Monday, September 30, 2013


Bob Dylan introduces Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan (above), during his admitted "wasted 80s" period, when he seemed to be having the most fun. He proved in the film Hearts of Fire he really shouldn't try acting and instead just be himself, which curiously he seems to do the very best when not on a stage but on the world stage. . .walking around in a neighborhood — whether in England (see "Don't Look Back"), or shown above in Hamilton, Ontario. The press conference below has always been a sly one hour of brilliance.

Bob Dylan's 1965 press conference
introduced by Ralph Gleason

"Don't Look Back " (1967)
1967 documentary film by D.A. Pennebaker

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Campbell Brothers 
(Sacred Steel)


"Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm workin' at the N.S.A. and somebody puts a code on my desk, somethin' no one else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it, maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. And once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels are hidin'. Fifteen hundred people that I never met, I never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', 'Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area,' 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called 'cause they were out pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie over there takin' shrapnel in the ass. He comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks.
Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so that we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the little skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helpin' my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. They're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, maybe they even took the liberty of hirin' an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs. It ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work. He can't afford to drive, so he's walkin' to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks because the schrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorroids. And meanwhile he's starvin' 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State.
So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure, fuck it, while I'm at it, why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president."

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenplay: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Do yourself a favor and take yourself out and go watch a good old-fashioned ghost story. A film. One is out there right now, Prisoners. With terrific actors boiled down to their wits.

It's the best film I've seen since Amour, and before that The Messenger, and before that The Yellow Handkerchief and before that No Country For Old Men (which was shot by the cinematographer Roger Deakins, who also shoots this film).

After working weeks on end with stone and wood and moving at a snail's pace, which is always good for a human to realize (speed kills), I took the day off with my true love and first went and worked over a stone cache for only one hour making ready for the next day's work, then went to a few small towns and did some errands, strolled in an old-fashioned neighborhood and looked around, climbed its nearby mountain and looked down into the soupy weather valley, hiked down and at the existing witching hour from 3-6 in the afternoon, better known as the "early bird special" (can you follow me? it really doesn't matter if you can't, I'm not worried) we entered a movie matinee in a downtown complex and sat alone in "theater 3" with nobody else coming (often our fate). Then one old couple (two women) showed up during the previews (very loud very bright) and sat themselves down a few rows ahead of us, followed by another elder couple of man and wife and she was too exhausted already and just plunked herself down in front of the first old couple, until the husband thought better and said aloud for us all to hear (a common trait amongst the old), "Move down a few seats so we don't block these people's view" and she did, and those people unblocked actually said "thank you." So far so good.

Now the film is going to start.

The handsomest man in the world at one time, Hugh Jackman, is in this film, and he's not going to look very handsome at all in this film. So much power and talent is going to be available in this film, and natural beauty and strength, like Viola Davis, and it's going to be asked by the script and director to go in the opposite direction. Tone down. Get real. Even boring.

The Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve is quite a mindset, and with courage, as he makes an almost nonAmerican film with many popular actors for Americans, turning the thriller on its head to almost the last half hour. It's purposely plodding, dead-ended, frustrating, tedious, and quite human because of it and the director reshapes the viewer to find his way. He's got a way. I like this about the film. Unlike, the three most popular tv series that really do something: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Homeland, this film has nothing to do with MONEY. Take a look. There's no money happening. All of those popular tv shows, and everything else, can't move and depend on either repulsive money, repulsive stupidity, or repulsive gore. Even Stephen King is now speaking out against it. When Prisoners is ready to take off (you may be asleep), it does. . .with Jake Gyllenhaal's's character (a detective with an eye twitch) almost acting as a modern Japanese actor directed by Takashi Miike — blood head wound, garish traffic, speed, bleeding lights, a little girl in the backseat hanging by a thread. Exhilarating! We watch in a matinee with four very old codgers mumbling their way in and out of the film depending on what is happening. One of those old women ahead of us sighed "Oh My" aloud and sincere when things were looking desperate for someone.

When the film is done, and it ends on a whistle in the dark (giving away nothing), the lights come on and you're left to your own devices. What a gift from a film director!

The old fellow who asked his wife to move ahead and seems to have built a long life on being outspoken and polite, sees us huddled at the back row and asks, "Were you scared?"

I said, "Not with you here."

former Putney, Vermont resident Melissa Leo is also in the film.
Leo is scary in this film. Leo is scary outside of films. Melissa Leo is scary.
Someone should team Leo up with Jennifer Lawrence and make something special.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Peter Blake
"The Masked Zebra Kid", 1965
acrylic, collage and assemblage

gone forever, the wrestling we all watched in the 50s-60s on tv
the great names, the great acts,

Thursday, September 26, 2013

ROBERT LAX : POEMS (1962-1997) ~

Robert Lax

one stone

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

and i am


i am


as i lift

one stone

one stone

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

and i am


i am


as i lift

one stone

i am


as i lift

one stone

one stone

i am


as i lift

one stone

one stone

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

one stone

i lift

one stone

and i am



the air

and the dream:

the dream

and the air:

the flow

of the dream:

the flow

of the air.


"are you a visitor?" asked

the dog.

"yes," i answered.

"only a visitor?" asked

the dog.

"yes," i answered.

"take me with you," said

the dog.


Here comes one more modest tome from the good hands at Wave Books — modest in design and a no frills beauty all its own. The size and dimensions of the press' books are often hidden, until you begin reading. Reading are what books are all about — a funny, yet knowing statement for sure. The above selection of poems by Lax is a mere touch into the scope of this collection, rounding up nearly forty years of the poet's work. . .some of which I once received decades ago from Journeyman Press, in elegant simple pressings. I haven't looked at those booklets for years but I was struck by the starkness, brief color and resonance all at once. The Wave collection is handsomely edited by John Beer: he presents, gets out of the way, but not before a heady introduction. 
No poetry library goes far without this book.

Wave Books
1938 Fairview Avenue East
Seattle, WA. 98102

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


This is a very good start to things — someone should now dig into this study and added commentary, perspective and contact to Lorine Niedecker's life and poetry.

Imagine one day the availability of having individual photographs of many of these books, plus the geography of the text and annotations, marginalia, since the poet was a careful reader.

Once upon a time I stood with this library in its stout bookcase and just the surrounding aura of a poet's personal library, the over used spines and sore edges, is some of the context missing so far from understanding just what we have here. Poet as auto didactic, poet as self-learner, poet in the remote reaches (where she still remains).

There are three books listed by Lorine Niedecker's then literary executor Cid Corman, more than twice that by Louis Zukofsky, and maybe the most titles by William Carlos Williams. No, hold on, he's one short of George Santayana.

The value of this start is invaluable.


Friends of Lorine Niedecker
209 Merchants Avenue
Firt Atkinson, WI. 53538

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Carolyn Cassady with her children Cathy and Jami and a visiting Jack Kerouac

“I kept thinking that the imitators never knew and don’t know how miserable these men were,”  “They think they were having marvelous times — joy, joy, joy — and they weren’t at all.” 

~ Carolyn Cassady told the novelist Gina Berriault in 1972. 

Carolyn Cassady
April 28, 1923 ~ September 20, 2013 

top photo: Neal Cassady Estate
bottom photo: AP

Monday, September 23, 2013


Ian Hamilton Finlay
illustration by Ian Gardner

Ian once sent me this card
then his son Alec (Eck) did

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Kofi Awoonor

After a week of somewhat dark Birdhouse reports — whether about Home Depot sprawl or a gunman knocking himself out in Washington DC — comes a report that the Ghanaian poet, Kofi Awoonor, age 78, was one of the victims at the shooting massacre at the Westgate Shopping Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, by the Al-Shabaab militant group. He was in Nairobi to perform that Saturday evening at the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four day celebration of writing, thinking and storytelling. His son was also struck by the shooters but survived. A stop in your footsteps shame. No one is immune, and that's quite the point.

Between texting, Facebook, no fullness of communication, all email snippets, lots of mindless chatter, constant noise from media, traffic, jobs, news — we are moving to a wordless time. Where gunfire will be heard.

A resonant moment for Kofi Awoonor, at least, and then a move into sunlight.

This Earth, My Brother

The dawn crack of sounds known
rending our air
shattering our temples toppling
raising earthwards our cathedrals of hope,
in demand of lives offered on those altars
for the cleansing that was done long ago.
Within the airwaves we carry
our hutted entrails; and we pray;
shrieks abandoned by lonely road-sides
as the gunmens boots tramp.
I lift up the chalice of hyssop and tears
to touch the lips of the thirsty
sky-wailing in a million spires
of hate and death; we pray
bearing the single hope to shine
burnishing in the destiny of my race
that glinting sword of salvation.
In time my orchestra plays my music
from potted herbs of anemone and nim
pour upon the festering wounds of my race,
to wash forever my absorbent radiance
as we search our granary for new corn.
There was that miracle we hoped for
that salvation we longed for
for which we said many prayers
offered many offerings.

In the seasons of burning feet
of bad harvest and disastrous marriages
there burns upon the glint edge of that sword
the replica of the paschal knife.
The sounds rounded our lonely skies
among the nims the dancers gather their cloths
stretching their new-shorn hides off offered cows
to build themselves new drums.
Sky-wailing from afar the distant tramp
of those feet in rhythm
miming underneath them violence.
Along the roads lined with mimosas
the mangled and manacled are dragged
to the cheers of us all.
We strew flowers at the feet of the conquerors
beg for remission of our sins…

…He will come out of the grave
His clothes thrown around him;
worms shall not have done their work.
His face shall beam the radiance of many suns.
His gait the bearing of a victor,
On his forehead shall shine a thousand stars
he will kneel after the revelation
and die on this same earth.

And I pray
That my hills shall be exalted
And he who washes me,
breathes me
shall die.
They led them across the vastness
As they walked they tottered
and rose again. They walked
across the grassland to the edge of the mound
and knelt down in silent prayer;
they rose again led to the mound,
they crouched
like worshipers of Muhammad.
Suddenly they rose again
stretching their hands to the crowd
in wasteful gestures of identity
Boos and shrieks greeted them
as they smiled and waved
as those on a big boat journey.
A sudden silence fell
as the crowd pushed and yelled
into the bright sharp morning of a shooting.

They led them unto the mound
In a game of blindman’s bluff
they tottered to lean on the sandbags
Their backs to the ocean
that will bear them away.
The crackling report of brens
and the falling down;
a shout greeted them
tossing them into the darkness.

and my mountains reel and roll
to the world’s end.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


April 15th was a momentous day for us in the U.S. On that day two bombs exploded at the Boston marathon, killing three people. The atrocity was covered around the clock for weeks. I received e-mails from different friends in Iraq expressing their condolences and sadness. April 15th was also a momentous day in Iraq. I cannot help wondering how many people in the US heard about the eighteen bombs that went off throughout Iraq that same day. At least thirty-two people were killed. And on April random attacks left 111 Iraqis dead. On April 24th at least eighty-six were killed, and another ninety-six on April 25th. And this has been the reality in Iraq for over ten years now.

In the eight years since the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom until the end of 2011, 4, 480 US troops have died in Iraq. This is a figure commonly cited in the US media. A figure we might not have heard is the following: 4, 471 Iraqi civilians died as a result of ongoing violence in 2012 alone.

Cathy Breen, "Iraq: Hope Amidst Tragedy", The Catholic Worker August-September, 2013

young Wendell Berry


[The following letter was written by Wendell Berry, author, farmer
and environmentalist, to John Held, in support of the campaign against
frac sand mining - Eds. note]

Dear John,

You have offered me the privilege of joining by letter with you and your friends in Winoa, Minnesota in opposition to "frac sand mining" and I am happy to accept.

I will say, first, that there is never, for any reason, a justification for doing long-term or permanent damage to the ecosphere. We did not create the world; we do not own it, and we have no right to destroy any part of it.

Second, most of our politicians and their corporate employers are measuring their work by the standards of profitability and mechanical efficiency. Those standards are wrong. There is one standard that is right: the health of living creatures and the living earth.

Third, we must give our need to eat, drink and breathe absolute precedence over our need for mind fuels.

I wish you well.

Wendell Berry

from The Catholic Worker, August-September 2013

However, other times there’d be a book I’d start reading and couldn’t put down. Here, for example, is the opening of one called Business be Damned—not a very promising title—by someone called Elijah Jordan, published in 1952 by Henry Schuman, New York, and presented at some unknown date to the library of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas by its original owner, Dr. Joe Colwell, and subsequently removed from their collection:

    "There have always been businessmen and business in the world. But never in history till today was business accepted as a morally honorable activity for men; never before was the businessman permitted to dominate the affairs of men. Today the rule of the businessman, accepted, justified and glorified, has become undisputed and absolute.

    Until lately, however, the activity of the businessman has always been questioned as to its moral rightness. The formulation of this doubt has been the negative or critical premise upon which every developed moral system and every cultured religious system has been founded. The new fact, therefore, in what is called modern civilization, is the acceptance of business activity as morally honorable, the approval of the capacities and the characteristics of the businessman, and the assumption that these capacities are appropriate for rule and control of human affairs."

This is extraordinary, I said to myself. Jordan (1875-1953), who was a professor of philosophy at Butler University for many years, saw the writing on the wall, pointing out already back then that business had become the dominant force in our lives with all other human interests in this country subservient to it. Religion, politics, government, morality, art were all being asked to acknowledge its absolute right and absolute power to be the final arbiter.

If he came back from the dead today, Jordan would be surprised that his fellow Americans still haven’t caught on that they are being taken to the cleaners. On the contrary, many of them now believe that the solution to all our problems, be it failing schools or expensive healthcare, is to hand over every publicly run institution to profit-seeking private companies, which, thanks to their knowhow and the magic of the free market, will save tons of money for the tax payers. This is what is known as “privatization” today, the scam that makes everything from private prisons, the vast growth of our surveillance state, and our global military presence, a hugely lucrative enterprise. Voters, one can’t help but conclude, no longer seem to have any problem with fortunes acquired dishonestly and at their expense, some of them even going into huge debt to send their sons and daughters to prestigious business schools so they can go to work for these hucksters and emulate their success.

Charles Simic, "The Books We've Lost" The New York Review of Books, August 13, 2013

Isma’il Kushkush/The New York Times

KHARTOUM, Sudan — On the corner of an old colonial building in downtown Khartoum sits the city’s oldest bookstore, Sudan Bookshop. It was established in 1902, three years after Britain established control over Sudan, and for a long time it was a magnet for the city’s civil servants, politicians and intellectuals.  (read more...)

Friday, September 20, 2013


Peyto Lookout
near the Icefield Highway
Mistaya Mountain and Mt. Patterson (10,490 ft. )
are reflected in the glacier fed waters of Peyto Lake.
Meltwaters from Wapta Icefield flow down this
valley to the North Saskatchewan River. This 50 mile
view along the backbone of the Rockies was discovered
 by an early mountain guide, Bill Peyto, in 1894,
it is near Bow Pass, 25 miles north of the
Trans-Canada Highway.
We are in Banff National Park.
35 years ago Sweetheart & I above this lake
 couldn't believe our eyes or our good luck.
The "bear lake".
Clear day.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Home Depot Sunset by Google

We're right at freezing temps this morning at dawn. I'm not moving quickly to get on the work site but I will. Steel roof is coming today. . .no, wait, it's coming when it's coming — the Fabral truck broke down somewhere between Pennsylvania and Vermont. That shoots all the good days of weather I had lined up for some roofing and buttoning up. The steel is 1/4 the cost of a red cedar shingle roof which I might prefer, and so the savings buys half the windows. The economics of a yankee.

 Off Craig's List Sweetheart pulled from one camper twelve pairs of Stanley hinges at a fraction of the local hardware store, and in the local hardware store the beaten and abused who have worked there forever, and raised their children to do the same, and even grandchildren (each we have watched come and go) are barely mustering a smile. Home Depot was chased out of town only to lodge 15 miles south of here over the border in Massachusetts, in a farm field I once worked in as a boy. Its glorious view of the sky and hillsides we rested in when we took a water-break from haying is still there, otherwise the "emptiness" town officials once exclaimed about is now filled with box stores. There's a bright solution for all that emptiness for you. 

Almost every worker in HD is with a smile, orange apron fitting a bit too tight or small; you could be asked six or seven or even eight times in six or seven or even eight minutes upon landing in this airport terminal of Everything "do you need any help?" Oh, we need help all right. While I'm in there out of desperation (all I need is concrete board) twelve contract workers or civilians are being hunted down by a lone assassin in a navy shipyard in the nation's capitol. The gunman is black. He's a former employee; he's one of them.

There are a million reasons now to be unhappy and miserable in America. . .much as I hate to, I'm contributing to it right here.

 A day or two before this mass murder, a young, black, former athlete in North Carolina (described as "sweet") will be shot to pieces by a white "bad" cop, and they're almost the same age (years away from 30) after the athlete has staggered away from a solo vehicle accident in the night, approached a home for help, caught a white woman occupant off-guard, who panicked, and called in the local law, who panicked, and gunned the helpless man down. The injured man was running to the officers for help! But don't worry — "Guns Save Lives" — I saw it scrawled across a banner, many banners. The ninth Home Depot worker who asks me, "do you need any help?" in less than nine minutes, may have me blowing my top.

They may have Everything. But one more field of dreams is gone. 


Bob Arnold

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


photograph by Charter Weeks
one of our faves by Charter

Monday, September 16, 2013


The sun room is going to take awhile to complete. It has too many persuasions. As if I'm attempting to build everything I know into one small structure: heavy glass work, eyebrow windows hand built, all the exterior stone walls, jacking timbers into place, rough beam work, sawmill visits, painting before too cold, masonry work before too cold, a ton of Mexican tile work and adhesive before it is too cold, switching 100 pound doors around because new doors, insulated glass, are way too costly now, way too. Slate work, stone cutting, stone drilling. Rebuilding old doors to be new doors, finish carpentry inside, new floor, build a large trap door into this new floor because the whole ball of wax is over our cellar bulkhead which was built into the original porch deck which is now the subfloor for the sun room. Talk about multitasking! Ah, shut up, and get back to work! Extremely extensive and heavy stonework I did into this bulkhead 30 years ago is now underneath all this new stuff. Never hide old stuff with new stuff — blend it together, work it as harmony, let it all show and be its function(s).

 There is a very old door, just look at the cut nails (above) sunk into its pine boards, that used to be gerry-rigged in this 223 year old house as an entry way down into the cellar from inside the house. In the same vicinity, once, as the stairway that went from the front door up into the second story. All removed over decades, rebuilt, reformed, renewed. I even built in a new short stairway like one finds in a ship and I swear when I duck up into this little secret passageway stairway I feel I'm at sea and on a ship, which is my secret way of being on-a-ship.  Have secrets. Share them.

Anyway, I took off this door and stored it away in the rafters of the big woodshed for many more years knowing I'd have a use for it one day. It hasn't happened and the door is becoming in-the-way. So yesterday, I did a 'heaven's forbid' in the eyes of the purists, which I know for a fact the old timers have done forever (how do you think they got that gloss and bulk and antiquity to work?) by tearing down the old door, saving every damn hard-to-pull cut nail, and the elegant wood cleats built into the door, and took the one inch thick boards I needed instead of measly 3/4 inch lumber stock, and hand built all day framing for these eyebrow windows. I found the glass for the windows at a FREE display awhile back in Chester, Vermont, just leaning against a tree waiting for the likes of me; and Sweetheart took that into the local hardware store, along with a bunch of other loose sized glass panes I bought over the years for other jobs here, there and everywhere from this hardware store and didn't use for lopsided reasons, and a very generous young clerk took all that glass and cut it down to eyebrow window size for us. This is exactly how the world moves along and works well with the complexities of one another: you help me who has helped you and buildings go up (instead of down).

Bob Arnold is expanding his original builder's notebook On Stone, published from Origin Press in 1988, into a new edition, with new title, and all the old work-site photographs, along with dozens of new ones, plus more chapters and an updating to the building practice. Longhouse will publish later this year the revised book for a 25th anniversary edition.

thick and now rock hard
 softwood plank walls
just look at the air-space!
corn cobs, between these planks
and the lathed plastered walls on the
interior, would be the best
bet for insulation

Sunday, September 15, 2013


All day at stone work building I had this song rolling around in my noggin', so we put it on and played it over & over & over which is quite the point with Hank Ballard (November 18, 1927 – March 2, 2003). Of his many crackerjack songs, Ballard wrote and performed "The Twist," which in 1960 Chubby Checker made a million on.


Jonathan Franzen: what's wrong with the modern world

Portrait of Karl Kraus, 1925
by Oskar Kokoschka

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013


Buster Keaton, Hollywood 1963

Here is Buster Keaton at age 67 holding a portrait of Keaton from a vaudeville act; the comedic maestro will pass away at age 70 of lung cancer.
Orson Welles believed  Keaton's silent film The General "the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made."

photograph : Roddy McDowell