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Archive for February, 2007

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Michael Moll was a local poet who died from HIV AIDS a few years ago.  He was mystical, had an affinity for stage noir theatrics and as honest and frank as a knife blade through your neck. He was warmly regarded by friends of mine.  I’ve been pouring over a few thousand pictures taken since I purchasd my first digital camera about 10 years ago and saved on the old  Iomega ZIP disks.  My older computer won’t work forever, so I’m transferring these pictures of poets, people and corps (no pun intended) I wrote about during my Springfield Business Journal daze, and airplanes onto CDs. And in doing this, obsessing with this really (and it’s never fun when one is obsessed with an enterprise but one does it anyway. WHY? Because one is ob-frikking-SESSED with it.) I’ve begun thinking about pictures as I’ve never thought of them before. 

      Michael made my cut, made it onto the Poets CD because people I respect thought well of him, and I respect their intelligence.  Others did not.  

<>    Another who did was Jose Martinez who came to Springfield when I was at the helm of the local Poets & Writers Literary Forum.  He and his buddy who we met at the bus station, freshly arrived from Mardi Gras in N’awlins had a fine romp around the city, including a visit to the then-closed-for-renovation Vachel Lindsay home before a fine presentation at Gallinas downtown on a nutty Saturday night.

The project still in process was partially inspired by a welcome e from a former local poet, Barb Robinette who now lives in semi-retirement with her good huz in rural Arkansas. She is a fine poet in her own “write” (<–I know, how Tinker Toy of me) who is one of the most encouraging people I know when it comes to my sporadic safaris into the wilds of writing poetry. I say safari because poetry is a mind-dangerous pursuit. The writer often returns to camp with nothing bagged, and even if you land something worth chewing on and mounting on a page, there’s usually as much or more regret over the ones who got away.  Barb tot me thinking about my own poetry while sharing her appreciation that I’m still writing.  I’ve not written ONE poem this year. I know because I checked my computer and the cupboard was bare. Perhaps my legacy will be a few thousand pictures of poets I respected, on a shelf somewhere at the Sangamon Valley Collection downtown.  I think, I pray that it will be more than that.

When I headed off to substiteach at Washington MS Wednesday, I took along the poems I had clipped from the New Yorkers over the past several weeks. I THOUGHT I was going to be teaching Art, but circumstances changed, and I was assigned Hall Monitor Duty for three hours. They even gave me my own AK-47 <– just kidding. So for three hours, I stood at the intersection of a quiet hallway with a sheaf of clipped poems, reading most twice, pocketing those I did not care to keep and setting the keepers into my copy of Lee Gurga’s most excellent Haiku For Poets, which I’ve been savoring while waiting for my renewed subscription to Poetry (the magazine; not the misnomer given to prophetic babble) to resume.  It was a long drought reading throough so much desert (poetry too smart for my softening head) in search of something to slake my thirst and leave me wanting more.  I’ll write more about this in a future blog after I’ve read all the poems, and that depends on when my next sub teaching assignment comes. In the meantime, try to imagine my froggy countenance, standing poet-erectus in a middle school hallway in Springfield’s East Side, head buried in poems by John Updike,  Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver and Charles Simic (and others; those I remember off the top) and wonder, as I wondered, Is this the best place a guy with what I have to offer can BE?

And then my microwave died. I’ve lived with a microwaye since 1987, with the one I owned up to last night at 7:19 since 1994 when I inherited Dad’s and gave mine to the Octave Chanute Museum in Rantoul, Illinois. (<– long story; aisle spare you).  Suddenly I’m a PRIMITIVE!. Of course I had to wash a small pan to heat coffee water, and I did, but I’m thinking strategically re the acquisition of another microwave oven, used mostly for heating water for coffee and tea and warming pre-cooked sausages and baked chickens  . . . or a tea kettle. A few Saturdays ago when I explained to Vachel Lindsay Home State Historic site director Jennie Battles how unhappy I was with microwave heated hot tea (put the bag into the cup of water and cook for three minutes), she urged me to get a tea kettle, and that may be what I do, at least until I can afford a new microwave. If you have a microwave for sale on the cheap, let me know — I’m in the book. Mayhaps we can work a deal; aye?
<>I’ve launched an aviation blog, also at WordPress. Will post a link to it on the side here when I get some halfway decent content posted. As far as my relationship with YOU, I’d rather be known as a writer. And a hummin bean. Aviatin history, like Vachel Lindsay’s life and poetry, is best left with “specialists,”

BTW, the current Newsletter of the American Aviation Historical Society, just arrived in my mailbox this morning, has an article by Job Conger entltled:  Tomorrow’s Anachronism; the Disappearing Hyphen.

Live long . . . . . . . . . . . and proper!

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I was confident that I could stay up late Wednesday night knowing school would resume Thursday, because every teacher capable of teaching school as usual would make it in to catch up with activities lost Tues & Wed. Anticipating a call from the sub line for Fri. action, I spent a challenging hour digging my car out of the driveway and making sure I could back into the street. So there really was no excuse for me staying up late — until 4a — early Fri morning, but I did, and when the sub line called at 7:10, I was glad to be returning to class for the first time in almost two nail biting weeks. I’d been away all of three, but I had taken myself off the sub calling roster to finish a writing assignment by deadline.

I had not anticipated the condition of my car at minus four degrees on a bright sunny Friday. I was due at 7:40, and on a good day, I could make it in 15 minutes. Allowing 20 to include five minutes for the engine to warm up and start defrosting the windsheild, my key went into the ignition at 7:20 and the engine started right away. So much for the easy part.

The ice crystals that form on car glass don’t disappear at minus four nearly as fast as they do at plus 30. As the engine began to warm, I tried, with a broken ice scraper to get a hole large enough to see through in front of the steering wheel. The scraper was useless and the brush attached to it was almost as useless. NEXT TIME I will use a credit card, but this novel notion didn’t come to me until I began writing this entry. I knew the heater was working the way I know God has a beard and a voice like James Early Jones. But the presence of heat, to say nothing of James Earl Jones seemed mythic as desperation set in. I could not be way late for the assignment at JMS, teaching Learning Resources. So cautiously I backed out of the driveway.

Driving into the rising sun, I could barely anything in front and nothing on my left or right; only a little to the rear. Thirty feet east of driveway,  I felt for the  curb on my right, stopped and  scrapped  a  little more  off windshield and windows with the brush.  I planned to stay on the right, take lightly travelled  residential streets streets when possible and keep the windshield as much in direct sunlight as possible. By the time I was in heavy traffic, I figured visibility would be significantly improved thanks to the heater taking effect. And I prayed that the Holy Jones would be with me in the right seat. I should have been accosted by a Springfield Police officer then and there and ordered to return to my own driveway and cease and desist from being a menace to navigation. But it didn’t happen that way.

Slowly. . . . . . . . . . . cautiously . . . . radio turned off so I could sense my way down the street . . . I made it as far as Ash going east, past Sixth. To see to my left, I had to open my door. The window was frozen shut; couldn’t wind it down. There was a short line of cars halted at railroad tracks, the street blocked by heavy freight on cold steel. As I sat there, I noticed that what indicated a quarter of a tank of fuel when I had started 20 minutes earlier was approaching empty! I had left some cash at home, taking only enough for my traditional sub teacher lunch: vending machine party mix, peanut butter & crackers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a Mountain Dew.) and my sudden new fear was that I’d run out of fuel before reaching school.

So I U-turned homeward bound to get the $5 bill and call school to say I’d be late. Driving away from the sun was a whaleofalot easier than driving into it, and my feeling was returning to my feet next to the heat vent. Grabbed cash, called school, apologized for being late, promised I would make it in. Time: 8;00.

Back on the street and I could see 50 percent better than earlier. Stopped at Fourth at South Grand, heard a car honk and a fellow waving at me. Opened my door to talk to him; window still frozen shut. It was Bill Ridley, my first “boss” in my writing career when I wrote funeral home advertisements for the Order of the Golden Rule back in 1979. He asked how I was doing. I had just enough time to say I wasn’t working full time, desperately needed to be, and as the light turned green and impatient cretins in cars behind us began to lie down on their HORNS, asked him to remember me if he can ever use a writer. BOOM, back into motion.

Bought $6 of fuel with cash and asked the owner of the fuel station/convenience store at Fifth at SG if I could write a check for a snow scraper. YES! Thank God. Grabbed the last one. How much? (why can’t I get out of italics mode here? Maybe if I change to a new paragraph . . .)
 
He said (STILL in italics! This is as bad as Blogspot, DANGIT!) three dollars and change. I had seen the same scraper at Shop N Save for more tha $6, but I didn’t argue with him. For all I know he gave me a break. Scraped off the big areas of remaining ice and snow. No one would  arrest me now. . . .

At 8:35 I pulled into the faculty parking lot and jogged part of the way on immaculately cleared concrete to the office. During the final three minutes or so, the car had finally warmed up and I was transiting the city like most grownups who can tie their own shoes.

I was greeted by Mrs. P who explained I was doing fine, I should not feel bad about being late, that a lot of other teachers were experiencing the same kinds of delays. The day of teaching was an utter tropical breeze of friendly, professional  faculty and students who generally behaved themselves. The day there was a delight. I departed happy and grateful for a day’s honest work.

Even stopped at the hobby shop en route home. Didn’t by anything by I enjoyed seeing the guys and drooling over the new model airplane kits. Didn’t by anything. Noble dreams are not valid tender in most retail enterprises.

Home warm and safe and after a short nap in the easy chair, resumed normal “programming.” I will NOT be caught so flat-footed and unprepared again. Felt so good about the day that on Saturday morning, I spent another hour shoveling snow, just for the good exercise and to show a little pride. It’s obvious I’m a lucky mother’s son. Now if I could just find a frikking full-time EMPLOYER!

Live long . . . . . . and proper!

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Is Blues Art?

 I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it.

Why is it art? Why is it not art?

I’m straddling the fence here, and I;m asking for your opinion to help me decide.

A long-time friend sent me a news release for the coming 21st Anniversary celebration of the Illinois Central Blues Club concert coming up March 10. Visit my http://www.civag.com/artscalendar.htm for time and place.. Brutal revelation –> I named what I intended from the start to be an inclusive, acts of all kinds web domain CIVAG (Central Illinois Visual Artist Galleries) because the potential for support appeared to lie most obviously with the visual arts community, many of whom I met during and after my Illinois Times visual artist column. This explains why anyone who clicks on the site map and several other links at the CIVAG home page gets connected to a panoply of arts. At no time did I imagine news of “blues” events would be included in that roster.


Because I never considered blues to be art. In the aftermath of posting the 21st Anniversary item, I began to wonder how right I’ve been, never making the connection. You visit Prairie Art Alliance’s H.D. Smith Gallery, and are stopped in your tracks by a painting that was obviously produced by a Labrador painted with watery acrylic rainbow hues and trying to shake them out of his furry wet coat. The dog’s owner obviously had placed a stretched canvas near the pooch as he emerged and caught a lot of the paint that shook off. And the dog’s owner is asking $250 for an 18″ x 30″ result. Is it ART? Lots of folks suggest HELLNO! Aficionadoes who appreciate paintings like that explain that some art is too hard for John Q. NASCARfan to understand. My problem is that blues is too easy to understand. Many guitarists have been playing E, A and B7 chords four beats to the bar since they were 15 years old, my own dang self included. That doesn’t make them practitioners of blues.

It also means that some music fans may not be able to whistle the melody to a few measures from Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, but they know Mississippi John Hurt’s home town and the names of every album he recorded. So we know intelligent people have different taste. And we may observe there are more elements to appreciate in blues than three cords and a repetitive lyric to blues. But is the blues ART?

Does it have to be art to be worthwhile and appreciated as an entertaining medium without apologizing to anyone? No. Some people don’t want to be educated and challenged when they’re being entertained. Case in point: 90 percent of Fox Television Network programming.

We can’t make money a yardstick for defining art. Vinnie van Gogh sold ONE painting when he was alive, and that was to his brother, an art dealer. But the nutty brushmeister pursued his higher calling the way some disciples of Big Bill Broonzy follow in his path. Perhaps having no sense of reality is an essential element of art. Only then, can one chase moonbeams in whatever form they are manifest in the artist’s soul. Do blues players show this dedication? Absolutely. And so to fans who support blues with their dedicated labors and checkbooks. But is it art?

I posted the news about the March 10 party at an arts website? Was that appropriate given what YOU understand about blue and art? My mind could go either way with this, and what WE decide will determine whether or not I post news of future blues events. What do you think?

Live long . . . . and proper!

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Mining New Yorkers

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A few months ago, poet/painter friends D&SP gave me the first of what has totalled a few hundred New Yorker magazines, dating back to 2002. I began reading them voraciously with a passion unequalled since getting very lucky on a third date in 1991. About 12 issues into this reading frenzy, I realized that with most of my free time consumed by PBS TV when something appealing was broadcast — usually Mondays thru Wednesdays and then Fridays — and most of the rest of it devoted to aviation history, my arts web site and browsing Internet sites with pictures which used to have staples in them, I needed a way optimize my time with Grade A journalism and humor. The solution: Mine the New Yorkers.

Most of the past three months have been spent turning pages of magazines in the living room while keeping one eye and ear tuned to whatever was on the screen. I’m no speed reader, but I read enough of every article encountered to determine whether or not I wanted to read more. If I did, I pulled the article out, stapled it (three or more pages) or taped it (two pages) and set it aside. Every article by Seymour Hersch, Steve Martin, Woody Allen and Ken Auletta was culled. Those names are gold, and whatever they write is gold. I also pulled every article about art, architecture, the armed conflict in the East, and every poem. These I will read at least once. Outstanding photographs (not the kind you think; I’m talking stunning, inspiring images), memorable front covers, illustrations of art have been saved as well, and will be taped to the insides of cabinet and closet doors around the house. I read every cartoon, and those I enjoyed, I set aside to be added to a collection of humor I’ve been amassing for 15 years, mostly New Yorker and Playboy cartoons. Some of the articles will be kept in a pile to read again or set aside to pass on to friends I imagine will find them interesting. Most articles will follow the rest of the magazines from which they came into the same slightly more cosmopolitan landfill. I’m not confident that most of the poems will stay a part of my collection. A lot of what doesn’t impress me simply can’t penetrate my soft head. But I will be a better man for the poems I do understand, that I set aside to savor again and to share with others, all unofficially of course, in strict compliance with copyright laws.

Pictured above is the sum total of what I saved. I’ve just finished reviewing the set aside cartoons and taping most of them to plastic reinforced loose leaf notebook pages. A few didn’t pass the second cut, and are now in the circular file.

I’m glad this effort is behind me so NOW I can begin reading the articles and poems. From the looks of PBS programming recently — I mean a ballroom DANCE competition hosted by Mari Lou Henner; today’s Patrice Munsell, come ON! — I may have more time for reading than anticipated. I should count my blessings. At least Tucker Carlson”s off the air.

To be sure, I don’t expect any of this effort to help find me an employer. But if I must languish in near destitution as seems to be my frikking destiny, I am determined to be one of the best informed sycophants in this city, and I have D&SP and New Yorker’s David Remick to thank for making it happen.

About the thumbnailed pictures below I hope. The first I took about 10 a, and the others about 3 p Tuesday.
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Following his interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, there has been growing controversy over rumors eminating anonymusely from white spokespersons that the majority of white voters in this country may not support Mike Huckleberry — I’m sorry, I meant to say Mike Huckabee — in his recently announced primary campaign for the White House. The Republican candidate from Hope, Arkansas seemed unaffected by the possibility of such rumors, deemed certain (by punters and pundits) to be the flash point of major controversy in the coming weeks.

This blogger was so affected that I hit the mute button so I could read a magazine article about the move of the Illinois State Capitol to Springfield in an Illinois history magazine, and occasionally glanced at the silent screen, waiting for something interesting to be broadcast, like a pharmeceutical drug commercial.

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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Great news for Springfield residents who would rather take a taxi to St. Louis Lambert Airport so they don’t have to fly from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport: starting soon, you can fly to Lambert as inexpensively and almost as fast. Officials are reluctant to release the name of the airline, and when questioned recently, seemed disinclined to set a time table for its service introduction to our community. The new service is certain to be popular with Wal-Mart shoppers and true Americans who enjoy the scent of cod liver oil in their clothes.

Observers note the airplane is based on an airplane design created initially to be a bomber our air force will be buying in a few years. The cost of the airplanes meshes the national defense budget we can afford after the coming tax cuts and new wars which also aren’t going to happen. “We will fight those wars — which we aren’t going to have (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) with the air force we can afford; not what whining Libras would rather have,” one defense secretary explained. “Once we prove this airplane in civilian airline use, its use for offensive purposes is not only a darn sweet idea for this administration, it will be cost-effective, especially after the additional tax cuts and closures of more veterans’ hospitals.”

Thanks to Barry Tempest for the picture! 

Live long . . . . . and proper.

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No confirmation, but rumor has it that either Laura or the dog have had enough of 43’s pomp and smirkin’ stance re the war. My bet: it’s the dog. If true, that will leave him with only the other and a few flagrantly alive die-hard big sticks in Congress. 43 has not yet learned that pomp and righteous indignation, even from the Right side of the aisle, doesn’t confer upon him the moral high ground. If the double-breasted, wing-tipped Theocrats understood this, they would meow as loudly for the thousands of human embryos destroyed daily so their loving but challenged wives could experience giving birth to silver-spoon babies produced with one of few modern (post Magna Carta) developments they recognize without equivocation called in vitro fertilization. But you know, spores fans, I wax long in the tooth with this rant, first because I believe what I said and I’ve wanted to say it and B., because I needed to connect some dots to the groovy title which came to me four days ago, and I’ve carried with me since like a newly minted silver dollar: just had to share it with the rest of the wild — okay, world.

Finished the assignment but won’t see a penny for two weeks. Ameren has given me a week and a half for action to keep my heat connected, I took myself off the sub teacher roster for a week so I could concentrate on the writing, so I have no pay for teaching down the pipeline, so it seems that just when I think I’ve stepped out of the muck, I walk into a low-hanging tree branch. Go figgir.

Finally, I wanted to see and hear a man I respect without equivocation, whom I like a lot, but whom I wish would be a senator. So I stayed home and watched his appearance on ABC. The Springfield announcer — don’t remember her name — referred to “former senator and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson” . . . . . I wanted to weep. I expect that kind of historical perspective on WQNA, but not on a network affiliate.  Someone at the station should find an Illinois Blue Book from the 50s and learn that babe a thang or tew about prefessionalism behind the microscope — make that microphone.

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