Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reading Bukowski

I've just finished reading my third Charles Bukowski novel, which are all semi-autobiographical. The first, and so far the best, Ham On Rye, I read last year, and the last two, Post Office, and Factotum, I read this week. I was originally also planning on reading Women, his sequel to those books, and started to, but gave up, having concluded that reading Bukowski is a waste of my time.

Why? Because it's all pretty much the same. If you've read one, you've read them all. Bukowski is an alcoholic. All he cares about is getting drunk and getting laid. Sure, he writes about different job experiences, from working over a decade for the U.S. Postal Service, to working dozens of temporary menial labor jobs across the country, but it all centers around his obsession with getting drunk and getting laid. That's pretty much it, the end all be all of his existence. And it gets a bit tiresome after awhile.

Perhaps his essays are better, I may give them a try, but his novels are shit. I really don't get their popularity. Maybe it's because he uses the word "fuck" a lot, and gives graphic descriptions of his sexual experiences, at a time when perhaps few did, which maybe gave him a sort of countercultural appeal, I don't know. He does on the other hand have a very easy to read style, but ultimately its very shallow, that when its over you feel like you've gained nothing.

The only thing I really liked about it were some of his insights concerning the absurdity of certain types of jobs, and the humorous ways people adapt themselves to it.

Here's a good quote, probably the best quote out of the entire book, from Factotum:

--- "How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?"

"I had elaborated on my work experience in a creative way. Pros do that: you leave out the previous low-grade jobs and describe the better ones fully, also leaving out any mention of those blank stretches when you were alcoholic for six months and shacked up with some woman just released from a madhouse or a bad marriage. Of course, since all my previous jobs were low-grade I left out the lower low-grade." ---

I've been there, unfortunately, if you are a hardcore alcoholic who follows this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, you'll likely end up an unemployed wino sleeping outside on park benches or living under a bridge begging for spare change and eating out of dumpsters. Or if, like Bukowski, you happen to win the lottery and manage to make millions of dollars off of mediocre writing, you can drink yourself into an early grave without ever having to work another day of your life and without ever becoming homeless. But you'll still be just as pathetic, except you'll be too drunk to care.

That's Bukowski, everybody: alcoholic, sexaholic, bum; with an occasionally good insight, but mostly not worth reading. That's my assessment. It's something that would only appeal to alcoholics, sexaholics, slackers/bums, or people under 25.

Well, it's not like I didn't already know that going in, but was hoping that maybe there was something more to it that I might have missed had I not read it. Guess not. Most people read this shit when their sixteen, I waited until I was in my thirties. Better late then never, and good riddance. Burroughs is a dirty old bastard too, but definitely more interesting. I'll be reading him next.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

15 Books To Read

So I've been on a reading roll, really enjoying the fact that I can read any book I wish. No longer am I limited by financial constraints, or faced with countless disappointment after another when the local library doesn't have yet another book I wish to read. The interlibrary loan has made this possible.

I've been reading Burroughs and Bukowski, as originally planned, but am already making plans for what's next. Mostly I'm looking at quick reads, mostly fiction, stuff I can finish in a couple of days, keeping up with my maximum six book interlibrary loan checkout with no renewals. It will be awhile before I slow down to read something huge like War and Peace.

Was up last night perusing book lists on GoodReads and Amazon, putting together a list of books to read, and I came up with fifteen. By no means is the list exhaustive, it's just a starting point; something to have on hand, when I have nothing else.

I may skip around a bit, and read other books not on this list, but at some point these will be read, and I wanted to make a note of it. A few of them are available now at my local public library, but most will have to be requested via interlibrary loan, something I'm making a regular habit of.

If any title interests you, just click on the links to learn about the book. Each book has been carefully selected, and is considered to be the highest quality, though I haven't read them yet, so no guarantees.

15 Books To Read

1. The Book of Occult by Simon W. Clark.

2. The Ninth Orphan by James Morcan.

3. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick.

4. Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn.

5. DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman.

6. White Noise by Don DeLillo.

7. Exterminator! by William S. Burroughs.

8. Ask the Dust by John Fante.

9. The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges.

10. Methuselah's Children by Robert A. Heinlein.

11. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

12. Haunted: A Novel by Chuck Palahniak.

13. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade.

14. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

15. The White Rose by B. Traven.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Yage Letters

Just finished reading The Yage Letters, it's the fourth book I've read so far by William S. Burroughs, and it was a major disappointment. Not good at all. It sounded intriguing, the search for a drug that is said to stimulate sensitivity to telepathic communication; that's something that is totally up my alley. In fact, if you know of any books that deal with that subject matter, please do send them my way, via email or the comments, I'll look into it immediately.

Anyway, Burroughs lived many years south of the border in Mexico, mostly to escape prison time in the U.S. for long-time opiate addiction and dealing, and during his time there traveled extensively through Central and South America. This book, presented as a series of letters to friend Allen Ginsberg, chronicles his search for the hallucinogenic vine Yage, also known as Ayahuasca.

His experience with it was nothing special, and mostly negative. Though I have to say his documentation of the experience, not only of using, but the whole process of finding it, and the cultural folklore, encounters with shamans and such, acquired along the way was very brief and incomplete. Read more like informal letters to a friend, rather than an anthropological survey, which of course is I guess all that it was intended to be. But based on his other writings and ideas, which I believe are best captured in his interviews, where his extensive knowledge and intellect really shines, he could have done a lot better than this.

It's just that there wasn't really enough there in my opinion to even publish it as a book. The whole thing was less than eighty pages, and most of it, despite the title and description, centered not around the search for Yage, but the search for casual sex with young men, who in some cases were still what you would call boys, teenagers, barely legal. Okay, I don't care about Burroughs' homosexuality, doesn't bother me, but men who are over forty-years-old cruising for one night stands with 15 year old boys is in my opinion disgusting.

Its value is primarily autobiographical, but as far as providing information about Ayahuasca, and being a travelogue of 1950s Latin America, its value is minimal.

I don't know why, but I always seem to gravitate to reading dirty old men, people who, like Burroughs, Bukowski, Miller, in real life I would find so repulsive and degenerate that I'd have nothing to do with. I guess it's my shadow, such interests, that manifest purely in literary form, a fascination with inferior men with brilliant minds, tarnished by perverse, decadent habits and thoughts.

I'm not done with Burroughs just yet, but this one has turned out to be the least interesting and most disappointing book of his so far. Though I have to say, his books Junky, Queer, and The Yage Letters should all be read together, they were all written, though not published, around the same time, and deal with the same subject matter, that of addiction, gay cruising (despite the fact that he was married to a woman) and travels, and read like they could have been combined in one big autobiographical novel; with The Yage Letters being better as an appendix, rather than a stand-alone work; though I can understand why they did it that way. Junky was, after all, his first novel, and almost wasn't published. Its autobiographical value wouldn't be realized until many decades later.

I'm looking forward to reading more of his interviews, his novel Naked Lunch, and then moving on to other things for awhile. But I will be back.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Everybody is Watching

Watched a movie last night, its name is unimportant, but what caught my eye was that several people in the movie were using smartphones, taking pictures and video clips of strangers on a plane and uploading it to social media; which would later be miscontrued as proof for a crime, used against them, making them look bad, but who would later be found innocent.

It could admittedly go either way, ametuer video footage has both helped and harmed, but the fact of the matter is that it's everywhere; there's no escape.

Everywhere you look people are doing that, or have the capability of doing that, of being amateur journalists and spies; filming people without their knowledge or consent, and sharing it online. This, coupled with the fact that reality TV is becoming the most popular type of television content, is normalizing this intrusion of privacy, making people more comfortable with the idea that it is okay to be watched, to always be watched, and to have our private lives a matter of public record.

I had this insight that the prophecy of the Orwellian Police State, where everybody is under constant surveillance, is not necessarily something that must be imposed by governments or corporations, but is more likely realized by the hands of ordinary people equipped with smartphones and blogs, doing the dirty work for "them".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Timelessness

What is timelessness?

It comes down to perception. How fast or how slow time appears to move, or not move, depends entirely upon your perception of it. Awareness shapes reality. But what shapes awareness? Like dreams, it may seem like a few hours have passed, but in actuality, or rather on the objective level of ordinary reality, perhaps only a few seconds have passed.

It is possible for a few seconds to feel like a few years, and for a few years to feel like a few seconds. An entire lifetime looked back in retrospect from the perspective of old age, viewed as a memory, may feel like seconds, like many years compressed into a few seconds, highly dense, concentrated, instant knowing, super fast data compression, that is memory, and without memory there would be no awareness of time.

Timelessness is the perception of stopping time, or of time moving very slowly, or perhaps so fast, that it appears to stand still.

What remains is the now, containing future and past, overlapping the present, not as separations in time, but one vast experience of potential energy, of what happened, what could happen and changes along the way, modifications of actuality, modifications of memory, modifications of perspective.

What has happened has happened. Can't undo anything, ever, just as the blowing of the wind, or lightning striking, cannot be undone, but you can change the way you see it, the way you remember it, what you look at, what aspects you focus on, what you consider important or unimportant; that is entirely changeable, alterable, maleable.

The experience of timelessness removes the boundaries separating the importance between yesterday and tomorrow. They are like wind currents and waves in the sea, changes of direction and velocity, like boundaries on the map; countries and capitals; points of reference useful for navigating the world in abstraction.

Memories are a lot like dreams; phantoms, yes it really happened but, after the fact, looking back, it's like a shadow. The reality of it has evaporated, has become as seemingly intangible as the wind.

We have time to measure our lives, to give us a sense of order and coherence, and a feeling of permanence and control, but ultimately the actual essential experience exists in a state of timelessness, real life lived in the now, what we experience in any given moment without regard to past or future.

You read this now. Ten minutes later. Tomorrow. Next year. Whenever. It doesn't matter. If you are here, whenever you are here, reading this, you have just transcended the barriers of time. Congratulations: you are a time traveller! Different times, different positions in space, and yet we are both perceiving it as happening now.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reading Burroughs

So, as mentioned two earlier posts down, I've been taking advantage of the public library's interlibrary loan service, and am presently devoted to reading William S. Burroughs.

I've only read one book of his, that would be Queer, which was okay, but certainly not great. That was not through interlibrary loan, but something I picked up locally. Believe it or not I have not yet read Naked Lunch, which is probably his most famous work, but I do have some familiarity with it, after having seen the movie by David Cronenberg. Not bad. Been awhile since I've seen it though. Not since the late 90s, actually.

Anyway, I'm currently reading The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs, via interlibrary loan. It's not a great book, but it's definitely worth reading if you're interested in learning more about Burroughs.

My feelings about the man are mixed. I'm undecided. Not sure if he is a genius or a raving lunatic. Seriously. There are clearly some things I disagree with, some things that bother me about him. My main problem and primary area of disagreement, is with his apparent dislike, disregard, and blatant misogyny concerning not just the female sex, but with the feminine principle in general. As a female, I feel that basically anyone who states a belief that females are a curse, that the world would be better off without them, is going to get a huge red flag of skepticism and doubt hovering over all that they say, no matter how good and enlightened the rest of it is.

I almost think that I could have been born a man, but instead chose at the last minute to be a woman in order to prove firsthand through experience exactly why advocating the supremacy of the male principle is false. Only a man could believe that woman is a curse. Basically it suggests some major mommy issues, like ah, not getting enough attention or something, or else getting rejected by some other woman that he loved, but didn't return the love, and blaming every other woman that comes along for their lack of love and attention, lack of a strong mother/son bond.

Anyway, there's that, and there's also his rejection of the positive value of the family unit, that I would disagree with completely.

Other than that I would say he's brilliant, especially concerning his understanding of the mechanisms of control, the way governments function, the role of nations, police states and thought control, it's all very interesting. Don't agree with it completely, but it's definitely worth reading. Too bad there are so many brilliant men, that have little regard for women, beyond perhaps their sexual or procreative role, as mothers and lovers, and little else. Too bad. If they were females with the same mind, it would be totally different. It's the same mentality of the white racist. If they were born black, with the same mind, they would cease to be racist, in the sense that they would cease to view a person as inferior solely based on their physical appearance alone.

Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty to love. And I'm planning on reading everything he ever wrote. Pretty much everything except his opinion of females and the family unit is exceptionally interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

November Fitness Report

I'm getting into better shape. Riding my bike at least twice a week, putting in ten to thirty miles, which if you are a pro, is certainly a beginner's mileage, but for me it's a good start. I enjoy sculpting the perfect cycling legs. My legs were skinny minny, but little by little I'm getting more muscle definition where I once lacked it.

Also getting back into doing pushups, still far away from my original goal set for myself like five year's ago to do 50 pushups, now I'd be happy to do 20. I'm getting there. It takes time and persistence. Just do it. Whatever you can do. One. Two. Three. Five. Whatever. Just do it, and keep doing it, after awhile, you get stronger, and can do more. I think I'm actually in better shape now, then I was five year's ago. My upper body strength was stronger, but now I've got better all around fitness, so when I do improve my upper body strength to what it was before, I'll be even stronger than I was, because it's more balanced.

I haven't done it yet with any regularity, but one of my goals planned for myself in the near future is to regularly either ride my bike, run or walk to this park that's a few miles away, and use there outdoor body weight gym equipment. There's a whole circuit to use, but I especially want to get back into doing chin-ups and pullups again, because I notice that when I used to do that (remember the tree branch chin-ups, any old school reader's left?) my strength improved very fast.

I still walk everyday, but I'm finding that I enjoy riding my bike more. I'm really tired of the scenery around here where I live, the novelty of hiking all over the place within a five mile radius has worn off, I prefer the bike, because I love bicycles more than pretty much any other vehicle, but also because I can travel further away to more interesting scenery, while still being outside and feeling a part of the scenery, and not have to spend all day getting there. I also enjoy the challenge of building up my strength and endurance riding a bike; trying to bring my average speed up to 18 mph, and having a bicycle computer it's a fun goal to keep track of. Also getting much more used to riding with traffic, although I am painfully aware that even if I do everything right everyday I ride could be my last.

I'll be 38 in two weeks. Still get carded. Still look like I'm in my twenties. Still feeling like it too. Don't think I'm geared to be a middle aged person. I don't think I'll ever be old. Despite whatever my chronological age is, or even whatever I look like, inside I think I'll probably always be about 25.