Fire on Callaghan Way   Tuesday, July 25, 2006

OK, move along, nothing to see here.

Cept Here and Now Number I-ix.

Two poems from guest poet, Christopher T. George

Chris George was born in Liverpool, England in 1948 and first emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1955. He went back to Liverpool for a refresher on his Scouse accent, living with his grandparents while attending Rose Lane and Quarry Bank Schools. Chris returned to the U.S.A. in 1968 and has lived there ever since. He now lives in Baltimore, Maryland, near Johns Hopkins University with his wife Donna and two cats.

Chris is a widely published poet, serving, also, as Editor of Desert Moon Review,, an editor at Writer's Block Poetry Workshop,, and coeditor, with Jim Doss, of the electronic and print magazine Loch Raven Review,


For Laurie

A face peers out at me through the leaves.
Yes but did I ever believe in such things
even when I was Snookie-ookums crawling

on my Nanna's lawn? A funny little man
who comes and laughs he he he? No, I
sat in my high chair in a pink slouch hat,

plump as Winston Churchill, and demanded
vanilla ice cream, chocolate bickies. An only
child, a terror, a little bugger. The pixies hid

in the hydrangeas, the hollyhocks, peeked out
from the yellow petals of Grandad's rambler rose.

Silly Putty Down My Shorts

Wake up. Something stuck
to my bum. Very embarrassing. Very
sticky. It will take me all night to pick it

off the khaki fabric of my shorts. Feel
like a kid with chewing gum in his hair.
Screw the fabric and the pull into a peak.

Pick off the putty. Most comes off into
a ball. Day glo. Little bits detach,
add them to the ball. Feel much better.

Sense of achievement. Still feel stupid.

To see more of Chris, go to his blog at

Things I wish I could do for the first time again - movie division.

Ten movies I'd like to see for the first time again in no particular order, except that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is always number 1.

1. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - The most beautiful melding of image, story, music, and dance ever.

2. Some Like It Hot - The funniest movie I had ever seen the first time I saw it and probably still the funniest movie I have ever seen if I could see it for the first time again. People raised in the age of Adam Sandler cannot possibly understand how funny (even daring) this movie was seen new for the first time.

3. Fist Full of Dollars - Not as good as many of the movies it inspired, but I remember seeing it in a theater in San Angelo, Texas, knowing almost from the first scene that it was the final nail in the coffin of old fashioned western movies. I don't think it's possible for people seeing it for the first time today to really feel the revolutionary "differentness" of it.

4. Dr. No - Like Fist Full of Dollars, Dr. No changed the rules of the game. The scene where one of the minor villains sneaks into Bond's room and empties his pistol into Bond's bed, only have Bond, relaxing in a chair in the corner of the room, shoot him dead with words to the effect, you've had your turn, now it's mine, created a new kind of hero, a hero that cooly kills the villain even after he is disarmed and defeated. Pulp Fiction couldn't have been made without that scene in the first James Bond movie 40 years before.

5. Oh Brother Where Art Thou - The Coen Brothers, hilarious performances, terrific music and a true odyssey of a story. I would love to be able to sit down in a dark theater and take it all in again for the first time.

6. Topsy Turvy - I don't know anyone who likes this movie as much as I do. In fact, I don't think I know anyone who even remembers it. I've watched it five or six times now. It's the fictionalized story of Gilbert and Sullivan's creation of The Mikado. Again, great actors make the difference, especially when helped along with terrific music and engaging story. The process of creating and rehearsing the play is fascinating to me.

7. Wild Bunch -The introductory scene of the boys playing with the scorpions while the bunch ride past into town sets up everything that happens in the movie. Peckinpah at his greatest, intense, graphic, and sad, with comic relief from Peckinpah regulars Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones. (It was terrific to see Jones in a small, but, as usual, important part in the new Prairie Home Companion movie.)

8. Laurel and Hardy - The compilation that includes the two of them trying to get a piano down a long flight of stairs. Laughter until it hurts, literally.

9. Indiana Jones - When movies are fun, they are like the first Indiana Jones.

10. All The Way Home - I don't remember a lot about this movie (in fact was confused about the name), except that it was highly emotional and deeply moving. Set in the early 20th century, it's about the death of a young father, seen through the eyes of his young son. Based on the novel A Death in the Family by James Agee, the movie was released in 1963. A Masterpiece Theater version was made for television in the early 1980's. (As a side note, a new movie version of Agee's greatest novel, All the King's Men, is in production now. The first film based on the book, staring Brodrick Crawford as the Governor, was OK, but not up to the level of the book. Maybe this version, starring Sean Penn, will do better.

A word or two for young smokers*

cigarette smoke
makes you smell like a bar in the morning

the stale stink of a butt-littered floor
and spilled beer
and piss from the overflowed urinal in the john

all overlaid by a reek of desperation

the desperation of limp cocks lost in lust-dreaming
losers lost in their own lies
redemption-dreams fading as the sun rises

in the squalor of crud-crusted eyes
and a lingering vomit-bile breath

*"warning label" from Seven Beats a Second, poems by Allen Itz and art by Vincent M artinez


Dick Dale, is given credit for inventing surf guitar music and was known in his day for the way he would blow out (literally, they would catch on fire) his speakers during performances. I bought a CD, The Best of Dick Dale and His Del-Tones, last week based, I thought, on my memories of how great he was back in the day. Turns out what I remember being great was one piece, Misirlou, and the rest of his stuff was not so great at all. I would have done better spending my money on a Ventures compilation.

Most people now might not recognize the title, Misirlou, but if you say, the music over the opening credits of Pulp Fiction, everybody knows it.

Why barku? Because I can.

lazy night
in a thicket of

lovers walk
through moon-cut
kissed by damp

night hawk
silent hunter
from tree
to tree

of love
and passion
to the aching

Lesson 3

This is the third poem in a series written by third century poet Lu Ji titled The Art of Writing. The poem was translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping and is taken from their book The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry. Lu Ji's advice is wonderfully practical and his descriptions of the writer's internal struggle are recognizable experiences to anyone who has ever tried to write anything, from the most renowned poet to fourth graders trying to grind out a two page essay on what they did last summer.

3. Process

Search for the words and sphere of thought,
then seek the proper order;
release their shinning forms
and tap images to hear how they sing.
Now leaves grow along a branching thought.
Now trace a current to its source.
Bring the hidden into light
or form the complex from simplicity.
Animals shake at the tiger's changing pattern
and birds ripple off when a dragon is seen;
some words belong together
and others don't join, like jagged teeth,
but when you're clear and calm
your spirit finds true words.
With heaven and earth contained in your head
nothing escapes the pen in your hand.
It's hard to get started at first,
painful like talking with cracked lips,
but words will flow with ink in the end.
Essence holds content as the trunk lifts the tree;
language is patterned into branches, leaves, and fruit.
Now words and content match
like your mood and face-
smile when you're happy
or sigh when your heart hurts.
Sometimes you can improvise easily.
Sometimes you only bite the brush and think.

This week's Bukowski

Can't end without something from the old bull himself.

I inherit

the old guy next door died
last week,
he was 95 or 96,
I'm not sure.
but now I'm the oldest fart
in the neighborhood,
when I bend over to
pick up the morning
I think of heart attack
or when I swim in my
I think,
Jesus Christ,
they'll come and
find me floating here
face down,
my 8 cats sitting on the
licking and
dying's not bad,
it's the little transition
from here to
that's strange
like flicking the light

I'm now the old fart
in the neighborhood,
been working at it for
some time,
but now I have to work
in some new
I have to forget to zip up
all the way,
wear slippers instead of my
hang my glasses around my
fart loudly in the
wear unmatched
back my car into a
garbage can.
I must shorten my
stride, take small
mincing steps,
develop a squint,
bow my head and
ask, "what? what
did you say?"

I've got to get ready,
whiten my hair,
forget to
I want you to know me
when you see
I'm now the old fart
in the neighborhood
and you can't tell me
a damn thing I don't already

respect your elders,
sonny, and get the
hell out of my

And so, until next week, when we will be visited by another guest poet and artist, Allyn Garavaglia.

Photos by Allen Itz

at 10:41 AM Blogger michi said...

oh i LOVELOVELOVE o brother where art thou! i only have not bought the soundtrack because i read it's all studio versions, and i am not sure that's the same as the music in the film which i adore.


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Winds of Summer Blow Hot and Dry   Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Welcome to Here and Now Number I-viii

Introducing Myself To Chinese Poetry

I started a new book last week. Its full title The Anchor Book of Chinese Poetry, From Ancient to Contemporary, The full 3000-Year Tradition is a mouthful. It is published by Anchor Books and is edited by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping who also serve as co-translators of most of the poems.

In addition to the 3000 years of poetry, the book also includes an excellent preface by coeditor Barnstone on the artistic and linguistic problems associated with translating the Chinese text into English versions that preserve the meaning and "feel" of the original. Barnstone likens the process to taking a stolen car to a chopshop, making the changes that are needed to cross the linguistic and cultural divide while maintaining the Chinese essence of the work. The book also includes an excellent introduction by coeditor Chou Ping that he calls an "Introduction to Chinese Poetry (As A Function of Yin-Yang Symmetry)."

I enjoy the subtle, deceptive simplicity of the classic Chinese poets I've read. I also enjoy the practicality and straightforwardness of their art.

Although there are many beautiful poems in this book, I think writers will especially enjoy excerpts from The Art of Writing by Lu Ji, a poet and military general who lived from 261 until 303 when he was executed on false charges of treason.

The book includes 21 short poems from Lu Ji's work. Each poem is a practical lesson in one element of the art. Here are the first two. I'll do more in upcoming weeks.

1. The Impulse

A poet stands between heaven and earth
and watches the dark mystery.
To nourish myself I read the classics.
I sigh as the four seasons spin by
and the swarm of living things kindles many thoughts.
In rough autumn it hurts to see leaves stripped away,
but how tender the soft sprigs in budding spring.
Morning frost is awe in my heart,
my ambition floats with high clouds,
I devote songs to ancestors
and sing the clean fragrance of their virtue.
I roam the classics through a forest of treasures
and love their elegant balance of style and substance.
Inspired I lay down the book I was reading
and, let words pour out from my brush.

2. Meditation

At first I close my eyes. I hear nothing.
In interior space I search everywhere.
My spirit gallops to the earth's eight borders
and wings to the top of the sky.
Soon, misty and brightening like the sun about to dawn,
ideas coalesce and images ignite images.
When I drink the wine of words
and chew flowers from the Six Books,
I swim freely in the celestial river
and dive into the sea's abyss.
Sometimes words come hard, they resist me
till I pluck them from deep water like hooked fish;
sometimes they are birds soaring out of a cloud
that fall right into place, shot from arrows,
and I harvest lines neglected for a hundred generations,
rhymes unheard for a thousand years.
I won't touch a flower already in morning bloom
but quicken the unopened evening buds,
in a blink I see today and the past,
put out my hands and touch all the seas.

A Modern Chinese Poet In Exile

Unfortunately, many of China's greatest living poets are not writing from within China, but from around the world in exile. One such is Ha Jin. Born in 1956, Ha Jin was the son of an army officer. He joined the People's Army early in the Cultural Revolution at a time schools were closed and options were limited. He worked as a telegraph operator for a while then went back to school, eventually coming to the United States to earn his Ph.D. in English and American literature at Brandise University, then taught at Emory University before becoming a professor of English at Boston University.

Like many Chinese writers who were abroad at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, he choose to remain in the United States, fearing that he would be unable to write freely if he returned to China.

Though Ha Jin considers himself a Chinese writer, he writes in English, due, he says, to the historical circumstances that keep him from returning to his home country and writing in the language of his countrymen.

In this poem, he describes the oppression of living the under the constant scrutiny of higher powers.

They Come

Sometimes when you're walking in the street,
returning home or leaving to see a friend,
they come. They emerge from behind pillars and trees,
approaching you like a pack of hounds besieging a deer.
You know there's no use to hide or flee,
so you stop and light a cigarette, waiting for them.

Sometimes when you're eating in a restaurant,
your soup served and your dish not ready yet,
they come. A steady hand falls upon your shoulder.

You are familiar with such a hand
and don't need to turn around to meet the face.
The scared diners are sneaking out,
the waitress's chin is trembling when she speaks,
but you sit there, waiting patiently for the bill.
After settling it, you'll walk out with them.

Sometimes when you open your office,
planning to finish an article in three hours,
or read a review, but first make some tea,
they come. They spring out from behind the door,
like ghosts welcoming a child to their lair.
You don't want to enter, seeing cups and paper on the floor.
You're figuring how to send a message home.

Sometimes when you have worked day and night,
dog tired, desiring to have a good sleep
after taking a shower and an extra nightcap,
they come. They change the color of your dream:
you moan for the wounds of your body,
you weep for the fate of others,
only now dare you fight back with your hands.
But a "bang" or and "ouch"
brings you back to silence and sleeplessness again.

See, they come.

New photos

For those who haven't noticed, I put new photos up on the photo page several days ago. This series was taken at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens in late spring.

For those who have noticed that I have put up few new poems up in the past couple of weeks, it's because, like Lu Ji says, there are times when poems fall out of the sky like birds and other times when they are lost at the bottom of the ocean. I'm in deep sea fishing phase right now and not catching much.

A little joke

Q. What did the water say to the boat?

A. Nothing, it just waved.

Another barku

I wanted to use this barku last week since it was another one of my favorites that came out of the barku challenge. But, due to delayed communications, I wasn't able to get permission to use the poem from its creator, Alice Folkart, until a couple of days ago.

Alice is a short story writer from Southern California who says she began writing poetry several years ago to sharpen her eye and her ear. She enjoyed it so much that she continues to work at both forms. Both her short stories and her poems have appeared in many print and web-based journals.

Here is her barku.

Spring Weeds

spring weeds
more beautiful
than anything
I planted

A few words about Niko Case

I like Niko Case.

I just heard her for the first time on her CD Fox Confessor Brings The Flood.

Top of the line great stuff.

Can't start the week without Bukowski

Especially when his poem so perfectly matches the way I feel right now.

my literary fly

115 degrees
not even a turkey could be happy in this heat
but it beats burning at the stake,
and like my uncle once said
(when I asked him how things were going)
he said, well, I had breakfast, I had lunch and
I think I'm going to have
well, that's us Chinaskis,
we don't ask for much and
we don't get much,
except I have an awful good-looking girlfriend
who seems to accept my madness,
but still, it's
115 degrees.

I've got an air-cooler
a foot from my head
blowing hard
but I'm not delivering the
goods, as they say, but most people
don't like my poetry anyway.
but that's all right, because
it's 115 degrees and my girlfriend's boys
are playing outside
on their bicycles
and diving into the wading pool
while waiting to grow up.

for me,
it's too hot to fuck
to hot to paint
too hot to complain,
those horses across the road don't even
brush off the flies,
the flies are too tired and to hot to bite,
115 degrees,
and if I'm going to conquer the literary world
maybe we can get it down to
85 degrees first?

right now I can't write poetry,
I'm panting and lazy and ineffectual,
there's a fly on the roller of my typer
and he rides back and forth, back and forth,
my literary fly,
you son-of-a-bitch, get busy,
seek ye out another poet and bite him
on his ass.

I can't understand anything
except that it's hot, that's what it is,
hot, it's hot today, that what it is, it's hot, and
that guy from Canada I drank with 3 weeks ago,
he's probably rolling in the snow right now
with Eskimo women and writing all kinds of
immortal stuff, but it's just too hot for me.

let him.

The-Cutting-Brush-In-Texas-Finally-Found-Something-He-Can-Do-Getting-Rid-Of-Bush Countdown Calendar

July 19, 2006- January 20, 2009 = 924 days

But time will fly because we're having fun.

No doubt.

photos by Allen Itz


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From The Forest Rise The Dragons, Devouring All That's Green   Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Welcome to Here and Now number, uuuuuuh....have to look....I.vii.

A few barku

Several months ago, I was in a coffee shop trying to write a poem. I had forgotten to bring my notebook when I left the house, so I was trying to write on the little bar napkins they give you. After a while, I began to play around with ideas based on the haiku and other Japanese poetry forms that aim at creating a moment in minimalist form.

Finally, I came up with the idea of a poem with ten words spread over six lines. Being that my invented form was created in the spirit of the haiku and was a perfect fit for a bar napkin, I decided to call it a barku.

This is one of the barkus I wrote at the coffee shop that day.

let waking birds
the sun to

Shortly after that, I set as a challenge at one of the poetry forums I visit often the writing of barkus. Some very nice little poems were written in response to the challenge.

Here are several, Beginning with one by Jim Fowler. Jim writes from Boston.

in the night
to distant beasts

And, from Gary Blankenship, introduced in an earlier blog issue, came this one.

through tall fir
along the way

The next poem was written by a poet and e-novelist who publishes under the pen name Emily Veinglory. You can read more about Emily and her work at her website,

she moans
he knows
she's still
of England

And we had this little moment from Amanda Evangelista of Battle Creek, Michigan.

eyes glazed
clear crescent moons
without tears

A town I visit

Fredericksburg is a little town in the central Texas hill country settled by German immigrants in 1846. Little changed until about 30 years ago, when it began to become a tourist-oriented replica of the little German/Texas town it had been for real before.

My father was born and raised in Fredericksburg, left in his early twenties and never returned, except for our two week visit every summer. Even so, it was "home" in his mind until the day he died.

I have good memories of the summer vacations there. Much of what I remember about those summers is still there. Downtown with it's little movie house and it's Dooley's 5 & 10 store (except it's 5, 10 and 25 now and it's tourist kitsch they sell, not handkerchiefs and notions) are still there. All buildings, built with limestone and broad verandahs upstairs and down, are still there, though a lot cleaner than they were when they were real. The drive-in movie theater out on Highway 87, where my straight-laced. bookkeeper uncle used to roll with laughter at The Bowery Boys and Abbot and Costello, is still there, though deserted and desolate now, with wild bush and weeds in all the parking spaces and great holes all the way through the screen. And my grandfather and grandmothers old house from 50 years ago is still there, as well as, across the street and down the block, the dry goods store my grandfather built in 1908 and lost in the depression. A chocolate confectionnaire has the building now. The RC Cola bottling plant is still next to their old house. Though I don't know if it's still producing or if it's still RC Cola. I remember, as a child, leaning against the building with my ears against the wall, listening to the clink of the bottles as they went on their conveyor through the cleaning and filling line.

The little city (population 9,089) is only about 45 minutes from where I live in San Antonio, so I visit fairly regularly, though not out of nostalgia for the summer memories. I go for something else.

Opa's Specialty Meats has been around a long time. My father worked there 70 years or so ago, when he was a very young man and Opa's was still just a standard meat market.

Today it specializes in things like various beef, pork and venison sausage, dried beef, jerky and my favorites, and the main reasons for my periodic visits, the best liverwurst in Texas and authentic hill country koch kase (German cooked cheese). I had eggs scrambled with liver sausage from breakfast this morning and will again tomorrow and for several more days until the supply I picked up this weekend is gone. And, for at least several days until the supply is exhausted, I will have melted koch kase on toast a couple of times a day.

I am a happy man.

Thinking of Mexico

What an amalgam it is, of rich and poor, hopeful and corrupt (not so different from my own country except in terms of transparency). I think of a Ferlinghetti poem.

Insurgent Mexico

In scorched dry desert
where sun is god and god eats life
great god sun going down
pastes up immense red posters
on adobe walls
and then falls down
over the horizon
'with the flare of a furnace blast'
and the posters faded yellow
fall into darkness
leaving only shadows to prove
one more revolution has passed

American V - A Hundred Highways

I bought the most recent, probably last or next to last, Rick Rubin produced Johnny Cash CD last week. It is a powerful piece, recorded by a man who knew that he was, literally, in his last days. It is dark, but not depressing; sad, but not maudlin. His voice is weak at times and his breath short, but he always seems to make to the end of the line.

Though the accompanying musicians, with lots of dark strings and low piano chords, were added and the CD mixed and produced after Cash's death, it all works very well.

The choice is songs this time is not as eclectic as in past American series recordings, but all are appropriate the mood of the CD and the point Cash was at in his life. "Help Me" by Larry Gatlin begins the CD, followed by tent revival sounding "God's Gonna Cut You Down." Next on the play list is "Like the 309," the last song Cash wrote. "If You Could Read My Mind" by Gorden Lightfoot, "Further on Down the Road" by Bruce Springsteen and "On The Evening Train" by Hank Williams are next, followed by "I Came to Believe," an earlier Cash song, "Love's Been Good To Me" by Rod McKuen and "A Legend in My Time" by Don Gibson. As usual, even the songs you think you know become something else when interpreted by Johnny Cash. The CD closes with as beautiful a love song as you're going to hear anywhere, "Rose of My Heart" by Hugh Moffatt, then one of my personal favorite songs for many years, "Four Strong Winds" by Ian Tyson and finally, to end the recording, "I'm Free From the Chain Gang Now" by Lou Herscher and Saul Klien.

Although I don't understand how it could be, I know some people don't like Johnny Cash or aren't moved by his later work. But to me, his American series recordings are masterpieces of American music and song, each CD digging deeper into the heart and soul of its creator. According to what I've read, there is an American VI coming sometime in the future. I will greet it eagerly and, if it truly is the last, sadly.

A remedy for what ails you

Take one Bukowski and call me in the morning.

A.D. 701-762

these dark nights
I begin to feel like
the Chinese poet
li Po;
drinking wine and writing
writing poems and drinking

all the while
aware of the strict limitations
that come with

accepting that

the wine and the poems

yes, there is a peaceable place
to be found
in this unending
we call life

such as
light, shadow, sound
and meaningfully

Li Po
drunk on his
knew very well that
just to know
one thing well

The moon is up, the day is done. Time to put the blogster to bed for another week. In the meantime, write a poem, or, if you don't want to write one, read one.

All photos by Allen Itz

at 2:12 PM Blogger loisseau said...

Allen, it was interesting to be reminded of the deep Germanic roots central Texas has. In addition to fine food, the polka and waltzs with accordians can be heard from various conjunto bands playing today.

Thanks for inventing the barku; it is a deserving form.

Jim F.

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What Do Mean You Forgot The Potato Salad!!!   Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Welcome to "Here and Now" number We apologize for the state of the world today and promise to try to do better next time.

Attaway Vince

Seven Beats a Second artist Vincent Martinez opened a new show of his latest work in Austin last week at the Lombardi Gallery in downtown Austin at 910 West 3rd Street. His art was featured at the gallery though July 4th.

Congratulations, Vince, and good luck.

No attaways for me. I've been too lazy to even send anything out.

A poem I like

This poem was posted on The Critical Poet, an on-line poetry workshop. It was posted by Justin, a Parole Office from Iowa. One commentator called it a "sweet" poem. I don't disagree with that. but, beyond that it is unflinchingly true to life. We live and we lose and we live on, finding new, maybe, but always keeping something of what we lost with us.

harold jackson brings my grandmother daffodils

he called one day out of the blue
now it's bingo every tuesday at the american legion and
sundays after church service
they drive to cedar rapids for brunch
then west towards keystone and
the steep cemetery on the hill
where her richard is buried then
further north
down a twisting gravel road along the iowa river
past marengo
to the spot overlooking an eagle's nest there
where he and edna took picnics for
forty three years before she
went dust last august
and he buried a fistful of her right there
along with that norway spruce

A movie I liked

A couple of coincidences reminded me of Steve McQueen.

I was killing time last night, surfing through the 600 channels we have of crap I don't want to watch and came across The Hunter, one of McQueen's last pictures, released the same year he died.

Then, today, I was in San Marcos, home of Texas State University, formerly Texas State Teacher's College, which educated Lyndon Johnson and, 30 or so years later, me, as well. It is also the origin of the San Marcos River whose icy cold, clear-as-crystal waters seep to the surface at the Balcones Escarpment, that place where, some millions of years ago, the Texas Hill Country, under immense geologic pressure, rose up a couple of hundred feet and separated itself from the Texas Coastal Plains.

After a couple of hours of tramping around the river in search of good pictures, I went into town for lunch at ate on the town square at the Hill Country Bar and Grill.

The Hill Country Bar and Grill (picture above) was in an earlier time the main bank for the city and the county. True fans will also recognize it as the bank McQueen's character robbed in the movie The Getaway before he and Ali McGraw almost got a way to Mexico. This was a pretty good movie, not to be confused with a remake some years later with whatshername and one of the Baldwin brothers that was terrible. (Not all McQueen remakes were bad. The remake a couple of years ago of The Thomas Crown Affair was miles better than the original.)

So, two reminders of McQueen's movies in two days led me to think about some of his other movies. Many were fair to indifferent, one, The Blob was in a category all it's on, a couple, like Baby The Rain Must Fall had ambitions they couldn't live up to and a bunch were very good, like The Sandpebbles, Papillion, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt.

Bullitt is probably the movie most people think of first when they think of Steve McQueen. The modern auto chase scene was invented in that movie and has been the inspiration of chase scenes every since, used nowhere in more good fun than in one of the later Dirty Harry movies when Eastwood is racing over the hills of San Francisco trying to get away from a remote-controlled model car laden with explosives.

McQueen in Bullitt is about as cool as anyone is ever going to get in movies, but the film, itself, isn't my favorite. That would be Tom Horn, his last or next to last movie, also released the year he died. The character he plays, Tom Horn, could be Bullitt, thirty years older, in a turn of the century setting. Horn, a famous western hero, is hired by a cattlemen's association to put a stop to a rash of rustling. Like a lot of other end of an era movies, it's set in the late 19th century, a time when the west was becoming civilized and his method for stopping the rustling (he kills them) doesn't sit so well anymore. The cattlemen's association that hired him, turns on him and he is eventually hung. I think I remember that the movie was based on a true story and a real person. I think it is, by far, the best of McQueen's performances as an actor and the story has a depth and sadness to it, perhaps reflecting McQueen's declining health at the time.

If you're at the video store and see it, pick it up and take a look.

Attaway New York Times

Keep the lying sonsabitches' feet to the fire.

Another poet I like

Here's short piece from San Antonio poet Carmen Tafolla


Never write with pencil,
It is for those
who would
Make your mark proud
and open


beauty folded into
its imperfection,
Like a piece of turquoise

Never write
with pencil
Write with ink
or mud
or berries grown in
gardens never owned,
or, sometimes,
if necessary,

About that book

I read the book by William Sloan Coffin that I talked about last week. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't much of anything. It made me sad in that it reminded me how little, beyond bumper stickers and, as in this book, topic sentences for sermons to the less enlightened, my generation of radicals and idealists actually came up with. Compared to earlier generations of American radical idealists like Norman Thomas who fought losing battles all his life, finally winning in the end, leaving us with a legacy of things we now take for granted like social security, medicare, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, forty hour work weeks and the list goes on and on. My generation, including people like Coffin, doesn't measure up to much in comparison.

Another book.

Check out an old book from the 50's-60's by longshoreman/philosopher/social commentator Eric Hoffer called The True Believer by for an exploration of the radical right movement that now controls the Republican Party. Hoffer was writing in the context of the American Communist Party and the KKK and the John Birch Society, but everything he wrote about applies today.

Two poems? Might as well do three

Here's another Bukowski poem, this one published in one of several collections of new poems published after his death in 1994. Bukowski didn't see real success, at least financially, until late in his life, probably in connection with the autobiographical screenplay he wrote which became the movie Barfly starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunnaway. The movie came out in 1987. I didn't like it at all and it was the main reason I didn't start reading Bukowski seriously until recently. But it did make him way more money than in his whole life up to that time and allowed him to live his remaining years in much more comfort and security than he had ever experienced before. He wrote about these new comforts in his later poems, as well as about his younger days as tough guy and heavy drinker still looking for his place.

after the sandstorm

coming off the park bench after the all-night
sandstorm in El Paso
and walking into the library
I felt fairly comfortable even though I had less than
two dollars
was alone in the world
and was 40 pounds underweight.
still it felt almost pleasant to
open the copy of the Kenyon Review in
and marvel at the brilliant way those
professors used the language to take one another
to task for the way each interpreted literature.
I almost envied their humor and sarcasm
but not quite: the professional envy for one another
was a bit too rancid and
red-steel-hot; but at the same time I envied the
leisurely and safe lives that language and literature
had evolved for them: places safe and
soft and institutionalized.
I knew that I would never be able to write or live in
quite that manner, yet I almost wanted to be
one of them,
at the moment.

I put the magazine back and walked outside,
looked south north east west

each direction was wrong.
I started to walk along.

what I did sense was that language
properly used
could be bright and beautiful but
I also sensed that there might be
some more important things I had
to learn

A little joke about a little fish

What did the little fish say when he ran into a wall?


That's enough of that, I guess.

Come again next week...

...same bat time, same bat station.

Vincent Martinez photo by John Strieb
All other photos by Allen Itz


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The Last
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Slow Day at the Flapjack Emporium
Lunatics - a Short Morning Inventory
The Downside of Easy Pickings
My Literary Evolution
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