Packing

Now the process has started. Packing to move. Our building has been sold out from under us for hotel conversion and we have to move by the end of November. Here we go.

Luckily, we have somewhere to go, unlike many. But I, moon child in the extreme fear having to move, even to the extent that I hate having to change hotel rooms once I have opened my suitcase and will tolerate a substandard room because of it.

We must vacate this building which has been our home for over 15 years. This building with its Acropolis and mountain view, 5th floor penthouse, housing the best studio facilities I have ever had, helping usher in one of the most productive periods in my creative life. This house which has been home to our love, this sustaining boon, my best, my final love.

This Air BnB gentrification has taken off in Athens in a big and depressing way, as it has, I guess, in many cities around the world. With the current tourist boom, groups and consortia and other slime mold type organisms have banded together to buy up all of the rental properties in central Athens and convert them to lofts, studio apartments, hotels, to serve those tourists.

The streets of the center are now choked, as never before, with hoards of white people, wearing shorts and flip-flops well into winter, zipping around on the electric scooters that now litter the landscape, chowing down in one of the countless new restaurants, snack bars, grills, boozing up in one of the countless new bars and clubs

This is the fundamental injustice of the landlord/tenant relationship, the knowledge that one is not the owner of one’s shelter and that access may one day be suddenly revoked in the service of material gain not one’s own. Fie, fie on thee. No wonder Marx called property theft.

Note the forlorn empty look

UNDERSTANDING THE GODS

Here is a text I wrote in 2008 which I delivered as a monologue before our production of “The Bacchae” by Euripides. I was originally supposed to play Dionysus but the greek was too dense for me. The director had me play “Old Dionysus” like a retired rock star. I came out alone before the play and delivered this speech. Then I played a Phrygian tune (the mode associated with Dionysus) on a melodica and buggered off.

By Blaine L. Reininger

Dionysos on melodica

How can modern people understand “the gods”? We tend to think about them in one of two ways. They are either familiar fictional heroes like Superman, or Spiderman, or even Bugs Bunny, or they represent some Jungian archetype or psychological metaphor. Almost no one today (with the exception of certain interesting and strange groups who like to wear hoods at night) believes that the ancient immortal gods are real beings who can and do enter human history to effect change.
A god, or deity can be defined as “an immortal being believed to have more than natural attributes and powers requiring human worship” By definition, a god would have to be so superior to a mortal human as to be almost impossible for him to conceive. Phillip K. Dick illustrated this point by saying that humanity was like a group of crabs living in a cloudy aquarium tended by an often neglectful human owner, almost completely unaware of the being or beings who tended their habitat, seeing that they were fed, regulating the temperature, etc. These crabs would find it utterly impossible to understand the motivations or desires of such advanced beings. Similarly, if the human owner wished to somehow manifest amongst these crabs, he would constantly be frustrated in his attempts to communicate, coming up against the wall of crab understanding. He would find himself required to translate complex information into terms of hunger, fear, threats of violence, and desire to reproduce.
Imagine then, the distaste and frustration which must have been felt by a being like Dionysus, compelled to manifest among the ancient Mediterranean peoples.
In my own research into world religion, I have increasingly come to harbor the notion that the gods and goddesses of mythology were and continue to be real beings. If only for reasons of entertainment, I believe that they were either

  1. Highly advanced human or extraterrestrial beings, elevated to divine status by technology or profound spiritual achievement, whose activities were only dimly remembered by the less advanced peoples of their times and set down as stories passed on by word of mouth. Or
  2. Transcendental beings who entered the world of phenomena only by means of a human medium, in the manner proposed by Aleister Crowley and practitioners of Voodoo.

In assuming the first case to be true, we find interesting parallels to the story of Dionysus in other religions, notably the story of Krishna in Hinduism. If, as Dionysus himself asserts, he came “from the East” then it would stand to reason that he would first visit India. In India, known as Krishna, he also enjoyed the company of many women (known as “Gopis”) in natural surroundings where he would play music for them and they would dance for days. Other “solar” gods whose stories are similar to that of Dionysus include, Attis of Phrygia, Osiris, Mithras, Balder and many others.
In the second case, the gods’ manifestation into the world of events through their “possession” of human worshippers, we can find one explanation for the longevity of the cult of Dionysus. The Bacchic cult lasted for at least 2000 years, a longevity not easily explained if it consisted only of wine-powered orgies out in the woods, like an endless series of Woodstocks. The direct experience of the divine through possession of a worshipper’s mind and body would provide a tangible and powerful foundation through which to understand and survive the many shocks and exhilarations of living, one not easily provided by religions whose only understanding is cerebral, not visceral. Such a religion would be difficult to suppress, and, indeed, the similar cults of Santoria and Voodoo continue to prosper in spite of the historic efforts of the Catholic church to erase them.

In conclusion, I must admit that in attempting to understand the gods, I have embarked upon a futile quest. I will never know the gods by containing them within my understanding. I, like my other crab colleagues must content myself with what is possible for me to know, until such time as one of the gods sees fit to reveal himself in our midst again. I thank you for your kind attention.

Blog Redux

Hello again. A few days ago, I realized that my staunch and steadfast old blog, initiated back in 1999 when the term “blog” had not yet been coined, shuffled back and forth between html texts loaded to geocities to blogger, to self-hosted wordpress and now wordpress.com had proved somewhat the worse for wear. Many of the photos would no longer load, facebook had changed its access codes and those photos and embeds would no longer load. It had also suffered from a fairly irritating self-inflicted bout of IFTTT automatic posts from facebook, which resulted in blog posts that were just titles with no other content.

Now, I have pored through the back pages of my life, sifting and reconstructing over 650 entries, hoping some purpose is served, wondering if other bloggers feel like this. What a strange thing, to keep a meticulous record on one’s days on earth and serve it up to an uncertain readership. To what end? I am reminded of Greg Bear’s Jarts.

In Eternity, the character Olmy Ap Sennon comes face to face and mind-to-mind with a captured Jart and comes to learn their motivations. They are in a sense a sort of Borg, though instead of assimilation, their goal is to archive and preserve records of all places and species to present to Descendant Command, a supreme being at the apex of their rigidly hierarchical society. This preservation is in the form of being recorded and frozen into enormous memory banks, with all records essentially unchanging in the ultimate great library. The Jarts consider the very purpose of their existence to capture and record everything possible in order to present it as a sort of offering to Descendant Command at the time of the ultimate end of the universe…

So, I will serve this chunk of experience up to Descendant Command, here you go, Descendants. I am your Jart correspondent. Do with this what you will.

“Art, I have come to believe, is an existential praxis…”

Art, I have come to believe, is an existential praxis. The primary goal should be an effort by the artist to gain insight into his or her own being through work with systems of meaning. These are either material objects, ideas, or frequencies of sound and light. In an ideal world, artists would be supported by society in the manner that Hindu society supported sadhus on their spiritual quest. There.

Blaine L. Reininger

The Three Poisons

threepoisons
the three poisons

 

Today, March 22, 2016, a group of fanatics, deluded, angry, ignorant attacked Brussels. They caused bombs to explode at Zaventem airport and on a crowded Metro train. At least 30 people died and 220+ people were injured.

I am haunted by this, as I was by the Bataclan attacks in Paris. These attacks have taken place in places I know well, places I have been and am likely to visit again. I played the Bataclan, I know that departures hall at Zaventem well. I have stopped for coffee at that Starbucks. I have certainly checked in at one of those gates. The Maelbeek metro is close to SABAM. I know people who work around there.

I pray earnestly that the delusion that is afoot in our century, the fanatacism that masquerades as religion, that turns thoughtful people away from spirituality and belief can be lifted. This cult of anger and death is the same no matter what book its followers profess to defend. Faux Christians, Muslims, even Hindus and Buddhists are gripped by an addiction to the chemicals produced in the body by anger and hatred, high on sheer reptile bloodlust. Those who believe that they are battling Satan are his most loyal followers, making blood sacrifices at his altar. Alla y’all. You Trumpians and you Wahabi freaks and you Bible thumping lobotomies. You are all the same. You are the dupes and slaves of other dupes and slaves, drunk on killing and greedy for power.

“Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.” —  Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)

“The Buddha taught that hate is one of the Three Poisons. The Three Poisons are lobha, dvesha and moha, Sanskrit words usually translated as “greed,” “hate” and “ignorance.” In Sanskrit and Pali, the Three Poisons are called the akusala-mula 

Akusala, a word usually translated as “evil,” actually means “unskillful,” and mula means “root.” The Three Poisons are, then, the root of evil, or the root from which all unskillful or harmful actions spring.

From the article by Barbara O’Brien”

The Roots of Terrorism, According to the Buddha and Social Science

By Barbara O’Brien Updated November 16, 2015. To be an eyewitness to a terrorist attack is like seeing the fabric of reality ripped apart. I was an eyewitness to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, and I sensed then that the horror before me was not new, but an old thing that had been long submerged and ignored.

 

Der Alte, 1987,Tromsø, Norway.

A memorable show north of the Arctic circle in Norway.

From a memorable solo show north of the Arctic circle in Norway. The only way to get there was by plane, boat or train. There was no road. The batteries in our devices got too cold to function. We were there the day that the sun came out for 15 minutes. The sky got gray. Everyone celebrated. We ate a freshly caught salmon backstage and got plastered from everyone’s secret stash of booze.

David Bowie. Gone Beyond.

Bowie at 14

David Bowie has gone beyond. Well and truly left the building. He shall sing no more.

Like many another outsider and geek, living out in nowheresville, news of this man spoke to me at a deep level and changed my very life. Now, the wavefront called David Jones/Bowie undulates on ahead, towards unknown consequences. “You can tell me all about it on the next Bardo..”

All things and all kings must pass, my friends. Bowie entered an American musical landscape in the 1970’s peopled by Jim Croce and the Eagles and issued a call to all us weirdos. Saved us.

It is easy to understand Bowie’s appeal to me and people like me, he was articulate, intelligent, aware of currents in reality and society. He was a genuine artist of the first caliber, firing on all cylinders and choosing to do so in the context of popular culture, not only in the hallowed halls of high culture and art.

Yes, there’s not a moment in my life not evoked by one song or other from david bowie. these bring on the tears, not so much the loss of a man, who after all, i never knew.

This passing has effected me to a surprising extent. Maybe it’s because it makes blindingly clear the fact that if this one, the very avatar of youth, wit, beauty, and success is subject to the same demise as we are,  at 62, my demise doesn’t seem all that far away.

The Bob Story

Today, in the course of doing an interview for the Athens Voice, I was asked “what is the most bizarre story from the early days of Tuxedomoon?” Of course there are many such, very many, but I decided it was time to tell ritz.“The Bob Story”. I tell this story to Maria’s friends and anyone else who will listen, but I think this is the first time I have written it down.

In 1980, Tuxedomoon was booked to play at a club called the Ritz in New York as part of a big bill of New Wave acts, including Suicide, Indoor Life, all sorts. The club, pretty much a mafia front had double booked the stage, so there were two complete sets of bands supposed to be on stage at the same time. We sat around for hours and hours, it grew late and we still had not played. No one from our bill had. At one point, John Belushi and his crew poked his head into our dressing room “Got any drugs in here?” he asked “No.” “Ok. Bye.”

I asked Alan Vega what time he was going onstage. “Onstage? I already got paid. I’m leaving.” When Tuxedomoon finally took the stage at about 5 am I said into the microphone “This club has been treating us like animals all day long. You should all go somewhere else in the future…” and they cut off our power. A Rolling Stone journalist offered to escort me out of the building, since he didn’t think the Mafia goons from the club would beat me up if he was with me. When I went to an after-hours basement club later they asked “Are you the guy who told the Ritz to fuck off? You drink free tonight!!” and the drinks kept coming.

After the after hours place, my wife, JJ and I put on our trusty Ray Bans and went out into the morning light. We needed another drink. I saw a place just ahead. The door seemed closed, so I went and knocked. A window in the door slid up. “Who sent you” asked the man.

“Uh….Bob. Bob sent me” I replied, giving the first name that popped into my mind, not really believing anyone would ask me such a thing.

 “Ok. If Bob sent you, then you must be all right! Come on in.”

 We went in and found ourselves in a coke dealers’ party. People offered us lines out of 100 dollar bills. We drank champagne. We left about 4 in the afternoon, unable to believe our night out in New York.

The next day, we went looking for that place. Almost needless to say, it had vanished without a trace.

 

 

 

This Greek Crisis Story…

Day two of the big freeze. The people I see are mostly in a state of shock. Surprisingly low key discussions abound. Down in the square, the priests chant, praying for monetary salvation across the street from Syriza headquarters.

This greek story is like your Uncle Kostas and his American buddies gambled away the farm in Vegas, split town and Grandma and Grandpa have to cover their asses from their Social Security. And everyone blames Grandma.

Bengali Shoutfest 2014

 Now we have a two day bangla desh cultural awareness festival in the square below the house. They say it is Bengali new year, though google says that was april 10. I guess this is the city of athens trying to win favor with the bangladeshi community and make them forget how crap their lives are and how many of them are being held in squalid immigration jails up north.

Bengali people seem to be in love with the sound of their own voices distorted by shouting full blast into a microphone and playing squeaky minnie mouse voiced female disco all day long. the one consolation is that this too shall pass. It has been twelve hours. It was twelve hours yesterday. I am no longer angered by this, just stunned, numbed, feeling like a victim of psychological warfare, remembering how the US army played full blast heavy metal music at Noriega in Panama trying to drive him out of his compound.

The singers seem to have a non committal relationship with the tunes they sing. The accompanying harmonium and all seem to be on average a semitone flatter than they sing. This doesn’t stop them from singing at full bore though. There are legions of women too who cultivate the Minnie Mouse after a tonsillectomy style of singing and have similar contempt for the concept of a tonal center.

I am wearing earplugs as I write this.

I am certainly no cultural imperialist. Everyone has a right to get down with their bad selves according to the idiom of their choice, but I can’t see how a solid 24 hours is required. Enough is enough.

On another note, I am back from tour for about two weeks, decompressing and allowing digestive tract to return to old geezer version of normalcy…have been all excited by linking my various devices (phones, tablets, laptops and desktop) into a network and then plugging my new ‘chromecast’ into the back of the tv to allow me to send internet content up onto the tv screen. and i have been mad with acquisition fever on spotify and the google equivalent google play music where one may listen to any and all music without having to download it or pay or steal for local storage and then the resulting soup can also be witnessed on the chromecast in the back of the tv.

the phone company gave me a new samsung galaxy s4 for €40 only as a reward for signing on for another year’s indentured servitude. It is a wonder and i love it madly.

we are inamorato con il gato loving our new(ish) kitty who is very very smart, displaying alarming intelligence like when he puts his paw on the brush to show us what he wants and how he opens doors or gets our attention by putting the pictures on the wall askew (just out of kilter enough to bug us).

now i will probably go out on my bicycle to escape the bengali disturbance, though it has been raining and the streets are slippery. sometimes fine dust from the sahara blows in from africa and hovers in the air for a day or two before falling to the ground with the rain and depositing mud on everything.

The ruckus ended last night at 11:00. Two hours to go. (As it turned out the final shout of “Bangla desh community!!!!!!” was heard at midnight.)

 

Happy New Year 2014 Urbi et Orbi et Arby’s

Flat Earth in 2014

For those of us who continue to propel the meat puppets we inhabit along life’s twisted highway, the rock to which we cling has completed another circuit around the nearby fusion inferno which gives us the energy to continue that propulsion. This node, this wavefront, this scintillating particle storm which attests loudly to its individuality at every turn (me) desires that all who so struggle may continue to do so in a manner which grants them and those around them the maximum skillful survival and the pleasurable experiences which result therefrom. May all beings be happy, safe, healthy and peaceful during this and future rides around the sun.

Accidental Business Class

steerage

Yesterday on my flight back from France, I found myself accidentally included in the perpetual feast that is business class. I assume that this was only a result of the fact that the plane was otherwise full and a friendly computer slotted me into the 4th row rather than the 44th, as usual.

In the many hundreds of thousands of miles I have flown over the years, never once have I been allowed to partake of this business class feast. I had not known how it would be. Oh, yes, I had dreamt, but only that.

I knew something was afoot when, though I had been seated in the middle seat, the elbow of the man next to me was not on my lap and my knees were not being gouged by the wire in the magazine pouch on the seat back ahead of me. Hmmm. Wider seats. Legroom. I knew I had slipped under the radar when the steward handed me a menu for dinner. A MENU! Dang! Hoo-eeee, Jethro! Next thang yore a gonna tell me is they’s indoor toilets on this here plane, stead of the bucket we all gotta share  back in coach!

And yes, Shirley, they brought out the food and lo, it was Salmon with Basmati rice, and it was Poulet Fumee with mixed veg, and an assortment of sweets. And it was really good. And there were tiny salt and pepper shakers, and……gasp, a cloth Napkin!! and metal cutlery!! and glasses made of…..GLASS! Damn! I jest about soiled myself, ma!

Prole that I am, deprived hillbilly spawn, I couldn’t help but be incensed that there is this disparity on the plane. I mean, after all, the poor sods in coach have paid something like €400 each to be strapped to the buckets back there. Why are they served some stomach-scorching acidic pasta and a chocolate wafer, noticing that they have swallowed a tine from their plastic fork, wiping the velveeta off their upper lip with the recycled paper kleenex which had been included in their plastic tool pack, together with their handy mini sachet for salt and pepper and some non-dairy white powder for the tiny plastic thimble of Nescafe they receive to wash it down? Why oh why, Auntie Beeb?

And so, I made sure that no one saw that, though I was seated in 4B, my boarding pass was clearly marked “economy”. I stole the cloth napkin as a souvenir. Wouldn’t you?

Jack, We Hardly Knew Ye (repost from November 22, 2002)

(I originally published this in 2002. I periodically dig it out on this same date. Now we have a 50th anniversary coming up.)

JACK, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

November 22, 2002

I just realized that tomorrow is the 22nd of November. On November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was put to death before the eye of the world. I was ten years old at the time. Like many people, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard this news. I realize that a fairly lightweight little bulletin that reaches a number of people comparable to that of a small Baptist church in Kentucky or a reasonably full Airbus is hardly the place for great moaning polemics on the snuffing by force of liberal ideals or the insidious refusal of fascism to just die of embarassment, but what the hell.

I just didn’t want to let another anniversary go unobserved by me. This little missive is my JFK memorial.

I remember when Jack Kennedy came to my hometown of Pueblo, Colorado in the summer of 1963. Maybe it wasn’t even summer. Maybe it was on the same fatal trip. It would have made sense for him to stop in Colorado before heading further South. He had come to speak upon the allocation by Congress of funds to build a dam and reservoir in Pueblo, a stubbornly arid place.

East 4th Street was the way to Pueblo’s little airport. It was also the main street to the Barrio, the Mexican neighborhood, my neighborhood. All of us mexicans loved Kennedy because he was Catholic like us and because we perceived him as being on the side of those of us outside the grace of white America. We all lined up there on east 4th street, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. As it turned out, he didn’t stop, but he did slow down.

I remember seeing him there from the corner of East 4th and Fountain, backlit by the glare of the Colorado sun. I was amazed to see that his hair was red. The sun in that red hair made him look like very Apollo himself, Dionysos, Balder, the hung god come to perish for his beauty.

I had been standing on that very corner when I heard of his death. I was in 5th grade. One of the “Patrol Boys”, the 6th grader traffic wardens dispatched by the school to help students cross safely had let me wear his white Sam Brown belt and stand there while he went home and ate lunch. (Fifth graders were not strictly allowed to do this.) I had been feeling all grown-up when a passing student told me the news. I didn’t weep. I got angry.

It doesn’t matter that Kennedy turned out to be another Irish machine politico, a spoiled frat boy with a bad back. Like the Russians after Stalin, we were all basking in the thaw after so many numb years under Eisenhower, and like the Russians we would have to learn what it felt like to have the cage door slammed back in our face.

Now we have empty suits like Clinton and Blair and Schroeder and Bush, fronting like the pimps they are for the fascist reptiles who truly call the shots around here. Ah well, I will nip this diatribe in the bud before it goes on too long.

I remember you, Jackie boy. I remember November 22nd. There. I have said enough.

bye now

blaine

Dream of an Eagle

Last night, I dreamt that my son Ian had taken the form of an eagle. Me and the eagle and Ian (who was also present in human form) were sitting in a car next to a school. The eagle was sitting in the front seat, next to the empty driver’s seat. The eagle was always on the verge of going feral on us, attacking and tearing us to pieces. I had to keep looking him in the eye and being as cool as possible. At one point a little girl from the school came and looked in the car window and was making kissy noises at the eagle. I was trying to get her to be quiet. Suddenly, the car door was opened and the eagle flew out. “Now look what you’ve done!” I said. I had to coax the eagle back into the car while it was soaring around over the school. Finally, the eagle landed and transformed into human form. First it became Ian who transformed in turn into an old Shaman in buckskins, a comic figure out of Mel Brooks. He staggered around for a bit, feigning disorientation, saying “Oy, I gotta stop becoming an eagle all the time. It’s exhausting!” And then he was off up the street.

What does this mean? What does this signify? Who knows. It is certainly charged with Native American spiritual juju. Must be some kind of powerful message. Or not.

Out at Ian’s school

DSC03427

Came out to this little America of a place with its PTA and bake sales and Halloween carnival and football team to pick up my son and bring him home. ACS American Community School in Halandri. Like they helicoptered in a school from Illinois or somewhere like that. Churns out Americans from all sorts of raw material, Greek Korean Arab, Indian, what have you, provided they can afford it. Lucky for me, Ian’s recently deceased Grandfather foots this bill.

I found it very strange to see that they were still teaching these kids about Thanksgiving with the paper pilgrim hats and the turkeys and all of that crap. I was amused when my son wrote a poem about living in a sod hut on the prairie with the line “Pa, git the musket, the Injuns is comin’ “.

A couple of years ago the music teacher (since moved on) had watched too many episodes of “Glee” and had them all doing big musical numbers in costume. Her “Tribute to the 80’s” was A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and Michael Jackson and “love take us up where we belong” and like that. I asked her “where are the Ramones? Where is Iggy Pop? Where is Devo?” and her eyes went blank. “I guess my 80’s were different from yours”.

They teach the kids arithmetic with dollars and cents and pounds and ounces and miles. They teach Greek as a second language. They started this school for the children of American military personnel stationed in Glyfada, but after they closed the base it became the Americanization camp that it is now.

But they have a swimming pool and a tennis court and they teach Chinese and all. Sort of like an American public school before Reagan.

He’s been coming here since Kindergarten. I begin to feel a little nostalgic about the place. I came to the Halloween carnival a couple of years ago and ate a Hamburger that tasted exactly like one I ate in Pueblo, Colorado in 1964. Let’s do the time warp again.

Brussels 2012 Video

You’ve seen the photos, now marvel at the video. See! Vasco the Dog and his enormous blue ball! Hear! my slightly clueless singing on “Cielito Lindo”. Marvel! at the Rollerbladers of Brussels. Wonder why Bolivian Indians are dressing up like Navajoes and playing Easy Listening pan-pipe versions of Euro-disco hits on the streets of Europe, all dressed the same and using the same arrangements, selling the same Cd’s and using the same gear from Oslo to Athens. Who sent them? Then marvel at Greek airline’s Star Wars style greeting at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. I was there, now I am back, soon I will return.

Maria In Brussels, New Life

Here we are Monday, she left Saturday and I’m feeling the ache of missing her. My heart, my baby, my darling girl, the last love of my life Maria Panourgia came to see me here in Brussels, my former home for the 16 years from 1982 to 1998. It was such a joy to show her around the site of so many of my former and future exploits, to share with her my new enthusiasm for this aged burg and to close a symmetry with the world line of my past and present by including her.

How strange it is to share with her a history in Brussels that began again in 2003 as though my dark passage through a landscape of despair and toxic chemistry had been cancelled. I have been allowed to do it over and participate in a brighter version of the same town, see the sights that I had somehow missed before with restored vision and unclouded senses. What a miracle this is, my friends, to be granted the grace to begin again. How fine to be alive here, now, today. Thank you oh great one, oh guardian angel, oh myself, oh others oh lord and so on into St. Allen of Ginsberg’s  litany of holy from Howl. I live, I die, I’m here, I’m gone.