the cat who loved thanksgiving

the cat who loved thanksgiving

silas

the cat who loved thanksgiving

he was a cat of grand reputation: his miaow melted the hearts of even those who in the secret heart of their hearts did not, in theory, like cats. yet each year he proved again, through the naked wonder of his dilated eyes and drooling stare at the plucked and trussed bird nearly twice his own size, the commonality of dreams. slumbering in the sun, curled in the helpless shape of a turkey-filled belly, he traveled between worlds without moving, his eyes half-open, proof also that dreams and reality are sun-streaked shadows falling across the same rug.

Nordpolen Journal: 5/27/13- postcards to influential strangers 9

Nordpolen Journal: 5/27/13- postcards to influential strangers 9

San Francisco, California
Monday, May 27, 2013

Click here to see the list of 15.

9. Siouxsie Sioux:

Siouxsie, other than the dead people on my list, wins the prize for most difficult to find a mailing address. There is nothing on any of her fan sites that I could discover. I spent an hour tracking down her general manager, and will send it to him in London in the hopes that it actually gets to her eventually. To add a twist, I am going to geocache this postcard in the arctic, relying upon the kindness and eventuality of a stranger to actually drop it in the mail at some point in the future. This is a longshot of longshots. However, in a little nudge of collaboration from the universe, I discovered that today is Siouxsie’s 56th birthday. I had no idea… so perhaps a sign of good fortune? We’ll see, won’t we?

siouxsie-pc-front

 

siouxsie-pc-back

 

An Evening of Adventure with Chicken John, Tupelo Hassman, Joshua Mohr and Sarah Fran Wisby

An Evening of Adventure with Chicken John, Tupelo Hassman, Joshua Mohr and Sarah Fran Wisby

arctic-map-late1500s

An Evening of Adventure with Chicken John, Tupelo Hassman, Joshua Mohr and Sarah Fran Wisby

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO INVITE YOUR FRIENDS
  • Join us for an Evening of Adventure inspired by the creative process and the spirit of exploration. Hosted by Evan Karp and LJ Moore, the evening will feature interactive performances by Chicken John Rinaldi, Tupelo Hassman, Joshua Mohr, and Sarah Fran Wisby, as well as short interviews with each performer, and a chance for the audience to creatively respond and interact.The event is a mini-fundraiser for LJ’s Moore’s upcoming expedition to sail the arctic circle on a tall ship, where she will document the effect of isolation and extreme environment on the creative process of a group of artists and scientists aboard the ship.The arctic has long symbolized the spirit of adventure for the sake of adventure itself… to get to a place because no one has been there, and a place that is completely conceptual… a point on the globe that means something to us not because of what’s there, but because of what it means as an idea. This reaching toward the unknown is at the heart of the creative process, and in that spirit, we want to create an evening based around the idea of adventure and creativity.Want to be part of this adventure?Equipment List:
    1. shoes you can walk in
    2. a paper and pen/pencil
    3. a warm jacket
    4. a flask (with water or spirits, whatever you like)
    5. a sense of adventure

    Tickets are $10 at the door.

    Chicken John Rinaldi
    http://instituteofpossibility.org/

    Tupelo Hassman
    http://tupelohassman.com/

    Suzanne Kleid
    Suzanne Kleid writes, and sells things, in San Francisco.

    Joshua Mohr
    http://www.joshuamohr.net/

    Sarah Fran Wisby
    http://www.sarahfranwisby.com/

    Evan Karp
    http://quietlightning.org/

    LJ Moore
    https://ljmoore.wordpress.com/
    http://www.thearcticcircle.org/

80 Fresno Street, San Francisco, California 94133

This Just In: Spine-tingling Not Just for Goths

This Just In: Spine-tingling Not Just for Goths

phrenologicalchartAutonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR: sometimes it feels good to have a name for something, even if the name is an acronym and a euphemism. Thanks to this week’s This American Life podcast, “Tribes” I found out that this odd sensation I have had since childhood is shared by OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, I really did think it was me alone that would suddenly, while reading a piece of poetry or listening to certain music, experience a strange prickling sensation on the back of my skull that proceeded down my spine and petered out somewhere between my shoulder blades.

ASMR. According to the encyclopedic collective unconscious currently housed in the Tubes (wikipedia), ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Though after reading the wiki entry I was baffled by the term’s coiner comparing it to orgasm. An orgasm is a very muscular, whole-body sensation where everything tenses up with a release following it.

For me ASMR is subtle, does not involve muscles, only nerves and skin, and is an unlike an orgasm in that I can’t deliberately pursue and achieve it. I can listen to certain kinds of music more likely to trigger it, and I can read poetry in the hopes that I find a line that elicits it, but I can’t say with certainly what exactly it is I am responding to. It also has a more important component than the physical sensation that I would call liminal: it’s a state, a moment of transition or connection… and  it brings with it this strong sense of… rightness. That something sounds/feels right, as in, it has struck some kind of resonance inside me that I am uniquely tuned to hear.

When I was a kid, I was really curious about it. I felt it when I read passages in books, or in listening to classical music. (Which hearkens back to an earlier post I wrote about the central role music takes in my creative life). I used to tell adults about the feeling. One person told me it was called a frisson, but a frisson is a shudder or a thrill caused by emotional disturbance or anxiety or fear. A frisson is that creeped-out feeling you get when you hear a voice in the house when you know you are alone… it’s that attention/fear/back-of-the-neck hair-raising tingle otherwise known as the heebie jeebies or the willies. This may be a cousin of the electrified sprinkling that is ASMR, but my guess is that the willies are more a primal attention response that keeps us from being eaten by stealthy, nocturnal things.

I once saw my grandmother give a sudden shudder for no reason. She looked around in the air around her chair and then said, “A goose was walking over my grave.” Was this ASMR? I wish I had known what she was thinking about at that moment… or was she reading something? Listening to something? I can’t remember.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it is a kind of sense that doesn’t have a name. Remember when “umami” became the other taste that was all the rage? I hadn’t even heard of it until maybe ten years ago. It is not straightforward- there isn’t a single word to describe it, except itself. People try with “savory” or “hearty” or “delicious” but truthfully, it is its own thing. ASMR may be something like this: a sense like umami that is tied to sound. I confessed to a writer friend as soon as I heard about it, who also could not believe that it had a name. She also has experienced this feeling since childhood, and describes it as a sense of connectedness.

Maybe as I grew older I never mentioned this feeling it to anyone because it is so difficult to describe, and like most things tied to creativity, I feel guarded about it. Artists are superstitious… if you give away the power of an inspiration, if you talk about a story too soon, if you discuss what drives you to make something, you risk leaking its natal force. Also, you’d be surprised how many people want to belittle and dismiss the curious hunger that makes creative people happy.

Also, I am sure that if I casually mentioned that I experience a physical reaction to beauty, that I get tingles in my head when I read or hear a line of really good poetry, or that Wagner or Chopin’s Nocturnes give me electricity in my skull, I would sound like a total loon or even worse, a complete blowhard. I’ll tell you what though, I would bet a $5 coffee that most dubstep fans and musicians experience ASMR and even seek to create it. Dubstep, as well as a lot of related electronic music is all about the symphonic- heavy on the build-up and definitely, deliberately epically narrative in structure. They build to massy, booming drops. They buoy quietly up into soaring: it gives me the prelude to zings just thinking about it. Here, just listen to this one.

even magicians find dust bunnies in their hats

even magicians find dust bunnies in their hats

There is too much stuff in my magic show.

beloved historiesThis became abundantly clear to me while sitting in my hallway this morning among the pocket watches, tiny carved boxes, ship’s gauges, hundred-year-old microscope slides, turn-of-the-century medicinal bottles, raven feathers, antique buttons, candelabras, photographs of people and animals long passed on to other adventures… and books.

Over 500 books.

I have a svelte magic show, by a common magician’s standards: it all fits in one hallway, one bedroom, and two closets. It is tidy and organized. There is no dirt, no piles of things, no boxes of forgotten junk. There is no muffin top here, no spare rabbit, no cage full of doves- only feathers and broken time pieces. Only beloved forgotten spells cast by strangers into the world that somehow ended up in my pockets, and I’ve carried them for years, listening to their wonders, and wondering about their secrets.  At night, when the noise of traffic keeps me awake, I try to tune my ear to a deeper place, to the restless, unending whispering of these objects. Each has a pulse, a story that goes on.

This might be sounding a bit creepy at this point, so let me clarify: I suffer from no terrible Gollum-like lust for what was. Neither am I guarding horcruxes while my actual soul withers and splits. I am just a poet. And a poet is a magician of words… an intermediary, a translator, an amplifier, a caretaker of stories. Look at all the stories!

souls transcribed and somewhat immortal

But every few years the same thing happens, no matter how small a space I live in, not matter how much I maintain my resolve to not accumulate… I end up losing my equilibrium. I’m the raccoon that is caught in a nail trap because I won’t let go of the shiny object in my fist. I am, as George Carlin once joked, enslaved to my boxes. I work so I can pay for a box to put my boxes in, which are full of more boxes. And books are like the tesseract of boxes… they are boxes that contain hundreds of very thin, double-sided boxes, with ink printed in box shapes, and should you be able understand the spells written in these boxes, suddenly each produces an entire heretofore unknown reality… right into your brain… as if you experienced it yourself. And in a sense, you did, because you add your own images, your own particular interpretation of what you find there, and it stays with you, and over time you might pass it on by giving the book away, or telling the story to someone else, or dropping a clever reference about Voldemort or Tolkein into your blog post… a wink wink, nudge nudge to others who have been in the box and know the status of the cat.

Books are the deepest sorcery that exists. Do I need to mention the old/new testaments?  torah?  qur’an? confucian analects? bhagavad gita?  book of mormon?  Okay, just checking.

So here is the question: what does a magician keep? What does a poet let go of?  As the world continues its shift to convert so much of what was physical into encoded (smaller) versions of the physical, we may be reducing the visible cache, but we are increasing the volume to an ear-splitting level. And what is the value of thingness?

I don’t keep these objects because of their monetary value. Most of them are monetarily valueless. I took 30 music Cd’s to Amoeba yesterday and was offered $16 cash or $32 in trade. If I sell off even 1/5th of these books at Green Apple, I might get $50 if I’m lucky. These are not financial investments, they are the currency of dreams, and the record of a silent, collective experience that our living memories simply don’t have room for. We press the “clear cache” on these events more and more quickly as the decades gain thrust… because we have to.

LIFE magazine from 1980. TIME magazine from 2005But physical reminders are necessary. This 1980 LIFE magazine contains a hopeful report on thousands of people surviving cancer. As of 2007, the number was 11.7 million…  in the United States alone. This TIME magazine shows a woman holding her mother in floodwaters after hurricane Katrina. This information is all over the web, but the context in time has been lost. What these events meant when they happened is a subtler understanding that comes from reading what’s around the articles in these magazines…  advertisements for the boxy 1980 Dodge Aries K with the tag line “America’s not going to be pushed around anymore,” is laughable and sad when you consider the Hummers and Suburbans and Ford F150 fiberglass leviathans that cars ballooned into by the 2000’s. In 2005, photographs of bodies floating in Louisiana’s floodwaters are surrounded by mostly pharmaceutical ads promising restful sleep, pain-free diabetes monitoring, effort-free weight loss, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The physicality of objects is a tangible memory of what people were in a place and time. What they felt, and what was important to them, is not so much in the information, but in how they put it together, and what they included and excluded, and even more so, what they considered a “given”. In a pocketwatch, you see precious metals, intricate gears, jewels and flywheels and springs that must be cared for in order to work together as a precise mechanism. If you owned a pocketwatch, you owned not only an object of necessity and utility, but one of moveable wealth, and you quite literally, kept time in your pocket. Nothing about this can really be understood by the idea of a pocketwatch. You have to carry it around, remember to wind it, attach is safely to your button with a fob, have it accessible at any moment. Without it, you don’t know what time it is. The world will move on without you.

But even a magician doesn’t have room in her hat for everything. Sometimes, it’s time to reach in there and sort the bunnies from the dust. Sometimes the urge to purge becomes overwhelming and indiscriminate. I fantasized this morning about carrying down every object I owned by armfuls and leaving it all out on the street, and watching people carry it all off to new life and purpose. But screw that, I’m not a neo-hippie. If I want to go to extremes I’ll dye my hair again.

What I do in this situation is ask myself… what kind of magician am I… and what do I really need to accomplish that? I think a little bit of hunger is in order. I don’t want to live inside a curiosity cabinet, I am a curiosity cabinet, and the feeling of being beloved is much more like light than like money.  If I pass on some of these books, I pass on the stories that live inside them, but like the sunlight that bounces off the moon, someone else can experience the illumination, without any diminishing of mine.

battery-powered 1970s owl clock

All that said, there are certain objects that no sane person would have produced in the first place, let alone used, and cherished and hauled around from place to place.

That is why I am so not getting rid of this clock.

Shadowed: Unheard Voices is now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices is now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices from Now & Then & Again on Vimeo.

Shadowed is an extraordinary book of 148 prose poems written in response to photographs spanning the first half of the twentieth century—each photo accompanied by the imaginative speculations of a gathering of contemporary women poets.

To order Shadowed, and for more info, click on ABOUT and POETS & PROCESS. Hear the voices, see the images, experience a taste of the poetry.

Are Zombies Attracted by Xmas Music? A Rigorous, Qualitative Assessment

Are Zombies Attracted by Xmas Music? A Rigorous, Qualitative Assessment

i seriously can't believe i missed this movie...It began two weeks ago when I slept through my alarm and was forced to take the shuttle to work. I usually enjoy a morning saunter through Golden Gate Park, enjoying the music of leafblowers and ravens, and the thwock-thwock of crazy people who wake up at the crack of dawn to play tennis, so it was with great chagrin that I boarded the shuttle, which always smells like hot airplane-seat fabric and drives like it has the hydraulic system of a Habitrail. Once we swung into traffic and got started up Stanyan I started to hear a sound like someone dragging their fingers across a party balloon.  I thought it was the usual squeaking of the various parts of the shuttle holding together as it drives, but it was way too melodic for that… and then I saw that the driver was wearing Santa hat, and then my brain did its pattern-recognition thing and the squeaking resolved itself into music: Alvin and the Chipmunks. Christmas music. I look around… everyone looks vaguely smiley. I feel… uncomfortable. I feel, not like a Scrooge… no way… I once described my ascent out of depression as a desire to become the fuzzy puppy of the universe… that is, if I appeared in someone’s dream, (or my own), it would be as a bounding, floppy, furry scatterer of sadness… a kind of patronus/patroness of exuberant joy, with feet four sizes too big, and a “knock-you-over-in-the-midst-of-your-depressive-thought-and-make-you-forget-all-about-it” kind of emotion ninja. So no, I’m not a Scrooge. But man, I hate sentimentality with a vengeance. Why? Because it is Hallmark-card emotion. It’s shorthand… it’s not going to the effort to have your own feelings and describe them, but to reach for the mass-produced feeling because it is quick, and convenient. These were my thoughts as I got off the shuttle.

So I have to stop and admit to something here… who was really missing the point? Me.At least one point… that everyone else on that shuttle was vaguely happy, soothed as the monster was in Young Frankenstein by the sweet sounds Frau Bleucher (cue horse’s whinny) playing the violin. I was the only one getting off the shuttle with a vague scowl and a sense of the heebie jeebies. But… was that good? Was that bad? Was I the Stupid who could not comprimise by internal Yeager-shot of snobbery for the delicious goo of Generic Label Xmas cheer? Was I just being a smarty-pants-intelligensia-party-pooper? Would liquor have improved the situation?

Or was I simply resisting zombiehood?

zombie by george pfau

I have a friend who is also an incredible artist (by “incredible” i mean very credible, so much so his work seems impossibly amazing), who also lectures about zombies. His name is George Pfau, and he created this image of a zombie here on the left. If I had to be a zombie, I would want to be one of George’s images of one… in fact I think I already am. Not a zombie, but I am made up of structural memories… houses and mailboxes and trains and toilets and crossbeams and rebar and a ton of shingles and gimcrackery. I have been to one of George’s lectures on zombies, and I was quite taken by the history of zombies… in religion and movies and popular culture. I find the zombie flash mob idea, like SantaCon, joy-inducing. But it’s not because I want to be a zombie. I like these things because they are a bunch of people getting together to do something that is hysterically funny specifically because it is en masse.  One person dressed as a zombie shuffling around downtown San Francisco would probably draw, at best, a lopsided grin or two from the actual zombies (people glued to their cell phones, etc.) who managed to notice. But a whole streetful of people dressed as zombies… that will cause an effect! And several drunken 40-year-old Santas returning to their condos in Concord on BART after a night of cruising uninterested 20-somethings dressed as naughty elves? The best BART ride I ever had for sure! drunk santas on bart

And there is something paradoxical and strange about the idea of mob mentality. I mean, that’s what zombies are, yes? They are a mob… not even an insectile mass mind… they are a non-mind. They are “walkers” or “biters”, but they don’t think. They eat. They are. So the power of a group of people deliberately dressing up as zombies is a kind of reversal of zombie-ness, or a tongue-bitten-off-in-cheek comment on the idea of a directed mob.

If you’ve ever been to church, or a sports event, the same thing happens when a group of more than say, 30 people, sings together, or cheers together. It’s like standing on the beach watching a thunderstorm come in, or a tsunami– the sheer bigness of it, the power of many people doing the same thing at the same time is both emotionally, and physically overwhelming in a transformative way. If the human tsunami is up to something wonderful… it’s a heart-swelling experince that makes you want to go out and help old ladies across the street and pay strangers’ bridge tolls and catch spiders and put them outside instead of smashing them with a shoe. But if the mob is say… holding molotov cocktails and guns… waiting for the doors to WalMart to open on Black Friday…. or standing in a malevolent clump by your school locker… that’s when every part of your being concentrates in the lower part of your belly, and all the hairs on your neck stand up. The tsunami… it will either lift you up and set you down somewhere else and give you a breathtaking ride… or it will drown the life out of you in two seconds without even noticing.

These of course are two ways of thinking of zombies… but there is a third, and for me, it’s the most frightening. It’s what I’ll call the milk and cheese zombie. Have you ever seen this advertisement?

california cheese cows

“Happy Cows Come from California. Real California Cheese.”

Real cheese is right, and by cheese, I mean melt-in-your-mouth jar full O easy cheez. Come on. No one being sucked dry all the day long is going to be happy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink milk or eat cheese, ok? I do! I just think that it adds deep insult to injury and a bit self-serving to re-brand humanely treated animals as “happy”. I mean this is like being in a relationship with a person who locks you in a room and uses you, and then tells you must like it since you haven’t run away yet.

The milk and cheese zombie is the one who believes his or her own bullshit, or the bullshit presented by others as truth. Or, in it’s seemingly more innocuous interation: this zombie likes things because other people do. Does things because other people do. Listens to things because other people do. Buys stuff because other people do. And the more I have to do every day to exist, the more I give in to this milk-and-cheese zombie mind. I just do it because it’s expected. I nod my head and I no longer wear sweatshirts as skirts or put makeup on statues. Is it because being an adult forces you to become a zombie? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not equating youthful knee-jerk rebellion against the status quo is any better. I’m saying… do we have to lose our individuality to celebrate as a group?

But these are my subjective thoughts about zombies and zombiedom. I decided, once I had reached my desk, (yes, all of this really did go through my head in the two blocks between the shuttle stop and my desk. It was morning, I had just had coffee. This is the best and most productive thinking time of my day… that caffeine-and-angst-fueled golden five minutes when I ponder the really big and important questions of society and self- like “am i a simulation, and would i notice if i were?.) So, as in all things, when I can’t figure out if the problem is me or the rest of the world, or if there is actually a problem at all, I turned to my beloved experts on gchat: one is a former Mole at the Cornell High Energy Sychrontron, now in quasi-retirement in a desk job provided by the atomic witness protection program. Here’s how our conversation went:

me: can i just say that I am no scrooge, but I despise christmas music?why does it all gotta be so SAPPY and MEDIOCRE? notable exceptions: bruce springsteen

this is a recording: unfortunately for me, the sappier the better for xmas music!

me: oh god. you would torture me, wouldn’t you? LOL

this is a recording: i happen to have Santa’s Marching Band SET UP next to my bed … I play dean martin and alvin and the chipmunks out loud ALL DAY at my desk at work. along with MANY other sappy xmas hits.

me: okay… but no barbara streisand. that’s where i draw the line. dean martin is totally cool. alvin and the C’s…. are pushing it tho.

this is a recording: inexplicably…since I’ve begun playing these…more and more zombies shamble in the immediate vicinity.

me: !!!!!!

this is a recording: now playing Gene Autry & the Cas “Frosty the Snowman”

me: that’s like the guy in the piano store at the mall who sits there playing electic organ music all day.

this is a recording:  I hate organ mushik.

me: the only organ music that doesn’t suck is the kind I play with my nose.

this is a recording: rotfl!!!!

me: oh, and parliament funkadelic.

this is a recording: I just received a small gift bag from ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦. We exchange bs gifts every year, she’s the one who conned me into working in this hell-hole department.  I usually make her a lovely scarf/earring set.

me: what did she give you?

this is a recording: POO-Pourri.
by Royal Flush

me: wait, you’re serious? Poo-pourri. is that ReAL?

this is a recording: sending you a pic. check your email.

PooPourri_RoyalFlush

me:WTF?!?!

this is a recording: gotta go. zombies are storming the bastille.

me: l8tr.

I decided to try another friend. He works for a large gaming corporation answering fan mail and explaining to European branches that Christmas is in fact a religious holiday and that just because the Church of England has issues does not mean Hannukah and Ramadan don’t exist for other parts o’ the world. I thought maybe he’d have some insight on the zombie question.

me:  hey, this is a recording says that the more xmas music she plays at her desk, the more zombies come shambling by…

redacted: well duh.

me: elaborate please.

(the following comments are taken out of of order and out of context but it’s a lot funnier this way, and this is what journalist zombies do all the time.)

redacted: this just happened (paraphrasing): “hey redacted here’s a bunch of stuff we didn’t give you til the last minute, and some last minute changes, and instead of specific assets you need an entire unsorted zip to search through. make sure this is all updated before you leave. hey why aren’t you coming to the white elephant party?”

me: so do you feel that the whole idea of holidays/xmas is what’s causing a zombie outbreak, or does it just hold a mirror up to what’s already there? or are we all zombies in our own way?

redacted: my wife and I meow at each other as a primary form of communication, so i mean….

me: I LOVE THAT. hahahaha!!!!

redacted: it’s the kind of thing where it is so second nature… some day someone here at work is gonna ask me something and i’ll go “Mrrrow?”

Zombie_Cat_Apocalypse_by_DickStarr

It was really time for me to stop creatively thinking and get to work, but I had to ask one more person before I felt I could move on, or that I had really attempted to find a sort of quorum on the whole idea of the relationship (or lack therof) of the embrace of the generic leading to an overall lack of taste and discrimination… which eventually leads to being a walking corpse.

me: Mr. Chips? this is a recording says that the more christmas music she plays, the more zombies come shambling around her desk.

Mr. Chips: i’m not sure what that means. real zombies?

me: she means coworkers i think.

Mr. Chips: do her coworkers eat brains? Oh hey, remember that song Zombie, by the Cranberries?
Alvin and the Chipmunks do a cover version: