Monday, March 12, 2018

Gerda Writes The Yardstick

"All But My Life" Gerda Weissman Klein (1995)

This may have been my first Holocaust memoir. It would therefore be the basis of Springtime Holocaust Jamboree.This tore at my heart and still does these years later.

Survivors can't possibly recall the camp experience accurately for a myriad of reasons the first and most obvious being that when we are being victimized we re-arrange the facts to make them tolerable; to blot out the situations where we may have been complicit, in whatever minute way. Put simply, to survive it. 

The most accurate parts of a memoir are going to be the time before the abuse and the time after. Life for a Jew in WWII Europe is indeed divided in this way and that divider can never be clear. To see it clearly would probably break the person. Our minds protect us with vagueness about the worst of our experiences. It's a truth I've been exploring for the last two years and, most intensely, in the last six months. By design, we can survive the worst mental and emotional anguish because time blurs it for us. Conversely, we can remain in a horrible situation if there is no time given us. 

So whether it was my first memoir or simply the first one to leave an indelible mark I do not know but "All But My Life"  is the most emotionally moving and compelling Holocaust memoir ever published. 

Here's why: 

Two thirds of the book is pre and post concentration camp and therefore the clearest. The first third of the book is about her childhood in Poland and we become so acquainted with her as a young girl and her parents of what we would today call upper-middle class that their inevitable fate begins to feel like a terrible anxiety. 

The slow degradation and marginalization of the Jews at the Nazis hands is metered out to us as part of a greater story, the story of a family coping with their methodical breaking and you begin to fear each chapter. I became so invested in her relationship with her parents that when they were forced into the Lodz ghetto I had to put the book down. 

When her father put on his "best suit" and boarded the train for a work assignment I had to put the book down. 

But when the author wrote of "Papa" waving from the train until at last he was gone forever,  I broke down. I thought of my own father going to his death this way, in his best suit, trying to impress his oppressors who would, in hours, become his murderers, the fear in a man struggling to show only comfort to his family...the whole thing forced me to put the book down and cry for myself, for my own father. No book had ever done that to me. 

And the separation from her mother was even more heart-wrenching. I took me a week to pick it back up. I had to actually discuss it with my therapist. Ha! 

Gerda Weissman Klein's "All But My Life" (1995) is THE memoir if you wish to understand the human experience of the Survivor. It is in my opinion the yardstick by which a good Survivor story should be measured - the measure of the man/woman. I've seen as many inconsistencies in camp recollections as I have in my own recollections which are, in most places, soaked in booze or altered by some chemical or other but Klein tells the story of her childhood in Poland with a clear memory, facing the fading away of her family, her right to be human that I felt humbled by her. 

Read this book.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


This may be one of the most horrifying stories I've ever heard and I include the Holocaust in this because that was a planned, methodical murder carried out by madmen. This....this is almost inconceivable. It is an explosion of human nature at its worst, of ego, self-righteousness, and indifference. And the resulting grasping, clutching, murderous self-preservation; the madness, despair and agony left in its wake. That an artist would document the end result in a painting made to scale, the size of the actual raft that carried 147 people, in  all its grotesque and horrifying detail, would be as stunning as the event itself.

Here's how it happened:

In June of 1816, the French, no surprise the French are involved in yet another disgusting event in history,  sailed 4 ships to Africa to colonize Senegal what with Africa being in desperate need of civilization and all. I mean whatever it was they were doing had to be wrong, right?  Good God. 

It was a race with every country who had the money to build a ship to take over a continent that didn't need taking over and 175 years later, when Rwanda was destroying itself as a direct result of these bullshit invasions, no one would intervene .  They went to TAKE OVER because they were black then they WOULDN'T HELP because they were black.  The only thing worse is being a woman, said John and Yoko. 

But that's another story.  

In 1816, The Medusa, one of the 4 ships the French were lucky enough to even have after that whole Napoleon fiasco, was captained or whatever it is that ships are, by a rich, arrogant sonofabitch,  Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys, a long-retired sea asshole with political connections. Caring only about garnering accolades for beating the other ships to Africa and with no concern for the 400 passengers on board, he took off at full speed, went off course by 100 miles and hit a sand bar. Or something. They ran aground anyway. Oh. Look.  Here's the sea asshole now:

The other 3 ships were nowhere in sight having stayed the course. 

The Medusa was shipwrecked carrying 400 souls and a lifeboat that would only hold 250. Some of the crew chose to remain on the wrecked vessel and take their chances on a rescue. But not many. 

Now, the rich, naturally, were placed in the lifeboat with most of the rations and a makeshift "raft" was built, tethered to the lifeboat and loaded with 147 "lesser" passengers, the unimportant, people like me, who were told by de Chaumereys that they had "plenty of rations".

They had enough for 2 days and went through it in one. 

When the unrest began and the discarded human cargo of the raft realized what had been done to them, de Chaumreys cut the line. The comfortable, well-rationed lifeboat set them adrift: 146 men and one woman with no rations, on the open sea, at the equator. He simply cut the line and sent them to their deaths. 

Each night, madness set in. Complete darkness, the silence of the ocean becoming a deafening roar, hunger and dehydration taking over their senses.  Each morning there would be fewer.

Many were murdered by the others who were going insane from lack of food and water; and then there was fear so deep that many jumped into the sea in despair.  Eventually, the starving passengers resorted to cannibalism.

The one woman was repeatedly assaulted and thrown off the raft only to climb back in to the same fate.  Her torture is unknowable and it is said the half-corpse hanging off the side in the painting is her, rotted, half eaten, abused even in death.

Thirteen days later, The Argus, one of the 4 original ships, came upon the "Raft of the Medusa". On it were 15 living men and several rotting corpses - 10 survived. Of 147, only 10 survived and only 3 would live. The lifeboat, which was not filled to capacity, not even close, did not lose one passenger. 

Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys was never convicted of desertion or any other crime. How he and the others who cut that raft loose lived with themselves is a testament to the worst elements of human character, elements nearly always born of a sense of entitlement which was a conscience-free existence in those days of very defined classism.

But a painter by the name of Theodore Ge'ricault would interfere with their ability to deny the blood on their hands when -  only three years later - he exhibited a 16' x 23' painting called simply "Raft of The Medusa".  

Gericault was already breaking from convention with his series "Les Monomanes", portraits of the insane.  

But this was entirely something else. This wildly graphic  painting, a serious contribution to the dawn of the Romantic era, caused amazing controversy, shocked the world in its context, size and style... and pointed a finger squarely at de Chaumereys and the other Medusa lifeboat survivors. There would be no forgiveness now. History - perhaps not actively but most certainly - would hold them responsible by way of paint on a canvas. 

Ge'ricault spent months studying cadavers, the varying stages of decomposition, interviewing the 3 survivors of The Raft, 2 in particular whose retelling (I have heard) is too difficult to bear.  The one woman on the raft suffered something to which no words could be assigned. 

(from his studies on cadavers)

The artist intended to shock with the truth, depicting the  horror of this event without restraint.  He went all in and did it to scale In total, the painting took two years to complete and the effort ruined his health, perhaps his faith who knows.  He died within a year of the work's completion.

It was repulsive to some, revolutionary to others but it was discussed, there was a fresh wave of anger over the entire thing.  Senegal was not so far that word did not reach those shadow-humans responsible for all of it.  Not one ever returned. 

The painting was purchased and hung in the Louvre by Louis XVIII. Can you believe that?  So self-important that he paid for a painting that essentially indicted him.  The painting was almost clearly anti-monarchist.  Frank Zappa was right.

"Le Monomanes"  showed he was a risk taker.  But with the "Raft of The Medusa" he became a groundbreaker both in the shift of truth in art and his clear strike at the upper class and the French government. 

To me, he accused de Chaumereys and the "entitled" on that lifeboat for all time and that seems more important than the rest. Were it not for Ge'reicault, I think time would have washed away the story of The Medusa, de Chaumereys and the indifferent upperclass of that lifeboat would have gotten a pass and those unfortunates sent to their deaths on that raft would mean as little today as they did the day they were placed on it.

This story is almost Dickensian, don't you think? Seldom do the gods wag their wicked fingers at 'the world's de Chaumereys' so swiftly and with such "artistry, as it were. It just doesn't happen like this: the size of this painting, the impact on artistic style,  the ripple effect it created that reached all peoples, mercilessly reminding them of the atrocity and stirring up a new fury.

Was this an artist who gave his life in the effort to tell the this divine justice?

If there is such a thing, this might be it.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Iceberg! Right Ahead!

I couldn't even venture to guess how many times I have seen the movie "Titanic".  But I can, with certainty, say that I've only seen the 2 hours leading up to the sinking twice.  Why?  Because the movie is just awful. It's the sinking part that I love.  

I am too fascinated with historical events of great suffering, sheer terror and absolute panic - and the human response.  I watch the last hour of Titanic each time for the first time if you catch me.  Am I ENJOYING the fact that 1,500 people shit their pants for 2 hours while the unsinkable did the unthinkable?  No.  I am transfixed over the fact that people really lived through this.  Or died from it.  Either way, it's the hopelessness and terror that grips me and causes me to pore over survivor accounts as if my thesis depended on it.  But I don't know what thesis is anyway.

I watch that ship sinking into the Atlantic and wonder every time how I would fare. Considering I would be locked in steerage with the rest of the penniless there isn't much to think about in realistic terms, but let's say I somehow made it out of steerage in time to lose my senses on deck with everyone else.  

Would I try to survive like those assholes "Jack and Rose", staying on the ship until the last minute, hoping for a rescue, like blowing out birthday candles? Or would I be frantically looking for the infirmary for a more direct and fun route to the inevitable?  Would I help people as we went down or would  I push one under to hold myself above the water? We all like to think we would be brave under such circumstances, the stuff movies are made of even,  but would we really? 

Going to the Holocaust -  a topic in which I can handle -  (go here)  if I were in a camp it's likely that I would have thrown myself onto the fence before the first bowl of turnip soup was ladled out. And just as likely that it would be in a camp without an electric fence, my own history considered.  I would be the Jerry Lewis of camp suicides.  Either that or I would be one of the whores to the SS, sex being as remote an experience as it is to me. 

Concentration camps were a dignity destroyer for women in the worst imaginable sense: no way out. So whether you're walking around with pants full of diarrhea or blowing a German for a slice of bread you're going to emerge in the end with monster issues.  I'd abandon allegiance for a snack.  I just know it.  The women would hate me. 

So how truthful can you be with yourself when you think of history's atrocities or what could befall you in the future as this planet slowly dies?  
Had you been accused of being a witch in 1600's Salem would you deny it to the gallows or accuse someone else of forcing you to it to save yourself? 

Would you take the life vest from a child as the Titanic went down or go to your watery grave, convictions in tact?  Would you die rather than abandon your Christian belief? Would you blow a Nazi or pick lice out of your head for a year before finally being gassed?  

For the sake of comedy, I paint myself as a witch-accusing, Titanic child-killing, Nazi whore.  But the truth is, I would kill myself before having to make any of those choices. I'm sort of a pussy like that.  Which makes this post - and really this entire blog - nothing more than a theoretical field trip.

Yours for a little attention,


Friday, February 23, 2018

Meanwhile, Luigi Russolo Was Making A Lot Of Noise

In 1909, The Futurist movement in art was taking, um, non-shape. Writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, founder/promoter (eventually Fascist) of this Futurist concept was probably insane though there were people around him that used his concepts experimentally. Marinetti - in my mind - is like "The Black Hand" from "Godfather II".  Remember?  Don Fanucci?  Like an Italian blowhard, cruising on his charisma and intimidation Gertrude Stein said:  "There is no there, there".

Marinetti was not an artist.  He was a "conceptualist".  His manifesto was too aggressive. The idea itself was aggressive:  abandon everything.  Nouns, painting, thinking, limits, music!  Break from the past! Art, politics,  all of it removed from thinking which is totally exciting but like in a "kool-aid" way.

Italians like to everything big, you know. Grand gestures and big thinking are just in the genes.  . The Futurist painting style was deliberately abstract and fast and were it human it would have certainly had balls and a sinister mustache.  Maybe a rap sheet and a wife with a black eye.  Being masculine in form I think the whole deal leaned toward misogyny.   You can read more about it.  Not here but somewhere I am sure.

Here is Giacomo Balla's "Abstract Speed and Sound". 

I think it looks stupid..  It never took off.  Why would it?  It's like your frustrated gay art teacher from 8th grade did it. 

But I'm just killing time here, I couldn't care less about Giacomo Balla, architecture style, who started what or what they didn't believe in or whether nouns and adjectives should be "freed" from the sentence sentence (yeah!).

It is painter and composer Luigi Russolo and his 1913 manifesto "The Art of Noises" that really put a pin in this movement and had he not been there and had he not done what he did...I wouldn't even be writing this and you wouldn't care.  The assumption being that you do.

He - I feel - indeed used the concepts for freeing music from its confines of instruments, traditional structure and expectation by experimenting with noise, power driven instrumentation and vocalizations.  Here.  Listen.


If you want to kick someone in the shin over Yoko Ono, this is your guy.

Russolo's invention - the intonarumori - is used in the piece above, Macchina Tipografica.  It created an engine-like sound whose pitch could be altered - something altogether new.  You know... he debuted this thing in 1914 to a small audience of elite artists one of whom would be intrigued and a little influenced  by this invention - Igor Stravinsky. 

Because of the intonarumori, Russolo is considered the first theorist in electronic music. It is alleged that none of these original machines survived World War I and only reproductions exist today. Even if its not true, it makes the story cool.  But you know, there is always a "bones of King Richard under a Walmart"  or an unknown Coltrane recording in a barrel of monkeys, I don't know I'm just saying stuff here.  

Russolo was a ground breaker.  He emerged from Futurism with something that actually substantiated the whole thing: breaking from the confines of music with noise.  

The Futurist movement was crushed as a whole, far too advanced for its time in the small areas; too radical and even suspect in the big ones and that was Marinetti's area. He slit the throat of his own concept, weighing it down.  Weighing it down.

But it splintered under the weight of that crush and, as if throwing seeds into the universe to grow at a later time, we would see and hear the Futurists of 1910 in all sorts of places. In the future.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gems #2


I had to go to the park to sit in the sun and read this weekend because my yard has been commandeered by the 20 year old techno losers downstairs who stand around a Hibachi laughing like Beavis and Butthead with beer in their hands from fucking sun up to sun down. 

I don't hear them talking...just non-stop moronic laughing. You know, the laugh of the short bus, the helmet kids in special ed whose start out giggling and end up pounding their helmet with their fists and screaming. 

What's so funny? Really I want to know what the fuck is so funny? Twelve hours a day in the back yard "huh huh huh! huh huh huh!" listening to 40 minute songs that consist of three buzzes, an Atari sound effect and a fucking beep. Are you grilling pickles? Are you making pickles on the grill? Don't you have anywhere to go besides the backyard? Don't you losers go camping or anything? Why do you have to stand around under my kitchen window and chain smoke Marlboros "huh huh huh!" BEEP, buzz buzz. Fucking dinks. 

Rolling on ecstasy and grilling pickles until 2am.

And I have to go to a park if I want to go in the sun where I get hit on by pathetic uneducated 40 year old fucks who live in their mother's basement and say shit like "hot enough for ya?" and "how come you ain't down the beach?".

No, it's not hot enough for me. I want it to get so hot that I pass out and die so I never have to listen to park trolling losers sing "how come you ain't down the beach?" to the haunting melody of the ice cream truck.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

jane austen is the devil

Congratulations to that asshole Jane Austen for being a successful and celebrated author in the 18th century when women were not taken seriously over...anything really.  She did nothing for the perception of women nor women's perception and if I could dig her up and kill her again I would.  Here's why:

Her books are ridiculous fantasies that should never have been considered GREAT literature nor should they all be made into movies!  The douche bag who first reviewed her as "talented" and set off the "classic suggested reading" label should burn in hell.

Pride and Prejudice alone makes me want to pluck out my own eyes. This book, like all Austen books, perpetuates the myth that a man who is cold and indifferent to you and considers you mediocre at best is ACTUALLY in love with you and will eventually come around. He will not only come around and love you, he will come around and love you completely free of any of the psychological damage that caused him to be an asshole in the first place.In most of her stories he also comes around with tons of money. 

Conceptually, this is right up there with teeth healing on their own or "the Holocaust never happened".

How did everyone buy into this as human nature and the yardstick by which we measure love instead of identifying it as the fairy tale for which it is? You could almost say, if you want to be dramatic, that Jane Austen is responsible for the unrequited love of every woman since her first book was released in _________. I could easily find that date, but I won't do a Google search on her. The less important she becomes the better for us all. The statement itself, her being responsible for 100 years of unrequited love, is unfair, I know. She doesn't bear that weight alone. But she's responsible for a serious portion. Bitch.

Women have wasted their lives chasing pricks who use them for sexual gratification, ignore them and then call them for late night blow jobs on their way home to their real girlfriends (or wives) because they think these men are ACTUALLY in love with them and just can't deal with love:

"He keeps coming back, he must love me! He calls every once in a while because he can't forget me but he can't deal with love because of his childhood but he will realize it and we will inherit the estate of his distant Aunt, the Countess of Montvale, as she intended only to bequeath it upon his falling in love and then we will all have tea with inbred British people with terrible teeth and really long titles who all die young from the consumption..."


That idiotic notion of fantasy romance was handed down to us by our matriarchs so with all that backing, it became reality to us women. It happens in great literature and the Academy Award winning movies born of them, so "Mr. Darcy" must be the blueprint for all outwardly and obviously cold or cruel men.

But this scenario is a rare case at best. It is more like "Eugeni Onegin" or better yet like a Bronte novel where "happily ever after" DOES happen but only after the rake has become disfigured and penniless or after you have died and he goes mad with obsessive longing. That's about as close to the fairy tale ending as should ever have been put to paper. Had it been that way,the love bar would be lower, we would be happier creatures and who knows what else might be different. 

Most certainly, there would be no hot, intelligent, funny, pretty, old maids in therapy who have wasted their lives believing that abusive or indifferent men really love them underneath it all. And I certainly wouldn't have passed on ______ or ______ thinking there was some rogue who would fall madly in love with me despite the fact that he hadn't the capacity to love. The notion that I would be the exception would never have occurred to me if I hadn't been fed such bullshit by the likes of Jane Austen.

Love is a mystery. It is something that we want, crave, strive for, take a position on, can't feel because our parents sucked, waste time over, become drunk with, sometimes find and lose because the expectation of it is outrageously high due to delirious 18th century female authors, get addicted to, experience briefly, fall in and out of, consider suicide over, embarrass ourselves in its pursuit, remember fondly, remember with anger, dream of, cry over, run from, sing songs wherein it is compared to oxygen, hate with venom and idealize with every ounce of our existence. It is the opiate of the human soul and only the soulless are exempt.

Many of us will live our lives with love just out of reach but always within sight courtesy of the Devil, Jane Austen.

(published 2004 Fatova Kesenia Mingus)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

An Edith Piaf Record Is Missing

When the following two poems were found in a toy box among dolls, puppets and the three remaining pieces of a Ringo drum set, accusations flew. It was clear that the crayon writing was that of the 5 year old girl’s, but it was unfathomable that she could write such things. 

Being the free love days of the late 60’s, parents, aunts, uncles and their friends were regularly high and alternated between “wow man” and accusatory outbursts born of that Hitchcockian error of paranoid cinema that collided so perfectly with the chemical residue of that generation’s entitlement.

The girl played in her room while the arguing bounced between fascination and confusion in some kind of absurd, endless tennis game where no one remembered to keep score. By 1972 she completed a novella and had mastered the art of levitation after finding a copy of Alistair Crowley’s Book 4 in some visiting hippie’s duffel bag.
On February 25, 1974, the school bell rang and class was dismissed for the day. The girl walked into the snowy afternoon, waved goodbye to her friends and was never seen again. Missing from her home were her novella, most of her short stories, all of her underpants, 2 cans of cream corn, 4 cans of Snack Pack chocolate pudding, the TV Guide, an Edith Piaf record and her father’s collection of Kennedy half dollars.

There were a few leads that first year and after that, it was if she never existed. 

If this story is true, these poems were written by a five year old:


I revisit my errors like beautiful lovers in summer.
Back to them, back to them,
waves crash the shore.
85 degrees and an ice cream cone,
watch out for jellyfish
don’t swallow the watermelon pits.

But my errors are less forgiving
and their presence hovers in rawness;

hovers in rain and run for cover,
all the board games are missing pieces.
I bring them to the surface out of nothing but fucking boredom.

I bring them to the surface out of nothing but fucking boredom.
How could I do that? Why didn’t I do this?
Where did I go wrong? Where did I go left?
My failures keep me company in the sunset of my sanity.
It’s a recipe for success, handed down for generations and really,
who am I to break such a wonderful tradition?

A girl walks into a bar.  It’s a nice enough bar. She sits down and orders a white wine.
A man at the end tells the bartender to put it on his tab which he does and she accepts. Fifteen minutes later she is 4 seats to her right and they are awkwardly laughing
They go outside for a cigarette because you can’t smoke indoors anymore.  They make exaggerated comments about the cold while pulling poison into their lungs in the 30 degree night of possibilities. She exhales puff number 4 and looks down: he is wearing ridiculously outdated shoes. It is a needle being raked across vinyl, the soundtrack to well rehearsed exit lines and a ‘thank you for the drink’.  And it all happens far too quickly for him to think it is anything but rejection. He ties his shoe, the laces wrapping likes snakes in the grass, and goes back inside, the fool.
Late that night, after half a bottle of wine and 12 french cigarettes which she smokes indoors because its her bedroom and she can do what she wants, she calls her ex-husband who is abusive and makes her feel worthless.
But he wears really cool shoes.
She smokes a joint, cries until her cheeks are covered in the wet scrapings from the bottom of the only Chanel mascara she’ll ever own and falls asleep without washing her face. The cat misses the litter box again because he is 18 and can’t see it.
In the morning she will have two blemishes on her cheek and there will be no cream for her coffee. She will smoke a french cigarette by the kitchen window watching pigeons through tears as they gather on the ledge of the building across the alley.
They do it every morning. Four of them fly away early.

(copyright 2004 Fatova Kesenia Mingus)