Ceci n’est pas une blog.
I’m a bit late chiming in this month with this post or whatever it is, since both of my websites were hacked a couple weeks ago by what were apparently young Russian entrepreneurs trying to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. It’s so comforting to see that that nasty old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has taken so sweetly to the American Way—you know, the favored pastime from that land of a bun dance where the motto is clearly Every Man For Himself. I mean, these guys could just as well be from Boston (and they might be)!
Spent a nightmarish week and a half going back and forth with “tech support” from my host (I do NOT recommend 1and1 if you think you’ll ever need the slightest bit of assistance with your site), who proved incapable of fully identifying and fixing the issue, or even communicating clearly with each other (or with me). Finally, with a few cues from one astute tech and a lot of help from an anonymous friend (who doesn’t want anyone to know he can do IT, and I don’t blame him), the sites have been cured, and I’m shopping for a new host. And I leave the ordeal with a bow and a snap to the coteries of Late Capitalism, and a brief and salient wish that they become late themselves, like real damn quick.
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So I go to check out Tumblr, thinking to start a site for book reviews, and their About page proudly boasts: 67.1 MILLION BLOGS! 28.7 BILLION POSTS! And I think, Wow! I just don’t have that much time! Now I know that the standard of living for today’s bourgeois youth is rather high, and they’ve got an awful lot of time on their hands, but I have to wonder—do any of them have the time to read 28.7 billion posts (and climbing)? Who does read them? I know, if each person on the planet just read four, merely four posts each, we’d just about have it covered. For Tumblr, at least. But seriously, what is the purpose of all this bloggage? For whom are they crafted, and why?
Without attempting to count, I must have perhaps 100 friends and colleagues, perhaps twice that, with blogs that I am aware of, and I do in fact check out their verbage and visuals with some frequency, and appreciate them, but I don’t set aside an hour or two of my day to do nothing but read blogs. Perhaps I should. Perhaps I’d be all the more hip (a quality I’m sorely lacking, to be sure—and I do mean “hip” in the Beatnik sense). But I have crowded days, as do so many in these deleterious times, keeping my little business going, struggling to get out of some of this debt, striving for a little sweet spaghetti, scrabbling for a few meager hours (not even daily!) to attend to my own art. Don’t get me wrong, I love keeping up with others’ work, with that of those whose sense and sensibilities I admire, and finding new work, new folks that shine, and I seek them out as I’ve always done, it is, after all, nutrition—but the blogculture demands more than that, much more, or seems to, demands a constant vigilance, a constant gobbling of the ex-pressed ions of our overpopulated mind.
I recall a few years back when blogs became popular within the writing and art milieus (maybe more than a few—am I dating myself?), when it seemed every few days I’d run into a fellow writer who would jump up and down in a quickly familiar dance, and begin to sing, “Heeeeey, have you seen my blog? Have you read my blog? You know I have a blog, don’t you? Have you seen it have you read it it’s real pretty read my blog blog blog blog blog….” And out of caution I would quickly hand them a towel. Perhaps a meager exaggeration there, but not by much. At first I was under the delusion that time was of no consequence, and I tried to keep up, until I found myself with a dozen or more blogs demanding my attention every day or two. Whereupon I swiftly, surreptitiously bowed out for a drink of water. A long one. And I step back in now and then for a dance or two.
So the question is, what makes a blog a blog? It is a nicely contracted form of “weblog”, so does that make any sort of online log a blog? It could. Might a blog be determined by its contents? Dictionary.com (and why look deeper for this inquiry) cites:
[blawg, blog] noun, verb, blogged,blog·ging.
noun 1. Web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites.
Do we trust Dictionary.com to define our reality? Does that make this a blog? It might. Or it might just be a bunch more bobloblaw. Perhaps the nature of a blog is a matter of audience, for whom a post is written. Sure, some sites are aimed at smaller or even private audiences, some are ridiculously esoteric, and some just toss posts out to the ether. That is assuming of course that they are written to be read at all—and I do, I shall assume that for most posts. But what if they are not? What if a post is written not to be read, but just to be written? Would it still be a blog—a log—or simply praxis?
O praxis my axis!
I make no claims here, and perhaps I’m squabbling over goats. But praxis—writing practice—is what this is about for me, letting some prose pour through the pores. Sure I’m happy if someone reads it—have no idea if anyone does—and sure I put in a few updates and “observations”, in case someone does actually want to know what I’ve been up to, but all for the sake of crafting them, all for that good ol’ yummy craft. So I may say this is not a blog, and perhaps I’m just being bratty. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s a post. Maybe I should just call it a poem and be done with it—after all, it’s certainly that, if nothing else. Or maybe I just don’t like referring to the front page of my website with a word that sounds for all the world like fluids ejecting from the mouth in a dire moment.
Or maybe, finally, we might consider the words of Lao Tzu, in Chapter XLVII of Tao tê Ching:
“Therefore the Sage blogs without blogging…”
How ’bout that?
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Had a splendid reading in early July with Julia Vinograd, prolific street poet, rock-solid performer, and author of more than 50 books of poetry (no kidding!). I first met Julia at the Old Spaghetti Factory readings in North Beach, somewhere around the end of 1983. Since then she has never ceased to pique my attention with her clear, wry, goddamned truthful observations and sentiments. We read at Mythos Gallery in North Berkeley, a terrific space for quite a range of visual work that’s been a friend to poetry for many years. Had lively chats with Ariel Parkinson and Debbie Vinograd (Julia’s painterly sister), and enjoyed the eclectic group show currently up (including a few pieces by both Ariel and Debbie). I hear that the gallery, like so many, is having a rough time, so I recommend stopping in at least to look and say Hallo, should you find yourself on Solano Avenue with a few minutes to stroll.
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I DO, by the way, plan to open a Tumblr page, perhaps some time this month, for reviews and such, mostly because they seem a bit unwieldy in this space. Nevertheless, here is one that I’ve just got to release to the world.
REVIEW OF Honk Honk, My Darling by James Finn Garner
Two words: Clown Noir. Two more words No shit. Even two more words: Took longenough.
Finally, after far too long a wait, we are treated to the adventures of Rex Koko, Private Clown in the recent, hilarious novel Honk Honk, My Darling by James Finn Garner, author of Recut Madness, Apocalypse Wow, and The Politically Correct Trilogy. Wit-child of Garner and several delirious compadres, Rex Koko was born on Chicago Public Radio in the ’80’s as a series of sketches in The Waveland Radio Playhouse, which hearkened and homaged those good ol’ Depression and WWII-era radio serials, sound effects and all. Over the years, Koko evolved in Garner’s meticulous mind into the flashpoint for an entire world, a land of hardboiled Big Top that’s swarming with freaks and geeks, hard-edged molls, muckabout mobsters, mad monkeys, apoplectic acrobats, blindsides, double-crosses, and sideshow salvations. And, of course, clowns. Lots and lots of clowns.
I gotta tell ya, HHMD is really an amusing romp. Not to mention ruckus. Not to mention rollick. In fact, it’s hard to banter about without a slew of r-words: rough’n’tumble, rock-’em-sock-’em, roo-roo, and let’s not forget roll-in-the-hay, which is literally where our story starts.
Set toward the end of WWII, Honk Honk gives us a world in which the circus is real—I mean really real, with sentient elephants, fat-lady bordellos, and anatomically-true clowns with chalk-white faces and round red noses and size 42 shoes that drive the dames wild. The circus folk are a minority in this world, a subculture relegated to the run-down, popcorn-strewn ghetto of Top Town. These are the dark days of more innocent times, and everybody’s lookin’ for the next greenback, especially our hero, down-on-his-luck clown Koko, who moonlights as a private dick.
There’s the setup for ya, and I ain’t gonna tell the tale—suffice it that Garner stirs a masterful blend of Hammett and Barnum and Bailey and Chandler. And he has done his homework, that’s for sure—the language here is incredible and irresistable, with noir and circus lingo tripping off the page smooth as the silk on a monkey’s mug. But don’t let me season your noodle; here’s a taste of your very own. In this vingnette, Koko and clown-pal Bingo are sauntering into the Banana Peel, old time watering hole for clowns and their admirers.
Bingo and I pushed through the swinging doors and entered the bar. It was dark inside, reeking of cigarettes and cream pies. As usual, the place looked like a cyclone had taken out its frustrations on it. Chairs and tables were piled up in crazy, suggestive, inexplicable ways. One table had six chairs piled one on top of another all the way to the ceiling, on top of which was an icebox with someone’s legs hanging out. A twisted bicycle was lying near a broken teeterboard, there was moaning coming out of an old pickle barrel, and a goat I’d never seen before was peeling strips of wallpaper for a snack. I’d lost count of how many times I’d embarrassed myself here over the years, how many ridiculous fistfights, how many bad spit takes. Thankfully, clowns’ memories are short, and can be wiped completely by a good belly laugh. Sometimes I feel like the only joey around who can hold a grudge or nurse a regret.
Now there’s some genuine genre-mash for ya. And sure, there’ll be the occasional word that throws you (“joey”?); but don’t let that deter you from the fun—most of the terms you’ll either know or are quite figure-outable, and for those you get stuck on, Garner kindly provides a glossary on the Rex Koko website.
Amused? You ain’t smelled nothin’ yet. Listen, this book is extremely affordable and accessible through the site linked to the title above. It’s definitely the easy road to a balloonful of mysteries and a bouncy-ball of laughs. So unless you’re a droll-only type of citizen (yes, I like Proust too), I’d say step right up and get yerself a read. And if you like it well enough, there’s even a bonus at the end—the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released sequel, The Wet Nose of Danger. Now if that ain’t worth a backflip, then I don’t know what is.
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Finally, a sweet visit by Drew Morrison, friend and illustrator, who was out in the Bay Area for this summer’s Renegade Craft Fair. For those unfamiliar, Renegade is a large-scale traveling fair that focuses on DIY and indie-craft culture. It tours several major cities, and features hundreds of booths with all kindsa work by both local and touring folks, and it’s really fun to check out. Drew hooked up with them in Brooklyn several years ago as a way of distributing prints of his illustrations (they’re fabulous—see site! see site!), and has set up his booth, the Pictorial Oddities Roadshow, in Bklyn, Chicago, and out here several times. This year he also did Austin and L.A. with the Renegades, and is headed to London on September 15 (see their site for details about the shows). All I got out of the visit was a lousy invisible t-shirt, a lot of great conversation, a couple of good meals, and a relaxing walk in Tilden Park up in the Berkeley Hills, but Drew was once again mesmerized by the ridiculously good vibe of the Bay Area, and is once again determined to move his ass out here. Quick! Somebody get this guy a job at Pixar!
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So, that’s an awful lot of verbiage for a piece of writing that’s not meant to be read. Did I say that? Am I blogging or not—and who gives a shit? If you choose to read it, this page, any post, any month, may it kindle your senses—serrano and lavender, chalk and loam—and travel you well. May it somehow please. For me is it water passing through, steam and gush, runnel and run, I am building, I am building streams, building without pummeling, I am allowing to build, I am building what builds, I am letting, I am breathing, I am building with steam.
I begin with wisps.