Saturday, July 18, 2015

Park Tango

Took a recovery ride through the park, closed to cars on Sundays. On the mountain bike, spinning furiously in a low gear, working the lactic acid out of my legs. Drifting along with rollerbladers, kids on training wheels, cocker spaniels chasing tennis balls. Cut over to the concourse between the Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, where the dreamily convulsive strains of vintage tango music wheezed from an underpowered PA. Under the bandshell, dozens of couples turned, slid, dipped, stopped, all with the utmost gravity. Korean couples, Irish couples, Hispanic couples...Russian men and Chinese women, blacks and Filipinos, young couples with 42 piercings between them, couples who had plainly just met, thrown together by the tango. Astor Piazzola and his bandoneon in fierce mono. The halting scrape of shoes on a wooden stage.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shooting the curl and displaying my pancreas.

A friend encourages me to write. Which I do as a writer/editor for hire, with the frowning, clinical remove of a pathologist taking out a dipsomaniac's liver. But she wants me to write write. Like, you know, blog, journal, reach inside myself, mulch fingers around in lymphy interstices, grab hold of my innards and put them, dripping, on display.

Take my spleen—please.

She has a point—beyond books on the institutionalization of user experience, zingy headlines about candy bars or the occasional email of apology (it's late, I don't have the bandwidth, I can't make it to the bar-mitzvah)—I write nothing. I sit inert, a ball of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough, filled with sweetness, potential, and complex, nutritionally useless chemical chains. I conceptualize farces, lampoons, burlesques; elegiac, generation-defining novels. None of them happen. Nor is any of what I do write—or think about writing, more to the point—in any way self-revelatory.

To be fair, in those rare moments when I do I leave my pen unsupervised, well, boy howdy, it weighs fulminant, self-directed invectives, bilious screeds aimed at a failure to write, sort out my debts, get out of my parents' attic, get the girl, get on with life, become something. Which, OK, fine, it's a fair cop…but that's an hour wasted. Necessarily wasted, mind you, because you have to paddle out there, straddle your board and and wait out a few sets in a seaweed patch before you catch a wave. Not to get all blond-dreadlocked about it, but eventually it will come along, wave, topic, whatever, so you write/paddle furiously, hop on at just the right moment and then it just, like, happens. Ride it in to the beach.

I'm not winning any surf contests here, or writing contests, and still may not be offering up much for the organ harvesters. My critics—God love 'em, I have critics!—will still call me shallow, evasive, emotionally dishonest. Whatevs. I say that with the greatest love and respect. But once you're on top of it, see, sliding down the face or—best yet—full-on tubed, it's all the same. The deepest longings, darkest moments and a tidal swell of other connections, transpositions and imaginings are all so much fluid sliding up and over you in a dark crest of knowingness, form flashing bright along its edge and sweeping up truth, unreality, mind, body, now and an ever-receding then into an implacable thing and depositing you on the sand

and fuck it's 5:00 and what have you really accomplished?

So it's a little complex.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Blowing the Wogs Out of the Water

I found myself cheering on the Indian Navy as it sunk a pirate ship during the piracy crisis of late '08 (never mind that the boat turned out to be a Thai fishing vessel) and thinking about how much it would cost to put Blackwater guys with RPGs on every ship or to simply slap a 5" gun turret on the freighters. About blowing the kaffirs out of the water and sending them scurrying back to shore. And then I think about why I'm so eager to take the fight to these Red Sea raiders, these brown buccaneers. Isn't it a form of racism? Is there anything that makes us different from stuffy peers in a London club in the 1900s, fulminating about the brazen wogs (Sepoys, Boxers, Afghans, Zulus) and how they need the taste of good English iron to put them in their place?

Could it be that with our own empire crumbling, the industrialized world going to hell in a handbasket, the American economy settling into its own dust, that we approach the piracy problem with a special verve? Like the tyrannical schoolyard bully with the abusive father and the alcoholic mother?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A bad political haircut.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Communism was without a doubt the least appealing political system, like, ever. Other than the Russian Constructivists, whose stylistic forays never quite meshed with the industrial and social imperatives of the moment and fell into disfavor, the style of Communism -- Socialist Realism -- was always a bad look. Cloaking the aspirations and esprit of whole societies the way a big, badly made, ill-fitting suit hides a good physique, social realism gave Communist countries a shambolic image redolent of old potatoes, body odor and stale cheese. The Soviet bloc style was the aesthetic projection of a sodden, Orwellian reality: what future you will have will be without joy.

A friend has just returned from Hungary, where all the Soviet-era statuary that littered Budapest were gathered up and stuck in Szobobark ("Memento Park"), a desolate spot on the far edge of the city. There they moulder and tarnish and collect bird droppings, unseen by all but the most crusty, die-hard, party loyalists.....beribboned old functionaries looking up at Lenin and gumming silently in a thin, late afternoon snow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Heed the Call of Vigorous Commerce!

What is it about the Victorian broadside that so pleases me? Is it simply nostalgia? Portly, vested, mutton-chopped America in the Gilded Age, relentlessly optimistic and vigorous in pursuit of its Manifest Destiny? Mustachioed lawmen eyeing dipsomaniacal pistoleros across dirt streets choked with longhorns? Or perhaps the self-assured, hearth-fire coziness of the British Empire—Sherlock Holmes on the case, the Hindoos subdued, the labouring classes mindful of their place.

Or is it instead the sheer hysteria of the medium? Overblown, stentorian exhortations and adumbrations - "LIFT HIGH THE SHINING CUP OF ENTERPRISE FOR ALL TO SIP!" "SMALL INFRACTIONS, SEVERELY PUNISHED!! A DEFENESTRATION OF PETTY THIEVES IN THE STRAND A FORTNIGHT HENCE!" A zillion different fonts outpointing and outserifing each other.

It resonates with my own, overwrought rhetoric. If I only could, I would post each blog entry in 15 different wood type styles, each one redolent of horse urine, sagebrush, cool granite banks and the sweet cedar of freshly-built gallows.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Surrealist Journalism - A Post-Structuralist Critique and Meta-Textual Dialogue

[Mark wrote:]

Interesting, funny, disturbing and strange. Morbid yet opaque. Piquant yet clairvoyant.

Here is my assessment:

1. It’s an ’88.

2. I have bad posture?

3. My eyes are dead ? ? Gee...thanks.

4. I have latent violence? Well yes I guess I do, but it’s only about scum, assholes and criminals.

5. The front is seats are cloth, not vinyl, and there are two seats. Yours and mine.

6. The impression I have of your brother is that he’s a heartless, soulless, uneducated, cigarette-smoking proto-serial killer. Is that accurate?

7. Have you ever thought of writing surrealist fiction?

[Doug wrote:]

No, the actual Mark was not slouching, nor were his eyes dead. The actual Mark has little if anything to do with our story. The Mark of the story, however, is a cold, hard man, a man of action, a man who drives a cop car and has seen the bad side of the world. He is a man qualified to cut through the crap. He calls life as he sees it, and he sees it with clear, hard eyes. The rose tint wore off long ago.

His slouch is a statement -- a strategy. Cigarettes, while implied, were at no point stated.

The Dodge Diplomat of the story is an '86 with vinyl bench seats. And the Doug of the story (wait, he is never named, let us call him the model narrator) may end up in the back seat, behind the prisoner grille. Which, by the way, the Diplomat of the story will have.

Anyone who knows you will think this is funny, anyone who doesn't will think you are world-wise, impressive -- and dangerous. Umberto Eco will write an essay about "The Layers of Mark". A course on Mark Gorney vis á vis Mark Gorney: Sémiotiques Syncrétiques will be taught at Université Toulouse.

In Which I Am Advised to Embrace my Inner Lightweight

So my brother and I are driving across the Golden Gate Bridge the other day in his 1986 Dodge Diplomat police cruiser. He drives it with the slouched, knowing crustiness of a detective who's seen far too much in his years on the force. Because he's a world music publicist.

For my part I've spent the whole of our trip up to Napa and the whole of the way back talking about my Novel, or rather Problems with my Novel, or rather Reasons Why I Can't Conceive of Starting to Think About Writing my Novel. In a thousand sentences launched with a screwed up face and "See, the thing is...." I have talked about Structural and Metaphoric Subtlety, and Biblical Mythos, and the Hero's Journey, and a gazillion other tricks the Real Writer has in his bag, none of which I feel I have, all of which make me a Fraud, a Hack, a Fake. I just write about Stuff. And if I have anything to say about the human condition, any compelling and nuanced psychological insights to fold within the subtext, it will be entirely of the reader's invention. I have no subtext, I whine. When I write, see, it is what it is...and that's all.

My brother scans the road with dead eyes as we pass between the Art Deco towers. The thick, red cables dip down, swoop up. His fingers touch the wheel with the latent violence that only a life in world music publicity can culture.

"Look," he says to me, "have you ever said anything profound in your entire life?"


"So what makes you think you could put anything profound into a book?? Just write, for Christ's sake. Jesus."

The South Tower looms over me. I roll my head and look out at the Pacific as the rest of my life opens up in a sweeping vista that, were I not on the vinyl bench seat of a police car, would stagger.

It's true. I don't have anything in particular to say.

And....that's all right!

Coming tomorrow -- my first novel.