Friday, February 12, 2016

DAD & PAUL

My father was moved into an assisted living facility this year, as he struggles with Alzheimer's. Although no diseases are easy to deal with, this one seems particularly cruel, especially when it attacks a friendly, funny. vibrant man. His wife Sharon deserves every bit of credit for having shouldered the burdens of helping Dad along over the past few years. He's always been lucky in the women who loved him. This picture comes from (I think) the wedding of Oxana, Paul's daughter, last year. It is a good one that I like and wanted to share.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CUT-OFF (flash fiction)

I’ve been dead for a bit, although likely I may still be a ghost on the other side. I wonder if I still have a cabin on the starship Maru, silently traversing inky space, tiny diamonds blinking in the distance through my window; do my former crewmates even miss me? Is my favorite seat near the fire on the island of nude beaches now occupied by a buff simulation or some giggling teenie bopper. Surely I have been deleted from many friend lists. It bothers me that my many outfits go unworn, combinations I never would be seen with in real life. I miss my daily meditation in the Japanese temple, perched high on a rugged peak; I loved listening to the small waterfall outside and the soft chimes, while clad in my bright red kimono. Hardly anyone ever came in while I was there, so it was a quiet treat. I didn’t often visit the sparkling fairy worlds, Celtic lands with impressive castles, or dark post-apocalyptic worlds, though they all could be interesting. No, I’ve been confined to my little room, alone, ever since my tablet stopped working.

Friday, February 5, 2016

MAURICE

One of my all-time favorite albums is Maurice White's 1985 offering which included the wonderful tracks "Stand By Me," "I Need You," and "Lady is Love," and I played them repeated on the cd and on my mp3. Of course, he first came to my attention as one of the founders of the awesome band Earth, Wind, & Fire. That group left a huge legacy and people will be listening to them, well, likely forever. "Serpentine Fire" is one of my favorite tunes. He wrote another fave, the Emotion's "Best of My Love." A lot of great musicians have left us this past few weeks, but his passing is especially painful for me. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

BASQUAIT

Modern art, as well as other contemporary endeavors, has often deeply bothered me. Yes, quite often I view a modern painting or sculpture, even the most abstract, and will like the look and appreciate it for some reaction in causes in me. But frequently I am convinced that there is a lot of deception going on, some unholy collusion among artists, critics, and brokers designed to promote work that is not worthy so that money flows into pockets of the conspirators. There doesn't seem to be many masters about any more, and realists are shunned as too traditional, despite the fact that they often produce beautiful work. My favorites include Hopper, the Wyeths, Mary Whyte and a host of others (Audubon, Chuck Close, Copley, Homer, O'Keeffe, Rockwell, Tanner, Whistler), and I can enjoy even Pollocks and Harings (and many other styles and pieces). I often love primitive art. But many I don't admire as much, such as Motherwell, Warhol, Nagel. It often depended on the piece. If there is no visual evidence of strenuous work or thought, at least relatively available to the viewer, then I suspect a con is afoot. A canvas painted a single color or inexplicable weirdness (concept pieces), then I am not amused. Often the most-interesting things about some art is the unusual title given it.

One of the most troubling for me was Jean-Michel Basquait, who was the same age as me, though he tragically passed at 27. He was basically a bright young soul swamped by fame, a hustler and conman swept up in the New York avante garde (that used him and helped destroy him, though ultimately one can only blame Basquait). Clearly his appealing physicality and sexuality attracted many admirers of both genders(fellow artists, dealers, and the in crowd), eager to advance his fame. It didn't hurt to associate with major stars, such as Madonna and Warhol. Most of his work I don't like much, but I admit many pieces draw me in, their cartoonish and jarring imagery amazing, their compositions engaging, almost hypnotic. Much of it seems hokey, using text and references to historical events and people, but in a way that feels superficial and fraudulent, as if he were hoping to make it more significant than it warranted as just a piece of art. His style was childish even, though some pieces just knock you over. I wonder how much of his work will be applauded two hundred years from now. Perhaps some, because of his impact and popularity historically. I love Obnoxious Liberals (1982) and Riding With Death (1988), and many others. Surely there is a lot in his paintings for the intellectuals to ruminate on.

Monday, January 25, 2016

HUNTER-KILLER (flash fiction)

Every morning, whenever it lightens enough for me to see clearly, and I’ve shed slumber, I’ll be up and hunting. I’m a silent, sober, spirited killer who strategically tracks his not-so-elusive prey. Some victims are pretty wily and swift though, and can be worthy opponents, but seldom do they escape my deadly crosshairs. Most are simply and savagely struck down in their tracks, never realizing their impending doom. Others are smarter and more alert, however; once they realize they are being tracked they might employ different survival techniques. They will sometimes freeze and think they can’t be seen in their stillness, while others rush about erratically in the hope their supposed cleverness will throw me off and I will miss my shot. Occasionally they do get lucky and escape, but that just makes me more careful the following hunt. Usually I’ll bag four or five: almost always one large, a middling, and a few smaller ones. I've nailed as many as seven or eight a few times. Even when I don’t spy one right away, if I stand there for a bit and focus my attention broadly, I will almost always catch some slight motion in the corner of my eye, and then the game is on. I follow their frantic flight, aiming carefully until I ruthlessly take them out. There is no reprieve. You’d think at some point they would collectively realize the persistent danger and mounting losses, and simply stay off my property. So now, stirring from sleep, I prepare for this morning's hunt. I hate those damned bathroom roaches.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

SHEN (flash fiction)

I’ll admit, it isn’t all that bad here. Facilities are clean, I never feel threatened, nourishment is delivered regularly, and the guards are professional. Some are even sweet. I can sleep, read, and even listen to music. Not a bad incarceration: for the condemned.

I don’t have long before my extinguishing. They claim it is peaceful and quick. One can’t ask for much more. I never denied the allegations, although some lie to the authorities. And no, I don’t have some martyr syndrome that justifies it all. I would love to remain. I know I broke deeply held cultural standards and beliefs, and this is the logical result. No reason to get belligerent and make things difficult for everyone. My family has already refuted and forgotten me. I have forgiven them.

A couple guards are kindhearted. That is how I got this writing pad and stylus. One promised to sneak the device afterwards to sympathetic individuals. Who’ve had similar dreams; who question accepted ways.

It’s not as if I am alone in my heresy. Accounts exist. Stories are passed around. Hundreds have questioned. Heretics hustle in halls, however most stay hushed. But sometimes one gets a friendly glance, a knowing nod. There are alleged repositories of accumulated accounts. We go to our ends confident in the veracity of our stories. There have been historic rebellions and rabid exhorters, but their outbursts were short and quickly suppressed.

The priest has already visited. She was gentle and kind, even as she tried to get me to deny what I knew. “Shem, save yourself,” she begged. She is so young, for a holy one. I wish I could soften her experience, lighten the burden, but I can’t deny.

She went through the official rites.

“Shem, do you reject our faith.”

“I do.”

“You refuse the mind cleansing and repositioning?”

“Yes.”

“You accept the higher powers, and willingly face the forever ostracism?”

“I do.”

“May the eternal ones have mercy on you and may your rest be peaceful.”

“Thank you.”

Her exit from the cell was quiet, final. I wanted to cry for her. Although the climate is carefully regulated, I still felt a cool breeze pass.

Soon the enforcer will be here. I know he will ask me my final question, if I have anything to say before the long walk to eternity. He will query, and I will reply: “Yes, I am a Beforeminder. I know I once existed on a small beautiful planet. I lived a past life as human. I have seen it in my dreams.”

And now I shall die. Again.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

CLIMB

The boys traveled to Anderson to learn climbing techniques with Troop 324. Joey is in white shirt, Chino light green.