Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2010

On Writing, Non-fiction

Non-fiction writing is inherently dishonest. Journalism schools teach and preach objectivity, to various degrees of success -- some are better than others. Bias is felt more than seen by readers, though, technically, the Pretty Word Workers of America cover their bases well. The exception might be Fox News – they don’t care enough to pretend, or maybe by preaching to the choir they don’t have to. If you have right  ideas, why stoop to prove them? (The New York Times pretends to not be liberal, but they are, you can feel this can’t you? – but they try harder, so they don’t rise to the Fox level of dishonesty.) Still, all this is sound and fury that means nothing. In the long run, the “marketplace of ideas,” like the casinos of Vegas, will win every time. Truth will out – it becomes a physical thing with time. Even Fox will eventually become the journalistic parachute pants of the ought generation – a goofy memory of simpler times. (Or, it might end up being the background noise

LA, Part 5

“At last, Alas It is a boring song But it works every time .”  Margaret Atwood The people of LA have become, through intense and persistent dosing, conditioned to the poison of traffic, much like tube worms located near oceanic vents . The only thing that stops the bastards from seeking electric pleasure everywhere and anywhere are steep hills and utter emptiness – in these places they lose momentum and tend to wander around slowly without any perceived purpose or function. Sans the constant noise of their cars and the frenzy of speed, they are like bees with a dead queen decomposing in a tree trunk. Their god is, apparently, limited by physical constraints -- If they could dream of a bigger god, the world would soon become their oyster, and the rest of us would rubbed out, and our purpose reduced to being a large and greasy take out container for their toys and baubles. And we would all have to listen to a Door’s song every other hour, forever. The traffic was horrible from the Gett

More On Writing

"I don't know if your dead or not, if you're anyone." Broken Bells I need to develop a theory of punctuation and the will to stick with it when faced with doubts. Since I believe people hear what they hear, and that this hearing is independent of what I say, I’ve always thought that punctuation should be thought of as more a guideline than a rule. Writing should leave you with an image, not words. It should allow for that image to be seen by others as their own, sounded out by their own understanding, in their own way. It needs to have the strength of flex and the ability to surrender itself to other visions. It should crowd itself in and snuggle up comfortably, then clean like gasoline until it burns, leaving an after image like the dead of Hiroshima left on sidewalks. I write exactly what I see – you see exactly what you bring to the table to look with. I write a specific, in the way that makes sense and order for my world as a way of str

LA, Part 4

It’s hard to watch a child do things and not step in to help, even when the choices they make are bold and clean – and much better than any you made at their age. I guess it’s a combination of pride and anguish – pride that they are shaping their individual futures in a way you could never dream of for yourself, and anguish that no matter what the safety net you place beneath them, they still have to do it with the pain of thinking they are alone. When you get older you realize you are never alone when other people care about you and pray for you their fondest dream – no matter how much you beg. On Saturday, since Allison had to work later that morning, we met her at her apartment and followed her to “Norm’s” for breakfast. Norm’s is a converted Denny’s in Hollywood, and, as Allie told us, “It’s the place they film that new show with the old guys.” The show, “Men of a certain age,” is one of our favorites – though the actors are 10-years younger than we are. Imagine a Denny’s whe

LA, Part 3

As we were driving through Bel Air I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw Angelina Jolie following me in a black Mountaineer. I thought, wow, what a great town, Angelina Jolie is tailgating me and I wasn’t even looking for her. I quickly dismissed any doubts that maybe she wouldn’t be driving a black Mountaineer. At a stop sign, I asked Mary to check it out in her vanity mirror. She said, “Well, she’s very pretty, but she’s not Angelina Jolie.” “She will be when I write about it,” I replied. This is why I didn’t finish Journalism school. Allison drove us to the Cuban restaurant (Versailles, on La Cienega,) and it was great. The place looked like an old Sambo’s and though the update wasn’t too fresh, the service was quick and the tables were level. Good food, lots of it, and cheap – a good unspoken message that choices were being made and understood by my daughter After dinner, we left for the strip. When Allie was young, LA was a thing to be avoided. We made annual pilgrimages

LA, Part 2

From the Hotel, we drove down Santa Monica towards the ocean. The five miles took a half-hour, but the drive was more about attitude than speed. Imagine driving with a monkey in the back seat setting off ladyfinger firecrackers rapidly and randomly -- most of the time throwing them outside, but occasionally not -- for a long time. We found Allie's place -- very nice and in a great location that bordered Beverly Hills, but still remained safely in the charms of tattoo parlors and the Trocadero.  Now armed with the geographic, we headed to the hills on a rich people hunt. After running up and down a few streets it all started looking the same, so we stopped at a nice looking park across the street from the Beverly Hills hotel. With delight I found the marker showing the park was dedicated to Will Rodgers – the very man I had decided as child I wanted to grow up to be, and a fellow traveler from the Oklahoma Territories, (to be exact, a “punk” Will Rodgers – the modifier neces

LA, Part 1

We dove into LA. From Highway 5, you slip and shudder over stabilized landslides, always downhill, until you reach an area where things continue their march to the sea in a slightly less obvious way – LA. At one point, all the trucks get off the freeway and circle underneath you to the left, until, for no apparent reason other than the whims of a god of traffic, they whip underneath you – shooting through a tunnel like frogger game until they rejoin you in forty-lane junction of a metal dance movement. All this in less than 5 miles. Following signs to the Hollywood freeway we slowly creep along until we get to the Sunset exit – then we go left. First thing seen  -- the giant big blue city block that is the Scientology complex – some parts half built. Not an evil blue color, more a non-faded beach blue. Protestors surround the sidewalks, all protesting the lack of union participation in the construction. You would think the Scientologists would be more sensitive – the bastards are al

Why We Fight

For my own protection I've cultivated a vague fuzziness in my manner and style. This cloud of indeterminacy makes it hard for others to get a good clean shot at me -- my version  of a quantum rope a dope. When I write I stand in sharp relief, and trust my punch will overcome a tendency to lead with a weak chin. I say that I write for myself. When I finish something, the glory of it’s something that makes a part of me vibrate. When asked by others what makes me happy, the only thing that comes to mind is writing. I fight writing. Because it seems predetermined and inevitable that I write, I rage against it. When I finish something and know it’s good, I wonder where it came from – what beast inside me used me. In daylight I don’t see anything that makes me capable of what I see written in front of me. And I know that some of what I write is good – especially the poetry.  When I focus on the words – their order, sound and place, I seem capable of nailing what’s in my head to the d

Sonnet II

This is more structured than usual for me. Hint -- the turn is in the rime. Purists may note the rhyme scheme does not follow Spencer, but since I live in California I'm special. Mike (a-a,b-b v. a-b,a-b) Her singing voice was lush, yet spare and haunting, Though talk of Jesus left me strangely wanting A crutch is fine, but few enjoy the crippled And yet she speaks of life as very simple. Her raft of  faith  tied safely to the shore From a bride of Christ the art expects much more. Her wish to find with song life everlasting In haunted gods and other things pre-casted From simple clay  transformed by other hands  In crippling haste to show god's law to man. Go step from shore and leave the sure of light Forget the more of god and face your life. To take and seize the power that’s inside you; To dance upon the dust that will become you. Mike Brady 2010

On Writing, Part II

When I write something it’s for the ending – the last line or two that tells me what it was I was trying to say. I don’t think I’ve ever known the ending to something I started before I started, and it’s that surprise that drives me. Merwin does it in his poems – Joe Friday did it on Dragnet. “Oh one more thing officer, I don’t know if it’s important, but… he was green.” I meander mostly. I trust that the end will justify the digressions, that most of the sounds and sense in the body of the work will tie together at some point in a sort of poetic anti-summary that moves you more than the sum of the word count. I think I understand the manipulations in my writing, the false leads as I dilly-dally, but understand, I don’t know how it's going to end any more than you do. I want the reader to be as tickled as I am when they finally see the connection, and (hopefully) the power, in the words as they condense at the finish. It’s fun to flitter and dance with words with a sway and stamp o

Body Heat

I am a very warm fellow, physically. I can heat a one-bedroom apartment with just the waste heat that oozes off me. I twitch a lot and have lots of random movement as well – it all makes me wonder why I weigh 230 lbs – maybe I eat too much and don’t get enough activity. It’s a real mystery. I’ve always been hot – people who know talk about it all the time, “He’s no ball of fire on the outside, but his brain seems to be melting as we speak.” (I like cold feet turned against me in bed, though I try to play hard to get based on my history.) I cared for a lady in the hospital and as she was dying I held her hands in mine. Her last words were, “My, your hands are toasty.” Then she died. I like to think I let her go, but since I worked in an Intensive care unit, I probably ripped her gown off, shot her full of speed and pounded on her chest. Memory is a fickle thing, but I do remember her smile as she held my hands, without a care in this world, focused on the heat.

Top 10 Observations This Week

Top 10 Observations This Week The music for the new Frisky’s commercial makes me think they are adding peyote to the mix. Curling is the Matlock of sports. Microsoft has a brilliant campaign for their new operating system. If anything’s wrong – it’s the users fault for suggesting it. (“We thought it was stupid, but they were so insistent.) I’ve been unable to watch any Basketball since that Kobe Bryant thing in Colorado. I keep thinking about my daughters. I would be more comfortable taxing Cadillac health plans if I thought Congress had not exempted Congress from the tax. PBS seems to be one long infomercial these days –self help with pledge breaks. One of my daughters is the subject of a Cosmopolitan article – April, page 160 – and I am not amazed at all by this. I no longer blame the Navy for the worst 4 years of my life – I realize now that they would have been tough years anyway. Unemployment reminds

Show or Tell

Show or Tell As a rule, it's best to show not tell. But I don’t paint with air and light, It’s not my medium, Nor does it play to any strength. I want to hammer one word at a time, Pound the truth in every different way, Like weighted splinters cleaved from acrid smoke. And when it’s over, and the sharp and heavy Lay on you like the bricks of life and death, I want you to see the grain of each rock, And the age and the violence it came from. So no. I don’t want to show you puppies abused by the mill Or the horror of children at play with sticks. I want you slowly buried neck deep in sand, Knowing in your heart the tables of the tide. Mike Brady 2010

My Body, Myself

“Being an adult is easy, it’s just not my thing.” Randy Hickey My body is not a part of me; it’s more like an extension, an artificial set of appendages that I strap on to get some feel out of the obvious senses. It’s not an extension in the sense of a Cheyenne warrior and his pony – it’s more a white-guy-dancing kluge of add on’s -- fins and anti-structural chrome stuck on aged cast iron. I know that when I look in a mirror I am seeing myself backwards and upside down. I know that my mind is supposed to flip things around, but mostly it doesn’t bother. We don’t make decisions together, I listen to what I want to hear, then wall myself off in a room and decide. I tell the body when I am ready – it tries to do what I tell it. The disconnection is getting worse. Things are not getting done the way I see them in my head. I think my boy is getting passive-aggressive on me. I’d see someone, but am not sure it would be fair to a therapist.

Short Mom Story

I had a nice lunch with my mother yesterday. This morning I got a call from her asking what was wrong with my teeth, “I should have brought this up yesterday, but are you missing a tooth?” I quickly checked a mirror, twice, and told I didn’t think so.  She asked me to check again and I did. “Nope, they are all there,” I told her. She seemed almost comically relieved. If I were gay, I think this might be normal, but I’m not.  It’s interesting that I checked three times before I was sure she was wrong.

Putting Words in Unwashed Faces

George is a heavy machine equipment owner in Wyoming. He employs, in good times, 30 people, in bad times less. He tries to take care of his people, but when he has no work, they have no work. The people that work for him are hard yet flexible – they hunker down and survive until the sun comes out again. Without government interference, his life would be easier. He sees taxes go out, but very little comes back to him that’s measurable. He has to match the money his employees pay for social security, install expensive pollution devices on his machines before he can use them. He has Local, State and Federal paperwork on every aspect of what he does. He has to hire outside help just to document his actual work. Property taxes go up every year, user fees are added to everything he moves, and special levies on his utility bills show up that have nothing to do with anything he can understand. Even the school system has a way of getting money out of him outside of cookie sales. His

It's Over, We Won

At the 7-year mark, it looks like the light has finally arrived from the mouth of the tunnel. A meta analysis of news site, with FOX thrown out as both the high and low, is showing that it’s all over but the crying. A trillion, plus change, and 4,400 dead American soldiers later, the war in Iraq is coasting to a gentle end. With tens of thousands badly damaged Army men flooding the Veterans  Administration for all of the available future, it’s time to congratulate us for persistence, and to collect the prize. Just open up your eyes and take a good long look -- it's safe now. We won, it’s over – preemptive war has been validated, a beacon of democracy has been created in the middle of trouble town, and Bush was right. (I think his reputation might be like Truman's, only on steroids.) Good for us.

Bitching about Local Newspapers

I never thought I’d give up on newspapers. To linger with a cigarette, a paper with a cup of coffee after breakfast seemed a forever thing in my routine. Now the stories in the local paper are mostly from the AP wire service and the New York Times. Local scandals are covered if they involve unpopular politicians (pick one) or greedy landlords. The only part of the paper I really miss is the crime report, and because I’m older now, I can guess or make up most of that with my eyes closed. Here is some local stuff I’d like to know more about and need a journalist to research for me: The Fry family – the illegal after hour flights the family jet makes into San Jose’s airport; The golf course they built without permits in Morgan Hill; The sweat shop conditions they use in their stores. You hear things from outlier papers like the Gilroy Dispatch, or local Penny Saver types of rags – but nothing from the Mercury News. (I can’t help but wonder because the largest, by far, ad

No Free Will for You!

The problem with predetermination for people is simple, why bother? If every thing that happens can be traced back to a cause, the train of causes can be ridden back to the big bang. If the train of cause/effect can go back – it can go forward. Truly, everything is written in the book – just like Bob Marley said a couple of scores ago. If everything and everyone is living in a meat DVD, and nothing is choice, the true choice involves whether we want to do it or not. Keep in mind; part of the DVD is a requirement to do it as the default setting. No one wants to leave before the end of the show, with apologies to Sartre and Cake. Einstein believed that all is predetermined. His solution, and mine, a little, is to accept the illusion of free will. Without free will, there is no morality other than Nietzsche’s – and his will to have morality, or not. Murderers, child rapists are all just victims – they were born to be bad. The solution is:  Knowing we have no choice,

Critical Thinking in a Poet

I have had a bunch on off centered compliments in my life, most of them I’ve assumed to be positive. In moments of clarity I think that maybe some of these compliments are just requests to change from people that care about me. I left some of my poems with a Poet I respect (Dan Langton) back in 2005. Dan read my poems, made comments on most of them with suggestions and warnings. He also sent me a personal letter, a piece of it in the following quote: “Everyone trusts one sense above the others. In 80% of us (and thus poets) it is sight. But there is the other 20%. In Keats it is touch. In you it is smell. Be aware of that.” I read the letter and the suggestions and put the bunch of it away. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, but after discovering the letter in a recent move, have had it sitting on my table, taunting me, for the last week. Years of smoking, snorting and cleaning poop off dirty people in hospitals seemed to have dulled my sense of sme

Act of Faith (The dance mix)

Act of Faith (The dance mix) I A dissolute fool, Old in fashion and in sensed Bound tight by the mathematics of lust A slave made solid through the lash, Still handcuffed to the bow of painted lips. II I recall in fumes Staring out windows through closed blinds Waiting for the burn of light and the flash Of electric more. You are tattoos I remember to forget. III I want to erase the stain you left on me, In those silent storms and coke binged nights  Of ozoned static, as the fever ticked off time. Tied to the mast on an sea without end To drift until breached onto half hidden shoals, As  rendered pilings -- the offerings of the burnt. IV I'm an old man now Slow and steady. The noise of movement Pains me early in the day. V The marks you left on me remain Felt in baths and on the touch of A leather back -- those uncut knots; Those livid scars … and still, You encripple my every breath.

Calvin and the Chipmunks

Calvin and the Chipmunks From a bone break of a father To a mother who abides  By the tithing children For the sins of her flesh. Life is about the learning of lessons; Instructional videos carved in meat. Mike Brady 2010

Die Waldeinsamkeit

Die Waldeinsamkeit I have never cared for the humanity of puzzles The fit and finish of inspired conspiracy Or the welding of perfection From the whole of scattered bits. To find the order from parts seems one thing, When found in aimless walks Alone, with a mind of geared stupidity. To dream it another, A lesser thing, found loose and unproven In a thoughtful cloud of wished expectation, If heaven is perfect, What train do we wait for; In what station do we wait? As we sit and plan death slowly And find ourselves a place in ordered growth. Until, confused, we walk into the dark alone And leave our bones glowing pale in the tailings of a mountain In a sunlight, reflected by the moon. I sit in lost opportunity Lost in order to distract With the complaint of being lost To people I don’t care for. And in this I make myself human And bind myself to others on the wheel. I have played the puzzle Of both the how and when, In tires for my car, or styles for