across the screen, images reduced to memes of all-to-familiar desperation, violence, and fear. 

Out of this cacophony, motifs and patterns emerge: life in motion, life in the body -- solo, pairs, triads, ensembles. Violence is there; fear; love and loss; family; rupture; oppression. And death. Again and again, in the midst of this life and struggle, a figure falls, shockingly inert. Taut, synchronized group gestures of astonishing technical expertise sharply contrast with fluid moments of intimacy and warmth.

“Shot” features the music of two important artists: Jaimeo Brown and Julius Eastman. Their shifting, transcendent fusions of sound create another rich layer in the multi-sensory experience of “Shot.” The soundtrack is a flowing river of voices, tones, genres: blues filtered through the news, global rhythms in the local pulse of life and death.

Byrd makes a radical, unsettling choice midway through the piece, as he reads from the stage an informational page or two about "the talk" that many black parents now have with their adolescent children about surviving an encounter with police, listing the "ten things to remember." This interrupts the idiom of the performance with an abrupt foray into unadorned language, followed by more words as actors representing opposing sides debate, escalate, and finally resort to slurs and insults to shout each other down. 

It's an interesting choice, a risky one, and detracts more than it contributes to the piece as a whole. The work is a tribute to lives lost, loved ones left behind, displaying the human-driven machinery of death powered by institutional, embedded racism. The return to the last third of the performance after this rupture is a relief, but the broken thread of the experience is never quite made whole again. If this is Byrd's intent, it backfires.

The human lives depicted and remembered on this street are composed of many threads: work, family, hope, loss, heavy burdens made bearable by the lightness of love and community. "Shot" succeeds best by weaving voice, music and movement into a coherent visual and visceral experience. The falling bodies, and the anguished cries of "Don't shoot him! Don't you shoot him!"from the video recording made by Rakeyia Scott as her husband was gunned down in September, 2016, are enough to drive home the brokenness of American justice and the tragedy of police violence against people of color.

This is work that honors and eulogizes victims of systemic injustice; that sets its sights on transformation and healing, not polarization. It is a work of love and anger that should be widely seen. 

Spectrum Dance Theater
Executive Artistic Director Donald Byrd

At Seattle Repertory Leo K. Theater

January 19 - February 4, 2017

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Three memories (essay)


When I was a little boy, maybe five or six, in Salem, Oregon, there was a swing-set across the street where I and my friend Jerry used to play. The seats were canvas straps, wide enough to sit in comfortably and delight in the wild excitement of flying up toward the treetops, up among the branches like a bird; then plummeting back toward the ground; then rising, face to the sky, and hovering for that magic moment of weightlessness somewhere up in the clouds.

We also played “Superman” by lying with our stomachs down across the straps, arms outstretched, legs dangling, reaching out toward the oncoming earth and sky, trying to hold onto the air and leap over tall buildings with a single bound.

At some point I acquired a distinct memory impression, and belief, that I had once, while playing there alone, flown without the help of the swing. Following a similar up and down oscillation, I flew up, arms outstretched, and back, and up again, and again, with the certain knowledge that I had no swing under me, but did this simply on the air, by magic.

At the age of living dreams
The memory itself of this remains fairly clear; more muddled is the memory of how I retained this memory and the belief that it had actually happened, for so long. Surely in the following few years I must have learned that such things do not happen; I became more familiar with dreams and able to distinguish between waking and dreaming memories. Yet somehow this one lived on, I don’t know how. But it did.

I recall that much later, when we lived in Cummington, Massachusetts, there came a moment in time when I confronted this memory with certainty that it could not have happened: I must have been deluding myself all these years! I was upstairs in my bedroom in the far back of the house, perhaps in the dark, thinking... half-dreaming, when it hit me: that can't have been true!
Still seeing magic everywhere

In other ways I was leaving the world of childhood behind and coming to terms with a world in which not all magic was possible. I believe this long-held belief that I had accomplished the magic of flying in my earlier years must have had an effect on my psyche, rendering me open from my earliest years to belief in magic and the supernatural; this receptivity matured with me into first religious convictions of various kinds, along with a strong mystical streak, which has persisted even after having shed most specific affinity with religious doctrines per se. If once you have felt magic, after a certain age, you can't forget. It's just something you know.


Another association with the big house in Cummington is spiders. This where I acquired my fear – let’s come right out with it: phobia – of spiders. I had bad experiences with them – large ones in my bed on several occasions, and ensuing nightmares featuring them. I don’t recall ever being bitten by one: wasps and hornets were the culprits in that department, in bed as well as other places. But the terror of spiders grew into a real phobia that would drive me from a room. I ran screaming to my parents’ room when I was ten or so and found one, as it seemed, sprawled across my pillow. In France, as a teenager of seventeen or eighteen, I recall jumping from chair to chair to escape from my bedroom where a moderate house spider was crawling across the floor.

How I got over this phobia is worth relating. I overcame my spider phobia in the summer of 1976, at the end of my sophomore year in college. I was at Pomona College, and stayed on campus for a month, doing some work for my German professor, Karen Kossuth. I had to move out of the dorm, and asked Karen if I could convert the garden shed behind her house into a temporary abode. She was skeptical, but said I was welcome to try. It was overhung with ivy and clematis, stuffed with dusty old tools, boards, plywood sheets, everything else you might expect, all dusty and cobwebby.

The place was was infested with earwigs, which I found easy enough to remove with a broom, after having removed or repositioned a great deal of clutter. Under the eaves outside, and up among the roof rafters, I discovered a high number of small, evil-looking black spiders, with a tell-tale red mark on their underside: black widows, not only biters, but poisonous. I was determined to conquer them. I systematically swept all the webs and nests away from the outside, and then tracked down and killed every one I could find inside and out. I was Hercules, cleaning the Augean stables; I had the power of the gods and of my own conviction deep inside me. Nothing would stop me.

College age - maybe around 1975

By the end of a long and dirty day the place was clean, swept, arranged, livable. Even the small-paned windows had been cleaned for the first time ever. I laid out my sleeping bag and pillow on my bed, a self-built contraption of beams and plywood. I proudly showed off my work to Karen, and joined her for dinner in the house. Later, after dark, I returned for the night, lit a candle, and turned back my sleeping bag, checking to make sure no errant or defiant spider might have crawled in there for revenge.

To my dismay, that’s exactly what I found: a Black Widow, glaring at me. I chased it, but it was too quick and scurried over the side of the bed and underneath. I knew I had to destroy this spider, or never sleep a wink that night. With my candle, I knelt and peered under the bed frame; she hung on the underside of the mattress, brandishing her legs. I swear I could see the candlelight glinting in her angry, vengeful eyes. I took a swat, but she evaded me; I chased her into a corner, then out again and back under the bed. Determined, I brought the candle down and moved it toward the creature. She seemed to take a final stand, as if sensing the battle was over and self-immolation was the honorable way out. With a swift movement I brought the candle flame under it and saw it frizzle and drop to the floor.

The battle was over. I never saw another spider during the month I lived there, and while I have never wanted to share a close space with a spider since then, neither have I ever run from one again, and have spent, indeed, many minutes studying their web-making and insect-devouring with interest and sympathy. Somehow, a peace was made between us in that garden shed. I slew my fear with the light of human reason, determination, and ruthlessness.


I loved to climb trees as a youth. The earliest memories of focused, intentional climbing are from about age ten, in Cummington, again – a town of 600 souls in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where my father was the minister from 1963 to 1967. Down near the river were meadows, then a drop-off down a grassy bank to a lower floodplain, well overgrown with young trees. My friends and I would follow paths through these woods, along the river and down to the Green Bridge at the far eastern end of the village. In those woods were some great climbing trees, and saplings, or at least young enough trees of a certain variety that we could climb them, shinnying up the thin trunks, until our weight would cause the tree to bend and lower us to the ground. We could hold onto the trunk and be lifted up, bouncing skyward as if on a natural spring offered from the earth as our plaything.
A New England boy

Later, I sought refuge in trees as an alienated, unhappy teenager, and discovered many secrets among the boughs. Birds would come and sit all around me sometimes; they seemed less afraid of me in the tree than on the ground. Also, people walking below would almost never notice me. It was a rule I was elated to discover: it was human nature not to pay much attention to what went on up in trees. I loved to watch and listen to people walking past on park walkways, in the Boston Public Garden, for example.

When I was at boarding school in Connecticut, happier after my year and a half of purgatory in a public junior high school in Needham, Massachusetts, one day I was not in class; I don’t now know why, but I was apparently skipping. Up on a bluff behind the main school building was a birch forest, and on this particular spring or fall day, I found my way there and tried swinging on birches: it worked perfectly, just as the other trees had done so well back in Cummington, four or five years earlier. I climbed up the slender white birch trunks, pulling myself gently upwards by the delicate branches, careful not to damage anything; once at a certain height, I would institute a gentle swaying motion, and at some point the weight displacement was such that I would be carried down to the ground, hanging suspended from the branch, weightless; then, landing, would feel like a moon-walker, bouncing up with a kick from one leg, descending back to earth, then kicking up with the other. It was great fun; all the more so because through the tree trunks I could see the long rows of windows of the school building, with students at their desks, teachers at the blackboards.
Teen spirits (with Alec Stevens)

Later in the morning, at lunch, Mr. Grover, the Junior English teacher and Dean of Students, came up to me and said: “Whatever possessed you to skip class and go swinging on birches?”

“I don’t know. It just felt like that kind of day,” may have been my response. I cared little for rules when they didn’t suit me in those days.

“Well, it made my lesson today with the fifth formers. We’re reading Robert Frost’s “Birches," about a boy birch swinging. And right outside our classroom window was a boy swinging on birches. I forgive you the skipped class. Now go read the poem.”

I’ve never forgotten that. And it is a lovely poem, which invariably takes me back to a fall day in Danbury, Connecticut, when I was “a swinger of birches.”

See below:

Birches, by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

OMG (Poem)

To say goodbye to it all
is so hard
to it all, all
the things you thought were forever
or at least
so much longer than they turn out to be
so long until
it’s not,
not long at all,
it’s just hard to let it all go
piece by piece:
the dear hearts who died ahead
no solace, really, as
you cry again
over a photo of a friend
gone long before you,
as hard it was then
as now with new ones lost,
saying goodbye to mother
to fathersisterbrother
and all your stuff,
OMG all that stuff,
to the ideas of yourself
you pinned to the walls
inside your skull
like flow charts
-- snapshots
of what you would do --

all those things you would do

saying goodbye to all you will ever be
and all you will never be
it’s hard
it’s just plain hard
so get started okay?

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Experiment with Time and J.W. Dunne (essay)

I have been reflecting on and intuiting some further understanding of the mystery of Time.

It has been of interest to me for a very long time, if 60 years can be considered a "very long time" by any objective standard of reckoning. Even before stumbling on J.W. Dunne's fascinating and timeless book, "An Experiment with Time" in my adolescence, when quests for metaphysical understanding led me into bookstores and the rich assortment of psychotropic substances then at the disposal of young seekers of enlightenment like myself, I had an active interest in the subject of time, and experiences enough to already set me questioning its nature.

One of these was a dream that made an indelible and momentous impression on me, probably around the age of 10, during the years we lived in Cummington, Massachusetts (1963-1967). Dreams were already an active and not infrequently terrifying complement to my waking life. I often awoke with a head full of images of the night, memories slippery as the minnows I enjoyed chasing in the Westfield River that ran through Cummington, just a field away from the back door of the parsonage on Main Street where the seven of us lived. So I was alert to dreams, and to their insubstantiality in the waking world -- their utter lack of willingness to be caught and held. Even this was a mystery -- why must they flee so?

On a particular morning I awoke with the most intense and desperate feeling of having just stepped from an entire life lived -- my own life, the life into which I was just then reawakening at a point much nearer its beginning than where the dream had left me: forward near the very end of my life and my family's. I felt I had lived a whole life in the dream. Either it had sped by in fast motion, or I had passed into some realm in which time moved at a different pace, but in any event, I awoke filled not only with horror at what we had all become, we children, old and bickering and ruined by the world, but, above all with the conviction that it had all been real, had transpired, indeed, that I had lived and seen my whole life unfold in that dream.

I remember excitedly telling my mother, my sisters, even my father, whom I do not think I was in the habit of sharing much with even then, about this dream; and how frustrating their responses: "That's nice," or "Oh, how interesting..." Their interest in no way acknowledged my desperate sense of having had the most remarkable experience possible. I longed to share how REAL it had been. I couldn't. I held in my own soul the secret of that wonder, and also the fearful, tragic ending where we children had become sour and mean with no loving parents to hold us together.

That was one of many dreams that left deep impressions on me, and one that to this day makes me wonder if indeed I had somehow sped along a thread of time and back again in a night -- in a few seconds even, or in some kind of space/time that defies measurement. Perhaps I did see my whole life, but only remember the final moments, seeing with a child's eyes the tragedy of old age and separation from the idylls of family, safety, and parental love.

"An Experiment with Time" also treats on the subject of dreams, and the author devotes much of the book to describing his own experiences in which future events seem to have been foretold. Having started with descriptions of experiences, he develops a theoretical analysis of how such "extrasensory" experiences might be explained by contemporary (in 1927) theories about the nature of time and dimensionality of the universe. I'm not attempting here to give a full overview of the book or of how science has since developed to further corroborate (and doubtless outdate) some of his thinking. I just intend to reflect on my own experiences of "time-watching."

First: an interesting experience in reading my current copy of Dunne's book. As I said, I first came across the work about 45 years ago, probably in a Harvard Square bookstore, and read it with great interest; it was one of those books that completely captivated me at the time, as did later books such as "The Dancing Wu-Li Masters," "Seth Speaks," "Science and the Evolution of Consciousness," "Tertium Organum," and some of the Castenada books, notably "Journey to Ixtlan."

The copy I had was the 1927 edition, hardcover, with no dust jacket -- a dark blue, plain-looking book with the title only on the spine in faded and unassuming square gilt letters, with the author's last name. No other ornamentation graced the book cover but two sets of parallel lines traversing the top and bottom of the front cover from left to right (or right to left), slightly inset so as to create a palpable imprint.

Sometime in the past ten years or so, as I have hunted down on the internet one book or another from my past, I found a copy of the same edition, ordered it, and have had it since (my early copy was lost somewhere in my peregrinations.) After some browsing, it stayed on my shelf a long time, despite ongoing readings in other contemporary books on the subject of the universe, time, and the nature of reality -- books such as "A Brief History of Time," "The Elegant Universe," "The View from the Center of the Universe," "The Arrow of Time," and others such as "Lucid Dreaming" and "Dreams and Spiritual Life."

Just recently, after moving from my apartment in Seattle to a house in a small town outside of the city and unpacking and reshelving my fairly voluminous library, I became interested again in "An Experiment with Time," and had been reading it off and on for a few weeks before bringing it with me this weekend up to a little cabin retreat I am able to enjoy from time to time, thanks to the generosity of some friends. As I read, I became more and more aware of the thoughtful notes written in the margins by the book's previous owner. I found them worth reading, neatly written in fine ink by a person who evidently took the book seriously and was exploring the ideas with interest and a scholarly, even scientific interest.

I remembered that the owner's name appeared inside the front flyleaf, and I looked at it again: J.K.W. Ferguson was the name, also in ink and an old-fashioned style that could have been almost contemporaneous with the book's publication.

I reflected on this person -- I assumed it to be a man, both by the subject matter and the nature of the handwriting, I suppose -- and was intrigued to project myself in my imagination into his long-gone experience of reading this same book, even holding the very volume in his hands that I now hold. I had been reading in Chapters 17 and 18, and following a train of thought about objects in three dimensions moving in unison at all points of their being at a given instant forward together along the dimension of duration. The author credits H.G. Wells with a most concise and perfect statement of this concept through the voice of the Time Traveler in "The Time Machine," who presents the logical case that one must conceive of time as a fourth dimension: "There can be no such thing as an instantaneous cube..." he says. "...any real body must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and ... Duration.

So, where is this dimension of duration? A diagram in the book presents it rather the way the author of "Flatland" (another book that impacted me in my early adolescence) does with his logical series of steps from one dimension to two to three and on. Dunne's representation shows a pattern of lines of various shapes that represent distinct objects in space, on a vertical axis representing space. The horizontal axis represents time. A vertical dotted line at center represents an instant of time cutting across all of the objects in 3-D space, and one can imagine this dotted line moving at a constant rate toward the right side of the page (or the left, for that matter) as time progresses; the various lines of 3-D space may move closer or further from one another in space as time passes or they pass through time, but only the moment on which the dotted line rests is visible or real to the objects in space.

Unless those objects are sentient of themselves. Our brains can imagine a time yet to come, and we experience a memory of times past -- an imprint, as it were. But a common object, such as a book, for example, has no consciousness of itself. Time does not appear to depend on consciousness or awareness of itself to fulfill its inexorable progression. Dunne explores the idea of human life, as well as all physical matter, moving along threads of permanent existence which we experience as time, and this intrigued me as I thought of Mr. Ferguson, whom I imagined sitting at a wooden desk that gleamed dully in the pale light of a green-shaded brass table lamp, writing his spidery notes in the margins of his book, underlining key sentences and paragraphs -- a defacing of a good book that I tend to dislike, but in this case found the remarks of interest and their connection to the unseen and presumably long-dead hand that wrote them, and the mind behind them, intriguing and even touching.

Having more time than usual on my hands, I thought to search out Mr. J.K.W. Ferguson on the internet, and my first search turned up this. I have inserted the picture here for easy reference.

What a find! Given the paucity of other information about him, I feel lucky to have not only a picture of him, but one that is so particularly engaging, present, and thoughtful;  that seems to capture a spontaneous slice of time from the life of an intelligent, likable scholar or writer.

Further research has turned up that he was a Canadian scientist who worked in the area of blood diseases. A Facebook search also yielded results, with four entries on a site celebrating the centenary of Sanofi Pasteur Canada, and the fact that he served as Director of Connaught Laboratories, Dufferin Division, from 1955-1972.

I love knowing that this meticulous hematologist and scientific researcher was also fascinated by Dunne's ideas about the nature of time and the interface of consciousness in and through time. I am aware of the thread that binds me to him through the book that left his hands, perhaps to be sold in an estate sale, or passed to a relative, who in turn perhaps died, or sold it to someone else, who maybe held it for years before putting it up on eBay or Amazon where I found it. Who will have it after me? Where does the thread end? What part of it continues? What defines the end of a thing, or a person?

In any case, it's fascinating to reflect on the ways we move through life, through time, ever in that instantaneous slit of transection with the dimension or direction of duration. I practice a sort of recurrent meditation where I pause in activities and regard the world around me and myself in it and try to conceive of how these seconds pass away and new seconds come, all filled with the material stuff of the world and ourselves, all moving with constancy and duration and dependability, at least insofar as being where they were a moment ago or moving in a way that can be explained rationally -- except in the case of reading glasses, which have a way of disappearing and reappearing in impossible places that is quite annoying and utterly mysterious to me!

Watching sunset tonight, for example, and reflecting on the shape of the earth and its relationship to the distant sun and the angle of the rays slanting through our northern climes and dragging out the day, the twilight; and the moon, too, just over a quarter of the way through its four-part cycle, circling the earth under the mysterious pull of gravity, the heavy heart of the earth so powerful as to hold that dead orb in its living orbit for millennia past and yet to come; yet so gentle as to let an autumn leaf spiral gently and noiselessly to earth under the same spell; and to allow us frail, liquid sea-born sentiences to rise and shine each morning, walk the Earth and do all sorts of unspeakably cruel things to one another without being crushed flat to the ground or hurled into space, as so many of us amply deserve.
Photo: Will Rose, San Juan Islands, Nov 22, 2015

I wonder, then, how the curvature of space/time proven by Einstein plays its part in this. As I think of the sun, fusion explosion held in check by its own sheer weight, a sink of gravity that tugs the fabric of space toward itself and causes, perhaps, the planets to roll around it like balls inside a cone, and these planets in turn spinning, some holding further sway over satellite bodies spinning, spiraling -- what a dance! What forces of immense size and power in which we lead our little lives, and in the shadows or residue of which all of history and prehistory has unfolded, second by second....
Block print by Will Rose
instantaneous slice by slice, our lines intersecting, moving in relation to one another, sometimes with disastrous consequences like an asteroid colliding and wiping out most of life, or with little delights like birthday parties and orgasms and flashes of understanding that, like certain dreams, hold us in thrall for longer moments, tantalizing and beckoning toward some further understanding of the totality of time and space, before they, too, fade and slip away, and despite our desperate attempts to capture and convey them in the threads through time and space we call words, elicit little more from others or our future selves than polite or nostalgic comments like "That's nice. How interesting!"

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Hurray for Ireland! (opinion, song)

Hurray for Ireland! Green is the New Rainbow! 

Celebrate Ireland's being at the forefront of a progressive and tolerant spirit gaining ground despite global machinations of power, wealth, and extremism. The gay movement of the past fifty years finds itself in the unlikely vanguard of that rising spirit. GLBTQ, and the Irish, know how to push back at oppression. The pikes were flashin' at the risin' of the Moon!

Follows my original version of the Irish, subversive "Whack-fol-the-diddle" song, or "God Bless England," made famous by the Clancy Brothers. 

The New Rainbow
I’ll sing you a song of peace and love
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
To a land that leads all lands above
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
May peace and plenty be her share
Who made all marriage free and fair
God Bless gay Ireland is our prayer
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
So we say, hip hurray!
Come and listen while we say
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

Where we were shamed, oppressed, and kept
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
Dear Ireland woke and saw and wept
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
She gently urged a change of clime
Ignored the bishops’ doleful chime
And sent us off to church in her own good time

(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
So we say, hip hurray!
Come and listen while we say
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

Now our dads and mums were married square
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
Of due respect they got their share
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
Their children’s world has been restyled
From Dublin’s George to Galway’s Wilde,
And oh how Mother Church is riled!

(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
So we say, hip hurray!
Come and listen while we say
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

Now Irishfolk, forget the past!
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
And think of the time that’s coming fast
Photo courtesy of The Guardian
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
When nations all will recognize
How Common Weal’s legitimized
When Irish Green makes Rainbow Skies
 (Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

 (Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)
So we say, Ireland Gay!
Come and listen while we say
(Whack fol the diddle all the di-dol-day)

Copyright Will Rose 2015

With thanks to the Clancy Brothers for the definitive version of this song’s original.

God Bless Ireland, so I say!

As Ireland this weekend became the first country in the world to legalize gender-neutral marriage through a popular vote, there is a lot to celebrate. If a country with Ireland's long history of political and religious oppression can make such a step toward acceptance -- with a very large majority voting in favor of amending the civil marriage law -- then perhaps there is hope for the United States where 36 states and DC now have equal access to marriage under the law -- though all brought about by courts and legislatures, not voters.

Maybe there is hope for Russia, where homosexuality, even "advocating" or teaching about it, can bring lengthy prison sentences -- a hellish prospect in Russia's notoriously unhealthy and violent prison system.

Maybe there is hope for Caribbean island nations, where vestiges of colonialism still terrorize the minority homosexual population with "anti-buggery" laws that can be arbitrarily enforced. 

Maybe there is hope in Africa -- in Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, where American conservative Christian groups have become colonists, planting flags for their bible-based rejection of homosexuality, just as the British and other colonial powers did in the past (perhaps wiping out aboriginal cultures where gender deviance had a place.)

Maybe even Northern Ireland will join the Republic in changing the legal status of homosexual marriage -- soon.

Hurray for Ireland! Green is the new Rainbow!

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