The Story is Not Over by Gerry Fialka Venice BeachHead June 2023
The Story is Not Over by Gerry Fialka Venice BeachHead June 2023
INTRODUCTION — Let us pry? Will my following quasar quackery needle your luminous galactic nuclei? Ahoy Matey. Navigate the three C’s (seas): curiosity, compassion, collaboration (wise words from Karen Gedney MD “Dr G).
On June 16, we celebrate Bloomsday, the day in which James Joyce’s masterpiece of modernism takes place. In this 1922 novel, one reads, “In the midst of death we are in life. . .Seems a sort of a joke. Read your own obituary notice; they say you live longer. Gives you second wind. New lease of life.” Rev up your radical doubt and scrutinize.
CHAPTER ONE — NEVER-ENDING: How do we Venetians write our story? Compose another chapter? How does writing shape our behavior? What forms the continuum? Eternity? What form do we use: printed word, spoken word, or electronic word? Is it really never-ending?
“Story is by derivation a short history, and by development a narrative designed to interest and please” is The Century Dictionary’s definition.
I wonder. What is the difference between people’s addiction to reading the newspaper everyday and people looking at their social media everyday? Different form, same content? I wonder how many Venetians consume this very newspaper in its hard copy or online version? And why do I keep asking these questions? Does anyone real care?
On a recent podcast, I asked Jason Keehn, “is storytelling innate or invented by humans?” He responded, “Humans are invented by storytelling.” David Mitchell quips, “The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed.” Randy Pausch said, “Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.” Joan Didion writes, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
CHAPTER TWO- REJOYCE : What does death have to do with our story?
The experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton said that “Narrative is born among the animal necessities of the spirit because we are waiting to die.” The French newspaper, La Poste, reviewed the first Lumiere Cinematographe film screening on December 30, 1895: “When these gadgets are in the hands of the public, when anyone can photograph the ones who are dear to them, not just in their motionless form, but with movement, action, familiar gestures and the words out of their mouths, then death will no longer be absolute, final.”
Does the story end when we die? Can the transitions be different? What about this idea: What happens to you after you die, is whatever you think happens to you? Can we evoke transformation via story? “James Joyce invested his realist stories with symbolic significance, uniquely combining the directness of prose and the suggestiveness of poetry. To the author’s mind, this unique combination gave his stories a transformative potential. . . . The Canterbury Tales does not establish a unity of time and place the same way Dubliners does. In addition to the craft of his stories, then, Joyce’s main legacy in the history of the short story has been to find a way to stitch individual stories together in ways that produce a complex yet complete vision.” — Sparknotes.com
Almost no one reads James Joyce, but “The Dead” ranks as one of his best known short stories in his collection called Dubliners. Ex-Venetian Angelica Houston starred in her Dad’s film version. The directness of this short story feels unlike Joyce, unlike any kind Irish person, in its blunt confrontations. A lead character, Gabriel, gets hassled by a guest at a family dance, and she questions his desire to bicycle Europe. She insists that Gabriel should stay home and bicycle through his own country. A less blunt sample of suggestiveness covers the end of this short story, as snow falls like a general blanket of quiet death all over Ireland.
We have read James Joyce for 28 years together as a group in Venice (McLuhan-FINNEGANS WAKE Reading Club, Laughtears.com and now we have a ULYSSES reading group too). Join us to expand the tapestry. How can we forge a complex and complete vision of Venice if it is ever changing? Let us weave the tales of our tribe in directness and suggestiveness. Hearz what sum poets did . . .
Fin Agains Wake
(condensed from 628 pages)
by Darryl Bailey
The arising and passing of finite forms,
again and again,
is only formless flowing,
like ripples in a river,
the river Life-y.
But we all dwell in Doubling Town,
mentally dividing, and sub-dividing,
this one great spirit,
a simple flow,
into fantasies of sturm and drang,
and mausoleums of willing done,
when all the while,
it’s merely fin agains waking,
Who Killed James Joyce? by Patrick Kavanagh
Who killed James Joyce?
I, said the commentator,
I killed James Joyce
For my graduation.
What weapon was used
To slay mighty Ulysses?
The weapon that was used
Was a Harvard thesis.
How did you bury Joyce?
In a broadcast Symposium.
That’s how we buried Joyce
To a tuneful encomium.
Who carried the coffin out?
Six Dublin codgers
Led into Langham Place
By W. R. Rodgers.
Who said the burial prayers? –
Please do not hurt me –
Joyce was no Protestant,
Surely not Bertie?
Who killed Finnegan?
I, said a Yale-man,
I was the man who made
The corpse for the wake man.
And did you get high marks,
I got the B.Litt.
And my master’s degree.
Did you get money
For your Joycean knowledge?
I got a scholarship
To Trinity College.
I made the pilgrimage
In the Bloomsday swelter
From the Martello Tower
To the cabby’s shelter.
CHAPTER THREE — DEATHLINE/LOVELINE: Wyndham Lewis nailed it, “The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present.” Then in 1973, agitprop artist Joseph Beuys said every human is an artist. He elaborated, “Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART. This most modern art discipline — Social Sculpture/Social Architecture — will only reach fruition when every living person becomes a creator, a sculptor, or architect of the social organism.”
We are a social organism. We are the creators. We are love.
I feel Robert McKee’s words really resonant with our story in Venice: “If you understand your story, you’ll be able to say it’s about the change from ‘this’ to ‘that,’ . . . Poverty to riches. Justice to injustice. It’s one master arching event. Endings matter most. . . . The story’s ultimate event is the writer’s ultimate task. Being and becoming. Permanence and change. The struggle between keeping who you are and changing who you are. It is possible to have both, if you love in the fullest possible way. If you love, you can have both.”
Love is the story of Venice, California. The story of our journey can encompass paradise and purgatory and the unknown. “In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.” — Margaret Atwood.
Our stories can celebrate the human experience, time, and place. We can offer up questions, imagery, and emotions that bear a powerful relevance to our present day. Is there a new drama of being and perception? Is perception reality?
“Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.” — Jane Wagner & Lily Tomlin.
“Reality is not always probable, or likely. But if you’re writing a story, you have to make it as plausible as you can, because if not, the reader’s imagination will reject it.” — Jorge Luis Borges.
Astonish us. How do we make the reader an active part of the story? Transfiguration? “But that’s another story.” — Rudyard Kipling.
CHAPTER FIVE — NEWS THAT KNOWS:
Pioneer interviewer Elliot Mintz recently wrote: “It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the sad news that Roy Tuckman passed on Wednesday April 19, 2023 at 4 am. He was 84. For the last 47 years, Roy hosted a nightly ‘spoken arts’ radio show over KPFK-Pacifica-90.7FM in Los Angeles, called ‘Something’s Happening.’ He was his own engineer, producer, curator and telephone operator, and may have been on the radio continuously more than any broadcaster in America ….or anywhere. I made my last visit with him in 2018. Absorb the purity of his spirit. He was not afraid. He may have been the best friend radio ever had. I will never forget Roy Tuckman. Watch the interview on youtube entitled ‘Elliot Mintz and Roy Tuckman, part 10 of 10’ “
Roy is and will always be a major influence on me. I am grateful to him. He aired an interview I produced of Walter Bowart, author of the ground-breaking book, “Operation Mind Control.” Roy played a rare Marshall McLuhan interview “Speaking Freely with Edwin Newman” from 1971, as well as many hours of mind-bending audio, including Alan Watts, Dave Emory, Eben Rey and Terence McKenna, who called Roy a “bon vivant, countercultural figure, informational ferret of our time.”
Thanks to Roy for airing many sonic solutions.
CHAPTER SIX: NOT GOODBYE, YET
From: Daniel Ellsberg To: undisclosed-recipients 3/01/2023
Dear friends and supporters,
I have difficult news to impart. On February 17, without much warning, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer — which has no early symptoms — it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor). I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone’s case is individual; it might be more, or less.
I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know: right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years! Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high. Since my diagnosis, I’ve done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have two more scheduled this week.
As I just told my son Robert: he’s long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!
I feel lucky and grateful that I’ve had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. ( I’ll be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else).
When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was). Yet in the end, that action — in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses — did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon’s crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.
What’s more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance.
I wish I could report greater success for our efforts. As I write, “modernization” of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the US most of all). Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas — like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the US government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO ) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen.
China and India are alone in declaring no-first-use policies. Leadership in the US, Russia, other nuclear weapons states, NATO and other US allies have yet to recognize that such threats of initiating nuclear war — let alone the plans, deployments and exercises meant to make them credible and more ready to be carried out — are and always have been immoral and insane: under any circumstances, for any reasons, by anyone or anywhere.
It is long past time — but not too late! — for the world’s publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I’m able, to help these efforts. There’s tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you’ll be hearing from me as long as I’m here.
As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts. For the last forty years we have known that nuclear war between the US and Russia would mean nuclear winter: more than a hundred million tons of smoke and soot from firestorms in cities set ablaze by either side, striking either first or second, would be lofted into the stratosphere where it would not rain out and would envelope the globe within days. That pall would block up to 70% of sunlight for years, destroying all harvests worldwide and causing death by starvation for most of the humans and other vertebrates on earth.
So far as I can find out, this scientific near-consensus has had virtually no effect on the Pentagon’s nuclear war plans or US/NATO (or Russian) nuclear threats. (In a like case of disastrous willful denial by many officials, corporations and other Americans, scientists have known for over three decades that the catastrophic climate change now underway — mainly but not only from burning fossil fuels — is fully comparable to US-Russian nuclear war as another existential risk.)
I’m happy to know that millions of people — including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message! — have the wisdom, the dedication and the moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.
I’m enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with such people, past and present. That’s among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts.
My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now.
PS: I will enjoy reading any message you send me to this email, though I may or may not be able to respond to every message or call. I prefer email to calls, and in general I am avoiding personal visits, from concern about covid. Please know that I hold you in my heart.
CHAPTER SEVEN — EVEN SLEVEN: Study storyteller supreme, Preston Sturges. His films lampoon screwball comedy. “Sturges was a fan of false fronts. He believed that how someone presented himself — his actions, his appearance, whatever name he chose on a given day — was as revelatory as any ‘true self’ within. He was not a director who sought to probe the depths of humanity. The exquisite irony of being alive, he thought, was that, despite our genuine desires, we still had to walk around in the meat suits of our bodies, trying to get by. There was an essential tension between who we believed we were and the person others saw, and this tension lent life its absurdity, its richness, and its potential for surprise.” — Rachel Syme, NYorker 4–10–23.
The new book “CRAIG BALDWIN: AVANT TO LIVE!” documents the work of acclaimed filmmaker and curator Baldwin, an inspiring and influential figure in contemporary media arts. I am honored that it includes an essay by me. On May 28, 2023, I read it at the book launch event at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Here is the unedited transcription and the video of my presentation: https://pfsuzy.medium.com/craig-baldwin-reel-mutha-foya-by-gerry-fialka-21a28c1292aa
Over the years, Baldwin appeared at events I produced at Midnight Special Bookstore and Sponto Gallery. My interview with Craig in Flipside magazine was entitled “Create Something Unexpected.” Surprise. Story. The exuberance of being can stimulate surprise in our story. This hole essay reminds me of the joke we told as kids. When passing by a cemetery in a car, we quip, “People are dying to get in there.”
CHAPTER ATE — Don’t Be Late — UPCOMING SUZY WILLIAMS MUSIC:
Hot Fun in the Summertime & Upcoming Laughtears.com -
Aug 29, 2023 — Suzy Williams, Michael Jost at The Trip
Oct 22 — Mark Cantor Jazz Films at Beyond Baroque
Nov 12 — PXL THIS Film Festival 33rd annual Toy Camera — Electronic Folk Art https://www.facebook.com/events/850945209382236/
*** Sat, July 15 at 7pm — The 16th ANNUAL LIT SHOW with SUZY WILLIAMS & BRAD KAY at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 Annual stellar celebration of song and literature features new works and hits from past shows. With percussionist Kahlil Sabbagh, bassist Oliver Steinberg, and more. Past shows have featured songs based on words by Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Graves, Edna St Vincent Millay, J.D. Salinger, Samuel Beckett, Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Graves, James Joyce, Noel Coward, Lewis Carroll, and Edmond Rostand. Dorothy Parker wrote a song that Billie Holiday sang. Tennessee Williams wrote a song that Marlon Brando sang as a rambling troubadour in The Fugitive Kind. Lonely House was written by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes. Jack Kerouac & Allen Ginsberg wrote Pull My Daisy with David Amram. You’ve read the book, now hear the song.
*** Friday, July 28, 7pm Stormin’ Norman & Suzy — 50th anniversary concert at Divine Theater, Gateway City Arts, 92 Race St. Holyoke MA 01040 Grand piano & beautiful theatre, in the Berkshires. EAST COAST !!! Suzy Williams is known for her “enormously amusing, endearing presence … with tough, belting authority” (-John Rockwell, New York Times) as well as her voice that is “vibrant and lusty … great gusto and bold emotion” (-Nat Hentoff, Cosmopolitan) and her “energy must be seen to be believed … “a natural performer” (-Robert Palmer, New York Times)
MORE INFO: Gerry Fialka Laughtears.com 310–306–7330