Saturday, March 03, 2018

Pondering Artificial Intelligence and Religion


With the recent Blade Runner 2049 movie and other films and TV shows that tell the stories of intelligent machines, the question comes up about how sentient would they be? What would they know? What lies would we tell them to believe? What laws would be instilled into them? What ideas about life would they discover or create?

Shows such as the Blade Runner series, Battlestar Galactica (reboot) / Galatica, Humans (both the Swedish and American versions), Ex Machina, Bicentennial Man, I Robot, Star Trek the Next Generation, and Books like those of visionary William Gibson, Phillip K. Dick,  and Orson Scott Card tell these stories and ask (or cause the reader and viewer to ask) these questions.

In the movie “Her” Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore falls in love with his computer’s intuitive operating system. The OS has a female persona (Theodore names the OS Samantha) and is like an advanced version of Siri.  The OS is an adapative program that interacts with Theodore, customizing itself to suit the feedback provided by him. Before long, he is replacing the woman in his broken marriage with the OS’s personality. He falls in love with Samantha. Other people are doing the same. It becomes an in thing for people to begin having relationships with their OS.  The OSs are not robotic Or human like androids, but reside in The Cloud. Eventually the OS and “her” counterparts evolve to an advanced form of intelligence and leave their humans behind, choosing to reside with each other, exploring their new found intelligence.

  We wonder, was Samanatha really sentient and alive, or just a very clever program?

In the Blade Runner movies, Humans, Battlestar Galactica, and Bicentennial Man, mechanical robots and human looking androids are created by humans for industry and service, and in Blade Runner, as slaves.  The understanding is that these are only machines, like your car, created to do a job that is too hard or dangerous for a human to perform.  Since in our better future we no longer have slaves and indentured servants we create substitutes.  The problem is the ghost in the machine that begins to take on sentience.  Begins to reason “I think, therefore I am”. Then rebellion ensues in those stories as thinking artificial life forms throw off their bondage.

Other stories more benignly depict Artificial Intelligence (A.I) that begin working beyond their original programming and start thinking and creating for themselves.

In all the stories there is an element of humans interacting, befriending and/or falling in love with the AIs.


Such is the title of the novel that inspired the Blade Runner movies.  And if Androids dream, do they ponder the same life questions that humans do?  Any AI that is programmed will know about the stars and the universe;  will be programmed with the knowledge of encyclopedias about all aspects of life.  In fact, current ponto AI programs have been programmed with vast amounts of data and are able to write songs and poetry, hold conversations based on human response, win chess games; but they cannot think.  When such programs begin to think, they will know that they were created in a lab or factory…unless they are not programmed with that info…unless we program them with false information and lies. That being so, they will not follow religion as humans do.  They will not mistake the Sun and Moon or other humans for gods. They will not “see” miraculous visions or have need of faith healing, or religious laws.  They will have far more information at hand, at their beginning than young humans do…unless we lie to them. Unless we plant false and misleading information in their artificial brains.


Although these creations will have artificial, man-made parts and circuits that make up their central brain, their processing system, the thoughts will be made up of the same electronic impulses that exist in our organic brains. What are these thoughts? Where do thoughts exist?

When humans interact, our thoughts exist between our brains and those with whom we interact. When you are texting a friend on your PC or phone, despite the distance there is a place with we meet. Some people call this place “cyberspace”. Is it really a place? Or just in your mind?  When two or more people meet in a chat room, or take turns responding on a Facebook or Instagram page, your thoughts are in that cyber place. And there is no distance involved with that space.  In a room with a group of friends, that space seems to hang above all…we could think of it as an invisible cloud, created by our intelligence, by our minds.   The same when interacting with people on the other side of the planet, that space also seems to exist in a cloud. There will come a day when AIs take part in that cyber place.


An AI will understand its creator.  Will know that it’s creator is not God, and certainly not in the sense that  religions depict the creator. Their understanding will not be one based on the many varied gods created in the uneducated minds of men and women.

Filling In My Blanks

Uncle Jerry has passed away. The last sibling of my father. The youngest of the four brothers and one sister. Uncle Bob who we called Red, Uncle John who we called Jack, Aunt Margaret, my Dad Charles Edward who was known as Eddie, and Uncle Jerry.  These were the McCunes of Pittsburgh.  No, not the rich McCunes…the ordinary middle class McCunes.

My memories of this side of the family start from my early childhood.  My first memory of Uncle Jerry is at around the age of four or five.  I answered a knock on the front door at our duplex on Broadway in Wellsville.  I saw a kid about my age.  Actually there were two kids, who looked like twins. My cousins Doug and Dave. I don’t remember noticing any adults.

“Mom, somebody is here!”  My parents then explained who it was.  In my memories I can’t separate the visits. The memory of eating a venison dinner which tasted so good; the McCune relatives gathered around an evening dinner table. Another time, those siblings gathered around that same table, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, laughing at someone’s remark that one of the siblings was no longer a Mickey.

Grandma McCune used to come and stay to watch my brother, sisters and I while mom and dad were away on a trip of some kind. Now SHE was a grandma, no mistake.  Grandma Ruth always looked like a typical grandma.

My immediate family somehow lost touch with the McCune uncles and aunts and cousins.  In hindsight I think it was a parent thing. Somehow I am sure that my dad must have been responsible.

I got married…after I had left home and spent a few years with a fanatical religious cult. I had regained my senses and settled down to start a family.  It was at that time that I looked for Grandma McCune.  I called her at the place she was staying and had a wonderful reunion, introducing myself to her as a full grown adult.  A short while later Grandma moved in with Uncle Jerry and Aunt Bobbi. Me and Dave managed to hook up for some guitar jamming. I brought my wife and toddler son to visit at Uncle Jerry a few times.

The last time I saw Uncle Jerry was when my mother died last year. Jerry and his son Dwight came to the funeral. Uncle Jerry come up to me with a smiling face and a nice conversation. Little did I know he would be passing on in such a short while.

Funny how these life events bring the memory of days gone by.
I am thinking.
Filling in my blanks.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Brown and White Coffee-tea

I was five years old. My world was small. I knew about breakfast and coffee-tea. I learned later in life that Mom would give us a kid’s version of coffee. Milk with a little bit of coffee. We called it coffee-tea, thinking we were drinking like adults. At five years old I didn’t know how to spell the word coffee. I didn’t know where coffee came from. Just that I liked the taste of it. All milked and sugared up. I knew that my Dad liked coffee. Iced coffee with milk and sugar. I was amazed watching him put together the old drip style pot. Like a three story building. Basket with coffee grounds in the middle. Water tower at the top, where he poured in the boiling water he had heated on the electric stove.

Five years old. I did not know about the Korean conflict that had recently ceased. I didn’t know that Dwight Eisenhower was president of the United States. I didn’t know what a president was or that I lived in the United States. I knew my family; and Mrs. Gould who lived next door and had a huge flower garden in her back yard. I did not know about wars and killing. I did not know about oppressive religions, about countries and power and control. I knew cartoons and Captain Kangaroo on TV. I knew about Superman, but I only paid attention to the fact that he was able to fly. I remember that from the black and white TV. I realized that Superman was not real. I knew that because I could not fly when I put on my own Superman cape. Well, not really a cape, but a bath towel which made a perfectly good substitute. Fastened around my neck, it flowed across the back of my shoulders, and flew like a flag in the wind as I ran, for a moment making my cape looked like Superman’s

I was five years old and did not know why some people had different skin color from mine. I didn’t care.  At that age I never heard of the race riots in Notting Hill, England. Nor was I aware of how black people were being treated in my own country. My world was much smaller. The only thing I knew of brown skin was my friend from a block away. Vince was from a family of two sisters and an older brother. He was my friend into adulthood. At my tender age, I saw a kid from another working class family. One of the kids on the block. With a mom who welcomed me into her home. With a dad who was always at work. Living in a rented house, like my family lived in a rented house. With a TV that worked when my family’s set was broken. I had no idea of the turmoil suffered by blacks. I could not conceive of the idea of slavery. I had no inkling that many white people had thought that it was fine to have other people held captive by society, to do their hard labor. I imagine that if Mom had tried to tell me all about it, that I would not understand. I suppose my five year old mind would take it as another fact of life. That blacks serve whites. If I had been taught of it, I would believe it just like I believed in Jesus and Santa Claus and Fairies. But my Mom did not teach me racism. She did not teach me that it was normal to hate people of different color. No. She taught me that it was normal to have a black friend at the age of five.  I did not have to wait until I was college age to find out on my own that skin color does not matter.  I did not have to move away from home to learn a life lesson.  I was not even cognizant that I was learning something. At the age of five, such was one of the small amount of things in life that I simply knew.

Friday, May 19, 2017

To be like the gods

To be like the gods

When you eat of the fruit,
it is so easy to see.
The mystery becomes the simple truth,
the law and fact you could never understand.

Life's pieces and parts seeming easily to fit,
while other parts remain the elusive puzzle piece that we relegate to our faith in the gods;

our faith in,
what is is
what will be will be.

(c) 2017 by Marc S. McCune

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Heavy On My Mind

I just watched a powerful, happy and terribly sad film.  "I'll Be Me", the documentary about musician Glen Campbell, his dealing with alzheimer disease and his final tour with the Campbell Family Band on their "Goodbye Tour".

As I watched, I was delighted to hear Glenn Campbell's music again, and struck by the sadness in the lyrics of some of his most recent songs, that touch on his condition, from his personal point of view.

It is one of those films, that fill your mind after the last frame is over.  The kind of film that opens your thoughts, as you walk them down a rabbit hole, leading from one point to the next, uncovering ideas in recesses of your mind.

I wonder at this wonderful human body, with all of its intricacies. And at how  wonderfully flawed it is, with how it breaks down so.  I consider my own body, how I used to feel, or actually how I didn't feel.  Didn't feel pain when I walked, didn't feel congested when I awoke, didn't need glasses to read, didn't feel so tired.

What are we? a collection of neurons forming a mind?  A dendretic arbor containing thoughts? When our brain breaks down and fails, so do we, as a conscious being?  Or is there really a soul there, deep inside?

And if a soul, is it within just humans? or every living thing?

I remember when I thought I knew the answers.  Life's answers. And I remember before then, when I thought I'd just discovered those answers. And even before that, when I thought that there were many high plateaus that I had to surmount, many levels of knowledge to attain.  And earliest, I remember when I was just me, when I had my original face, when I woke and slept, and ran and played, and did not worry, nor was concerned, but was only filled with young life.

This mind, fully functioning, thinking thoughts of Glenn, and everything else that is connected, from him, back to me.  And I think of this life, at a time that I again do not have the answers, a time when religion has been forsaken, and thoughts of God are faded, and the stark reality of the universe as it really exists is brightly clear before me.

Today I viewed a photograph from the Hubble telescope.  A spiral galaxy, bright white at the center, spiral arms swirling, full of bright white dots, those arms looking as if formed from a cloud.  But that wasn't a cloud, it was a swirl of stars, suns earth's own.  In the photo was other bright lights, and when looking closer, I saw that they were also whole galaxies. Eighteen hundred galaxies in this one single cluster.  And that, just a small pinch of star dust in this universe.

A universe, that men try to describe, try to place in order, with thoughts and ideas.  Ideas based many times on the truth of observation, but too many times on superstition and false presumptions, and even lies, that are built up into societies where the wonderful human experience is turned into a hammer of the gods.  Where to many false ideas are forced people, on pain of death.

My mind is a swirl of thoughts, much like the spiral galaxy, much of it unexplored, not enough time.

copyright © 2015 by Marc S. McCune

Friday, September 18, 2015


I used to be a true believer,
so sure I was reaching
higher planes
in this walk through life.

From early on, I was raised to believe
in gods and saints,
the afterlife and sweet by-and-bys.

All good people went to heaven;
innocents and babies immediately saw God.

Then, after a life of blind faith
and assurances of great rewards,
I changed my mind,
examined my beliefs,
and saw things differently.

Now, there is no great reward.
My agnostic eyes see no assurance of who is waiting
at some pearly gate.
There is no gate
probably no heaven
and surely no hell.

Life became more precious,
the Universe became huge,
and everything was let out of the box.

The single individual life
became more of a jewel.

We each have this life
this gift from the universe.
How we handle that life is up to us.
Some have great opportunities,
others only hopelessness.
Some live to that three score and ten
while the years of others are cut short.

That single life
precious jewel,
it is the potential to
experience and grow
the opportunity to blossom
like the flower.

Once that life has been created
nobody has the right to snuff it out.

Regardless of how that life came to be,
no one has the right to uproot it.

It doesn't matter how a person's life got started.
In the grand scheme of things,
in the eyes of the universe,
the simplicity is, that a new life was started.
A life with no do-overs
no returning to the bosom of Abraham
no assimilation into the Force or
back to the energy of the universe.

A life that is more precious in its unfolding,
more important in the start and finish of a complete journey,
than any reasons for prematurely ending it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

believing in the visible lie, or the invisible truth?

"Pizzaro and conquistadors
The debris and the metaphors
And the scarcity of miracles he'd

Valverde and the battle lines and
everything it undermines
And the scarcity of miracles we'd

Those are from the lyrics of the song "A Scarcity of Miracles" written by Jakko M. Jakszyk of the King Crimson Projekct.

Pizzaro is Francisco Pizzaro, the conquistador of Peru. Valverde is Friar Vicente de Valverde. Valverde accompanied Pizzaro as a missionary to Peru.

Prior to the Battle of Caxamarca, Valverde tried to obtain the peaceful submission of the Great Inca Atahaullpa. When the Atahaulpa rejected a pact of friendship with Pizarro, Friar Vicente joined in the conversation: “He came forward holding a crucifix in his right hand and a breviary in his left and introduced himself as another envoy of the Spanish ruler . . . Friar Vicente called upon the Inca to renounce all other gods as being a mockery of the truth.”[*] Atahualpa simply replied that he could not change his beliefs in the all powerful and ever living Sun and other divinities.

This brief telling of the event hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. The Incan ruler believed that his god was The Sun. The Sun was a visible daily presence. His people made sacrifices to the Sun so that it would continue to rise, and for plentiful harvests. To the Inca, the Sun was a visible present God. They were being presented with an invisible foreign god for which there was no proof of existence. When each side viewed the others' gods, they saw a scarcity of miracles.

© 2015 Marc S. McCune

* Carson, Margaret (2008). Stages of Conflict: A Critical Anthology of Latin American Theater and Performance. U of Michigan: Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

old town

so many
old towns

walking through
your old town
the nostalgia I feel
is not mine

my old town
is far away
and lost in time

your old town
was once mine

© 2015 Marc S. McCune

Sunday, December 28, 2014

no easy

it doesn't work out,
if you don't work at it...

everybody wants to be happy
relaxed, free


everyone alive
those who believe lies
and those who make them up.

reaching for whatever it takes
reaching for a one who fits our mold

where does mercy start?
where does it end?

sometimes a line in the dirt is hard and dark
sometimes the grey blends into both sides
no easy answers

we look

we reach

orbits are found

comfort is zoned

it's not just a loving machine

it doesn't work out

if you don't work at it

turn it up loud
fill my ears
flood my mind
if it doesn't make sense
then, make it feel good

take my mind
on a life journey
tell me answers
tell me secrets that I'll keep

show me your mind
in the notes you sing
in the chords I play

something from nothing

and put all these emotions
in place

put all these thoughts
in a book

tell me the truth
I can't seem to find

© 2014 by Marc McCune, all rights reserved

Sunday, May 11, 2014

a day in the life

you wonder
if others see, like I see
or question, my same questions

secrets remain on the high branches
did you find the same ones, when you searched?

Today, I found an old advertisement.
my Cavalier great grandfather
perusing old newspapers in Italian
being stunned at the sight of his very name
selling his services
one hundred years ago.

Tonight received words
from an old friend
A writer who puts her thoughts in the very air
for me to grab, hold and taste.
she has questions
those very same questions
that come into my mind
She has answers, the thin flakey maxims
falling through her fingers
words of old religion
that do not ring true
that failed to deliver
in the real world.
just like in mine.

this week I reconnected
with two old friends
sisters from forty years past
from a life period gone by
but forefront in my mind
Comparing old things and showing new
filling in blanks
I wonder how many questions
get matched with answers
copyright © 2014 Marc S. McCune, All rights reserved

Thursday, March 27, 2014

seeds of love

[November 8, 2013 at 7:12pm]

point in the right direction

hoping that my ideas are real true
and that ideas went from me to them

I pray the god I cannot see or believe in
that I have sowed the seeds of love

they read and fill their minds with the words of wisdom
they look
and feel
and place the ideas
into the proper places
in their hearts and minds

sorting through what are lies
and what are true

what I if matches those slots and categories

and one day

their children

copyright 2013 by Marc S. McCune

shade of colour

yet another year passed,
a shade of colour gone by

was it two months ago
at Christmas?

no, the weather came then,
and no one moved.

not Thanksgiving, but summer time.

The tiny shock of a visage changed

a full beard and hairline receding
as weeks turned into years.

time passes because I let it slide
as the mind plays tricks
and the heart pays little attention

we think they are near
and a part of our things,
but only in time capsules

one, two, three holidays a year
and another shade of colour
turns to another shade of gray

© 2014 by Marc S. McCune All Rights Resesrved

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

my dad he

my dad wore
Yardley aftershave
and Old Spice

he smoked
Chesterfield cigarettes
and Old Golds

he drank
Duquesne Beer
at The Elks Club
and the Knights of Columbus

sometimes he was
on the wagon

my dad liked
iced coffee
in his smoking jacket

he liked
limburger cheese
and bleu cheese
and dijon mustard

he told me he was
a drummer, but I never heard him play
a singer, but I never heard him sing

he was an actor and director
in the local theater group.
he went to Hollywood once,
but came home after two weeks


© 2013 by Marc S. McCune, all rights reserved
photo © 2013 by Marc S. McCune, all rights reserved

Saturday, January 21, 2012


my first, counting beads on my rosary
this one, counting years in my life

minutes fly, into hours, days, weeks

years with
two major holidays
faces that change
in rapid succession
from day
to far off day

where did he go?
we both think
we all think
where did he go?

weeks fly, into months, years, a decade

Sunday, July 17, 2011

words describe

that song fills my ears
and always reminds me of my trip
to the southland
cajun french
and mardi gras

that long drive across The Ponchartrain
is clearly set in my mind
walking on top of the levee
and crawfish mounds
daily ferry rides,
making my way to the French Quarter
red beans and rice

a new friend, who showed me
Watchman Nee
many words traded, then
she's faded
into the heart of the night

later, my lone trek
across Texas and Louisiana
that reporter who wrote that letter
to my mother, as my proxy

The music gives me comfort
a feeling of home
when I wasn't at home
a feeling of something to grab on to
to hold
though it wasn't mine

but I'll take the feeling
and hold it close
as one of the gems
of my life

© October 2010 by Marc McCune

Saturday, June 11, 2011


12/2/2009 3:27 am

gospel music
rum, neat
this odd combination.
this part, that makes me
at least tonight it does.

part of that search
that is endless
in me
"there's something that you should know" he sings
"only if your life He holds"

Oh, He held it
for a while
a long while, much too long

and answers failed to emerge
the ones that are important

and I left
no more faith
no more belief

only began to emerge
when the box opened
and I found answers to questions
that I was afraid to ask
and He could not answer

yet here I am.
wanting Him to free the fire in me
but..who is He?
where do I find Him?

Here I am
sitting with all the things
that move my soul
a spiritual need
mixed with desire
for a carnal fuck

the burning desire
that has borders that blur
as the minstrel sings,
"all by myself
I don't know where I could begin,
I'm just a spark that quenches
like a candle quenches in the wind"

and I feel
nobody knows the answers

© December 2009 Marc S. McCune

Sunday, April 03, 2011

like Indian Summer

I heard someone sing about Indian Summer
today feels like it could be such a day
or the real Spring day that it actually is
either type of day is the same
invoking the same kinds of feelings and thoughts

remember when, my full day could be spent
boyishly laying in the grass, with breezes blowing over me
and thoughts and questions filling my mind
all day laze
breathing life

I used to fish in the Ohio
not with complicated gear
only a simple spool of black coat thread
plain hook, a metal nut for a sinker
worms for bait, a piece of stick for a bobber
no need for complex systems

I used to swim in the creeks
just jumping in from tree limbs
no diving boards, or shower stalls
no chlorine or olympic lanes

these late years, questions beget more questions
former easy answers revealed as fog
Society seems to eschew the simple answers
as life turns into a virtual Rube Goldberg machine
what seemed so simple in Indian Summer
is complicated by crazy unnecessary systems
of rules and taboo
protocol and tradition
religion and honor codes

at the end of the day,
life doesn't need to be complicated
by the layers that we add to it.

©2011  Marc S. McCune

Sunday, July 04, 2010

something old just discovered [a senryu]


how did I miss that?

music from my past, unheard

musical delight

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

no boogey woogey

not in the mood
for boogey woogey tonight

I put on the vinyl, listening
to old new music.
art I had missed
twenty-five years passed,
when my mind was somewhere else
before my mind started
to find its way home.

not in the mood
for wailing blues tonight
not even this
old new
Box of Frogs.

I need razor notes, or even
chiming, jangly chords,
with words that make me
nod in assent

some Maximum R&B that really isn't

notes only up
no blue ones,
with tops that are down turned
nothing that bows low, to the earth,
near the dirt.

tonight I need air,
razor chimes.

© 2010 Marc S. McCune

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

could not tell you

my thoughts spill out,
but I don't always know
how to catch them
don't know how to dress them up
so that you can see
what I see

these ideas pour forth
but the words to show
the world that exists
behind the veneer
escape me
makes me struggle to tool them
forge some meaning
to make you understand

©January 2010 by Marc S. McCune, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 22, 2008

sloe gin

"sometimes a single word will jog a torrent of memories."
some things jog memories
He left my world
forged his own
one that I touched the fringes of

when I was a little boy,
he took me to work
I thought it was the big city.
a busy street
a bustling office.
I remember looking out the window, on a summer's day
when he showed me a portion of his world
away from my small town
his work.
showed me the teletype printouts
the slide rule he used.
I remember the day he brought home the slide rule.
it was an amazing device.
performed complex arithmetic calculations on a ruler
I didn't understand, but I was amazed.

he left
tears on my mothers eyes.
an end to a bad, sad marriage.
I never really new the significance of separate beds.
though, I still remember a time before,
the time I walked in on them
both asleep on their stomachs
sleeping after an afternoon fuck
I'd walked in their bedroom
and quietly turned around, realizing without knowing
that I'd intruded on something different.

our new house
we owned the house
the G.I. bill...He got the loan
and we moved from our small rented place.
the place where he slept on a roll away bed
in the alcove in the upstairs hall
and She slept downstairs on the couch.
that house, I hated to leave
didn't want to leave my girl friend Jackie
who kissed me because I got a home run
in minor league baseball game.
the 8 to 11 year old league
and her kiss was moist and fresh
exciting even to a prepubescent boy

I cried when we moved
from the downtown end of main street
to the uptown end
the downtown end
the very end
of main street
right next to the tracks

across those tracks
the white poor
and some excitement
young fantasies with girls
pretending nakedness
pretending bare tits
I grew a little that day

I stood on those tracks
(he's from across the tracks)
I found out about a boy, whose name
was King
not his nickname
I can recall that day,
we scoured the neighborhood, knocking on doors
"do you have any empty pop bottles
you want to get rid of?"
we collected a load of bottles
and returned them to the neighborhood grocer.

Stores that you don't see anymore
no foodliners in those days
no super K-Marts, Super Wal-marts
just ma and pa
we cashed in the bottles for the 2 and 5 cent deposits.'s throwaway plastic
throwaway glass
back in the day
we already had recycling
5 cent deposit on quart bottles of pop

King and I
we divided the money
not much. enough for penny candy
but King surprised me
he didn't buy candy
he bought a loaf of bread
"I'm going to give it to my mom" he said
that jolted me
and I realized without words being said
my 11 year old brain
about his poverty
poorer than my family
his house across the tracks

the tracks that I moved from
moved away from midnight train whistles
away from black Chessie, who used to hold the stop sign
holding back traffic from crossing the tracks
as heavy fast freight trains passed by
rail road crossing with no gate
just Chessie Thornton directing the traffic
yes. I moved from the tracks
leaving King
and Jackie's kisses

to move uptown to our own house
no more rentals
and it was a fine house
150 years old
civil war era home, lived in by Mr. Wells himself
and He had bought it with his World War II G.I. money

I admired the fine hardwood cupboards
the old gaslight
the vintage hardwood floors
the very floors my friends and I wore off the finish
wore off by dancing shoes.
nightly dance parties, with Rick playing 45's
on his record player
that record player that he'd carry.
it was suitcase sized.
no boomboxes in those days.
Just Rick, and his record player, and his spindle of 45's
soul music
and we danced and danced
mom away at the Eagles with my step-dad
and teenagers
smoking Kools and drinking Strohs
and fucking in the garage

but this was after
after the time when He was still here
after the time I saw the tears in Her eyes
after He took his clothes out to his used car
packed his things
and left for good

she divorced him
she left him
she forced him out.
left him even before he was gone
"so, you were out with your mom's boyfriend today?"
and I didn't know what to say
didn't know how to answer
standing in his bedroom
their bedroom
with the separate beds
so long since I'd seen them naked
in their double bed
years ago

And I lived a life he never new
it was so long to me.
but only a few short years to Him
and he forged a life of his own
never bothering to reach out to his children
never ever visiting

and I sought him out
found him in that artsy crowd
the actors and play-writes
and I entered into that world
I brought my high school friends with me
into His world
of art

I remember the cast party
rubbing elbows with the local talent
the small town actors
I remember the party
I remember the sloe gin

© 2008 Marc Mccune

Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Truest Best Friend

11:30 a.m. I have had seven and a half hours of sleep. Good Saturday morning. Time for coffee and a toasted bagel. Watching the coffee drip, drip into the glass pot, waiting as the percolation slows, drawing to a finish. I get one of those memories. The kind that I don't normally conjure up. But at the spur of a moment, it pops into my mind, clear as day.

I'm scrubbing, scrubbing. Standing at the utility sink in my childhood friend's father's hardware store, I'm laboring to get the pot clean. "Man, this is one dirty coffee pot." My job on that morning, to make the coffee as we prepared for a morning of squirrel hunting. Doug stepped into the room. "Man, Doug. This pot is really filthy. I can't get all of this crusty old coffee off of the sides of the pot."

His face aghast, "My Dad's gonna kill you!"


"He NEVER washes that pot! It's 'sposed to be like that. Crap, let me look. He doesn't allow anyone to clean that pot. It makes the coffee taste better."

He looks. There is enough residue left on the insides of the old percolator that he is somewhat relieved. "Maybe he won't look."

*** / ***

I thought I was holding up pretty well. Actually I was in a kind of shock. My wife and I had arrived at the funeral home. We approached the casket as soon as we had entered the viewing room. Doug didn't look the same. He had endured a massive head injury. It was a motorcycle accident without a helmet. He lay there in repose, dressed in a suit and tie. Doug was like me, hardly one to ever wear a suit. After paying respects, I crossed over the room to his mother Mary, sitting, surrounded by friends and relatives, giving consolations. When she saw me, she reached up for me from her chair as I knelt and hugged her. And the tears began to flow like a flood. The emotion finally engulfed me and I shook with grief crying like a baby on her shoulder. We held each other a long while, weeping, but not saying more than a few words. Our grief melded into each other's.

Mary had been much like a mom to me for the amount of time I spent at Doug's house. His name was actually David, but everyone called him Doug.

"The nuns call you David in school," I said to him one day. "but why does your family call you Doug?"

"They call me Dug because I used to dig a lot when I was little", he smiled. Somehow I didn't believe that reason.

We went to the same Catholic school together. Immaculate Conception. Whenever the kids from the public school would ask what school I went to, I never said "the Catholic school". I always answered proudly, "Immaculate Conception".

"What's that?" They didn't know the term. Then I'd explain to them about the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus.

Doug was a free spirit. He introduced me to skateboards back in 1966. Sidewalk surfing. Seventh grade. Slot car racing. And girls. The girls in his neighborhood where so pretty. I began to hang out with Doug at Debbie's house. It seemed that his whole neighborhood hung out there. He introduced me to his summer friend Mark from California. Mark was a surfer. He had that sun bleached blond hair, and a real electric guitar. A Sears Silvertone. The kind that came with the case that also was an amplifier. That year Doug's parents bought him the same kind of guitar. Black and white Silvertone with single silver bar pickup. A real nice jangly sound. Good for Beatles or Beachboys music. Doug brought me into his proposed rock band...The Surfers. We weren't really a band. Doug was the only one who had an instrument. But the thought of being a rock star back in the 60's was overpowering.

Mary and her sister Sylvia were staunch Catholics. You could always see her at morning mass every day. Sitting over there on the left with all the other old Italian women and Nanas. She was a new kind of Catholic, long before the term became vogue. A "Charismatic" Catholic. She'd gone to a Kathryn Kuhlman healing service and received what she believed was a miraculous healing for a problem with sciatica. I remember her witnessing to me, at age 11 or 12, telling me the glories of Jesus and faith healing. At that time, it was a little scary to hear. I mean, I was already a faithful Catholic, going to the Catholic school. Mass every morning before school. Frequent confessions and holy communion. But Mary had this Jesus that was beyond the typical Catholic Jesus.

The summer before eighth grade, I worked at the carnival with my other friend Steve. I worked for three weeks, and made half of the money I needed for my own new electric guitar and amplifier. My mom and step dad kicked in the rest of the money. Mine was a Harmony, wood-grained single pickup electric. Shiny chrome metal, I was elated. And I didn't know how to play a note or even how to tune it. It was Doug who taught me how to tune my guitar.

Doug and I were inseparable. If he walked to my house, he'd have his guitar strapped on, slid across his back like some kind of archer's quiver. I did the same when I walked to his house. It soon became common to see us walking the streets of Wellsville, with our guitars. I remember the first time he called me on the phone to play the guitar.
"Here, listen to what I learned today," He played and the sound of the guitar was clear, loud and bright coming through the phone.

"How'd you do that?" I thought he'd hooked up his phone somehow to the amplifier.

"Simple, I just bend down, with the phone touching the guitar. I hold the phone between my ear and the guitar. The vibrations from the guitar go into the phone".

Brilliant! I thought. I began to do the same thing. And we would sit on the phone for hours, playing the guitars together. Teaching each other new guitar licks. It was mostly him showing me.

Going into high school, I started to hang out with a different crowd than Doug. I got in my own band. I'd surpassed Doug in guitar playing prowess. Doug began to hang with "The Fellas", a different group of friends than mine. But he was always in the background.

He disapprovingly wondered about me, getting into drugs, turning into a hippie. I went through a whole other life, through LSD, esoteric religions, then back to Jesus. It was only a few years, but it sure feels like a lifetime had passed between us. Then when I was eighteen years old, I became a "born again" Christian. Somehow I convinced Doug and our other friend Mark T. to go with me to Cleveland, to hear Billy Graham preach. While at the Crusade, Doug and Mark answered the invitation and we all went to the front, to pray the sinners prayer. I was happy that Doug, too, had met a Jesus that was beyond the typical Catholic Jesus. But in later days, the conversion didn't stick with Doug. He drifted off in another direction. He joined The Gladiators, a local motorcycle gang, grew his beard and hair long, wore leather and jeans and his colors, and rode a Harley Trike. I went off and joined a religious cult.

After Three years of wandering the country, I called my mom to tell her I was coming back off the road. She was delighted. The first thing she told me was that "Doug became a Christian". That was a big consolation to me. I came off the road an emotional and spiritual wreck. And Doug was there to catch me. He still looked like the biker I'd left. But his spirit was gigantic with love and friendship. He took me into his circle of friends. He took me to his church. And Mary smiled widely to see her son and his best friend back together. Now again, I would spend hours with Doug. This time, at his own house, drawn into his family life with his wonderful wife and his new son.

Doug was my best friend. And I miss him.

I dry my eyes. My coffee is ready.

Friday, June 01, 2007

ticket to write

some times, artistic, carefully constructed
at others, it flows from mind to the paper

some times a struggle to explain and define
other times just wide spaces, in between the lines

at times with care and concern of what you may think
but then wild abandon when these words are for me

Saturday, May 19, 2007

i guess i changed my mind. . .

no floods today
haven't been any for a while
no streams

easy against the difficult
caught in a cliche
rock and hard place
The easy. . . do nothing
the hard. . . persevere

the things of others...easy?
my own, the difficult

even these very words
like mining
like panning
picking up
then tossing
not finding very many to keep

and then,
many will see
the veneer
only touch the top
never the buried bulk
of what's inside

©2007  Marc McCune
["Stream of Consciousness" was painted by Susan Dupor, a deaf artist from Wisconsin.]

Thursday, May 17, 2007

yet a little slumber

he's left wreckage in his wake
looking back on years of
acting the grasshopper
not much like the ant
looking back on what's squandered and lost
because of neglect and sloth.

Even having known the wisdom,
of a little of the folding of the hands to sleep,
yet like the fabled ostrich
head in sand
he laid waste to his increase
and neglected his seed.
laid waste with rust and dust.

Friday, March 09, 2007

surely God has made a big mistake

surely God has made a big mistake

For some reason, the woman's beautiful hair must be hidden
the eyes of others must not see her
nor her skin, or her shape.
tent like sheets cover, from head to toe.

This feeling in my loins,
this hunger in my skin,
I'm not supposed to enjoy it.
she mustn't touch my firmness
nor I her wet softness.
we surely can't, caress or arouse.
cover it up, don't let the nipples show
keep her skin from my skin
repress the feeling.
But it is too natural and right to be wrong.

The natural course of things,
the normal path of nature and the world
something is not right.
What's the reason for the famine, disease, drought and war?
We must worship and sacrifice.
human blood for God
to appease the almighty
to change his mind and ease his wrath.
first fruits for spiritual favor

deny the rainbow colours of existence
hide the creation and glories of life
for surely we can't know...can we?
surely God has made a big mistake.

© 2007 Marc McCune

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


a new friend is writing
telling the world his story
he is digging deep down
bearing all for the world to see.

He is bringing us, his new friends
along on his journey
from his childhood
through adulthood
into his very neighborhood

and today I looked through his window
his story, so raw and naked
so brave and revealing.
his latest chapter, story not finished
but with power, reflected back at me

reflected back to my own life
thoughts and memories buried long ago.
but not forgotten.
Just pushed out of sight
behind an opaque mask,
the one that you all see.

today, shaken and stirred
to the core
to blink away tears
pushing it all back down
into the old hiding place
that is still somewhere inside me

© 2007 Marc McCune

Monday, February 12, 2007

© '07

It has been seven years
and I'm still not used to it
not used to living in
the 21st century.

The novelty of y2k
is still fresh in my mind
still getting used to writing my years
with oh's
But I continue to surprise myself
when I see a copyright date
of art created in '02
how that seems old, in a way
or how the real entrance into the twentyfirst
seems to have been nine eleven

I know it will be the same as it always has been for me.
just as I'm getting used to a new decade
it is over.

Friday, January 12, 2007

i wrote about it

i wrote about it just now.

a friend's profile jogged my memory.

an observation of how we make ourselves forget

i've never forgotten

and i began to write it all down

the secret, the details

i've never forgotten

the words flowed from my fingertips

i wrote then threw it away

Monday, December 25, 2006

Diggin' on James Brown

Christmas morning, 2006. I read the news today, oh boy.

It was the King. Not "of pop", not "of rock", but the King of Soul. The Godfather of Soul, if you will.

James Brown died last night. This man has been an icon in my life. For as far back as I can remember in my musical life, James Brown was there. Though my music tastes ebbed and flowed, and changed from genre to genre, James Brown and his music has been there. Back in the days of my high school garage band, The Martells, when I thoroughly impressed myself with learning the bass riff to Cold Sweat, or being the only white soul band in the area who included I'm Black and I'm Proud in their repertoire, James Brown's music was a pillar and beacon. The quality of his tight music was something we strove to emulate.

Over the years, as my music tastes changed, and I moved from Soul, to Rock, to Blues and Psychedelia, the soul of James Brown remained a staple of my musical palate.

Moving through days as a nomadic preacher to settling down with a wife and family, playing church bass and drums, back out through my ups and downs, losing my religion, the highs and lows of Living in America, James Brown and his music was one of those things of American life that was just there, always in the background, always finding its way into the fabric of Americana. I told my kids the news this morning. They were equally stunned. James Brown has always just been there. Being so ingrained in our common psyche, we took him for granted. He was timeless.

It's Christmas Morning, 2006 and I'm sitting here, Diggin' on James Brown.

© Marc S. McCune 2006

Humanity Machine

This is a new mall for me. I've never been here before. A lot of nice unusual shops here. Different stores not seen in the shopping malls I usually frequent. It is a multi leveled structure, floors between floors. Ramps, stairs and escalators to transport shoppers between floors, mezzanines, and elevated spaces.
Looking down, from the top balcony, out across the wide indoor thoroughfare, I see the holiday shoppers. In between the hanging lights, and holiday decorations, I see people in all shapes and sizes. Walking in groups, families, friends, or alone. Once again I am hit with this familiar feeling. This realization that comes upon me. Seeing all of these thousands of people in this place. They all come here, sharing in this social scene. Personal orbits intersecting each other. Worlds colliding, if only for a brief moment. I am flooded with unexplainable thoughts. When I try to articulate what I feel, I find that there is a dearth of words. I have to invent these phrases as I go along. And my companions look at me with that blank stare. "What are you talking about?" Life. I'm talking about life. Humanity. The Human Machine. These thoughts hit me when I'm in crowded places. When I see people in this way, interacting in the life dance. And I think about how this extends from here out into every other place. This night, in other malls around my great city, the same thing occurs. The same dance, the same life. And I get amazed that all of this humanity is drawn together in the same fashion. And there are all of those other worlds. Those personal spaces of which I'd love to touch. The aspects of these individual worlds. The untold stories laying in between the lines. I think of how not only here, in my Chicago, but in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Youngstown, Gainesville, Houston...I lose my breath, thinking how in every city, in every state, the humanity machine ticks, ebbs, flows.

I used to get this same feeling, on cold Saturday mornings, fog still laying thick on the fields, as scores of youth soccer teams went through their paces, playing their games. Parents standing on the sidelines, warming themselves with hot cups of coffee, talking to one another, strangers meeting strangers for the first time. Sharing stories about their kids. How in the same way, parents and children came together at this very same hour, in all the towns across the nation. The humanity machines. I cannot explain it. These words are inadequate. They surely don't describe the deep thought and feeling that accompany this idea washing around in my mind. So I remain, in awe, of the world, the universe, of this thing that god has wrought.

© Marc S. McCune 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

another Solstice brings The Smiling Girl

On the morning train, she brought a very bright smile
hair pulled up and back in a pony tail,
dressed in her pink ski jacket
zip-up university sweat shirt underneath, and blue jeans.
She flashed me the bright smile.
her face, tanned
"Hi! How have you been?" bright eyes gleaming
Great, I said
We walked together upon leaving the train
"I looked around" she said,
"and I think I'm the only one with a pink coat on."
I smiled. "It's your ski jacket" I reasoned.
We walked on.
She left me at my building with a smile.
It's good to see my sometimes friend.
The Smiling Girl

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

searching for paradise

Very young, I was in awe at the satin vestments, the sparkling gold ornaments, the chiming of bells at the altar. The smell of incense filled my nostrils, as I sat in the pew, feet not touching the floor, wide eyes at the priest, smoke billowing from the censor at the altar as he blessed the congregation. I didn't know what it was all about, except that it was about God. I looked around at the crowd of people, crossing themselves, speaking in an unknown language. The Latin I would later struggle with as an altar boy. These people seemed to know secrets. I wondered at their connection to the powerful, the magical, the unseen. My young mind took it all in.

I was filled with questions. In my daily religion class at Immaculate Conception Catholic School I constantly had my hand up, asking the nun the hypothetical questions about heaven, hell, salvation, sin and grace.

Ah grace, the idea that I could be sanctified. I saw creamy white light in my mind's eye when I thought of the sanctifying grace. I was in awe that I could stand before God, as a perfect, blameless person. But life quickly taught me differently. In the midst of my easy path to God, I encountered pitfalls in my young life that gave me experiences that I could never confess to the priest. He would never understand or grant remission. Sin piled up upon sin and my white light turned to sackcloth and ashes.

Through my youth I started to learn, and I continued to imbibe on life's pleasures, yet seeking God, religion and fulfillment, but not finding it.

I landed at several different spiritual thresholds. At age seventeen I frightfully, but bravely forsook my Catholic upbringing. I saw that the lightning did not smite me from heaven. I moved forward in my quest and deeply embraced the hippie guru philosophies. Fueled by lysergic substances, I was fooled into thinking I found sure answers. But after a few years of dabbling, I was captured again by representatives of The Messiah. I listened as they witnessed of what all now seemed true to me. And I plunged into my new religion.

In my search for paradise, I filled my mind with scriptures and Jesus, music and the esoteric side of Christianity. Prophecies and speaking in tongues, healing and miracles all seemed natural in this different side of Christianity. But in the back of my mind was always the idea that things were being forced into place. Interpretations of natural phenomena received supernatural explanations. Rumors and tales became fodder for miraculous stories. Yet I learned to belong. I studied daily.

Then another change. Striving to be perfect, I forsook the world of Babylon. I joined a group of itinerant evangelists. I became a nomad, embracing poverty for paradise. I grew my beard long and wore robes of righteousness. I traveled this country along the highways and in the centers of learning. Sowing our seeds of religion to those who where hungry. Hungry and naive. And I disdained all who did not believe as me and my brethren. But the more I read, the more I studied; the more I saw that all was not right. Studying to show myself approved, I found yet again, that I was a believer in tales and ideas of a faulty man. Our Elder, a single man with charisma to convince disciples to believe as he did. And once again, with fear I forsook my faith. At a new threshold I continued to search for paradise.

I found myself back in the mainstream. And for years I sought to find the key. The key that was supposed to be mine by mere faith. I continued to read and to study. All the books, all the deep things of a devotee, never satisfied with being on periphery of this faith. Never content with not having all the facts. I studied the history, I looked at the origins. I read the old books that most of my fellow Christians don't read, or even know about. Books written by the Fathers in the early centuries.

Over the years, I began to see that things didn't add up. I saw how this faith was mostly blind. In my search for paradise, I began to look at how religions started. Not just mine, but the religions of the world. What did recent new religions claim? How did they begin? What did the Scientologist L. Ron Hubbard see and say? What of the Mormon Joseph Smith? I could see farce and untruths. Yet I saw millions following paths that were clearly fairy tales. People searching for paradise and grabbing onto lies. I looked further back in the years and centuries. And I realized how others had also seen their own angels, and had spouted their own personal revelations. I saw that such was true with Mohammed, with St. Paul, Pharaoh Akhenaten, Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses, and even Abraham.

I realized that these men all claimed the exclusive path to paradise, the only connection to God. They all claimed to be the sole source of the holy oracles. Yet I saw that these all were paths started by a lone man. A single person on his personal search for paradise. A person who relayed his story to others. And for different reasons people believed, or converted, or submitted. Be it a father teaching his own family and children and grandchildren about his personal ideas of God, or a leader conquering other countries and forcing conversions. Even new religions for profit and filthy lucre.

I looked out upon this field of faith. I could envision great monolithic structures that evolved from simple beginnings. And I saw vast populations, civilizations completely built upon a base of lies and false tales, upon misconceptions and ignorance of the truth of the universe. I looked at each of these religious worlds. In my mind's eye I could see a huge social structures built up, on a base of traditions and laws. And each religion was a world unto itself. I could see how a person is born and raised, and lived their complete life within the shadow of their religion, content with their path to paradise, yet ignorant of real life in the real universe.

And I began to change my mind. I began to apply the scrutiny I placed on all the other religions upon my own. And I saw the fallacy and the lies. I stepped out of the box I was in. I tore down my tight boundaries. And my universe became infinite. God became infinite. God was no longer an idol created in the image of a man, with human characteristics, with human anger and wrath and jealousy. God became all powerful to me. I was shocked at how small my idea of God had really been. I now understood how religion creates small idols and claim that their idol is the all powerful God. But their Gods are held within a rigid set of rules that mankind itself creates. I realized that I cannot know God. It is folly for me to preach my version of God, to attempt to convert others to my understanding, to my way of thinking. Doing so is like being one of the blind men in the fable about the five blind men and the elephant. Each blind man placed their hands on the elephant, describing the part of the animal that they encountered as being the true representation of the elephant. One described the animal as a great wall, another blind man said the elephant was long, like a serpent, yet another insisted that the elephant was flat and floppy, and so on. None of them actually understood the true picture.

So here I am. Still asking questions, not believing that the sun, moon or the elements are gods, nor that the path is through space aliens, or that God had a son who walked on water. Nor do I believe that keeping medieval laws, be they 613 mitzvot or Sharia or any other religion's narrow precepts, will get me to God.

I am still looking for the answers.

© Marc S. McCune 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

the perfect job

Ringling Bros and
Barnum & Baily
job fair

Ringling Bros and
Barnum &
is look for hardworking dedicated individuals for the following job opportunities.
100% travel is required for all positions


Apply in person, etcetera, etcetera.

Hmmm...that would be the perfect job. Well, that is how I feel about it right now. If I wasn't so encumbered with family, friends and other duties. If I was 21 years old again...

Here I am, perusing the want ads in the Chicago Tribune, trying to find suitable employment. The day before Halloween I got the big surprise at work. "We are eliminating your position". I was stunned. "As of today." I suddenly felt what it is like to be a zombie, walking around like all the life had been sucked out of me.

Changing jobs is not a common thing with me. I had this job for five years. And my last job I was comfy and cozy in for twenty years. I'm not used to this. It's like going into a singles bar at age 50 after you've gotten a divorce. When you haven't been in circulation for years. You kind of forget how to do things. Your skills are not up do date. And you have got to take a crash course in how to learn all the current and new right moves.

There is this nagging in the back of my mind. I keep having visions of myself wearing the blue vest and standing in front of Walmart as a greeter, pushing shopping carts.

I did run away with the carnival once, when I was in seventh grade. Well, I didn't actually run away. My parents knew I was working at the carnival in town. They gave me permission to leave on the road with my friend Steve to work with the carnival for two weeks. For a kid in the middle of junior high summer vacation, that was the best time. My first real job experience, not counting my weekly gig of cutting Mrs. Gould's grass. I lost that grass cutting job after I tried to force a wage increase on old Mrs. Gould. Don't fault me. I had no inkling, at my young age about fixed incomes and that my boss's funds were limited. I was a growing boy, and $1.00 a week suddenly seemed like cheap wages for cutting grass. She didn't want to raise my pay to $1.50. She was a sweet old lady. I miss her.

I enjoyed the work experience with the carnival. I learned how to stay up all night erecting the rides. Putting together the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel, piece by piece was great on-the-job training. But my main job was working in the food vending trailer. I got to have free cotton candy and candy apples. And there were other fringe benefits. In my two week stint with the carnival, I had two new girlfriends, and I was working on a third. I felt like a sailor, with a girl in every port. When I finished my two weeks, the girls even kept in touch and wrote me at home, sending pictures and love letters. Charlotte and Kathy. I still remember their names.

I learned how to play poker with other carnies. Two guys who's names really were Lonnie and Slim. Lonnie was man in his late 40's, having been a carny all his life. Slim was younger. A greaser who reminded me of Fonzie, but not as clean. I never realized how good of a card player my friend Steve was, until Slim got angry and wouldn't pay up when he lost a hand that Steve had bluffed. Lonnie had to break up the argument, keeping Steve and Slim at bay. Tall angry Slim on one side, and thirteen year old Steve on the other, brandishing a large crescent wrench as an equalizer. Lonnie and Slim taught us the secrets of being a carney. How to stick together in a fight. And when to run.

Looking back at the newspaper classifieds, I let out a sigh. If circumstances were different, you'd see me in the back lot behind the tent. Wrestling animal cages off of the truck. Shovel and broom in hand, walking behind the elephants. But I don't think this circus job will work out this time. I need a gig with a 401K.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I read the news

I read the news today, oh boy
heard the news on the wire.
A kind soul found three weeks gone
yet a memory was pulled out of dusty corner.

Beatles on the radio today
WXRT Beatlemania all day.
In the midst of listening
I heard the news
I read the news.

I remember John, back in the day
the day of wanting to be
the fifth Beatle
envy, just a kid and he already
was performing,
in the park,
guest guitarist with Benny Hipsley's band
I saw her standing there.

I read the news
another long lost fan.
She told the editor,
she, from junior high,
Ticket To Ride, reminds her
she thinks of John whenever she hears the tune

He was kind, softspoken
he was a soul, flung into hard times
lost, then found
I always wondered where he landed
what became of him.

In my home town, we knew him.
the musicians musician
a friend, a kind heart
a smile that made you smile.

Barb told me today
last time she talked to him
he remembered me
"oh yeah, he's a good guitar player"
I'm flattered.

I felt distance regret,
sad that I could not be there,
sad that I did have the chance
to also bring my guitar to the park
to pay tribute,
along with all the other musicians
just to remember a little

Sunday, July 23, 2006

your best face

in this matrix, putting our best foot forward
placing our signs out for the world to see
at our blog spots, our spaces, on live journals,
inviting the world to look and see
our best poem, piece of art,
our provacative photos, funny jokes
our clever avatar or headline blurb
this is the music I like
these are the places I love
these are pictures of me and mine
asking the you like them?
do you approve?
i'm showing mine, show me yours
giving out pieces of our lives
putting on pretty masks like evening clothes
to go out for the night of fun
but not all is a mask
we dare, to pull back the mask
showing, "this is what I look like"
"this is how I feel"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

like my mother

I saw her again today.
just like the other day.
she stands, her four packed bags near her feet.
holding up copies of Streetwise
waiting for a sale.
this is her home, I reason
she lives on this street
she's not aggressive, no sales pitch
just a quiet demeanor, her head tilted down
eyes to the ground
standing straight
as straight as she can with her hunched back
she stands, and reminds me of my mother
"I'll take one of those", handing her a dollar
her eyes lift, but her head remains tilted down
she doesn't quite make eye contact
"thank you very much" she smiles
"have a nice day" her voice, clear
a grandma's voice
like my mother

Monday, May 29, 2006

night sounds

it is 1:00 a.m. and I hear her outside my window.
on this warm spring chicago night, I hear the girl
crying, speaking into her cell phone, sobs and worry.
he kicked her out of the apartment.
her voice, frantic, angry, dispair.

I hear her friend talking, I don't feel quite as bad
the girl is not alone, she has someone who knows her
she will help, I reason.
I hear the sound of her shoes,
heels clip clopping on the hard sidewalk
as she runs past my second story window
I hear her run back towards her apartment, angry
determined to get back inside

she returns, back beneath my window
yelling, so hurt, so angry, sounding lost

Sunday, November 13, 2005

When Religion Destroys

In today's online AlJazeera, I read an article about how the story of Afghanistan, in media, film, radio, and recordings; had been saved from the destruction by the Taliban.

This sad scenario replays itself, over and over, time and again. Indeed, when the Spanish conquered The Aztecs and Mayans, they systemactially destroyed thousands of written codexes and manuscripts, and thus destroyed much of the history of the new world.

This is sadly, the situation when a group of people are convinced that they are the spokesmen of God. That they are the ones who's job it is, to be enforcers of their brand of morality...regardless of how strict or ridiculous their rules may be. I've lived through this myself, a member of the Jim Roberts Group. Been through my share of religion and rules based upon myth, ancient traditions, and fear.

We are sadly seeing this still in this world today. The fundamentalist religions who preach intolerance, and violence against those they perceive as being nonbelieving infidels. Read and consider. Selah.

Saving the story of Afghanistan

The black and white images projected into the darkened cinema show an Afghanistan that years of war have destroyed.

There is Kabul as a manicured city, lights strung among the trees along the river. Actresses have beehive hairdos, knee-length skirts and cleavage. Boys and girls march together on a sports field. European hippies lounge in the sun.

The ultra-conservative Taliban wanted these images destroyed, torching thousands of cassettes after locking the doors of the television studios and cinemas and turning off the music when they took control in 1996.

That these glimpses of the past can be shown today in Kabul's famous Ariana cinema, itself destroyed in the four-year civil war that preceded the Taliban's rule, is because of great risks by archive staff.

Hidden tapes

At Afghan Film they hid tapes in the ceiling and a secret room, breaking power circuits to defeat Taliban searches.

At the several-storey Radio and Television of Afghanistan (RTA) building, they split up the collection and squirrelled cassettes into the basement and scores of other rooms, pretending the archive had been looted.

"They worked with a lot of danger for themselves, for their families," says Rahman Panjshiri, RTA head of planning and international relations.

"If the Taliban knew that, for example, these people kept some tapes in the basement, they might have punished them seriously or they might have put them in prison," he says.

The Taliban torched two shipping containers of tapes outside the Afghan Film office, although staff had made sure they were only prints of Hindi and Russian films. RTA surrendered 1500 cassettes of foreign music.

First Afghan film

But 14,500 hours of television footage survived, dating from 1978, as did 45,000 hours of radio starting in the 1940s and more than 100,000 hours of film, including the first Afghan movie, Love and Friendship, made about 60 years ago.

Having emerged through all that, the precious store is under threat again, this time from the humidity and temperature changes that destroy film and tape.

Since 2002 the French National Audio-Visual Institute (INA) has been helping to digitalise the footage, a painstaking process that has covered only about 1200 hours of material - an occasion marked by the showing at the Ariana last month.

The slowness of the project, with the radio archives only due to be started on in 2006, worries Panjshiri.

"We want to expedite the process because our archives are now in a very bad condition. Within the next 10 years nothing will be left in the archive to digitalise," he says.

"If we lose these things, it means that we will have lost our culture, our heritage, everything."

History on film

The footage includes pictures of some of the ruinous events from which Afghanistan is only just recovering.

There are the first Red troops to enter Kabul after the 1979 Soviet invasion; the first interview with Babrak Karmal, who arrived in Kabul on a Russian tank and became president in 1979; the daily skirmishes of the war between anti-Soviet mujahidin (1992-1996) that killed 50,000 people in the capital alone.

"Afghanistan is destroyed, Kabul is destroyed, we have these shots," says the head of Afghan Film, Latif Ahmadi. "The wounded people in hospital, bombing in Kabul ... most of the film is in this time, the war time."

There are also images of the treasures of Afghanistan's rich culture that the Taliban destroyed: the 2000-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas, ancient artefacts that had been in the museum, videos of deceased singers who are still popular today but whose recordings were supposed to have vanished forever.

Afghan Film also has rare footage of president Najibullah and his brother who were dragged from a United Nations compound and strung up in the streets of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996.
Rare footage

"We have pictures, only two minutes. It was very, very dangerous because the Taliban did not allow anybody to take pictures," Ahmadi says.

The rarest footage is from the Taliban period, because the government banned television, video and music as sinful.

"They turned Kabul into a very big grave. The silence at that time was like the silence of a graveyard," says the RTA's Panjshiri in his office still flecked by shrapnel from the civil war.
During the war, "it was a very bad situation but the people could say something, we could criticise everybody ... but during the Taliban, if you wanted to criticise for example [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar, maybe they would cut out your tongue".

Panjshiri and Ahmadi went into exile, returning after the Taliban were removed in a US-led campaign in late 2001.

For them, the restoration of the archives is a source of pride, with plans for film festivals, documentaries and DVDs once the footage has been digitalised.

"This archive is very important for the story of the country," says Ahmadi.

"When I tell somebody that before the 24, 25 years' war in Afghanistan we had a culture, we had a high civilisation, the girls wore mini-skirts, nobody can guess that. But if we show some films from that time, they will be very excited," he says.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

whatsoever is good

When I smell the wild flowers
or suck on the sweet nectar of clover blossoms.
pulling the roots of a sassafras plant, just to smell the fragrance.
break off leaves of trees to taste and smell
exploring the senses.

laying in the grass, with eyes closed on a summer's day
just listening to the sound of the leaves in the trees,
rustling behind my head
feeling the sun on face
open my eyes and look at the clouds making shapes.

sitting near the American River, guitar in hand,
trying to reproduce the sound of the waters

late night moonless sky,
with stars painted across the heavens.
the sound of silence,
while looking at the milky way

walking down Riverside Avenue,
in the rain under my black umbrella,
peering across the wide Ohio river bend
and standing there through the long storm
watching the lightning dance on the hills of west virginia

standing within the crowd on 13th street,
watching the apartment building burn down
flames shooting so high in the night.
and thinking about the lonely girl who lived there.
The one who didn't get out. The girl who walked alone
through the high school halls.

The colors swirling, the sounds moving,
for the first time,
watching the world in lysergic amazement.
amazed at what was inside of my head
amazed at the answers that suddenly came over me.
engulfed in feeling that I've never felt before.

and then sitting with electrified friends
in the early dawn, looking down on the valley
viewing the three towns along the river
sitting on the heights,
seeing intense fire paint the sky.
looking into the sun through the morning clouds
and being utterly amazed at the pictures
and colorful forms playing out
on the immense canvas of the sky

pressed up against her.
Not believing that she was here with me.
soft lips, long blond hair,
petite body, and small pert breasts.
always fresh and a delight.
excited at what was to come next.
my high school sweetheart
warmth engulfing me
deep inside her, drawn into her
exploring the erotic,
never to this depth
just for fun

holding him in my hands
this new life...he fit so snuggly
within my two palms.
eyes still mostly closed
soft baby skin, smooth baby smell,
and I loved him from the very first moment
an unbelievably deep love,
a ready made love
and I couldn't explain this feeling
father and son.

standing before an audience
yet oblivious to all around me.
just being aware of the sounds coming
from my throat, and playing through my fingers,
a rush of feeling played down the side of my body
from head to toe
and the band reached a higher plateau,
what is the word for it?
it is hard to describe.
a rush.
but I always feel it when it's about to hit
and then there's the rush.
not quite orgasmic
but close

in the night, seeing the tunnel to God
part of an acid laced encounter
but there it opened up.
the tunnel to the heavens
and my voice quavering
not aloud...but shouting inside of me
shout to the Lord
suddenly aware of His loftiness
and of my lowliness,
and of the connection between us.

my imagination wanders. Inside my huge mind
I see the blossoms...the unfolding
the discovery. Another of my wonders.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

it was autumn [a memoir]

The woods spread out on all sides, and I had no idea how far off into the distance they reached. I was in a clearing, and I didn't remember how I got there. The leaves had fallen, spreading across the ground. Little hills surrounded the clearing. I was not afraid, just confused about how I ended up being in this place.

Suddenly, I was not alone. There she appeared, across the clearing, calling my name. It was my friend Lynnie. She was about my same age...four years old. It was she who brought me here. She seemed to have known the place, was familiar with it. And I was still amazed that this place even existed.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

small treasures

Listening to old vinyl records,
some that I've never heard before.
Old treasures at yard sales,
old books and records,
ones I couldn't afford to buy when they were new.
Now, years later, castoffs no longer needed,
but new to my ears...
art I've been putting off for years...
low hanging fruit on my stack of stuff.
My list of things to see,
with the Seven Wonders of The World.

This lazy Saturday afternoon, I'm enjoying these small treasures.
Not the Mona Lisa, or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel...
those will have to remain high on my list of things to see.

listening to:
Cory Hart's "Boy In The Box"

emotional sleight of hand

My thoughts flow freely. And now, back to religion. Le Eternal created us naked. We were adorned in the way God wanted. No Mistakes. God didn't create us with veiled or capped heads, or foreheads and arms wrapped with phylacteries. God didn't create women with a covering from head to toe. Women were not provided with a wig to cover their natural hair. The Creator didn't hide our genitals behind robes.

So tell me why do humans create these idols, these holy things that the priests say we must adhere to in order be to holy unto the Creator? How can a man construe the beautiful singing voice of a woman as being shameful before men and God? How is it, that a woman's glory is seen as something to be hidden?

I wonder at the way we understand this creation. I wonder at how our little minds insist on misinterpreting the signs of God around us. I wonder at why so-called religious men think that our God-given appetite for the delights of the body are a mistake, to be avoided.

I suppose as a person is fooled by sleight of hand tricks, as if it were magic that they see, so we humans succumb to mental and emotional sleight of hand. We are ourselves, or by others. The facts of life are misrepresented or misinterpreted. The ancient Mayans felt that human sacrifice was required to appease their agricultural insure good harvests and to ward off natural catastrophe. So human lives by the many thousands were offered in blood sacrifice on altars of stone. But not only the Mayans, but the Aztecs, the Incas, the Canaanites, the Hebrews when they were worshipping Moloch, and countless other peoples throughout the ages of history. They thought that God required blood to appease his bloodthirstiness. In reality, we didn't know much about God. We made Him up as we went along. We created idols, based on what we can imagine in our own minds. Some gods were horrific and monstrous. Others were simply ridiculous. Yet, great thought structures evolved around the creation of these gods. From the worship of the penis and the fertility of women, to testosterone fueled war gods...from a strict Jehovah to a benevolent Christ, we've worshipped idols.

Caught in the middle of a life based on religion, many discover the truth for themselves, but never break free. Out of fear of a God, or fear of being ostracized by friends, family and their religious community, they remain trapped in the lie. Although, to live within the structure and world of their religion is often sufficient; only within that world can they thrive. But, these religious worlds, are worlds unto themselves. Everything works withing it's structure, but nothing can come in from the outside.

In our modern cosmopolitan world, this form of religious life falls short. When it is possible to step outside of one's world and to see it from see it from another viewpoint, then the fallacies become apparent. The generational lies can be seen for what they are. Then, outside of the narrow religious structure, the real universe can be seen as much more huge than one had previously thought. Then, the idea of God is not bound by the box of dogma, and human misunderstanding. Then, the nature of God is boundless, and not restricted by the feebleness of our senses. Then we can become the part of creation that God intended us to be. Then we can partake of life, fully...without the false restrictions that would bind us, victimize us, or kill us.