Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bureau of Shameless Plugs

The chef du bureau wears several hats, one of which is amateur historian and member of the Bernal History Project. In this capacity I recently appeared in a radio piece on KALW, backed by a chorus of barnyard animals. The show is 25 minutes long and the Bernal Heights segment comes at around the 20 minute mark.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

NYC August 2009

The machine that is the Bureau of Odd Shaped Objects runs at a stately pace, so it is only now that I have turned my bureaucratic attention to the trip that Madame Le Chef and I took to NYC last month. We were happily surprised by two recent works that we saw. The first was the newly opened High Line. The city has built a park on the tracks of a defunct West Side elevated rail line. It is currently open from 20th St. down to Gansevoort St. and gives one the pleasure of walking in a park which is a couple of stories in the air. You see building from angles impossible before and even a distant glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. They’ve also given retro New Yorkers the ability to bask in the carcinogenic rays of the sun.

The other discovery was a multimedia piece at MOMA by Chinese artist Song Dong in collaboration of his since deceased mother. Having lived through the deadly history of modern China, his mother saved absolutely everything. The piece consists of the immense collection of often virtually worthless objects arranged in and around the skeleton of her house. It’s strangely fascinating.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Doggerel for the old dogs

Wanting to be a better chef du bureau, I attempted to audit a Creative Writing course at San Francisco State. The instructor agreed to let me audit but it was later kiboshed at the department level. I understood. Paying students were desperate to keep their full time status in the face of so many courses being eliminated because of huge state budget cuts. Why should a state with the 10th biggest economy on the planet and a population of 37 million people bother to educate its next generation?

Anyway, the assignment from the one class I attended was to write a manifesto. This is it.


Manifestos are for the young, the firebrands, the visionaries, the mad artists and the drunken poets.

Baudelaire wrote, “Stay drunk! On wine, poetry or virtue, as you please!”

But I saw the best minds of my generation tear gassed while tripping on acid, going to jail, enduring broken hearts in cold climates, forced to get jobs.

I saw them marrying, buying houses, sending their kids to college, worrying about their health plans and those goddam Republicans.

I saw them realizing that the older you get, the more dead people you know.

I saw you, Allen Ginsberg, in 1969, dressed like a sadhu, playing a harmonium and chanting Blake off key.

25 years on I saw you again, wearing a nice sportcoat, surrounded by acolytes, walking through the food court of a shopping mall in San Francisco. A few years later you were dead.

The manifestos of the older set tend to lack élan vital.

“I have had my fun if I never get well no more.”

After a certain age, manifestos are replaced by memories:

“These foolish things remind me of you.”

And elegies:

“Earth, receive an honored guest: William Yeats is laid to rest.”

Better those than admonitions and sage advice, because no one listens to that shit.

Maybe there can be mini-manifestos: “I shall not wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled”; “I will dare to eat a peach!”

No. Too much like cocktail wieners, lacking the flavor of the full sized sausage.

Wait! It’s almost lunchtime.