Survival Guide: Two Days to go

Today is a day for personal reconstruction and working through to make sense of this Mayan Doomsday. Your mind should get back to work, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by the upcoming apocalypse, such as collecting firewood.IMAG1778 To Hear: Transient Random-Noise Bursts (Stereolab) Looping moments to think and plan. stereolab_transientTo Watch: Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica) It’s sad and beautiful story, and although things don’t work out like you hope, there is promise at the end. bike thiefTo Read: To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) Compromise and sacrifice from innocent eyes.tkamTo Do: Reach out to somebody you haven’t been so kind to in the past and try to make good. It’s worth a shot.

Survival Guide: An Upward Turn

As you start to adjust to the imminent end – now just three days away – your life should become calmer and more organized. You are in the upward turn. (That was quick!) Your physical symptoms lessen, and your depression begins to lift slightly. The closing of Mozart’s La Nozze di Figaro just might be, as artist Ragnar Kjartansson suggests, the most beautiful minutes of music ever recorded. Put it on a loop and listen again and again. Phone 167Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute treasure, combining sophisticated story-telling with joyous detail and wit. I guess my point is, we’ll eat tonight, and we’ll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five and a half most wonderful wild animals I’ve ever met in my life. So let’s raise our boxes – to our survival. mrfoxThe Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is also something to behold. It’s short and lovely and there’s pictures too. All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.princeIt’s time to get out there and do something active. Ride a bike, go for a walk or a swim, do anything but a run. That’s bad for your knees and hips.

Apocalypse Survival: We Must Change

We must change.” So pronounced President Obama at a memorial service on Sunday for the families of victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. obamaHe is right. There is no doubting that. We are an extremely violent species with an unconscionable past. And we must change that. But can we? Is there really any way to do this? My money is against. The fourth stage of accepting the oncoming apocalypse is a day on which depression, reflection and loneliness dominate. This is supposed to be a long period of sad reflection, but you’ve only got the day. You realize the true magnitude of your loss, and you isolate yourself on purpose. William Basinki’s The Disintegration Loops is ideal for this state of mind. Created in Brooklyn on 9/11, these CDs document the disintegration of sound on reel-to-reel tapes. loopsThere are five CDs in all, but Disintegration Loop 5 is 52 minutes well worth trying. Michaelangelo Frammartino’s Quattro Volte evokes a similar feeling; it is a film with a disintegrating narrative of sorts, using an old shepherd, a baby goat, a tree and smoke, in that order. quattroIt’s a remarkable film for contemplation. Jose Saramago’s Blindness is far more harrowing, starting with a plague of white blindness that gets worse and worse and worse. It is next to impossible to put down. blindnessPresident Obama concluded his speech with the following: “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” What are you prepared to do? Genuinely. What? It’s something to think about and act upon. We must change.

Survival Guide: Time to Get Angry

You only have five days before the Mayan Day of Doom, and it’s time to get angry.  finchThe world is fraught with injustice, much of it self-imposed. What is wrong with us?! It is exhausting to consider. It’s so stupid! What have we done!? Arghh. You may also need try to bargain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never eat Lucky Charms again if this world won’t end”) even if you know that none of it will work. luckyIt’s a process, one step at a time. There is a lot of angry music that might help get you in the mood, including Nine Inch Nail’s The Fragile and Rage Against the Machine’s The Battle for Los Angeles, but Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion and the Cobra captures this deep-seeded emotion most profoundly. You’re still spitting fire/ Makes no difference what you say/ You’re still a liar! sineadThere are far too many angry people-with-guns movies, and I am sick of those. Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God is a much better tonic. Aguirre is as angry as it gets, none other than the self-proclaimed wrath of god. aguirreYou should also read Dee Brown’s Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, a chronicle of the systematic destruction of the Native Indians in the western United States. It underlines the errors of our ways with depressing clarity. bury my heart After that, physical labor will do you good. Burn your anger off. And if it’s still boiling, get a punching bag and have at it. daffy

Survival Guide: Pain and Guilt

I have to admit that it is hard to write my blog today. I cannot process in any way what happened yesterday in Connecticut. I don’t know how it is possible for someone to kill children one after the other, putting not one bullet into each tiny person, but several into every one of them, every last one. It makes me think that maybe the Mayans were actually right, that this really is the end of us, that the apocalypse has arrived, not with great storms and collapsing fault lines in the earth, but in us, dumb, staring at each other, wondering how we really got to this. And we did. The fact is that there are people – millions and millions of them – that will actually continue to support the right to bear arms as it is stated in the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. hestonThey will say that guns don’t kill people, that people kill people, that guns have nothing to do with it. They will actually say that. And they will believe it. They will actually fucking believe it. That isn’t politics. That’s suicide, pure and simple. Guns don’t kill people? Really? megyn kelly How would that lunatic have killed 20 kids without his damned guns? How fucking stupid can you be? Anyway, yeah, the Pain and Guilt step of suffering grief, instructs that, as the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs – as tempting as they might appear at the moment. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase. Does it ever. But to get through all of this insanity, I recommend that you look within as much as you can bear and maybe listen to The Great Destroyer by the American group Low. When I go deaf/ I won’t even mind/ Yeah, I’ll be fine. great destoyerThe Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino) is required viewing, reminding us that war kills everything in body, mind and spirit. This one’s nothing but pain and guilt, horribly, beautifully so.. deer hunterI also encourage you to delve into the writings of the great philosophers like Arthur Schopenhauer: They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice…that suicide is wrong, when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person. schopenhauerAnd don’t stop at Schopenhauer. You must keep going. Read as much miserable philosophy as you can bear.

Most important of all, do something. Please. Sign a petition. Write a letter. Speak your mind, damn it! Fight these monsters right to the fucking end. Do it! Really, do it. Or else you have to just watch the world go to its damned and terrible end.

Coping with the Apocalypse

Whether it’s to come by holocaust, super-storm, bio-plague or sheer boredom, Mr. Mayan has predicted that our world is to end in exactly one week: December 21, 2012. meteorsWhile the prediction is dubious at best, the exercise of what you might do if this actually were the case, is interesting. You’ve got a week. Now what? Starting today – and using the seven stages of grief – I offer my Survival Guide to the End of the World.

Today is easy. It’s all about SHOCK & DENIAL.You don’t have to do anything really.You’re numb and can deny the reality of this in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks…but you only have the day. Anyway, you just need to deny what’s coming up. Nothing more.

First of all, I recommend some music. A long and involved listening to the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Volume 16, Filmore 11/8/69 is ideal. No need to think. Just relax your mind and go with it.dicks pick After this, you might consider watching the film, Superbad (Greg Mottola). It’s so excellent because it’s so stupid, one of the most genius dumb-ass films ever made.superbad And, if you are able focus yourself for any time, try and read Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Everyone’s in denial throughout the story; nothing is as it should be. And that’s good, right? catch And finally, you should do something different. Maybe juggle or kayak. Have your fortune read– Oh, maybe not that. I’m going to see a new band: Grizzly Bear. grizzlyAnd maybe I’ll take a pedi-cab after that. Arggh! (That’s a Grizzly roar.)

The Devolution of Steven Spielberg

Let’s cut to the chase. Steven Spielberg makes movies; he doesn’t direct films. While ranked near the top of Forbes’ Most Influential Celebrities, he isn’t even listed on The Guardian’s Top 40 Directors. Mr. Spielberg is certainly good at entertainment and suspense; there is no disputing that. Jaws has stood the test of time for a reason. JawsAs well, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and much of the Indiana Jones franchise are full of excitement. Indiana JonesHowever spectacle is not any substitute for vision or style, a talent exhibited by many of Mr. Spielberg’s contemporaries such as Martin Scorsese, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Paul Thomas Anderson and Terence Malick. Tree-of-Life-DinosaurInstead of bludgeoning the audience with a message, as Mr. Spielberg tends, these directors develop subtle details of text, background or character. Quite simply, they convey a personal vision. It is a risky business which at times invites censure – look at the current mixed reception to Mr. Anderson’s The Master for evidence – but a film is made for itself, no matter what a producer might demand. masterMr. Spielberg is known for delivering his movies to the market, which is all well and good, especially for the studio…until he gets that itch and decides to fight the indifferent shrug that he knows posterity will award him. These attempts at style include The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, Amistad and now his latest, Lincoln. lincoln1Instead of moments of artistry, the audience is assaulted: images of discarded limbs, Lincoln’s hand on everyone’s shoulder and achingly long dramatic pauses attempting to establish tension for things we already know. (Spoiler alert: The 13th amendment passes, the North wins the War, and Lincoln dies.) The end result is a movie (not a film) that is obscenely iconic.lincoln-2In the end, despite Daniel Day Lewis’ best efforts, the movie is tedious because Lincoln is not offered as a man, but a god – a patient one at that! – in a man’s clothing. In other words, Mr. Spielberg has forgotten that the magic of movie-making is in not showing the shark (the icon) until the last act. jaws3Instead he has us staring at the shark all movie long, until it’s no longer a thing to be afraid of – or admire – but another drawn-out moment, attempting to bully us into feeling a prescribed emotion. It gets to be so bad that, instead of wondering what might happen next, we’re wondering when the movie will finally end. clockworkPerhaps Mr. Spielberg can be convinced to do a Jaws prequel. As much as he might resist, we know his audience – and producers – would love know exactly what made that shark so mad.

The Eternal Complainers

It’s one thing to be self-reflective – what a fine and therapeutic thing that is! – but entirely another to brood and whine so exhaustively that no one is willing to suffer your lamentations nor even bear your presence. That said, it is a great vehicle for a story. Truly, many of our most oft-quoted heroes are little more than bitter complainers who just need to be heard. (Note that they are all men.)

5. Ivanov (Anton Chekov, Ivanov) An overly dramatic fellow who really is a jerk to everyone around him, but he doesn’t know why and he really does seem to care, so much so that he takes it out on himself in the end.      ivanovIf an intelligent, educated, and healthy man begins to complain of his lot and go down-hill, there is nothing for him to do but to go on down until he reaches the bottom–there is no hope for him.

4. Josef K (Franz Kafka, The Trial) There is no doubt that Josef K has reason to complain – horribly treated by everyone around him, resulting in his inevitable abandonment and death – but what a depressing collection of thoughts! josef kYes, that’s the conspiracy: to persuade us all that the whole world is crazy, formless, meaningless, absurd. That’s the dirty game. So I’ve lost my case. What of it? You, you’re losing too. It’s all lost, lost. So what? Does that sentence the entire universe to lunacy?

3. Alvy SInger (Woody Allen, Annie Hall) A very funny neurotic to be sure, but it’s not hard to understand why Annie finally moved across the country to get away from him. alvyI’m obsessed with uh, with death, I think. Big – big subject with me, yeah. I have a very pessimistic view of life. You should know this about me if we’re gonna go out. You know, I – I feel that life is – is divided up into the horrible and the miserable.

2. Holden Caulfield (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye) A spoiled, selfish know-it-all who somehow holds the key to decent society. Kill all of the phonies. Indeed. holdenIt was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.

1. Hamlet (Willy Shakespeare, Hamlet) A most moody fellow, profound in thought and discourse, not so great on doing anything – except for royally fucking everything up. hamletWhat a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Prius Update: 44 Days after Hurricane Sandy

The Toyota Prius remains on Maiden Lane, 44 days after Hurricane Sandy.

December 11 – 44 days after Hurricane Sandy

The signs say it should move. But it won’t until the generators and boilers are gone too.

Prius hides three cars back.

And that doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon.

Fueling up the generators

But Christmas is coming. Shouldn’t it be decorated or something? Some red and a wreath perhaps? We’ll see.

Looking for The End

I’ve come to the end. My novel, My Bad Side is done. Ending is hard. I’ve worked toward this moment for over four years. I’ve read through some 40 books for research – on everything from zoos and fire fighters to sex work and Newfoundland. And I’ve written lots of words – over160,000 – some of them too often (suddenly, everything, turned) and edited those down through four drafts to 99,065. And here I am, not as exhilarated as I would have liked – when is it ever like that? It’s almost the opposite actually, like I don’t want to be at this point, finished, like it’s a death. I have the ending down to one of three final scenes: a walk with Apollo, a night of music or an ocean swim. I have vacillated between each. Each has something, some essence, but then I wonder if it is too much. Is it melodramatic or too damn trite? Then again, I can’t avoid the guts of moment – like The Beatles did in their final album Abbey Road, ending not with The End, but with the lousiest Beatles song ever recorded, Her Majesty’sIt’s been a struggle, all of these endings in the mix, and then wondering if there might be another. I’ve considered just throwing it all away and using the Debbie Does Dallas finale where all the characters gather naked and say in chorus, ‘If it feels good, do it!’ Something like that.  Or I could go with the ocean swim. It’s a tough call to make.