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BLOT: (12 May 2016 - 01:56:51 PM)

Today's Moodish Thought, "My old friend, Darkness," or, the "irony" of The Sound of Silence

Quick, let's come up with the perfect song for a trailer for a third series of a show about a depressed detective, and we want it to convey a hint of darkness and facing your demons and capturing Nietzsche's "Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein." What song might convey that?

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision
That was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
Turned my collar to the cold and damned
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
Split the night
And touched the sound of silence
Fools said I do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you
But my words
Like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

There are those who will, of course, prefer the original [much like with the Wallander-TV series itself, ha!]. Kina Grannis is missing the more direct religious imagery of bowing and praying and the most famous non-"Hello darkness" line in the song—"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sound of silence"—which slightly alters the song from a bit of a lecture about worshipping modernity obscuring communication [which seems quaint in a post 60s world where "worshipping street lamps" would be considered a relatively healthy outdoor social activity] to a more pure meditation on darkness and insomnia as an act of self-alienation that makes you a stranger on the streets.

Words are clay not fully formed until they become shared thought. This song is an example of that, to me, even besides the fact that it deals strongly with being unheard and unhearing. A quick Youtube search for "hello darkness my old friend" [and ignoring covers/concerts/music-videos] reveals almost entirely videos in which people act depressed, are disappointed, are defeated, are mocked, are lonely, or in some other ways are staring into the figurative darkness, where darkness = bad thoughts. But let's go back to the song itself (and this time I will use the Simon & Garfunkel original):

And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they made and the sign flashed out its warning in the words that it was forming

Note that it is not the darkness that is destroying the singers, but the light. The darkness represents the night where the singers can be themselves, representing heartfelt communication while the light is treated like a migraine worshipped as a false god.

As a person who regularly walks late at night when everyone else is in bed, a person who gets out and walks around every town he visits once the people he is with go to sleep, and a person who just sits outside in the darkness with his cat and watches stars, I dig it. Also, I might have ripped it off in half a dozen poems. Still, it is important to note that for some people, alienation is required to accept socialization. If I hang out with people for three hours, I need at least an hour or two of alone time to not grow to hate the former. Call it moody if you will, but taking time to face yourself in the mirror of your own thoughts is vital for folks like me.


photo credit: Instagram/emariegraphy

But here is the thing, I am not saying the others are outright wrong. While I am broadly an intentionalist [meaning that the artist's intention should be considered in art analysis], I am not beholden to it. Art lives in the act of being viewed, read, understood, dismissed, chewed up, reused, and so forth. All art is performance art. All art requires audience participation.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: May 2016


BLOT: (30 Apr 2016 - 02:31:45 PM)

Poem of the Day, April 30: "Thus, Exeunt"

Without comment, the final 10-minute-poem of the day for now...

"Thus, Exeunt"

Eyes must be more than the physical act of seeing
If the dead have them closed, rotting and forgotten
In graves full of names of dates and faces they rarely
Wore while living, landscapes of darkness against
Coffin lids, and eyes must be more than windows
To the soul if the living have them, rushing screaming,
Thrust out into the world full of fleeing confusions,
Landscapes of other people and minor schemes
Against day to day priorities and buildings roads
Glass cars thorns trees stones clouds sky stars

Poetry must be more than the physical act of speaking
Words with lips and teeth and meaning if the dead
Can be remembered for their poetry after breathing
Ceases and naught but good words are spoke of them,
Echoes of lives understood largely through implication,
And poetry must be more than pretty words in rhyme
If the living can bungle them so well, poor choices
And pastoral pastiches of sentimental claptrap
Shared with strangers with the cliche of common ground,
Ill defined tempos and rhythms full of saccharine
Humanity, burning in the hearts that forget

And silence must be more than the physical act of holding
If the dead do it so effortlessly, without trying.
Silence must be more than that simply not living if a
Billion people are silent at any given time, crowds of clowns
With mouths held tight and dry and behind those faces
It is so loud, so very loud, and all failures of expression

So goodbye, Neruda
So goodbye, Hulme
So goodbye, Ginsberg
So goodbye, Blake
So goodbye, Bukowski
So goodbye, Dick
So goodnight, Pound
So goodnight, Joyce
So goodnight, Toole
So spokoynoy nochi, Dostoevsky
So bon nuit, James
[and so long, you other James, the ghostly one]
So long, Aickman
So goodbye, Lovecraft
So goodbye, Vonnegut
So goodbye, Dickinson
So goodbye, Hardy
So good try, Topaz
So much, so sorry, so hard to know what else
Could have had such a so much nothing
So goodbye, thought
So goodbye, sound
So goodbye, sight
So goodbye, ground
So goodbye, landscapes
So goodbye, crowd
And good luck, me

So goodnight to thirty-eight years and we are all just
Dead things living in the past of ourselves, memories
Of a grave that has yet to be dug and all
Of our poetry is just this moment that may be spoken
Into the silence of eyes some time down the road
Or maybe find quiet in the act of being lost beside
The great river, over rocks and rapids it goes
And nothing we can do will make better of it

Thus, exeunt
Thus, exeunt
An ending is implied in the beginning

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (30 Apr 2016 - 10:16:19 AM)

Being a [relatively] old man at a G-Eazy Concert [April 27, 2016 @ Sloss Furnaces]

Tom, Doug, and Maryam surrounded by a packed crowd.

I get along alright with G-Eazy's music. A Bay-area rapper on the rise, I was introduced to him by my friend Maryam (she of the burning flowers photoshoot) who enjoys him somewhat: meaning her review him tends to be four-stars and two-stars combined but not averaged out. She's had a dream for a bit of getting to see him and meet him and such, and when I found out that he was coming to Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham just one week after her birthday, it made sense to get her tickets as a birthday gift. The initial plan was that we would go with Sarah and Tom [a friend of ours and G-Eazy detractor], though for reasons Sarah dropped out of the concert itself while going with us on the road trip.

Maryam standing by a G-Eazy cut out.

After grabbing some food at Eli's Jerusalem Grill [quick review: yes, go], we headed over to Sloss so that Sarah could drop us off and we could get in line about 6pm. Already, the line was a hundred or more people long. Over the next hour and a half, it grew ten times that size, stretching all the way back and around the parking lot. This section of the night was mostly dedicated to people watching, trying to figure out the weird unknown dramas unfolding around us: the menage a trois of youths in front of us, the couple walking back and forth like they had lost something but never asking anyone to help them look, the high-school looking girl with her bra hanging out complaining about all the high-schoolers in the crowd, etc. Finally, around 7:30pm, the gates were opened and we started marching forward. Oddly, there was a call for us to get into four separate lines [Maryam and I got into one and Tom got into the one next to us] and this become three lines, which then melted into two, and the one line, the leftmost one with Maryam and myself, went slower than the other three that blended together. Who knows.

At this point, a performance art piece began that you might refer to as "young people pack themselves into a small building at a density roughly equating a single loose solid". Cigarettes, e-cigs, and joints were widely smoked. One girl emptied a baggie of some sort of pill. Beer in cans and cups were drunk and empty containers were flung into the crowd [I was hit with an empty pack of cigarettes, one mostly empty beer cup, and some quantity of liquid I still do not the source of]. People started crawling up brick walls around the edges. Elbows were thrown. People smashed into other's people's backsides. Every time someone went to use the restroom or get drinks, the crowd had to wheeze and compact themselves in a slow responding reconfiguration much like a sluggish artificial intelligence calculation chugging along on an old computer. See the photo at the top of this, or see the one below, to get an idea of what the next four hours was like for yours truly. One woman rubbed her ass up against my thigh for half an hour and you have to understand, she was not grinding me on the dance floor, she was merely moving in a space without space, in which every movement was contact. One time I went to grab out my cellphone and I rubbed up against three people on the way up and pulled two people's hair. Another woman behind me threw decorum out the window and proceeded to use me as a tripod for her cellphone to record the show and would grab my shirt and pull on it to hold herself up to see better over my shoulder. One guy basically had his hand on my ass for several minutes because I think he was trying to get his cellphone out, and the space between his front pocket and my rear one was roughly the width of a single layer of jeans.

The crowd.

It is with something like irony that my memory of the concert mostly involves the constant contact with dozens of strangers across hours of being jostled and squeezed, though the show itself was not bad. G played a good number of songs, had a fair stage presence, and played up to the crowd in a good, friendly manner [though his stage schtick felt a bit fake and forced in times, such as his "From the bottom of my heart, this is the happiest I have ever been"]. The two songs I most wanted to hear, "You Got Me" and "I Mean It" were saved for the encore, which helped the whole thing end on a high note. The music was just about the right level of loud, and for all of their immense closeness and shared sweatiness, the crowd was roughly well behaved. Roughly. At one point in time, a failed crowd-surf nearly slammed a young man into the cement near my feet and I managed to get him up. At another, some women shoving their way forward to get a better view basically just slammed people out of their way. Also, see the beer and such thrown into the back of people's heads. Still, the mood was mostly a good-time one.

Knowing Sarah's hatred for crowds, her generally "meh" stance on G, and her need to get up early to go to work the next day, it is best she didn't actually show up to the show, though in some ways I wish she could have been at the back, watching the whole thing like an anthropological event. In contrast, she and I had gone to a Roomful of Teeth concert just the night before, and that one had been calm and collected and beautifully organized, with the crowd happy just to enjoy in thoughtful, weird music. Yet, for all the beauty of the Teeth-show compared to sweaty-animal-stink of the G-one, I will probably remember the Sloss Furnaces show more clearly, because it was truly one of the most unusual experiences of my life.

With that being said, I would go see Roomful of Teeth at the drop of the dime, while actively avoiding seeing another G-Eazy concert unless I can get some sort of box seating. Heh.

Photo credits for the first and third image (the crowd images): Thomas Williams.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (29 Apr 2016 - 10:41:24 PM)

Poem of the Day, April 29: "Decades"

So, I only managed maybe 15 "poems of the day" out of 30 possible, but that's pretty good. I have today's poem written, that would have been a poem from a few days ago except I couldn't quite get into the flow of it, and then life happened and I was really tired, so I figured rather than force a "catch up" post with three or four poems, I'd just let a few lacunae birth themselves into non-being. Skipping ahead to today, tonight's poem is "Decades", and is something like a sister poem to "Grotto", which was me looking back to my old mopey teenage self and realizing I'm a 38-year-old mopey self. This one references an odd bit of philosophy: if you only have one life to live, every choice you make kills all those other yous who could have been, therefore you commit suicide every single day, in many ways, and by the time you make it to your late thirties you are a mass-murderer, a serial killer specializing in victims sharing your name and general life disposition. It is perhaps the opposite of my Million-Billion Dougs philosophy, but perhaps the truest form of it. There are not a million-billion Dougs, there is just one, and he has killed the rest. Whether or not he reigns supreme is up to him, or I should say, the him that will eventually be the last Doug alive, one last Doug facing himself, and then he will fade into nothing, probably thinking of himself as a failure, despite outwitting all the others in the only race that matters: the race to exist. [Note: since I've skipped quite a few poems, I've sped up the weird icon that accompanies them so it can reach its final form by the final one, tomorrow.]

"Decades"

Decades are dust on my teeth and my tongue
Catches spit red like blood and drips years my lips
Crack open words and this is all of me, this muddy time
Flowing down my back and an old man I have become
In the very act of fleeing the ire of younger selves,
Grown ugly and tired and a mirror of dreams
I have barely nurtured to fruition, the betrayal
Of circumstance and the air of expedience
The path of least resistance to become the
Not the me of such improbable destinies:
Forks in the road and dice rolls slapping tables,
Glass houses for catch fate quick schemes,
Fool of the cards wild and all hands and feet.
Suicide is living long enough to watch all possibilities
Turn left down the road to better things, a million-billion
Victims of the choices you wear out every day.

Here is me as a scientist and he digs deeper against
Star burnt mysteries and here is me as preacher
And God like a fire tears out my eyes and here
Is me as a family man with children fluttering ground
And a yard and a house and a door with my name upon
And here is me as a mad poet prophesying rhyme
And proselytizing rhyme and here is me as a dead
Man tombstone and there is no big enough apostrophe
To define all that could have been mine but here is me
As this old man and in my pocket are all these decades
Burning a hole and spent and dry despite all the rain
Falling loud outside of my window into the whispery
Scratch of another late night listening to music,
The currency of age and what could have been
Had it not been that that which has been happened
And living is just the masks you wear in remembrance
Of all those done died yous left in those other truths,

Another dead youth to an even older you falls behind,
And all those decades keep falling gravities into sound,
As if it were not really you on the road to the mountaintop,
Seeing yourself seeking one last question then full stop.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (24 Apr 2016 - 09:26:50 PM)

Three Poems of the Day, April 24: "The Stars During the Day", "Grin", and "Doors"

It has been a couple of days since I have last written a poem. I've taken a few stabs at it, and what you see below is the result, though each of them was actually committed to the "page" tonight. The first two are too rough, and were close to not even being included, but the third is one that I do actually kind of like. And for those paying attention at all to the weird graphics accompanying the poetry, the final form is starting to show up. I'm definitely starting looking forward to May, when I will go back and edit and tweak all of these poems into something more like their final shape.

"The Stars During the Day"

The stars during the day are not sleeping giants
Romantically watching from around the corners of sunlight,
They are hidden in the depths of blue, burning and bright,
The great constant kings always on immaculate fire,
And the sing down to us like we talk to corpses in the grave.

Skulls of hydrogen into helium, iron building in their marrow,
Those gods creak and moan with the song of bones and time,
Passing overhead ignored in their ocean of blackest rhyme,
Their faces are years behind their slow walk, their eyes open
Wide and eternity trembles in their very passing, their ire.

Look not for stars in the daytime, the jealous sun will frown,
Let them have their secret ways, their tedious sabbaticals.
Seasons change, people die, and leaves pass green to brown.
As the stars pour out into the sky, others drown in day,
And another song is sung, another horrible dawn awakes.

"Grin"

I grin when I think
I laugh when I hurt
I smile when I am confused
I crackle cackle giggle guffaw when all the pains of understanding break upon me and smite my brain and I am left choking and burning and lost again inside of the

Let me tell you a joke of lust and joy
Let me tell you a joke of day and night
Let me tell you a joke of death and loss
Let me tell you a joke of finding, the gentle joy of finding, of finding whatever it is you are looking for and knowing, having found it, that you can only hold it for such a little time

A clown I am
A fool I am
A jester with a head of feathers and twine

But I see
But I see
I see, but for a little while
So laugh with me, and smile with me, and grin with me, guffaw and teeth
And let us tell these jokes and riddles to the face of life, so messy and yet so complete

"Doors"

Doors are not always rectangular in nature,
And hearts are not always beats and blood,
Dreams are not always stains upon thoughts.

I have noticed without paying too much attention
To anything of the sort. I have noticed without noticing.

Trees are not always bark and swings and leaves,
And roads are not always avenues or paths or streets,
And horizons are not always the sky's final edge.

Makes sense, on deeper introspection,
That my soul MIGHT be shaped like that,
Shaped like something it is not while also
Just maybe, shaped exactly like it is.

Oceans sometimes flow like shadows,
River sometimes dry to dust and flame,
And the rain sometimes dies without ever
Finding a single spot upon the ground.

Casting shapes upon the wall, I wish
I could see the bigger picture;
But blinder than a moment of joy
In a world full of pain and misunderstanding,
Blinder than a moment of crying
In a world full of love and happiness,
I wait, and in the morning (as dew) I fall.

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (21 Apr 2016 - 10:11:43 PM)

Poem of the Day, April 21: "Goodbye Is a Song I've Sung", for E Marie

One of my most personal lines of poetry is from "8 Space", when I say that "No one calls Huntsville home" as an indictment to all the times I've stayed here while my friends have gone off into other lives. As the spring semester winds down, several of my friends are getting ready to go again. This my 10-minute attempt to capture that mood.

"Goodbye Is a Song I've Sung", for E Marie

Goodbye is a song I've sung, many times, played upon the heart
And in the sunrises when the deep quiet refuses to steal my thoughts
And am forced to live myself as I am, facing the gray and the blue
And the scent of grass yearning to grow in the coming in the day.

Goodbye, oh how I've sung you,
Though you have no rhythm
Though you have no rhyme
Though you have no melody nor harmony just a beat and a time and a
Salty sweet bitter lyricism about your teeth

Goodbye, oh goodbye, your name I can barely speak,
Given to you by circumstances, the chance of knowing
But for a time and then it collapses into the shape it was
Which is the shape it will be again, the great unknowing
After the such short knowing, the silence after a brief shout

Goodbye is a lonesome valley we all get to walk
Goodbye is a lonesome valley, we never go by ourselves
Hark the void of goodbye, come and sing her face,
And then let it die on your lips, just another forgotten taste
Until it is sung again and again until it is meaningless
Rain drops off a window down to the ground,
Drying as they fell

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (20 Apr 2016 - 09:44:47 PM)

Some Behind the Scenes Notes for the "Flowers Aflame" Photoshoot

Maryam holding burning yellow flowers

Maryam had an interesting idea not terribly long ago, she wanted a set of photos taken where she was holding a flaming flower. She got the idea from an Avril Lavigne music video [skip to about 40 seconds in], with the added twist that Maryam wanted it shot against a fairly dark night. We spent a day or so thinking up the logistics, trying to look up some ideas about how to actually safely set flowers on fire without them being dried. This past Monday—the night before her birthday—we had enough of an idea to set the plan in motion. Since taking photos with flaming flowers seems like something other people might want to try, here is some notes about our experience.

One of our first concerns was definitely safety. We weren't sure how safe it would be to hold a flower that was burning, and we definitely did not want to risk her catching her hair on fire, or burning her hand. I was pretty sure that Zippo lighter fluid would work just fine, and would be something we could fairly control by adding a small amount at a time until we got the hang of how long and how hot it would burn. We rigged up a tall glass jar with aluminum foil wrapped in several layers across the top, with a hole big enough to hold the flower, that way if the test shots decided to burn down the stem, it would hit the foil and not cause any damage to use or the area around us. We also used one of those longer lighters you light barbecue grills with. And shot the thing close to water so just in case it went pear-shaped, we could basically dump the burning flower (or ourselves) to put out the fire. we picked up a bouquet from Publix that had a mix of flower types, so we had variety, and got to experimenting.

Maryam sitting behind the bench as we try for initial test shots

Our first attempt was a fair success, though it burned fast. What we found is that the flowers burned better a second time after they had been slightly dried by the initial heat, so we took the rest of the flowers out of the bouquet and let them dry out just slightly—had to recharge my camera, anyhow, so that hour or so downtime of getting the charger and the tripod equipment and letting it charge gave the flowers more time to dry and the night to get darker. We also discovered that you need to use more lighter fluid than feels like a reasonable amount, but the natural shape of the flowers does a good job of holding the fluid in. Around this time, I did a lot of test shots in the dark testing with and without flash, longer and shorter shutter speeds, further and closer shots. Got the hang of what it would look like as I went.

Maryam up close and blurry while the background is better lit and in focus

Then we basically just got to work. We would light the flowers one by one, take a number of photos, then restage for the next shot. After the first couple in the jar were deemed safe, we moved on to holding the flowers. I did the initial test of this, but once we found out that it was perfectly safe as long as you used caution and were aware of wind blowing the flame around, we let her do the holding from then on out. All told, we took 170 or so photos that night, and then I chose 70 I thought would work, and she chose about 25 from that list with some notes about what sort of edits she would like [I did things like cropping and some mild touch ups to color to help her and the flowers pop from the dark background]. I've included four of her choices, the top one and three below, and then added a couple of behind the scenes shots and one, the last one, where I digitally isolated the flame and tweaked it so that it sort of shows the intensity of the flame at any given spot [the darker the color, the bright the flame was] to this post. This is a sample, and some of the more impressive pictures from the night, but we might find a way to make the rest more public as we go.

Enjoy.

Maryam's face lit by a burning rose while she sits

An orange daisy on fire

Maryam standing, holding a burning rose

Digital isolation of flame

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


BLOT: (19 Apr 2016 - 09:53:39 PM)

Two Poems of the Day, April 19: "Paint" and "Burn"

On the 17th, I attempted to write a poem way too complicated for the 10-minute rule—it featured an old man losing his wedding ring and footnotes that explained the situation and made up the actual poem part—so it never got anywhere near finished in the 10 minutes I worked on it, and then I was too tired to do much on the 18th, so I wrote two tonight in a total of about 16 minutes. With both, I started with a single word and just jammed out some quick thoughts and let them go where they would. The first, "Paint", is broadly in that "is Doug talking about sex?" category, and the answer is, "maybe". The second, "Burn", ended up being about a man watching his life come crashing down in a house fire, though there are a couple of hints that it had already been crashing down. Recommended listening for it is Uncle Tupelo's cover of "Effigy" [which gets a shout out in the poem].

"Paint"

The paint on the floor and the paint in my eyes
Runs the world into watery tears and the canvas tears
Into half sheets and quarter sheets and butterflies fluttering
To
The
Floor

I scream acrylic coughs and oil upon my mind and fail
To express much more than my lack of talent as my
Still lives are grotesques and my portraits are fruits and flowers
But I paint and I paint and I paint and I mind thoughtfully

Fingers over brush and strokes upon touch and gentle caress
Lines down into the valleys where secret thoughts
Breathe in the whole process with a smile and a quiet
Look away from the strings and thin hairs and the things tangled
In its hair and upon it skin made to look like other wheres

All this paint upon my hands and all these holes in my head
And all this color and vibrancy and imagery upon your breast
Like some old sailor's tattoo fading into a once significance
And it's all another beautiful failure, a trainwreck of bright
And wet and it's all just exactly as it needs to be

Hanging the frame to dry, the studio goes dark, and
All the work inside this small space, outside the everyday
Sleeps peacefully in the cocoon of its dreams,
Only the gentlest of murmurs on its lips

"Burn"

The grass burns and the house burns and the windows burn
And the fire is beautiful in the way it turns hope into living memory
And the fire is beautiful in the way it burns orange and yellow red
Words like black smoke rise and the stench is atrocious, all those
Moments lost to smell and odor and all the neighbors watch
With faces of sympathy and all the towels burn and all the spoons
Melt and all the photos melt and all the little things lost and ash

For the first time we have not spoken in four days and for the first time
We watch disaster not side by side and for the first time I realize
You never made out and for the first time in a long time I am silent
And the fire is beautiful the way it is shadows on children's faces
And the fire is beautiful the way it shapes the skull of night
The stars like teeth bite the cold against the neck despite the heat
And the water from the hoses is nothing but a symbolic nod

To the inevitable blindness that comes from staring into the abyss
While the man says nice words and the woman screams your name
And I light a cigarette in something like irony and let it hang there
In my hand as smoke joins smoke and a tongue of flame flicks
The tree we planted together when this home was new and its
Just another grave that I will have to dig and another name
I will bury alongside all those effigies I've swallowed over time

And the fire is beautiful because it burns down, burns away
And the fire is beautiful because it is no more, just an anecdote
And the pain in my feet is atrocious because I cannot move
Rooted like thorns growing wild in a garden a scream of green
Topped with red roses and blackberries and the dawn is hours
Upon hours and the dawn is ugly and bright and homes down
And the street is just a place marking where this life had been

OTHER BLOTS THIS MONTH: April 2016


Written by Doug Bolden

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