Saturday, March 28, 2015

It just isn't fair. Oh, Biggs is right. I'm never gonna get out of here! (Luke Skywalker)

Sometimes I sense a feeling of longing and frustration I've not felt since...

Sometimes I feel like Luke Skywalker.

You know the scene - he's living on Tatooine with Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. They buy two new droids - R2D2 and C3PO for the farm. Luke's talking to C3PO. The dialogue goes like this:

C3PO: Is there anything I might do to help? 
LUKE: Well, not unless you can alter time, speed up the harvest, or
teleport me off this rock!

C3PO: I don't think so, sir. I'm only a droid and not very
knowledgeable about such things. Not on this planet, anyways. As a
matter of fact, I'm not even sure which planet I'm on.

LUKE: Well, if there's a bright center to the universe, you're on 
the planet that it's farthest from.

Doing the last two posts hasn't helped me with this feeling - London 1966, San Francisco 1967 were happening, vital places.

Tatooine is so small, so insignificant in the universe, so far away from the action.

I know 'wherever you go there you are' and that this thinking is counter productive. 

I know this wheel out of kilter feeling. I have felt it before. It sneaks up on me from time to time.

The Buddha described it as duhkha (doo-ka). It's not an easy word to translate but 'dissatisfaction with your lot' is close. 'Suffering' is often used as a blanket term for this general deal: something basic and important isn't right.

Luke is definitely feeling duhkha.

Luke's mental suffering happens because he doesn't get what he wants. He's forced to live on the farm on Tatooine and endure what he doesn't want.
The fact is - we can't turn our heads away from pain. We have to face it or we are never going to find our way out of the situation we are in - this situation of duhkha.

We can only deal with pain by facing it squarely!

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. Check out this awesome fan made extended trailer for The Force Awakens: 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Turn on, tune in, drop out (Timothy Leary)

My second entry in my Ethernet Bright Lights Brilliant Minds sequel comes a year after London 1966.

San Francisco 1967.

Yes - the influence of London as the cultural centre of the universe didn't last beyond that halcyon year.

Focus quickly shifted to the west coast of the United States of America in 1967 where the Summer of Love became a social phenomenon when as many as 100,000 people converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco.  

Wikipedia tells us that San Francisco in 1967 was  'the epicenter of the social earthquake that would come to be known as the Hippie Revolution'. The city became even more of a melting pot of politicsmusicdrugs, creativity, and the total lack of sexual and social inhibition than it already was.

As the hippie counterculture movement came farther and farther forward into public awareness, the activities centered therein became a defining moment of the 1960s, causing numerous 'ordinary citizens' to begin questioning everything and anything about them and their environment as a result.'

The Beatles were certainly paying attention to the cultural shift - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was McCartney's band-de-plume inspired by the weird names of the SF bands and George went to SF to sample the vibe for himself (he wasn't impressed though).

For me the scene in SF in 1967 marked the year when the counter culture started becoming THE culture. A roll call of San Francisco bands gives you an idea how the creative juices were overflowing in 1967. These bands are now thought of as an integral part of sixties culture.

Jefferson Airplane released Surrealistic Pillow. A brilliant fusion of pop and folk smarts with a glimpse of their future rock agenda. It was a wonderfully sunny record full of intelligence and grace. Her name was Grace Slick.

Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin), Sly and the Family Stone, Steve Miller Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana all either formed or recorded debut albums and started playing live gigs in SF 1967. 

In literary circles the famous beat poets were finding their voices being heard anew by the counter culture. Allen Ginsberg (writing poems that would eventually appear in 1968's Planet News), Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the City Lights bookstore were entirely relevant to the expanding consciousness being promoted in SF 1967.

The art and music worlds in San Francisco came together thanks to the heavily psychedicised posters from a bunch of talented outlaws to society. Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse and others revolutionised pop art. It was a heady time!

And in film, there was  Point Blank - a neo noir crime film directed by John Boorman, starring Lee Marvin and featuring Angie Dickinson. The film was not a box office success in 1967 but has since gone on to become a cult classic. 

How very 1967 San Francisco!

Love and peace - Wozza

Friday, March 20, 2015

The all seeing eye (Wayne Shorter)

Recently, I enjoyed watching Bright Lights Brilliant Minds - a three part BBC doco series presented by art historian Dr James Fox.

The idea is simple - focus on three years that are 'crucibles of creativity' (Fox's cool phrase). 

He picks Austria 1908, Paris 1928, and New York 1951.

It got me thinking about what I'd choose as the next one in the sequence. It made me wonder where and when.  

There's only one choice really: London 1966

London was the centre of the universe in 1966. It was a mass of swinging energy, a time when a city and a culture would come together as a crucible of creativity in a definable year.

Okay, so, why:

It was the year of The BeatlesRevolver album - recorded in St John's Wood at Abbey Road studios. The album vies with Sgt Pepper's as the greatest album of all time.

Full stop! I could finish there but I can offer some more evidence if you're not yet convinced.

During the year three seminal bands - The BeatlesThe Rolling Stones and The Who performed at the NME '​s poll winners' show in London. The Stones and The Who (along with The Kinks who released Face To Face in 1966) are Londoners. The Stones and Who also had big releases in 1966 - Aftermath and A Quick One respectively. 

Bob Dylan and the Hawks (later The Band) performed at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, England. Dylan was booed by the audience because of his decision to tour with an electric band, the boos culminated in the famous "Judas" shout. London was such a pervasive influence this year that the bootleg set was called The Royal Albert Hall (where Bob had also played in 1966). Even the legitimate CD issue called it that!

In terms of art - 1966 is the year when John Lennon meets Yoko Ono when he attends a preview of her art exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London. 

Yoko Ono has had a huge influence on the way we conceive of art. She breaks boundaries and stretches taboos (or is it the other way 'round?). Her relationship with Lennon intertwined the art world and the music world. It seemed right, and still does!

Her pieces/peaces have had a lasting influence and it all started in 1966 in London.

Also in the art world: Mira Schendel (1919–1988) was one of Latin America’s most unique and prolific post-war artists. She helped reinvent the language of European Modernism. She had an influential solo exhibition in London's Signals gallery in 1966. 
Like Indica, Signals London was an important gallery of international, experimental art.
The gallery specialised in artists whose work was interdisciplinary and it aimed to connect art and poetics with new thinking in science and technology. 1966 - the tipping point into a new consciousness. 
The Destruction in Art Symposium was a gathering of a diverse group of international artists, poets, and scientists to London 1966. Included in this number were representatives of the counter-cultural underground who were there to speak on the theme of destruction in art.
As for film - 1966 was the year of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up. Archetypal swinging, cool London, is the backdrop as Antonioni captures the year and the zeitgeist of London.

The 1966 World Cup was held in London - England won (with a hat trick by Geoff Hurst - not a native Londoner but a West Ham legend).

The model Jean Shrimpton was another icon from 1966 and one of the world's first supermodels. She was the world's highest paid and most photographed model during this time. Shrimpton was called "The Face of the '60s", in which she has been considered by many as "the symbol of Swinging London".

London 1966!! What a place! What a year! Unfortunately London's influence wouldn't even last into the next year (more on that in the next post) but in 1966 - London was the place to be.

Love and peace - Wozza 

Monday, March 16, 2015

You’ll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above (Bob Dylan)

Those pictures rock me to the core!

I had dental work done recently - went for a clean and the x ray spotted some large fillings coming loose. Of course it did. 

Ho hum. What are ya gonna do? Your own dentistry? I think not.

Jaw was still a tad sore a few days later. I know - get a concrete pill. The actual work on the fillings didn't hurt though, alhamdulillah. 

Anyway, while I was there getting the last of them done I spotted some old dental equipment being used as a prop. Sent chills down my spine.

Back when I was a student at Royal Oak Primary School (Yay Royal Oak Primary!), along with my classmates, I had to go on a bus to what we called, The Murder House. 

It was gruesome. Rows of women like the one in the picture learning to be dental nurses, effectively practising on young kids. It was brutal.

I hated it! With a passion!  

The psychological damage done to us innocent children cannot be calculated. The bus ride was hideous; the walk into the place horrible; the pain we underwent unconscionable.

Euuuiihhhhh (that was a shudder). Glad that doesn't happen these days. That's progress I guess.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, March 12, 2015

...And it's Arsenal, Ar-sen-al F.C.!!

Old Trafford, 25 Oct 2004,
before the nightmare started
Okay now you can't complain - I HAVE NOT written about football or Arsenal much at all this season.

But I can't resist for this post.

It's been a few days but I'm still smiling at the memory innit; although it didn't start off too well.

I couldn't bear to watch the recent FA Cup quarter final against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The memories of that day in 2004 - 25th of October - are still painful ones.

I'd traveled up on the train from London wearing my blue Arsenal away shirt amid carriage loads of United supporters in red devil red. The joke being that no one in Manchester actually supports United. 

Yikes. It was all very jovial but, yikes.

During the game our chants of 'Champions Champions' fell silent as the heathen men from the north put us to the sword 2-0 via a Rooney dive and the rest is a blur. Our 49 game unbeaten streak had come to a sad end and I had to endure a walk back to the train and then back to London, passing pubs full of rowdy United supporters giving me grief. Forget yikes - this is deeply troubling, scarred-for-life stuff.

Not cool!

So I confess, I couldn't bare any more pain. I decided to grab the result when I pootled back from getting the Purdsmobile looked at in Hastings (radiator problem).

By that time I knew I'd be philosophical - a late winner in injury time after we'd played well and United had been shite but won it anyway. Sigh.

Otane, 10 March 2015 -
The smile I had on my face watching the game
Arriving back at Red Phoenix farm, I cracked open the lid of my lappy and tuned into the Guardian football page to see - OMG - Welbeck (WELBECK) had scored a winner and we'd clung on to victory.

Go figure.

I then watched the recorded game in a euphoric state. Is there anything better than watching your team win after you know they've won? 

Best moment for me was the 70 min 50 sec mark when the ball was played out of defence to Rooney but three (THREE) Arsenal heroes converged on him and he lost the ball. Wonderful moment!!!

That sound? It's those 2004 demons swooshing their way back into the grave and me stomping the earth down firmly!!


Love and peace - Gooner Wozza from Otane.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Something that's so close and still so far out of reach (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)

Gone Girl reprise:

Interestingly a lot of my students have read this book (and seen the film). I'm a tad shocked by that.

I'm no prude, but if books came with a rating like films do, it would surely say 'Adult Themes'. The language and sexual content in the book contribute but it's the (bleak) analysis of a marriage that runs throughout the storyline that would merit that rating.

At the end of the book Gillian Flynn thanks her husband profusely for his help with the novel but, man, what must he have been thinking - his wife thought of all this stuff. Doesn't exist in a vacuum. I'd have wondered - that's all I'm saying!

Having insight of the unique male and female perspective inside a marriage is crucial to understanding the couple's relationship and therefore the plot; teenage girls have no direct experience of that.

So for them - this is a thriller (as such I thought it was pretty predictable).

One of my Year 11 students, that makes her about 15, told me the ending was really disappointing. From a thriller point of view, where we're now conditioned to have a supposedly lifeless body spring to life holding a weapon, I can understand her opinion. From a dramatic exploration of sexual politics, the ending made perfect sense to me.

Why are my students even reading Gone Girl

When I was 15 I was more interested in teenage themed fiction like Shardik (Richard Adams) and The Chocolate War (Robert Cormier) than grown up books like Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow), Marathon Man (William Goldman) or Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert M Pirsig). I read these later, and loved them, but not at 15.

Why is it kids want to grow up so fast now? Kids - take it easy! There is plenty of time to wallow in someone's twisted view of marriage. 

Enjoy your youthful innocence. Read Watership Down or something!

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Be bewildered and be amazed (Kaipa)

Huckleberry Finn's journey down the Mississippi may be seen as a kind of journey towards a realization of the 'self' and a progressive moral growth or it may be seen as a defeat of Huck's potential.
That was the opening sentence to an essay I wrote when I was 22 and doing a paper for my Master of Arts degree.

It's pretty good.

In fact the whole essay blows me away. I think I've got more and more intellectually lazy (okay - dumber) the older I've got.

What's prompted this? Well a student of mine is doing work on connecting four texts on her chosen theme - rites of passage stories.

She asked me for some clues about potential texts and of course Huckleberry Finn was one that sprang to mind. I happened to have a copy on my desk and she asked to read it.

Then, when I saw she was getting into it, I mentioned I'd written an essay on it when I was at Auckland University back in the day.

She asked to look at it (and reminded me a couple of times when I forgot to bring it, which indicated keenness). So I dug it out of my stored stuff (yes I kept all of my MA essays).

Before giving it to Rowena (my student), I sat down and read it.

I was impressed. It's good (I got an A for it so Dr Locke thought so too).

But now? Could I come up with that again? Hmmmm. It would be different fer sure but I can never go back to those halcyon days of yesteryear (1980 to be precise). None of us can.

Every year, come December, I envy the bright young things heading off to university and those self indulgent years. A wonderful time, a time of and for wonder.

My optimistic nature comes out in the essay. In case you were wondering how I resolved that starting sentence, here are my closing bits:
The ending is open ended in a way which allows for Huck's continued internal growth. He has grown with Jim's help into a new state, a more whole self. For Jim, real freedom is a long way off. But Jim has a self-awareness which endures and which we are made to feel will help him to overcome the obstacles against his freedom in the future.

Love and peace - Wozza