3/8/21: What Happened to Kerouac? (1986) — Suicide by Performance Art #poetry

3/8/21: What Happened to Kerouac? (1986) — Suicide by Performance Art #poetry

They just wanted a little attention, baby

They just wanted to get over

They were clever and beautiful boys

Who could turn a ride on a freight train

or later in a speeding car

into

what?

finding romance in the amber waves of grain

and the dirty bustling ports of the new rich nation

and especially the bars and the coffee shops

where they would congregate

arousing and entertaining each other

The world was their mother’s incestuous eyes

and they returned the leer with their prose poetry

They were bums

a beaten generation

and they stumbled upon words

and became the beat generation

personifying a yearning of the academic and professional classes

the boys and girls well educated in the liberal arts

bored and frightened by the world of money

They were the denied cry for freedom of the men in the gray flannel suits

and the girls in the pearls and aprons

They were fallout from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs

worshipping the moment now that Armageddon was a present possibility

Oh …

so they posed

They wanted to get over

Make it as much as the squares in the skyscrapers did

Useful cultural radicals

with the souls of advertising men

Dancing in front of their approving finger snapping audiences

the ones with the disposable income

they danced like poodles with shaved asses in the circus

They took Walt Whitman and added booze and the Ivy League and General Motors and Hollywood and sex and shock

Shock shock

Freudian obsessions sung out loud without shame

Oh no, the shame was not for natural Oedipal and Electra complexes

The mainstreaming of dysfunction

The outspoken frankness of their poetry pumped oxygen into every room where it was spoken …

No the shame wasn’t for dysfunction

Dysfunction is sexy

People want to fuck dysfunction

The shame was for getting old (or older but for them every second made them old … they were moths dancing on air toward the flame of death … even their laughter was morbid, any ejaculation of joy was a put on, they created the illusion of life as an act of copulation, but their true state, and message was one of post -coital disappointment … Kerouac tried so hard for what he thought was impossible with the knowledge that he’d get tired of it all someday …. every expression of supposed passion was a cover for his essential despair … he was born despairing of life’s possibilities and he ran away from that very life for a brief while, becoming the voice of similarly disappointed generations … generations of excitable meteors oblivious to the stable happiness of the planets naturally adapting to the phases of their moons)

The shame

For not being infinitely interesting

The shame

For having any impulse to satisfy their own creative ambitions

for failing in any second where they didn’t give the audience what it wanted …

Audiences eat performers

Performers are roast beef and the servant at the carving station at the same time

They butcher themselves and hand out the pieces of their rare bloody flesh

to people who are just there to be diverted

Dinner and a show.

I am sure at one point

early on

Jack Kerouac was beautiful and authentic

Charming and smart

and endlessly inventive …

but then he saw it “worked”

and he was doomed

His center was his audience’s edge

In an enlightened world the middle class paying customers would have moved toward Kerouac, and Kerouac would have moved toward the middle class paying customers

Kerouac, the bard of excited youth making love to all of the people and objects that he encountered …

especially loving every energetic erotic word

writing the words, saying the words, reading the words aloud

the pleasure the satisfaction the release of the words

Kerouac found himself in the words

but then never made the transition to living and writing the subsequent phases of life

The paying customers didn’t want that from him

They put his body and soul in formaldehyde — the morgue is the ultimate venue of arrested development

Kerouac became a cultural figure

and stopped being a writer and a man

He was dissected as a precursor of the mentality of flower children and the various revolutions of the sixties

Even his worthwhile writing from when he was actually alive

Before he joined the drunken walking dead

stopped being writing

Kerouac was the symbol of a zeitgeist

An expression of how a generation felt

A Lost Man of the Beat Generation

Kerouac lost art and surrendered himself to mysticism

He united with the All

Kerouac, the apostle of unadulterated individuality

disappeared

Kerouac was a human sacrifice

He introduced one aspect to writing

an invaluable aspect

but then had to die

He courageously cut open a vein

and let the stuff of his very existence pour on the page

but couldn’t transform it

He didn’t want to get to the Promised Land

He was terrified

and when the world proved to be something other than his mother’s desirous eyes

He went home to his mother

and not so slowly died

They wanted him to die

a romantic and tragic death

The customers wanted him to give up on the world the way that they did

They wanted Kerouac to prove to them that it wasn’t possible

Life couldn’t be constant love making

Life couldn’t be a love affair …

every rock tree smokestack bar and boy or girl couldn’t be your beloved

Life couldn’t be that wonderful … oh no

and …

down deep beatniks are the straightest people in the world

authority and social expectation are huge black shadows over their lives

leading to defiance, rebellion, capitulation and surrender

So Kerouac obliged the paying customers

He retreated to his first love at the family homestead in Lowell, Massachusetts

and drank himself to death in the shadow of his mother

The romance of his words turned into something incestuous and perverted and diseased

I never was drawn to Kerouac’s writing

I see its value

but it’s not for me

The other Beat writers were generally more my speed

They aren’t as sexy

but they are more grounded

Those other Beat writers wouldn’t have been possible without Kerouac

and it is not likely that even the very best of them matched his force of nature inspiration

but they finished the job

They lived

They didn’t give up

I don’t criticize Kerouac

I feel badly for him

All good people live and die as martyrs

We all die by our own hand

We choose what is important to us

and we give our existence to those objects of our affection

Kerouac died for some things of great value

but those things would have given him more time

It was the misunderstandings that got him

We kill moments by caring about things that don’t matter

and some of us get stuck in our wayward focus

and the moments become forever

Some of us willfully destroy our being

wishing nothing more than to disappear

and some aren’t so existential

they are just sick

The truly poet is a rock

As natural as a bird singing in a tree outside a window

Un – self – conscious

Getting what she needs

building her nest

getting her food

doing ti her own way

not giving a damn about who is watching

Not trying to enlighten or heal anybody

Not trying to get noticed

Unbothered when she is noticed

Inspiring the world by being herself

In all of her iterations

Jack Kerouac brilliantly expressed what people were feeling at a specific point in time

and said it in a way that interested them

and revolutionized writing itself

He seductively spoke to people in a way that turned them on

but then couldn’t move on

a butterfly pressed in a microscope slide.

Real influence is always unintended

Just write and live and let the world spin on its axis

You’ll meet up time and time again

always the same and always new

Thomas Wolfe foreshadowed Kerouac

Wolfe said, You Can’t Go Home Again

That’s right, you are home

Just live there

How sad it is when even a genius can’t see that

that is

Enough.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

3/7/21: The Theory of Everything (2014) — Disabled Genius #poetry

3/7/21: The Theory of Everything (2014) — Disabled Genius #poetry

Genius is strange and clever, bold enough to raise the ultimate question, confident enough to attempt to explain the essence of everything.

The ordinary are a little dumb, and by virtue of their ignorance, varying degrees of cruel. Christ, that genius of the first order, asked his father to forgive the ordinary because “they know not what they do.” The cross is the disability of genius. The disabled are the sons and daughters of God.

Genius is always lame, at least lame. Lame or worse. The ordinary, and the fate that afflicts ordinary and genius alike, disable genius.

The disability of genius is the purpose of genius.

Genius always inhabits a diseased or broken body, and is always trapped in community with the ordinary.

Genius dies like everybody and everything else. Genius is bound by physical and social realities like everybody and everything else.

Genius is not an escape. There is no refuge in ivory towers or communes of brilliant fellow travelers.

Mankind is a little like an ant colony. Each human being is born with a prescribed task. Some grow things, and some make things, and some fix things, and some discover things like fire.

Genius gets to eat and defecate and procreate like everyone else. All of the pleasures and edifying challenges of life belong as much to the genius as anyone else.

Science and art are in love with each other. Nature and poetry are expressions of one another. Reason and imagination are partners. Creativity and insight are synonyms.

Genius is the frontier of clarity.

There is great challenge in genius and great joy.

If you are reading this you are probably a genius. Geniuses talk to geniuses and expand genius. The attraction between geniuses leads to something like chemical reactions, and somehow these new quasi – molecules are introduced into the body human.

Geniuses are the people, and genius is the field, that brings progress to all mankind

My local paper when I was a little kid, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and its evening colleague, the Rochester Times -Union, had a section. along with Business, Sports and Local, called Arts and Ideas. I always went Arts and Ideas first. It seemed like everybody else went for Sports or Business or the Front Page. I became aware that I wanted to be a genius the first day I picked “my” section of the paper.

If you want to be a genius, you are one. Most people just want to fit in. They want to be “normal” like everybody else; but a sizable minority want to be geniuses and with geniuses. This minority knows that there is so much more to know, and enjoys eccentricity.

Ignorance is a matter of character, not faulty intellect. The ignorant don’t want to know. Ignorance is the product of indifference.

Genius is a matter of good character, and proportional to ability and opportunity. If you care about someone or something, you want to know about it. That’s good character. A genius will use whatever ability or opportunity that he or she has to achieve something. If you have a massive intellect, are born into a family of intellectuals who nurture you, know of and are admitted into the studies of physics at Oxford, and are married to a woman who loves you and tends to your emotional and physical needs after you are afflicted with a disease that devastates your entire body, you can develop a theory of everything. With more modest means you can still do your part. It is the ordinary who dismiss everyday genius.

Moments of brilliance are all around us

constantly

genius sparks like fireflies

the willfully ignorant ordinary can’t see the flashing lights

but we geniuses do our duty

We recognize and catalogue

the wonders of life.

The woman with down’s syndrome has a genius for kindness and affection …

the brilliant disabled physicist is driven to communicate, to connect

in an act of empathy for the rest of us

The Generosity of Genius

Genius is Love

Genius suffers its disability

but is also carried by unseen hands

When you further God’s purposes

You are lucky

Lucky in so many ways

You live through seasons of stress and strife

Misunderstood even by those who are disposed to understand you

but faith must be tested

Faith without a test isn’t faith at all

It’s just a foregone conclusion

Genius knows

Genius can be lost, you have to persevere

but ultimately

you are awarded an abundance

your struggle ratifies your genius findings, and becomes an inspiration.

Popularizers, like the filmmakers of today’s object of cinematic meditation

Play a role

A kind of bourgeoise pandering

to coax the ordinary toward genius

Technicolor love affairs

Sentimental conflicts

The gossipy drama the ordinary can’t do without in their lifelong project of attempting to avoid true feeling and thought

serves a noble purpose

in introducing genius to the ordinary in an heroic light

Kind of like pictures of God as a muscular old man with a long white beard

something for children

and the childish

Genius can easily become disgusted with, and enraged at the ordinary

but this impatience and anger must be transcended

not to preserve genius

but to preserve genius’ humanity.

So this genius is dismissive of this Hollywood movie

but this genius know that the movie is not for him

It is for the ordinary

The ordinary are in a prison for their sins

Prison can be a venue of rehabilitation

The genius physicist worked very hard to learn new ways to speak

with the assistance of other geniuses

scientists and technicians and therapists

(genius the people, places and things of progress)

an education made necessary by his disability

to communicate with other geniuses

and ultimately the ordinary world.

Here’s the point of faith that every genius knows

the cosmic backdrop behind each specific and peculiar mystery that each member of the genius class explores

and each struggle with fate and the ordinary that each genius fights on the road to his or her discovery

that everything is wonderful

beyond good and bad and dark and light

and genius and ordinary,

and everything is the way it should be.

It’s all OK

It’s all alright

It’s beautiful if your perspective is from an optimal vantage point

We are born to traverse from horizon to horizon

discovering and colonizing the next region of the unending unknown

for still mysterious reasons.

And I, Genius, got caught up in the movie’s love triangle

and I’m moved by the way the genius and his genius ex -wife love their children and each other

I’m touched by the ordinary

Touched by the ordinary?

Brilliant

A vaccination of the ordinary virus never hurt anybody

builds antibodies against cynicism

and raises the imperfectly unremarkable

to perfectly remarkable

without ignoring or glossing over

a goddam/god blessed

thing.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

3/6/21: The Trial of the Chicago 7 — Sorting Out the Mess, Sort of #poetry

3/6/21: The Trial of the Chicago 7 — Sorting Out the Mess, Sort of #poetry

The first thing that I notice is the music

So exciting

Addicted to excitement

What fucking lives

Fucking America

1968 and the aftermath was tragic and a mother fucking rush

The ensemble is introduced

The dramatis personae

The historical action figures

Professional acting that hybrid of truth telling and comedy

Conflict

Quick edits — it’s the sixties man

News footage and technicolor dreams

Bloody and sexy — infotainment

and our confused lives ….

If I had to do it over again, I’d go to NYU instead of Notre Dame

I’d go artist instead of professional

I’d go Wynn Handman and the American Place Theater instead of Second City

I’d go novels instead of comic books

I’d go poet instead of performer

Sorting it out

Life and art is about getting to know oneself

Sorting out the mess

Sort of

What excites you versus what makes you deeply happy

Love instead of the blow job

The exposition of the movie ends

The fireworks music stops

and the movie becomes intentionally boring

The government lawyers enter

Government versus nation

Lawyers versus the yippies

Sasha Baron Cohen and Mark Rylance

Actors … I love them … and those two very different actors … inhabiting characters and revealing themselves … in such diffrent ways … and so much the same …

Sorting it out ….

This messy movie

hordes of extras on the courthouse steps

crowds of extras in the courthouse hallways

in the courtroom too

Principals mixing with extras

but each character and each actor

extra and star alike

implying a story

the Day of the Locust

Where’s Waldo

What a feat of engineering this movie is

What a feat of engineering America is

I love these new headphones

I can really hear the sound being mixed for this story of stories

What a feat of engineering this script is

the competing biographies the competing interests

Liberal versus conservative

Old versus young

hawk versus dove

smart versus stupid

moral versus immoral

respectable versus honest

bullying versus defiance

black versus white

the Constitution versus law and order

The Portrait of the Nation as a Young Country

The Nation versus society

Nature versus nurture

What we are told to do

how we react to what we told

sometimes obey sometimes defy

muddling the clear inner voice that will guide us without error

descending into confusion

Why am I appreciating movies more on the second viewing

I was watching the Golden Globes and was reassured

Most of the nominees seemed so dumb and superficial

Almost all were awkward, at least vaguely aware of the ridiculous situation

but Sasha Baron Cohen had grace

and Aaron Sorkin seemed in charge

These guys were entertainers and businessmen making money and getting laid carrying cocaine through airports

blase spoiled brats opening swag bags in luxury hotels

Real competitors

Hard workers

and elbows out street brawlers

Subtly winning their spots

athletes of a sort

and artists

catching lightning out of one out of every hundred bottles

Our souls are mongrels

the human race is a collection fo junkyard dogs

without papers

filthy and cute as hell

Human beings are sources of my disgust and affection

I want to help them and I want to get away from them

It’s easier to look at them now

Now that I finally know myself

Aaron Sorkin has perfected his facility at what he does

for the moment

and so have I

Ah sweet commonality

I can see the world

and know it’s me

but it’s not my ego

When you look with your ego

you see illusion

When you just look

you see …

everything

QAnon must think the Chicago 7 is sexy

Both the movie and the true story people that its based on

Another entry in our menagerie

imagining that you are something that you are not

wanting the feeling

and the applause

without the sacrifice

and the work

creating an image of yourself in a fun house mirror

playing the hero

rebels without a clue

Revolution without purpose

making the Capitol the scene of massive and deadly bar fight

Intoxicated

Addicted to the taste of blood

No truth and naive to consequences

Oppressed by their own sense of entitlement

Driven insane by irrational fears unacknowledged to themselves

Not equipped to deal with life

Unable to think clearly

Unable to think

Brainwashed by forces

that needed pawns in a battle

for nothing

Capricious masters

who want what exactly

No one knows

to maintain their status as kings of nothing?

Sasha Baron Cohen and Abby Hoffman do and did comedy with a purpose

It doesn’t matter whether the war is ended or the movie is a hit

Win a few lose a few

What matters is the in with both feet participation

Going all the way

with all of you

face to face

with all of the world

Yes QAnon finds the Chicago 7 compelling

and a man in a mental hospital says that he is Napoleon

All these levels of consciousness

saints and popes and lawyers and yippies and actors and comedians and cops and cowed and liberated women and rogue cops and good public servants and lovers of peace and the criminally insane and men and women on the street and movie stars and public figures on the front page or the Google News aggregator

aware and confused

lustful and loving

God this movie is full

America is full

you are full

I am full

abundantly full

and full of shit

Fascist 1968 Chicago

Fascist 2021 Red America

Fascist You

Yeah, You

every bit of you that wants to control

even as you bring bags of food to hungry children

and write your little poems

You are Richard J. Daley and Bobby Seale and Ralph Waldo Emerson

and Jesus Christ and Herod

Vader and Skywalker

You fucking dog

You are beautiful and murderous

a police state and a beloved country

an activist and an old man in a recliner

You are conflict

and you are detached peace

accepting all about your past and the world around you

calm and happy

and purring

wonderful.

Minds open up

after temper tantrums

Fathers let go of their sons

after fistfights

Equilibrium follows nervous breakdowns

There is no arc to the universe

It runs serpentine

incited by heroes and villains, noble and unholy fools, our true and dark hearts, and our inspired and perverse imaginations.

The movie ends with the temporary triumph of love and justice in the soul of the people,

and title cards about oppression exposed, wise electorates, sell -out to greed and random accidental death, and the suicide of a complex man.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

3/4/21: Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool (2019) — The Agony and The Ecstasy #poetry

3/4/21: Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool (2019) — The Agony and The Ecstasy #poetry

Miles Davis told the musicians in his band that he didn’t want them to play what they know. He wanted them to play what they don’t know. The art is in how you deal with the new. Miles Davis wanted deep music, no bullshit — nothing phoned in — something immediate — of the moment. I identify with much in Miles Davis’ story. That isn’t a grandiose statement. I watched this well made documentary twice. I see in the film a universal story. The movie is a work of art about being an artist. So, of course I see myself in Miles Davis. I’m an artist. I see myself in all artists.

These pieces about movies that I have been writing recently are not reviews or book reports. I am communicating what I feel when I watch the movie. That’s why there is the hash tag poetry. I’m self-conscious about this. I don’t want people to misunderstand. I am not just disseminating information on a blog. I’m not just sharing my opinions. I’m making art. The theme of this piece is what an artist goes through. It’s hard. The danger for audiences is to just see the joy, and to either sentimentalize that joy or envy it. Of course, the shallow view doesn’t do justice to the artist, but it also mutes the power of the art. Art gets its meaning from the struggle of the artist. Art has its meaning in the context of the the artist’s life and life in general. If you don’t get that, you don’t get art.

Miles Davis’ inner life consisted of bitter memories, feelings of loss, and regret and obsessive ideation about music. An artist needs pain — the wounds of abuse and injustice, and failure — failure in life, love and art. Pain is the driver of the creative process. Agony compels the artist to create something different.

Art opens the creative person up — away from the racism, away from the hick town, away from envy and oppression. The creation of art is followed by a hangover. The artist crashes back to earth. The dark world is depressing, it is too harsh of a contrast to the world of intellect and beauty that the artist finds in his art. Miles Davis made friends with Picasso and Jean Paul Sartre in Paris, and then got on a plane and returned to St. Louis, and was surrounded by white trash crackers. He started shooting heroin right away.

Popular culture loves stories of victory over pain — triumph. Beat the drugs, get away from the ignorant fools and live ever after in a state of happy creativity. The artist knows all of that is fairy tale bullshit. The artist has the courage to feel life’s pain, accept his own demons and soar with his art.

Dreams mixed with shit.

Miles Davis was privileged and oppressed. This is the formula of art. Privileged — born to a wealthy family, talented and touched by genius. Oppressed — his father beat his mother, tormented by racists and racism. Privilege made solitude possible, oppression made solitude desirable. There … in his loneliness, an open space existed. Nature abhors that vacuum like all of the other vacuums, and nature filled the void with art.

The artist becomes strange, different from most others. He is really only recognized as a human being by other artists. Only another artist implicitly understands what an artist goes through — the highs and the lows. Well-meaning non -artists need the artist’s human experience explained to them, I say that without condescension. There is nothing to condescend about. I don’t understand what all sorts of people go through, so I listen to them. Artists live the same lives that you do, but in a much more intense, concentrated and complicated way. Art is not a vocational choice. A life of art (or in tragic cases, the blocked avoidance of art) is pre-determined at birth. An artist can’t help the way he or she is. If you love an artist, you should want to know.

Jazz was born partly as a reaction to the minstrel show. Jazz musicians are not entertainers, shuffling and mugging and people pleasing. “All I ever wanted to do was communicate what I feel though music,” said Miles Davis. That need to be real, and to share what you are going through with other people is the essence of an artist.

Miles Davis was angry and anti -social. These demons furthered his art. They protected him in all of his sensitivity in the world most often called “real”, and they created a need inside of him to express what he experienced so deeply. An artist doesn’t have a career. Miles Davis was influential. His art radiated beyond his alienation and brought musicians, business people and audience to him. An artist’s success is different than anyone else’s. Miles Davis didn’t try to be a star. His life and times were open to his brilliance. He was very much like Van Gogh, but with a major difference. Miles Davis was popular when he was breathing.

Miles Davis said, “If anybody wants to keep creating, you have to be about change.” Van Gogh followed the changes of his own soul and synchronized those changes with the changes of nature. Miles Davis did that too, but he also changed with society. The improvisational impulse of Miles Davis’ jazz was the ingredient that added timely relevance to his expression of eternity.

He also said that he always was the same way. Constancy in change. It’s a paradox. He always had his own way of doing things. He got himself a classical education at Juliard, and hung out at Jazz clubs on 52nd Street. Individuality, openness, exploration, the attraction to the unknown, and the almost scientific drive to understand the essence of the moment …

Jazz was serious … car accidents and depression, recording contracts, girlfriends and wives, beatings by racist cops, repetition of his father’s sins of spousal abuse … sad and dark … and all the while … Miles Davis” jazz pushed the boundaries of art … the agony and the ecstasy … hated by those afraid of natural change, the preservers of the lie of the status quo …

NO ENTERTAINING

Miles Davis came up with a sound that was a manifestation of who he was, and when he changed, he came up with a new sound … project after project after project. Birth of the Cool was an early project, it melded classical music and jazz. Later in his life he would draw and paint. Miles Davis loved being in Paris when he was young, and loved the way he was treated. He associated with fine French artists and intellectuals who treated him as an equal. Later Miles Davis walked with equality in America as a black man who wouldn’t take any shit. Much later near the end of his life he kept reaching for a new sound, and associated with American artists like Quincy Jones and Prince.

Miles Davis said, “When God punishes you, it’s not that you don’t get everything that you want … you get everything that you want and there is no time left.” That flame of dissatisfaction … right now I am struggling with the art of connecting … do you ask, do you hold back … do you search … do you wait for opportunity and then hungrily pounce … Miles Davis connected so well … the human is a fool and the artist transforms foolishness into answers through exploration and discovery … I will figure this out, this and maybe a few or several more aspects of my art, one after another, relieving my suffering with every answer, and finally I will get all that I want … and then I will get sick and die …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

3/2/21: The Rick Blog Annotated Part Eight and 1/2, 2/24/21 to 2/28/21, More “Not About the Movies”: #writing #poetry #essay

3/2/21: The Rick Blog Annotated Part Eight and 1/2, 2/24/21 to 2/28/21, More “Not About the Movies”: #writing #poetry #essay

2/24/21: What the Constitution Means to Me (2020) — The Death of Performance #poetry

Until December of 2017

the opportunity to perform

on a stage

in front of people

practically alone

with devoted disciples in supporting roles

but mostly me

armed with pages and pages of essays and poetry

always more than time and attention spans would allow

prepared to improvise (be occasionally funny)

and to play act (be mainly profound and deep)

with my character on stage being a slightly amplified version of myself,

these opportunities to perform

excited me …

until December 2017 …

I tried to perform one last time

before an audience of friends,

early on in the evening

I just sat down

and started reading

The acting died

I kept on improvising

and got off some good riffs and lines

but after the show

I forgot all of the bon mots

and returned to the writing.

I no longer wanted to be a slightly amplified version of myself

(did I ever actually want that? Was I just on stage to try to be popular? to make friends? to be recognized? to be validated as a success? was I just performing because my father approved of little about me except the fact that I made him laugh? was I disabled by a tendency not to let go of dead things? had I grown beyond my time as an actor and become something much more — a writer — but I wanted to hold onto my supposed gift and was holding myself back? did I need the predictable disapproval that attended the applause so I could avoid getting on with it and get stuck in rebelling against a mentality that had no real power over me except the power that I gave it? did I want to teach, to help, to take care of other people and neglect my essential nature? Performing for me was the three temptations of the Buddha — fear (of being alone, away from the tribe’s campfire — a free and solitary heart, mind and soul — avoidance of the ultimate risk), desire (popularity and fun), and social duty (I had to be of service) … the answer to all of the questions posed here in this parenthetical aside is YES … YES, YES, YES … )

No, I no longer wanted to be a slightly amplified version of myself

even for an hour

Heid Schreck is smart

like me

She writes from personal experience

like me

connected to social and political realities that affect us all

like me …

The personal writing forms

essay and memoir and poetry,

The personal performance forms

stand – up and the one person stage show

are all dead things

I know it

and Heidi Schreck doesn’t know it

fully

but she is getting there

at times her jokes deconstruct theatricality

lampoon the artifice

characters are shed

and in moments

Heidi Schreck just stands before the audience

Solidly

and looks the audience in the eye

and just talks

and in those moments Heidi Schreck is very emotional

and none of the feeling

is an act

As the show goes on

performance almost drops away

but it is still a play

a play tries to persuade you

Heidi Schreck’s show has some great ideas in it

prophetic feminism

empathy

equality

the rule of law

and more …

but higher art isn’t trying to convince you of anything

Not persuasion

but influence

I was moved when Paula and I drove through Utah

Stunned by its dignity and beauty

Inspired by its grandeur

Utah didn’t try to convince me of anything

I am an artist

I am a species unto myself

I will not be burdened by your social requirements

You are free to ignore me

but if my art touches you

it and you have functioned the way all persons, places and things that connect in creation

behave

Performance manipulates reality in an attempt to make it more palatable and accessible

Entertainment is like coaxing a frightened child

This is the reason that entertainment is so often used for propaganda or sales purposes

I like Heidi Schreck and I like her show

But …

I’m sick of the bullshit

I’m sick of the teacher’s tricks to keep the audience engaged

I’m sick of the bribery

Jokes, so they’ll sit still for the demanding stuff

the emotionally and intellectually demanding stuff

I’m not criticizing Heidi Schreck

She doesn’t have to be sick of what sickens me

She is performing a service

I just feel

in my own work

and in listening to hers

held back by all of the neediness

the performer and the audience are co -dependent

Heidi Schreck and her audience mirror each other with frozen smiles

We can just sit with each other

we can “be” in proximity to each other

we can share our humor and pain and insight with each other

without the burden of entertainment

Some might say that entertaining is our method of providing hospitality to one another

it is simply a gesture of affection and even respect

and I might even agree

but performance has overwhelmed everything

Can’t we just talk to one another?

And openly regard each other in silence?

Yes and yes.

I love the premise of Heidi Schreck’s filmed stage show

the connecting of the personal and the Constitutional

that’s like the premise of my writing

the concentric circles of the individual and the world

Emotion and reason and meaning

Magnificent

Sincere

Sincere

Sincere

Heidi Schreck speaks on a stage of matters of great importance to her

and her very presence communicates a truth beyond her words

Her presence doesn’t need the cute jokes

and the play acting

Improvisation, stand – up and play acting are dead …

all that theater has become is dead

everything theater has become before people stood up by the fire and talked in front of other people who just listened

all writing genres are dead

fiction, essay, poetry, memoir …

all dead

just me

and you

and Heidi Schreck

and our words

and our presences

and the force fields between us …

Postscript — Heidi Schreck’s is cliched “We must fight to keep our democracy every day” when it performs, pretends and persuades, and sophomoric when it relies on audience participation and questions — the usual outcome of improvisation … this show is a block of marble with something important inside of and a lot of unneeded rock in the way …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

My Last Performance … after the entertainer and the teacher died (after this show), the writing got better …. http://www.richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com and the talking got better whenever and wherever I talk …

2/24/21: The Founder (2016) — Have Something No One Else Has, Identify and Target a Market Segment, and Brand It #poetry

You have to know what you want to do

and that should be the thing you are best at

if the thing is what you want to do

and the thing that you are best at

you will have something unique to offer

guaranteed

You take your thing

and put it into the world

the push and pull of Mother Earth

helps harden and shape the thing

and you have your widget

Which you refine

you figure it out

You learn about your thing by doing it

and it gets really good …

Now what?

You have to do something which is counter -intuitive to everything you have done so far

Doing and developing your thing is an inward occupation

Now you have to connect it the wider world

People in your tiny locale know what you can do

but what about all of the people who would like your thing

need your thing

want your thing?

The mistake many pure hearts make

is to think that selling their widget will ruin it

But holy marketing is not sales

You don’t have to force your thing on anybody

You

or more likely someone else

who has gifts different than yours

can identify and target a segment of the population

and speak directly to them

completely free of any manipulation

You (and your new partner)

can just let people know what you have to offer

If you build it

and you let the right people know that

it is out there

they will come

And how are you going to let them know?

You have to do it in a simple way

A poem that describes all of your poetry …

a poem about your widget

To review —

you have a great thing no one else has,

you identify who would like it, want it, need it

and you tell them about it …

and your thing is in the world …

Now, The Founder is about the corruption of our simple formula

stealing a good idea

and compromising it

reaching for a bigger market segment that you deserve

and lying about what you have

Art and connection and communication

corrupted by sales

But The Founder is also about the real thing

underneath the betrayal

The McDonald Brothers made the art

created the thing

and Ray Kroc did the marketing and branding

The Brothers and Kroc were all holy visionaries

They were united in creativity

but Kroc was corrupted in terms of

values

Kroc introduced the McDonald Brothers to

Original Sin

Founders are original

in all things

good

and evil.

But imagine

all of that grace

that grace at the inception of McDonald’s

combined with love and respect

between the partners

and for the clientele …

imagine a Ray Kroc in his prime

after the Fall of the American Dream

like, in say, 2021 …

A man or woman of our new age

an innovator

who has turned Corporate Social Responsibility

into an existential mission

committed to self -sufficiency

feasting guests

and the Will of God

In the 1950s or 1960s, my vision of the fulfillment of visions

would only live in the province of dreamers

but I believe in history

and People

Change.

I need an agent/manager

for my writing and teaching and talking

A writer can’t approach a reader

A teacher can’t approach a student

A talker can’t approach a listener.

It just doesn’t work that way

We can do this

the right way

and checking all of the boxes.

I know my people are out there

the people beyond my personal friends

I just don’t know where they are and how to let them know.

That’s where you come in.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/25/21: It Takes a Lunatic (2019) — Artists are Outsiders, an Inventory #poetry

From Ray Kroc to Wynn Handman

Two founders in different worlds

One from Heaven, one from Purgatory

Yesterday was Kroc’s day

a day of separating the art from the chaff

The day of the businessman

Golden nuggets panned from a sewer …

Today considers another way

Wynn Handman is an artist with some entrepreneurial skills

in service of a more divine purpose

than business

Wynn Handman made a better product than business

and nurtured more souls than any church

The practical and the spiritual taken care of

with none of the bullshit

A CEO who didn’t worry about the bottom line. and completely focused on production

A Spiritual Leader unconcerned with his own authority, attentive to his charges’ souls

A Founder of an Institution who was not an institutionalist

In 2002 Wynn Handman closed The American Place Theater

He did not sell it

He did not strategize to keep it going

His thoughts never involved meeting a payroll

and yet he and his theater thrived

and when it was over it was over

But the trace …

theaters leave a trace

We need stories

and we need the biographies of the people who tell them

Today is Wynn Handman day

The day of the new thing …

I need people like Wynn Handman in my life

Sure they are rare

But They exist

He is an upper case example

representative of several lower case lives

“Outsider art” is a redundant phrase

“Community of outsiders” is a contradictory phrase

But contradictions exist …

and redundancies can illuminate.

Some people live in reality

concerned with things like justice and truth

and meaning

and are not so much about success and money …

some people are driven by purpose

instead of ambition …

some people are true to themselves

and in so being

are true to the world …

Some people aspire less to be great

than to foster greatness

Some people are the strong arms of industry

Some special people are the hands of God,

the workers on the frontier of creation …

Some people are models for the future …

Artists are:

outspoken

idealists who don’t have their idealism calcify to violence

intellectual

crazy

honest

unconcerned with winning

teachers

people who open doors for others

people who understand that “styles change but truth doesn’t”

people who see the nuance of every individual

and the universality of all experience …

Artists are non – hierarchical beings

Artists are kind and gentle

who clearly see human equality

Artists main purpose is the fostering of humanity and human beings’ highest potentials

Artists are concerned with those most important things that most people see as unimportant.

Artist have some formative experience

that outwardly may seem quite mundane …

that experience introduces the artist to his or her inner life

and that inner life leads the artist every day thereafter.

This is what makes an artist an outsider.

The artist is not of society

The artist makes odd decisions

he or she is mistaken as a lunatic

but the artist is highly rational

He or she does what makes sense in order to fulfill his or her destiny

on the outer reaches of human consciousness

Artists have to find one another

They have to band together to do their work

Consciousness is a strange thing

It exists within us

and outside of us

and artists connect with one another

with tightropes of consciousness

Precariously balancing themselves

as they gingerly step toward each other

High above the chaos of the circus of everyday life below

Artists: 
Experiment
Aren’t afraid to fail
Know Sacredness
Are Lucky 
Come into money so that they can keep going.
Well intentioned young people,
And people committed to justice and a better world 

are drawn to artists.

Artists are
Inclusive …
Artists Figure out ways to bypass the critics 
Artists Have a sense of mission
Artists Nurture new voices.
Artists Judge others art by the art itself not the prominence of the writers.
Artists Do what they want to do
Out of the mainstream. 
Artists Don’t fit into mainstream jobs.
The artists job is being oneself.

Personal note — I came up in Second City, a theater conflicted between commerce and art. Commerce ultimately won every day. I would have been better off as a young actor in Wynn Handman’s class who submitted one person plays to his theater. But if I followed that path, I’d have nothing to write about now. Now I need a place to share my processed life, and this documentary about Wynn Handman is a map. Wynn Handman is a 20th century figure, but his work and path are eternal matters. The qualities of Wynn Handman are the qualities of new people who will enter my life, and the best qualities of the people in my life already.

The American Place Theater closed in 2002 or thereabouts, but its soul lives in different people and institutions.

Artists are not for profit, like Handman and The American Place Theater — yet they thrive. Show business is no place for an artist.

The American Place Theater’s first production was produced by Wynn Handman, was written by the poet Robert Lowell, directed by the British satirist Jonathan Miller, and starred the fine actor Frank Langella and the African – American actor Roscoe Lee Browne at a time black actors didn’t work much, and a cast of African -American actors in supporting roles. Poetry, political and social inclusion, intellectual and spiritual fire and beautiful acting! How much more achievement is in this show than merely being a hit …

I am not being romantic in my viewing of this movie — I know this is a real thing, not mere sentiment. I saw that artist part of my teachers and directors at Second City. I have caught glimpses — never sustained — of the art that The American Place did consistently. My whole life has been an Exodus to the Promised Land described in this movie about Wynn Handman.

Nothing stopped Wynn Handman from doing anything that he wanted to do.

Sam Shepard wrote plays and read them in apartments or bars or anywhere he could … that’s what my blog is … that’s where I am … the pandemic is waning and the world is calling me …

An artist doesn’t make choices for the money or the praise …

I never have, but I have suffered too much from criticism

I know now that if you are really doing something you will be criticized

“To speak your mind is subversive by definition, and unsettling by definition, and thought provoking by definition”

“Why have your work assessed by people from the outside … “

The insiders are outside of the outside

If you play the mainstream game, you never do anything …

Action changes things …

Wynn Hnadman accepted himself as an outsider, he “always did”

Me too

When you are creating you can’t be thinking about how it is going over …

Improvisational theater has a tenet of working beyond the approval or disapproval of the audience, but rarely if ever honors that value …

Wynn Handman honored that value

I think the world is turning toward Wynn Handman and away from Second City

Conservatives are crass businessmen like Ray Kroc

Moderates are wishy washy like Second City

wanting to be a positive force — within reason, but profits come first

Progressives are increasingly like Wynn Handman

Justice

Challenging — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually

Conservatives and moderates look like louts and fools

Those idealistic young people. and their older counterparts who love justice and mercy and love

who want the best for us all

and every one of us

That is who my writing and talking is for

Our lives are blueprints for those who walk beside us and after us

We are called to be examples

Artists are unique beings who can’t be replicated

Each and particular every artist points to the same thing

Eternity is the glue …

The artist lives in the past, present and future

simultaneously …

Leaps of true faith

always find soft landings …

and don’t mess with Mr. InBetween …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/26/21: Wyeth (2018) — Recipe Ingredients of Art #poetry

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

Art is child – like

Art is self – involved

Art is imagined stories

Art considers the images of popular culture

Art is interested in what you can do with almost nothing

Art studies the relation between figures and a background

Art follows matriculation through a strict curriculum of experience and experimentation

Art must involve repetitive work

Art is reflective of the artist’s temperament and the locales and activities of the artist’s life

Art dreams for itself. Art doesn’t repeat the old dreams of others.

Art squarely faces light and dark, life and death

Art is a collaboration between the artist and the person or people that love and understand him or her

Art learns technical expertise

Art is made in quiet and solitude

Art transcends romance and drama

Art paints the artist’s life

Art takes experience and mixes it with the world and comes up with meaning

Art is drawn to simplicity

Art knows that reality is constant, and that it is our understanding that transforms

Art shares what the artist sees and expands the consciousness of the world

Art is contained, the artist protects him or herself in obscure places; the artist looks for places where he or she can observe, unmolested or distracted

In art, the artist forgets him or herself, even when doing a self -portrait; in art, artist and world become one; in art, the artist disappears and becomes all people, all places and all time and space — every time thing person place; in art chronology becomes eternity

Art knows that style changes but truth doesn’t

Art is made in the artist’s own world, a world created by the artist as much as the art; the artist must have a world where he or she is deaf to praise or criticism or success or failure or humiliation or popularity

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

A particular piece of art’s audience is comprised of people who can see the piece’s truth and memory

Art is a vibration, a resonance

Art? You just do it

The artist plus the object of your contemplation equals art, a new thing

Art is confident; an artist keeps his own counsel; an artist makes all assessments of his or her own work

Art is always more articulate than its artist

Art is made when the artist works alone; the artist encounters his or her audience only when the piece is done

Art is made by artists; artists are artists twenty -four hours a day

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

Love plus truth equals universal

Art releases the open audience’s own truth and memory

“I’m really painting my own life.” Andrew Wyeth

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/28/21: Pretend It’s a City (2021) — Martin Scorsese’s Impressionistic Film Love Poem about Contemporary New York #poetry

I didn’t like this Netflix series the first time that I watched it. I was very unimpressed with Fran Leibowitz, who I saw as a former writer of limited ability who gave up writing, and succeeded at a boutique business making banal observations as a local personality in New York City — not funny enough to be a comedian, not deep enough to be a writer. My father once saw the comedian Rita Rudner perform in Las Vegas years ago. He said she was great. I asked if Rudner was funny. My father said, no — but she worked “clean”. Rita Rudner was reassuring comfort food for middle class Catholic parents from Rochester, New York. Rita Rudner honored Dad’s world view. Fran Leibowitz performs the same service for successful Manhattanites. All Manhattanites are survivors. To come to New York, and to stay there is an achievement and a struggle. Fran Leibowitz doesn’t say anything that challenges the New York dream or doesn’t implicitly honor the hard work, grit and determination required to not only prosper in New York City, but also to simply navigate the tasks and challenges of every day life there.

Martin Scorsese seems to be endlessly amused by Fran Leibowitz in Pretend It’s a City, and he has been ridiculed about it in the media. At first I agreed with the critique. But now I get it. Scorsese regards Fran Leibowitz, and what she represents with unconditional love. I think the trick to Pretend It’s a City, is to not watch the show through the lens of Fran Leibowitz’s constant verbal narrative, but rather to view it more from the perspective of Scorsese’s non -linear visual and musical poem. This is Scorsese’s picture not Fran Leibowitz’.

I admire this film greatly, and envy its sense of place. I am not from any place. I identify with nowhere. I feel like a visitor everywhere that I go. I’ve lived in Chicago more than anywhere else, maybe 30 years or so of my 65 on the earth. I like Chicago, but I’ll probably never write a poem about it. I lived in New York City for several years and I loved it in a kind of idealized Woody Allen-esque romantic way. For $17 a week I could get a subway pass in New York and take what I’d call “a trip around the world”. New York has everything civilization or nature has to offer except mountains and deserts — if someone knows of a mountain or desert in New York City, please drop me a line. But I never participated in the drama of the everyday New Yorker. I never saw it as an inner necessity to make it there. I never felt a commitment to stay there. Paula and I went to new York for a week a few summers ago. We saw shows and museums and ate at great restaurants and walked the City’s dramatic streets and had a ball. Please don’t put me in the nice place to visit category. I think New York is a great place to live. I just don’t live there.

Maybe Scorsese also cannot fully inhabit New York. He’s too removed — too big a deal — to experience any city, even a city as non plussed by celebrity as New York, as an ordinary citizen. Fran Leibowitz traverses through the streets of New York on foot, and by cab and train. Martin Scorsese levitates over New York. Maybe his lonely remove of international success and achievement is the source of the slight note of desperation in Scorsese’s raucous laughter for every banality that escapes Fran Leibowitz’s mouth in this movie. Scorsese is a poet. Poets are passionate about the ordinary. Scorsese hasn’t been ordinary for decades, and never will be ordinary again. I think he misses the feeling.

I have much more admiration for Scorsese’s view of New York than Woody Allen’s. Romance is an adolescent thing. Few figures are less romantic than Fran Leibowitz, and Fran Leibowitz is who Martin Scorsese loves. I started out disliking Pretend It’s a City, and now I think it is a better movie about New York than Annie Hall …

Fran Leibowitz says very early in Pretend It’s a City that she “used to be a writer”

Now she just talks

Talk could be an art form

It isn’t for Fran Leibowitz

The art in Pretend It’s a City

is made by Martin Scorsese

Fran Leibowitz talks mainly in monologues

Occasionally she answers questions

Martin Scorsese views Fran Leibowitz as the personification of contemporary New York City

so he made an episodic film essay about contemporary New York

Images of New York

and included Fran Leibowitz’s opinions and emotional reactions

Scorsese shows us how New York looks today

Fran Leibowitz tells how New York feels

and Scorsese frames the words

like Studs Terkel did

but Scorsese transcends Studs Terkel

He gets the oral history

and then he mixes in the cultural history

and adds the music and the architecture

and makes a layer cake of the pretend city

New York is frustrated and indefatigable

New Yorkers feel powerless as they move through the all powerful city that they built

Scorsese loves, and is endlessly amused by the Dr. Frankensteins, New Yorkers, and the monster City that they have created

The monster is terrible and beautiful

and inhabited by ghosts

of old and superior arts and music and culture and economies

What is most monstrous and lovely about New York

is that the City is never finished

New York is a cauldron of aspiration

everything from high art to high greed

New York is a tribe of strivers

the skyscraper under construction is the perfect metaphor for the soul of the New Yorker …

Later in the series, Leibowitz and Scorsese maintain a commitment to a New York City now in hospice

They see that greed is altering the character of New York City

57th Street is mimicking the awful architecture of Dubai

Money has overwhelmed and erased

the life that New Yorkers bravely sacrificed to live

New York’s Success is morphing into a cause of death

all concrete things eventually become abstractions

and ironically I am now as much a New Yorker from my perch in Chicago

as Scorsese and Leibowitz from their Manhattan homes

Gershwin is dead

but his music remains

and belongs to the world.

Scorsese’s poem about his city

becomes about everywhere

and everything

and I smile

because after Marty and Fran look at New York’s terminal condition

they consider their own mortality

Things change

Most moments are banalities

and we are all going to die

but art remains …

and even with the inescapable realty that we all eventually die

life is more important than art!

(I am not afraid of living or dying, success or failure …. I am afraid of my suffering and the suffering of people that I life … and down to earth Fran Leibowitz is a comfort to me — just like my Dad and Rita Rudner — and I can see the even greater appeal that she has for someone like Scorsese … )

So much better than Woody Allen’s romance and worry about dying

and the movie doesn’t try to impress critics or audiences

Thanks, Marty

Fran Leibowitz has grown on me …

OK, another revision

Her talk isn’t art

but her presence while she is talking

or walking

or smoking

or eating and drinking

is an art

Fran Leibowitz is New York

she is unapologetic and bold

she’s contrary

she’s spends a lot of time alone …

and she thirstily chatters — parched for human connection …

She needs the sound of her voice — and she needs to see another person or other persons listening …

Writing didn’t suit her as she got older …

she needs performance

but she doesn’t put on an act …

Fran Leibowitz is a master of asserting herself into the world …

She reads books, she doesn’t write them

and she talks …

Scorsese made this movie so that his seventeen year old daughter will know who Fran Leibowitz (and what New York City) was

and that this woman and that town will live on in his daughter after their passing

No matter where his daughter goes, or how the rest of the world changes …

Fran Leibowitz is one of a kind

and that’s art

and part of the art of the poet

is art appreciation …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/28/21: Pretend It’s a City (2021) — Martin Scorsese’s Impressionistic Film Love Poem about Contemporary New York #poetry

2/28/21: Pretend It’s a City (2021) — Martin Scorsese’s Impressionistic Film Love Poem about Contemporary New York #poetry

I didn’t like this Netflix series the first time that I watched it. I was very unimpressed with Fran Leibowitz, who I saw as a former writer of limited ability who gave up writing, and succeeded at a boutique business making banal observations as a local personality in New York City — not funny enough to be a comedian, not deep enough to be a writer. My father once saw the comedian Rita Rudner perform in Las Vegas years ago. He said she was great. I asked if Rudner was funny. My father said, no — but she worked “clean”. Rita Rudner was reassuring comfort food for middle class Catholic parents from Rochester, New York. Rita Rudner honored Dad’s world view. Fran Leibowitz performs the same service for successful Manhattanites. All Manhattanites are survivors. To come to New York, and to stay there is an achievement and a struggle. Fran Leibowitz doesn’t say anything that challenges the New York dream or doesn’t implicitly honor the hard work, grit and determination required to not only prosper in New York City, but also to simply navigate the tasks and challenges of every day life there.

Martin Scorsese seems to be endlessly amused by Fran Leibowitz in Pretend It’s a City, and he has been ridiculed about it in the media. At first I agreed with the critique. But now I get it. Scorsese regards Fran Leibowitz, and what she represents with unconditional love. I think the trick to Pretend It’s a City, is to not watch the show through the lens of Fran Leibowitz’s constant verbal narrative, but rather to view it more from the perspective of Scorsese’s non -linear visual and musical poem. This is Scorsese’s picture not Fran Leibowitz’.

I admire this film greatly, and envy its sense of place. I am not from any place. I identify with nowhere. I feel like a visitor everywhere that I go. I’ve lived in Chicago more than anywhere else, maybe 30 years or so of my 65 on the earth. I like Chicago, but I’ll probably never write a poem about it. I lived in New York City for several years and I loved it in a kind of idealized Woody Allen-esque romantic way. For $17 a week I could get a subway pass in New York and take what I’d call “a trip around the world”. New York has everything civilization or nature has to offer except mountains and deserts — if someone knows of a mountain or desert in New York City, please drop me a line. But I never participated in the drama of the everyday New Yorker. I never saw it as an inner necessity to make it there. I never felt a commitment to stay there. Paula and I went to new York for a week a few summers ago. We saw shows and museums and ate at great restaurants and walked the City’s dramatic streets and had a ball. Please don’t put me in the nice place to visit category. I think New York is a great place to live. I just don’t live there.

Maybe Scorsese also cannot fully inhabit New York. He’s too removed — too big a deal — to experience any city, even a city as non plussed by celebrity as New York, as an ordinary citizen. Fran Leibowitz traverses through the streets of New York on foot, and by cab and train. Martin Scorsese levitates over New York. Maybe his lonely remove of international success and achievement is the source of the slight note of desperation in Scorsese’s raucous laughter for every banality that escapes Fran Leibowitz’s mouth in this movie. Scorsese is a poet. Poets are passionate about the ordinary. Scorsese hasn’t been ordinary for decades, and never will be ordinary again. I think he misses the feeling.

I have much more admiration for Scorsese’s view of New York than Woody Allen’s. Romance is an adolescent thing. Few figures are less romantic than Fran Leibowitz, and Fran Leibowitz is who Martin Scorsese loves. I started out disliking Pretend It’s a City, and now I think it is a better movie about New York than Annie Hall …

Fran Leibowitz says very early in Pretend It’s a City that she “used to be a writer”

Now she just talks

Talk could be an art form

It isn’t for Fran Leibowitz

The art in Pretend It’s a City

is made by Martin Scorsese

Fran Leibowitz talks mainly in monologues

Occasionally she answers questions

Martin Scorsese views Fran Leibowitz as the personification of contemporary New York City

so he made an episodic film essay about contemporary New York

Images of New York

and included Fran Leibowitz’s opinions and emotional reactions

Scorsese shows us how New York looks today

Fran Leibowitz tells how New York feels

and Scorsese frames the words

like Studs Terkel did

but Scorsese transcends Studs Terkel

He gets the oral history

and then he mixes in the cultural history

and adds the music and the architecture

and makes a layer cake of the pretend city

New York is frustrated and indefatigable

New Yorkers feel powerless as they move through the all powerful city that they built

Scorsese loves, and is endlessly amused by the Dr. Frankensteins, New Yorkers, and the monster City that they have created

The monster is terrible and beautiful

and inhabited by ghosts

of old and superior arts and music and culture and economies

What is most monstrous and lovely about New York

is that the City is never finished

New York is a cauldron of aspiration

everything from high art to high greed

New York is a tribe of strivers

the skyscraper under construction is the perfect metaphor for the soul of the New Yorker …

Later in the series, Leibowitz and Scorsese maintain a commitment to a New York City now in hospice

They see that greed is altering the character of New York City

57th Street is mimicking the awful architecture of Dubai

Money has overwhelmed and erased

the life that New Yorkers bravely sacrificed to live

New York’s Success is morphing into a cause of death

all concrete things eventually become abstractions

and ironically I am now as much a New Yorker from my perch in Chicago

as Scorsese and Leibowitz from their Manhattan homes

Gershwin is dead

but his music remains

and belongs to the world.

Scorsese’s poem about his city

becomes about everywhere

and everything

and I smile

because after Marty and Fran look at New York’s terminal condition

they consider their own mortality

Things change

Most moments are banalities

and we are all going to die

but art remains …

and even with the inescapable realty that we all eventually die

life is more important than art!

(I am not afraid of living or dying, success or failure …. I am afraid of my suffering and the suffering of people that I life … and down to earth Fran Leibowitz is a comfort to me — just like my Dad and Rita Rudner — and I can see the even greater appeal that she has for someone like Scorsese … )

So much better than Woody Allen’s romance and worry about dying

and the movie doesn’t try to impress critics or audiences

Thanks, Marty

Fran Leibowitz has grown on me …

OK, another revision

Her talk isn’t art

but her presence while she is talking

or walking

or smoking

or eating and drinking

is an art

Fran Leibowitz is New York

she is unapologetic and bold

she’s contrary

she’s spends a lot of time alone …

and she thirstily chatters — parched for human connection …

She needs the sound of her voice — and she needs to see another person or other persons listening …

Writing didn’t suit her as she got older …

she needs performance

but she doesn’t put on an act …

Fran Leibowitz is a master of asserting herself into the world …

She reads books, she doesn’t write them

and she talks …

Scorsese made this movie so that his seventeen year old daughter will know who Fran Leibowitz (and what New York City) was

and that this woman and that town will live on in his daughter after their passing

No matter where his daughter goes, or how the rest of the world changes …

Fran Leibowitz is one of a kind

and that’s art

and part of the art of the poet

is art appreciation …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/26/21: Wyeth (2018) — Recipe Ingredients of Art #poetry

2/26/21: Wyeth (2018) — Recipe Ingredients of Art #poetry

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

Art is child – like

Art is self – involved

Art is imagined stories

Art considers the images of popular culture

Art is interested in what you can do with almost nothing

Art studies the relation between figures and a background

Art follows matriculation through a strict curriculum of experience and experimentation

Art must involve repetitive work

Art is reflective of the artist’s temperament and the locales and activities of the artist’s life

Art dreams for itself. Art doesn’t repeat the old dreams of others.

Art squarely faces light and dark, life and death

Art is a collaboration between the artist and the person or people that love and understand him or her

Art learns technical expertise

Art is made in quiet and solitude

Art transcends romance and drama

Art paints the artist’s life

Art takes experience and mixes it with the world and comes up with meaning

Art is drawn to simplicity

Art knows that reality is constant, and that it is our understanding that transforms

Art shares what the artist sees and expands the consciousness of the world

Art is contained, the artist protects him or herself in obscure places; the artist looks for places where he or she can observe, unmolested or distracted

In art, the artist forgets him or herself, even when doing a self -portrait; in art, artist and world become one; in art, the artist disappears and becomes all people, all places and all time and space — every time thing person place; in art chronology becomes eternity

Art knows that style changes but truth doesn’t

Art is made in the artist’s own world, a world created by the artist as much as the art; the artist must have a world where he or she is deaf to praise or criticism or success or failure or humiliation or popularity

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

A particular piece of art’s audience is comprised of people who can see the piece’s truth and memory

Art is a vibration, a resonance

Art? You just do it

The artist plus the object of your contemplation equals art, a new thing

Art is confident; an artist keeps his own counsel; an artist makes all assessments of his or her own work

Art is always more articulate than its artist

Art is made when the artist works alone; the artist encounters his or her audience only when the piece is done

Art is made by artists; artists are artists twenty -four hours a day

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

“Art is truth (pause) plus memory.” Andrew Wyeth

Love plus truth equals universal

Art releases the open audience’s own truth and memory

“I’m really painting my own life.” Andrew Wyeth

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/25/21: It Takes a Lunatic (2019) — Artists are Outsiders, an Inventory #poetry

2/25/21: It Takes a Lunatic (2019) — Artists are Outsiders, an Inventory #poetry

From Ray Kroc to Wynn Handman

Two founders in different worlds

One from Heaven, one from Purgatory

Yesterday was Kroc’s day

a day of separating the art from the chaff

The day of the businessman

Golden nuggets panned from a sewer …

Today considers another way

Wynn Handman is an artist with some entrepreneurial skills

in service of a more divine purpose

than business

Wynn Handman made a better product than business

and nurtured more souls than any church

The practical and the spiritual taken care of

with none of the bullshit

A CEO who didn’t worry about the bottom line. and completely focused on production

A Spiritual Leader unconcerned with his own authority, attentive to his charges’ souls

A Founder of an Institution who was not an institutionalist

In 2002 Wynn Handman closed The American Place Theater

He did not sell it

He did not strategize to keep it going

His thoughts never involved meeting a payroll

and yet he and his theater thrived

and when it was over it was over

But the trace …

theaters leave a trace

We need stories

and we need the biographies of the people who tell them

Today is Wynn Handman day

The day of the new thing …

I need people like Wynn Handman in my life

Sure they are rare

But They exist

He is an upper case example

representative of several lower case lives

“Outsider art” is a redundant phrase

“Community of outsiders” is a contradictory phrase

But contradictions exist …

and redundancies can illuminate.

Some people live in reality

concerned with things like justice and truth

and meaning

and are not so much about success and money …

some people are driven by purpose

instead of ambition …

some people are true to themselves

and in so being

are true to the world …

Some people aspire less to be great

than to foster greatness

Some people are the strong arms of industry

Some special people are the hands of God,

the workers on the frontier of creation …

Some people are models for the future …

Artists are:

outspoken

idealists who don’t have their idealism calcify to violence

intellectual

crazy

honest

unconcerned with winning

teachers

people who open doors for others

people who understand that “styles change but truth doesn’t”

people who see the nuance of every individual

and the universality of all experience …

Artists are non – hierarchical beings

Artists are kind and gentle

who clearly see human equality

Artists main purpose is the fostering of humanity and human beings’ highest potentials

Artists are concerned with those most important things that most people see as unimportant.

Artist have some formative experience

that outwardly may seem quite mundane …

that experience introduces the artist to his or her inner life

and that inner life leads the artist every day thereafter.

This is what makes an artist an outsider.

The artist is not of society

The artist makes odd decisions

he or she is mistaken as a lunatic

but the artist is highly rational

He or she does what makes sense in order to fulfill his or her destiny

on the outer reaches of human consciousness

Artists have to find one another

They have to band together to do their work

Consciousness is a strange thing

It exists within us

and outside of us

and artists connect with one another

with tightropes of consciousness

Precariously balancing themselves

as they gingerly step toward each other

High above the chaos of the circus of everyday life below

Artists: 
Experiment
Aren’t afraid to fail
Know Sacredness
Are Lucky 
Come into money so that they can keep going.
Well intentioned young people,
And people committed to justice and a better world 

are drawn to artists.

Artists are
Inclusive …
Artists Figure out ways to bypass the critics 
Artists Have a sense of mission
Artists Nurture new voices.
Artists Judge others art by the art itself not the prominence of the writers.
Artists Do what they want to do
Out of the mainstream. 
Artists Don’t fit into mainstream jobs.
The artists job is being oneself.

Personal note — I came up in Second City, a theater conflicted between commerce and art. Commerce ultimately won every day. I would have been better off as a young actor in Wynn Handman’s class who submitted one person plays to his theater. But if I followed that path, I’d have nothing to write about now. Now I need a place to share my processed life, and this documentary about Wynn Handman is a map. Wynn Handman is a 20th century figure, but his work and path are eternal matters. The qualities of Wynn Handman are the qualities of new people who will enter my life, and the best qualities of the people in my life already.

The American Place Theater closed in 2002 or thereabouts, but its soul lives in different people and institutions.

Artists are not for profit, like Handman and The American Place Theater — yet they thrive. Show business is no place for an artist.

The American Place Theater’s first production was produced by Wynn Handman, was written by the poet Robert Lowell, directed by the British satirist Jonathan Miller, and starred the fine actor Frank Langella and the African – American actor Roscoe Lee Browne at a time black actors didn’t work much, and a cast of African -American actors in supporting roles. Poetry, political and social inclusion, intellectual and spiritual fire and beautiful acting! How much more achievement is in this show than merely being a hit …

I am not being romantic in my viewing of this movie — I know this is a real thing, not mere sentiment. I saw that artist part of my teachers and directors at Second City. I have caught glimpses — never sustained — of the art that The American Place did consistently. My whole life has been an Exodus to the Promised Land described in this movie about Wynn Handman.

Nothing stopped Wynn Handman from doing anything that he wanted to do.

Sam Shepard wrote plays and read them in apartments or bars or anywhere he could … that’s what my blog is … that’s where I am … the pandemic is waning and the world is calling me …

An artist doesn’t make choices for the money or the praise …

I never have, but I have suffered too much from criticism

I know now that if you are really doing something you will be criticized

“To speak your mind is subversive by definition, and unsettling by definition, and thought provoking by definition”

“Why have your work assessed by people from the outside … “

The insiders are outside of the outside

If you play the mainstream game, you never do anything …

Action changes things …

Wynn Hnadman accepted himself as an outsider, he “always did”

Me too

When you are creating you can’t be thinking about how it is going over …

Improvisational theater has a tenet of working beyond the approval or disapproval of the audience, but rarely if ever honors that value …

Wynn Handman honored that value

I think the world is turning toward Wynn Handman and away from Second City

Conservatives are crass businessmen like Ray Kroc

Moderates are wishy washy like Second City

wanting to be a positive force — within reason, but profits come first

Progressives are increasingly like Wynn Handman

Justice

Challenging — intellectually, emotionally, spiritually

Conservatives and moderates look like louts and fools

Those idealistic young people. and their older counterparts who love justice and mercy and love

who want the best for us all

and every one of us

That is who my writing and talking is for

Our lives are blueprints for those who walk beside us and after us

We are called to be examples

Artists are unique beings who can’t be replicated

Each and particular every artist points to the same thing

Eternity is the glue …

The artist lives in the past, present and future

simultaneously …

Leaps of true faith

always find soft landings …

and don’t mess with Mr. InBetween …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/24/21: The Founder (2016) — Have Something No One Else Has, Identify and Target a Market Segment, and Brand It #poetry

2/24/21: The Founder (2016) — Have Something No One Else Has, Identify and Target a Market Segment, and Brand It #poetry

You have to know what you want to do

and that should be the thing you are best at

if the thing is what you want to do

and the thing that you are best at

you will have something unique to offer

guaranteed

You take your thing

and put it into the world

the push and pull of Mother Earth

helps harden and shape the thing

and you have your widget

Which you refine

you figure it out

You learn about your thing by doing it

and it gets really good …

Now what?

You have to do something which is counter -intuitive to everything you have done so far

Doing and developing your thing is an inward occupation

Now you have to connect it the wider world

People in your tiny locale know what you can do

but what about all of the people who would like your thing

need your thing

want your thing?

The mistake many pure hearts make

is to think that selling their widget will ruin it

But holy marketing is not sales

You don’t have to force your thing on anybody

You

or more likely someone else

who has gifts different than yours

can identify and target a segment of the population

and speak directly to them

completely free of any manipulation

You (and your new partner)

can just let people know what you have to offer

If you build it

and you let the right people know that

it is out there

they will come

And how are you going to let them know?

You have to do it in a simple way

A poem that describes all of your poetry …

a poem about your widget

To review —

you have a great thing no one else has,

you identify who would like it, want it, need it

and you tell them about it …

and your thing is in the world …

Now, The Founder is about the corruption of our simple formula

stealing a good idea

and compromising it

reaching for a bigger market segment that you deserve

and lying about what you have

Art and connection and communication

corrupted by sales

But The Founder is also about the real thing

underneath the betrayal

The McDonald Brothers made the art

created the thing

and Ray Kroc did the marketing and branding

The Brothers and Kroc were all holy visionaries

They were united in creativity

but Kroc was corrupted in terms of

values

Kroc introduced the McDonald Brothers to

Original Sin

Founders are original

in all things

good

and evil.

But imagine

all of that grace

that grace at the inception of McDonald’s

combined with love and respect

between the partners

and for the clientele …

imagine a Ray Kroc in his prime

after the Fall of the American Dream

like, in say, 2021 …

A man or woman of our new age

an innovator

who has turned Corporate Social Responsibility

into an existential mission

committed to self -sufficiency

feasting guests

and the Will of God

In the 1950s or 1960s, my vision of the fulfillment of visions

would only live in the province of dreamers

but I believe in history

and People

Change.

I need an agent/manager

for my writing and teaching and talking

A writer can’t approach a reader

A teacher can’t approach a student

A talker can’t approach a listener.

It just doesn’t work that way

We can do this

the right way

and checking all of the boxes.

I know my people are out there

the people beyond my personal friends

I just don’t know where they are and how to let them know.

That’s where you come in.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

2/24/21: What the Constitution Means to Me (2020) — The Death of Performance #poetry

2/24/21: What the Constitution Means to Me (2020) — The Death of Performance #poetry

Until December of 2017

the opportunity to perform

on a stage

in front of people

practically alone

with devoted disciples in supporting roles

but mostly me

armed with pages and pages of essays and poetry

always more than time and attention spans would allow

prepared to improvise (be occasionally funny)

and to play act (be mainly profound and deep)

with my character on stage being a slightly amplified version of myself,

these opportunities to perform

excited me …

until December 2017 …

I tried to perform one last time

before an audience of friends,

early on in the evening

I just sat down

and started reading

The acting died

I kept on improvising

and got off some good riffs and lines

but after the show

I forgot all of the bon mots

and returned to the writing.

I no longer wanted to be a slightly amplified version of myself

(did I ever actually want that? Was I just on stage to try to be popular? to make friends? to be recognized? to be validated as a success? was I just performing because my father approved of little about me except the fact that I made him laugh? was I disabled by a tendency not to let go of dead things? had I grown beyond my time as an actor and become something much more — a writer — but I wanted to hold onto my supposed gift and was holding myself back? did I need the predictable disapproval that attended the applause so I could avoid getting on with it and get stuck in rebelling against a mentality that had no real power over me except the power that I gave it? did I want to teach, to help, to take care of other people and neglect my essential nature? Performing for me was the three temptations of the Buddha — fear (of being alone, away from the tribe’s campfire — a free and solitary heart, mind and soul — avoidance of the ultimate risk), desire (popularity and fun), and social duty (I had to be of service) … the answer to all of the questions posed here in this parenthetical aside is YES … YES, YES, YES … )

No, I no longer wanted to be a slightly amplified version of myself

even for an hour

Heid Schreck is smart

like me

She writes from personal experience

like me

connected to social and political realities that affect us all

like me …

The personal writing forms

essay and memoir and poetry,

The personal performance forms

stand – up and the one person stage show

are all dead things

I know it

and Heidi Schreck doesn’t know it

fully

but she is getting there

at times her jokes deconstruct theatricality

lampoon the artifice

characters are shed

and in moments

Heidi Schreck just stands before the audience

Solidly

and looks the audience in the eye

and just talks

and in those moments Heidi Schreck is very emotional

and none of the feeling

is an act

As the show goes on

performance almost drops away

but it is still a play

a play tries to persuade you

Heidi Schreck’s show has some great ideas in it

prophetic feminism

empathy

equality

the rule of law

and more …

but higher art isn’t trying to convince you of anything

Not persuasion

but influence

I was moved when Paula and I drove through Utah

Stunned by its dignity and beauty

Inspired by its grandeur

Utah didn’t try to convince me of anything

I am an artist

I am a species unto myself

I will not be burdened by your social requirements

You are free to ignore me

but if my art touches you

it and you have functioned the way all persons, places and things that connect in creation

behave

Performance manipulates reality in an attempt to make it more palatable and accessible

Entertainment is like coaxing a frightened child

This is the reason that entertainment is so often used for propaganda or sales purposes

I like Heidi Schreck and I like her show

But …

I’m sick of the bullshit

I’m sick of the teacher’s tricks to keep the audience engaged

I’m sick of the bribery

Jokes, so they’ll sit still for the demanding stuff

the emotionally and intellectually demanding stuff

I’m not criticizing Heidi Schreck

She doesn’t have to be sick of what sickens me

She is performing a service

I just feel

in my own work

and in listening to hers

held back by all of the neediness

the performer and the audience are co -dependent

Heidi Schreck and her audience mirror each other with frozen smiles

We can just sit with each other

we can “be” in proximity to each other

we can share our humor and pain and insight with each other

without the burden of entertainment

Some might say that entertaining is our method of providing hospitality to one another

it is simply a gesture of affection and even respect

and I might even agree

but performance has overwhelmed everything

Can’t we just talk to one another?

And openly regard each other in silence?

Yes and yes.

I love the premise of Heidi Schreck’s filmed stage show

the connecting of the personal and the Constitutional

that’s like the premise of my writing

the concentric circles of the individual and the world

Emotion and reason and meaning

Magnificent

Sincere

Sincere

Sincere

Heidi Schreck speaks on a stage of matters of great importance to her

and her very presence communicates a truth beyond her words

Her presence doesn’t need the cute jokes

and the play acting

Improvisation, stand – up and play acting are dead …

all that theater has become is dead

everything theater has become before people stood up by the fire and talked in front of other people who just listened

all writing genres are dead

fiction, essay, poetry, memoir …

all dead

just me

and you

and Heidi Schreck

and our words

and our presences

and the force fields between us …

Postscript — Heidi Schreck’s is cliched “We must fight to keep our democracy every day” when it performs, pretends and persuades, and sophomoric when it relies on audience participation and questions — the usual outcome of improvisation … this show is a block of marble with something important inside of and a lot of unneeded rock in the way …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

My Last Performance … after the entertainer and the teacher died (after this show), the writing got better …. http://www.richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com and the talking got better whenever and wherever I talk …