Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Old Fashioned Way

John Dillinger's Mug Shot
 This would have to be called a "RAVE", I suppose, since I conceive it as a piece read aloud to a crowd with rhythmic incantation with a certain destination.  It's dedicated to my fellow artist, Lin Ross.

Al Capone's Mug Shot



Jesse James robbed whole trains
but you knew with whom you were dealing.
They yelled "Hands up!" but not any more
you reach for a card when the stealing starts.
Health insurance goes to Dillinger.
Capone does Smog Reduction.
Charge to Baby Face Nelson
or your house goes down in the suction
the price for prescriptions is beyond description
an invoice so swollen it looks like a golem
your meds need a doctor
infections getting hotter
there must be something wrong
when a drug sounds like a song
help me doctor help me diagnose this bill,
tell me why I must take this pill
I've been using as prescribed
but I think I'm gonna die
from confusion
frustration
aggravation
disturbance of the psyche
imposed by society
I'm just praying someone cares
while I'm tearing out my hair
but instead of compassion I get legal action 
the overdue bill eats my whole estate
I pay I pay but they say I'm late
the penalties the penalties
the Hospice has looted me
My accounts were done by Stalin and Trotsky
The money's gone and now I'm a slave
Why am I left shirtless
my tin coins
are worthless
you  got rich off me
when I was defenseless!  I had no choice, had to pay the interest
or get shut down, no IPhone no TV no internet
no juice until the banks get paid
so make it rain make it rain
let everyone get wet
it isn't so bad to know I've been had
but I prefer the old fashioned way.



Baby Face Nelson

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Predators In The Crowd-funding World




            Two weeks ago I launched my second crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.  I've been taken by surprise by the number of new businesses that have sprung up in the wake of the crowd-funding phenomena.  Most of these are Public Relations firms who promise to manage my campaign, disseminate press releases, boost my Facebook "Likes" and bring my project such great success that I'll double and triple my fundraising goals.  My first campaign went through Fundly.  It was pretty successful.  I got my e-book published on Smashwords.  The funds paid for formatting a long book.  All the hyperlinks are in place, the Table Of Contents can be clicked to beam the reader to the chapter of choice.  The Fundly campaign and subsequent e-publishing with Smashwords was a great experience.
            Yesterday I got the first of several offers that carry an obvious stink.  It was said by Barnum that a sucker is born every minute.  He left out the corollary.  Also born every minute is an opportunist or a predator who will wring that sucker dry of his last dime.  This is what I was offered: "Pay me five dollars," said the emailer, "and I will donate one dollar to your campaign and mention you on a Facebook page and leave a link to your fundraiser."
            I read it two or three times.  Oh.  How clever.  I followed the link back to the website.  It was hosted by Fiverr.com.  If you don't know, Fiverr is an internet marketplace specializing in Five Dollar "gigs", as they're called.  Services or performances are offered, such as "For five dollars I will make a video for your child's birthday featuring my puppet, 'Adam Baumtester'. On-time delivery guaranteed." I have no problem with funny puppets or any kind of low-cost service. There's something mildly sleazoid about exploiting a struggling artist, taking five dollars and charging me four of those dollars to get my name onto a Facebook page whose address I don't know.  Since yesterday I've gotten yet more offers.  The next one wanted two dollars for mention of my fundraiser on his unspecified Facebook and Twitter accounts.  How fast do I have to bail my boat to keep it from sinking?  How much water is leaking into the boat in proportion to how much water I've dumped over the side with my little old tablespoon?



            I've been solicited by companies with higher profiles and higher fees.  Crowdzilla.com has several "packages" that run from two to five hundred dollars and offer comprehensive PR deals that involve mainstream press releases, targeted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and other Social Media.  I have marveled for twenty years at the way new jobs have been created by technology, jobs whose descriptions would have been incomprehensible in the sixties of seventies.  When i wonder what kind of work my grandchildren may be doing when they grow up I accept that the job descriptions may not yet exist and will emerge in time.
            When we were young hippies and yuppies, did we have a clue?  Did we expect to become webmasters, software developers, internet marketers?  When my seven year old grandson comes of age, he may be going to a school that lies yet unborn in some East Bay park,  a place doomed to a bulldozer mauling and the crush of concrete as it becomes The Saul Stoofner School of Nano-Cellular Osmosis.
            It's possible.  Everything is possible in  this fairyland of a planet gripped by climate change and overpopulated to the extent that a mass die-off of homo sapiens may become a necessity if we are to survive at all.
            I am convinced that we will survive.  The species of man is evolving, quickly.  The young ones are different, their bodies are more flexible, their brains more accessible to nature's innovations.  Human life will continue.  After the darkness comes the change.  I just wish nature had a mechanism for culling the assholes among us and sparing those with kind hearts and willing minds.

            

Friday, December 12, 2014

When Your Own Writing Comes Back To You

I was emailing an acquaintance today and she attached this image, that was made up by her daughter.
"Have you read this quote?" She asked.

As it turns out, the quote is from my own unpublished S/F/Fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT. It's from the page after the title page, where I have set quotes by two fictional writers. Of course I told her of this quote's provenance.  It's weird and ironic, though, to find that something of my writing worked its way via osmosis into the outside world.  No one has ever read this book in its entirety.  Only my partner knows the gist of it.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Comet Hale-Bopp


Until recently astrophotography demanded the use of film. Today's DSLRs have sufficient control of high ISO noise so it's possible to take a shot like this and have it work  When Comet Hale-Bopp (named after two discoverers who spotted the comet independently) reached perihelion in 1997 I reached for my trusty Nikon F2 and loaded it with Fujifilm 400 print film.  The stars are not blurred through this five minute exposure because I mounted the camera atop an aligned telescope drive. Astronomers call the practice Piggyback photography. On this one night in late spring of '97 I was able to get to a dark-sky site in Oriental, CA.  I got half dozen useful exposures of this body that was called The Great Comet of 97.  It remains in my memory as the brightest comet of my life.  It stayed visible for much of 97 before it rounded the sun and vanished into the southern skies. I used this image for the cover of my music CD, OUT OF THIS WORLD Art's CD on Youtube

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Great Con




or
internet and corporate liars, tricksters and thieves




            How could I be so stupid?
            It's a question I ask myself with regularity. 
            Today, the question had its origin in making a rookie mistake while shopping online for car insurance.  I was filling out a questionnaire.  I knew I was letting myself in for trouble.  I hesitated...but I put aside my intuition and answered the questions: what kind of car do I have, what make and model, what year?  How many miles do I drive in a month?  Name, date of birth, etc etc.
            We're with Triple A, and we're not getting mugged.  I guess I crumbled under the accumulating pressure of all those commercials, you know, the ones that tell you how much money you can save in less than fifteen seconds?
            How could I be so stupid?  I wasn't even finished filling out the form when my new smartphone played its cheerful marimba melody.  It was a caller from my own area code, so I answered.
            It was an insurance sales-person.  I had just pressed "SUBMIT" on the internet form, no more than half a second had passed.  The calls began.  In five minutes I had five calls.  The computer server that acts as Uber- flypaper for naive shoppers had relayed the fact that I was price-comparing automobile insurance via the internet.
            Listen to me...we live in a world of slick cons, tricky subterfuges, hidden fees and marketing mendacity.  The Internet has enabled an army of predatory sales-drones to gather in one mighty fortress.  Their armies sally forth to lay siege to our fragile world of shrinking incomes.  These lies, exaggerations and slick tricks are aimed and ready.  They rain down upon us like a hail of arrows. The only shield we have is common sense, vigilance and experience. 
            I just had an experience.  Henceforth I will treat internet information forms like Ebola bacilli.  They're not here to make us wiser, wealthier or healthier.  They're here to strip us to our last dime..
            I've noticed that the button on my new smartphone, the "REJECT CALL" button, is harder to activate than the green button that accepts the incoming projectile. I swipe in five directions, I tap it once, twice, three times.  I tap-and-swipe and the ring-tone continues its maddening marimba until finally I locate, purely by accident, that "move" that rejects an incoming missile qua sales-call.
            Excuse me for just a second, my smartphone is burbling again with its default ring-tone.  I've had the thing a week.  I've figured out a fraction of its capabilities.  I turned off the Data icon. I don't need a phone to hook me up to the internet.  I don't need my email on my phone. I've got it right here in a high speed Broad Band-equipped desktop computer. My email is 99 percent junk, anyway.
            I got this phone to save money.  I've been getting robbed blind by AT&T.  I use my phone two or three times a week.  I don't text.  So I purchased a Tracfone, a prepaid
deal at a fixed price.  Phone minutes, text minutes and data minutes, all at a fixed price.  I am not APP-CRAZY.  I installed one APP, a gizmo that reports and analyzes my minutes, text and data.  Guess what?  My data was getting used up faster than its brothers and sisters.  So I must research a fundamental question: what IS data?
It's inernet stuff.  It's email, videos, chat, it's....it's Google!  Omygod, Google is in control of my smartphone!  Google is an empire, it's like the oncoming Janissaries of the Ottoman juggernaut but it's today! and it's in control of everything.  It beams Data through my App, whether or not I want it!
            I don't fucking trust my phone.  What kind of world are we living in?  Everywhere I go, people are umbilically attached to these plastic rectangles.  They're either looking down at it adoringly, or they have it pressed to their ear as if it's a lover bestowing a kiss.  This is crazy shit, amigos!
            I don't trust my phone.  And neither should you.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 14, 2014

Notes On Feeling Fat

Notes On Feeling Fat






            I did something that took some nerve yesterday.  I looked at myself naked in a full length mirror.  Frontal and side view.  I’ve avoided doing it for years and I finally got tired of being such a coward and did the deed.  I looked.
            It was disturbing but also liberating.  I’m sixty five years old; age is happening to my body. I won't be one of those people who cling to youth with frantic denial. I want to enjoy being a cranky old man who groans and says "Fech!" Things could be much worse.  All the flab has settled around my mid-section, leaving my shoulders, arms and legs looking okay..  I weigh two
hundred and stand five foot eight.  I “carry my weight well”, so I’ve been told.  I’m not a waddling fire plug.  I’m more like a bear or a gorilla.  These creatures don’t have tapering waistlines.
        It’s the fault of the medications.  That’s what I tell myself.  The medicines changed my metabolism.  I got heavy after I started taking the medications for my leg neuropathy and ...all those other things.
Forget the compulsive bed-time eating, the appetite for Reese’s Pieces and
Nestle’s Crunch.  Never mind the yum yum indulgence of putting peanut butter on Ritz Crackers and tossing down half a roll.  I ride a bicycle every day, three sixty five.  I know, you hate me.  I also do a daily yoga practice.  I know, you hate me even more.
            It’s a case of good disciplines counteracting bad habits.
            I am a disciplined compulsive.  Is that a paradox?  Try living with it.
Is anyone else like this?  Is anyone locked in a struggle between the rational and irrational parts of themselves?  I’m killing myself while saving my life.  I’m a suicidal yogi health food candy addict.  
            I practice aerobic “spinning”.  I sweat hard and push myself until I’m panting .
            My treadmill test indicated that I am free of heart disease.
            How do I live with myself?
            Tolerantly.  Very tolerantly.
            Am I the only baby boomer with a past full of addictions and recoveries?
Am I the only sixty-something with chronic pain in at least two parts of my body?
Am I the only man who feels conned and imprisoned by the pharmaceutical companies because I have to take meds for blood pressure, depression and physical pain?  These meds have saved and restored my quality of life.  They’ve also made me a prisoner.
            I feel as if I’ve loaned out my body as a lab rat and everything will stay cool as long as I keep running on the treadmill.
            My belly’s been large for twenty years.  I’m a husky strong man.  What will body shame get me?  Nothing.  Avoiding my reflection in the mirror is absurd., I don’t know what I really look like.  Each gaze into my reflected image is so loaded with ingrained value judgments, fantasies and delusions that it’s pointless to obsess on my appearance.  I just don’t know and never will know what I look like.  Furthermore, I don’t look the same to any two people.  Nothing does!  So what the fuck?
            I’ve made a deal with my belly.  I talk to it.  Belly, I say, you are a part of me, you are a product of genetics, lifestyle and a thousand other factors.  You and I will have have to get along.  Let’s be friends.  It’s obvious you’re not going anywhere.
            So, belly, how ya doin’ today?  No pain?  That’s good.  Let’s go for a ride.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How Do I Define My Work?




As I was setting up the pages for Tumblr, I was asked the following question in setting up my profile:
How Do You Define Your Work?

Holy Shirt!  What a question!  It caused me to pause....and pause...and in this manner some days went by...and I paused some more..  This is how I finally defined my work.




I work to express the beauty and majesty of the Universe.  I work to understand and to worship those Energies that are involved in its creation and continued existence.

I work to help those people who are involved in healing themselves from parental abuse, violence, ignorance or indifference.

I work to manifest images that evoke emotional truth and self-revelation. I work to revive atrophied faculties of mind and spirit that have been damaged by our culture.

I work to contribute my iota to the world of self-knowledge.


I write, play music and practice photography for people who want to be mirrored in their deepest selves, that they may better understand their confusions.


At the moment I can't bring any more cogent definition of my work that wouldn't involve writing fifty pages of boring junk.




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cries From The Heart


Lately I've been getting messages from people that I would term
"Cries From The Heart".  The French have a term for this: Cri de Coeur.   A Cri de coeur is deep, serious and without artifice.  It's the real thing.  I've gotten emails, facebook messages, texts, phone calls, cries from everywhere on Earth.  They are wails of desperation, despair.  In May I uttered such a cry to a few of my friends.  Perhaps that's why I'm getting these messages now.  People feel they can let down their guard.  I hear from strangers, from acquaintances and from friends.  It's as if our bodies are distilling our  experiences and allowing these feelings to percolate downward into the Earth.  "WE'RE IN TROUBLE!" is what I'm hearing. Well...what else is new?  We've been in trouble for some time now.  When Robin Williams died there was a collective outflow, as if a giant balloon had been punctured. PSHEEEEWWW!  Suddenly the world had lost an important shade of color.  Gone!  Our palette was subtly impoverished.  I found myself thinking, "If he could get to such a state, then ANYONE might find themselves so distressed that they start looking for a way out."
Fortunately, I survived my May crisis but I will admit that it left me frightened.  It was ungodly painful!  I don't want to go through that again.  I don't want anyone to go through such an ordeal. Perhaps it was a true mid-life crisis, just a little late.  I didn't have the crisis about getting old in my fifties.  But at 65, whammo!  I write this because I think it's time to be honest.   Hang on tight, my friends.  We live in "interesting times" as the Chinese curse has it.  "May you live in interesting times" is an oriental malediction.
It's like saying "may you be witness to much war, famine and suffering." 
  We have all of that and we are forced to be witness because we live in a global information network where the news is even pumped through men's room urinals. It's important that we help one another, any way that we can. Expect to feel confused. Reach out when the confusion gets overwhelming. Reach out, anyway.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Compassion Found Dead In House Of Reps



 


            Early this morning Compassion was found dead on the floor of the House of Representatives.  An employee of the Capitol’s maintenance staff, Dizzy Tilton, found the body as he was sweeping debris down the center aisle.
          “I seen it comin’ for a long time.  It wasn't no shock." said Mr. Tilton, who has worked in the House for thirty seven years.  
            The body of Compassion was sprawled across a large number of  seats in the House Chamber.  Of course, Compassion was well known for her immortal hits such as “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” and “I Seen the Devil And It’s You,”. An anonymous source in law enforcement told this reporter that as many as fifty knives were used in the killing.  The FBI and the Secret Service say they have no suspects at this time, but a thorough investigation will be mounted as soon as a committee is formed to decide who will lead the inquiry.
            “There’s plenty of evidence”, said Special Agent Dawn Zerle-Light, 

“There are fingerprints on top of fingerprints.  Seems like everybody 

wanted Compassion out of the way.  The timing is suspicious, I must say.  

Only last week, Wisdom was blown to pieces in the Senate. Officials in 

Congress are trying to pin the crime on lobbyists. Of course the 

investigation won’t start until the end of the current filibuster.”

Suicide And Robin Williams


            Suicide.  Robin Williams.  You would think that those two items would not compute, that they wouldn't add up.  I can hear millions of people talking: "the guy had everything", they say.  "He was successful, famous, loved around the world.  What could be so depressing that it would cause him to wrap a belt around his neck?"
            I counseled a Suicide Hotline for five years.  I burnt out.  I couldn't take it any more.  My mother was a suicide; I found her cold body laid sideways across her bed.  I never thought that I would entertain suicidal thoughts, but I was wrong.  Only recently I had a two month depression so intense that I did indeed creep up to the edge of that precipice and look over the rim.
            In suicide counseling we were taught to look for particular red flags.  The first indicator was whether the caller was having thoughts or fantasies of suicide.  Then we would ask if there was a plan, a mental blueprint of how the suicide would happen.  If there was a detailed plan we were to probe for the acquisition of the instrument of self-murder.  A gun, razor blades, pills....by means of asking these questions we were trained to evaluate how seriously the caller was flirting with suicide.  If things were bad enough it was time to trace the call and get the police involved. 
            A prominent suicide like Robin Williams strikes us in a peculiarly vulnerable place.  If he can kill himself, we think, then anyone is capable of suicide.
            That is the plain truth.  I never thought that I would encounter suicidal ideation, that I would entertain fantasies of killing myself.  Around the beginning of June this year, a depression of overwhelming intensity seemed to leap on my back like a leopard striking from the high branches of a tree.  It's mostly over, now, I feel better, but I will never again put myself beyond the reach of the bony hand of self-killing despair.  Whatever deadly instrument it holds, I know that I have suicide within me.  My mother did it.  I thought about her a lot as I endured my mental and emotional pain. 
            Robin Williams, Robin Williams.  I loved Robin Williams.  I spent an evening in a club, sitting next to him at the bar.  We talked about the band we had both come to hear.  He was a compact little guy and as I was being entertained by our conversation I felt a weird familiarity but i didn't realize that he was THE Robin Williams, comedian, actor, bicyclist, humanitarian and all around conscious intelligent man.  Then, just as we were going our separate ways it hit me.  OH!  That was Robin Williams.  Well I'll be damned!  I didn't have to pretend not to recognize him because I didn't until the encounter was over.  Just as we were shaking hands and saying farewell a little voice in my head said "Television Television" and I thought maybe he was in a commercial or something and then, as I watched his retreating back exiting the club I got my "AHA!" and I knew he was Robin Williams.
            Having Robin Williams hang himself with a belt hurts so hugely I can't even begin to encompass its massive trauma.  I can only think, "That poor man!  His family must be going through hell!" My brush with the heavy dark freezing terrifying possibility of killing myself was enough to lift the blinders from my eyes.  Anyone in this world can find themselves in enough trouble to seek the last, only, final way out.  The problem is this....I know nothing about the Afterlife.  But I have an intuition that suicide doesn't get you a free pass out of that trouble.  It lands you in even worse trouble.
          But that's only one possibility.  I imagine there are as many afterlives as there are people and each one of them is unique.  I hope desperately that Robin Williams escaped from whatever it was that so tormented him.  I can't begin to imagine.  Due to Williams' drug history there's a widespread assumption that drugs were involved.  Now we have late breaking news that he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.   That would push me towards the precipice.  One of the hallmarks of depression is the phenomenon known as "catastrophizing".  In my case I began fantasizing about my future; that I would end up lonely, sick and homeless.  I would be a degraded dweller in cardboard boxes.  THAT's catastrophizing.
          There's some deeper wound that exists in all of us, some Original Grief that accompanies us into the physical world.  It rides along with us in our physical bodies and sometimes it just waits there and does nothing but cause pain, momentary pain, endurable pain.  But sometimes that primal slash starts to bleed and no matter who you are, you can't stop the bleeding, you can't stanch the flow.  Your psychic energy begins to drain from you just like real blood and you get weaker and weaker and you tell yourself, hang on, be a warrior, endure.  You do NOT want to hear some fool tell you "Get over it.  The past is the past, it's over and done with.  It's time to move on."  You don't want to hear that because the fool who says that is clueless, has no idea how deep psychic pain can take you. 
            Just pray, O Afflicted One, pray and reach out to your friends, the ones who understand that no one is immune, no one gets a free pass, when the Darkness descends.  It can come at any time.  We never know.  If it's not on top of you right now, breathe a grateful sigh of relief and thank the Gods that you are more or less normal.  Enjoy that so-called Normal because sometimes it's the best we can have. After feeling what I felt these last few months, NOT feeling such things is pure bliss.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

It




It can come into you at any time.
You can feel hollow, dried out,
defeated.
It can come into you.
You might not know it,
but it will be there,
a subtle happiness in the blood,
a bit of color in the dark.
It can happen. 
You might be like a tattered flag
waving on the bastion of a weary
and lost cause;
it can come to you.
It can knit the fabric of your being,
seal the holes in your soul,
it can do that.
When your breathing labors
as you climb the steep mountain
and you think you have no steps left in you,
it can lift you further. 
It can do that for you.
You might not be looking for it;
you might not know it exists;
you might have forgotten it;
you may never have known it,
tasted it, longed for it.
It will find you, remind you,
show you what is beautiful,
prove to you what is worthwhile,
make your worst fear
bearable.
It can do anything. 
It can come into you
when you deny it ever existed.
It can enter you
when you have done your utmost
to banish it from your heart.
It will find a way to your heart.
It finds ways, always. 
It knows
what you are,
what you have been,
what you will become. 
It can come into you
at any time.
It is already in you,
it never left you,
it is here.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Worst Shows On Television



Art Rosch
Copyright 2014


         
          There is no worst show on TV.  There are a plethora of disgusting, heinous, exploitive and dishonest shows.  Trying to chose one is like sticking my hand down a fairground Portapotty.
          I won't do it.  I have neither the courage nor the desire.  I've watched some shit, to be sure.  I've watched TV shit out of curiosity, morbid humor, a sense of snobbish superiority.  I've watched TV junk for a lot of reasons.  I wanted to bring a report back from the Front, from the cesspool of modern broadcast entertainment.
          I can't do it.  I descended the circles of Hell until my nerve failed.  I watched HOARDERS.  I watched the inane chatter of The Kardashians.  I watched as America's fixation on puke, pee and poop exploded out of the Big Screen and landed on my defenseless psyche.
          I watched Rob Dyrdek's RIDICULOUSNESS in which teenagers addle their essence by launching themselves into tricks that crunch their skulls and explode their scrotums. I watched kids do the "don't try this at home" stunts purveyed by Johnny Knoxville (and don't get me wrong, I laugh and wince too).
          The veil between television and internet is very thin.  Youtube weirdness ends up on Daniel Tosh's hilarious show.  Uploaded videos are all over the television landscape, pockmarking  the Cable Universe with ridiculousness.
          It seems as though the Lowest Common Denominator gets lower all the time.  As the world's population explodes so do the number of niche market Reality TV shows, most of which are carefully scripted and engineered to stretch fifteen minutes of content across an hour of commercials for smartphones, cars, cosmetics and fast food.
          I quailed at watching MY 600 POUND LIFE.  I feel for Melissa's situation.  I know about weight problems.  But I couldn't watch the show. It was transparently exploitive.  Let's just give the "Worst TV" ribbon to HERE COMES HONEY BOO BOO and stop there.  I'm not sure why this boring insipid show is on television and the fact that it gets renewed for another season makes me sad.  Very sad.  Maybe we have been hypnotized by Big Mama's cross-eyed gaze, as she fixates on the progress of the giant zit at the bridge of her nose.  I don't know what it is.  People watch it.  They love it!
          God help us all.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Baby Boomers and Self Hatred




            I've noticed that some (as they are called) Baby Boomers are like Jews who are anti-Semitic.  My mother was a classic Jewish anti-semite.  Hateful rhetoric dropped from her mouth like crap from an owl's cloaca.  "The Jews will trick you every time," she often said.  "You can't trust them."  Another of her favorites: "Money's what they're about.  Money money money.  Jews do one thing well, and that's make money.  It's a shonda that Hitler didn't succeed in wiping them out!"  The word "shonda" is Yiddish for "shame" or "too bad".
            As I got into my early teens I stopped being afraid of my mother.  I'd outgrown her.  She couldn't beat me up.  "Mom", I would riposte,  dodging her clumsy right hook and restraining my urge to retaliate with a knockout uppercut. "You're a Jew, I'm a Jew, dad's a Jew, Sandy's a Jew.  How can you say this horrible Nazi crap?"
            My mom was crazy.  I mean truly bat-poo crazy.  Her mind ran like the railroad tracks that led to Auschwitz.  There were predictable stops at the same stations at the same times.  There were no deviations.  Is that one definition of crazy?  "An extreme rigidity of thought in which facts and nuances cannot be accommodated lest the pathological structure of said rigidity be broken like a bridge without proper support." 
            Let me get back to my original thesis, regarding Baby Boomers.  I'm sixty six years old.  Demographically I'm a baby boomer.  In other cultures I would be a respected Elder but in Amerika I am seen by some as an irrelevant, un-hip old fart who still listens to Sixties pop music.  Let me correct this misapprehension.   I listened to (and still listen to ) John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and their ilk. I admit to being a huge musical snob. Keyboard monster Jessica Williams is the only living legend in my sandbox, and she refuses to be tied up by the label JAZZ.  I will also offer a place of honor to Leonard Cohen.  He has given me enormous pleasure with his music.
             I enjoyed post-1965 pop music.  I bought a limited number of pop records.  I bought the second Rolling Stones record.  I bought five Bob Dylan records, starting with Bringing It All Back Home and ending with Blonde on Blonde.  I hesitated at John Wesley Harding. I had to wait a few years for Dylan's Multiple Personality Disorder to roll over like slot machine fruit to a configuration I recognized. I never bought a Beatles record. I wasn't a fan.  I am now, but I still don't buy their records.  Who needs to? 
            It's weird when I read articles in which Baby Boomers are generalized into a sociological cluster that resembles a haul of mackerel in a giant net.  Our nation has been dominated by some nebulous force called Youth Culture since we were Youth ourselves.  Now, if we don't understand or enjoy Hip Hop we're relegated to the Outer Limits of cultural discard.
            Some of the best music I hear is television background music.  These are theme songs, fragments or riffs designed to enhance the drama.  They are sound-memes, identifiers of hit series like Sons Of Anarchy (Review) or Breaking Bad. My ear tells me, "Hey, that's pretty good stuff..".  Fortunately one can buy a lot of these TV songs and themes.
They are sold as and by the show and the season, not by the artist.  They're like playlists.  They ARE playlists.  The show's composer, such as Dave Porter from Breaking Bad, is not very interested in tearing up hotel rooms and snorting coke with groupies.  


             The contemporary musical acts to which I am exposed are forgotten as soon I've heard them.  I give Lady Gag props for her science fiction wardrobe and catchy tunes.  But most of the singers or bands I hear get me to wondering.  Can they play at all?  Have they spent fourteen hours a day practicing fundamental exercises on their chosen instruments?  Can someone explain to me why the musical acts on "So You Think You Can Dance" are so abysmal?  We love the dancing and choreography.  Love it!  I'm convinced that dance is in the midst of a golden revival, that we are witnessing the invention of truly new languages.  But when each week's "musical guest" appears we shudder and watch in horrified dismay.  Is some paradigm being revealed?  Is music being sucked into a rip tide and washed out to sea?
            I seriously doubt it.  The distinction here is that the music that's getting "play" is crappy.  I have no refuge.  If I want to listen to jazz I'm welcome, of course.  But there is no more John Coltrane, no more Charles Mingus.  Now we have Marsalis Gumbo, that well known New Orleans dish.  It's good stuff,  it shows awesome technical prowess and a smidgen of soul.  It seems, however, that musical innovation is being led by technology.  One can buy a machine that makes sounds that might emanate from remote corners of the galaxy. It has no difficulty playing in 15/8 time.  We can write and play whatever we want!  Our imaginations have been unfettered.  Where are the people putting these awesome tools to use?  It turns out that the really good musicians, players who are imaginative AND proficient have migrated to the world of television and film, where they provide so many excellent sound tracks.  They're not interested in being pop stars.  They're interested in doing their work and making a decent wage. 
            There are no musical categories any more.  Jazz as a dynamic art form ran out of gas around 1970.  It had played itself into a corner called "New Wave" or "New Thing" and hardly anyone could tolerate the caterwauling that emerged from the saxophones of Albert Ayler or John Tchicai.  (A confession here: at the time, I loved New Wave.  I was taking acid). 
            I'm not ashamed of being sixty six years old.  The alternative is to be dead.
Anyone who has reached such an age has survived a given amount of horrible pain.
I'm proud to be a survivor.  I know certain things.  Pain is a great teacher. 
            My mother taught me by negative example not to feel contempt for my own tribe.  Her railroad tracks ran out in 1980, when she committed suicide.  She rolled up on the terminal station of her mental Auschwitz and it didn't look very inviting.  The sign said "Arbeit Macht Frei" and poor mom was in no condition to Arbeit.
            I know this isn't my best-written piece, I know it's sloppy and barely hangs together.  I'm trying to start a conversation.  I'm tired of being dismissed by little kiddies half my age who are now taste-makers, trend-setters and power brokers.
I'm in the business of making a living as a writer and I passed Rejection Slip #500 a long time ago for my novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MANhttp://www.artrosch.com/2014/06/my-novel-vice-of-courage-chapter-one.html.  It's as profound and touching a story as any novel in print, it will make you laugh and make you cry but it has no vampires, nor anything with long teeth, it's just about people and the way they go about healing themselves from having crazy mothers.  Seventy pages of this book take place in 1982 Afghanistan!  It's exciting as  hell!
            Literary agents, editors,  publishers, taste-makers and other cultural filters and gate-keepers will some day be either sixty six years old or six feet underground.
I invite them NOW, (before it's too late) to get on my train, whose tracks are constantly being built right under the engine and we never know where we might end up.
            (Today's magic word is "Duck on a string".  Okay, four words).


           



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dial M For MIND


September 12, 2014



            The mind is a fickle beast.  It renders life a matter of interpretation.  It messes with facts the way a cat messes with a catnip mouse.  Let's take an example of a fact and the way the mind can squeeze the texture of reality into the most paradoxical experiences.
            Here's a fact:  I pay $700 a month to live with my partner in a 38 foot motor home.  That's for  site rent, water, sewage and a generous stipend of electricity. Interpretation #1---we are poor white trash who can't afford a mortgage and are forced to live in a funky campground with people over whom we have no control.
            Interpretation #2: Our overhead is so low that I can afford to work fifteen hours a week and devote the rest of my time to writing, photography and study.
            Here is a fact and my mind has entertained both outcomes of this fact.  Interpretation #1 hit me during May of this year when I plunged into a consuming depression.  I felt like such a failure!  A man at my age with no money, no property, few possessions and even fewer so-called "fans" of my artistic work.  After all, EVERYTHING in my life has been about my artistic work.  At sixty six, it's a little late to go back and study accounting.
            Depression is no joke: it can kill you.  This one was a dragon, and I was fighting for my life while it was able to breathe fire.  When the smoke cleared I wanted to wrap its ashes in a little package and put it on the dashboard as a reminder that I'm not immune to savage and destructive thoughts. 
            Interpretation #2 is certainly just as true as #1 and far more comforting.  So, dear audience?  Which door should I open?  Shout it out!  #2! #2!  Okay, okay.  The problem is that the mind is like a feral donkey.  It won't be cajoled; it won't be baited. It won't obey the commands of logic.  It allows the nearest emotion to get on its back and then it goes crazy, it takes its rider (your Self) on a wild, bucking ride across a surreal landscape of irrational urge and desire.  At last it tires and lets you (and your feelings) get off its heaving flanks and regain some composure.  This is the reason that all studies of consciousness, from psychology to esoteric Buddhism, focus on the mind.  The fickle beast of the mind is a problem second only to mortality itself.




Monday, August 11, 2014

The Future Of Money



                                               Who should we put on the hundred?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Don't Give Up

            You can't fall apart when things go wrong.  And when I say "go wrong" I mean badly wrong, way wrong.  The loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a diagnosed illness: that kind of wrong.  You can't fall apart.
            It's difficult not to fall apart.  We don't control our emotions.  Grief, despair, depression, are creatures with wills of their own and they seem to take over the daily habits that normally sustain us.  How do I NOT fall apart?  How do I fight back and regain my dignity after chucking it into the trash, after curling into a fetal position and going "waaaah?!"
            The answer is "ANY WAY YOU CAN!"  I thought to do some writing, and I ended up writing this.  Which will take about five minutes.  I wanted to work on my novel in progress and I sat staring at the page feeling waves of anxiety streaking through my innards.  It's difficult to write through waves of anxiety.  I'll make it.
I'll get there.
            Last year a man died suddenly.  He was the man who provided me with three quarters of my contracting work.  Three quarters of my income vanished overnight. Then I had a health scare.  Things began going to pieces, one little piece at a time.  It works that way, sometimes.  It isn't one big thing; more like a lot of little things until it seems that nothing will ever go right again.
            That's the voice of depression speaking, saying "It's done, you're finished, nothing good is going to happen to you."  As a grizzled veteran of the fight against depression I understand the feeling that a low emotional state is permanent.  It isn't.  But you can't fall apart.  You have to fight back.
            If you've got any energy, go clean something.  That often works well to lighten the mood.  Or, better, go help someone who is in trouble.  Service is one of the great anti-depressants in our tool box.  The effort of getting up may seem like fighting through the eye-wall of a hurricane, but once beyond that obstacle there's a world of hurt out there. It puts our personal pain into perspective.

            Just don't give up.  You may fall apart for a while; but you can get back up to renew the effort to heal yourself.  You can.  Just do it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Me And My Belly

I estimate that each of my legs weighs sixty pounds.  That leaves a hundred pounds for the rest of my body.  My head probably weights twenty, which leaves eighty for the arms and torso.  My belly, that piece of me that surprised me totally when it arrived in the years between forty and forty five, my belly must take up sixty pounds of that remaining eighty.  It's a classic middle-aged man's belly.  It is true, I eat too much and most of that eating is in bed.  Every night of my entire life I have munched or crunched something as I read myself to sleep.
            My theory is that I am seeking a substitute for breast milk.  My early days on this planet were not a paradise of blissful bonding between my mother and child.  My father tells me that I had night terrors.  I tell him that if I was terrified of anything, it was my mother. 
            During my futile attempts to rid myself of this belly I’ve done ten kinds of abdominal exercises, hundreds of reps daily, for months and months on end.  My belly didn’t get smaller.  It got bigger. 
   Why was I exercising my six-pack this way?  What myth did I buy into?  If I wanted to get rid of my belly, I should have done absolutely nothing.  I should have, with the wisdom of hindsight,  accepted the fact that this belly is here to stay, it's a natural by product of aging.  It just IS, and why is that so horrible?  Why is everyone buying gizmos, electronic abdominal muscle stimulators? Why do they buy gimmicks with names like Abbacizers, Sixpackalongs, Abhancers? Why do people hang from bars and pull themselves up and back, up and back, or lay tilted on long boards, going up and back, up and back?  There’s more than a little insanity in this vain pursuit.  The obsession with the six pack is about vanity and its monster shadow, insecurity.  Our culture pumps its toxic load of media venom into our collective psychic bloodstream so that we feel inadequate if our bodies don’t adhere to some contemporary ideal of beauty.  For the moment, that ideal has become horrifically thin; it forms the ironic counterpoint to the visible reality that Americans have gotten chronically fat.
            We’re a culture with a lot of food.  I mean, a lot lot lot of food.  There’s never been a civilization in the history of the world with more food.  It’s hardly surprising that everyone eats a lot, gets fat and the ideal of beauty is to have arms and legs so thin that you have to walk around storm drains lest you slip through the bars and get washed out to sea.
            I wish we could weigh thoughts just as we weigh butter, or scrap metal. How much would my daily output of body-shame weigh?  How many pounds, kilos, ounces, grams would every thought weigh, those thoughts that go, “Oh I wish this belly would flatten out, it makes me feel so unattractive, so grotesque?”
            Beneath the veneer of our society a drumbeat of subliminal command roars like an underground subway train.  It’s saying, rhythmically, “hate your body hate your body hate your body hate your body.”  Chugga chugga chugga chugga.
            People who are at war with their bodies spend money on ridiculous products. Teeth whiteners!  When did this obsession come along?  Who cares about teeth whiteners?  People who use them look ridiculous.  There’s a blinding beam of Cheshire Cat grin every time they open their mouths, a light so blatantly artificial that it obscures the rest of the face with its message:  “I am insecure and hopelessly vain.  I use teeth whiteners.”
            Recently I heard a radio spiel about a product that reduces shadows under the eyes.  Oh my god, here we go again!  The script describes the grotesque anatomical process behind eye shadows: a horrific network of bloated capillaries spreads beneath your eyes until they burst forth to spill a dark disgusting goo of congealing blood, thus producing bruised tissue, thus producing embarrassing and unsightly morning-after shadows, hanging and spreading and sagging until they’re the size of wrinkled leather saddle bags beneath your optical sockets.
            Eeeeeeww!  How humiliating!  Burst blood vessels, bruises, discoloration? Wrinkled leather saddle bags beneath my eyes? I can’t have that! 
            This is how to create a market for a useless product.  People will start fixating on their fatigue-shadows, examining the mirror for any hint of darkening skin.  The stuff will sell like crazy, as another reason to hate one’s body darkens the horizon of the national psyche.  This insanity is all about money.  People who hate themselves spend more money, spend compulsively, to cover their unhappiness.  It serves the interests of marketers to create a social condition in which self hatred becomes the paradigm.
            I have to ask myself the question, “Which is worse, being overweight, or being guilty, stressed and ashamed of being overweight?”  Which damages my health more?  I think it’s the latter.  I think that stressing and hating my body is more toxic than glugging down three milkshakes a day.
            How many ridiculous weight-loss products bloat the bandwidth of the media empires?  How many bogus concoctions feed on the fervent wish that one can lose pounds and become shapely without any effort?
            I have invented my own product to add to this glut for gluttons: “Thindreme”รค!  Here’s the commercial, presented by a blandly attractive blonde woman in front of a red- white- blue studio set enhanced by computer graphics showing fat bodies and thin bodies arranged for before/after comparison.
            “Do you dream of going to sleep fat and waking up thin? Now your dreams can come true!  Two tablets of clinically proven Thindreme before bed will melt the pounds away as you sleep!  The more you sleep the thinner you will get.  This new miracle compound acts upon the metabolism of your slumbering body and converts fat cells using the principle of DCE, or Dynamic Caloric Extrapolation.  It is a proven fact that Rapid Eye Movement sleep is an untapped source of caloric output.  In other words, REM sleep is exercise!  Thindreme has come along to utilize this remarkable opportunity.  The more you dream, the more weight you lose!  Within four to six weeks you can emerge a brand new person, thin, sexy, appealing, without any effort on your part! Forget about diet, exercise, lifestyle.  You don’t need will power.  Thindreme does it for you!  Now you can be the man or woman of your dreams! If you order in the next ten minutes, Thindreme will double your order, and at no extra cost, will give you this free nose hair trimmer. And there’s more!  We will also add to your order this stylish miniature folding piano! So pick up the phone, and order now! And remember, Thindreme is Clinically Proven.” *
            Now, the disclaimer is read quietly and quickly:
*Thindreme (wackazone hydrochloride) can produce side effects in a significant minority of users, including blurred vision, stuttered speech, nausea, excess ear wax, demonic visions, spastic extremities, impotence, frigidity, memory loss, extreme body odor, blurted expletives, colorful flatulence, Fixed Eye Syndrome, increased hair growth on the lower back, muscle cramp, constipation, diarrhea, logorrhea, Recalcitrant Plebny, and black facial warts.  If dreaming does not occur, possible weight gain is indicated.
            A Product of ExCon Industries”




            I’ve given up trying to rid myself of this belly.  I know that a group of cannibals would find me delicious.  My bicycle thighs would be a Kentucky Fried delight, the most giant Crispy ever to appear in a cannibal’s bucket. 
            When I compare my life to the living hell in which I see that most people exist, I feel grateful for the good life that I have.  My relationship with my partner has its sick elements, to be sure, its ‘enablings’ and ‘codependencies’ (how I love this modern language of the heart’s twisted pathways).  We don’t fight.  If something starts to fester between us, it will come out in a talk, a gentle but firm confrontation where our fears are expressed and laid to rest.
            This was supposed to be about my belly, but I can’t write about that part of my personal real estate without including all kinds of other things in my life.  My belly doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it isn’t just floating around in space, a belly, without connection to the rest of the universe. My belly may be causing storms on Neptune, for as we have recently discovered, everything has a connection to everything else.  It’s the Butterfly Effect.  Or in this case, The Belly Effect.
            My belly is a dominating presence in my life.  I, who spent my youth being thin and sinewy, looking like a Hindu holy man from the hippie trail in Nepal, am now somewhat imprisoned by this entity who sits astride the center of my body.  It goes everywhere with me.  My vanity is not the main actor in this dismay.  My vanity went out about the same time as my hair.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I am concerned with how I appear to other people.  The problem is, I know that the one person least qualified to judge how I appear to other people is myself.  And that is a universal law.  You, who think you look thus and thus to the outside world, are completely deluded.  When you look in the mirror, the information you receive is so utterly tainted by your needs and dreams that you might as well be looking at a stranger.  I wish people would understand this.
            YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE.  YOU NEVER WILL.
            There are so many ingredients that go into an appearance that are invisible to the owner of a human body, that said owner should just give up. Photographs lie for many reasons.  Photos capture one two hundredth of a second, and in that two hundredth of a second, an expression may be crossing your face that is otherwise invisible, so quickly do the facial muscles change with the passing of emotion.  That’s why we often look odd in pictures.  Videotape is in some ways even worse.  I don’t know a single soul who doesn’t cringe when viewing his or herself on video.  Its distortions are insidious but nonetheless real.
            I say this to my fellow humans:  do your best to be hygienic, wear clothes that are comfortable and that please you, and let your nature emerge, because that’s what happens anyway.  Your appearance is determined by your nature.  The way you look is about energy, not physical features.