Puzzling Evidence

“You got the CBS and the ABC, Time and Newsweek, they’re the same to me…” from True Stories soundtrack, David Byrne and Talking Heads. I liked this film and soundtrack so much my friends were beginning to wonder about me. Just kidding. They always did wonder about me.

News of the World

So Tom Hanks is starring in the film adaptation of this Paulette Jiles novel, and I have to say the film will probably be good, though I’m practically begging you to read the book first.

It’s a first rate yarn set in post-Civil War Texas involving an old war veteran who’s agreed to return to her family a young girl who was raised captive by Kiowa warriors and remembers nothing of her previous life. This cross-cultural and cross-generational bonding angle could have been a cliched mess, the kind of thing Hollywood loves to cash in on, but the book is a clear eyed look at the harsh environs of a lawless Texas wilderness, rendered in gorgeous prose.

The title stems from the occupation of the old veteran, who gathers up recent newspapers from all over and travels to distant small towns and outposts, giving public readings at ten cents a head. If this setup sounds like your kind of thing you will be well served reading the book first, or instead.

Finale from 200 Motels

I’d forgotten what a brilliant piece this was when it popped into my mind and I had to track it down on YouTube. Somber, flamboyant, richly melodic, cheeky, irreverent, beautiful, crazy set piece with Ringo Starr as a Frank Zappa doppelganger. I saw the film in its original theatrical release in Tampa, Florida back in the day.

No Office for Old Men



Sun rising over landscaped office park. Sprinklers
raise a mist in the golden light. The voice
of an old man:

                    Voice Over

        I was manager of this office when I was
        twenty-five. Hard to believe. Grandfather
        was management. Father too. Me and him was
        managers at the same time, him up in Peoria
        and me down here. I think he was pretty proud
        of that. I know I was.

We dissolve to another view of the park.
No people, or movement.

        Some of the old-time managers never even
        used out-sourced labor. A lot of folks
        find that hard to believe.

We dissolve through differing views of cube farms
and interior office environs all empty, some
with the lights out.

        I always liked to hear about the old-
        timers. Never missed a chance to do so.
        You can’t help but compare yourself against the
        old timers. Can’t help but wonder how they
        would’ve operated these times.

CLOSE-UP a RED Swingline stapler.

        The kind of dimwitted slackers apply for work
        today, it’s hard to even take its measure.

Camera pans up to reveal a chubby man sitting
at the desk: Milton Waddams.

MILTON is muttering under the Voice Over.

        I always knew you had to be a complete bastard
        to even do this job. But I don’t want to push my
        chips forward and find I downsized the wrong

        You could say it’s my job to destroy the souls of
        these cube muppets but I don’t even want to know
        what falls out when you tip the wrong HR jacket.


        mutter mutter I’ll burn the place down is
        what I’ll do.

(Written around 2012.)

One Hundred Years of Attitude

The poem half belongs to the reader.

The poetry, the novel. Writers shepherd things into place, they are just words after all. The reader does half the lifting. But once they start gorging on films of literary origin, the teeth of the imagination begin to rot.

Consume the processed product of someone else’s imagination? Take the sirloin in pill form why don’t we. No gristle to pick from your teeth. Literature ignites the imagination, that’s what reading does. Watching a flickering screen, it is numbed. The imagination is anesthetized. But by all means, let Neflix make a Game of Thrones out of Garcia-Marquez, what could go wrong? Youth are remaking the world as we speak, it is not ours any more, us old farts. I worry about all the wrong things.

I have attitudes that mean nothing to anyone but me. They are like my children. I give them names and watch them grow up. Weep when they do poorly in school, or start stealing cars. It is a derangement I hold dear. One Hundred Years of Solitude will no doubt become the Breaking Bad of magical realism. It does not touch me. I have already built my own copy of that world.

Ever so slowly, I rise, and applaud.

The Bourne Perplexity

honed skillsets
every move precise
deeply ingrained, every how
but not a trace of why
the headaches
he can remember everything
but who he is

identity is a mystery
for the trained assassin
and the shift worker

look at what they
made you give