the new year (an analysis of the human condition)

we break bread over the fire.  old women, leathered and quilted, keep the story.  the stealth cat shoulders keep the rhythm, the hyacinth keep the time.  the hope waves are a gunnery, they pulse and lap, they are the war of love.  stalking higher than the pygmies in the drypaper bush, beige, is the giant spindle of Hammerman, his skin sepulchral, baked in the sun, his lower lip pooched-out, the medicine man bone in his nose.  the cat bones in his belt pouch.  the crouched cats in the lower stalks, where they are sienna.

we move the deck chairs on the titanic for better feng shui.  we tinkle glass and bauble, and wink in the diamond’s brittle sun.  the real royal sunstar cracks the mortar and fires the engines and caresses with a loving touch.  nothing lives inside, but man.  to live outside is ecstasy.  to live inside is enstasy.  there are a hundred synonyms for heaven, and one word for hell.  unless it is gehenna, which precedes the devil.  unless it is the dark, which precedes the light.

so there was always a place.

and still the hope waves crash in the turquoise and azure spray against the biting, happy rocks.  the chintzy, formica grin of the rocks, eating the ocean.  there it is; relentless.  and that sun rises again, touching each different face, painting each different place, and beats back the night with its ribbon-hot fingers, and beats back speculation with its puffed chest, and envelops all suspicion with its unassailable power.

and we beat the old, rotted porch with leather; like the old women story-keepers, now the men belt out their blues.  “ain’t no sunshine today, the clouds ain’t gone away, but it’s up there on high, my big bright blue sky.”

and charlie, the man with the wide grin as full as the flatbush cemetery, he says, “bruddah, it hep ta sing.”

and they cackle into the night, and their laugh rolls like clouds into the distance, over wet, fecund places where the Hammerman rattles his bones.

the apple and the tree

It’s funny how individual and different we like to think we are, and we are so much our parents’ children.  Both genetically and as a result of our upbringing.

For instance, I know a girl whose father and mother split up.  The father wanted to preach love and live in a fig tree.  The mother wanted to live in Marin County and have money and go to parties.  So the girl, their daughter, likes to have money and go to parties and worked hard to disassociate from the world of her father she felt was “embarrassing.”  At the same time (see: Harville Hendrix for more on this) we are often attracted to those persons who resemble our parent – particularly the one most responsible for not meeting some of our childhood needs.  We are attracted to that person and harbor the idea that this person will in fact meet that or those particular needs; they will be different.  For instance, this girl, she dated me, a guy who at the time looked like he would be cool and making money and perhaps live in Marin County but was, really, just a guy preaching love, living in a fig tree.

Another woman has a father who displays the Darwin fish on his car (in response to the Jesus fish.)  I have never seen how religion and evolution ought to be mutually exclusive, but some people have to have it black or white.  Anyway, she follows in those footsteps: her parents don’t subscribe to Christianity; she doesn’t subscribe to Christianity.

A third woman – her parents are atheists.  At some point, however, she went to a Catholic school, and was confirmed.  Her grandmother was very devout.  So, on the exterior, she is atheist.  Interiorly, she grapples with reconciling the love and appreciation she has for her departed grandmother, and her intellectual disparity with that; God probably does not exist.  Her constant poking fun at Jesus and religion, endless sarcasm and attention brought to it are indicative of this internal wrestling.

I find that people, who are, in themselves, not at peace with how they feel about religion, about God, are the ones most vociferous about it.  And this goes both ways.  The non-believer who takes shots at the believers, and tries to belittle them, as well as the believer who tries to convert the nons and convince them of their wrong.  Both of these ends, to me, show people not at rest with their “stance” on the whole thing.

But that’s off-point.  What’s going on this whole time is that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree, in most cases.  In behavior and belief we mirror or parents in many ways, or we go to opposite ends to try and be something very different.  Either way, our actions are conducted by this basic paradigm set up in our upbringing.  It’s not a perfect theory, as of course there are exceptions.  But, by and large, people who grew up as children where both parents remained together tend to believe in marriage and family, while children of broken homes tend to struggle more with trust in relationships.  And if religion was an integral part of the upbringing, and was enjoyable and positive, it is typically continued to be entertained in the adult life.  And so on.

Where my own story fits in is that my parents divorced, and my mother raised me for a time before finding someone else.  I too “divorced” the other parent of my child, and have found a relationship elsewhere.  While the sexes are reversed, the scenario is essentially the same.  Growing up, my stepfather was a non-believer and my mother a devout believer, so I seem to have both of these aspects as well.  And then, in the middle is my biological father, a sort of Buddhist, and so from both genes, perhaps, and what exposure to him I had in my formative years, I also have this kind of sensibility.  I have not, as it were, fallen very far.

three conversations

jude:  dava, did you have a bad dream?

dava:  uh-huh.

jude:  was it a nightmare, or a skeleton?

dava:  no, it wasn’t a nightmare.  it was just unpleasant.

jude:  oh.  was it a skeleton?  that was saying ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’ and kicking and being mean?  (he sneezes twice.)

dava: god bless you.

jude:  thank you.


jude:  what’s that?  (pointing at phone screen)

dava:  that’s an icon.

jude:  what’s an icon?

dava:  a symbol.

jude:  what’s a symbol?

dava:  …so, that takes you to your home screen…

jude:  what’s a home screen?


daddy: boy, it’s really winter out here today.

jude:  it sure is.

daddy:  it’s cold out.

jude:  …what do you mean, ‘holed out’?

daddy:  (shivering)  context, jude.  …context.


it’s a little preachy, maybe, but felt good to write. happy holidays!

Some real deep shit, yo:

When you don’t have a lot of real shit going on, you tend to create drama.  When you have a good bit of real shit going on, you want to be at peace, you seek things that are calm.

Some people seem to spend their time convincing themselves that they are not happy.  They actually build towards this goal, and identify themselves with tragedy and difficulty.

“Real shit (going on)” can be defined in many different ways, but essentially it means that which takes you out of yourself.  If you have too much time on your hands, you tend to focus on yourself.  There is a sort of black hole in each of us, in the same way there are stars in each of us.  The star radiates out for illumination, there for others to navigate by, and is one among many.  The back hole is an inward concentration of energy, and is an isolated entity.   (We can draw our clues from the universe, as each facet is representational of all else.)

It’s not your fault that you have tragedy.  Your responsibility begins with how you deal with that tragedy.  In some cultures and languages, tragedy is synonymous with opportunity.  It is change, something with no positive or negative value assigned; just change.  These are the joints, the scrimmages that keep prying us out of static routine and render us malleable so that we may continue to grow and be shaped, and shape ourselves.  We can be shaping ourselves to be someone associated with tragedy.  We may use our challenges as a yolk for others – to draw attention, sympathy, or to be calling for help.  Of course we don’t consciously feel we are doing this.

Suffering is relative.  No one person’s suffering is any greater or lesser than anyone else’s.  We may think that the guy who lost a cool million in the stock market is not suffering as much as a child sick with AIDS in a poor African country.  But we can never know the whole truth.  How things appear to us on the surface is rarely, if ever, indicative of the hidden truths.  We tend to observe symptoms in one another, if we are keen, but symptoms and their causes are a complex relationship.  It is just not easy to know what is really going on with someone.  We should not assume anyone is better off than anyone else.  This only creates an idea of our own “standing” and is just more focus on ourselves, and what we think we don’t have.

There is a tendency in each of us to avoid suffering, and there is a conjunctive tendency to fear that change will be difficult, and bring about suffering.  So many of us ride the fence, and procrastinate, and keep the “real shit” at bay.  We don’t commit, and spend our time pondering options.  The more options we ponder, the more outfits we try on, often the harder it is to commit to any one of them.  And we live in a world of countless options, so it is not easy.  But so long as we ride the fence and procrastinate, we can’t really be living, we can’t have any “real shit,” going on, and so we create drama to occupy us.  Of course, again, we don’t think we are doing this, and will likely deny it up and down.  “I don’t like drama,” we’ll say, but there we are, creating it.  Social drama.  Personal drama.  One or the other or both.

We may take great issue with something happening far away.  We may go out and socialize and get into all sorts of issues with friends and romances, spending all kinds of time on these relationships.  We’ll put ourselves in an in-group and talk about the wrongness of the out-group.  We’ll look for things to identify with – a cause, a sports team, an ideology.  We’ll rally for and champion our cause and beat at its antithesis.  We’ll concern ourselves with all sorts of things happening in the world, and with other people, and we may believe that this is living outside of our self.  But this far-reach, and these dramas with friends and lovers, they perpetuate the kind of distracted, far-sightedness that keeps us from doing the most important work of all – and that is with what is right in front of us.

Where we are needed is where we are.  What we should be doing is what is right in front of our eyes.  This is where the real shit is, with the people in our lives, in our community.  From our place of solitude (getting to know our self with honesty, contemplating meaning, and getting down to the simple things, the simple tasks, and doing them with practiced gratitude), we become ready for these things that naturally present themselves to us, not what we go out and pick and choose, or stir up, or feed into based on our need to declare our self and who we are to others.

From a place of solitude and honesty, we will do well to pick up the ropes that lay at our feet, to help others with burden for a time, to see in the people nearest us the good of our service, and love.

aaron hobson

in some ways, photog aaron hobson’s foray into video reminds me of those ridiculously cool late 90s music videos from mark romanek and chris cunningham.  it’s not so much storytelling as it is exposition and performance.

in other ways, i see hobson’s psyche easily bleeding through.  it’s neither paean to his past lifestyle, or simple cobbling together of demons, but a kind of easy tapestry that works in conjunction with the most appealing of recent styles – the slick, the sleekly profane, and the unadorned.  and welding these things together is hobson’s energy.

i worked with him on one of his camera tests, the one he calls “schizo,” a loose idea he juggled in his head as we jaunted from one location to another on a recent sleeting morning. a cigarette dangling from his lips, and still smelling like the night before, aaron cut his teeth on his new camera with characteristic aplomb, giving himself to the ideas, chucking what didn’t hit in the moment, running with what did.

a big part of aaron’s magic, to me, lies with what he does in post.  this part of his process i am not privy to, and have only a cursory knowledge of.  there’s a lot of data crunching going on  – this i know.  but what i find with his finished products is a simple truth, and one, i would wager, that is about as important an element as there is – aaron knows exactly what he wants as he builds to each work’s end, and achieves it with the kind of natural impulse only given to true artists.

…as one friend put it, “creepy and sexy and cool.”