Tag Archives: San Francisco

The suburb that changed the world

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The suburb that changed the world

In the 1980s, Silicon Valley was populated by lefties and hippies who dreamed of a computer revoluti

 

In Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film of the life of Marie Antoinette, there is a scene where an entourage of palace jeunes filles sweeps through a ball at which the set and costumes are period, but the music and manners are straight out of a modern dance club. The proposition seems to be that an elite few were able to put a toe into the future to experience what is ordinary today.

Something like that went on in the Silicon Valley I knew in the 1980s. The debates and dilemmas that occupy a generation today appeared in miniature before there was an internet. We took our anticipation of the internet deadly seriously, to the point where it seemed already real. Thus I have experienced the internet age twice.

Experiencing the internet in reality is different – and even bizarre, because although it seemed reasonable to expect the thing to come about, it is still uncanny that the reasoning was right. It feels as though we got away with something we shouldn’t have done.

The internet arrived from two directions, one top-down and the other bottom-up. Initially computers and computer networking were both developed in military and government labs. The way you experienced computation from the 1960s often reflected this point of origin, with early computer companies such as IBM exuding a grey, regimented stoniness in order to appear seductive to their patrons.

In the 1970s, a small market emerged for hobbyist computers. You could build your own little box with blinking lights that you could program by flipping lines of switches on the front panel. That’s all you could do at first, but oh, the ecstasy to be able to touch your own computer, if you had an inkling of where it all could lead.

A culture grew up around these hobbyist machines centred in Silicon Valley, and spawned the personal computer market – with Microsoft launching in 1975 and Apple in 1976. The centre of gravity split: the stony grey opposite delirious hippies and faux revolutionaries.

The turbulent confluence between top-down and bottom-up continues to this day. Internet start-ups sprout like garage bands. Most die, but a few explode into national-scale empires, as in the case of Facebook. Dreary top-down institutions such as wireless carriers maintain their lofty entitlements, though occasionally they drain away, like the old music business. I used to be partisan, favouring the bottom-up approach, but now I appreciate the balance of tides, because all kinds of power should be checked.

My first encounter with Silicon Valley was at the end of my teens, which was also the end of the 1970s. The world seemed carved into zones according to the degree of magic available. The highest magic was found in nexuses of hippie exuberance such as the beach town of Santa Cruz, California, where pearlescent rainbows covered everything and even the most mediocre musicians could effortlessly invent melodies superior to almost anything heard since. Young, creative people with any sense of ambition tended to be drawn to these places like weight to gravity, but by the time I arrived the magic was receding.

The overwhelming explanation we held of our time and place was that we had been born too late to experience the one true orgasm of meaning, the 1960s. Young people who felt jilted by life because of a slight error in timing found solace in a twisted calculus of punk humour. An alternative to the Santa Cruz-type El Dorados of bohemia were the zones of brazen, barren reality: remote and violent desert towns, impoverished villages in Mexico, or tenements in New York City.

The most deficient places – condemned by hippies and punks alike – were the suburbs, the places of the conventional parent: an artificial world ruled by Disney and McDonald’s.

I did not arrive at this suspect ontology naturally, having grown up in a way that was both gritty and bohemian. My father and I couldn’t afford a home at one point, when I was 11, so we lived in tents on cheap land while building a crazed, geometric, spaceship-like house in a rough corner of southern New Mexico. I adapted to the flight from the suburbs because this seemed the ticket into the social world of my peers in that era. I well remember how my heart sank when I later realised that eco­nomic circumstances left me no choice but to force my old jalopy over the mountain pass that insulated dewy, arousing Santa Cruz from soul-killing, blandifying Silicon Valley, which was situated in, of all places, a suburb.

The mountain ridge that separates Silicon Valley and the town of Palo Alto from the ocean keeps out the famed fog of northern California in the summer. This has always made it an elite getaway from San Francisco, but to me Silicon Valley’s light looked incomplete and made me feel remote and depressed – so close to the ocean, but without its full light.

I despaired at the time that I had failed to earn enough to be able to remain at the fulcrum of hippie truth, but I was to learn, slowly, that I was moving from one narcissistic category war to another. Instead of hippies v suburbs, I enlisted in the turf war between nerds and – well, the opposite doesn’t have a name. A sort of muggle: the fool who doesn’t realise that he lives in a cocoon and serves only as a battery to power the action; a person who fails to understand that the world is an information system, and that life is programming.

Having moved from one kind of nonsense to another eventually helped me learn to be sceptical of both.

Palo Alto was nicknamed “Shallow Alto” by the hippie hackers, who felt that living there was a sell-out, a sign of failure. And yet, one by one, we gave in and entered an alternate, infinitely better-funded elite club. The place was much more than a suburb, naturally. A little more than a century earlier, there had been a Native American culture there, but it was murdered and erased, so little more can be said. Layers of mutually indifferent histories were then overlaid on to this, awaiting the final washout by Silicon Valley culture.

A trace of the Spanish colonial period remained in the odd old adobe mansion; evidence of black immigration from earlier in the 20th century lay in the shocking, violent twin to Palo Alto, East Palo Alto; fruit orchards swept to the horizon in some directions and utilitarian grids of simple wooden buildings testified to the well-ordered conception of railroad towns and military bases.

But the hackers would take over. What a strange society nerds make. In 1996 Oliver Sacks published a book called The Island of the Colour-blind, about a place where so many people cannot see colour that it becomes the norm. In the same way, the society of computer nerds is nerdy not in comparison to a centre, but as a centre. Our nerdy world, which from an outsider’s perspective might seem slightly askew, even tilted a touch into Asperger’s syndrome, was and is our centre. The rest of the world seemed hysterical, irrational and confused by the surface aesthetics of things, somehow failing to grasp the numerical, causal, core truth underpinning events and the problem-solving purpose of reality.

I kept my concerns about the light of Palo Alto to myself and “passed”, which was, happily, not hard for me. Certain kinds of math and programming come on strongest when you’re young, and I could program the hell out of a computer in those days. Then and now, technical credibility is the ultimate membership card in Silicon Valley, and it is one of the reasons I still love the place. The billionaire company starters – and I won’t name names because it’s all of them – still get a little insecure and feel a need to preen when they’re around top hackers.

The overlap between the late stages of hippie bohemia and the early incarnations of Silicon Valley was often endearing. There was a sense of justice in the way that males who had been at the bottom of the social ladder in high school were on track to run the world. Greasy cottages with futons on the floor, with dustings of pot and cookie crumbles rubbed into cheap oriental rugs, a carnage of forgotten dirty clothes in the corner, empty refrigerators and tangles of thick grey cables leading to the huge computer monitors and the hot metal cabinets where the silicon chips crunched. Asymmetrical, patchy beards, shirts part tucked, prescriptions for glasses powerful enough to find life on a distant planet. This was the new model of hippie nerd, supplanting the ascetic fellow with the pocket protector.

There were precious few girl nerds at the time. There was one who programmed a hit arcade game called Centipede for the first video game company, Atari, and a few others. There were, however, extraordinary female figures who served as the impresarios of social networking before there was an internet. It still seems wrong to name them, because it isn’t clear if I would be talking about their private lives or their public contributions: I don’t know how to draw a line.

These irresistible creatures would sometimes date alpha nerds, but mostly brought the act of socialising into a society where it probably would not have occurred otherwise. A handful of them had an extraordinary, often unpaid degree of influence over what research was done, which companies came to be, who worked at them and what products were developed.

That they are usually undescribed in histories of Silicon Valley is just another instance of what a fiction history can be. The advent of social networking software and oceans of digital memories of bits exchanged between people has only shifted the type of fiction we accept, not the degree of infidelity.

In retrospect, I cringe to think how naive and messianic the tech scene became amid all the post-1960s idealism. The two poles of San Francisco Bay Area 1960s culture – psychedelic hippies and leftist revolutionaries – became the poles of early computer culture.

In 1974, the philosopher Ted Nelson, the first person to propose and describe the programming of something like the web, published a large-format book composed of montages of nearly indecipherable small-print snippets flung in all directions, called Computer Lib/Dream Machines. If you turned the book one way, it was what Che Guevara would have been reading in the jungle if he had been a computer nerd. Flip it upside down, and you had a hippie-wow book with visions of crazy, far-out computation.

In fact, the very first description of the internet in any detail was probably E M Forster’s The Machine Stops from 1909, decades before computers existed: “People never touched one another. The custom had become obsolete, owing to the Machine.” It might still be the most accurate description. How Forster did it remains a mystery. Later, in the 1940s, the engineer Vannevar Bush wrote “As We May Think”, an essay imagining a utilitarian experience with a computer and internet of the future. Bush’s essay is often cited as a point of origin, and he even delved a little into how it might work, using such pre-digital components as microfilm.

But Ted Nelson was the first person, to my knowledge, to describe how you could implement new kinds of media in digital form, share them and collaborate. Ted was working so early – from 1960 onwards – that he couldn’t invoke basic notions such as storing images, and not just text, because computer graphics had not been described yet. (The computer scientist Ivan Sutherland saw to that shortly.)

Ted was a talker, a character, a Kerouac. He was more writer than hacker, and didn’t always fit into the nerd milieu. Thin, lanky, with a sharp chin and always a smile, he looked good. He came from Hollywood parents and was determined to be an outsider because, in the ethics of the times, only the outsiders were “where it’s at”. He succeeded tragically, in that he is not as well known as he ought to be, and it’s a great shame he was not better able to influence digital architecture directly. He lives today on a houseboat in Sausalito, California, one of the other luminous, numinous nodes of Bay Area geo-mythology.

The hippest thing in the late 1970s and early 1980s was to form a commune, or even a cult. I remember one around the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco which fashioned itself as the Free Print Shop. Members printed lovely posters for “movement” events in the spectral, inebriated, neo-Victorian visual style of the time. (How strange it was to hear someone recommended as “part of the movement”. This honorary title meant nothing beyond aesthetic sympathy, but there was an infantile gravity to the word “movement”, as though our conspiracies were consequential. They never were, except when computers were involved, in which case they were more consequential than almost any others in history.)

The Free Print Shop made money doing odd jobs, it included women and it enacted a formal process for members to request sex with one another through intermediaries. This was the sort of thing that seemed the way of the future and beckoned to computer nerds: an algorithm leading reliably to sex! I remember how reverently dignitaries from the Free Print Shop were welcomed at a meeting of the Homebrew Club at Stanford and other such venues where computer hobbyists shared their creations.

Ted had a band of followers or collaborators; it would have been uncool to specify what they were. They sometimes lived in a house here or there, or vagabonded about. They broke up and reconciled repeatedly, and were perpetually on the verge of presenting the ultimate software project, Xanadu, in some formulation that would have been remembered as the first implementation of the internet. Xanadu was a manifesto that never quite manifested.

If my tone has not been consistently reverent, please know that I am not cynical when it comes to my praise of Ted Nelson’s ideas. As the first person on the scene, he benefited from an uncluttered view. Our huge collective task in finding the best future for the internet will probably turn out to be like finding our way back to where Ted was at the start.

In his conception, each person would be a free agent in a universal online market. Instead of separate stores of the kind run by Apple or Amazon, there would be one universal store, and everyone would be a first-class citizen, both buyer and seller. You wouldn’t have to keep separate passwords or accounts for different online stores. That’s a pain, and it guarantees that there can’t be too many stores, thereby re-creating the kind of centralisation that shouldn’t be inherited from physical reality.

This is an example of how thinking in terms of a network can strain intuition. It might seem as though having only one store would reduce diversity, yet it would increase it. When culture is privatised, as has happened recently online, you end up with a few giant players – the Googles and Amazons. It’s better to put up with the rancour and pain of a single community, of some form of democracy, than to live in a world overseen by a few forces you hope will be benevolent. The stress of accommodation opens cracks from which brilliance emerges.

Ah, there it is – my idealism, still in your face after all these years. Silicon Valley remains idealistic, if sometimes narcissistic. We refer to uprisings in the Middle East as “Facebook revolutions” as if it’s all about us. And yet, look. We code and scheme through the night, and then genuinely change the whole world within a few short years, over and over again. What other bunch of oddballs can say that?

Much has changed. Silicon Valley now belongs to the world. In a typical nerd cabal you will find recently arrived Indians, Chinese, Brits, Israelis and Russians. What is strangest in the recent waves of young arrivals in Silicon Valley is that they tend no longer to be downtrodden geniuses rejected in the playing of social status games, but sterling alpha males. Legions of perfect specimens seem to have grown up in manicured childhoods, nothing scrappy about them. When children started to be raised perfectly in the 1990s, chauffeured from one play date to the next, I wondered what world they would want as adults. Socialism? Facebook and similar designs seem to me continuations of the artificial order we gave children during the boom years.

Now we are entering a period of diminishing middle classes and economic dimming. What will Silicon make of this? Poorly conceived computer networks played central roles in many of our more recent troubles, particularly the 2008 financial crisis. Such tactics as high-frequency trading just pluck money out of the system using pure computation and without giving anything back.

Can we adjust the world, make it happier, merely by reprogramming computers? Perhaps. We continue to twiddle with human patterns from our weird suburb. Maybe, if we are able to echo the ancient idealism of those early days, we will do some good as the software grows.

Jaron Lanier is the author of “You Are Not a Gadget: a Manifesto” (Penguin, £9.99)

COOL PEOPLE – Bill Murray Has Inspired 200 Fans To Dedicate An Entire Art Exhibit To Him In San Francisco

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Bill Murray Has Inspired 200 Fans To Dedicate An Entire Art Exhibit To Him In San

Francisco

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Creatives from all around the world have submitted work inspired by Bill Murray for an

art tribute show called The Murray Affair, to celebrate the famous 63-year-old actor and

his legendary filmography.

Curated by Ezra Croft, The Murray Affair: A Bill Murray Art Show is scheduled to open on August 8th at SF Public Works. Check out the exhibit’s website for more info.

A Refurbished Bus Will Bring Showers to the Homeless in San Francisco

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A Refurbished Bus Will Bring Showers to the Homeless in San Francisco

A Refurbished Bus Will Bring Showers to the Homeless in San Francisco

An old MUNI bus in San Francisco is getting a second life with a noble cause. Outfitted with toilets and showers, Lava Mae‘s refurbished bus will bring mobile bathrooms to homeless people around the city. The long-awaited bus will make its first rounds this weekend.

Homelessness in San Francisco is famously (and infamously) a growing concern. With thousands of homeless and just a handful of shower facilities for them, Lava Mae will be providing a much-needed service in the city. It’ll park at various spots around San Francisco, drawing water from fire hydrants.

Doniece Sandoval, Lava Mae’s founder, first got the idea two years ago. After securing an old bus from MUNI, she’s raised money—through crowdfunding and corporate sponsors like Google—to outfit the bus with two full-service bathrooms. If all goes well, she hopes to have three more shower buses up and running.

A Refurbished Bus Will Bring Showers to the Homeless in San Francisco

For better or for worse, the fates of public sanitation and homelessness in San Francisco—and elsewhere—are intertwined. “For at least a decade, bathrooms have stood in for the city’s anxieties about homelessness, public utilities, and the changing economy,” wrote Rachel Swan in an excellent piece on public bathrooms in SF Weekly. That the city’s shiny JCDecaux public toilets—with their futuristic-sounding self-cleaning cycles—have turned into dens of drug use and prostitution is a symptom of the city’s problems.

Lava Mae isn’t going to solve the root cause of homelessness, but it does very directly address a real issue faced by the homeless. And it’s an idea San Franciscans who love to complain about smelly streets can certainly get behind it. [CBS San FranciscoSFist]

A Refurbished Bus Will Bring Showers to the Homeless in San FranciscoEXPAND

Doniece Sandoval in front of the Lava Mae bus. All photos by Kena Frank

A Man Takes A Single Rake to The Beach. And When You Zoom Out And See It…

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A Man Takes A Single Rake to The Beach. And When You Zoom Out And See It…

A Man Takes A Single Rake to The Beach. And When You Zoom Out And See It…

 If you live in San Francisco, California, then you may be lucky enough to come across the art of Andres Amador. He doesn’t paint or sculpt. He prefers a medium that is temporary but absolutely beautiful: a sandy beach at low tide. He uses a rake to create works of art that can be bigger than 100,000 sq. ft.

He spends hours creating these intricate masterpieces, knowing that the tide will soon come in and wash away his work forever.

For Andres, his art is “more about the process and less about the result.”

If you live in San Francisco, California, then you may be lucky enough to come across the art of Andres Amador. He doesn’t paint or sculpt. He prefers a medium that is temporary but absolutely beautiful: a sandy beach at low tide. He uses a rake to create works of art that can be bigger than 100,000 sq. ft.

He spends hours creating these intricate masterpieces, knowing that the tide will soon come in and wash away his work forever.

For Andres, his art is “more about the process and less about the result.”

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI

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A Brief Biography of
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A prominent voice of the wide-open poetry movement that began in the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has written poetry, translation, fiction, theater, art criticism, film narration, and essays. Often concerned with politics and social issues, Ferlinghetti’s poetry countered the literary elite’s definition of art and the artist’s role in the world. Though imbued with the commonplace, his poetry cannot be simply described as polemic or personal protest, for it stands on his craftsmanship, thematics, and grounding in tradition.

Ferlinghetti was born in Yonkers in 1919, son of Carlo Ferlinghetti who was from the province of Brescia and Clemence Albertine Mendes-Monsanto. Following his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II as a ship’s commander. He received a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1947 and a Doctorate de l’Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1950. From 1951 to 1953, when he settled in San Francisco, he taught French in an adult education program, painted, and wrote art criticism. In 1953, with Peter D. Martin, he founded City Lights Bookstore, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, and by 1955 he had launched the City Lights publishing house.

The bookstore has served for half a century as a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals. City Lights Publishers began with the Pocket Poets Series, through which Ferlinghetti aimed to create an international, dissident ferment. His publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl & Other Poems in 1956 led to his arrest on obscenity charges, and the trial that followed drew national attention to the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat movement writers. (He was overwhelmingly supported by prestigious literary and academic figures, and was acquitted.) This landmark First Amendment case established a legal precedent for the publication of controversial work with redeeming social importance.

Ferlinghetti’s paintings have been shown at various galleries around the world, from the Butler Museum of American Painting to Il Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. He has been associated with the international Fluxus movement through the Archivio Francesco Conz in Verona. He has toured Italy, giving poetry readings in Roma, Napoli, Bologna, Firenze, Milano, Verona, Brescia, Cagliari, Torino, Venezia, and Sicilia. He won the Premio Taormino in 1973, and since then has been awarded the Premio Camaiore, the Premio Flaiano, the Premio Cavour. among others. He is published in Italy by Oscar Mondadori, City Lights Italia, and Minimum Fax. He was instrumental in arranging extensive poetry tours in Italy produced by City Lights Italia in Firenze. He has translated from the Italian Pier Paolo Pasolin’s Poemi Romani, which is published by City Lights Books. In San Francisco, his work can regularly be seen at the George Krevsky Gallery at 77 Geary Street.

Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind continues to be the most popular poetry book in the U.S. It has been translated into nine languages, and there are nearly 1,000,000 copies in print. The author of poetry, plays, fiction, art criticism, and essays, he has a dozen books currently in print in the U.S., and his work has been translated in many countries and in many languages. His most recent books are A Far Rockaway of the Heart (1997), How to Paint Sunlight (2001), and Americus Book I (2004) published by New Directions.

He has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Award, the BABRA Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Award for Contribution to American Arts and Letters, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. Ferlinghetti was named San Francisco’s Poet Laureate in August 1998, and he used his post as a bully-pulpit from which he articulated the seldom-heard “voice of the people.” In 2003 he was awarded the Robert Frost Memorial Medal, the Author’s Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.

FERLINGHETTI QUOTES

http://www.citylights.com/ferlinghetti/

Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Freedom, Speech, Exists

Constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience, the poet, like an acrobat, climbs on rhyme to a high wire of his own making.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Death, Making, High

We have to raise the consciousness; the only way poets can change the world is to raise the consciousness of the general populace.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

QChange, General, Poets

Don’t patronize the chain bookstores. Every time I see some author scheduled to read and sign his books at a chain bookstore, I feel like telling him he’s stabbing the independent bookstores in the back.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti quotes

Time, Him, Read

Anyone who saw Nagasaki would suddenly realize that they’d been kept in the dark by the United States government as to what atomic bombs can do.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Government, Dark, Realize

Everything the Beats stood for was the opposite of the dominant culture today.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lawrence_ferlinghetti.html#TXTmAeYWi67tHCLb.99

BOB KAUFMAN

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Bob Kaufman Photo: Ira Nowinski. Courtesy of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Bob Kaufman: The Enigmatic Beat Poet

Bob Kaufman once declared, “I want to be anonymous . . . my ambition is to be completely forgotten,” as Raymond Foye recalls in his introduction to The Ancient Rain: Poems 1956-1978, a collection of Kaufman’s poetry. A leading figure in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s, Kaufman’s poems, politics, and, perhaps most importantly, his embrace of the oral nature of poetry informed and influenced a generation of poets. However, no definitive study of Kaufman’s work exists, and, given the ambling details of his life, perhaps no complete study may ever be possible.

Remembrances, essays, and tributes by and about the man credited with coining the term “beatnik” are scattershot through Beat histories and memoirs. There are a few volumes of his poems still in print, including Ancient Rain and Cranial Guitar: Selected Poems by Bob Kaufman. Still, much of Kaufman’s alternately ascetic and highly public life remains a mystery. Even what is known about Kaufman is not all certain; he was born into a large family in New Orleans, to a Catholic African American mother and a father of German Orthodox Jewish heritage.

Kaufman left the Merchant Marine in the early 1940s for a brief stay at the New School in New York City, where he met Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. The three left for San Francisco to join Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Kerouac in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, where the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance took root. Kaufman’s work soon became popular in France, where he helped create an audience for the Beats, and was known as “the black American Rimbaud.”

After the assassination of President Kennedy, Kaufman took a legendary vow of silence that ended ten years later, the day the war in Vietnam ended, when he walked into a coffee shop and recited his poem, “All Those Ships That Never Sailed.” His life cycled through periods of poverty, methadone addiction, and extended creative periods until his death in 1986 from emphysema.

Modeled on the rich tones and structures of jazz, Kaufman’s poems were built on melodic assurance and vibrant sonics. He claimed close friendship with many of the pioneering figures of be-bop, including Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, and Charlie Parker (for whom Kaufman named his only son, Parker). Calling Kaufman “the quintessential jazz poet,” Foye pointed to his ability to adapt “the harmonic complexities and spontaneous invention of be-bop to poetic euphony and meter.”

This understanding of jazz, of its adherence to tight compositional structures that made possible freeform improvisation, shaped Kaufman’s essential ideas about poetry, namely that invention and recitation were of supreme importance, and the sound of the poem is as much the subject of the poem as any observation or story it contained. In the short poem “Cocoa Morning,” Kaufman created a pattern that matches words to sounds in a jazz-inspired manner, as in the second stanza:

Drummer, hummer, on the floor,
Dreaming of wild beats, softer still,
Yet free of violent city noise,
Please, sweet morning,
Stay here forever.

This jazz influence sparked the Beat generation in significant ways. Following Kaufman’s example, many of the Beats desired to free the poem from the printed page to bring it directly to the audience. Embracing this bardic tradition of orality, the Beats borrowed from jazz the qualites of improvisation, muscular musicality, and direct transmission. The performance of the poem became the reason for the poem, explaining, in part, the significance attached to the first public readings of Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

Much of the difficulty editors, scholars, and admirers have in putting together Kaufman’s poems and life is that he was an oral poet, and embraced the anonymity of the role. For Kaufman, the public space had no boundaries; he would recite to people stuck in traffic, patrons of restaurants, audiences gathered in one of San Francisco’s hot-spot coffee houses or bars–it didn’t matter. The poem, not the poet, was what mattered. To that end, many of his poems were lost, with the odd fragment often jotted down on a scrap of paper or cocktail napkin. His editor, Foye, recalls discovering manuscripts of Kaufman’s poems in his burned apartment, astonishingly surviving a fire that damaged the building beyond repair. One poem, included in Cranial Guitar, was found on the floor of a North Shore diner Kaufman frequented, a fitting emblem of the poet’s indifference to the trappings of fame.
– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5810#sthash.CbxBMeCr.dpuf

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/…/5810

BOB KAUFMAN POEMS

Online  Source


Jazz Chick
Music from her breast, vibrating Soundseared into burnished velvet. Silent hips deceiving fools. Rivulets of trickling ecstacy From the alabaster pools of Jazz Where music cools hot souls. Eyes more articulately silent Than Medusa’s thousand tongues. A bridge of eyes, consenting smiles reveal her presence singing Of cool remembrance, happy balls Wrapped in swinging Jazz Her music… Jazz.

Online  Source


On
On yardbird corners of embryonic hopes, drowned in a heroin tear. On yardbird corners of parkerflights to sound filled pockets in space. On neuro-corners of striped brains & desperate electro-surgeons. On alcohol corners of pointless discussion & historical hangovers. On television corners of cornflakes & rockwells impotent America. On university corners of tailored intellect & greek letter openers. On military corners of megathon deaths & universal anesthesia. On religious corners of theological limericks and On radio corners of century-long records & static events. On advertising corners of filter-tipped ice-cream & instant instants On teen-age corners of comic book seduction and corrupted guitars, On political corners of wamted candidates & ritual lies. On motion picture corners of lassie & other symbols. On intellectual corners of conversational therapy & analyzed fear. On newspaper corners of sexy headlines & scholarly comics. On love divided corners of die now pay later mortuaries. On philosophical corners of semantic desperadoes & idea-mongers. On middle class corners of private school puberty & anatomical revolts On ultra-real corners of love on abandoned roller-coasters On lonely poet corners of low lying leaves & moist prophet eyes.

Online  Source


O-Jazz-O
Where the string At some point, Was umbilical jazz, Or perhaps, In memory, A long lost bloody cross, Buried in some steel cavalry. In what time For whom do we bleed, Lost notes, from some jazzman’s Broken needle. Musical tears from lost Eyes. Broken drumsticks, why? Pitter patter, boom dropping Bombs in the middle Of my emotions My father’s sound My mother’s sound, Is love, Is life.

the San Francisco Oracle

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Underground News

San Francisco Oracle

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Cover of the sixth issue, February 1967

The Oracle of the City of San Francisco, also known as the San Francisco Oracle, was an underground newspaper published in 12 issues from September 20, 1966, to February 1968 in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of that city.[1] Allen Cohen (1940–2004), the editor during the paper’s most vibrant period, and Michael Bowen, the art director, were among the founders of the publication. The Oracle was an early member of the Underground Press Syndicate.

The Oracle combined poetry, spirituality, and multicultural interests with psychedelic design, reflecting and shaping the countercultural community as it developed in the Haight-Ashbury. It was arguably the outstanding example of psychedelia within the countercultural “underground” press, noted for experimental multicolored design. Oracle contributors included many significant San Francisco–area artists of the time, including Bruce Conner and Rick Griffin. It featured such beat writers as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure.

Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper.

Every movement creates its own primary sources, and the hippies of 1967 San Francisco had a psychedelic one: The San Francisco Oracle. Published in 12 fantastic issues from 1966 to 1968, the Oracle is a fascinating artifact of the times.

With theme issues like “Youth Quake,” “The Aquarian Age,” “Psychedelics, Flowers, and War,” and “The Politics of Ecstasy,” the newspaper spoke directly to young people’s imaginations and concerns. Whimsical, hand-drawn ads touted bookstores, concerts, health food stores, coffeehouses, shops selling hippie fashions, and music sellers. And the publication’s wild page layouts, drawings, photo-collages and other graphics became icons of hippie culture.

Hippies sold the Oracle on Bay Area streets to support themselves, and the newspaper made its way around the world by subscription. Print runs grew to nearly 125,000 by issue #7. The editors estimated their circulation topped half a million when taking into account the number of people who shared each copy.

The Oracle’s articles, interviews, letters, commentary, and poems explored hippie consciousness in a variety of ways. For example, in issue #6, Tom Law wrote a piece called “The Community of the Tribe” that obliquely referred to Fifties consumer culture, the Cold War and the war in Vietnam, contexts in which hippie attitudes had emerged:

“We are all — squares and the psychedelically enlightened alike — involved in our world of now. To take up the call, to respond to the cosmic forces, we must be the hard-working, harmonious, respectful, honest, diligent, co-operative family of man. Our words are inspired. Our feeling is deep and complete. Our devotion is strong. The precious revelations which have come through us with increasing magnitude must be fathomed until we are one with each other and can extend our awareness beyond the tribe to our entire planet.

What is the natural karmic duty of a generation whose brothers, neighbors, and childhood friends now promote hate by killing innocent human beings around the world? It is to balance their jive and immature actions with the light of intelligent goodness; fearlessly to deal with the money-mad machine in order to release its hold on our bowels — the bowels of mankind.

Practically, this means that all excess profit is turned back into the community. That means all money, material things, food, etc., which are beyond the basic necessities of a happy, healthy, human existence…”


Read this reminiscience by Oracle co-founder Allen Cohen about how he first imagined a “rainbow newspaper,” or go to Regent Press to learn more about the Oracle (both links are to pages not on PBS.org).

Many thanks to Regent Press for the use of some of the original Oracle graphics on this Web site. Others provided by Ana Christy.

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN JERRY GARCIA’S 70TH BIRTHDAY

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51YJZAHPN3LJerry-Garcia-9306297-1-402th (5)

On what would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday, LightBox presents a collection of images of the iconic Grateful Dead frontman taken by legendary music photographer Jim Marshall.

Any counterculture worth its salt will eventually succeed in having its values coopted by the broader culture. This, of course, can lead to such ironic outcomes as The Grateful Dead–the once underground ambassadors of indolence, free love and heavy drugs–becoming the best selling concert act in all of America, beloved by long-haired liberals and buttoned-down Reaganites alike.

Jim Marshall
Jerry Garcia, 1968
And Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist, singer and spiritual glue of America’s Greatest Touring Band, contained a few contradictions of his own. For instance, he was one of rock music’s most revered guitarists –named by Rolling Stone as the 13th greatest of all time–but was missing a finger in his right hand. He was a counterculture icon who profited handsomely from hawking ties and ice cream. And most tragically, he was an ardent advocate of mind-expanding drugs, but spent much of his life hobbled by addictions to cocaine and heroin.

Garcia, who would have turned 70 on Aug. 1, cut his teeth in the small San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s playing in a jug band with future Dead members Bob Weir and Ron “Pigpen” Mckernan. But Garcia and his hometown of San Francisco were quickly shaken from their attachment to the staid aesthetics of folk music by the arrival of LSD. The drug inspired Garcia to give up his half-hearted attempt at raising a family and earning a steady paycheck. As he told Jan Wenner in 1972:

“It just changed everything you know, it was just – ah, first of all, for me personally, it freed me, you know, the effect was that it freed me because I suddenly realized that my little attempt at having a straight life and doing that was really a fiction and just wasn’t going to work out.”

From its humble beginnings as the house band for Ken Kesey’s famous “Acid Test” parties in the Bay Area in the mid-to-late sixties, the Grateful Dead went on to tour the world and build one of the most loyal and ardent fan bases in the history of rock and roll. It did so not on the strength of platinum records, but on it’s reputation for lively and improvisational live shows, which featured foremost the dulcet guitar work and silky voice of Jerry Garcia. Garcia didn’t posses the raw power of a Jimmy Page or the slick perfectionism of Eric Clapton–but he did have a remarkable feel for the instrument, as well as an unrivaled musical intuition. As Rolling Stone told it,

“Garcia could dazzle on slide (“Cosmic Charlie”) or pedal steel (“Dire Wolf”), but his natural home was playing lead onstage, exploring the frontier of psychedelic sound. The piercing lyricism of this tone was all the more remarkable for the fact that he was missing the third finger of his right hand — the result of a childhood accident while he and his brother Tiff were chopping wood.”

And though The Grateful Dead were never chart-toppers at their peak like Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones, their influence is just as palpable today as those bands. In an age where fewer and fewer artists can make an honest living by selling records alone, the live show has become the medium through which many artists make their most significant artistic statements. Acts like stadium-packing Phish owe a huge debt to The Grateful Dead’s improvisational style.

But beyond the music, much of The Grateful Dead’s popularity can be attributed to Jerry Garcia’s magnetic personality. The man’s shaggy beard and incandescent smile are not only a defining image of his own band, but for sixties music in general. And those who knew him best were in awe of his ability to enthrall. “Insofar as you were able, you were an exponent of a dream in the continual act of being defined into a reality,” wrote Garcia’s longtime lyricist, Robert Hunter on the anniversary of his death. “You had a massive personality and talent to present it to the world. That dream is the crux of the matter, and somehow concerns beauty, consciousness and community.”

Chris Matthews is a writer-reporter at TIME.com.

Read more: Happy 70th Birthday, Jerry Garcia – LightBox http://lightbox.time.com/2012/08/01/happy-70th-birthday-jerry-garcia/#ixzz2ogutjiEz

an interview with MIchael McClure

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  • Michael McClure Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist
    Michael McClure Photo: Courtesy Of The Artist
    Michael McClure

  • Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure Photo: City Lights
    Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure Photo: City Lights
    Ghost Tantras, by Michael McClure

Michael McClure,

81, might be the most photogenic of all the Beat Generation writers, and maybe the most beautiful of the young male poets who stormed North Beach when City Lights was a bookstore no bigger than the proverbial hole-in-the-wall. Moreover, more than any other Beat poet, he’s been wild about wild beasts, both real and imaginary, as in his illustrated book for children, “The Boobus and the Bunnyduck” and in “For the Death of 100 Whales,” a kind of funeral dirge that he read at the historic Six Gallery poetry jamboree in 1955 that launched the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance.

This month, City Lights is republishing his 1964 classic, “Ghost Tantras” (99 pages; $13.95), a collection of 99 poems in which he pushes language to the outer edge of human expression. Written in conversational English and in a guttural “beast language” that he created, “Ghost Tantras” begins rambunctiously and ends on a note of tranquillity. The new edition includes a spirited introduction by McClure in which he takes readers behind the scenes and describes the process of spontaneous creativity that gave birth to the poems. “I have no idea what I’m doing – just writing,” he explains.

All in all, there’s no other book of poetry like “Ghost Tantras” in the annals of Beat literature. Fifty years after he self-published his experiments with language, the world of publishing has finally caught up with the book and the author, now in the midst of a revival as a spirited performer of the spoken word.

With bass player Rob Wasserman and drummer Jay Lane, McClure plays to audiences on college campuses and at venues such as the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Janis Joplin, with whom he co-wrote the hit song “Mercedes Benz,” would not be surprised by the youthful energy that he still exudes as though just arrived fresh from Kansas, an American Shelley ready to shift the shape of reality itself.

When he showed up in San Francisco in 1954, McClure enrolled at San Francisco State and took literature classes. Then he met the bad boys who were remaking American literature: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ever since the Six Gallery reading, he’s fused the spoken word to live music. In the 1960s, he caroused with Bob Dylan. Years later, McClure and keyboardist Ray Manzarek of the Doors took their rock-Beat act around the country and recorded several CDs.

During a morning conversation in the Oakland hills, where he lives with his wife of 27 years, the sculptor Amy Evans-McClure, he talked about his love for the verses of Percy Bysshe Shelley and recited lines from some of his most beloved poets – William Blake, John Keats, Walt Whitman – and his contemporary, Diane di Prima.

Q: Why is City Lights republishing the book after all these years?

A: Of all my works, it’s the one I most wanted to be republished. It draws together everything in my own personal experience from that time in the early 1960s. It also opened doors to the possibilities that followed: my novel; the years as a resident playwright at the Magic Theatre; the work with musicians such as Ray Manzarek of the Doors, who died in May; and all the way to the present day, performing at the Sweetwater with Rob Wasserman and Jay Lane.

Q: You read from “Ghost Tantras” to animals at the San Francisco Zoo.

A: Bruce Conner and I went there to record roosters. We ran into the lion keeper, who was also a poet, and he invited us to see the lions. I read and they roared. We roared together. You can Google it. I also read Chaucer to kangaroos that waved their heads back and forth and to seals that were barking.

Q: I’ve been staring at the cover of the new edition that shows a very wild-looking caveman. What’s the story?

A: That’s me with a lot of makeup on my face – and a lot of hair – that the artist Robert Lavigne applied.

Q: In the best-known photo of you, you’re elbow to elbow with Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan.

A: Allen, Bob and I hung out together in San Francisco, went to parties and shared ideas. One day, Dylan said, “Let’s take a picture of the three of us.” Larry Kennan shot us behind City Lights; it’s Jack Kerouac Alley now. Lawrence Ferlinghetti has done a great job renaming so many of the alleys. He has also done more than anyone else around to create the audience that we have for poetry. His “Coney Island of the Mind” has sold more copies than any other book of contemporary poetry except Pablo Neruda, plus he’s published nearly everybody at City Lights.

Q: With the exception of Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder, you may be the last major poet standing from that generation of poets who first published in the 1950s.

A: Don’t forget Diane di Prima, who’s still alive and still in San Francisco. She might be the greatest living American poet. I like everything Diane has written.

Q: On the back cover of the new edition, there’s a quote from the actor and director Dennis Hopper – “Without McClure’s roar there would have been no Sixties.” What does that mean to you?

A: That’s praise from a real genius as an actor, director and photographer. We hit it off from the start; we were very close for years; like me, Dennis was from Kansas.

Q: Have you ever thought who you’d be now if you hadn’t left Kansas?

A: That thought has never entered my mind. Everyone I knew wanted to get out of Kansas; most of the people in my circle left. I have hardly ever gone back.

Q: The poems in “Ghost Tantras” seem to me to be love poems.

A: Love is humanity’s greatest invention.

Q: In the new introduction to the book, you write about your “shyness.” Hard to believe.

A: I thought I was the shyest person around until Allen Ginsberg brought Jack Kerouac to my house in San Francisco. Jack had a deep-down shyness – way more than me. I overcame my own shyness when I read at the Six Gallery in 1955 with Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Philip Lamantia – when we all put our toes to the line in the sand. That was a pivotal moment in a life punctuated by pivotal moments.

Q: You’ve always emphasized the political nature of the Beats, especially in your book “Scratching the Beat Surface,” one of the best books about you and your fellow poets.

A: We were definitely not uprooted from politics. We were environmentalists, though there were times when we talked about the environment and audiences booed us.

Q: Why did you write the poems? Do you remember?

A: I wanted to change the shape of the known universe.

Q: Do you remember the city when you arrived on Dec. 31, 1954, and ate with chopsticks for the first time in Chinatown?

A: I remember shacks and goats on Twin Peaks. I remember falling in love with the wildflowers, the beauty of the ocean and Mount Tam, and I remember growing to hate all the wars. Roads were narrower then, traffic was lighter; the natural world seemed so close. Then houses crawled up all the hills, and there were more and more people, more cars, more everything. I belong to a generation that wasn’t trained by the computer. I read a lot of books. I still do.

Jonah Raskin is the author of “American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation.” E-mail: books@sfchronicle.com

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