Charles Plymell on the new A D Winans collection

From the shadows of a home town always rising from ashes with eternal fog lying in them like a heavy spirit comes… The Frisco Kid!

An appreciation by Charles Plymell

Drowning like Li Po in a River of Red Wine by A D Winans (Bottle of Smoke Publications) is a book to be proud of. It’s a pick-it-up-random poem book that gets right to it, with selected poems organized chronologically from past publications, 1970-2010. One might think that 364 pages of verse (and colophon page) would be a lot to take in, but it is not. Everything is all right, like the years went by, exactly right, bringing it all back home. San Francisco was home to us all. She opened her doors to everyone, alone, weary, and timeless… from Jack Black to Jack Micheline. Everyone got a taste of that home, but Winans is the only one I’ve met who was born there. He must share her coiffed comeliness and spiritual highs, splashing her nacreous pearls from deep black water splayed into the fog of love, the mist from her eddies pressing back the lusty egalitarian thrust until it obeys. It always seemed a small town because it’s vertical, on different planes, each neighborhood seething with scenes. During my limited tenure, it seemed I lived on every street, if not neighborhood, or knew someone who was in this or that scene. And floating through those different planes were layers to its natural beauty that gave off the essence of love but could also sink down darkly and cruel as hell. Through Winans’s eyes one can live those streets again, like a Bob Kaufman looking out the window of a Muni bus in silent study of all action passing on her streets to the last window-framed panorama.

The book too, is exactly right, as a book should be made. The poems aren’t tucked in as a filler to the pretentious pages of slick magazines; they are presented in the best selection of typeface, the poems placed correctly on the page. Li Po would have approved. It has the right feel, the right dimension, and the right geography to go back to and turn the pages like wrapping dreams.

Winans and I are about the same age, and we both discovered the Beats in the late 1950s. We both had unconventional childhoods. My best times were in the fifties. We heard the McCarthy hearings in real time. We developed a similar political philosophy somewhere between Li Po and Upton Sinclair. Like most poets in the Bay Area grown into the sixties there was politics in our poetry. He served time in the service. Mine in the ROTC … a Clinton/Bush deferment. I arrived in his old middle class neighborhood, the Haight, as the decade of the sixties began, before the kids took over the streets from little Russian ladies. He knew poets I did and the bars they read in, and the magazines they published in. San Francisco was constantly changing, sometimes overnight.

I didn’t know Winans in San Francisco but met him later at an Independent publishing event, “Small Press.” We took part in some of their organizations. We learned how the game was played and over the years watched it change into the “Politburo of Poetry” as all things government do with friends rewarding friends. Over the years, we’ve corresponded and shared our views on poetry, political scams and awards. We spot the phonies and neither of us much cares for labels. We’ve seen “revolutionary” poets & middle class kids get permission to protest. We’ve seen famous poets howl against Moloch and the government only to receive several thousands of government money and keep the Beatnik flack, not black, flying at the landmark tourist bookstore in North Beach. We’ve seen hypocrisy in all flavors in all the poets the city spawned. I’ve often wondered how he sees the invasion on his home turf.

My biggest regret is that I wasn’t with him when the great jazz clubs flourished in the days of Billie Holliday that he remembers in his poems, or the great blues legends like Johnny Lee Hooker. Yes, the times were always changing there. By the time Pam and I went to Mike’s Pool Hall with Ferlinghetti (Pam was underage), the GoGo girls were dancing in every joint. I got to see Sonny Rollins at an embarrassing two-drink minimum gig in North Beach when he was either too sick or too broken to wail. Yes, the city was built on Rock n’ Roll, Fillmore and the Avalon et. al. But the poets knew that it was really re-built, again and again. It all comes back in the works of Winans. It comes back as subtle and real as Bo Diddley’s words at the Avalon, a thriving line-in the street psychedelic hall bringing us the new sounds and lights. His words haunt me when he came to play to a handful, this “unknown” who said “and here I am now playing for you. Mercy Mercy Mercy.” I think I know what he meant. You will get the full history with Winans’s poems. They tell it real. San Francisco was always home to the outcasts from any origin. They became family. The moon on the water beckoning for all comers. The sun over the hills and bridges all bringing commerce, ships going to war. Friends and families living and dying. A changing city like the long nights and sunny days. My sister died in that Chinese Lantern of the Western Moon.

Jack Micheline came by to rally me to read and bring the “word” to the people. I had a good job on the docks and was starting a family. Besides, I said to him, how would you compete with the fame of sensational book trial no matter the poet and poet storeowner were (out of town) and let the Japanese-American clerk who sold the book stand trial, just in case it backfired. The days of Life and Time are over. They just want the tourist version. Micheline left dejected, but hopefully to Gino and Carlos bar to have a drink with Winans and revitalize the words again. Or the Anxious Asp to hear poets insult the poets from Cleveland in their hippy drag. It was like that. It could be a tough town. We didn’t walk to the docks with Longshoreman hooks in our belts for nothing. The town was built on many layers of compassion and destruction, giver and taker, almost religiously. I wonder sometimes how a poet would live all his life there. Probably by writing lines to William Wantling, an example of the many poets who walked the streets of his town: “Looking into the cracked lips of sorrow/I walk the harsh streets of tomorrow.” (Pg. 297) Pick it up and open it anywhere. But to really find out how the poet down South who wrote about the poet up North and what happens with the poets from the East who come to the West and drank at the bars in Winans’s home town, you’ll just have to open the book in a river of red wine on pg 183.

Michael Brownstein on MEDITATION AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY (Arthur No. 15/Feb 2005)

Artwork by John Coulthart, from Arthur No. 15/Feb 2005


KILLING THE MADMAN
What does meditation have to do with activism?
Plenty, says poet Michael Brownstein

I’ve been a Buddhist for many years, and I am also an activist, committed to overturning the profit-driven monoculture which is destroying our health, our Earth, and our soul. How are these two forms of awareness—awareness of what’s taking place in the outside world, and awareness of our internal processes—related? Can each aid the other in creating a sane, sustainable and just world?

Let’s look at activism in terms of the negative emotions generated—indignation and rage, but also frustration, sorrow, resignation. These are negative emotions because of the effect they have on us, the people who experience them. Not on the object of our emotions, whether it be the World Trade Organization, Monsanto, or George Bush. Negative emotions are reactive. Their only impact is on us. What difference does it make to Monsanto that you’re seething with indignation at something it has done or said? What difference does it make to the Pacific Lumber Company when you come upon a clear-cut old-growth forest in California and feel devastated?

Staying present with our emotions—anger, for example—means remaining aware of what we’re experiencing without becoming lost in reactivity. It means liberating the energy generated by anger from the object that calls it forth. In other words, it is a form of meditation. Then, the possibility exists to work with the situation from a place of clarity, rather than be submerged in confusion.

So, the first revolutionary act—or fact—about meditation is that it puts you in touch with what you’re feeling and thinking at this very moment. It puts you in touch with presence. Then you realize that you are the source of your emotions—not Monsanto or McDonald’s. This does not imply that we shouldn’t have these responses, but that we have to use them rather than be used by them. And the only way to do that is to become aware of their nature. Continue reading

THE NEAR FUTURE by Michael Brownstein

The Near Future
by Michael Brownstein

(originally published in Arthur No. 30/August 2008)

In 1800 in all the world
there were one billion people
in 1950, two billion
now there’s six billion
ten billion people by the year 2025
exploding, spurting, surging
tidal wave, earthquake, blink of an eye
how many is too many?
what will the word “human” mean
in 2025, not that far away, really
when everybody will be in possession
of one little room the size of their heads
dreaming revelatory dreams
of the world filled with billions of humans
in the year 1800, the year 1950
the years 2025, 2250, 3137, 483632
wherever “now” went
whoever’s “here” now
scratching our heads, trying
to make sense of our success

Because for humans it turns out
winning also means losing
losing folkways, losing space, losing the unknown
whoever’s “alive” now, whatever “dead” means
as you turn to me and insist
“I’ve got a grip on things now”
but actually the grip’s on you
population density altering identity
warping thought patterns, pasteurizing consciousness
turning us inside out and upside down
making us forget that every moment in history
is flush with prehistory, is full of acid flashbacks
of us dropping down out of the trees
sniffing the air, our feet planted on the ground
loving the sights, the sounds of earthly life
then someone builds a fire and we all gather round
looking each other in the eye
embracing every last person in the circle
big smiles on our faces
for a hundred thousand years

But today the tables have turned
critical mass, demographic flash point
what human means suddenly uncertain
irradiated, plastic-saturated, genetically modified
people spilling over the rim
uncountable as microbes
especially when you factor in
our multiple, shifting personalities
our vast entourage of memories and demons
and our self-images ain’t working too good
anymore, even though we’re afraid to drop
the dead hand of ownership—
greedy, competitive, property-worshipping
suspicious, conspiratorial, anti-feminine
feeling up the planet for the hell of it

Private property has got to go
monogamy, the work ethic, clock time
billionaire fortunes, destitution, nationalism
our only option, surrender
surrender to relationships open to the breeze
no more me owning you, you owning me
until we float away from our armored selves
like deep sea divers releasing their harpoons
mental nomads erasing the space
between here and there, between now and then
between you and me
otherwise we’ll keep hardening and shrinking
all ten billion of us, all 30 billion, 50 billion

Because the age of smallness is fast approaching
nothing but a little room inside our heads
with a few houseplants that stand for the jungle
dusty terrariums we’ll think of as the wilderness
while we christen a puddle under the kitchen sink
the Great Salt Lake—
look, see the bonsai trees on the mall?
see the tiny automobiles driving around
down there below the matchstick bridge?
wherever they go, they always arrive
they never get lost, there’s no way to get lost
everyone’s options screwed on tight
people jammed against the walls, dangling from the rafters
lining the hallways of each other’s dreams

But still there’s a voice we can hear
calling to us from deep inside our bones
it says that smallness is not our fate
the next big flash point coming right up
in fact, it’s in the near future
when the density of our existence erupts
bursting open what we see and feel
breakthrough into resonance, just like in prehistory
and the trees on the hillsides watching our game
are beside themselves with joy
they’ve waited for so long, waited for this moment
when marauding humans finally come home
and think the way plants and animals
have always thought, every life form on Earth
forever dissolving the distance
between here and there, between now and then
between you and me

Poet Michael Brownstein is the author of World on Fire. His latest novel, Must Not Sleep, is available as a free audio download at Podiobooks.com.


BUDDHISM AND THE COMING REVOLUTION by Gary Snyder

This is a slightly revised version of an article Gary Snyder wrote in 1961 called “Buddhist Anarchism” for a City Lights publication called Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1. This revised version was published in 1969 in Snyder’s Earth House Hold: Technical Notes and Queries to Fellow Dharma Revolutionaries.

BUDDHISM AND THE COMING REVOLUTION

Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-”self”—because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies—Communist included—into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta”—hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress—and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself—over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior—defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old”—the IWW slogan of fifty years ago.

The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation. In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.

Gary Snyder

the CRYPTO 'BLAST SHACK' FINALLY GOES OFF

excerpt from ‘The BLAST SHACK’
http://spectregroup.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/crypto-blast-shack-finally-goes-off/
by Bruce Sterling / 22 December 2010

“…It’s going to take me a while to explain why this highly newsworthy event fills me with such a chilly, deadening sense of Edgar Allen Poe melancholia. Part of this dull, icy feeling, I think, must be the agonizing slowness with which this has happened. At last — at long last — the homemade nitroglycerin in the old cypherpunks blast shack has gone off. Those “cypherpunks,” of all people. Way back in 1992, a brainy American hacker called Timothy C. May made up a sci-fi tinged idea that he called “The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.” This exciting screed — I read it at the time, and boy was it ever cool — was all about anonymity, and encryption, and the Internet, and all about how wacky data-obsessed subversives could get up to all kinds of globalized mischief without any fear of repercussion from the blinkered authorities. If you were of a certain technoculture bent in the early 1990s, you had to love a thing like that. As Tim blithely remarked to his fellow encryption enthusiasts, “The State will of course try to slow or halt the spread of this technology, citing national security concerns, use of the technology by drug dealers and tax evaders, and fears of societal disintegration. Many of these concerns will be valid; crypto anarchy will allow national secrets to be traded freely,” and then Tim started getting really interesting. Later, May described an institution called “BlackNet” which might conceivably carry out these aims. Nothing much ever happened with Tim May’s imaginary BlackNet. It was the kind of out-there concept that science fiction writers like to put in novels. Because BlackNet was clever, and fun to think about, and it made impossible things seem plausible, and it was fantastic and also quite titillating. So it was the kind of farfetched but provocative issue that ought to be properly raised within a sci-fi public discourse. Because, you know, that would allow plenty of time to contemplate the approaching trainwreck and perhaps do something practical about it. Nobody did much of anything practical. Tim May and his imaginary BlackNet were the sci-fi extrapolation version of the NSA. A sort of inside-out, hippiefied NSA. Crypto people were always keenly aware of the NSA, for the NSA were the people who harassed them for munitions violations and struggled to suppress their academic publications. Creating a BlackNet is like having a pet, desktop NSA. Except, that instead of being a vast, federally-supported nest of supercomputers under a hill in Maryland, it’s a creaky, homemade, zero-budget social-network site for disaffected geeks.

That is how we come to the dismal saga of Wikileaks and its ongoing Cablegate affair, which is a melancholy business, all in all. Private Manning was a young American, a hacker-in-uniform, bored silly while doing scarcely necessary scutwork on a military computer system in Iraq. Private Manning had dozens of reasons for becoming what computer-security professionals call the “internal threat.” His war made no sense on its face, because it was carried out in a headlong pursuit of imaginary engines of mass destruction. The military occupation of Iraq was endless. Manning, a tender-hearted geek, was overlooked and put-upon by his superiors. Although he worked around the clock, he had nothing of any particular military consequence to do. It did not occur to his superiors that a bored soldier in a poorly secured computer system would download hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Because, well, why? They’re very boring. Soldiers never read them. The malefactor has no use for them. They’re not particularly secret. They’ve got nothing much to do with his war. He knows his way around the machinery, but Bradley Manning is not any kind of blackhat programming genius. Instead, he’s very like Jerome Kerveil, that obscure French stock trader who stole 5 billion euros without making one dime for himself.

Jerome Kerveil, just like Bradley Manning, was a bored, resentful, lower-echelon guy in a dead end, who discovered some awesome capacities in his system that his bosses never knew it had. It makes so little sense to behave like Kerveil and Manning that their threat can’t be imagined. A weird hack like that is self-defeating, and it’s sure to bring terrible repercussions to the transgressor. But then the sad and sordid days grind on and on; and that blindly potent machinery is just sitting there. Sitting there, tempting the user. Bradley Manning believes the sci-fi legendry of the underground. He thinks that he can leak a quarter of a million secret cables, protect himself with neat-o cryptography, and, magically, never be found out. So Manning does this, and at first he gets away with it, but, still possessed by the malaise that haunts his soul, he has to brag about his misdeed, and confess himself to a hacker confidante who immediately ships him to the authorities. No hacker story is more common than this. With more political awareness, he might have made himself a public martyr to his conscience; but he lacks political awareness. He only has only his black-hat hacker awareness, which is all about committing awesome voyeuristic acts of computer intrusion and imagining you can get away with that when it really matters to people. The guy preferred his hacker identity to his sworn fidelity to the uniform of a superpower. This mild nobody has become super-famous, and in his lonely military brig, screenless and without a computer, he’s strictly confined and, no doubt, he’s horribly bored.

Then there is Julian Assange, who is a pure-dye underground computer hacker. He’s the silver-plated real deal, the true avant-garde. Julian is a child of the underground hacker milieu, the digital-native as twenty-first century cypherpunk. The guy has surrounded himself with the cream of the computer underground, wily old rascals like Rop Gonggrijp and the fearsome Teutonic minions of the Chaos Computer Club. Assange has had many long, and no doubt insanely detailed, policy discussions with all his closest allies, about every aspect of his means, motives and opportunities. Julian Assange doesn’t want to be in power; he has no people skills at all, and nobody’s ever gonna make him President Vaclav Havel. He’s certainly not in for the money, because he wouldn’t know what to do with the cash; he lives out of a backpack, and his daily routine is probably sixteen hours online. I don’t even think Assange is all that big on ego; I know authors and architects, so I’ve seen much worse than Julian in that regard. He’s just what he is; he’s something we don’t yet have words for. He’s a different, modern type of serious troublemaker. Julian Assange’s extremely weird version of dissident “living in truth” doesn’t bear much relationship to the way that public life has ever been arranged. It does, however, align very closely to what we’ve done to ourselves by inventing and spreading the Internet. If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does. The chances of that ending well are about ten thousand to one. And I don’t doubt Assange knows that. This is the kind of guy who once wrote an encryption program called “Rubberhose,” because he had it figured that the cops would beat his password out of him, and he needed some code-based way to finesse his own human frailty.

The one grand certainty about the consumers of Cablegate is that diplomats are gonna be reading those stolen cables. Not hackers: diplomats. Hackers bore easily, and they won’t be able to stand the discourse of intelligent trained professionals discussing real-life foreign affairs. American diplomats are gonna read those stolen cables, though, because they were supposed to read them anyway, even though they didn’t. Now, they’ve got to read them, with great care, because they might get blindsided otherwise by some wisecrack that they typed up years ago. And, of course, every intelligence agency and every diplomat from every non-American agency on Earth is gonna fire up computers and pore over those things. To see what American diplomacy really thought about them, or to see if they were ignored (which is worse), and to see how the grownups ran what was basically a foreign-service news agency that the rest of us were always forbidden to see…”


NSA, via Google Earth, 10 March 2008