Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thank You, Patrick Macnee. Salud, John Steed!

Television has a long history of heroes from the virile Wyatt Earps of the 1950s to the rough hewn Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of today.  Yet few have ever been as cunning, classy and laissez faire as The Avenger John Steed.

While the series changes considerably in cast, tone and special efffects over the eight year run, John Steed is the single constant throughout.  As young boys, we all fell in love with his beautiful assistants, yet it was Steed who shaped our characters, who demonstated qualities that would serve us well as young men and older men.  He was polished, unfaiingly polite even when he took advantage of his assistant's skills, always the courteous companion.  Even when taken by their charms, he was ready to serve, ready to defend and never stood in their way or questioned their judgement.  He was in fact, the perfect gentleman.

This is a character almost impossible to find on television today and as we wind through the zeitgeist when everything about men's behavior toward women and others is being questioned, young boys would do well to emulate the ever bowlered John Steed.  If in fact the character of Steed owed his witty ripostes to his writers and his wardrobe to the best of British and French clothing designers, he owed his gentlemanly manners to the actor that portrayed him, Patrick Macnee.   While Macnee would go on to play other TV characters including the notorious Cylon Nebeli in the original Starship Gallactica, he is best remembered for his portrayal of John Steed.

As an older man, a Southerner, someone born in the counry to the country folk of Alabama, it seems right to thank Patrick Macnee for John Steed.  Art reaches further than we know and molds characters in ways and at distances often unknown to the artist.  Macnee showed us how a man could be both refined and a man of action, cunning and kind and that a woman must be treated as an equal and a partner.  If his diction was crisp, he was never condescending.  If his walk was slow, his back was straight.  And every person be they high born or the village drunk was accorded courtesy. 

This is what it is to be a well-bred man and whether it is a quality of birth in some or self-made character in others, it can be taught by example. If ths is a credit to Macnee's acting skills or to the evolution of the character, it little matters. Both achieve a perfection of an archetypal good man, admirable, to be respected, cherished and remembered.

So my hat is off to Patrick Macnee and wherever he is, let him know he taught well and for that many are grateful.  I wish there were more of him.

Salud, John Steed.  Thank you, Patrick Macnee.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Bird Whispers

A little bird whispers into the ear of a monster, Qaddiysh,
A secret that wounds the heart of darkness.

There is a light that cannot be unshone.
There is a love that cannot be undone.
Two sparks separated by a million years
Two hearts with a single rhythm
Can never be apart, can never be alone
Are ever one. Dark Angel, one.

Space pushes every point in heaven and earth
Time shares every cry in the pain of birth
Your strength, your will, your malefaction
Are swallowed without your satisfaction

What cannot be counted cannot be destroyed
Your impotent pleasure strikes into a void.

Though the fires you set rage across the fields
The corn still stands, the wheat still waves
The winds blow gentle, the hot sky yields
The rains that harvest's bounty saves.

Though demon legions you command to come from hell's dominion
To scar the faces now upturned with eyes firm fixed on heaven
I sit here on your shoulder freely singing that song given
By love to all from whom the light your presence now is driven.

len bullard - sept 17 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

You Have Cancer: You WILL Beat This

So far so good.

Cancer treatment is orders of magnitude better these days as they are much better with dosing in chemo. Radiation is still a bitch. There are a few pointers.

Attitude is everything.

People will hear and become somewhat death obsessed. If you are the patient, the first day you are told is just... awful. Scary. And the next week or so aren't much better. Then attitude kicks in, the sense of humor and that is good. But people start dropping by who think they are seeing you for the last time and you want to be polite but don't listen. Get this fixed in your mind: YOU are going to beat this.

And the odds are good you will.

You have a long stretch of the legs to travel, so this is a time that it is ok to put yourself first. Selfish isn't.

Steroids: if your treatment includes steroids, they don't call them rage roids for nothing. Word. I took a good friend's head off one night on FB for nothing important. Soooo... when taking roids, social media isn't.

Depending on the treatment, it's mostly inconvenient but what you will see at a cancer institute is often worse than what you are enduring. I won't get into it here but if you are even mildly empathetic, some of it is heartbreaking. On the other hand, the staff at these centers do the work of saints and you'll be treated as well as you ever will be in your life. Keep in mind they are seeing what you are seeing every day. Appreciate that. Attitude is everything,

Last and touchy for some, if medical marijuana ever comes up in your state, vote for it. It works. Enuff said.

Treatment is not without side effects. The main one is fatigue. Over the course of typically six months it will wear you down. Get sleep, don't fret about it. You need it. Not everyone loses all their hair. Agains it depends on the treatment. Most thin out but that comes back. There was a lady in our group who had a box of wigs and every one was named. She pulled out one long red haired wig and said "My husband really likes Raquel" and smiled.

Attitude is everything.

Another problem is your immune system will go to zero. Some people choose to stay home for most of the treatment. I worked in a surgical mask because I had a job where people needed to know I could be there. Some can; some can't. Choose for yourself but this is a good time to have a hobby you can do alone because you do need to control who has close access to you. I composed a Latin mass (with full orchestration and four part harmony in the spirit of Arlo Guthrie). When asked why, I said that when I die I don't want the funeral home to play bad Amazing Grace and at my last gig, dammit, it would be MY music. If that seems odd, the point is simply take this time to do the work that makes you feel most satisfied. That way you keep anxiety down and you will feel better. Whatever you do best, whatever makes you feel that you are in control of your life, do that.

Attitude is everything.

Cheers. It is tough but you are going to beat this and when you do, you will change and for the better. This is a disease that will get your attention, make you cherish what is worth cherishing, and rise up.

Good hunting!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Forest In A Wasteland: The Challenge of Decency

One person making a huge difference. All by himself, slow and steady. (Thanks, Katy!)

Decency manifests one man, one seed at a time. Yet one man's work can disappear in a single year if other decent men do not value and protect it.

This is the great question before us. We believe we are a nation of decent people and that this decency is our most valuable asset as we stand before the world offering leadership. But I look at the behavior of our elected leaders, I see the corruption from Wall Street, I experience the fraud and lieing of even local organizations, established companies and I ask myself if this is still true, if this decency has become a feint, a means to exploit us and take the work of single men, the profits of local initiative and give it to others to add to their own accounts?

A man can plant a forest. Another man can cut the wood and sell it to light the fires that forge the weapons that kill decent men everywhere, and who will stop them without the same weapons until at last there are no trees to burn, and no decent men to plant more?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Center

Color Photos courtesy of Allison Lewis

Some people travel to the southeast to see the arts, visit the old studios in Muscle Shoals, see the zoo in Birmingham, maybe make a quick stop in Huntsville to look at the rockets and travel on sure they have sampled the best Alabama has to offer.  They are wrong.

If you go a few miles further past the Saturn V standing on I-565 in Huntsville, and if you know where to turn, you may see an old cotton mill that once housed a shoe factory called Genesco.  Long ago it was a major employer for the hundreds of workers who sat within the redbrick walls on the wooden floors cutting a sewing in the sweltering summer heat as the aging machines labored. 

Then it was closed, employees sent home and Huntsville lumbered into the Space Age as the rocket ships plowed their way like mules into the blue skies and on to the Moon.

But the buildings remained.

And the city that built the rocket ships changed as new high tech industries made the local research park home to more diversified and in some ways darker places to work.  As weapons industries replaced America's ambitions in space, as the universities grew and the city spread out beyond the emerald necklace of green hills that once circumscribed the city proper, quietly the art communities also expanded. 

Where once there was only the old Arts Council housed in an ancient city school, then torn down to make a parking lot and the arts scattered across the city, when all of the counter culture artists could be gathered into a small bungalo for a party, suddenly there were many many more artists. And they found a champion in the owner of Hudson Alpha, a genetics firm, who bought the old Lowe Mill and dedicated it to the arts. 

For the past few years, the factory space was transformed into galleries, studios, and artists, painters, dress makers, rug makers, photographers, collectors and sellers of old clothes and even a maker of cigarbox guitars took residence.  The loading dock became a concert stages and bands from the southeast began to play free concerts. 

And the crowds came.  2000 to 5000 people a week come.  And they still come.  And it is marvelous, joyous, light and wise.

And if you come to Alabama, you should come to the largest single arts studio in the Southeast and possibly the country.  Walk in the shops, visit the theatre, see the place where young movie makers come to be trained.  Come to what is made when independents gather in one place and call it home.  There are seven galleries, ninety three studios, over one hundred and forty eight artists, and soon thiry per cent more space as another building is opened,

This is love.  And love is never wrong.

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