Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog

Zac Starkey.
Me and Kelly entered the USA at the end of May. I always get a second interview at Homeland Security. I’ve come to accept this. In the interview room, a beautiful Peruvian woman of about twenty-nine years of age was trying to explain to an officer why she had overstayed her visa by nine months last year. And how come she drove through the desert with a guy and stayed with him for six weeks in a dusty old motel room and didn’t know his name or even the name of the desert. She said that the motel had a refrigerator, but that was about all she could remember. She called the Homeland Security officer “Senor.”

I think I know where that motel is.

Me and Kelly attended the Berkeley Book Festival and gave out about 100 copies of the Phantom Billstickers Café Reader and talked to dozens of people about Kiwi poetry and music. People here love New Zealand. They often see it as an escape. When I tell them that New Zealand’s current government is almost as bad as theirs, they can scarcely believe it. I tell them that things are going to change and they act relieved.

At the book festival, I met quite a few of the old 60s and 70s radicals who now own publishing houses. I think they all thought Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Nixon were bad enough and nowadays they are all fit to be tied. They have been bashing their heads against a merciless system for decades now and they are mostly punch drunk from the effort.

Me and Kelly went to a franchise coffee house (Peets) and there was a black guy of about 75 years of age sitting at a table with his girlfriend. They looked to be homeless, but they obviously cared deeply for each other. She wore a giant fur coat in temperatures approaching boiling point and she carried herself with a modicum of decorum and the utmost of style.

The black guy was about three fourths blind and his eyes were freckled with brown islands. He had a face that resembled a melanoma and huge hands that once could have thrown a supermarket trolley through a shop window in the good old days.

What this guy did was amazing. He sang a tune in a talking blues style and whilst he was doing this he drummed the table top with fingers bigger than drumsticks. The vocals were in perfect synchronicity with the drums and his knees went up and down. He had a huge smile on his face and his girlfriend’s face lit up with pleasure. The entire song consisted of just the one line:

“That Lucy’s a bad girl.”

He repeated it over and over like he knew.

She also smiled in a knowing way.

That song has stayed with me for two months now.

I think America is in a really bad place at present, but it continues to be a very exciting country and one which I love.

Every day more than 90 Americans die of overdoses of either Heroin, Fentanyl or prescription opioids. In New Jersey alone more than 2000 died of either Heroin or Fentanyl overdoses in 2016. This is more than those who died in car accidents, gun deaths and suicide combined.

According to the Wall Street Journal there have been more than 300,000 opioid overdose deaths since the late 1990s.

The newspapers and the news items all tell the same story and every single day: he was a star basketball player and she was a cheerleader, both dead at twenty years of age.

They usually die either in a bedroom at their parent’s place whilst the parents are watching television, or they die alone and under a bridge someplace.

What we have here is an inability to communicate.

Getting down on your knees and praying to God is not going to fix this and it is far bigger than Trump. Yesterday a special white house commission recommended to President Trump that he declare a national emergency.

Meanwhile everyone seems to be fixated on ‘personalities’ and this would include the President himself.

When you’re around this unhappy kind of environment for any period of time (and this environment is now worldwide), I believe you have to keep doing things that make you feel happy and satisfied even if you have to force yourself to do it. Then, you have to consistently turn your back on The Bad of everyday life. You are at war. News of Vladimir Putin will rot your brain. The North Koreans now have the capacity to launch an ICBM that could hit Hollywood!

In my case, I know that if I entertain The Bad in my life for any two days in a row then I’m going to be a goner. I’m out there by myself and I’m on a divine wind.

So, keeping in mind my theory about the need for ‘satisfaction’, me and Kelly went to a concert by The Who in ramshackle Atlantic City. Most days a walk up a hill in solitude fixes me, but this was The Who (or ‘The Two’ as Simon Sweetman so cleverly puts it). This was the key to satisfaction. This cost less than twenty or thirty decks of Heroin and it got me away from the internet and the 24-hour horror news cycle.

“Give people bad news, that’ll work. People need a release from their anger. We need to increase advertising revenue! Here, have another cheeseburger. It will sustain you! Some people will believe anything!”

I enjoyed The Who to the full. I walked on air when Pete Townshend wind-milled and Roger Daltry threw that microphone cord around. The songs sounded as perfect as they always did. The band opened with what seemed to be a 45 second version of “Can’t Explain” which was beautifully succinct and most precise.

It’s a sign of a band’s capabilities that they can come on stage and front 10,000+ people and lay down something like that. I felt like I was riding a Vespa and wearing a Fred Perry.

But what I really liked the most was studying Zak Starkey on the drums. This kid (born in 1965) was, to me, the real star. I thought about his mum, Maureen, a lot and about how Zak was given his first drum kit by his “Uncle Keith” when he was eight years old. I thought about his dad (“It’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out.” – R. Starr) and all this whilst watching a very confident drummer, never too much, never too little, and perfectly in tune and right on time.

Zak and his own band have a new album called “Issues” and the album was advertised at the gig using the byline, “Zak’s Got Issues” and no doubt he has. I’ve scarcely met a drummer who hasn’t.

At Peets, the old guy at the table banging out “That Lucy’s a bad girl” was very sensuous (his voice deep and with a fine growl). He belted out Lucy’s song to a warm beat. He obviously had a huge heart and here he was banging this song out for a very beautiful woman who he probably took to a motel room in the desert one day. I think they are still there and lucky them. They may be homeless, but they are so obviously in Love.

Whether you make a million dollars a year or whether you are on the very bones of your rectum, if you are in Love then you are a millionaire. This is True Dinks.

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilsons Blog

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The photo above is of Raymond, our bulldog. Raymond is on his way to a doggie farm where he’ll stay whilst Kelly and I visit the USA in order to work on my writing. I’ve been planning a book for about twenty years now. There has always been something or other in my way and usually it has been me. I am my own hangman. Many of us are I guess. I usually don’t think I have anything worthwhile to say. That’s what depressives do. That’s where they live.

This blog will be posted after I have safely entered the USA. I always get a second interview at Homeland Security because of narcotics convictions (the last one being in 1979) and a conviction from 1992 for assault with intent to injure. Hell, I was really beginning to like jail at one point. In prison you know who your mates are and things are very simple: You bash me; I will bash you. You look after me; I will look after you. If only it could be like this in the world and if only we got to grips with it.

I always get sprung by computers at borders. Those computers remind me of the past and they make me feel dirty. But, I done the crime and so I must do the time. This time is measured out in shame and disgust. People can say all they like about how we might choose how to feel in any situation, but I don’t believe them. They are just trying to wear us down with their worthiness. They are the sanctimonious philistines of this world and I don’t use spellcheck.

I’ve been ‘clean’ for a good number of years now and I have tried hard to mend my ways, but I’m thin skinned and that makes many things difficult. I have to think a lot (rather than simply react) and often I’ve gotten things wrong. I’ve said “No” too many times to the ice-creams that have come my way in this life as I’ve sometimes thought they were s***t sandwiches.

I watch it for a while and if it don’t smell only then do I eat it. You can’t be too safe these days.

I think this second part of my life has been about ‘making amends’ and I think reflection is good for people. But I’m just as likely as anyone else to go off the rails.

So, today I’m packing up my Paul Butterfield compact discs and we should be in Illinois by the weekend. I aim to be putting up a few poem posters around Abraham Lincoln’s house in Springfield, Illinois.

I’ve read a lot about Abe lately and it seems to me he was able to live under considerable duress (and for a long time) without ‘acting out’. He was a depressive anyway and so he probably had more of an internal dialogue going on (as depressives do) than a need to lacerate others. There are people out there who disembowel others first, and then they ask questions.

In the age of the Internet, laceration has become a full time job for many. They might disguise themselves as ‘critics’ because that term might seem less harmless than being a prick. They might be there for the ‘good of the people’ and to educate other folks.

Lincoln did not generally lose his temper and there is only one recorded incident (that I know of) where he hurled his stovepipe hat to the floor and uttered a swear word. On that occasion one of his generals was heading away from the Battle of Signal Mountain (Chattanooga) rather than heading towards it. I’m sure there are experts out there who will correct me. Am I paranoid? Damn right!

There was a television show on Sunday night here in New Zealand where a young bloke had committed suicide. It was heartbreaking to watch. He was probably 22 and he had some problems and ended up in Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch. I think he was probably incredibly sensitive and some shrink had written a report describing him (the kid – because that’s what being 22 is – a ‘kid’) as a “narcissist”. The word “narcissist” is almost a new swear word which people hurl at each other these days. I think the 22 year old read the report and that night he committed suicide. There were people getting angry at our mental health system and ‘experts’ climbing in to have their say. This will all break your heart further as this young man looked like a lovely boy.

When I was in Cherry Farm mental hospital in 1975 waiting for a court report to go to jail, a shrink had described me as being “unable to express negative feelings”. This has stayed with me for over forty years now and I’ve proved him wrong millions of times. But, it was a dangerous label and it was hurled around.

Six or eight months ago one of my best mates died. I write about death quite a lot. He was with me in Sunnyside Mental Hospital in 1973 or 1974 (probably both years, we liked a bit of a break during the winter). Sunnyside is now the Hillmorton as referred to above and where the 22 year old recently committed suicide. It’s not a happy place and never has been. We have learnt very little it would seem.

Me and my mate had seen the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and listened to the Velvet Underground far too many times. We’d crawl into mental hospitals to get away from the junk and then an eighteen-year-old blonde psychiatric nurse would come and put drops of opium tincture under our tongues. She’d carefully and bashfully use an eye-dropper and she’d give us various other drugs as well – all of them were nice ways to greet the day.

“And how do you feel today Mister Wilson?”

“Look, I don’t mind if I do…look I hardly ever have extra, but today is a special day!”

I’d recommend this course of treatment to anyone. Me and my mate would climb into the same bed and read Hammond Innes novels together. Seeing this, the shrinks would send the nurses (now plural) back to give us more drugs. There are some very positive things to be said about Hammond Innes novels.

My friend had about three major things happen to him at once before he died and all of them whilst waiting at a traffic light. From memory, they were a heart attack, a stroke, and a cancerous growth in his liver (noticed in the hospital). We hadn’t talked for at least twenty years (I wanted to get clean and he was enjoying his life) and so we connected together over the phone. I was in the USA, he was in Melbourne. In 1972 we lived together in View Street in Dunedin and we had the time of our lives. We were close. If you fall over in a bathtub and cry that you need a doctor and someone helps you out of that bathtub, then you get close. This is known as ‘dependency’. We had far too many doctors.

I called my mate and on the phone everything slipped away and we touched each other again. The rubbish and the airs and graces of our lives slipped away and we were whispering the truth into each other’s ears once again. This was the most incredible experience and we repeated it three or four of times before he died. His wife, a nurse, arrived from a distant land to look after him and she died of a Heroin overdose before she could. He knew this and then he died. Funny how everything ties together.

Like I say and I repeat myself:  there were no airs or graces, no lacerations and no disembowelments, just the vital chemical stuff of closeness and intimacy which people need if they are going to have a satisfying life.

We all die for it.

Phantom Billstickers Art Project

 

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Artist Callum Rooney (Raw Power Print) with his work for the Phantom Billstickers Art Project

 

 

The Phantom Art Project aims to nurture and strengthen our relationship with the wider arts community in Aotearoa. The Art Project functions as an extension of the long-running Poetry project, where we’re carving out space within the public sphere for creatives to express themselves.

With our street poster sites we’re well placed to provide artists, musicians, poets and writers a platform to gain exposure and reach out to the public. One of our statements to live by here at Phantom Billstickers is ‘Flora for the concrete jungle’, whereby we try to leave each place we touch better, and more lovely than when we found it. We hope the Art Project will be another way we can use our resources to better the lives of others; to give artists a voice, brighten a grey street or just to cause someone to pause for a moment’s thought on their way to work.

Having had such overwhelming interest in the first open round of submissions for the art project, we’ve decided to roll it out as an ongoing project. We will be accepting all mediums of artwork; (Graphic design, painting, illustration, documented sculpture etc) and the competition is open to anyone who would like to see their art on the streets. We will be publishing 10 artworks per quarter, with the artwork going up all around the country in all of our main centres.


Artwork specifications are as follows:

  • Artwork must be provided to us in digital format (PDF or JPG/JPEG)
  • Artwork must be converted to 300dpi, and A3 (210 x 297 mm)
  • Artwork must be converted to greyscale

Please send entries as email attachments to artproject@0800phantom.co.nz and include your full name, social media or website links and contact details. The next set of art project submissions close on June 1, 2017 after which point we will be contacting all artists individually.

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A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog

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I did this thing when I woke up this morning, I picked up a magazine and the headline was ‘Perceive your utilities provider as a partner’. 

I’ll never do that again. There has to be more to life. My electricity supplier will never become my fluffy dog. Though I suppose that they will start to market themselves as such some day soon.

So what does it all mean?

I then switched on the Internet and everyone seemed to be clamouring and screaming to be noticed. People were sharing and trading ‘likes’. I don’t think any of the photos were true and most of the comments were obtuse or left-handed at best. The news certainly wasn’t true, but then everyone knows that now.

We are most probably alone and our lives belong solely to us and not to some politician or news outlet. If we were to be lucky, then we would merely play a bad hand very well. And, as they say, “expectations are pre-meditated resentments”. People are goofy. There are days when we are completely insane and as Dostoevsky put it, mankind does not do much to its own advantage.

On the Internet there is a brutal poet and he posts brutish posts and usually about twenty-five a day. He likes to claim that Obama used to satisfy him, but I don’t think anyone ever could. He treats the Internet like it is a brothel. He threatens to unfriend people all the time if they don’t notice him. I unfriended him. I have a hard dick for him. He makes no one’s life easier.

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog because I just never knew what to say. I tried to watch everything go past me and to not get hooked up in it. I concentrated on loving the people and the doggies that were important to me. After all, that’s the only game worth playing. People seem to be lonely. It feels simplistic to say, but people need love. In fact, all you need is love and not a hot steaming Internet account. If you are in love with your computer then I would suggest you trade it in for a bologna sandwich. You may get more satisfaction when the grease roles down your chin.

I went to see Bob Dylan in Chattanooga, Tennessee last November. The show was in a beautiful old and ornate theater, the Tivoli, capacity 1750. During that week Donald Trump had been elected president and both Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen had died. There was a big earthquake in the South Island of New Zealand. It was a very meaningful period of time. It felt like the dogs were barking for us all and one hardly knew which way to turn. Whilst all this was happening, many people were eating pie, putting the pounds on, and taking more and more selfies.

It was shortly to be winter in the USA, but it felt like it already was.

Bob Dylan played the Tivoli without a backdrop and without stage lighting apart from the very basic theater lights which didn’t flicker and which didn’t change colour either. There were no giant videos beside the stage of children getting killed in Vietnam in the 1970s. There were no guitar changeovers (not one) and there were no roadies running across the stage wearing sunglasses. None of the band spoke. No one smiled. There were no short cuts to success, just the beautiful essence of the songs and the musicians themselves.

At this time, people all over the world were debating whether Bob Dylan was a poet since he’d just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. People were fighting with words. They were being cynical, opinionated, sarcastic and bitter. Bob kept his own counsel. This was a matter of dignity.

At this time, Chattanooga was ringed by bush fires that people were deliberately lighting. The city authorities suggested that people wear surgical masks in the streets. The population wanted blood. In New Zealand, shopkeepers are currently getting harassed and beaten up by 11-year-old kids and amphetamine trades higher than Wall Street. Perhaps there will be a day coming soon when we will all be wearing Kevlar vests to go down to the mall.

My sister is still alive if anyone remembers my last blog. She has terminal cancer and she is on heavy-duty opiates. Apparently, she can take visitors for about a half hour at a time and then she needs to sleep so as to get some rest.

I’m pretty sure I know the voice she hears the most when she falls into a slumber. She hears my mother yelling to her from the bottom of the stairs at our old house on Russell Street in Dunedin in the 1950s.

My dad never yelled, never raised his voice, so I think my sister just waits quietly for him. Some day soon she might hear a lot of his voice. I do, every day. He is my guiding light. 

My father never went to high school and yet he quoted Shakespeare all the time. He said that the quality of mercy is ne’er strained or whatever he said. Often, for weeks, the only things he spoke were Shakespearean quotes. I think he knew that it was best to not offer up any thoughts of your own because life was baffling and Shakespeare had already said all that needed saying.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me?” Yes, it most probably is.

A smile from my father (once or twice a year) was worth a million dollars. It was worth more than any business I’ve ever seen. Business is full of daggers. People come to you all the time equipped with sharp ends and dubious prospects.

Here’s a man, my dad, who could break down a car engine and put it back together on the kitchen table. He’d have to use a couple of chairs as well if it was a V8 engine. He required no help and, as usual, he had nothing to say.

Bob Dylan never comments much either. I think this is learned behavior and he hardly ever remarks on that which surrounds him. He doesn’t waste words on stuff that will never change. People say what they want to believe.

In Chattanooga, Bob Dylan wore black and he led the band out to the stage after the show was finished. They didn’t take a bow, they just looked off into the far roving distance in a yearning and deep way. They stood still for several minutes.

There’s a lot of ‘acceptance’ in just keeping your trap closed as Al Swearengen might have said. The world has enough trouble. Our dustbin is full so don’t go putting your crap into it.

Recently, I got some really nice messages from a woman who knew my mother. This woman was a child when my mother was the housekeeper who looked after her and her family in their home on London Street in Dunedin. My mother was described as a glowing, warm and enthusiastic person who lit up the house as soon as she walked in in the mornings. These messages have buoyed me for a month now. That was my mother.

The older I get, the more I want to be close to my parents. Both of them are dead now of course, but each day I just get to see more of the genuine sense that they made. They didn’t see any point in crying over spilt milk, they worked hard and they were as good as they possibly could be to each other and to the world. Nothing about them was a pose and they were simple and unaffected people.

That’s worth a million likes.

An Interview with Sian Torrington: Intimacy Stages / Active Empathy

We caught up with Artist Sian Torrington to learn a little more about her current exhibition ‘Intimacy stages / Active Empathy’ running alongside the Auckland Pride Week and Pride Parade. We helped Sian with her installation at Silo 7, Silo Park, Auckland.

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ROOSJE: Sian, can you tell us a little bit about what ideas and concepts motivate your practice?

SIAN: I make drawings and sculpture, as well as large scale installations. I’ve always worked across different media, with movement, action, expression and the body as constants. Expression for me is what motivates my practice, and I think we need more of it in the world! My practice is hot, passionate and alive. It’s complicated and always everything is connected to each other, just like human life. This recent project We Don’t Have to Be The Building, is all about connections and intimacy. It grew from drawing myself and using fluid, stuck together drawings to express gender fluidity and sexuality. I then made a piece of writing with my partner, and then developed the concept into a large scale community engaged project of drawing, sculpture, research in archives and conversations to discover my whakapapa through queer female activism from homosexual law reform to today.

Lately I have been motivated by what kind of role creative practice can have in making connections, building solidarity and particularly empathy between people. Putting this art on the street is a way to share our stories and build compassion, empathy and solidarity through vulnerable, brave and open story telling through writing and images.

ROOSJE:Your making process seems to be an important part of your work, can you tell us a little about this; Why does process matter in the context of your work?

SIAN: Process is the living part of art making. It’s where the magic but also the mistakes happen. I have always wanted to reveal and share the process because I dislike the idea of artist as more important than anyone else. I think when we see incredible artworks in galleries, it can give a sense that it just happened like that, and we could never do that. Whereas the truth is there was a lot of failures, tears, attempts and insecurity making that art work. I want to build connection rather than distance through my art, and so revealing the process is part of that. It’s saying, this is a human process, just like living: getting it wrong, trying again, having hope. And that it’s not something I do alone. The process is the place where I can invite other people in and we can do it together. It’s scary and that’s good. That’s where the humanness is, and that’s what I want to reach.

ROOSJE: You’re running some drawing sessions as part of this exhibition. Why is drawing important to you and what can people expect from these sessions?

SIAN: Yes, I have a show open till Sat 25th at Studio One, Toi Tu at 1 Ponsonby Rd. It’s 16 large drawings, and I will also be drawing people for the next three days. This drawing will be a document of this pride parade and the queer, trans*, takataapui people who come and spend time with me being drawn. It’s an intimate process and it’s a way of making us seen. There aren’t many of us in art history and in drawing history, so this is a small resistance to that. It is a way to place bodies and identities that are ignored by art history into a massive drawing and say we are here. And we are multiple. And we are together.

Drawing is fast, and you can’t hide your mistakes, and it is related to the movement of the body. And humans have done it for as long as we know we have been here.

Below is a soundtrack to accompany the works that are a Silo 7 .. People can stream or download it free from

https://m.soundcloud.com/creek-waddington/soundboxes-for-lightboxes

It’s sound from the dawn blessing, plus from the people involved and me reading some of the writing. It’s gorgeous and a great way to create a personal space while viewing.

For more on Sian’s work:
http://www.studioone.org.nz/
https://www.facebook.com/events/681623025351395/

www.wedonthavetobethebuilding.tumblr.com
http://allmeaningisthelineyoudraw.wordpress.com

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