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Notes from the Anthropocene Age: THE NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times 'Business Section' debuted May 17, 1978, as 'Business Day.' Before that business news in The Times was contained in the Main News Section and was quite modest, limited to news of large mergers and daily stock market listings.

CEO's weren't rockstars then as they are now, or so regularly the subjects of major profile pieces in The NYT, not only in the 'Business Section' but in other sections of The Times (a fashion designer named Tom Ford is given a novella length airing in this past Sunday's NYT's aptly named 'Styles' section, and the Murdoch family, who are in the business of media, was featured in NYT 'Magazine' the week before).

This journalistic shift seems undeniable, a shift from the emphasis on production in the mid-capitalist age to the emphasis on consumption in the late capitalist age, to the age we're now in the midst of, the age of anthropecenic capitalism, in which man-made products and their consumption are exerting a new peak period of influence on the environment, its ecosystems and climate.

In the elevation of Business as a subject deemed worthy of increasing journalistic attention, is The NY Times in the business of simply reflecting the time and reporting on it to its readers? Or is The Times in the business of promoting the times, dressing up the capitalist narrative so that it continues to appear viable, even enviable?

One of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim, a Mexican businessman, owns 17% of The New York Times.

I spent some earnest time in the mid 1980s tracking the full page ads in ARTFORUM to see if there was any correlation between advertising and editorial. Most of the ads were taken by galleries promoting their shows. I wanted to know if buying a full page ad 'bought' a gallery a review in the editorial content of the magazine. It was about a 60/40 proposition--that is, about 60% of the time there would be a review when there was an ad. The ratio was somewhat skewed however, as the bigger galleries were mostly the galleries taking down the full page ads and the bigger galleries featured the big-time artists more likely to be reviewed.

WC Williams called a poem "a machine made out of words', apropos of nothing. But Williams' statement makes a sort of sense when I'm reading a poem. On the other hand I don't know what to make of the 'journalistic' like The NYT (which is currently running full pg. ads on its journalistic penchant for "Truth": subtext in the age of Trump) and other major media, other than to keep in mind as I read it that it's supremely capitalistic enterprise. 


It's fashionable to criticize capitalism now, as all its faults are becoming manifest in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the landscape we're creating for our children and their children. Such an easy target! It's also possible that too much information is our real enemy. Reading a wildly popular writer for the first time the other day, The Writer of His Generation, a writer I'd put off reading, feeling overwhelmed by his reputation, it seemed to me that his hyper-intelligence did him in: the sheer amounts of intelligence he consumed and the energy expended in making sense of it, making the connections he thought necessary to make himself and his readers understand what he'd consumed, cut his life short, a suicide. As good as his prose sometimes is is it's also frantic: it seems as if he's too intent on taking notes about what's outside him rather than what's inside. Reading, I often couldn't tell if his mind was trying to keep pace with his writing or his writing with his mind, or both, and quickly became exhausted. If I, the reader was exhausted, I can't begin to imagine what the writer was feeling.

Perhaps all this information we now have and all the intelligence we've 'raised', the creative writing degrees, this supra-literate class of people that are well-traveled, sensitive, multi-cultural, progressive, liberal, is creating a kind of Age of Stupor not unlike The Dark Ages.

Finally, these lines from a poem by Skoorb Naddor, as translated from the Finnish:

We have named more/ than we have known/therefore the danger.

Interior, San Francisco Public Library, Anza Branch, Spring, 2019. We have named more/than we have known/therefore the danger.


Had I not

Had I not been autodidactic and instead been an academician I might have fallen for the notion that socialism is some sort of disease.

Had I been a real capitalist with a five or ten year plan, and not been a hippie house painter who played pick-up basketball on the beachfront courts in Venice, California, I might have made more money.

Had I not drunk three-quarters of a bottle of tequila and passed out in the snow that night near Lake Tahoe I would not have found the dog, a German Wirehair Pointer, by the side of the road the next morning.

Had I not found that dog that dog might still be living.

Had I not smoked the first cigarette I wouldn't have smoked the second.

Had I not gone to college, had I not married, had I not had children, had I not paid my taxes.

Had I never been a victim and always been kind to those who oppressed me.

Had I not had a mother and a father or a little brother.

Had I never heard of Mary Baker Eddy and Ezra Pound.

Had I never had a beer.

Had I not written.

Had I not read Lenny Bruce's book or The Red and the Black.

Had I not interrupted the host of the dinner party in The Presidio who insisted on claiming that the book Farenheit 451 was banned from public libraries by The Bush Administration.

Had I never met my wife or had she not met me.

Had I become the lawyer my mother hoped I would be.

Had I never lied.

Had I continued my belief in Christian Science.

Had I caught more fish that evening in Wyoming.

Had my father been a better father.

Had I never eaten meat.

Had I not hitchhiked across the country in 1969.

Had I not become an insomniac recently.

Had I not had an aunt who was an actress in the 1940s and stood in for Joan Crawford, and had I not had an uncle who joined the Air Force at 18 years old and flew bombing missions over Asia in World War II.

Had I never ridden a bicycle.

Had I not written a poem I never would have read Shinkichi Takahashi or Fernando Pessoa.

Had I not flunked algebra in high school I never would have written a poem. 

Had I not played basketball and tennis I never would have played golf.

Had the substitute teacher not picked me up by the ear when I was in 3rd grade.

Had I never drunk milk.

Had I not sat in the front seat, center stage at The Gate Theatre in Dublin, for the performance of Krapp's Last Tape starring the late John Hurt.

Had I not got on that airplane September 11, 2001.

Had I tried to describe the taste of a banana, as a writer once dared me to.

Had I not met __________ and ________________ and _________________________.

Had I spent more time meditating than I spent watching sports on tv.

Had I been more patient with my mother.

Had I been an astronaut instead of a small business owner.

Had I never eaten a home cooked meal.

Had I not seen Piet Mondrian's 'Broadway Boogie Woogie" at MOMA.

Had I been someone else.

Had I not been me.  

Beginning of painting "Giotto" or "Painting Perfect Circles Imperfectly", February, 2019. Photo by author.


When certain people sing other people's songs




Notre Dame of Impermanence

People who have no poetry in their lives have to live in other ways, and have real life events take them out of the ordinary.

Space is where we often go to get images that might save us. Thinking of space this way I think space is worth reaching, much more valuable than sputniks and rocket ships and planetary probes to determine whether or not there's water on Mars.

The image of space I hold: it's that either us, or something like us, is not out there, that if something like us is out there that something is better, finer, even stranger and more beautiful than we are, or that nothing's out there but one colorful planet of nothingness after another.

This image of space is the best I can do with the unknown, other than wondering what my death will be like once it's here.. Some people might think this a morbid way of wondering but I find it exciting, invigorating, a form of time travel in which reaching the infinite is always a possibility. 

As a poet put it, Things can burn in water and drown in flame. From one standpoint to another everyone alive knows that only nothing lasts. 

I haven't read The Bible in many years but I looked at "The Sermon on the Mount" this morning, receptive to the hristian message: It's not just "blessed are the poor," it's blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

A Planetary Assemblage, assembled sometime in 2017 and reassembled recently. Photograph by author, all rights reserved.


How to make a painting 

I start by goofing around with shadows, the one I'm making and the one that's made naturally by the light coming through the window.

Then I start thinking of the things that don't mean anything to me anymore. Should I make a list of them? And if I make a list where should I start?

I've just gone through a phase where I go around looking at everyone as a 'circle'. This followed a long period in which I saw almost everyone as an animal--a wild boar, an armadillo, a racoon, an elephant and so on. I couldn't seem to shake it, seeing people this way, nor could I shake the sadness I felt for the animal having to be seen as a human being: I felt as if I was putting them in some sort of jail. 

My left hip seems tired of its life. I try talking to it like a basketball coach might talk to a team at halftime that's behind by 20 points, replacing the sound of tough love with the sound of gentle urgency.

I wish there were more people like my sons in the world. It would be a better world if there were. I also wish I was more interested in myself as a Muse, but I'm not: I don't like to be looked at, thought about, fussed over.

It surprises me to see I've written on a piece of scratch paper the words, Army, Language, Faith, noting these words are the slogan for the re-election campaign of Petro Poroshenko, the President of the Ukraine. What was it about this slogan that made he write it down? I can't remember.

Color is the great miracle of sight. Each color is a miracle, as are their names--ivory black, translucent white, portrait pink, cadmium yellow, brilliant blue, buff, middle green...I'm sure I read somewhere that every color is expressed somewhere in the planetary spheres. There may not be enough words for all the colors there are. Color may be as infinite as numbers are infinite.

Getting ready to take a long trip I begin to consider books I'd like to take along. As I'm travelling in a small RV I need to be thoughtful of space, and books take up space. I remember a Swedish friend who'd rip the pages out of a book and throw them away once she'd finished reading them. But she read paperbacks, mostly murder mysteries, disposable literature she called it. I don't read this way and I always have three books going, a book of poems, a novel, and non-fiction. I read a little of each every day, less and less than I once read but at least a little.

Often by the end of the day I'm tired. But what am I tired of? Could I be tired of my happiness? It's possible I suppose. Tired of being happy I go to bed.

In bed I come across this in the notebook I keep in the bedside table--"It does a man good to turn himself inside out once in awhile: to sort of turn the tables on himself: to look at himself through others eyes--especially skeptical eyes, if he can. It takes a good deal of resolution to do it: yet it should be done--" Walt Whitman.

The next painting, "Skyline of American Literature," is a portrait of downtown, any downtown, San Francisco I suppose, as a series of books I've written, both under my own name and a pseudonym or two. 

Petite Mondrians, a series of small paintings, collection of the author, 2019.