George of the Jungle

Jenny Holzer Truisms

Remember to laugh! Listen!

“No, you’ve got to look down that bit [pointing to gunsight]”

Complete complex sentences above a low upper bound of complexity are all very well but sometimes you have to zip it, like Dr Evil admonishes his son, Scott Evil, in Austin Powers. Watching Scott Evil helped me to understand my younger son. His name is Peter and I called him “junglee” Peter when he was a little kid, unconsciously transmitting Kipling’s Indo-British use of “junglee” to mean wild.

Hugo Chavez is one of my fellow sufferers and he Tweets (tweet kamunkle). But I am conflicted about 140 character limits.

It is a severe formal limit and my experience in writing traditional verse, and painting in a traditional style, is that contrary to hipster wisdom well past its sell-by date, the need to conform to a Rule is a pathway to the subconscious. For example, ever since starting to teach English in 2005, I have noticed new connections between words, in a way that not only shows me how to use a globalized language (where I’ll be using a British mode of expression and, to find a metre or rhyme, transit suddenly to a Chicago argot or false French), but also accesses my subconscious.

For example, I was looking at a photo in DeliFrance in Queen Mary and thought, hmm, the French word for bread is the same as the English word for pain. Wow.

For everything is connected with everything else, the only question is how much and it what way. When we’re under stress, we’re like the dwarves in that movie Time Bandits, or George of the Jungle: we sometimes feel like we’re suspended in a dark web, like a jungle where we’re in the canopy and cannot find the ground…or cannot literally walk on it since, like the ground in many parts of Lamma Island, it is too overgrown.

Where the wild things are. We need in a wildness of possible connections (vines, tendrils, creepers, Banyan branches) to find a handhold and get a grip, so, like George of the Jungle, we grab something, go aaahhhhooooooooohh and launch ourselves into the void.

Listen! “George, George, George of the Jungle: George, George, George of the Jungle: friend to you and me! Look out for that tree!”

But note something remarkable. The “jungle” is a map or mental model of our brain which is ALSO a general web in three dimensions, mathematically, a general graph, which is always creating and destroying new connections.

I didn’t want to start bullshitting online this morning. I had a rugged day at Queen Mary yesterday (nothing in comparison to most cancer patients, really) and a good workout first thing at the beach. But this is important.

Moments of insight can be in sudden connections of words, for possibly the same reason that we best remember our dreams in words (cf Lacan if you can understand him, my kid can, I cannot).

The simultaneous physical event might be the reaching-out of delicate and gracile strands of DNA in the chambers of the brain and plugging into another strand.

Whereas a good night at some bar might rather be the breakage, the Vandalization, of these delicate connections, leading to that generalized good will which is a feature of the early evening.

The complicated man may be a pain in the ass but if you give him Lithium or the wrong sort of wife the simplified complicated man is a Dork or a veg. Perhaps we need to become more complicated.

I write as a man, and a white man in my comic verse playing with racialism in some of the phrases. My kid once told me that my use of “Chinaman” is real, real dumb. Homer Simpson d’oh dumb. It’s not that I don’t mean it. It is that I am quite aware that I have believed that my shit doesn’t stink because I was brought up in a family that preserved many aspects of the haute bourgeois of the nineteenth century without being descended from that class. I am also quite aware that “the trumpet shall sound and we shall all be changed”.

There’s a very good article in the New Yorker this week (probably last week for I get it late). In “Raging Arizona”, by Kalefa Sanneh, the author suggests that Arizona’s gaudy racist politics may be simply a last demographic gasp as whites all over the USA are simply out-numbered by non-whites. And given the obscenities of last-gasp white politics not only in Arizona but throughout the USA, this is good news.

For I ain’t so much a white guy as a guy. And not so much a bloke as a human being. And no so much a human being as, down deep where the wild things are, an animal.

Not so much, deeper, as an organism, and ultimately the stuff of which stars and God are made.

That is (das ist) there are levels of reality. Which doesn’t make the lower levels unreal.

Here I am last year with my theater mates on a hot night in Hong Kong. I’d remark that I am like Nixon or Dad remembering to laugh which creates a sort of rictus, but that’s my favorite shirt, my helper’s despair since it’s quite ragged.

Some jerk on You Tube said of this image, which appeared on a video I’d made about wikipedia’s racism, ha ha you look like a cancer patient.

And the Wall Street boys went nuts when Steve Jobs presented early iPads looking gaunt.

My male role models of the 1950s, however, all looked like that, not like the sleek prosperous older men of today, not like Romney. You know, guys with gold health plans?

No, Edward Murrow spoke truth to power and he looked it.

Bertie Russell spoke truth to power and he looked like an aged eagle.

Edward Said chucked stones at Israelis and looked like Byron. Met him in Chicago.

And above all, Oppenheimer. You know, I made a large grisaille painting of Oppenheimer in 1970, it’s lost, it was last in a storage room on “pill hill” in Seattle where the hospital is, in an apartment building, I’m too lazy to find its name on the Internet.

His hawklike visage, as opposed to the sleek Ed Teller or Von Neumann (who nonetheless also died of cancer).

A sort of rebuke or question aimed in the general direction of Dad. Both my ex and I loved the films made during a brief period of Hollywood maturity right after the war: The Best Years of Our Lives, Gentleman’s Agreement, The Lost Weekend. I wanted to find my young and idealistic parents, my Dad in residency at Harvard, my mom head over heels in love with Dad, and them meeting Norbert Wiener and Chao Yuen Ren (I think).


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