Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Sunday, January 31, 2010



As in Dickensian London, 

Industrial smoke thick enough to sludge your toast,

Spent acid spew thickening the Thames,

We measure who's developing most.


Remain After Class

'Appropriate'.  Such a teacherly word, designed for erratic teens to hold back the hormone bounce that makes them use their hands either to feel or hit.

When something is 'appropriated', it's taken away.  If you are a 'proprietor', you own something, have legal status to possession.  

So reigning in 'the kids' means not only helping them avoid trespass mistakes, violations of others' bodies and sense of 'space', but it means alerting them (at least implicitly) to an exercise of Power Above Them. 

A reinforcement of the yet more primal 'family drama' where true helplessness simply mistakes even benign physical activity for threat.

When does Nature, when does Society, relax control?  Do we ever get to develop ourselves without interference, however well-intended, that chokes us, early, off?


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is That A Godshead In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?


Okay, moving on.  

If time doesn't really 'exist', but finds its measure from us, only us, so far as we know, by extension from the beating heart of our body; and the universe is known to us, only us, so far as we know, through our brain organ and its genetically-set structural limits, 

Then can we not adopt an 'idealist' view (of someone's fashioning) that all our (yes, admittedly limited) knowledge of things 'external' -- which would include not only external to the body, but also external to the activities of the mind as it operates as part of/through the agency of the brain, thus 'external to' but within the body -- that all such knowledge is creative, a function of mind-play, a product of imagination?

What status, then, of 'the body' that houses a beating heart and agent brain capable of mind-play?  Is that foundational 'place' just a metaphor for the productive locus we call more closely 'self'?

Are we in that scheme a kind of demiurgic impulse whose energy derives from a yet more initiatory source?

Are we, ourselves, imagined in turn?

As judges and engineers, poets, of what goes from potential into actual.

I'm just sayin'.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Goodbye To All That

If Buddhist practice means learning to see through what is right there as 'simply phenomenal', passing, and not to be 'attached to' as though its metaphysical status were fixed and 'concrete', an object wheedling emotional address, 

Then its spiritual opposite must be 'forecasting' of any kind, attempts to harden what isn't even yet happening, but is only hinted at as a possible futurity, 'reifying' the conditional into an object that causes expectation -- either fearful anxiety or premature joy, squeezing emotion from a 'reality' that by anyone's account cannot possibly be there.  

Good bye economics and weather reports, just for a start.


A Horizon At My Door -- And No Farther


It takes a village to raise a child . . . 

its way.


Take Me Out To The Obsessively Fastidious Ball Game

Measure that pitcher.

Shut-Out.  No Runs scored.

No Hitter.  No batter gets to first base by making contact with pitch.

Perfect Game.  No runs, no hits, no advancement to first due to walks (BB) or hit-by-pitch (HBP).

Perfect Perfect Game.  Batter simply makes no contact with pitched balls despite attempts ('Whiffs').

Perfect Perfect Perfect Game.  Batter never swings at any pitch ('Called Strikes')

Perfect Perfect Perfect Perfect Game. Each of 27 batters over 9 innings called 'out' on 3 consecutive pitches (all pitches in strike zone, none swung at).


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spearesques 15


That man, well-advertised, does well

And even with great foes, out-does them martially --

Outbalances when they lunge, with dodge

Outwits their expectations.  True lead

By voice and size, in boldness, skill, through craft

And shrewdness a Ulysses, Achilles with his sword.

Such find not many nor do I, nor am I found

A specimen that exhibits such.  As I,

Buried softly well-within the cousins, am

Audience, witness; spectate and observe

The world get shaped by others' whim and work.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

The American 'Roman'


A prime conservative American virtue: self-reliance.

A prime conservative American arrogance: demanding self-reliance of the weak.


Inconsequentials . . . Or Not


1) It takes a village to raise a child . . . until they run afoul of the customs of the village.

2) To die cackling and to have it played at the funeral, put on a loop.

3) The hash-browns were really good!

4) Don't come near me -- I'll propose!


In Each Series, Your Choice Of Fate





It's Been A Long, Long Time

That scene in War And Remembrance where Sharon Stone, made war widow, just before boffing the submarine captain, seductively draws-up a stocking and fastens it onto a garter belt.

Don't tell Byron, she admonishes, not wanting to be found-out by her late husband's brother.

Can't articulate fully enough just how moving is such 'cheesecake'.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not Meant For Song


Inside a coffee cup unused for months and pushed to the side of disconnected speaker wires,

A dead bee.

We're not hearing, either one of us.

I'll bury it.


This Can't Be Spring


Sporting at the robin, she alone, the bird then to a sapling branch.

Meeting up with a friend? (from me).

She giggles, this young woman, girlish.


Monday, January 18, 2010

No False Gods For Me, Brutha, But . . .

If there was one theoretical force pushing a sense of universal economic well-being, it was Marxism.

These words come from someone quite aware of the advantages in capitalist economics, of the favorable fall-out from growth,  advantages in expanding markets, minimal interference with what men contract to do.  To the extent those relationships can be explained, they are 'rational'.

Marxism thought the moment had come when such economic craft could serve all equally, and would be the vehicle for an economically egalitarian society.

Why did it fail?  Here are some possible, though short, answers:

1) It was misapplied.  The USSR and its clones simply couldn't pull it off.

2) In being applied, surprise implications came to the surface.  An egalitarian society, might, for instance, hold low what otherwise might show as 'excellent', and might simply let rise or insist on making rise what gives 'best lipservice'.

3) After being applied, its incompleteness appeared.  Institutions thought to be extraneous 'superstructures' of the old guard actually had continuing -- and vital -- use.  Point to viable parliamentary systems or to religious 'support systems'.

4) It was never applied.  The conditions Marx and company thought were needed have never come into being at the crucial level.

Easy enough in the comfortable West (and its emulators in other parts of the global geography) to give commies the old 'Bronx cheer' -- so many of them were apparatchiks or butchers, manipulators or hypocrites, cynics or self-protecting survivors.

Too easy, also, to conclude that the older, 'tried-and-true', ways are proven-out.  Those who wave Adam Smith's The Wealth Of Nations as though it were a true 'little red book' of foundational wisdom may be able to explain many economic relationships in a rational way.  They cannot, with any good conscience, explain economic activity itself as rational.  What's done by men (inclusive, here, to include women, of course) always must be read as having an undercurrent of the irrational in it.

Even the rational compromises represented by bargains and contracts and the legal rules protecting them must implicitly allow for motives that are unspoken, for the irregular and not always stable psychological development of individuals, for the cultural routines, traditional and seemingly arbitrary, of human place, for social allegiances (like family, clan, race, etc) that structurally trump any particular economic agreement.  All those work under the surface of all transactions.  The transactions are only so good as the . . . shifting irrationality (?) . . . allows.

Any theory must account for the irrational.  Is that possible?

Marxism, undear, dead.
Long live the [?].


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is There A Parapsychological Doctor In The House?


It begins with me questioning a child about what that doll is.


What are you doing with those things? I ask


I draw back the bed covers and the child fights back with a guilty, protective resistance.

Let me look under the mattress.  I peel the heavy thing back and see . . . an array of odd bits of teeth and hair surrounding a waxen figure.  Voodoo.

The child swings its body over me, pinning me, now, savagely, beneath the sheets and quilts.

I struggle to free my hands caught-up under the weight of it all.  Finally, I manage to get one hand out and forcefully pull back the child's eyelid and eyebrow, and as hard as I can, press its skull.

Wrestle free.

At that instant, I find myself flinging back real covers in my real bed.  My cat, having been asleep on top, scoots -- or is thrown -- off the bed.

Awakened from sleep, from a nightmare, I stumble around the now-lit bedroom, as my cat nervously skulks around the bed, peering at something underneath it.

When I get on all fours, I peer, too.



I'll Open It Up For 'New Business'


A committee during an earthquake:

Every head continues bobbling, as before.


Saturday, January 16, 2010


Six upright trunks

6 fates

Six bamboo

God-cane walking sticks

Bamboo break

Tame wind

Six-tree above the dale

Six-tree create the dale

Six thin trees were moved

And by mere that, all China

All nature pushes 6 bamboo

And six remain


Spearesques 14


Lesson-mastering self in which ways t'unwork knots!

That I proceed and stop from moving idle

As in the dream of me where,

Tied by underwater weeds, try

Shoreward arm-crawling through high waves, chestdeep,

And carrying the world.  Should rather run dry,

Pedal-off all challenge as a light, swift sand.

With will alone do engineers cut channels;

With an eye to ends, no time in distance.


Don't Be Flip With Me -- This Is Serious!


How difficult it is to dry the water off plastic.

How difficult it is to reap the plastic off water.


About To Feel One's Age

Man:  Getting home, I shove chips in my mouth and the coffee I guzzle brings me to life.

Doctor:  Not the coffee.  Blood sugar.

Man:  The first cold lasted over 20 days.  Then a hiatus of 30, then another cold still hanging on for over 20!  One bug weakened me enough to be vulnerable to another kind of bug.

Doctor:  Not a bug.  The host.


Friday, January 15, 2010



Killing time waiting to administer an exam in four minutes.

Against the window which reflects the interior of the room, one looks to the exterior where it rains and rains heavily.

Some hooded people singly march toward a lit building.  A clock tower shows 2 minutes to go.  Flat, concrete demi-walls, continuing to be slickened, shine-back the campus walkway lamps.


'Structural recognition'.  A pattern of electric lighting/reflection/window/transparency/snugness/rain.  This pattern's an early one, and strong.  An emotion from 'then' whenever 'then' was.  Visceral.

Time not really 'here' anymore.

Not dej√† vu, something different.  One is losing the immediate moment, not 're-living' one.  An overlay of one moment by another, suspending the experience, replenishing its power, keeping its feeling as a template to let motivate, later, art.


Faculty Lounge

Looking at me while propping her foot against the women's restroom door and fumbling for a switch:  Do you know where the lights are in here? 

Following my point behind her shoulder at the corner of the entry, she adds:

I was peeing in the dark. 

Laughing politely, I.  Then, as an afterthought  Not necessarily an unpleasant thing to do, I add, making my own way into the men's.

Dulce et decorum est pro scola micturi.


Thursday, January 14, 2010



Almost washed the cars last year.

When flossing nightly, worry most about getting snagged on the rear bottom.

Drive surface streets rather than freeways.  Unless there's snow or heavy ice.

Car sound: morning, play lectures;  nighttime, play music.

Inevitably choose dark shirt with light pants.  Never light shirt with dark pants.

Don't look up, don't look back.

If looking up, have lips poised in a proto-smile.

Assume all workers don't want to do what they're doing.

Treat them with deference, accordingly.

Rotate coffee cups in the collection.

The dishwasher.  Large glasses at the sides, cups toward the back, small glasses up front.

Small bowls with the large glasses, long utensils cupped by the small bowls on the top tray.

Small utensils spread evenly among small vertical sections, no big greasy roasting pans, ever.

When sweeping, drag and contain, drag and contain.  Never fling.

When getting oil change, bring a book, a small one that doesn't look too elite.

Don't sit in a restaurant with the sun in your eyes.  Avoid 'house' sauces.

Avoid 'street clothes' at home.  As much as possible, treat cats as humans.

Assume dogs can be very friendly, but watch your hands and face.

Have semi-monthly lists of bills to be paid.  Do those lists in pencil.

Don't kill 'generic' insects, worms.  Be merciless with fleas, mosquitoes.

Talk to spiders.  Notice bark pattern of trees that catch your attention.

Pay attention to spinal curves, the neck, the small of the back.

And the scapula.  Keep shoulders back.  Shave at the same time each day.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Perfect Pitch


I like any music that tells me my life really is part of 'the big picture'

And I'm roughly at the center.  Which is most music.  Me.


The Closest I've Been To Open Air

In the few minutes it took to listen, something travelled years within seconds.

In her pitches, something went deep and something went high.

From her words, something went from world-weary to childlike.


Bright Face, Self-Loathing

Harmless shortcuts with people. Quick smile, joke, the tease, all on a probe, some moves to see if anything genuine is there. Some moves to practice for when there might be something genuine there.

You 'play games' up to a point, and then . . . they're more than a game, and they're playing you -- a social art has become the way you are. Has become the only way. Has become the 'who' you are.

And executing it, being who you are by then, is no longer a light-footedness, a spry agility, but stiff compensation for a lost ability. Nothing genuine, then, here.

(For the curious: I speak theoretically.)


Friday, January 8, 2010

Silent Puss Myth

And when the Prince opened his eyes and went where the coffee was made, lo! The White Swan in his dream had been right!

Before him lay two bilious puddles of hairball.

The Prince, addressing Black Cat and Orange Cat, looking one to another, said, What has gone on here? Which one of you is to blame for this?

But The White Swan proved right a second time. Both cats, the black and the orange, could no longer speak! Moving their jaws and curling their tongues, the only sounds that came were a yawn from one and a squeak from the other.

Cursed dream come true! This is how cats came to meow and rrrhhrrrhh and chhchhchh and can no longer tell us which kibble they prefer.

And it is also one more example of how dreams cause reality to change.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Two Women

Bebe: Bedroom scuffs and nose jewelry, coif somewhere between dreads and Medusa. Says I Like Disney.

Mad'ra: In hijab, seeing me walk-in, hooded, from the soaking rain. Asks Why you cover head that way?


Stacheless In Seattle

That scene in Whit Stillman's Barcelona where the naval lieutenant Fred, the jingoistic East-Coast Establishmentarian, the yuppified 'ugly American', ponders whether an upper lip is more effectively shaven with the grain of mustache or against it.

After 15 years, the answer: doubly.

First, with the grain. Then, against it.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Soundtrack Of Sibelius, Or Of Sarah Vaughan

It's rained a lot, so the roads at night -- freeways at 70 mph, street arterials at 45, neighborhood lanes at 20 -- give-off a soft, a muffled, underwater, distant glub like the inside of a mother.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going My Way?

Depending on which one of us passes-on first, it's a race between Shirley MacLaine and me to see who channels who first. (I could use some of her versatility and pluck.)

Will Someone Please Tell Me What I'm Talking About?

An analytic statement is one true by virtue of its definition: 'I am who I am', 'elephants are animals with trunks' -- these are self-evident.

A synthetic statement is one not true by virtue of definition: 'I am a man 1.82 meters in height', 'Sheba is an elephant in the Atlanta zoo' -- these require evidence.

But, you know, even 'self-evidence' based on definitional grounds requires a knowledge of the world which implies having had empirical dealings with it.

Apparently, I've stumbled on a W.V.O. Quine challenge made against logical positivist arguments which put too much reliance on analytic statements to establish truth and downplayed the role of synthetic statements.

In doing so, Quine was in effect defending the availability of truth founded in fact rather than simply in definition, language, and meaning.

(I have no idea whether this is right, but it sounds good.)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ann S's Distresses, Ours

Her bad, bad two-day headaches, nausea, and spine pain.


She's stable now, she's good, with morphine and a ride home,

No more bugs, and pain control.

Deserved it not. Earned none of it,

And lovely, kind, and getting well,

She must be wondering why an agent came

A vandal carving its initials in her head.

Meningococci, Dr. Mengele, or men

To break a world need nothing more than whim.

The god. The universe's fashioner. The Word.

Before her sufferings, theodicies lie dim.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Memories Are Made Of This

All those photographs exhumed

After all of us are interred

The Grandparents

Their house was always dark; it felt like held breath.

Donald Hall's.

None of us has been in a closed mouth -- we've had them, but not been in them.

If we had entry, they would be opened mouths, or resealed ones, or intruded ones.

Yet Hall makes beautiful sense.

Something is ready to escape, but isn't doing so.

Something fills familiar space, but isn't itself space.

It can't be seen, even in light, but it's not light, anyway.

What's there got trapped. It must seep or explode.

It can't be re-breathed for it's changed its form, once held.

It's at its end of livability. It's stale.

The past as seen by the present ready for its future.


Get Me The News Desk!

In His Girl Friday where Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, and Ralph Bellamy talk over one another and hold different, frenetic telephone conversations at once, all in the same stretch of desk space,

bodies turning and bobbling to hear what's being said on the other side of the line, making definitive plans of one kind or another to advance plot machinations.

Opera ensemble.