Sunday, June 5, 2022



Days 7-5, Jean Baptiste


Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was born at a time when stars remained silent to the fate of men. A between time when the borders of nations expanded and contracted in accordance with ill begotten and soon discarded treaties. A sea of languages, of displaced and displacing men, all caught in the pull of a great tide of endless frontiers.
Born to a Shoshone woman and a fur trapper from Quebec, who is said to have won this woman as winnings from a night of gambling, Jean was as an infant, the youngest member of a party set out to survey the new territory known as the Louisiana Purchase led by explorers Lewis and Clark. Perhaps it was because he was born traveling that no horoscope could be cast which would equal the magnitude of what this child's life was to become.
No simple list of his life events will be recounted here, but it was remarkable by any standard what he achieved in that sad, brutal century. That he came to me through reading about his mother, Sacagawea, which is the name of a local park near where I first lived with my sister upon my return to my hometown after living away for nearly 30 years, and that I have a coin with both his mother's and his own images on it, I find ironic. That I drove into the hills he last traveled and died in I find magical.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Days 9 and 8 Found Footage


Construction workers at a Southern California University found yesterday a medium sized cardboard box behind a wall in the bathroom of the university library, which is undergoing renovations. The find was curious for several reasons, one being its location. It was said that there was under a sink in the men's restroom a small door, presumably to access the plumbing, yet when a worker opened the door it led into an unused room, approximately 6 by 10 feet, and had no other openings from which to exit or enter. The room is assumed to be one of those spaces which are created by poor architectural planning, or a complete lack thereof, where during a previous renovation an unused space was simply walled up and forgotten. In the room was also several old cans of paint, several cigarette butts and an unusable flashlight. 

The worker brought the box out, which was completely sealed in silver tape, cut the tape and opened the box. When the material was judged to be perhaps lost academic material, the worker turned the box over to the head librarian, who after further examination delivered the box to the head of the universities film department. The contents of the box have been reviewed, and a search now is underway for whomever may have left the box for posterity, or safekeeping. Because of the content, the search is for the moment focused on former alumni who may have graduated from the following departments; Film, Comparative Religion, Anthropology, or Native American Studies

Below is a list of the content of the box, and partial description as they have been discovered. More complete descriptions will be forthcoming.


38 developed reels of super-8 film; 
dating from the imagery from the early 1960s into the late 1990s. The films range in content from standard, home movies of a family, cartoons, or pornography to fully realized films of varying lengths, some have been edited and spliced together, while others seem to be sequences not yet assembled into a (larger?) whole. Individual reels, apparently not related to any other sequences range from footage of whale hunting, ambient footage of light on water, assorted landscapes. As well, some reels are completely black, with perhaps a few seconds of a visible image, or conversely, entirely washed out, with one or two visible images.

14 Journals;
These journals are of a small, rectangular size, and based upon addresses written down, phone numbers, graphics from the manufacturer, and line formatting, show that the author of these journals purchased them over time while visiting, or residing in as many as 15 countries. 
The contents of the journals are primarily concerned with various religions, focusing on pre Islamic, Persian cosmology, and variants of Native American religious practice of the mid 19th century. These are rounded out with bits of Jewish philosophy, and Christian esoterica such as Alchemy and Gnosticism.
Another area of interest to the unknown author is, of course, film. There are copious notes taken by the author on films he has studied intently, as well as notes on a film he wishes to make. These detailed notes cover sound mixing, montage, post production effects. While not all the films have been examined yet due to the fragile nature of some of them, it appears that the author was attempting to put together one, cohesive film from this diverse material.
The journals are also filled with drawings that while not representational, seem to depict some as yet indecipherable system of editing. Other drawings may be of a religious, or anthropological nature.

4 Books;

Spiritual Body, Celestial Earth, by Henry Corbin
The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890, by James Mooney
Human Days, A Mary Maclane Reader*
No Horizon, An Anthology of 16th Century Adventurer's Tales, edited by Seth Haloway
The Arcades Project, by Walter Banjamin
  • Several of the reels of super-8 appear to be related to Ms. Maclane 

2 Hard Drives
One drive contains of 50 films, presumably by the owner of this box, over 600 pages of texts, notes, essays and stories. The other drive contains footage of deserts, mountains, or other landscapes. Mostly devoid of people, the shots are largely, 'austere', for lack of a better description.
On both drives are music and audio sequences either barely begun, or very finished. All of the audio appears to be intended for use in a film.

 It is our intent to seek out the originator of this box, presumably a former student, but also perhaps a former faculty member. Until we do, and if we do, work will continue to be done examining this strange find. It is our hope to present not a film, but the tattered remnants of what was to become a film. The film is of interest to the school as it seems to come from the fruit of beloved labor stemming from research done here.This film would then be left in the university's archive, along with the contents of the box.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Days 11-10 Voices past


Said the Shadow;
I believe now that the light I saw was a sign from God. I hauled in all the sails but the mainsail, and lay still til daylight. At dawn we saw naked people, and went ashore in the ship's boat, armed, with the other ship' captains, and unfurled the royal banners. Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia bore witness and faith that I was taking possession of the island for the King and Queen.
No sooner than we had concluded the formalities of taking possession, than people began coming to the beach, all naked as their mothers bore them. They are a very well built people, with handsome bodies and fine faces. Many paint their faces, others their whole bodies. Some are painted black, others white, some red or different colors. They are a friendly, well dispositioned people who bare no arms, except small spears. 

They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. They brought balls of spun cotton, spears, a kind of dry leaf they hold in great esteem, and parrots. Other than parrots, I have seen no other beast on this island. I have been very attentive and tried to find out if there is any gold here. I have seen a few natives who wear a little piece of gold hanging from the nose, and if I interpret them correctly, I have learned that by going south I may find a king who possesses great containers of it.

I cannot get over how docile these people are. They have so little to give, but will give it all. I kept moving so that I may give an account of everything to Your Highnesses, also I wanted to see if I could find a suitable place to build a fort, though I do not think this is necessary, as these people are very unskilled in arms. With 50 men you could subject everyone and make them do what you wished.     Christopher Columbus

 Said the Reflection:

I have only one heart, one tongue. Though you say, Go to another country, my heart is not that way. I do not wish for any money for my land. I am here, and here is where I am going to be. I will not part with my lands, and if you come again, I will say the same thing.

My young men will never work. Men who work cannot dream, and wisdom comes to us in dreams. Your wisdom is poor and weak, and of no value to us indians, who must must learn the highest wisdom from dreams. Each one must seek for himself the highest wisdom. It cannot be taught. You were given the wisdom of your race. Be content. 

Our work lasts only for a few weeks. It is natural work and does us no harm, but the work of the white man hardens the soul and body. Nor is it right to tear up and mutilate the earth as white men do. We simply take the gifts that are freely offered. We no more harm the earth than would an infant's fingers harm its mother's breast, but white man tears up large tracts of land, runs deep ditches, cuts down forests and changes the face of the earth. You know very well this is not right. Every honest man knows in his heart this is wrong.

You ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for bones? Then when I die I shall not enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass, make hay, and be rich like a white man. It is a bad law and we will not obey it. I want my people to stay with me here. All the dead will come to life again. Their spirits will come into their bodies again. We must wait here in the homes of our fathers, and be ready to meet them.    Smohalla

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 12, Platonic Musings on Shade

A line of thinking from Plato, on through John Dee;

A thought is but a Shadow of an Idea
an Idea is but a reflection of a Mind
a Mind is but a Sun
without which 
both Shade and Idea are none


I headed north to the great dunes of Eureka, across the great shallow lake, over several mountain passes and stopped in the highest peaks, looking at shade resting on snow.

On my way back I went through a small reservation of Paiute Shoshone and read a plaque that described what I have been reading about. The Settlers moved onto Native lands. Conflicts arose. Natives sold lands in treaties which included promises of food. The payments were only made in part, no food arrived, the natives went into the hills from where they both starved and prepared for war. The natives were slaughtered, and survivors sent on a long march to other lands, during which, many more died.

Later even, in the dunes, a shadow played a requiem. 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day 13, contemplating evil, aesthics and brotherhood


After watching the nearly full moon vanish into the hills I went to the lobby, filled up on coffee and headed out into the now black morning. Soon the first splashes of sun hit the mountaintops, the black morning seeking shelter in the canyons and crevasses of the high snow dusted crests. After the truck warmed up a bit I put on the first album by Suicide. I thought of the first time I heard this record. I had since heard some punk rock, which was easy to relate to because of its basic, conservative form; it was simply stripped down rock, and its message of protest was in many ways just an updated version of any protest song. You could trace it to Dylan, to Buffaloe Springfield, to Neil Young. But THIS?
I ripped it off the turntable after spot checking each track. Then the record seemed to be evil, its sinister and grimy synths a sick parody of 1950s pop set to a cheap drum machine. Then there were the lyrics and their delivery. Alan Vega's voice describing murder, suicide, poverty all with the sure and confident crooning of a sexual predator set on getting you into his car.

I kept driving up 190 east as the sun was flooding the mountains and foohills, still the lowlands remaining in the dark, and I thought how the desert was like a canvas upon which I could bring to light the darkest recesses or praise the highest sentiments. My thoughts were going back and forth between the beauty unfolding in front of me, and events like the Tate LaBianca murders.
As the record played on, I realized that what repelled me by that record over 30 years ago is that it challenged the middle class belief that all will work out, with a lot of love and work, that a newer, more just world could emerge. What I know now is that New York in the late 1970s and early 80s was one of the most singularly brutal places on the planet, and that this record was the sound of young people in the center of that brutality. Its honesty, desperation and perversity make it an important record, the form, content and quality of the songs make it a perfect record. 
I used to wonder about the process in which what I used to find repugnant became something I later came to call beautiful. I know now that there is no singular thing by which this happens. You grow, you experience things, if you are smart and lucky, and willing, you put yourself in the place of others. You walk among them, eat with them, tell stories and hear theirs. By seeking out what is NOT you, you can become closer to saying without cliché, that you are a brother of All.

I pushed on up the mountains, pulled over to watch a coyote, and ended up in a town in Nevada that was in effect, a five mile long strip mall, the employees who tended them living in trailers scattered on the outskirts.
I found what I was looking for, and left. On the way back I encountered this amazing dust storm. I pulled over to watch it grow and move, seeing the upward streams of sand and dirt rush to form a huge cloud covering at least two miles. As it grew, it moved towards a town I had to pass through. I no longer was playing Suicide, but Faust, the deep groovey psychedelia fitting both the drama of the dust storm, as well as the flowering desert floor, shining streams and colorful mountains.

After I got back to my hotel I went out across the road into the dunes and spent some time with these shadows, looking like a fine, alien calligraphy on the desert sands. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Days 15 and 14, The Last Life of Joe Simpson


LYNCHING AT SKIDOO
 
Joe Simpson, who deliberately murdered James Arnold at Skidoo Sunday of last week, was taken from the guard on Wednesday night and hanged to a pole. There was a strong sentiment in favor of lynching Simpson the night of the murder, but the plotters were dissuaded from the plan. Arnold was a prominent and respected citizen of the camp, and his killing was an unprovoked and cold-blooded affair. Simpson was a gambler, hailing from Reno, but a resident of the desert camp for some time. He seems to have been a bad character, a number of offenses being charged against him. The opinion of the Skidoo people appears to be that the lynchers did a justifiable piece of business.

He slept poorly, the sounds of the desert mice serving to wake him, that he might recall just a flash of a bad dream. When finally resigned to full consciousness, he noticed it was cold in the cabin, and he looked to the light leaking in from the walls for a warmth that was not provided.

Looking back at his former lives and all the effort to erase any trace of them, he could never erase the feeling of shame, of ridicule, which would hover over the obliterated life like a bruise. There was the son who was never good enough for the father, the young boy whose exclamations not welcome, and wonder not shared by his classmates. Then there was the husband whose wife would exclude from her social gatherings, ashamed of his position as a petty cook in a filthy restaurant. He left those lives behind to pursue what he felt might be dignity in the Panamint Mountains.

Yet for each of his successes, for each purchase, a feeling of fraud would overcome him, as if such a quality thing was not his due. This he made up for by clothes sent from San Francisco, fine weapons and a taste for drink. It was small enough a town that he was able buy a saloon and have interests in the mining company with only a modicum of effort and capital. He enjoyed this as if he was living another's life, and for a brief time, came to believe the life was his own.

James Arnold was a man who saw weakness in a person before he would notice a smile, or the color of a person's eyes. These weaknesses would trigger a hunger in him. When Joe first arrived in Skidoo, James saw all the falter beneath Joe's swagger, he caught the fear residing under Joe's laughs and jokes. Whereas in some folk who had this gift of seeing and feeling what lies beneath what appears are moved to compassion for the weak, the estranged or alienated, in James this gift made him feel like one of the predators of the desert below, and he allowed Joe's reinvention to unfold that his fall might be greater.

It was in James' travels where he learned of Joe's past lives. He learned that Joe's wife did not die, but had left him in favor of his boss. He learned that Joe held no interests in the gambling establishments of Reno, but had fled that place with stolen money. As well he learned that Joe was generally thought of as naturally slow and shy of mind and spirit.

It was in Joe's affection for a local prostitute that James Arnold saw his chance, for this blonde was a thing which Joe seemed to really love. Taking away Joe's status, his holdings in the mining company were after all, simple to aquire and simple to lose. But the love a person in these hard lands was a thing rare, and the subtle nature of negotiating a place of warmth in a human heart had odds worse than striking gold. James had a little talk with this woman whose business was her body.

Joe remembered that his life was not his own, and as his spirit woke that cold morning, a thought occurred to him that all lives belong to their surroundings, and that his own had been revoked by the good people of Skidoo. The last picture of him was taken by his own doctor, who had dug his body up, and hung it again once more in a tent before removing the head, which the doctor took as a keepsake.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day 16; a conference of Shadow and Reflection


Just as Shadow pursued Reflection, Reflection sought shade. What they shared was a skin, a membrane that divided their respective natures in two. With Shadow this skin was the object which lent it form from the other side of Light. Reflection's divisive skin was a clear pool of water, the smooth surface of glass or polished metal upon which its likeness was returned as an Image.

Both sought what was denied them. Shadow yearned for the light of the sun as Reflection dreamed to emerge from the frigid waters and walk the land. While Reflection was a bound prisoner to the surface that held its countenance, Shadow's very being depended upon the whim of the skies and the rhythm of days and nights.

It was in a ruin deep in the desert where they held their first conference. The space held enough light and shade, and was remote enough that their voices could be heard from near and far, and what men call ghosts, but are not but the will and desire of Shadow and Reflection spoke of the need for wholeness, of being united with their substance, of being free to walk the lands, to move, to touch and to see.

 

Day 17, a Tree of Trixters


These creatures fly in every evening from all directions, mostly in pairs, to a tree right outside my room. For an hour they click, purr, squawk and chirp, fussing over who gets what branch for the night. They sit as couples, feeding and grooming each other, switching from branches now and then until at last, all are comfortable and they go to sleep.

This amazing animal has captured the attention of humans for thousands of years, and has a variety of myths attributed to them. It is thought that a raven taught Cain how to bury his murdered brother. the raven also is thought to have protected the bodies of saints until they could be recovered and properly buried. Apollo is said to have turned the raven black for bearing the news of his lover's infidelity, also related to amorous tales, the bird is thought to have been the only ones to have sex on Noah's Ark, getting them in trouble with hotel management. Rabbis once thought that the raven only had oral sex. Once you go black, you never go back, the saying goes.

Regardless, these endearing folk brighten my mornings and evenings with their social gatherings. Their chatter is in marked contrast to my solitude, and the sweetness with which the couples interact touches me. their minor competition for prime real estate in the tree reminds me of when I was a kid, and all of us children would come alive with our stories of the day, of how we would make up rules for made up games.

Another tradition sees the raven as creator of the world, spilling a box which contained the sun and stars. Thanks for bringing a little light, dark bird. I hear them waking up now. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 18, changing the dictionary




















create |krēˈāt|
verb [ with obj. ]
bring (something) into existence: he created a thirty-acre lake.
origin
late Middle English (in the sense ‘form out of nothing,’ used of a divine or supernatural being): from Latin creat- produced,’ from the verb creare .

lament |ləˈment|
noun
a passionate expression of grief or sorrow: a song full of lament and sorrow.
a song, piece of music, or poem expressing sorrow.
an expression of regret or disappointment; a complaint: there were constant laments about the conditions of justice.
express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair: Thomas Jefferson later lamented, “Heaven remained silent.”

panegyric |ˌpanəˈjirik|
noun
a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something: his panegyric on geography and memory.
origin
early 17th cent.: from French panégyrique, via Latin from Greek panēgurikos of public assembly,’ from pan all’ + aguris agora, assembly.’

time |tīm|
noun
the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole: travel through space and time.
the progress of time as affecting people and things: things were getting urgent as time passed.
(a time) an indefinite period: traveling always changes one's sense for a time.
(also times) a more or less definite portion of time in history or characterized by particular events or circumstances: Victorian times | at the time of Galileo |
(also times) the conditions of life during a particular period: times have changed.
origin
Old English tīma, of Germanic origin; related to tide, which it superseded in temporal senses.

pass |pas|
verb
move or cause to move in a specified direction: [ no obj. ] : he passed through towns and villages | the shells from the Allied guns were passing very low overhead |[ with obj. ] : he passed a weary hand across his forehead | pass an electric current through it.
change from one state or condition to another: lands that have passed from private to state ownership.
go beyond the limits of; surpass; exceed
elapse; go by: the day and night passed slowly | the moment had passed.
spend or use up (a period of time): this was how they passed the time.
come to an end: the danger had passed.
noun
a route over or through mountains: the pass over the mountain was open again after the snows | [ in place names ] : the Ubehebe Pass.
origin
Middle English (in the sense division of a text, passage through’)

face |fās|
noun
the front part of an animal's head from the forehead to the chin, or the corresponding part in a human.
a manifestation or outward aspect of something: the unacceptable face of social injustice.
the surface of a thing, especially one that is presented to the view or has a particular function, in particular: a vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff: the south face of Funeral Mountain.
the side of a planet or moon facing the observer.
confront and deal with or accept: honesty forced him to face facts
have (a difficult event or situation) in prospect: each defendant faced a maximum sentence of life without parole.

in-between |ˌinbəˈˌtwēn| informal
adjective
situated somewhere between two extremes or recognized categories; I am not unconscious, but in some in-between state
noun
an intermediate thing; successes, failures and in-betweens 





 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Day 19



Blood Meridian, by Cormac Macarthy was a wonderful read. It must have been at least 20 years since I have read it, but this passage has always stayed with me. I can almost smell the fire around which the characters are circled as the judge shares his thoughts;
 There are rumors and ghosts in this land, and they are much revered. The tools, the art, the building--these things stand in judgment on the latter races. Yet there is nothing for them to grapple with. The old ones are gone like phantoms and savages wander these canyons to the sound of an ancient laughter. In their crude huts they crouch in the darkness and listen to the fear seeping out of the rock. All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery of nameless rage. So. Here are the dead fathers. Their spirit is entombed in the stone. It lies upon the land with the same weight and ubiquity. For whoever has made a shelter from reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works seem to us.  

Old notes found in a tattered journal;
early 1800s – Robert Fulton develops with Louis Daguerre a 360 degree diorama which soon leads to a theater devoted to landscapes. Humans, if present were so only to provide perspective of scale. This new theater void of actors brings a new perspective of landscape; natural scenery which man should not contaminate with his presence. 

mid 1800s – the fantasy of a straight line becomes real with the speed and directness of the railroad. No longer is motion conforming with the contours of the land, the direction of the winds, or the abyss that opens up underfoot with a silver trail of a river far, far below. A mountain or desert are no longer 'verbs', that is, events with which the traveller interacts. They become nouns, the mountain a thing to blast holes in for the laying of tracks that because of cost, travel becomes limited to the shortest distance between two points. All space becomes colonial space.
 
21st Century – The world we live in is shaped far less by what we celebrate than the painful events we try to forget.








I think of spaces and landscapes that are freed from use. For me so many post apocalyptic films are seen as a promise. Empty cities are the playgrounds of the protagonists, a chance to start over. Lands are no longer burdened with the need to produce. What was an economy of accumulation (weapons, wealth) becomes again an economy of The Gift. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Day 20



He put a large can of fuel into the car, and drove 40 miles around the salt flats and dunes to head into the mountains opposite and watch the sunset from the east. Climbing up the road of blasted stone, a cloud of golden dust behind like a veil, he thought this could be like any of those mountain passes on the planet where the population was driven, anywhere, really where suffering migrates from one place to another.

So it is that crime is wrapped in memory now closed, moving through Paradise.

One is tempted to think of the horror of war as something separate from their race. Genocide neatly set aside and placed in an archive labelled, "Evil", discounting the factors of debt, natural resources, capital and pure will to power that summon folks to war, and are simplified by the evening news so that any need for critical thinking is stripped from both subject and content. 

But back to the film he had come to make. How could he make a film which could encompass his love for people, a longing for life, AND a bitterness from the fact that from many perspectives, Life can be as sad as it seems?

He thought of the irony that a sprawling, restricted weapons testing site lay just to the south of Paradise.   

Friday, January 15, 2016

Days 22 and 21 imaginal fragments

The population would separate according to their functions in the group. Here they would go into trance, the resultant visions later to be shared with all groups when the ritual was ended. By these means would the settlers make choices which guided their movement through Time in these Spaces.





Here is where lightning is caught in stone. It is not known if the mountain uses these captives from heaven as food, for warmth or for protection. Perhaps it is their downward motion which sends spells to the valley below.














I see these marks left by the creatures that walk, silent in the night and their strange bodies form before me, transparent in my mind.
















The waters that rushed through here, that have been and will be forever shaping the canyon so as to make the pilgrimage only for those whose heart entirely seeks vision, like thirst seeks water.















The shadow articulated forms, and in his lassitude these forms recalled the shapes of former loves. His arm resting on the thigh of a beloved, face pressed into fragrant hair, and heat from the neck warming him as the beloved slept. The desert gave him these memories in his weariness, that he would go on, in strength and peace.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Day 23, the spirit of writing




From James Mooney's report on the Ghost Dance Religion, 1896

"The remote in time or distance is always strange. The familiar present is always natural and a matter of course. Beyond the narrow range of our horizon imagination creates a new world, but as we advance in any direction, or as we go back over forgotten paths, we find ever a continuity and a succession. The human race is one in thought and action."

Today I am going to seek this strange remote. 
There are the moments before I begin to write. I shall try to describe them. First off is the desire to write. This is experienced like a message, a feeling that something wants a voice. To begin I need to quiet my mind, to make it open to expression. When all is quiet and still, often some detail that connects 'me' with my surroundings begins to shine. I will describe such an instant because it was the first time I had experienced this. It was the late afternoon sun hitting my arm, and I could feel the difference in temperature, in all its grades from where the light hit, and the shade where it did not. By looking at the sun, then at my arm, while thinking of the warmth on my skin, I was given 'permission' to describe what asked to be articulated.
Next is the relationship between what is not me, the pen I hold and the paper upon which I place my marks as taught to me by my first teachers...... A B C D, through Z, and their various combinations. I believe that most things are connected, and that while there is an 'me', my responsibility is also to respect and honor what is not, and that any act of creation I may issue must respect this, and strive for merging my self with what is not me, not so that I may usurp or command, but rather that many voices could become one.
Being in this desert is the closest thing I have experienced to what Eternity might possibly be. There are voices swirling in the winds, laying at rest in the rocks of the mountains, gazing at the clouds pass from the skin of a clear pool of salt water. A coyote stood on the side of the road yesterday afternoon. As I slowed down, the animal looked me in the eyes, spoken here, just like that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 24


Coteeakun went on to say that some day Saghalee Tyee would again overturn the mountains and so expose these bones, which, having been preserved so long a time, would be reoccupied by the spirits which now dwell in the mountain tops, watching their descendants on earth and waiting for the resurrection to come. The voices of the spririts of the dead can be heard at all times in the mountains, and often they answer when spoken to.   From James Mooney's report on the Ghost Dance religion, 1896

Originally published in 1896, James Mooney's book, The Ghost Dance religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 was commissioned by the Bureau of Ethnology. A government at war with the continent's original inhabitants, and faced with an expanding population of white people in a hard to police frontier who often simply took lands that were allotted to the natives by federal treaty had hired Mooney to report on a new religion among the natives.

This was a religion that risked bringing all native tribes together under a common cause. a religion that forbade drinking alcohol, that urged a return to ways of life before the white man arrived. The report Mooney issued is a comprehensive book, full of long passages of quotes from all concerned regarding starvation, theft of lands, massacre and hope.

That James Mooney wrote a book so sympathetic to the Natives, a book that really painted the sorrow of the defeated natives, in a context we would now call Genocide, is remarkable. That it was commissioned by the United States government is more remarkable still. Imagine Hitler's regime commissioning a history of the Gypsies in Germany, or a history of Jews that was sympathetic towards the subject.

I had this book years ago, and since had lost it. It is full of poetry, of stories, pictures and diagrams. It goes at length to provide an understanding of the mentality and world view of the Native American. Shortly before I left for the desert, a friend gave me his copy, and I brought it with me as a research book. I read it at night after driving and hiking all over the desert and mountains all day.

As it turns out, this new religion of the Natives swept through this area, and the tribe indigenous to Death Valley indeed practiced The Ghost Dance Religion at one point.

The picture above, taken two mornings ago, is of a volcano crater about 45 minutes north of where I stay. I drove there with both cameras at dawn. After hiking to the summit, I sat on the edge of abyss, looking into its variations of rock, color and sand. I began thinking of the Father and the Mother, the sun and the earth. I sat still for a while, when two ravens landed near me. I made clicking sounds with my tongue and they started to walk around me in opposite directions. Not once did they fly, but when I made a different sound with my throat, one of them would hop. Sometimes they would stop, and peck around for something to eat, sometimes to rest under a small bush. It took about 50 minutes of me sitting still, the morning sun warming my back, but they made a full circle around me. I bade them a good day, got to my truck, and rode down the mountainside  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 25







I drove before the sun was up to Badwater Salt Flats, the lowest point on earth in the Western Hemisphere. Just before Furnace Creek I saw a fox on the side of the road that had been killed by a car. It was a lovely animal, looking (aside from being dead) healthy and with beautiful markings. I inhabited a prayer for it and kept going. The sun was lighting up the desert floor here and there like spotlights that I could see for miles and miles to my left as I headed southeast. 

Earlier in the morning, before I left, I looked up the Timbisha Shohone tribe, the Native American tribe of Death Valley on the internet, to find some place I might go to talk with someone from the tribe. I found by driving there is a small community that is about a 20 minute drive from where I am staying. 

Keeping the fox in my mind I put some sad music in the CD player.

About 45 minutes after my departure I arrived at Badwater. Because it was so early I was the only one there. I parked the truck and walked for half an hour across the salt to the center of the basin. It felt so perfect there, at the bottom of the world. I sighed and let the fox go.

Walking back to the parking lot I noticed people had etched messages in the salt floor in many different languages. I looked ahead and saw pools of water, which appeared as a mirror through which the sky watched itself.

My map had torn. 

My map is a grid of power; the fragment torn from the page, and the emptiness to which it alludes is a map of my desire, The signs written in the secret language in the rooms of my heart would still guide me to this paradise. Layered geographies and flags all becoming superfluous. Demon perception in love with it’s own desire at the bottom of the world. 

At dusk I filmed my dear ravens. They fly from the hills in all directions into these three trees, and chatter quite a din until they are asleep not 45 minutes later. Right now the eventing stars crown them as they dream. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Day 26 (a sub plot, written on the spot)


He received the phone call from the Institute at 4:30 am. They were adamant at meeting on location. With no time to brew a fresh pot of coffee, he microwaved a cold cup from the day before and hit the road. By the time he was in the desert flatlands, the mountains had begun to glow at their edges.The further he sped up long sections of washed out highway, and entered the steep, winding sections into Funeral Mountain, the rising sun began waking the colors of the mountain cliffs and walls.

He managed to arrive before them. The remains of the town were bathed in golden dawn. Slowly, with only the sound of his breathing and the crunch of gravel beneath his boots for company, he walked from building to building. It occurred to him that a ruin is a poem written long ago for an unknown reader, the author of the poem and the reader both remaining anonymous. Looking down the mountain to the farthest edge of the dry bed of the salt flats and could see the headlamps of a vehicle just descending into the valley from the opposite mountain range. It would take them at least another forty five minutes to arrive. He took this rare opportunity to explore the remains of the town by himself, and set out for the building where they had found the Stone.

This structure was once the most grand of them all, and the most intact. Inside the ruin were three rooms, one of which had in the back a set of stairs leading to a lower room, large enough to contain at most two standing people. In a wall was a niche which contained a rusty and long since opened safe. He made his way through the rubble, and with his mobile phone as a light, descended the stairs for the first time in years, and for the very first time without being in the company of someone from the Institute.

From the 1860s until the town was finally abandoned in the early 1940s, the town was inhabited by fringe and counter culture groups of people. At first it was the Spiritualist rage for seances. The wealthy from all over the west coast came to commune with their dead through a renowned Madame, who herself walked into a chloride mine one morning at dusk and was never seen again. Next came the Alastair Crowley initiates for their exclusive enlightenment, followed by a mysterious stranger who preached that the town had wronged by mining for minerals to sell to a profane world, and claimed to know the location of a place where they could mine pure color, color that once freed from the depths of the mountain would change the world. Such were the denizens of this forlorn, but once thriving town high up in the harsh arms of Funeral Mountain. 


In the late 1960s a lone gay couple had moved into a shell of a house and attempted to breathe new life into it. They tried to tame some of the stray burrows that had descended in lineage from the pioneering days, and hoped to give rides to tourists on the backs of these beasts to the now useless mines. When one of the men staggered barefoot and covered in blood into the nearby town of Beatty, the police drove to the ghost town where they observed a strange pattern written in blood on the walls of the most prominent building, and the dead lover laid on his back, head arms and legs draped over large, square stones, looking like a painting from the Old Masters in the morning sun. At his trial for murder, the surviving, would be tour guide told the jury that they had found a stone with precisely those markings in a safe hidden in the building, and that after fasting and taking acid, the sacrifice was demanded of them by the Stone. This Stone then became lost in a dusty evidence room for a number of years.



The desert hills are full of petroglyphs made by the ancients. Most are representative, and often depict a man, an animal, or a combination of both, engaged in an activity such as hunting. But some are abstract, and depict in line and color, a variety of geometric shapes. A detective who had worked the murder case had taken to the search for petroglyphs as a hobby after he retired, and at once he recognized with a shudder that seemed to come up from the earth itself and through his body, an abstract petroglyph as identical to the markings in blood left at the murder site.

The Stone went into federal custody where it found a champion in a passionate, yet low level agent who specialized in pre colonial cave and rock art. It was around his newly inflamed passion for the Stone that an small department was created to find a relationship between the Stone and the petroglyph. After a year and a half of going nowhere, it was not until a complete mapping by satellite of the entire region was done and put online that one researcher on the team discovered the original layout of the town was patterned after the markings on The Stone. 



He waited outside the ruin in the bright morning sun, crushing a cigarette as the car from the Institute pulled up. He felt the heat already coming both from the stones beneath his feet and the sky above, and thought that anything living was never truly welcome here. The chief researcher got out of the SUV and looked across the sky. Though no stars remained, the moon could be seen retreating under the mountains to the west. He explained that models had been created which simulated the shifting of constellations and galaxies over tens of thousands of years, tracings of comets, of stars dying, of moons being formed. A carbon dating of a small fragment of the petroglyph matched the way the heavens were arranged at the time of its making.
They spoke for most of the day, so excited as to not even move into the shade about these new discoveries. A town has a history of utopians and dystopians, a freak show since the first cornerstone was laid. A murder reveals an enigmatic stone with curious markings as a motive for a human sacrifice. A petroglyph reveals a map of the town, finally seen to match the night stars as the were tens of thousands of years prior. 



Surely the Ancient Ones, who had never settled on this spot, must have marked this town as a fowl blight under the sun, cursed and to be avoided. By evening they had decided to move research headquarters to the town. There was indeed money in their budget to restore the building, and furnish it with the most contemporary of instruments, machinery and climate controlled storage. The Stone deserved to be returned to its home, and a fresh exploration of the local canyons for petroglyphs could begin.

The town had new life. 

To quote the film, Dead Man, “Stupid Fucking White Man” 

I wanted to make a movie of nothing but credits and thanks, a long list from leads, extras and grips to script consultants and set designers, but my carefully constructed life collapsed, as does anything built by us.

Years went by and I came back to the miracle of cinema. Perhaps my list of credits and thanks may begin again.

My first film was of a woman born to sand and barrenness. The intensity of her will, the insistence of her whole being upon an impossible happiness sparked in her a complete rebellion. She saw with the brightest lucidity the future she was offered, rose up to smash it with a No that echoes nearly a century later. I thought it best to evoke her, rather than depict her, and the windmills at the Altamont Pass against a blue sky, among high, rolling hills of yellow grass, with their white blades singing and humming spoke nothing if not the language of Desire.


This film here was made at the bottom of the world, and the ghosts that inhabit it are the ghosts of unborn films. I picked them up in my Chevy lowrider as a sped across the desert and mountains and listened to their stories, and they are recounted here as randomly as stones move across the dry lake beds.

What is this new elsewhere, and through what maleficent operations do our characters arise from these mountains in shreds, from this impoverished landscape? The thick mucus of Time is shed in waves of heat until nothing remains but the residue of an aberrant consciousness. Self or selves in this elsewhere, and a convict still from the prison of memory. This desert must be lived in the way it is reflected in the wanderer’s pools of amnesia, for now unstirred.


He tells himself such movement cannot be free. What memories survive the need for sustenance are those he is loathe to consume. To wander in the desert is to change space, and these spaces came at a price. For what and to whom does he owe this apparent uselessness? Words from another elsewhere tell him to maintain this ruined facade of integrity despite the difficulty of living continuously in a land where those who feel Time are destroyed by it’s promises.

It was when I was young that Bruno had told me of the shadow of ideas, and Benjamin had said that heaven was just like this, only slightly different. It was Mary who had asked of what she did not believe in, “is thy servant a dog?” 
Life has fled in the face of Existence, retracted, as it were, into the objects that lent it form. Inert and motionless, it’s symbols remain trapped within so many dead things. The now melancholy strains of a child’s, song of wonder hum the half forgotten hymns. 


A space that has suffered under the tyranny of Time appears to lay wasted, it’s anatomy transfigured into a mass grave. As the temporal lacks patience, it does not trouble to disguise it’s crimes, and the formerly occupied space becomes ruins that enforce quietude and stillness. Here movement is restricted to what crawls, slithers, or is dependent on the passing winds and breezes. Such stillness is a law that keeps Time from ever returning. 

At a very young age I discovered that it was a ruined object, or rather, in the ruins of them that their essence is perceived. Freed of form, the poetry of a thing bleeds, and if you are fortunate enough to know the language of the inanimate, you may hear it sigh it’s sonnets among ruins.

In a space of no geographical fact, within I find a landscape of events, where the sky is a mirror that my soul is projected upon, and the space between things is imagination itself. Written everywhere are cryptic letters or symbols that lead me to imaginings that are not my own. I can get my bearings only by deciphering this language of desire, then I find myself situated in sacred space. What is written in this language has no authors, it comes from nowhere but leads everywhere, and my footprints are swallowed by the earth with each preceding step. 

Here time and I enter one another simultaneously. Two wounds, brothers, or lovers. The propulsion of time through my veins will one day consume me. Things speak to me, ghosts and the unborn ride the current of time in my veins, intermingling, thereby destroying what it is that carries them to and from my heart, and I remember that there is a geography of the marvelous, and with my map of symbols in hand I know I will be admitted into these heavens. 
Time is waiting within the hour that is referred to as four a.m., but remains outside, removed, or parallel. I see it more in terms of a distance than of a time; tomorrow is east of me. Color is some sort of herald. An angel is a messenger, or the message. My grandfather brought back from a mountain a block of obsidian that must have fallen from this sky that was just as black. The message is in the fluidity of change, as the sky heats it's alchemal oven this obsidian melts into the violence of purple, a bruise, then pastels of reds, blood, and finally from a primal black stone comes gold, the daylight which invites or insists on the immolation of secrets. The ghosts of dreams evaporate from the light let in as the sleeper opens his eyes, or flee into shadow, awaiting the movement that comes from the vastness of night. 

I was counting the days until I will come outside this place. Brushing my teeth at 4:30 in the morning I said aloud, "28". I loaded what I needed into the truck and drove east. I had hoped to see a particular canyon as the sun rose. Driving into a black only punctuated by bright stars, I began thinking of the number 28. I remembered my mother's 28th birthday. Karen Tate was to be our babysitter as our parents were to go out to dinner. 

Karen had a gentle disposition and one felt completely at ease and welcomed in her presence. I remembered my mom and dad walking down the steps into the living room. They were the same steps I dreamed I could fly down, floating slowly, and the same steps that were the location of early nightmares, and also of where me and my sisters used to illicitly listen to grown-up conversation when we were supposed to be asleep.

Well, my parents looked so fine. My dad wore slacks and a crisp button down shirt, my mother a black dress with a gold waist chain. As I drove more details emerged. A new, yellow car as a gift, the azaelia tree in bloom. I remember being excited for my mom on her birthday.

My truck began the ascent into the mountain, the sky began to lighten in a rich and varied azure. I wondered if Mary was alive then, she probably was a toddler. As I drove upwards I let the memories swirl free of chronology, of these three; Mary, my father and Karen Tate. In the canyon I spoke to them.

note; the picture is older than the reverie 
It was an unforgiving star that illuminated these lands. the souls of the elders rested in the mountains praying for the end of Time, the first and last Tyrant. While they waited they loosened huge portions of stone, whole cliffs of marble clinging to the mountainside by a thread. In this way did they hasten the fall of the mountain and release the secrets inside each stone.

I head out each morning before seven with both cameras. It is staggeringly beautiful in any direction. Each turn of the truck on a winding mountain road brings view after view, each different. A cloud formation might be in front of me, but by the time I get out to photograph it, it may be gone. Then there is the question of what to film, and why. I am building ideas for a movie, which is a few different stories interlocked. Today I went out to a ghost town on the Nevada border and filmed the ruins there. The mountains it sat in were purple, pink, blue grey, yellow and brown. How different our history would be if we mined for color.

 I am going to be writing here things of a random subject and order. There will be straight forward descriptions of places and my activities, there will be fragments of stories and prose, as well as thoughts on a film or films I could make. I am, for instance reading the journal of Christopher Columbus, having it in my mind that one cannot address America as a place without addressing a genocide of its first peoples. When i think of one story within the film to be a dialogue between shadows and reflections, I think of someone like the ghost of Columbus in conversation with the ghost of a Native American elder, shaman, chief or warrior.

With Eternity to all sides of him; North, South, East and West, and the sky above him, it was only the ground beneath his feet that limited him. Or was it rather that the ground itself was the only thing that held him, keeping him from a void immeasurable?   

Day 30


He was set down, more or less like the others, without having been asked. He considered how to spend his time. Long ago, he had wanted to make a movie. Indeed, he had done so, but being confronted with the natural grace and love packed in the frames of his once long lost home movies from his childhood, he became embarrassed by representation, and slowly the movies he made were depopulated. Here he was, at the first day of thirty, waiting to cross the bridge and into life again. This was pre-Islamic thinking of what happens in the thirty days after death. He wanted to make a movie again, here in this Valley of Death. Would it be documentary, would it be his long ago idea of a platonic dialogue between Shadows and Reflections. The ideas cascaded about him like wind, or spirits. He even thought to make a film about a town that was long abandoned, and an archaeologist discovers a stone upon which are the markings that make a detailed map of the ghost town. So.... 



2015

Days 7-5, Jean Baptiste


Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was born at a time when stars remained silent to the fate of men. A between time when the borders of nations expanded and contracted in accordance with ill begotten and soon discarded treaties. A sea of languages, of displaced and displacing men, all caught in the pull of a great tide of endless frontiers.
Born to a Shoshone woman and a fur trapper from Quebec, who is said to have won this woman as winnings from a night of gambling, Jean was as an infant, the youngest member of a party set out to survey the new territory known as the Louisiana Purchase led by explorers Lewis and Clark. Perhaps it was because he was born traveling that no horoscope could be cast which would equal the magnitude of what this child's life was to become.
No simple list of his life events will be recounted here, but it was remarkable by any standard what he achieved in that sad, brutal century. That he came to me through reading about his mother, Sacagawea, which is the name of a local park near where I first lived with my sister upon my return to my hometown after living away for nearly 30 years, and that I have a coin with both his mother's and his own images on it, I find ironic. That I drove into the hills he last traveled and died in I find magical.


Construction workers at a Southern California University found yesterday a medium sized cardboard box behind a wall in the bathroom of the university library, which is undergoing renovations. The find was curious for several reasons, one being its location. It was said that there was under a sink in the men's restroom a small door, presumably to access the plumbing, yet when a worker opened the door it led into an unused room, approximately 6 by 10 feet, and had no other openings from which to exit or enter. The room is assumed to be one of those spaces which are created by poor architectural planning, or a complete lack thereof, where during a previous renovation an unused space was simply walled up and forgotten. In the room was also several old cans of paint, several cigarette butts and an unusable flashlight. 

The worker brought the box out, which was completely sealed in silver tape, cut the tape and opened the box. When the material was judged to be perhaps lost academic material, the worker turned the box over to the head librarian, who after further examination delivered the box to the head of the universities film department. The contents of the box have been reviewed, and a search now is underway for whomever may have left the box for posterity, or safekeeping. Because of the content, the search is for the moment focused on former alumni who may have graduated from the following departments; Film, Comparative Religion, Anthropology, or Native American Studies

Below is a list of the content of the box, and partial description as they have been discovered. More complete descriptions will be forthcoming.


38 developed reels of super-8 film; 
dating from the imagery from the early 1960s into the late 1990s. The films range in content from standard, home movies of a family, cartoons, or pornography to fully realized films of varying lengths, some have been edited and spliced together, while others seem to be sequences not yet assembled into a (larger?) whole. Individual reels, apparently not related to any other sequences range from footage of whale hunting, ambient footage of light on water, assorted landscapes. As well, some reels are completely black, with perhaps a few seconds of a visible image, or conversely, entirely washed out, with one or two visible images.

14 Journals;
These journals are of a small, rectangular size, and based upon addresses written down, phone numbers, graphics from the manufacturer, and line formatting, show that the author of these journals purchased them over time while visiting, or residing in as many as 15 countries. 
The contents of the journals are primarily concerned with various religions, focusing on pre Islamic, Persian cosmology, and variants of Native American religious practice of the mid 19th century. These are rounded out with bits of Jewish philosophy, and Christian esoterica such as Alchemy and Gnosticism.
Another area of interest to the unknown author is, of course, film. There are copious notes taken by the author on films he has studied intently, as well as notes on a film he wishes to make. These detailed notes cover sound mixing, montage, post production effects. While not all the films have been examined yet due to the fragile nature of some of them, it appears that the author was attempting to put together one, cohesive film from this diverse material.
The journals are also filled with drawings that while not representational, seem to depict some as yet indecipherable system of editing. Other drawings may be of a religious, or anthropological nature.

4 Books;

Spiritual Body, Celestial Earth, by Henry Corbin
The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890, by James Mooney
Human Days, A Mary Maclane Reader*
No Horizon, An Anthology of 16th Century Adventurer's Tales, edited by Seth Haloway
The Arcades Project, by Walter Banjamin
  • Several of the reels of super-8 appear to be related to Ms. Maclane 

2 Hard Drives
One drive contains of 50 films, presumably by the owner of this box, over 600 pages of texts, notes, essays and stories. The other drive contains footage of deserts, mountains, or other landscapes. Mostly devoid of people, the shots are largely, 'austere', for lack of a better description.
On both drives are music and audio sequences either barely begun, or very finished. All of the audio appears to be intended for use in a film.

 It is our intent to seek out the originator of this box, presumably a former student, but also perhaps a former faculty member. Until we do, and if we do, work will continue to be done examining this strange find. It is our hope to present not a film, but the tattered remnants of what was to become a film. The film is of interest to the school as it seems to come from the fruit of beloved labor stemming from research done here.This film would then be left in the university's archive, along with the contents of the box.

Days 11-10 Voices past


Said the Shadow;
I believe now that the light I saw was a sign from God. I hauled in all the sails but the mainsail, and lay still til daylight. At dawn we saw naked people, and went ashore in the ship's boat, armed, with the other ship' captains, and unfurled the royal banners. Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia bore witness and faith that I was taking possession of the island for the King and Queen.
No sooner than we had concluded the formalities of taking possession, than people began coming to the beach, all naked as their mothers bore them. They are a very well built people, with handsome bodies and fine faces. Many paint their faces, others their whole bodies. Some are painted black, others white, some red or different colors. They are a friendly, well dispositioned people who bare no arms, except small spears. 

They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. They brought balls of spun cotton, spears, a kind of dry leaf they hold in great esteem, and parrots. Other than parrots, I have seen no other beast on this island. I have been very attentive and tried to find out if there is any gold here. I have seen a few natives who wear a little piece of gold hanging from the nose, and if I interpret them correctly, I have learned that by going south I may find a king who possesses great containers of it.

I cannot get over how docile these people are. They have so little to give, but will give it all. I kept moving so that I may give an account of everything to Your Highnesses, also I wanted to see if I could find a suitable place to build a fort, though I do not think this is necessary, as these people are very unskilled in arms. With 50 men you could subject everyone and make them do what you wished.     Christopher Columbus

 Said the Reflection:

I have only one heart, one tongue. Though you say, Go to another country, my heart is not that way. I do not wish for any money for my land. I am here, and here is where I am going to be. I will not part with my lands, and if you come again, I will say the same thing.

My young men will never work. Men who work cannot dream, and wisdom comes to us in dreams. Your wisdom is poor and weak, and of no value to us indians, who must must learn the highest wisdom from dreams. Each one must seek for himself the highest wisdom. It cannot be taught. You were given the wisdom of your race. Be content. 

Our work lasts only for a few weeks. It is natural work and does us no harm, but the work of the white man hardens the soul and body. Nor is it right to tear up and mutilate the earth as white men do. We simply take the gifts that are freely offered. We no more harm the earth than would an infant's fingers harm its mother's breast, but white man tears up large tracts of land, runs deep ditches, cuts down forests and changes the face of the earth. You know very well this is not right. Every honest man knows in his heart this is wrong.

You ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for bones? Then when I die I shall not enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass, make hay, and be rich like a white man. It is a bad law and we will not obey it. I want my people to stay with me here. All the dead will come to life again. Their spirits will come into their bodies again. We must wait here in the homes of our fathers, and be ready to meet them.    Smohallay, January 25, 2016

Day 12, Platonic Musings on Shade

A line of thinking from Plato, on through John Dee;

A thought is but a Shadow of an Idea
an Idea is but a reflection of a Mind
a Mind is but a Sun
without which 
both Shade and Idea are none


I headed north to the great dunes of Eureka, across the great shallow lake, over several mountain passes and stopped in the highest peaks, looking at shade resting on snow.

On my way back I went through a small reservation of Paiute Shoshone and read a plaque that described what I have been reading about. The Settlers moved onto Native lands. Conflicts arose. Natives sold lands in treaties which included promises of food. The payments were only made in part, no food arrived, the natives went into the hills from where they both starved and prepared for war. The natives were slaughtered, and survivors sent on a long march to other lands, during which, many more died.

Later even, in the dunes, a shadow played a requiem. 

Day 13, contemplating evil, aesthics and brotherhood


After watching the nearly full moon vanish into the hills I went to the lobby, filled up on coffee and headed out into the now black morning. Soon the first splashes of sun hit the mountaintops, the black morning seeking shelter in the canyons and crevasses of the high snow dusted crests. After the truck warmed up a bit I put on the first album by Suicide. I thought of the first time I heard this record. I had since heard some punk rock, which was easy to relate to because of its basic, conservative form; it was simply stripped down rock, and its message of protest was in many ways just an updated version of any protest song. You could trace it to Dylan, to Buffaloe Springfield, to Neil Young. But THIS?
I ripped it off the turntable after spot checking each track. Then the record seemed to be evil, its sinister and grimy synths a sick parody of 1950s pop set to a cheap drum machine. Then there were the lyrics and their delivery. Alan Vega's voice describing murder, suicide, poverty all with the sure and confident crooning of a sexual predator set on getting you into his car.

I kept driving up 190 east as the sun was flooding the mountains and foohills, still the lowlands remaining in the dark, and I thought how the desert was like a canvas upon which I could bring to light the darkest recesses or praise the highest sentiments. My thoughts were going back and forth between the beauty unfolding in front of me, and events like the Tate LaBianca murders.
As the record played on, I realized that what repelled me by that record over 30 years ago is that it challenged the middle class belief that all will work out, with a lot of love and work, that a newer, more just world could emerge. What I know now is that New York in the late 1970s and early 80s was one of the most singularly brutal places on the planet, and that this record was the sound of young people in the center of that brutality. Its honesty, desperation and perversity make it an important record, the form, content and quality of the songs make it a perfect record. 
I used to wonder about the process in which what I used to find repugnant became something I later came to call beautiful. I know now that there is no singular thing by which this happens. You grow, you experience things, if you are smart and lucky, and willing, you put yourself in the place of others. You walk among them, eat with them, tell stories and hear theirs. By seeking out what is NOT you, you can become closer to saying without cliché, that you are a brother of All.

I pushed on up the mountains, pulled over to watch a coyote, and ended up in a town in Nevada that was in effect, a five mile long strip mall, the employees who tended them living in trailers scattered on the outskirts.
I found what I was looking for, and left. On the way back I encountered this amazing dust storm. I pulled over to watch it grow and move, seeing the upward streams of sand and dirt rush to form a huge cloud covering at least two miles. As it grew, it moved towards a town I had to pass through. I no longer was playing Suicide, but Faust, the deep groovey psychedelia fitting both the drama of the dust storm, as well as the flowering desert floor, shining streams and colorful mountains.

After I got back to my hotel I went out across the road into the dunes and spent some time with these shadows, looking like a fine, alien calligraphy on the desert sands. nuary 22, 2016

Days 15 and 14, The Last Life of Joe Simpson


LYNCHING AT SKIDOO
 
Joe Simpson, who deliberately murdered James Arnold at Skidoo Sunday of last week, was taken from the guard on Wednesday night and hanged to a pole. There was a strong sentiment in favor of lynching Simpson the night of the murder, but the plotters were dissuaded from the plan. Arnold was a prominent and respected citizen of the camp, and his killing was an unprovoked and cold-blooded affair. Simpson was a gambler, hailing from Reno, but a resident of the desert camp for some time. He seems to have been a bad character, a number of offenses being charged against him. The opinion of the Skidoo people appears to be that the lynchers did a justifiable piece of business.

He slept poorly, the sounds of the desert mice serving to wake him, that he might recall just a flash of a bad dream. When finally resigned to full consciousness, he noticed it was cold in the cabin, and he looked to the light leaking in from the walls for a warmth that was not provided.

Looking back at his former lives and all the effort to erase any trace of them, he could never erase the feeling of shame, of ridicule, which would hover over the obliterated life like a bruise. There was the son who was never good enough for the father, the young boy whose exclamations not welcome, and wonder not shared by his classmates. Then there was the husband whose wife would exclude from her social gatherings, ashamed of his position as a petty cook in a filthy restaurant. He left those lives behind to pursue what he felt might be dignity in the Panamint Mountains.

Yet for each of his successes, for each purchase, a feeling of fraud would overcome him, as if such a quality thing was not his due. This he made up for by clothes sent from San Francisco, fine weapons and a taste for drink. It was small enough a town that he was able buy a saloon and have interests in the mining company with only a modicum of effort and capital. He enjoyed this as if he was living another's life, and for a brief time, came to believe the life was his own.

James Arnold was a man who saw weakness in a person before he would notice a smile, or the color of a person's eyes. These weaknesses would trigger a hunger in him. When Joe first arrived in Skidoo, James saw all the falter beneath Joe's swagger, he caught the fear residing under Joe's laughs and jokes. Whereas in some folk who had this gift of seeing and feeling what lies beneath what appears are moved to compassion for the weak, the estranged or alienated, in James this gift made him feel like one of the predators of the desert below, and he allowed Joe's reinvention to unfold that his fall might be greater.

It was in James' travels where he learned of Joe's past lives. He learned that Joe's wife did not die, but had left him in favor of his boss. He learned that Joe held no interests in the gambling establishments of Reno, but had fled that place with stolen money. As well he learned that Joe was generally thought of as naturally slow and shy of mind and spirit.

It was in Joe's affection for a local prostitute that James Arnold saw his chance, for this blonde was a thing which Joe seemed to really love. Taking away Joe's status, his holdings in the mining company were after all, simple to aquire and simple to lose. But the love a person in these hard lands was a thing rare, and the subtle nature of negotiating a place of warmth in a human heart had odds worse than striking gold. James had a little talk with this woman whose business was her body.

Joe remembered that his life was not his own, and as his spirit woke that cold morning, a thought occurred to him that all lives belong to their surroundings, and that his own had been revoked by the good people of Skidoo. The last picture of him was taken by his own doctor, who had dug his body up, and hung it again once more in a tent before removing the head, which the doctor took as a keepsake.

Day 16; a conference of Shadow and Reflection


Just as Shadow pursued Reflection, Reflection sought shade. What they shared was a skin, a membrane that divided their respective natures in two. With Shadow this skin was the object which lent it form from the other side of Light. Reflection's divisive skin was a clear pool of water, the smooth surface of glass or polished metal upon which its likeness was returned as an Image.

Both sought what was denied them. Shadow yearned for the light of the sun as Reflection dreamed to emerge from the frigid waters and walk the land. While Reflection was a bound prisoner to the surface that held its countenance, Shadow's very being depended upon the whim of the skies and the rhythm of days and nights.

It was in a ruin deep in the desert where they held their first conference. The space held enough light and shade, and was remote enough that their voices could be heard from near and far, and what men call ghosts, but are not but the will and desire of Shadow and Reflection spoke of the need for wholeness, of being united with their substance, of being free to walk the lands, to move, to touch and to see.

 

These creatures fly in every evening from all directions, mostly in pairs, to a tree right outside my room. For an hour they click, purr, squawk and chirp, fussing over who gets what branch for the night. They sit as couples, feeding and grooming each other, switching from branches now and then until at last, all are comfortable and they go to sleep.

This amazing animal has captured the attention of humans for thousands of years, and has a variety of myths attributed to them. It is thought that a raven taught Cain how to bury his murdered brother. the raven also is thought to have protected the bodies of saints until they could be recovered and properly buried. Apollo is said to have turned the raven black for bearing the news of his lover's infidelity, also related to amorous tales, the bird is thought to have been the only ones to have sex on Noah's Ark, getting them in trouble with hotel management. Rabbis once thought that the raven only had oral sex. Once you go black, you never go back, the saying goes.

Regardless, these endearing folk brighten my mornings and evenings with their social gatherings. Their chatter is in marked contrast to my solitude, and the sweetness with which the couples interact touches me. their minor competition for prime real estate in the tree reminds me of when I was a kid, and all of us children would come alive with our stories of the day, of how we would make up rules for made up games.

Another tradition sees the raven as creator of the world, spilling a box which contained the sun and stars. Thanks for bringing a little light, dark bird. I hear them waking up now. 

Day 18, changing the dictionary




















create |krēˈāt|
verb [ with obj. ]
bring (something) into existence: he created a thirty-acre lake.
origin
late Middle English (in the sense ‘form out of nothing,’ used of a divine or supernatural being): from Latin creat- produced,’ from the verb creare .

lament |ləˈment|
noun
a passionate expression of grief or sorrow: a song full of lament and sorrow.
a song, piece of music, or poem expressing sorrow.
an expression of regret or disappointment; a complaint: there were constant laments about the conditions of justice.
express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair: Thomas Jefferson later lamented, “Heaven remained silent.”

panegyric |ˌpanəˈjirik|
noun
a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something: his panegyric on geography and memory.
origin
early 17th cent.: from French panégyrique, via Latin from Greek panēgurikos of public assembly,’ from pan all’ + aguris agora, assembly.’

time |tīm|
noun
the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole: travel through space and time.
the progress of time as affecting people and things: things were getting urgent as time passed.
(a time) an indefinite period: traveling always changes one's sense for a time.
(also times) a more or less definite portion of time in history or characterized by particular events or circumstances: Victorian times | at the time of Galileo |
(also times) the conditions of life during a particular period: times have changed.
origin
Old English tīma, of Germanic origin; related to tide, which it superseded in temporal senses.

pass |pas|
verb
move or cause to move in a specified direction: [ no obj. ] : he passed through towns and villages | the shells from the Allied guns were passing very low overhead |[ with obj. ] : he passed a weary hand across his forehead | pass an electric current through it.
change from one state or condition to another: lands that have passed from private to state ownership.
go beyond the limits of; surpass; exceed
elapse; go by: the day and night passed slowly | the moment had passed.
spend or use up (a period of time): this was how they passed the time.
come to an end: the danger had passed.
noun
a route over or through mountains: the pass over the mountain was open again after the snows | [ in place names ] : the Ubehebe Pass.
origin
Middle English (in the sense division of a text, passage through’)

face |fās|
noun
the front part of an animal's head from the forehead to the chin, or the corresponding part in a human.
a manifestation or outward aspect of something: the unacceptable face of social injustice.
the surface of a thing, especially one that is presented to the view or has a particular function, in particular: a vertical or sloping side of a mountain or cliff: the south face of Funeral Mountain.
the side of a planet or moon facing the observer.
confront and deal with or accept: honesty forced him to face facts
have (a difficult event or situation) in prospect: each defendant faced a maximum sentence of life without parole.

in-between |ˌinbəˈˌtwēn| informal
adjective
situated somewhere between two extremes or recognized categories; I am not unconscious, but in some in-between state
noun
an intermediate thing; successes, failures and in-betweens 





 

Day 19



Blood Meridian, by Cormac Macarthy was a wonderful read. It must have been at least 20 years since I have read it, but this passage has always stayed with me. I can almost smell the fire around which the characters are circled as the judge shares his thoughts;
 There are rumors and ghosts in this land, and they are much revered. The tools, the art, the building--these things stand in judgment on the latter races. Yet there is nothing for them to grapple with. The old ones are gone like phantoms and savages wander these canyons to the sound of an ancient laughter. In their crude huts they crouch in the darkness and listen to the fear seeping out of the rock. All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery of nameless rage. So. Here are the dead fathers. Their spirit is entombed in the stone. It lies upon the land with the same weight and ubiquity. For whoever has made a shelter from reeds and hides has joined his spirit to the common destiny of creatures and he will subside back into the primal mud with scarcely a cry. But who builds in stone seeks to alter the structure of the universe and so it was with these masons however primitive their works seem to us.  

Old notes found in a tattered journal;
early 1800s – Robert Fulton develops with Louis Daguerre a 360 degree diorama which soon leads to a theater devoted to landscapes. Humans, if present were so only to provide perspective of scale. This new theater void of actors brings a new perspective of landscape; natural scenery which man should not contaminate with his presence. 

mid 1800s – the fantasy of a straight line becomes real with the speed and directness of the railroad. No longer is motion conforming with the contours of the land, the direction of the winds, or the abyss that opens up underfoot with a silver trail of a river far, far below. A mountain or desert are no longer 'verbs', that is, events with which the traveller interacts. They become nouns, the mountain a thing to blast holes in for the laying of tracks that because of cost, travel becomes limited to the shortest distance between two points. All space becomes colonial space.
 
21st Century – The world we live in is shaped far less by what we celebrate than the painful events we try to forget.








I think of spaces and landscapes that are freed from use. For me so many post apocalyptic films are seen as a promise. Empty cities are the playgrounds of the protagonists, a chance to start over. Lands are no longer burdened with the need to produce. What was an economy of accumulation (weapons, wealth) becomes again an economy of The Gift. 

Day 20



He put a large can of fuel into the car, and drove 40 miles around the salt flats and dunes to head into the mountains opposite and watch the sunset from the east. Climbing up the road of blasted stone, a cloud of golden dust behind like a veil, he thought this could be like any of those mountain passes on the planet where the population was driven, anywhere, really where suffering migrates from one place to another.

So it is that crime is wrapped in memory now closed, moving through Paradise.

One is tempted to think of the horror of war as something separate from their race. Genocide neatly set aside and placed in an archive labelled, "Evil", discounting the factors of debt, natural resources, capital and pure will to power that summon folks to war, and are simplified by the evening news so that any need for critical thinking is stripped from both subject and content. 

But back to the film he had come to make. How could he make a film which could encompass his love for people, a longing for life, AND a bitterness from the fact that from many perspectives, Life can be as sad as it seems?

He thought of the irony that a sprawling, restricted weapons testing site lay just to the south of Paradise.   

Days 22 and 21 imaginal fragments

The population would separate according to their functions in the group. Here they would go into trance, the resultant visions later to be shared with all groups when the ritual was ended. By these means would the settlers make choices which guided their movement through Time in these Spaces.





Here is where lightning is caught in stone. It is not known if the mountain uses these captives from heaven as food, for warmth or for protection. Perhaps it is their downward motion which sends spells to the valley below.














I see these marks left by the creatures that walk, silent in the night and their strange bodies form before me, transparent in my mind.
















The waters that rushed through here, that have been and will be forever shaping the canyon so as to make the pilgrimage only for those whose heart entirely seeks vision, like thirst seeks water.















The shadow articulated forms, and in his lassitude these forms recalled the shapes of former loves. His arm resting on the thigh of a beloved, face pressed into fragrant hair, and heat from the neck warming him as the beloved slept. The desert gave him these memories in his weariness, that he would go on, in strength and peace.

Day 23, the spirit of writing




From James Mooney's report on the Ghost Dance Religion, 1896

"The remote in time or distance is always strange. The familiar present is always natural and a matter of course. Beyond the narrow range of our horizon imagination creates a new world, but as we advance in any direction, or as we go back over forgotten paths, we find ever a continuity and a succession. The human race is one in thought and action."

Today I am going to seek this strange remote. 
There are the moments before I begin to write. I shall try to describe them. First off is the desire to write. This is experienced like a message, a feeling that something wants a voice. To begin I need to quiet my mind, to make it open to expression. When all is quiet and still, often some detail that connects 'me' with my surroundings begins to shine. I will describe such an instant because it was the first time I had experienced this. It was the late afternoon sun hitting my arm, and I could feel the difference in temperature, in all its grades from where the light hit, and the shade where it did not. By looking at the sun, then at my arm, while thinking of the warmth on my skin, I was given 'permission' to describe what asked to be articulated.
Next is the relationship between what is not me, the pen I hold and the paper upon which I place my marks as taught to me by my first teachers...... A B C D, through Z, and their various combinations. I believe that most things are connected, and that while there is an 'me', my responsibility is also to respect and honor what is not, and that any act of creation I may issue must respect this, and strive for merging my self with what is not me, not so that I may usurp or command, but rather that many voices could become one.
Being in this desert is the closest thing I have experienced to what Eternity might possibly be. There are voices swirling in the winds, laying at rest in the rocks of the mountains, gazing at the clouds pass from the skin of a clear pool of salt water. A coyote stood on the side of the road yesterday afternoon. As I slowed down, the animal looked me in the eyes, spoken here, just like that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day 24


Coteeakun went on to say that some day Saghalee Tyee would again overturn the mountains and so expose these bones, which, having been preserved so long a time, would be reoccupied by the spirits which now dwell in the mountain tops, watching their descendants on earth and waiting for the resurrection to come. The voices of the spririts of the dead can be heard at all times in the mountains, and often they answer when spoken to.   From James Mooney's report on the Ghost Dance religion, 1896

Originally published in 1896, James Mooney's book, The Ghost Dance religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 was commissioned by the Bureau of Ethnology. A government at war with the continent's original inhabitants, and faced with an expanding population of white people in a hard to police frontier who often simply took lands that were allotted to the natives by federal treaty had hired Mooney to report on a new religion among the natives.

This was a religion that risked bringing all native tribes together under a common cause. a religion that forbade drinking alcohol, that urged a return to ways of life before the white man arrived. The report Mooney issued is a comprehensive book, full of long passages of quotes from all concerned regarding starvation, theft of lands, massacre and hope.

That James Mooney wrote a book so sympathetic to the Natives, a book that really painted the sorrow of the defeated natives, in a context we would now call Genocide, is remarkable. That it was commissioned by the United States government is more remarkable still. Imagine Hitler's regime commissioning a history of the Gypsies in Germany, or a history of Jews that was sympathetic towards the subject.

I had this book years ago, and since had lost it. It is full of poetry, of stories, pictures and diagrams. It goes at length to provide an understanding of the mentality and world view of the Native American. Shortly before I left for the desert, a friend gave me his copy, and I brought it with me as a research book. I read it at night after driving and hiking all over the desert and mountains all day.

As it turns out, this new religion of the Natives swept through this area, and the tribe indigenous to Death Valley indeed practiced The Ghost Dance Religion at one point.

The picture above, taken two mornings ago, is of a volcano crater about 45 minutes north of where I stay. I drove there with both cameras at dawn. After hiking to the summit, I sat on the edge of abyss, looking into its variations of rock, color and sand. I began thinking of the Father and the Mother, the sun and the earth. I sat still for a while, when two ravens landed near me. I made clicking sounds with my tongue and they started to walk around me in opposite directions. Not once did they fly, but when I made a different sound with my throat, one of them would hop. Sometimes they would stop, and peck around for something to eat, sometimes to rest under a small bush. It took about 50 minutes of me sitting still, the morning sun warming my back, but they made a full circle around me. I bade them a good day, got to my truck, and rode down the mountainside  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day 25







I drove before the sun was up to Badwater Salt Flats, the lowest point on earth in the Western Hemisphere. Just before Furnace Creek I saw a fox on the side of the road that had been killed by a car. It was a lovely animal, looking (aside from being dead) healthy and with beautiful markings. I inhabited a prayer for it and kept going. The sun was lighting up the desert floor here and there like spotlights that I could see for miles and miles to my left as I headed southeast. 

Earlier in the morning, before I left, I looked up the Timbisha Shohone tribe, the Native American tribe of Death Valley on the internet, to find some place I might go to talk with someone from the tribe. I found by driving there is a small community that is about a 20 minute drive from where I am staying. 

Keeping the fox in my mind I put some sad music in the CD player.

About 45 minutes after my departure I arrived at Badwater. Because it was so early I was the only one there. I parked the truck and walked for half an hour across the salt to the center of the basin. It felt so perfect there, at the bottom of the world. I sighed and let the fox go.

Walking back to the parking lot I noticed people had etched messages in the salt floor in many different languages. I looked ahead and saw pools of water, which appeared as a mirror through which the sky watched itself.

My map had torn. 

My map is a grid of power; the fragment torn from the page, and the emptiness to which it alludes is a map of my desire, The signs written in the secret language in the rooms of my heart would still guide me to this paradise. Layered geographies and flags all becoming superfluous. Demon perception in love with it’s own desire at the bottom of the world. 

At dusk I filmed my dear ravens. They fly from the hills in all directions into these three trees, and chatter quite a din until they are asleep not 45 minutes later. Right now the eventing stars crown them as they dream. 

Day 26 (a sub plot, written on the spot)


He received the phone call from the Institute at 4:30 am. They were adamant at meeting on location. With no time to brew a fresh pot of coffee, he microwaved a cold cup from the day before and hit the road. By the time he was in the desert flatlands, the mountains had begun to glow at their edges.The further he sped up long sections of washed out highway, and entered the steep, winding sections into Funeral Mountain, the rising sun began waking the colors of the mountain cliffs and walls.

He managed to arrive before them. The remains of the town were bathed in golden dawn. Slowly, with only the sound of his breathing and the crunch of gravel beneath his boots for company, he walked from building to building. It occurred to him that a ruin is a poem written long ago for an unknown reader, the author of the poem and the reader both remaining anonymous. Looking down the mountain to the farthest edge of the dry bed of the salt flats and could see the headlamps of a vehicle just descending into the valley from the opposite mountain range. It would take them at least another forty five minutes to arrive. He took this rare opportunity to explore the remains of the town by himself, and set out for the building where they had found the Stone.

This structure was once the most grand of them all, and the most intact. Inside the ruin were three rooms, one of which had in the back a set of stairs leading to a lower room, large enough to contain at most two standing people. In a wall was a niche which contained a rusty and long since opened safe. He made his way through the rubble, and with his mobile phone as a light, descended the stairs for the first time in years, and for the very first time without being in the company of someone from the Institute.

From the 1860s until the town was finally abandoned in the early 1940s, the town was inhabited by fringe and counter culture groups of people. At first it was the Spiritualist rage for seances. The wealthy from all over the west coast came to commune with their dead through a renowned Madame, who herself walked into a chloride mine one morning at dusk and was never seen again. Next came the Alastair Crowley initiates for their exclusive enlightenment, followed by a mysterious stranger who preached that the town had wronged by mining for minerals to sell to a profane world, and claimed to know the location of a place where they could mine pure color, color that once freed from the depths of the mountain would change the world. Such were the denizens of this forlorn, but once thriving town high up in the harsh arms of Funeral Mountain. 


In the late 1960s a lone gay couple had moved into a shell of a house and attempted to breathe new life into it. They tried to tame some of the stray burrows that had descended in lineage from the pioneering days, and hoped to give rides to tourists on the backs of these beasts to the now useless mines. When one of the men staggered barefoot and covered in blood into the nearby town of Beatty, the police drove to the ghost town where they observed a strange pattern written in blood on the walls of the most prominent building, and the dead lover laid on his back, head arms and legs draped over large, square stones, looking like a painting from the Old Masters in the morning sun. At his trial for murder, the surviving, would be tour guide told the jury that they had found a stone with precisely those markings in a safe hidden in the building, and that after fasting and taking acid, the sacrifice was demanded of them by the Stone. This Stone then became lost in a dusty evidence room for a number of years.



The desert hills are full of petroglyphs made by the ancients. Most are representative, and often depict a man, an animal, or a combination of both, engaged in an activity such as hunting. But some are abstract, and depict in line and color, a variety of geometric shapes. A detective who had worked the murder case had taken to the search for petroglyphs as a hobby after he retired, and at once he recognized with a shudder that seemed to come up from the earth itself and through his body, an abstract petroglyph as identical to the markings in blood left at the murder site.

The Stone went into federal custody where it found a champion in a passionate, yet low level agent who specialized in pre colonial cave and rock art. It was around his newly inflamed passion for the Stone that an small department was created to find a relationship between the Stone and the petroglyph. After a year and a half of going nowhere, it was not until a complete mapping by satellite of the entire region was done and put online that one researcher on the team discovered the original layout of the town was patterned after the markings on The Stone. 



He waited outside the ruin in the bright morning sun, crushing a cigarette as the car from the Institute pulled up. He felt the heat already coming both from the stones beneath his feet and the sky above, and thought that anything living was never truly welcome here. The chief researcher got out of the SUV and looked across the sky. Though no stars remained, the moon could be seen retreating under the mountains to the west. He explained that models had been created which simulated the shifting of constellations and galaxies over tens of thousands of years, tracings of comets, of stars dying, of moons being formed. A carbon dating of a small fragment of the petroglyph matched the way the heavens were arranged at the time of its making.
They spoke for most of the day, so excited as to not even move into the shade about these new discoveries. A town has a history of utopians and dystopians, a freak show since the first cornerstone was laid. A murder reveals an enigmatic stone with curious markings as a motive for a human sacrifice. A petroglyph reveals a map of the town, finally seen to match the night stars as the were tens of thousands of years prior. 



Surely the Ancient Ones, who had never settled on this spot, must have marked this town as a fowl blight under the sun, cursed and to be avoided. By evening they had decided to move research headquarters to the town. There was indeed money in their budget to restore the building, and furnish it with the most contemporary of instruments, machinery and climate controlled storage. The Stone deserved to be returned to its home, and a fresh exploration of the local canyons for petroglyphs could begin.

The town had new life. 

To quote the film, Dead Man, “Stupid Fucking White Man” 

Day 27


I wanted to make a movie of nothing but credits and thanks, a long list from leads, extras and grips to script consultants and set designers, but my carefully constructed life collapsed, as does anything built by us.

Years went by and I came back to the miracle of cinema. Perhaps my list of credits and thanks may begin again.

My first film was of a woman born to sand and barrenness. The intensity of her will, the insistence of her whole being upon an impossible happiness sparked in her a complete rebellion. She saw with the brightest lucidity the future she was offered, rose up to smash it with a No that echoes nearly a century later. I thought it best to evoke her, rather than depict her, and the windmills at the Altamont Pass against a blue sky, among high, rolling hills of yellow grass, with their white blades singing and humming spoke nothing if not the language of Desire.


This film here was made at the bottom of the world, and the ghosts that inhabit it are the ghosts of unborn films. I picked them up in my Chevy lowrider as a sped across the desert and mountains and listened to their stories, and they are recounted here as randomly as stones move across the dry lake beds.

What is this new elsewhere, and through what maleficent operations do our characters arise from these mountains in shreds, from this impoverished landscape? The thick mucus of Time is shed in waves of heat until nothing remains but the residue of an aberrant consciousness. Self or selves in this elsewhere, and a convict still from the prison of memory. This desert must be lived in the way it is reflected in the wanderer’s pools of amnesia, for now unstirred.


He tells himself such movement cannot be free. What memories survive the need for sustenance are those he is loathe to consume. To wander in the desert is to change space, and these spaces came at a price. For what and to whom does he owe this apparent uselessness? Words from another elsewhere tell him to maintain this ruined facade of integrity despite the difficulty of living continuously in a land where those who feel Time are destroyed by it’s promises.

It was when I was young that Bruno had told me of the shadow of ideas, and Benjamin had said that heaven was just like this, only slightly different. It was Mary who had asked of what she did not believe in, “is thy servant a dog?” 
Life has fled in the face of Existence, retracted, as it were, into the objects that lent it form. Inert and motionless, it’s symbols remain trapped within so many dead things. The now melancholy strains of a child’s, song of wonder hum the half forgotten hymns. 


A space that has suffered under the tyranny of Time appears to lay wasted, it’s anatomy transfigured into a mass grave. As the temporal lacks patience, it does not trouble to disguise it’s crimes, and the formerly occupied space becomes ruins that enforce quietude and stillness. Here movement is restricted to what crawls, slithers, or is dependent on the passing winds and breezes. Such stillness is a law that keeps Time from ever returning. 

At a very young age I discovered that it was a ruined object, or rather, in the ruins of them that their essence is perceived. Freed of form, the poetry of a thing bleeds, and if you are fortunate enough to know the language of the inanimate, you may hear it sigh it’s sonnets among ruins.

In a space of no geographical fact, within I find a landscape of events, where the sky is a mirror that my soul is projected upon, and the space between things is imagination itself. Written everywhere are cryptic letters or symbols that lead me to imaginings that are not my own. I can get my bearings only by deciphering this language of desire, then I find myself situated in sacred space. What is written in this language has no authors, it comes from nowhere but leads everywhere, and my footprints are swallowed by the earth with each preceding step. 

Here time and I enter one another simultaneously. Two wounds, brothers, or lovers. The propulsion of time through my veins will one day consume me. Things speak to me, ghosts and the unborn ride the current of time in my veins, intermingling, thereby destroying what it is that carries them to and from my heart, and I remember that there is a geography of the marvelous, and with my map of symbols in hand I know I will be admitted into these heavens. 
Time is waiting within the hour that is referred to as four a.m., but remains outside, removed, or parallel. I see it more in terms of a distance than of a time; tomorrow is east of me. Color is some sort of herald. An angel is a messenger, or the message. My grandfather brought back from a mountain a block of obsidian that must have fallen from this sky that was just as black. The message is in the fluidity of change, as the sky heats it's alchemal oven this obsidian melts into the violence of purple, a bruise, then pastels of reds, blood, and finally from a primal black stone comes gold, the daylight which invites or insists on the immolation of secrets. The ghosts of dreams evaporate from the light let in as the sleeper opens his eyes, or flee into shadow, awaiting the movement that comes from the vastness of night. 
Saturday, January 9, 2016

Day 28

I was counting the days until I will come outside this place. Brushing my teeth at 4:30 in the morning I said aloud, "28". I loaded what I needed into the truck and drove east. I had hoped to see a particular canyon as the sun rose. Driving into a black only punctuated by bright stars, I began thinking of the number 28. I remembered my mother's 28th birthday. Karen Tate was to be our babysitter as our parents were to go out to dinner. 

Karen had a gentle disposition and one felt completely at ease and welcomed in her presence. I remembered my mom and dad walking down the steps into the living room. They were the same steps I dreamed I could fly down, floating slowly, and the same steps that were the location of early nightmares, and also of where me and my sisters used to illicitly listen to grown-up conversation when we were supposed to be asleep.

Well, my parents looked so fine. My dad wore slacks and a crisp button down shirt, my mother a black dress with a gold waist chain. As I drove more details emerged. A new, yellow car as a gift, the azaelia tree in bloom. I remember being excited for my mom on her birthday.

My truck began the ascent into the mountain, the sky began to lighten in a rich and varied azure. I wondered if Mary was alive then, she probably was a toddler. As I drove upwards I let the memories swirl free of chronology, of these three; Mary, my father and Karen Tate. In the canyon I spoke to them.

note; the picture is older than the reverie 

Day 29

It was an unforgiving star that illuminated these lands. the souls of the elders rested in the mountains praying for the end of Time, the first and last Tyrant. While they waited they loosened huge portions of stone, whole cliffs of marble clinging to the mountainside by a thread. In this way did they hasten the fall of the mountain and release the secrets inside each stone.

I head out each morning before seven with both cameras. It is staggeringly beautiful in any direction. Each turn of the truck on a winding mountain road brings view after view, each different. A cloud formation might be in front of me, but by the time I get out to photograph it, it may be gone. Then there is the question of what to film, and why. I am building ideas for a movie, which is a few different stories interlocked. Today I went out to a ghost town on the Nevada border and filmed the ruins there. The mountains it sat in were purple, pink, blue grey, yellow and brown. How different our history would be if we mined for color.

 I am going to be writing here things of a random subject and order. There will be straight forward descriptions of places and my activities, there will be fragments of stories and prose, as well as thoughts on a film or films I could make. I am, for instance reading the journal of Christopher Columbus, having it in my mind that one cannot address America as a place without addressing a genocide of its first peoples. When i think of one story within the film to be a dialogue between shadows and reflections, I think of someone like the ghost of Columbus in conversation with the ghost of a Native American elder, shaman, chief or warrior.

With Eternity to all sides of him; North, South, East and West, and the sky above him, it was only the ground beneath his feet that limited him. Or was it rather that the ground itself was the only thing that held him, keeping him from a void immeasurable?   Day 30

He was set down, more or less like the others, without having been asked. He considered how to spend his time. Long ago, he had wanted to make a movie. Indeed, he had done so, but being confronted with the natural grace and love packed in the frames of his once long lost home movies from his childhood, he became embarrassed by representation, and slowly the movies he made were depopulated. Here he was, at the first day of thirty, waiting to cross the bridge and into life again. This was pre-Islamic thinking of what happens in the thirty days after death. He wanted to make a movie again, here in this Valley of Death. Would it be documentary, would it be his long ago idea of a platonic dialogue between Shadows and Reflections. The ideas cascaded about him like wind, or spirits. He even thought to make a film about a town that was long abandoned, and an archaeologist discovers a stone upon which are the markings that make a detailed map of the ghost town. So.... 


Friday, December 4, 2015