r.i.p. harry dean stanton

Yet another significant cultural figure has passed away. Harry Dean Stanton first captured my attention with his role in the cult film Repo Man. From then on he was one of my favorite actors and his presence in a film always made it worth watching. The fact that he rarely landed leading roles says a lot about Hollywood. Harry Dean was really too cool for the Hollywood star assembly line. He existed on the periphery for a very long time. Oddly I was just thinking about him earlier this week and marveling at how long he had endured. It’s a fitting tribute that his final film comes out this fall, with him front and center as he always should have been. I look forward to it with great anticipation. In the meantime, here’s Harry Dean as Bud explaining the code of the repo man to Otto, played by Emilio Estevez:

r.i.p. grant hart

Musician Grant Hart, drummer/vocalist and co-songwriter with Bob Mould and Greg Norton in the band Hüsker Dü, died from cancer yesterday at age 56.

Hüsker Dü was one of the more important bands discovered in my youth and one that I have never stopped listening to through both good and bad times.

You will be missed, Grant.

 

If there’s one thing that I can’t explain
Is why the world has to have so much pain
With all the ways of communicating
We can’t get in touch with who we’re hating (Who we’re hating)
And now we can’t get in touch with who we’re hating

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

I hear it every day on the radio
Somebody shoots a guy he don’t even know
Airplanes falling out of the sky
A baby is born and another one dies
Highways fill with refugees now
Doctors finding out about disease
With all this uptight pushing & shoving
That keeps us away from who we’re loving (Who we’re loving)
That keeps us away from who we should be loving

So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news
So turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on), turn on (turn on) the news

(Words and music by Grant Hart)

old roots

r.i.p. john stabb

John Stabb, the iconic singer of Government Issue, has lost his battle with stomach cancer.  G.I. was one of those punk bands whose initial caustic sound grew and evolved through a number of stylistic shifts, some of which prefigured popular bands to come, but not all of which were embraced by fans of the band’s early raw hardcore songs. But I loved everything they wrote. John’s lyrics were always poignant, cutting to the heart of what it means to be human in this modern world, particularly when you feel at odds with it.

You will be remembered, John, for all the joy and inspiration you brought to punks everywhere. You made good use of your short time here and your musical legacy and influence will live on for many years to come. Rest in Peace.

george trakl’s snowy descent

Fascinating critical essay on Austrian poet Georg Trakl and the influence of cocaine and other intoxicants on his work.

(via Public Domain Review)

field report 6

Large ships fill the harbor today. One of them is strange. It is an enormous military catamaran that, frankly, looks quite menacing. People stand around gaping at it. What is it, they whisper to each other. No one seems to know. Phones snap photos. (Later research concludes this is the Navy’s newest ‘joint high-speed vessel’). Now the Blue Angels fly overhead. Everyone looks up. Police officers fumble with their smart phones as they strive for a good shot. Cigar-smoking man arrives on the scene and bikes in a confused circle, looking up and around as if there is no place for him to smoke his cigar. Meanwhile, a bicycle cop has used his handcuffs to lock his bike to a handrail while he goes in to purchase a burrito. A uniformed man leads a German Shepherd sniffing for explosives in the foliage outside the seafood restaurant. Tourists are consuming record amounts of seafood. The restaurants are beside themselves with joy. It is a grand celebration. The largest fireworks display since 1814 is planned for the weekend. Twenty minutes long and choreographed to patriotic music, the fireworks will launch from a three-mile long stretch of barges. How many birds will die. It is, after all, the middle of fall migration and most songbirds travel at night. (Note: several years ago in Arkansas thousands of roosting red-winged blackbirds died from shock and disorientation following a fireworks display.) Never mind that! Look at the pretty colors, listen to the explosions (freedom is loud), and feel your chest swell with pride.

mr. skeleton

I feel the skull, Mr. Skeleton, living its own life in its own skin—Anne Sexton

Mr. Skeleton stood at the window staring out at his small empire. It was the middle of the day and the street was quiet. The bare branches afforded an uninhibited view…of nothing. Mr. Skeleton sighed. He felt cold, but he always felt cold. Dead plants sagged in the yard as sparrows capered in the dry fallen leaves, deftly overturning them to search for hidden insects. Mr. Skeleton watched the dancing sparrow shadows, filled out with flesh and feathers. As he was about to turn away, he saw motion on the sidewalk. It was her. She peered up at the window, holding the skull aloft for him to see. Ah, he thought, there it is. He watched as she got in her car, carefully placing the skull on the passenger seat next to her. Before she drove off she turned back, raising her hand in a wave. His bones shook with epidermal yearning as he held fast to the window, clacking against the thin glass.

a tribute to conrad

Sometimes I look people up on the Internet, people whom I have lost touch with, yet periodically wonder about. After years of doing this, I have found that the people I tend to befriend are often not people with much Web presence. So, in general, this practice is frequently frustrating and, in most cases, fruitless. Sometimes I stop trying.

Today I again looked up my friend Conrad, a compatriot from long ago, and one whom I’ve never had much luck in tracking down before. And so I was shocked this time to find an obituary for him from almost two years ago. He was only 33.

I met Conrad in the dishroom of a large university’s student food court. We both worked there, and during my three years of periodic employment at that hellhole, he was my closest friend. We used to spend our days plotting to overthrow the management. We planned to mount towering Gothic thrones for ourselves in opposite corners of the dishroom, from which we would reign over our kingdom. We grew giddy from drinking too much Josta cola.

Conrad had a vivid imagination and a wicked sense of humor. He was generous and kind. From what I observed he was also quiet and rather withdrawn with most people. He loved comics, movies, and video games. I remember him being obsessed with Spawn. We shared a deep-seated love of the film Repo Man. He even made me a cassette of the soundtrack, which I still have. He liked Iggy Pop and Saturday Night Fever. Sometimes he would even dance like John Travolta in the privacy of the dishroom. He often wore black…maybe even always.  He was creative and liked to draw, but he was self-critical to a fault. He had talent, but didn’t seem to believe it and would viciously criticize his own work. It didn’t matter if you told him otherwise.

We goofed off a lot at work. It was a crap job and there was a lot of down time. We were young and belligerent. We’d go to the basement of the building and Conrad would do pull-ups on the pipes. He was in good shape and his arms looked strong. I remember going to his apartment once and he showed me some of his drawings. I pestered him to see them, and he finally relented. It felt to me like he was exposing some part of himself that he rarely did, and that meant a lot to me. He came to my place once, too, and played Scrabble with me and my girlfriend. I took a photo of him there, sitting on the couch, dressed all in black and scowling like Bela Lugosi at the camera.

I wish I could remember more about Conrad, the things he said, because he was so funny. But it was so long ago, what feels like a few former lives prior to this one. I have in my head a few bits and pieces of conversations we had and I still keep those close. In my online searches, I came across only a few pages referencing him: a guestbook from the funeral home where members of his family had left messages; a page on deviantART where his cousin (a noted comic artist), whom he had lived with back when I knew him, had posted news of Conrad’s death and written a bit about his interests and artistic skills; and a handful of illustration credits from role-playing adventure games. I was happy to see that he’d published some work. I hope that had boosted his self-confidence.

Conrad was one of those regretted lost companions, for we connected on a certain rare level. I used to send him my zine after he moved back home, but I never received anything in return. I even based a character on him in a crappy novella I wrote some years back. He left an impression on me, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to know him better than I did. He wasn’t easy to get to know, though; he was rather private and sort of a loner (like me, I guess), and I was also young and confused, aloof and distant from my own emotions.

I don’t know how Conrad died and I suppose it’s not that important. I don’t know what it is that makes us wonder about cause of death. I guess part of it is that he was so young. I don’t know if he was sick, or how much he suffered. Maybe some of this is morbid curiosity, from which I am not immune. But mostly it’s wanting to know how he was in his final days and wishing he was not in pain. All I know from reading the obituary is that he died at home, and I hope that means he was comfortable and with his family. But I don’t know that. I didn’t know any of his family, either, so I guess this mystery will remain.

He was a good person, a true friend, and I won’t forget him.

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

Repo Man Soundtrack b/w Dead Kennedys Plastic Surgery Disasters (and a little bit of Fever)

the one and the other discuss monday holidays

Today is Monday but it’s also a holiday, said the one.

Indeed, said the other.

How do you feel about that, asked the one.

Eh, I’m noncommittal, replied the one. Sunday becomes Saturday, Monday becomes Sunday, it never ends.

But…are we supposed to hate Monday holidays? pleaded the one.

The other frowned. I don’t think so.

It’s also September now, noted the one.

Yes, replied the other.

The blobs have returned to their indoctrination centers, reported the one.

Ah, yes. I see them in the mornings now, replied the other.

Other, whispered the one.

Yes?

Are you afraid of dying?

No, stated the other.

Why not? cried the one.

Because I like sleeping, replied the one.

The one frowned. But you don’t wake up from death!

That’s fine, said the other. It’s like…ultimate sleep, you know? Sleep deluxe.

I guess, said the one. Do you mean…every time we go to sleep, it’s like a little visit from death?

Exactly, replied the other.

Oh, good. I was afraid death would be more like Sundays, said the one.

How so? asked the other.

Well, you know what Sundays are like, said the one. I even wrote a bad poem about it once! No one wanted to publish it.

Morrissey wrote a song about that, said the other.

Everyday is like Sunday! screamed the one.

Everyday is silent and grey! shouted the other.

The one frowned. But it’s not Sunday.

I know, replied the other. But remember how today is a holiday so actually today is Sunday, for all intents and purposes.

O, right! said the one.

Here, have some chocolate chips, said the other. Chocolate improves mood.

CHOCOLATE! screamed the one, inhaling chips like a vacuum.

Okay, I think you’ve had enough, said the other.

In your face, Sundays AND Mondays! shouted the one with glee.

Gimme those chips back, you fiend! yelled the other.

Not ’til Tuesday! yelled the one.

Fair enough, said the other. But I’ll be expecting cookies later…

More of The One and the Other.

angel giants stomp with long necks stretched

I dream about people I don’t even know, sometimes after I think about them so so much that I feel like I almostbutnotquite know them. I dream about people I know and my dream-mind puts them in places I know well, but then they are different…there’s a stream, for instance. The landlord is a squat petty thug and the place is a dump and I’m wondering why my friends want to rent it, other than that they are cheap and like old rotting buildings and, oh, there’s a girl using a sewing machine in the basement. We see her in the picture window as we walk by. Everyone waves. And I guess that is reason enough. I ask my friend if the landlord will clean up the place first and he says no. There is clothing lying on the floor and junk everywhere. That night we have an “art party” there. I don’t even know what an art party is, but apparently it is pretty crazy. People were walking on the walls. It may have been dark and people may have been glowing. Later I wake up (for real) with a staggering cramp in my left calf. Probably all that wall-walking with necrotic dream limbs. Waking life, hmph. There is a light that never goes out there is a light that never goes out there is a light that never goes out. Glad that’s off my sunken ship of a chest. Anyway, I’m climbing up this rocky incline to get to the stream above. When I get there I yell down to the others. There’s no bank up there. The water almost sloshes over the side. This is on a street I used to ride my bike on all the time. There is no stream. A map of my town imprinted on my brain at some point. My dream self makes good use of it. More interesting now than it used to be. Or maybe everything gets less interesting as we get older. Try to surprise me. It can’t be done. I dare you. Outside dreams, of course. The other night an industrial toaster suddenly fell out of a ceiling panel in the dream room next to me, followed by the man there to install it. That surprised me.

Three years before his death at age 41 Franz Kafka wrote in his diary, “I have seldom, very seldom, crossed this borderland between loneliness and fellowship.” He was speaking of his refusal throughout life to accept offers that would open the door to social, even public life. That is what I do. I refuse offers. I am a refuser. Of offers. I listen to dark wave and brood instead. I am a brooder. A refuserbrooder. I concentrate on shunning contact.

The summer is a slow time. But what happens when autumn comes. What happens then. Everything begins to die, that’s what. It’s delicious. The earth opens its pores and accepts all this decaying matter into itself. Nutrients are restored. Birds collect dried seeds from dead flowerheads. The trees remove their clothing with no trace of shame. Their spindly exposed limbs shake and shiver in the October winds. The days shorten and the light takes on a golden cast. All my dendrites tingle. Sleep comes on deeper and shrugs off slower.

As I spun the pedals closer to my building this morning I caught the scent of roasting coffee on the morning breeze. And I forgot about all the fool drivers I’d not so gladly suffered on my ride. Maybe there is an antidote for every poison shoved down our throats. Maybe it takes a lifetime to find them all.

  • Recent Posts

  • Navigation Station

    The links along the top of the page are rudimentary attempts at trail markers. Otherwise, see below for more search and browse options.

  • In Search of Lost Time

  • Personal Taxonomy

  • Common Ground

  • Resources

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS