Category Archives: Photography

Gravity, Don’t Fail Me Now.. (gym gnostic 1)

 

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And your gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through….Bob Dylan

Know your gym……Slim Volume

 

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two geezers
pink and steaming
toweling down
after a shower
discussing gravity
how it is not fixed
how it decreases
with distance from the earth’s core
how, if one was to climb to the top of Everest
since weight is the product of mass and gravity
one would weigh less at the top of Everest
and Slim’s thinking
this is one fucking erudite conversation
and he wants a piece of it
so he points out that
one would regain that weight
on returning to sea level
and one of the geezers replies
yeah but you’d probably burn 10,000 calories
climbing up and down the fucking mountain
and a nearby jock encased in breathable fabric
says shit, I’d burn that in 40 minutes on the rowing machine
and Slim fires back wryly
keep telling yourself that
and the locker room erupts in laughter
and in that moment
basking in the unbearable lightness of banter
Slim defies gravity and levitates
above the bacterial swamp
that is the locker room floor.

Between Chris Rock and a Green Place

 

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Back at the start of the summer. I spent the weekend in Gibson’s landing on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia; a knick knack tidy little town where one is never far from an art exhibition or a market selling jalapeno red pepper dip or a shop selling jokey hand towels; the kind of town where people go to follow their bliss and frequently catch up with it and even if they fail, a freshly baked muffin or a gluten free pie is always available as compensation.

Add to that, some magnificent views of the coastal mountains, Mount Big Thing and Mount Next Big Thing, and some good weather and you have a perfect place to relax, read and enjoy the sun, which I did, bringing with me a Rolling Stone, a New Yorker, the previous weekend’s Sunday New York Times (it takes me a week to read it) and Bruce Springsteen’s excellent autobiography (the Boss can write).

Both Rolling Stone and The New Yorker had articles on Steve Bannon.  Matt Taibi’s piece in Rolling Stone was funny, caustic and concise; the New Yorker piece by Connie Bruck rambled on forever, generally adding to the picture I already had of Steve Bannon as a dangerous amoral individual. One quote got my attention, from an anonymous friend: “he never fit in the world of investment banking, – he was this gauche Irish kid”. Over in the New York Times, there’s a piece on Jimmy Fallon, turns out he’s Irish too: “I’m Irish, I need all the luck I can get”; apparently his stage mark is in the shape of a four leaf clover. I would like to point out  that the shamrock which is used as a symbol of Ireland is actually a three leaf clover (it was used by early Christians to explain the concept of three gods in one, the Holy Trinity, those 5th century Irish peasants must have been a clever bunch, if they could grasp that one). Never mind, Jimmy Fallon is talented and likeable, so he can be Irish anytime he wants.

Back to the New Yorker where Calvin Trillin writes an article titled “The Irish Constellation” in which he explains that for a long time he thought the Orion Constellation was actually called “The O’Ryan Constellation”. He stretches this extremely lame joke way beyond the point where it is even remotely amusing. At the end of the article he describes being at a talk about The Orion Constellation in which an Irish man who, he says, has an accent like Barry Fitzgerald,  gets up and makes a comment that reveals that he too is under the same misapprehension regarding The Orion Constellation. Laugh? I nearly cried. By the way, for those of you under the age of a hundred, who don’t know who Barry Fitzgerald was, he was an Irish character actor who won an Academy Award, for playing an Irish priest (no surprises there). He died in 1961, my mother thought Barry Fitzgerald was old.

My wife interrupts my reading to tell me that Sean Spicer is Irish American and likes to wear green shamrock covered pants on St. Patrick’s Day. This is more than irritating, the only consolation is the sun is out and I’m getting a bit of a tan. Yes, that’s right a tan, I mention that in case by now you are picturing me as some  helium-voiced shillelagh swinging, freckled-faced mick. Maybe I’m being a bit sensitive.

I turn to Bruce, one of my heroes.  As I said above, Bruce can write and when the subject is New Jersey, Asbury Park or his early life, he writes really well. It turns out Bruce is half Italian, half Irish: his mother is of Italian descent; his father is of Irish descent. His mother is hard working, positive and supportive; his father is miserable, disappointed, drinks too much and is prone to unpredictable rage. Later in life, his father becomes mentally ill. Bruce suggests that this mental illness and perhaps his own depression came over with his Irish ancestors who came to America to flee the famine. C’mon Bruce, throw us a bone, if you have to indulge in facile causation, perhaps you might concede that your gift for language and story-telling, your talent for writing laments (The River, Downbound Train) comes from your Irish heritage. This is all getting too much, I look up and down the beach and wonder if the other people hanging around enjoying the sun know that I’m Irish.

Then rescue comes from an unlikely source, an article in Rolling Stone about Chris Rock. Apparently Chris is a U2 fan. On the day of his father’s wake, he found time to run to the record store and buy a copy of “Rattle and Hum” which had been released that day. “I love Bono”, Rock is quoted as saying. Flash back to North Florida, early eighties and I’m driving along a coast road close to Amelia Island, sand from the adjacent dunes drifts across the road, the sea is doing that blue sparkling thing, I’m listening to “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday” on the radio, hearing it for the first time, and the hair at the back of my neck is standing on end. “How long must we sing this song”, the old politics is being rejected by an Irish band and they are playing my music – rock and roll – not some maudlin shite dispensed by  some bearded guy with a banjo and a beer belly. You see back then if you asked anyone two things they associated with Ireland, they would say drinking and terrorism (terrorism that was partially funded, ironically, by Irish Americans). But Bono broke the Irish stereotype and for a while, at least, Ireland was cool. Ireland was where U2 and Bono lived.  I have been a fan of Bono ever since.

So, all you republican ersatz Irishmen out there with your shillelaghs and your shamrocks and your antediluvian politics, look for a personality somewhere else,  co-opt someone else’s imaginary identity; dress up as Mounties, wear lederhosen, I don’t care, just leave us alone. By the way, the current Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadker, is gay, fiscally conservative and the son of an Indian father and an Irish mother. In other words, he is a complex human being not a cartoon.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day in Ollantaytambo/ Station Road (2 haiku’s)

We got off the train from Machu Picchu at the Ollantaytambo station, walked up the station road to the town square and came upon this: Mother’s Day in Ollantaytambo. It went on all day – entertainment, raffles, prizes, politician’s speeches. The ladies seemed to enjoy themselves, although they never clapped once.

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Later that evening, we had dinner in the restaurant down at the station and walking home we witnessed this haiku-worthy scene.

Station Road

                I

Two black dogs humping

a puzzled white terrier

on the station road.

              II

Puzzled about what?

about the expectations

of the dog in front.

 

photo by Marie Feeney

 

 

Anderson Cooper’s Hair

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Anderson Cooper’s Hair

 

There’s something comforting

about Anderson Cooper’s hair

its quietude

its insouciance

its unabashed whiteness

no Paul Manafort chocolate brown

no Clooney dusting of grey

no Pavarotti boot polish black

just plain white

lightly cropped

a hint of a comb over, maybe

but that’s ok

and it does not move

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Irma

blasts of hot air

from a Trump surrogate’s mouth

nothing moves Anderson Cooper’s hair;

to misquote Paul McCartney

and triple down on a preposition

in this ever changing world

in which we live in

there’s something

that’s comforting

about that.

Texts from the Underworld (a minor edit)

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he can’t quite remember when they started –

the text messages direct to his head,

actual text messages

appearing on the screen of his brain

preceded by a ping;

they were innocuous at first

quasi-inspirational stuff like:

ping! write like no one is reading;

ping! own the day, it cost you nothing.

Then they became fragmented

as if someone was trigger happy

on the ‘send’ button:

ping! America, the country

ping! that God is asked to bless

ping! is hurtling down

ping! a golden garbage chute

ping! that goes all the way

ping! to hell!

Then, nothing for a while.

Then, one message repeating

its sneer implicit in its abbreviation

its adopted argot,

over and over again:

ping! Dems got no game

ping! Dems got no game

ping! Dems got no game….

 

Photo: Detail from fresco inside the Camposanto, Pisa, Italy

 

Texts from the Underworld

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he can’t quite remember when they started –

the text messages direct to his head,

actual text messages

appearing on the screen of his brain

preceded by a ping;

they were innocuous at first

quasi-inspirational stuff like:

ping! write like no one is reading;

ping! own the day, it cost you nothing.

Then they became fragmented

like someone was trigger happy

on the ‘send’ button:

ping! America, the country

ping! that God is asked to bless

ping! is hurtling down

ping! a golden garbage chute

ping! that goes all the way

ping! to hell!

Then, nothing for a while.

Then, one message repeating

its sneer implicit in its abbreviation

its adopted argot,

over and over again

a non-stop textual assault:

ping! Dems got no game

ping! Dems got no game

ping! Dems got no game….

 

Photo: Detail from fresco inside the Camposanto, Pisa, Italy

 

Bones Of Contention

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Bones of Contention

Bones to pick.

Barrack Obama pardons Chelsea Manning.

Donald Trump pardons Joe Arpaio.

Is there moral equivalence here?

The Trump surrogate on CNN thinks so

but there are no metrics to measure by

so the discussions drag on and on

and the screen splits into two heads

and the screen splits into four heads

and the screen splits into eight heads

a pundit arrives

a pundit leaves

a pundit gets indignant

a pundit gets emotional

a pundit gets that gotcha smirk

there is talk of smoke and fire

there not been one without the other

and I see this distraction of pundits

this deflection of pundits

this confusion of pundits

standing looking at the horizon

across an open plain,

oblivious, while behind them

Rome burns.

 

 

 

Ooh, Chemicals, Bad! (Slim, eHarmony and a Rant)

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The sun drops behind the ridge of the house

convection currents go crazy in the trees,

the moth balls smell like halitosis

on the warm neurotic breeze.

Slim and I are logging some early evening deck time chowing down on barbecued steaks from ‘What The Cat Dragged In’, our local artisan butcher shop, and sipping a balls forward red, having already polished off a growler of craft IPA – slightly over-hopped with a hint of camel’s breath.

It’s hot. Rivulets of sweat trickle down Slim’s face forming a damp half-moon at the neck of his white tee shirt which carries the message “IT’S NOT IMPORTANT”. I’m telling him about how I spread moth balls all around the base of the shed at the end of the garden in a vain attempt to deter the two skunks who have set up home underneath it.

(rivulets,

Romulus,

amulets)

“Napthalene” Slim announces “is the chemical name for moth balls. I was out on an eHarmony date last night and I mentioned to the lady I was having dinner with that I used to work in the chemical industry….”

Slim on eHarmony, this is news to me. I wonder what his profile is like, what hobbies has he listed? I know he doesn’t kayak or go for long walks on the beach at sunset, his main interests outside of poetry are Premier League soccer and playing bass in a Clash tribute band (not coming to a venue anywhere near anybody, soon). Plus, he hasn’t dated anyone in years and his wardrobe consists of faded jeans and white tee shirts that are too small for him and usually carry some nihilist, dystopian message.

“What did you list as your hobbies on your eHarmony profile?” I interrupt, to his annoyance.

“Cooking, now let me get on with my story. As I said I mentioned to the lady I was having dinner with that I used to work in the chemical industry and she grimaced and said:  ‘Ooh, chemicals, bad!’ So I told her that at least 50% of what she was wearing was synthetic material made from petroleum by products; that behind the walls of the restaurant that we were sitting in were miles of electrical wire covered in plastic insulating material made from petroleum byproducts; that the phone she keeps checking contains plastics, not to mention lithium, probably mined using child labour in Africa; that the toilet seats  that we plonk our over-privileged arses on are made from plastic; that all these materials are products of the chemical industry and are manufactured in some shit hole of a town far from our blissed out home; that we are not going back to an agrarian society, we are too soft and distracted, the work is too hard and we would be bored out of our fucking skulls; that we have to regulate industry, not get rid of it and how we can we possibly move forward if we don’t understand where we stand, or sit”.

“What was her response?” I asked.

“She said that she was going to the washroom to plonk her over privileged arse on a plastic toilet seat, and she never came back.”

 

 

Alternate Take – Goodbye Reince Priebus (with apologies to Queen)

 

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Goodbye Reince Preibus

I’m sorry you had to go

now we are left with Bannon

and his auto fellatio

Scaramucci, Scaramucci

will you do the fandango.

I have been fascinated by the name “Reince Preibus” since I first heard it, the chainsaw screech of “Reince”, the Latinate portliness of “Preibus”.

Reince: There is something otherworldly, foreign about those slender vowels “ei” before the “nce”. The “ince” part is fairly common – wince, mince, convince- and  even the Germanic sounding “ein” is common enough -skein, stein – but “eince” is something else, a chainsaw screech but modified as if heard through ear muffs. There is also something medicinal about it – a salve to be applied sparingly (put some reince on that cut, son). 

Then “Priebus” takes the “ei” and reverses them (pronounced to rhyme with “Brie”). It has a Latinate portliness, like a Shakespearean character, or a writ to slap someone with- “Habeas Priebus”; or a complicated skateboard manoeuvre – he executed a perfect reverse Priebus.

Yes, the Trump administration is a treasure trove of assonance, dissonance and onomatopoeia. The man himself sounds like a heavy landing, a cross between “rump” and “triumph”. “Jared Kushner” is the sound of something nasty being squelched underfoot and Melania and Ivanka with their Eastern European aura put the “ass” back in “assonance” (sorry about that one).

 

What The Folk! – the 40th Annual Vancouver Folk Festival

 

Great weekend at the Vancouver Folk Festival, highlights for me were Rhiannon Giddens, Bahamas and The Revivalists plus three young British folk singers (more about that later).

I was particularly interested this time around in hearing the response of the folk music world to the current political climate in the USA, Britain, to climate change, to the refugee crisis. This was all touched upon in a workshop I attended on the Friday afternoon which was led by Billy Bragg. The theme was “Working Class Heroes”; Rhiannon Giddens and Grace Petrie were part of the group of five singers on stage. I saw both of them give better performances later in the festival, here they seem constrained by the downbeat atmosphere. The song introductions, although heartfelt and eloquent, went on way too long;  Pete Seeger’s name was dropped more times than an egg at a drunken egg and spoon race. Later in the evening, Billy Bragg sang “There’s Power in the Union” and a song about climate change which was essentially a rewrite of “The Times they are a Changin’”. On another night, Shawn Colvin sang a beautiful version of Paul Simon’s “American Tune”. It all felt a bit nostalgic, the established singers seemed to be creatively chewing on a bone when it came to addressing today’s issues, to be looking back to former struggles for inspiration.

However, in the afternoon of day 2, I attended a workshop called “Keep Calm and Carry On” (which was a poster produced by the British government in 1939), and I found what I was looking for – folk music as a living organism. The performers – Jake Morley, Will Varley and Grace Petrie, all English – were anything but calm, “stay angry and carry on” would have been a better description. Of course it’s not enough to be angry, an artist has to make his/her anger interesting and that they did. They were all in their own way, original, talented song writers – witty, profane, poetic, self-deprecating (they are English after all). Grace Petrie is more punk in her approach, has a gift for word play and knows how to write a chorus; Will Varley manages to be Dylanesque, but be his own man at the same time – a poet with a bullhorn voice; Jake Morley writes more complex songs, has a gift for melody and is a percussive, propulsive guitar player who reminds me a little bit of Cat Stevens with his off kilter rhythm. But most of all, they were very funny and had none of that smug, preaching to the choir earnestness that sometimes plagues folk music. Check out Grace Petrie below:

 

 

And here’s a reprise of a poem, I post every year at this time.

Slim at the Vancouver Folk Festival

One hour into the folk festival

and a mellow, minor key, melancholy

is seeping into Slim’s bones,

he feels it like an arthritic ache

and he wishes that someone

would duck walk across the stage

shooting staccato bursts of distorted guitar

at the chill, Tilley clad audience

who, unlike Slim, have a default mode

other than anger.

 

 

 

The Universe Can’t be Explained

 

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I re-discovered this post just the other day. It was written back in those heady days when Slim and I thought that slimverse in all its 12 syllable glory would sweep the internet and replace the haiku as the verse form of choice. Needless to say, this hasn’t happened and I have to admit that even this blog has succumbed to the luxury of those extra 5 syllables. I’m including the interview with Slim from the original post to re-capture the innocence and optimism of that time.

The Universe Can’t Be Explained 

1

The engine

does not know

where the car

is going.

2

like a frog

down a well

we only

know the walls

 

 

An Interview with Slim

So Slim, what inspired you to write this poem?

Well, I was watching the Stephen Hawkins bio, “The Theory of Everything”, and it got me thinking about the Universe. By the way, I’m also thinking about writing a book called “Managing Expectations – The Theory of a Couple of Things”.

Very droll.

Indeed.

The poem is in this new form which you are working with, are you excited about this?

Yes.

You don’t seem excited.

I have a condition, I’m auto-impassive. It used to be called ”acute solemnity”. I’m incapable of showing emotion, and in my case, the condition is limited to positive emotions. I can display anger and irritation as you are well aware.

Is it hereditary?

Yes, on my mother’s side. Half of my family has it, that’s why in family photos one half of the family is smiling and the other is not.

Fascinating. Now tell me more about the poem.

Well it’s quite simple, four lines of 3 syllables each. I look on these poems as poems for the 21st century, the smart phone era, the era of distraction. Something you could read on the bus, on the subway, something that can be enjoyed without too much effort. Like a small square of chocolate with your morning coffee.

Cadbury’s Milk or Hershey’s?

Cadbury’s or maybe one of those artisan bars, you know, 70% cocoa, or a peak from the Toblerone mountain range.

When did you first get the idea for this form?

I was out drinking with a group of fellow poets and one thing led to another and I got home at 4 AM and sat down and wrote “Magic” which was blogged a week or so back. It’s a clumsy attempt, I think we should trash it.

What were you discussing until 4 in the morning?

Enjambment.

“Magic” has an uncharacteristic cod-mystical feel to it, were there other substances being abused?

I can’t remember.

What do you call your group of poets.

The Poet’s Circle.

Really, isn’t that a bit literal, a bit prosaic for a bunch of poets. It’s like saying “a party of plumbers”, “a coterie of carpenters” and that at least would be alliterative. Very disappointing.

Fuck off.

What?

Fuck off!

Okay.

Photo: Laptopia.

(Get) Over the Moon

 

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A second post involving the moon, in the space of a few days. We are experiencing unusually dry sunny weather up here and the moon is hanging around most evenings, so I’m taking the opportunity to re-purpose an older poem and to use the word “re-purpose” which I’m hearing a lot lately; yes, yet another verbed noun, meaning I guess: “to assign a different purpose to an existing object, thing”. The odd thing is I have never heard anyone use  the verb “to purpose”, which would mean “to assign a purpose to an object, thing”, perhaps because every thing  has an already assigned purpose. Now there’s a rabbit hole…

Bathos

The moon hung

like a cheddar searchlight

in the glycol sky

and we hung

out on the deck.