While in New Orleans, I was intrigued by a poster called The Last Session.
Joshua Walsh’s “The Last Session” features Louis Armstrong as the Christ figure.
In trying to research who each of the figures of betrayal were in the work, I was quick to learn that parodies of Leonardo Da Vinci’s 1498 iconic work are common as thieves. The proliferation of this icon, re-branded and spun, is confusing to say the least, an image that everyone seems to know and yet no one understand. Yes, just like getting a tattoo.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is currently staging Eugene O’Neil’s marathon play, The Iceman Cometh. At just under five hours (!!!), the play delivers its message in the form of a blunt object (“the pipe dream”) ad nauseum, inducing an uneasy drowsiness for actors and audience alike.While the acting of Nathan Lane, Brian Denehy et al is solid, as are some tableau moments, the trauma of this painfully slow drama begs the services of a certain tool. The highlight of the evening was in fact the relief of it being over and then getting on the NBA All-Star subway train home.Although even this moment of reprieve became painfully slow.
Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Kneeis a book that you will never forget. The prose are terse and clear, the images startling, the narrative impossible to digest. It must be read.
“Father, your young men have devastated my country and killed my animals, the elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo. They do not kill them to eat them; they leave them to rot where they fall. Fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say? Should I not be wrong, and would you not make war on me?” (Red Cloud, Oglala leader)“It is cold and we have no blankets.The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.” (Chief Joseph, Nex Perce Chief) “We tried to run, but they shot us like we were a buffalo. I know they are some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women. Indian soldiers would not do that to white children.” (Louise Weasel Bear, Sioux)
Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890
If we are to have a chance of becoming anything, we must remind ourselves of who we are and where we have come from. Dee Brown’s book does exactly that.
I was academically introduced to the concept of the “it” in Georg Buchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck, where a man is terrorized by a vague unnamed force which lays in wait for him in the bushes. I had no idea what this “it” was – a ghost, a demon or what – until it dawned on me over the years that it was, as simply as I can put it, a primal force so overwhelming that we must instead coddle ourselves with poor facsimiles such as sports, work and travel.
In other words, our consciousness is so puny and small-minded that instead of blossoming toward truth, justice and beauty, we drink and have sex. John Williams is succinct in his reflections on our futile struggles at the conclusion of Butcher’s Crossing: “You get born, and you nurse on lies, and you get weaned on lies, and you learn fancier lies in school. You live all of your life on lies, and then maybe when you’re ready to die, it comes to you — that there’s nothing, nothing but yourself and what you could have done. Only you ain’t done it, because the lies told you there was something else.”
It is hard to overstate the writing craft of John Williams; his narrative is clear and precise and his characters compelling while his ruminations on our place in this world are profoundly vertiginous. Butcher’s Crossing is the story of a group of men engaged in the slaughter of buffalo:
It came to him that he had turned away from the buffalo not because of a womanish nausea at blood and stench and spilling gut; it came to him that he had sickened and turned away because of his shock at seeing the buffalo, a few moments before proud and noble and full of the dignity of life, now stark and helpless, a length of inert meat, divested of itself, or his notion of itself, swinging grotesquely, mockingly before him. (151) Sometimes at night, crowded with the others in the close warm shelter of buffalo hide, he heard the wind, that often suddenly sprang up, whistle and moan around the corners of the shelter…at such times he felt a part of himself go outward into the dark, among the wind and snow and the featureless sky where he was whirled blindly through the world. (200)
Micaela says I’m pushing it, but while watching Guided by Voices last night at Asbury Park’s famed The Stone Pony, I was thinking that Bob Pollard was a Mark Twain superstar kind of guy.
Click the image below to see him nail Tractor Rape Chain. True, he got so drunk that he not only told the audience to “Fuck off” more than several times and played I am a Scientist twice, but also fell down in a heap at the end. But I stick to my theory, based not only on his out-spoken, sardonic nature and belligerence, but Bob as an exhaustive, creative force. And he drinks a lot too.
Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers is an intimidating work not only from its physical weight (3 pounds of text) but more from the iconic burden of the man. Mark Twain, as he himself wrote, lived “in the midst of world history”, charging through an epoch of change, realizing many of his dreams, and yet suffering through as much misery. He captained steamboats at the outset of the American Civil War, mined for silver in Nevada during the Comstock Lode, and went on speaking tours world-wide, all the while developing the “American” voice in literature, a life famously beginning and ending as Haley’s Comet appeared in the sky. He was a witty, demanding man and deeply reflective, offering rebukes to governmental policies that would ring true even today. “I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” But most interesting of all, he had plans for many unrealized books, including a follow-up to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain wrote in his journal: Huck comes back, 60 years old, from nobody knows where & crazy. Thinks he is a boy again & scans every face for Tom and Becky.
Tom comes, at last, 60 from wandering the world & tends Huck & together they talk the old times; both are desolate, life has been a failure, all that was lovable, all that was beautiful is under the mould. They die together.
Sadly, Twain outlived much of his immediate family, surviving his wife and three of four children.
Conjecture on missing Malaysian Flight 370 might make for a good story, even if the cable channels bleed it dry.That said, relentlessly filming grieving relatives is not news. Nor will it ever be.
If these ambulance-chasers really want to get to the bottom of this kind of misery, all they have to do is read Agamemnon, indeed any Greek tragedy. Failing that, they could kill each other – or go missing – and their relatives could be interviewed instead.The problem being that no one in their families would care, knowing the disingenuous and self-serving nature of these jabbering shits.