[Playing Both Videos at Once will let you feel it. If, indeed, you can bear to feel it.]
So many gone. So many lost. So many destroyed. So many broken, shattered, ground back into the dust from which they were made. So many… so many. And still, there are those tolerated demons among us who decree that tolerating open-air drug markets is… what?… kind?… respectful?… nice?… no judgments? … a cure? … a “solution?” No, It is none of these things. None. No, not one. It is Satanic. It is Evil incarnate on the earth. It is the path to The Pit and those places that tolerate it will burn. It is Biblical. It is Judgment. It is the cup of death filled with pride and hate. It is Darkness Visible.
Mixed with obdurate pride and steadfast hate:
At once as far as angels ken he views
The dismal situation waste and wild,
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulfur unconsumed.”
God forgive me, but I loved them. Right up to the moment they stopped my heart and sent me down into the long, cold dark.
From sixteen to sixty-five I loved tobacco. I loved the smoke of it. I loved the feel of a fine cigar. or a cheroot dipped into a bit of port. I had pipes from a Sherlock Holmes meerschaum to one of my father’s battered old pipes with a great cake built up.
But most of all I loved my cigarette. Loved how the red band around the top of a fresh pack just sort of zipped off with a slight cellophane crinkle, and then let me flip up the lid to see the order and promise of those twenty clean white brown filtered cylinders of death. You could thumbnail flip one a bit out of the pack and then slide the light brown filter tip between your lips and flick your Bic for that little death hit.
That first smoke and a steaming cup of java and I was ready for the day. Breakfast of champions. And the other 19 cigarettes that lay back in that fine portable box of “coffin nails” to help me through a long and stressful day until at night, instead of a prayer, I smoked the last cigarette of the day and fell asleep to dream of the cigarettes all my heroes smoked.
God forgive me but I still love them even though I haven’t smoked one since God brought me back from the dead with a nicotine patch stuck in the small of my back. That was how I kicked. Easy-peasy. I just simply dropped dead. When I was brought out of my coma after nine days in the cool room I had lost the urge to light up.
Since that moment I’ve never smoked another cigarette. I never will smoke another cigarette — unless I’m put up against the wall and offered the choice between a blindfold or a cigarette. Then my motto will be:
Smoke ’em if you got ’em!
David Lehman tells me and you why — even when you quit them decades back — you still love it when you get a little whiff of that death hit on the street from one of those degraded smokers… those lowly slobs… those… “smokers!”
In the black-and-white world of noir, cigarettes are everywhere. But then, they are ubiquitous in all movies, as in life, in the first half of the 20th century. Among great smokers I think of FDR with his holder tilted rakishly upward, as if to reinforce his smile, and Ike, who smoked four packs of unfiltered smokes a day before and after D-Day in 1944. Gregory Peck smokes fiercely as he types up his exposé of anti-Semitism in Gentleman’s Agreement, as if to say that smoking is an aspect of the writer’s job, a sine qua non, and that an ashtray full of butts is evidence that a writer has done his work. When New York replaced Paris as the world’s art capital, the art critics fell into two rival camps: Pall Malls for Harold Rosenberg, Camels for Clement Greenberg. Audrey Hepburn smokes stylishly in Charade. Marlene Dietrich smoked brilliantly, sometimes with a cigarette holder and furs. Bette Davis is in the smoker’s hall of fame, and not solely because of the end of Now, Voyager, when Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes, one for her and one for him, sealing their intimacy, and Bette has her famous line about settling for the stars if you can’t have the moon.
She’s got a cigarette between her fingers in All About Eve when she says “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Chesterfield ads of the 1940s and ’50s featured Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, and Rita Hayworth. Camels were advocated by Teresa Wright, Alan Ladd, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and a neon sign in Times Square that blew out smoke.
Some of the great jingles of the 1960s advertised mediocre cigarettes. Winston “tastes good like [sic] a cigarette should.” L & M has got the filter that unlocks the flavor. You can take Salem out of the country, but. To a smoker, it’s a Kent. The most famous of all Marlboro commercials used Elmer Bernstein’s music from The Magnificent Seven, and Yul Brynner, who played the leader of the pack, was a dedicated smoker (and made a public service announcement after he learned he didn’t have long to live). Nat King Cole credited the quality of his singing voice to cigarettes. Leonard Bernstein couldn’t live without them.
Addictive? A hardened criminal would rat on his best friend for a cigarette, even a bad one (Lark, Parliament, Viceroy) if he needed it. Reason not the need. Hell, the guy in solitary would smoke the butts off the floor if he needed a smoke [GV —I've done this and, if you are a smoker, so have you.]. Read the opening chapter of Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno. It is titled “The Last Cigarette” and narrates the hero’s efforts to give up cigarettes and the lengths the addict will go to satisfy his or her craving. In Dead Again (1991), Kenneth Branagh’s ode to the noirs of the 1940s, the intrepid reporter played by Andy Garcia smokes and smokes, and when we see him as an old man, decades in the future, he has a tracheotomy tube in his neck. What does he ask for—what does he crave—in return for sharing information with the detective played by Branagh? A cigarette.
There is the cigarette of combat: According to Roger Ebert, Out of the Past (1947) is “the greatest cigarette-smoking movie of all time.” Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas wage war by cigarette proxy. “The trick, as demonstrated by [director] Jacques Tourneur and his cameraman, Nicholas Musuraca,” Ebert writes, “is to throw a lot of light into the empty space where the characters are going to exhale. When they do, they produce great white clouds of smoke, which express their moods, their personalities, and their energy levels. There were guns in Out of the Past, but the real hostility came when Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas smoked at each other.”
READ THE WHOLE THING, RIGHT DOWN TO THE LAST HALF INCH OF A LUCKY STRIKE AT
“Your mission is to destroy as many Russian troops as you can.”
Just because he’s an idiot doesn’t mean the staff at the “George W. Bush Institute” has to let this kind of thing happen. But then, nobody in government is any good at their jobs.
Prank with George Bush. Part 1 – NATO expansion
Prank with George Bush. Part 2 – The war of the West against Russia
Prank with George Bush. Part 3 – Information war
Prank with George Bush. Part 4 – Powell’s tube
Prank with George Bush. Part 5 – Saakashvili and Biolaboratories
Prank with George Bush. Part 6 – Brother 2
Here are two contrasting items from long ago (4 years) on American Digest. The first (Something Wonderful: Speed Riding at night in Chamonix – American Digest) showcases an almost impossible moment in our long climb up from the mud and remaining forever earthbound in the dust. It showcases a single man, at night over the French Alps near Chamonix-Mont-Blanc swooping high and low, pirouetting in his parachute, his brightly illuminated parachute — over mountain peaks and valleys draped in shawls of snow — descending down with skies on his feet, in an exercise of pure joy. It is a scene of clear crisp white nights. Its elements proclaim the triumph of man over nature. And it is all done to promote not only awe from those of us who do not have the skill and courage and means to replicate the feat, but to sell small cans of flavored water mixed with caffeine, taurine, B vitamins (B3, B5, B6, B12), sucrose, and glucose… a global blend called Red Bull.
The elements that must come together to make this moment not only possible but viewable by us pretty much sum up the acme of technology and civilization available on the Planet Earth in the Year of Our Lord, 2022 AD:
Advanced parachute design and the fabrics necessary to make said parachute.
A kind of extremely bright LED lights powered by extremely light and powerful batteries.
An insulated helicopter to film the stunt.
The powerful cameras and lenses necessary to make the film.
The clothes that keep the skier from freezing to death.
The skis on his feet.
The global internet distribution system that enables you to see the stunt.
On and on and on in a cascade of things replete with wonder and awe and, to the savage, pure magic they cannot hope to emulate, only to — somehow, someway — sponge off of.
We call this convergence of intelligence, innovation, and invention the First World. From it vast improvements in life, in comfort, in spirit, in hope, and in freedom are spun off on a minute by minute basis to such an extent that a man brought in from, say, 1899, would be struck dumb and in need of severe anti-anxiety 21st-century medication just to begin to get used to the reality we all take for granted from the moment that the alarm on our smart phone sounds in the morning.
At one time in the not too recent past, there were three (3) worlds. The First, the Second, and the Third. The Second world was thought of as those countries that were part of what was then known as The Soviet or Eastern Bloc. With the collapse of the Second world in 1991 those countries in the Second blended into the First and left only the Third. And it left the denizens of the Third world with a deep, burning desire to move from the Third to the First. There were two major problems with this. [continue reading…]
Settled Things Strange — Five Rules for Living Faithfully in the Digital Age | 2. Practice Conversation The epidemic of loneliness and isolation among the most “connected” generation of Americans gives away the fact that these technologies inhibit relationship rather than cultivate it. What humans need is embodied conversation. Our voices and facial expressions—even the dreaded “awkward silences”—connect us to each other in a way that texting, DMs, and a “Like” cannot. One way to make social media technology serve your analog values would be to call instead of comment when you see a friend’s post about significant news in her life. Build time in your week for lunches with other people rather than succumbing to the temptation of scrolling endlessly through your phone while you eat. Again, we should expect that such practices cause confusion or awkwardness at first. A friend who serves at a local college recently told me that the younger students at his school can barely look people in the eye, so habituated are they to the digital tics of e-communication. Press through the initial discomfort for the sake of love.
BLM? MORE LIKE LBM (LUCRATIVE BABY-MAKER) Feeling as untouchable as a Hindu latrine-cleaner and ten times as pungent, last week Cullors went on MSNBC to boast about all the “white guilt money” she be throwin’ around. She also declared that questioning the use of BLM funds is racist, and IRS tax laws are “triggering.” When asked how any of this relates to the death of George Floyd, Cullors responded, “Who? Oh, right, that guy. I planted a tree in his name in my mansion’s yard. Had to cut it down, though—the leaves were clogging my infinity pool.”
Scott Ritter’s Unforced Error Third, who the hell is going to operate the stuff the west is sending? We are not seeing hordes of Ukrainian young men lining up to join the national defense. Instead, Ukrainian authorities are rounding up middle-aged guys forcing them into the army. Many of these “new” recruits are on video complaining that they are nothing more than cattle fodder. Then there is the training component. Teaching a soldier how to operate and maintain a new weapon system is not a one-day affair. This further complicates Ukraine’s ability to stay in the fight. [continue reading…]
The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother:
This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?
In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”
— Carl Sandberg
Sourdough Mountain Lookout
Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.
I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.
BY GARY SNYDER
Chimes of Freedom
Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
“From a student radical/hippie/leftist of the Free Speech Movement/Vietnam Day Commitee era and a full-on Democratic Liberal in the decades after, I think I’ve evolved a politics that is neither right nor left but is, in its elemental nature, draconian. In the last 20 years, I’ve taken apart my beliefs with a sledgehammer. Now I’ve got to put the surviving parts back together with tweezers and other ‘shabby equipment, always deteriorating’.”
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
– – W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939
To the Stonecutters
Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained
The honey of peace in old poems.
— Robinson Jeffers
Real World Address for Donations, Mash Notes and Hate Mail
Gerard Van der Leun
1692 MANGROVE AVE
Chico, Ca 95926
from “1054 AD”
Sometimes it seems I had a dream, and, as a dreamer woke immersed in mineral baths closed within a cool, dark chamber fed by streams flowing in from the center of nowhere.
Hanging from the granite ceiling a kerosene lantern cast shards of light through the pale steam rising from the surface of the pools.
Ripples radiated outwards from the edges of my body and tapping faintly on the rock revealed the edges of the chamber.
Outside I could hear the wind slide across the spine of the mountains, speaking in a language that I remembered but could no longer understand.
Steam filled my nostrils and heat penetrated my bones until, after a time, I had no body, only a sense of silence and distance and calm.
As if I had just woken from all water into dream.
— Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, 1973
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