28 December 2009

Black Kos Tuesday's Chile is on hiatus until after the first of the year. To tide over until then, I offer the following essay entitled,

Movie Palace Matinees and The Drive-In at Midnight


Justice Putnam

I had an eclectic upbringing. My mother was a regional jazz singer in the Northwest and had pretensions of being an artist, while my dad was a college professor who espoused a Progressive historical perspective. That meant being exposed to Art, Literature, Music and Cinema at an early age. We didn't watch television much when we lived at Blue River in the Cascades on the way to Sisters; mostly because reception was so poor. Later, when we lived outside of Corvallis, reception remained poor. We would entertain ourselves at home; but movie palace matinees and the drive-in at midnight were important cultural excursions.

The first movies I truly remember was at the age of three, in our backyard. We lived next to the Cascade Drive-in along Highway 126 in Springfield, Oregon and the year was 1958. The concession stand had loudspeakers and the pole speakers for the cars would resonate to our house that we could just set up chairs on warm summer nights and enjoy the movies. The first one I remember, one that had a profound impact on me was, "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." I was three, as I stated; the movie totally freaked me out and gave me dreams that foreshadowed the penance paid for a misogynistic life. I must say, I've always watched my step, lest I be crushed underfoot!

Though we could make snacks ourselves; often my parents would walk over to the concession stand and buy popcorn and sodas; hot dogs and hamburgers; french fries and Bon Bons. I have no idea of the prices, being so young. But I learned later that the proprietors of the Drive-in had a tacit agreement with the neighborhood that if we supported the concession stand that no walls would be built to obstruct the view of the screen. After we moved in 1961, a wall was built. The Cascade fell the way of most Drive-ins and a housing development has occupied the space for the last 30 years.

My dad began teaching at Oregon State University in 1961 in Corvallis, Oregon just before Bernard Malamud left to teach back East. In fact, it was Malamud who introduced our family to the Whiteside; a very ornate, Italianate movie palace. We saw "Twelve Angry Men," "Rebel Without a Cause," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Ben Hur," "Exodus," "Sunset Boulevard"; really so many it's hard to list them all. The concession sold a large tub of popcorn for 75 cents, hot dogs for the same, bottles of Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Orange Nehi for 50 cents. Reese Cups, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Butterfingers, and Baby Ruth Bars were 50 cents, Bon Bons were 75 cents; but Big Hunks could be had for a dime. Generally, the admission price was for a double feature. Yes, a much simpler and abundant time; except for the upheavals of the age.

In 1965, my father began teaching at Cal State Fullerton. Until the summer of 1969, we lived in the Rowland Heights/ West Covina area of the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. We would go as a family to the Capri in West Covina, but I would also go with my friends to the 5th Ave Theater in Rowland Hts, since it was within the range of my Stingray bicycle.

The Capri showed a double feature for the price of admission. "A Patch of Blue," "Lilies of the Field," "Cat Balou," "Hud," "The Sound of Music," "The Great Escape," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?," "Two for the Road," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Failsafe" are movies that stand out in my memory.

The 5th Ave Theater was a box-like single screen with non-descript concessions, but what stands out in my mind is seeing "2001: A Space Odyessy" six times in a row on one admission. The movie started at 11 in the morning on a Saturday. My chums and I watched and analyzed the movie until the last show let out after 11 that night. I had told my parents earlier that morning of our plan to see the movie repeatedly; they didn't think, though, that an eighth-grader would be out until almost midnight. I did have the movie memorized at that point, so my recollection proved the study.

We moved to Yorba Linda in 1969, the summer before my freshman year in High School. I mostly saw movies with my friends at that point, rather than with my family. We would go to either the Fox Fullerton, The Anaheim Drive-in off the 91 or the Highway 39 Drive-in off Trask near Beach Blvd. The Fox Fullerton showed one movie per admission; The Anaheim and Hwy 39 Drive-ins showed a double feature. One great "perk" about going to the Drive-ins was that we either brought a "picnic" or stopped at Carl's Jr before.

Movies that stand out in my mind at the Fox were "Paint Your Wagon," "McCabe and Mrs Miller," "Mash," "Fists of Fury," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Cool Hand Luke."

The Anaheim Drive-in showed "The Godfather," "Two-Lane Blacktop" and "Bonnie and Clyde," while the Hwy 39 Drive-in showed "Vanishing Point," "Play Misty for Me," "Scarecrow," "The Shining," "The Wild Bunch," "Easy Rider" and "Apocalypse Now."

I started going to the Nuart in Santa Monica around 1978. I don't remember the concession prices because at that point, I rarely bought concessions at the movies. Admission was for one movie. The Nuart was famous for showing foreign and "independent" productions. I was fortunate to see all of Kurosawa's movies, as well as "Wages of Fear," "Les Visiteurs Du Soir," "Man Bites Dog," "Les Diabolique," "The Swimmer," "Belle du Jour," "Two or Three Things I Know About Her," "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans," "Eraserhead," "Fires on the Plain" and "Spetters."

I saw "Blade Runner" when it was first released at the tiled-courtyard theater in Laguna Beach, when I lived there.

I moved to the Bay Area "full time" in 1984. I would mostly go to the UC Theater and since I live nearby, The Elmwood. Both showed one movie per admission. I've seen many movies over the years at The Elmwood, but two that stand out are "Blue Velvet" and "Wings of Desire."

The UC, when it was open, could be counted on for Documentaries, Foreign and Independent movies. Some I saw there were, "Henry and June," "Woman in the Dunes," "My Life As A Dog," "Incident at Owl Creek Bridge," (though I had first read the Ambrose Bierce story in jr hi and had seen the short in 10th grade at our "little theatre"), "Papillon," "A Boy and His Dog," "Cinema Paradiso," "They Shoot Horses Don't They?," "Desert Bloom," "Down By Law," "Man Facing Southeast," "The Player" and of course, the long running midnight showings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

I mostly see movies these days with my Netflix subscription; but when I do go to the theater, I frequent The Elmwood (since it has been refurbished and a neighborhood group "saved" it), and The Parkway in Oakland. The Elmwood shows one movie per admission and the Parkway shows a double feature, if you get there for the first one. They have gourmet pizza and foodie specials in the $6.00 to $18.00 range; plus microbrewed beers on tap costing $14.00 for a pitcher; and some superb red and white wines by the bottle or the glass. Yum!

Movies are no better and no worse than in years past. The same dynamic of Art and Commerce drives the industry; as it always has and always will. There might be movies "produced" by accountants and focus groups; movies that are brazenly formulaic. But as in every era of the cinema, from Hollywood and foreign alike, true gems of the art emerge out of the mediocrity.

It is the search and discovery of these gems that has always interested me.

(update: the Parkway and their El Cerrito Speakeasy locations have closed, a sad and predictable development.)

Dedicated to Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, whose writings were great guides to not only cinema, but to life in general.

© 2009 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

16 December 2009

Voices and Soul

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Tuesday's Chile, Poetry Editor

15 December 2009

Cause and Effect is a powerful dynamic; it informs all the Physics of human interaction. This week's poem by Marilyn Nelson is a meditation on that dynamic and how, when least expected, the Physics of human interaction can produce a...

Minor Miracle

Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood
memory. I was cycling with a male friend,
through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way
stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,
a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,
hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.
My partner called, "Hey, that was a 4-way stop!"
The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe
under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,
               "You fucking niggers!"
And sped off.
My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.
We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon
between two fields of almost-ripened wheat
bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne's lace
when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.
We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.
It was the same truck. It pulled over.
A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:
greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably
a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful
of martial arts techniques.

"What did you say back there!" he shouted.
My friend said, "I said it was a 4-way stop.
You went through it."
"And what did I say?" the white guy asked.
"You said: 'You fucking niggers.'"
The afternoon froze.

"Well," said the white guy,
shoving his hands into his pockets
and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,
"I just want to say I'm sorry."
He climbed back into his truck
and drove away.

-- Marilyn Nelson

09 December 2009

The unedited draft from Black Kos Tuesday's Chile 8 December:

Voices and Soul by Justice Putnam, Black Kos Tuesday's Chile Poetry Editor

It is a great honor to be included in one of the most important serial diaries on dKos. I hope to not only entertain one's sense of how Art and Poetics intersect with Politics and The Human Condition; but also to share the voices that so deftly make that intersection known. There will be Poets in this series that are immediately recognizable in the pantheon of American Letters; I want to remind those here then, of those famous names, but I also want to introduce those not so well-known.

Bob Dylan wrote in the liner notes of Bringing It All Back Home that,

"A poem is a naked person."

And it's true; it is the proverbial mirror of the soul dynamic. But it is not just the mirror of the poet's soul, it is also a mirror of the culture, the nation's soul; and in the process of giving voice, poetry becomes alive. In life, Poetry is not a noun; it is not a description or name of something. In life, Poetry is an adverb; it's an Action Word.

I've often been asked what makes a particular Poem, Art; and another poem, not? A Poem becomes Art when it can attain that state of Timelessness; when in any age, it can have relevance to the reader of the Poem, while not knowing of the time the poet wrote the Poem, (that relevance becomes even more so if the reader does know); when the reader can indentify with the poet's point of view on the most visceral of levels; when the Poem has and communicates, Soul.

Elizabeth Alexander is more recently known for her poem recitation at Obama's Inaugural; but I was introduced to her superb work from a much earlier poem.

She states in the voice of the individual, how we are all sinners, we have all violated some Social Order; that we are all a:


Maryland State Correctional Facility for Women,
Baltimore County Branch, has undergone a facelift.
Cells are white and un-graffitied, room-like, surprisingly airy.
This is where I must spend the next year, eating slop from tin trays,
facing women much tougher than I am, finding out if I am brave.
Though I do not know what I took, I know I took something.
On Exercise Day, walk the streets of the city you grew up in,
in my case, D.C., from pillar to post, Adams-Morgan to Anacostia,
Shaw to Southwest., Logan to Chevy Chase Circles,
recalling every misbegotten everything, lamenting, repenting.
How my parents keen and weep, scheme to spring me,
intercept me at corners with bus tokens, pass keys, files baked in cakes.
Komunyakaa the poet says, don't write what you know,
write what you are willing to discover, so I will
spend this year, these long days, meditating on what I am accused of
in the white rooms, city streets, communal showers, mess hall,
where all around me sin and not sin is scraped off tin trays
into oversized sinks, all that excess, scraped off and rinsed away.

-- Elizabeth Alexander

Black Kos

13 August 2009




Justice Putnam

"Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught."

-- Ambrose Bierce

My father died the summer before last and I didn’t cry. I still haven’t. But when my dad told me he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer last spring, I cried like a little kid.

I felt sad that my father had died, mind you; after all he brought me into the world and was a dad for eight years. But the last time I talked to him was the day my son was born. He said he couldn’t talk at that moment and he’d call me back. Twenty-eight years later, I still hadn’t received that call. It was ok, though. He had changed for the better. Any revenge I had harbored growing up waned when we had met again when I was twenty. Anything I wanted to prove no longer mattered.

I remembered him as a mad Grizzly, red-eyed and gigantic; growling angry Death that reared on its hind feet. He was six foot five and when he was in shape, hovered around 265.

He was in shape when I met him again at twenty, but he was just a big teddy bear. The only real reason I played football and tried to play in college was with the idea that I would one day dominate my father in a game. That I would one day upend him and grind him into the ground on a head high tackle for all the beatings he drunkenly inflicted on my mom and my siblings. In that same game I would straight-arm him on a punt return and cleat mark his back as I high stepped over him for all the disparaging remarks he made about her, about how all of us would grow to be the failures that was insured by her terrible mothering. I would fill the gap from my strong safety position as he cut back on a sweep from his college-days full back spot. We would meet shoulder pad to shoulder pad as I drove him out of bounds for his religious hypocrisy; his taking the Eucharist without suffering Penance from the confessional.

Maybe it was that I grew to six foot one and 200lbs that he didn’t seem so big when I met him again at twenty. Maybe it was because I had been reading Merton and Forgiveness was for the first time a palpable Grace that washed over me. Maybe even it was because we all change and evil can in time turn contrite and apologetic and sincere. I forgave him and let him have his life. It didn’t even really bother me that he never returned my phone call to let him know of his grandson.

He was my father, but he wasn’t my dad.

My dad adopted my baby brother, my two sisters and I when he married our mom. I was a precocious ten-year old when they married, schooled in the pre-Vatican II rigors of Greek and Latin. I was an altar boy and could pontificate at length on the merits of St Francis of Assisi as opposed to those of St Augustine. I was accustomed to stern nuns and beatings at the hands of my father.

My dad never beat us. He was a college professor. We would be lectured at length for our childhood transgressions, we sometimes wished for beatings just to get it over with, but he never laid a hand on us. He never demeaned us but rationally made the argument that we have to be honest with ourselves and to each other.

Beatings are not an effective strategy to teach that character trait, I learned.

He had almost 8,000 books in his home library and another 14,000 at the University and not one was denied our scrutiny at anytime as we grew. He and my mom started the first ACLU chapter in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California in 1966; he wrote policy papers and researched historical points for local politicians, he was on the platform committee for the State Democratic Party. We all learned civic duty is not a chore but something gladly embraced.

He married our mom. She was not quite eighteen years old when I became her first born. By the time she was twenty-five, she had my two sisters and then my brother. In between my two sisters, she had five miscarriages. I figured my mom was pregnant so often because of my father’s idea of what made a good Catholic.

But it did give me a much better appreciation of what she was about when I had my son several months before I turned twenty-three.

One of the major conflicts my mom and my father had was over her being a jazz singer; it offended his idea of Catholic manhood, I guess. Her independence was a threat and she paid for it.

My dad by contrast, encouraged her independence. She looked like Anne Sexton but had the certainty of an Adrienne Rich; she was a survivor in the true Loretta Lynne myth.

My dad advocated for her and promoted her endeavors. She sang briefly and then "retired" of sorts and owned a few cafes and clubs over the years. Because it wouldn’t take much cajoling by her patrons for her to sing her version of "Strange Fruit" or an Ella Fitzgerald be-bop style song.

My dad has been stable and his PSA’s are what the doctor says they should.

My mom has not smoked since the early 80’s and a spot on each lung showed up on an image test a few days ago. It’s too early to tell, according to her doctor, what they might be. The spots are microscopic, but they are there.

I wrote a poem to my son when his son was born that has been published a few times. In it I tell him to kiss his son while he can, because any number of factors will intrude eventually.

Though I’ve been the dutiful son, writing and phoning my parents a few times each week all these years, because of distance I don’t get to hug and kiss them enough.

It’s a little like the long passing game in football. You’re throwing downfield all game, post and fly patterns, deep corners at will. Then Death intercepts and the whole game changes.

Passing is a little like that.

© 2007 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

(cross-posted at Daily Kos http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/4/1/318394/-Passing )

(update: The photo is of my dad, the historian Jackson K. Putnam and myself; he is still healhy and writing another book. August 2009)

05 August 2009

The Myth of Chimeral Evolution

The Myth of Chimeral Evolution


Justice Putnam

Darwin, Berkeley and Nietzsche were traversing through the primordial soup when a Booming Voice echoed throughout the world,

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" the Booming Voice joyously announced, for He was a joyous and happy Booming Voice, "so you have quite a conundrum before you now!"

Berkeley, as was his manner, nudged ahead of Nietzsche and announced,

"I know or am conscious of my own being; and that I myself am not my ideas, but somewhat else, a thinking, active principle that perceives, knows, wills and operates about ideas. I know that I, one and the same self, perceive both colors and sounds: that a color cannot perceive a sound, nor a sound a color: that I am therefore one individual principle, distinct from color and sound; and, for the same reason, from all other sensible things and inert ideas. But, I am not in like manner conscious either of the existence or essence of Matter. On the contrary, I know that nothing inconsistent can exist, and that the existence of matter implies an inconsistency. Further, I know what I mean when I affirm that there is a spiritual substance or support of ideas, that is, that a spirit knows and perceives ideas. But, I do not know what is meant when it is said that an unperceiving substance hath inherent in it and supports either ideas or the archetypes of ideas. There is therefore upon the whole no parity of case between Spirit and Matter."

Not to be outdone, Nietzsche elbowed his way past Darwin and Berkeley to his preordained spot,

"With the highest respect, I accept the name of Heraclitus. When the rest of the philosophic folk rejected the testimony of the senses because they showed multiplicity and change, he rejected their testimony because they showed things as if they had permanence and unity. Heraclitus too did the senses an injustice. They lie neither in the way the Eleatics believed, nor as he believed--they do not lie at all. What we make of their testimony, that alone introduces lies; for example, the lie of unity, the lie of thinghood, of substance, of permanence. "Reason" is the cause of our falsification of the testimony of the senses. Insofar as the senses show becoming, passing away, and change, they do not lie. But Heraclitus will remain eternally right with his assertion that being is an empty fiction. The "apparent" world is the only one: the "true" world is merely added by a lie."

Darwin strode forward in a gentlemanly manner, cleared his throat and began,

"As man can produce and certainly has produced a great result by his methodical and unconscious means of selection, what may not nature effect? Man can act only on external and visible characters: nature cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they may be useful to any being. She can act on every internal organ, on every shade of constitutional difference, on the whole machinery of life. Man selects only for his own good; Nature only for that of the being which she tends. Every selected character is fully exercised by her; and the being is placed under well-suited conditions of life. Man keeps the natives of many climates in the same country; he seldom exercises each selected character in some peculiar and fitting manner; he feeds a long and a short beaked pigeon on the same food; he does not exercise a long-backed or long-legged quadruped in any peculiar manner; he exposes sheep with long and short wool to the same climate. He does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions. He often begins his selection by some half-monstrous form; or at least by some modification prominent enough to catch his eye, or to be plainly useful to him. Under nature, the slightest difference of structure or constitution may well turn the nicely-balanced scale in the struggle for life, and so be preserved. How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature during whole geological periods. Can we wonder, then, that nature's productions should be far 'truer' in character than man's productions; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship?"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" the Booming Voice joyously continued, "if it were not for your Minds, I would almost doubt my own existence!"


"Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous" --George Berkeley
"Twilight of the Idols"--Friedrich Nietzsche
"The Origin of Species"--Charles Darwin

from “The Nature of Poetics Collapsed Outside My Window”

© 2006 Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches Strophe-Verlagswesen

04 August 2009

And Memory Became A Fading Melody

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

--Walt Whitman
“Song of Myself”


And Memory Became A Fading Melody


Justice Putnam


My vision was hazy
As I stumbled
Into the alley

And it was hard
To remember the reasons
Why I'd been
Shot in the stomach.

The more
I tried to focus
My eyes
Mind and body

The more clouded
The details developed.

I could only see
Myself as a child
In Corvallis

With Tippee across
An emerald
Expanse of pasture.


I could hear
My mother calling
From the porch
Of the farmhouse,

"dinner's ready!"

I could see the old barn
In the distance

Dulled red with a gray haze

The green pick-up
Parked next to
The chicken coop

Our black Labrador
Came running
Fast and low
From the farmhouse

Tippee bounded
Past me to meet

Both sliding
To a stop
Licking each other
In greeting
And then racing to dinner.

As I broke into a run
I perceived out
The corner of
My eye

An angular
Dark shape
Moving in the woods.

I felt a tearing
Grip my stomach
And stopped
At an evergreen
To compose myself.

I leaned my head
Against the tree
And felt the bark
Press indentations
On my forehead.

Slowly I slid to my knees
My head never
Losing contact
With the bark.

But I was
No longer
In Corvallis
As a child.

I was crumpled
In a dirty alley

My head against
A concrete building
My forehead
Bloodied and wet.

I staggered
To my feet
And felt my
Tearing loose.

I grabbed
And tightened
My shirt

For surely
To do

Would mean
Spilling guts

Here and now

In this
Wino piss tank

This alley

That was it

A flash of clarity
Lit my memory

I had been shot

And I was in
An alley

Somewhere near
The Greyhound Bus
Judging from
The sounds
Of the street.

I leaned back
Against the
Concrete wall

And attempted
To focus on the
White dumpster
Across the alley.

In black

Block letters
Were the words


I figured
If I could hold
My attention
On the white dumpster

I might
Then be able
To resume my quest
For the reasons
I had
Been shot
In the stomach.

My eyes began
To flicker

And then strobe

I saw interposed
The white dumpster

And then
Metallic barn

Then the dumpster

And then
The metallic barn
My father contracted
To have built.

It housed
Hay and alfalfa bales
Farming tools
And supplies

And the farm's
Only milk cow.

I was walking
From the
At four in the

To milk
And then collect eggs
Feed the geese
And dogs
Tend to the
Horses and goats.

As I walked

A crystal radio
I had built
Bounced slightly
In the pocket
Of my coveralls

An ear-jack cord
Snaked its way to
My left ear.

I was listening to
Early morning
Weather reports
Local news
And political

I was
Seven years old
And lived
In Corvallis,

Hatfield was
Governor and
Kennedy was

The farm
Lay outside
The town

Hilly pastures
And wooded valleys.

But I perceived
Of something
Beyond the farm
Beyond Corvallis
The Nation

The world.

When I was
Doing chores
I pretended
The metallic barn
Was a space station

Or at least
Part of a
Space station

I pretended
The livestock
The supplies
And my

Were integral
Parts to the
Of the whole
Cosmic community.

To have purpose
And meaning

To benefit

Were Virtues
I was taught
And came
To believe

Even at that
Early age.

As I continued
With my early
Morning chores

I again noticed
The angular
Dark shape

But moving
The hay bales.

I felt a burning
In my stomach

As I retreated
From the shape

My hands snagged
Splinters from
The rough planks
Of the pen

As I moved back
Until stopped
By the corrugated
Metal of the barn.

The hay
And alfalfa bales

Were twenty-five
Pound sacks
Of rock salt

String-stitched closed
Stacked ten high
Four deep and
Eight across.

I was staring
At the sacks
Of rock salt


I blinked
Several times.

My eyes
Began to tear


And when I focused

I was in the
Dirty wino piss tank

Near the Greyhound
Bus station

Staring at the
White dumpster
With the stenciled lettering
That read



As I became
More cognizant
Of my place
My body and
State of mind

I took mental inventory
Of the immediate events.

Beginning with the
First acknowledgement
I had been shot.

I was sure
I was dying

Had not I read

That one's

Flashed before
One's eyes
Preceding the moment
Of death?

My will for

Survival was strong
Always strong

I laughed silently
To myself
As I
A couple of lines

From a poem
By Jim Morrison,

"Did you have a good life?
Enough to base a movie on?"

I thought how trite
My movie would be

Long-range shot
Of young boy and dog
Ambling over the
Gentle slope
Of pasture
And woods.

Of young mother
Calling for dinner.

Dolly-shot of
Young mother on porch


To boy and dog

If the dog
Wasn't a mutt

This could be a scene
Right out of

I chuckled
At that vision
Of ridiculousness

Gulped some of the
Sandy Santa Ana's
That blew
Newspapers through
The alley

And abruptly

Became aware

Of the whole
Awful sequence
Of events that
Led up to
My shooting.

I had become
A man
Who still believed in
The power
Of Boy Magic

In this part of
The world

Doesn't work

I had become
A man
Who still believed
In a Soul

Something that was
At the core of
Conscious and

"That in us,"

I would often
Quote Plato,

"whatever it is,
in virtue of which
we are denominated
wise and foolish
good and evil."

I knew the
Function of the
Was not just
To know
Good and evil

But to direct and
Govern ones’
So that
Evil was
Avoided and
Good achieved

I had compromised
My virtue

I had come to
That the mere
Pursuit of
Was enough to
Justify meaning
And purpose.

In this part
Of the world

Meaning has
No purpose

What of this
Part of the world?

This society
Without culture?

What kind
Of TV dream
After generation

To pursue a
Vision of
With obsessive

In any part
Of the world

Life is Suffering.

And I was dying
From a gunshot
Wound in
The stomach.

As if
I was reading
A book

I could see
The words


In front of me

But like lifting
An overlay
From the overhead
In junior high


Changed to


And I lay

I was taught in
College physics how


Like particles
And waves

Could shift
From red
To blue

Move fast
Or slow.

But in that
I perceived in a

I could see
Molecules of light
Play on the
White dumpster

And the low
Stone black
Wings of death
Shadow colors
Refracted from
A multitude
Of broken bits
Of glass.

I could hear
The scratching
Of the electrical
At one end
Of the

With the

Of traffic
At the other.

I felt
The heavy
Of buses
And semi's
Mix liquid
With the
Of car stereos

Classic rock
Rap and

I could also
Taste my own
Salt tears
Barely dilute
The thick blood
From deep inside me

And excreted
Out my
Mouth and nose.

On paper and dust
Blood rusted
A path over
Flesh and metal

Discarded and crushed.

No longer could
I blame
Collective insensibility

Only my own


It was stupid
To confront
The young hood
In such
A belligerent manner
As he accosted
The elderly
Woman walking
Across the street.

I could have just
Ignored the episode

More than likely
The occurrence
Would have passed
Without incident

Would have been
On their way.

The scene
Was ugly

In an
Ugly surrounding.

I yelled a
Little too

"Whaddya gonna
do about it?"

The hood
Approached me
In a posture
Of hostility.

"What the fuck
do you think
I'm gonna do?"

I said.

My arms
Like Jesus
On the cross.

"What the fuck
you gonna do

The hood
As he shoved
A gun against
My stomach.

I continued
To hold my arms
And looked him
In the eye

I drew a breath
Clenched teeth

I said in
My best
East Coast accent,

"Fawk You!"

He fired
One shot
And ran


The old woman
As she
To a nearby
Liquor store.

I stumbled into
The alley
And against
The concrete wall
To my knees

A white hot burning
Radiated in my stomach

As an angular
Dark shape
Across the street

It was the old woman
With a
Vaguely looking
Middle-Eastern man.

They both
Stopped close.

The old woman
Was praying

The man
Leaned over me

"You be ok,"

He said

As my eyes

And slowly
Rolled up
To my brow.


I could
The days

When innocence
Was blowing
Like across

A Van Gogh

Caressing the
Hillsides and woods
With a


Above the
In which the
Of nearly every
Is spent.

But I had become
Bound by guilt

And dubious
Of the truth.

I came to believe
That in a sense


Was the same
As failing

Holding onto
Meant becoming

And stranded
In the park


I came to believe
That the measure
Of love

Was the amount
Of emotional
I could survive.

Not quite
Like a crushed
Picked apart
By a colony of ants

But I had often
Cut my finger

From the beauty
Of a long-stemmed rose.

So I realized
In those final moments
What had actually

My life was
A series of patterns

A self created
Maze that offered
No escape

So overwhelming
In its

That I was
By its weight

I had no
Left to survive

I punctured
With my own
Pursuit of

And again
I had sought

And heart-pure

Between the legs
Of Beauty

Only to make
My own

Weakness of heart.

I would

Give up.

I would

Let sadness
String itself
Between my fingers

And memory

A fading

From: The Nature of Poetics Collapsed Outside My Window

© 2006 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

05 June 2009

Weightless Weddings A Threat To Moribund Marriage

Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegan will be floating -- possibly upside down -- as they say "I do" in a specially modified Boeing 727-200 departing Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on June 20, a statement from Zero Gravity Corporation said.

They will be "the first bride and groom to be married in zero gravity," the company, a provider of commercial weightless flights, said.

-- AFP

Weightless Weddings A Threat To Moribund Marriages


Senior Travel Editor
Gerry Bronco

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Omaha, Nebraska-- The first weightless wedding was condemned in a joint statement by a coalition of Catholic, Mormon and Evangelical church groups here today.

"In another attack on traditional marriage," the statement began, "the evils of society has reared its hate-filled head and thrust another affront on decency."

The coalition of church groups has been adamant that any weightless weddings be outlawed and that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect traditional marriage.

"We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and its place in our Father's plan," Mormon Elder M. Russell Ballard said.

One Orlando, Florida pastor echoed those sentiments, "Weightless marriage is wrong. If we take sides, we must take the side of God."

The statement was one of many events planned supporting a constitutional amendment to take away the right of couples to get married in a weightless wedding. Christian conservatives have come to dominate the religious debate surrounding the issue - even though the Bible's statements on marriage are complex and disputed among Christians.

"We cannot allow these evildoers to make light of something as substantial as marriage," one evangelical congregant stated, "without our feet firmly planted on the ground, our commitments are prone to just float away. These weightless weddings threaten my marriage and all the heavy lifting required to make it work. I ought to know," he continued, "I've been married three times."

Liberal groups representing Christians, Jews and others are trying to defeat the amendment. But their efforts have been far more modest, even though priests and rabbis have played a pivotal role in creating and cultivating a theology that includes weightless weddings as equal to more moribund marriages.

"Culture is going to manifest itself in a way that summons the church to new realities," said Episcopal Bishop Marc Andrus.

More conservative christians took umbrage over Bishop Andrus' conciliatory tone.

"The last thing we need is to embrace these new realities when they rewrite sacred heritage," said Steve Hansen, pastor of Solid Rock Fellowship, an evangelical megachurch outside of Omaha. "For example, public schoolchildren will be indoctrinated about weightless weddings without parental consent. Everybody knows it's best for children to have their own mothers and fathers ruled by the laws of God and gravity," he said. "People can know the truth of marriage just from reason alone."

© 2009 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

cross posted at Daily Kos

14 May 2009

Dawkins Confesses: "Evolution is a Marxist Conspiracy!"

Dawkins Confesses: "Evolution is a Marxist Conspiracy!"


Senior Travel Editor
Gerry Bronco

Washington, DC-- British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science author, Richard Dawkins, confessed in a series of interrogations early last year that the Earth is only six thousand years old and the teaching of Evolution is a conspiracy by Marxist elements.

According to former senior officials of the Bush Department of Faith-Based Initiatives, Dawkins was apprehended in February of 2008 and secretly renditioned to a foreign black site where the interrogations took place.

"He was one of the most difficult of the high value targets we've come across," a former senior official remarked, "we waterboarded him 183 times before he confessed."

Sleep deprivation, stress positions and other enhanced techniques were also used, according to a little noticed chart included along with the more well-known of the so-called, torture memos.

Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution. In 1982, he made a widely cited contribution to evolutionary biology with the theory, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype, that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

A prominent critic of creationism and intelligent design, Dawkins was targeted by the Department of Faith-Based Initiatives, according to the former senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"We saw how well the Department of Defense contractors had interrogating Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Muhammed," the senior official stated, "it was imperative to find evidence of an al Qaida-Iraq collaboration. Without the enhanced interrogations, that link never would have been established. The Department of Faith-Based Initiatives and other departments of the Bush Adminstration were mandated to codify threat levels to their mission. Dawkins was deemed an immediate threat, a ticking time-bomb and was renditioned off-shore."

Dawkins also confessed that Regent University and The Discovery Institute are pre-eminent institutions and have been criminally maligned by secret Marxist cells.

When asked why Dawkins' confession was not made public last year, the senior official pointed to the recent decision by the Texas State Textbook and Curriculum to include intelligent design in that state's science textbooks.

"Actionable intelligence is utilized when needed," the senior official said, "Dawkins' confessions were of little use last year. But with the many Bush loyalists burrowed throughout the Obama administration, expect to see more of these revelations made public as criticism of the previous administration mounts."

© 2009 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

01 February 2009

Super Bowl Weekend and The Capture of Champmathieu

Super Bowl Weekend and The Capture of Champmathieu


Justice Putnam

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

-- Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms

It is by no means self-evident that human beings are most real when most violently excited; violent physical passions do not in themselves differentiate men from each other, but rather tend to reduce them to the same state.

-- Thomas Elliot

Super Bowl weekend and memories of past glories and defeats percolate in a dim corner of my brain. It is an ancient memory of blood and fire. It is the crisp wind across a cold, chalk-lined field; it is a howl on a hard city street; it is a bayonette-enforced order along a Guadalajaran desert path.

I don't really know why I'm wired the way I am; but I have my suspicions. I come from that place in the genetic code that cannot turn away from an injustice; that will act unflinchingly to right a wrong; that will protect the weak and infirm from the hostilities of man and nature. I come from that place in the genetic code that prizes Community and also Solitude; that meditates on Peace and Love; that will stand against Hate and Bigotry, not with the embrace of naive innocence, but with the calloused knowledge of the bruised cheek.

It is an equal measure of Nature and Nurture that makes us who we are. That place in the genetic code we come from is a powerful force indeed; but the landscape we are born into is a great teacher as well. There is so much brutality in that landscape, though, that the only sensible act is to have Compassion; and if one is fortunate enough to have the brains and brawn to stand strong against the Hate and Bigotry, then it is almost a duty to do so.

I'll be fifty-four towards the end of March. I've been fairly physical all my life, whether it be for work or fun. I tried to play football at Cal Poly Pomona in the 70's and was a semifinalist as a high school sophomore in the California State pole vault championship. I could run the hundred meters in 9.9 seconds. I ran the third leg on my high school's district championship mile relay team. I scored six goals in one game playing in a water polo summer league and was timed swimming 50 seconds in the 100 free. I would never travel without my surf boards and have caught waves from Big Sur to Costa Rica. I bicycled the Pacific Trail from the Sierra Nevada to the Washington Cascades when I was twenty-six. Along the way I scaled the peaks of Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier. I sailed along the coast of California and Mexico on a 4-man catamaran the summer of 1974; and was a grinder on a racing yacht during the mid-90's in some regattas on SF Bay.

I dug water wells for schools in Honduras and built free standing Sonoma moss stone walls in Marin and Sonoma Counties. I have built homes and dug ditches. I have planted grapefruit trees and harvested alfalfa.

Of course all that physicality has taken a toll, for sure; four knee surgeries on each knee, a shoulder reconstruction, broken ribs, torn hamstrings, broken teeth and a few concussions.

But these injuries have never prevented me, at any time in my life, from coming to the aid of someone in distress; or turning away a mugger on a hard city street. I could never stand by and watch a woman being abused. I once chased away some toughs who were beating a gay friend. I have faced down racist thugs in Idaho and bayonette-wielding Federales in Guadalajara.

This landscape of brutality seems to exist on every level; from the street to the boardroom. People starve in cold alleys and freeze in hungry rooms while million dollar bonus babies wipe their ass with gold leaf 1400 thread-count cloth.

The only sensible act left is to have Compassion; to continue to help the down-trodden and the infirm. The only knowledge is that derived from that part of the genetic code that causes us to stand against the Hate and the Bigotry.

That is why I feel like crying. I fear that I helped in the capture of a Champmathieu.

I had finished my Night Audit shift at the Inn and rode my bike to the Montgomery station to catch a train back to Berkeley. A couple of months ago, one of the housekeepers was hit on the head with a metal pipe and had her purse taken. Maybe that was in some dim corner of my brain when I heard a woman's voice yell,

"Stop! Thief!"

I was off my bike and could see a guy being pursued by a couple of people. I had the same feeling I've always had in those moments; something is not quite right, somebody is being abused, someone is being taken advantaged of. Someone is being robbed and someone is getting away with it.

It's been awhile since I really head over heel in the air tackled someone. I had that same feeling I had during my gridiron days, whether I was running over someone on offense or tackling them on defense,

"I didn't really mean to hit you so hard, but, here we are!"

I looked up and a half-dozen store security personnel took over and hauled him away. His eyes met mine and he had a look I recognized as not being quite right.

Somebody is being abused, someone is being taken advantaged of. Someone is being robbed and someone is getting away with it.

And then I saw his great robbery; this act that caused me to impulsively act at the mere mention of Stop! Thief! The act that caused him to be pursued by a half-dozen security personnel:

He had stolen a can of fucking Pringles! The man was hungry and I helped his Javerts capture him.

This is the landscape of brutality we live in. Million dollar stock bonus babies need to buy jets and eat sushi off the torsos of nubile twenty-year olds; while a man is charged with the crime of hunger.

Someone is being robbed and someone is getting away with it.

I can't stop crying and no amount of contrition can absolve me.

(Champmathieu is a vagabond in the Victor Hugo novel Les Misérables who is mistakenly accused of being the convict Jean Valjean and taken for trial in the Arras superior court after supposedly stealing a fruit-laden bough from an apple tree, and being positively identified by Javert and three convicts as Jean Valjean.)

© 2009 by Justice Putnam
and Mechanisches-Strophe Verlagswesen

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