Jim Carroll (1949-2009)

Jim Carroll passed away on September 11th, 2009. Around that time a friend shared this video on Facebook. Jim is clearly weak, and it takes a few minutes for him to warm up. I think the video is worth the watch.

Jim Carroll is fascinating. Reminds me of a city version of Everett Ruess. I learned of Jim through reading his Basketball Diaries, which Norton re-published when I was working there. There is a good film – starring Leonardo DiCaprio – of the diaries that I’ve seen since. The biographical information below was taken from CatholicBoy.com:

Descended from three generations of Irish Catholic bartenders, Carroll was born in New York City in 1950. He spent his childhood living on the city’s Lower East Side, attending Catholic schools, and at age 12, shortly before his family moved to Upper Manhattan, he began keeping the journal that would eventually be published as The Basketball Diaries (1978). In this diary he recorded the ins and outs of his remarkable adolescence. A star basketball player and excellent student, he won a scholarship to Trinity, an elite private school on Manhattan’s posh upper West side.

While leading the Trinity Tigers to victory as an “All Ivy” player, Jim led a double life. He had first experimented with heroin at age 13, unfortunately thinking marijuana was the addictive stuff; he was soon a junkie, supporting his habit by hustling gay men.

By age 15, he was still hooked, but he was also writing poems and attending poetry workshops at St. Mark’s Poetry Project. His diaries immediately attracted the attention of the literary crowd around him. When he published Organic Trains, his first collection of poetry, at age 16, and excerpts from The Basketball Diaries were printed in Paris Review, he was firmly established as a genuine prodigy and a literary talent to be reckoned with.”

mainThe image in this post is of Carroll at Andy Warhol’s Factory overlooking Union Square in 1970 (by Gerard Malanga.) I took the image from a gallery at CatholicBoy.com, where they have a lot of his work, reviews, and music clips. They also have this poem, titled “Poem”, on the homepage.

There will always be a poem
I will climb on top of it and come
In and out of time,
Cocking my head to the side slightly,
As I finish shaking, melting then
Into its body, its soft skin
–Jim Carroll

For some reason his life, his art, makes me think: there are millions of ways to be different, and just as many ways to be the same. RIP.

The Agreement of Ideas

Louis Armstrong[ From the proprietor, 4/16/09:

In the original post, I began by quoting Louis Armstrong as saying: “What you don’t know ain’t gonna come out the other end of your horn.” That’s Louis on the side here. That wisdom, however, was in fact played by Charlie Parker.  I’m pretty certain I knew that, somewhere in me.

The night I wrote the post I was working on my own book, and was feeling kinship lovey with Terry Teachout, whose Louis Armstrong biography will be out shortly. His blog, which is regularly good fun, as I’m sure the book will be, just had a great post about his process of tracking down the authenticity of things that Armstrong said. You can see that here. And now back to the previously scheduled broadcast…]

I’ve been working on my book the last few weeks. I’ve written in prior posts about the upcoming publication of my Masters thesis. I am working with a large academic publishing house, and am not provided with a text editor. I am responsible for delivering a finished file, which they will put together and print.

I was working last night on Chapter 3, which deals with the science and philosophy that influence our perception of the body. I’ve always enjoyed studying history. The lives of the people who had these ideas, did these things. I find it interesting. I was looking at the section on the English philosopher Locke last night. Here’s the intro:

John Locke (1632-1704) was born at Wrington in England, and educated at Oxford where he received his B.A. and M.A. Subsequently he became a lecturer in Greek and later Reader in Rhetoric and Censor of Moral Philosophy, still at Oxford. In 1666 he met Lord Ashley, later First Earl of Shaftesbury, a leading figure at the court of Charles II. A year later he joined the Earls household, and for the next fourteen years shared in the fortunes and misfortunes of Ashley, serving in a number of supportive bureaucratic positions as the Earl rose to become Chancellor.

200px-john_locke_1632-1704Locke was interested in philosophy, and it was the writings of Descartes in particular which first interested him. As Locke put it: he wanted to understand very precisely and systematically what knowledge “was capable of.” Nevertheless Locke was too involved with the vagaries of British politics to write early in his life. In 1683 he was even forced to slip away into exile in Holland following the Rye House Plot to kidnap the King. Locke was able to return to Britain in 1689 following the crowning of William of Orange, and it was at this time that the majority of his works were finally printed.

The Essay Concerning Human Understanding, (1690) his magnum opus on epistemology, was inspired by a conversation with a group of friends in 1671. They were engaged in philosophical discourse, when it became clear that they could make no further progress until they had examined the minds capacities and had seen “what objects our understandings were or were not fitted to deal with.”

Lockes basic notion counters Descartes, in that he believes that experience is the basis for all knowledge. We receive “ideas” from sense experience, and Knowledge, with a capital “K”, is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas. There are four means of establishing knowledge: Identity, Relation, Co-existence or Necessary Connection and Real Existence. All knowledge is also either actual (directly in front of us) or habitual (having seen proof and remembering it.)

What I was struck by just now is Locke’s assertion that Knowledge is the perception of agreement or disagreement between two ideas. I think there’s an interesting application there to choreography. I’m really looking forward to getting into the studio in April to start choreographing again. Just cause I know whatever I know….. doesn’t mean it WILL come out the end of my horn. But it’s been a few years, and I’m pretty psyched to see what we come up with.

Tomorrow is for tonight’s forgiveness

My mind is in several places right now. I’m building my own business, which involves diverse work. I’m working on Arts Advocacy day stuff, including research and planning in preparation for the day: March 31. I’m working on a dance show – All Good Men – which I’ve blogged about before. And at the same time I’m trying to get my head back into what was my masters thesis (which will be out soon as a book) cause I need to get a few articles together so I can, eventually, make money off of the publication.

The basic idea I’m working on is an environmental idea. It’s about how we understand the natural world. Do you ever think that western medicine is kind of messed up, the way it treats the body as a machine? Lots of people think that way — it’s why holistic medicine has gotten so big. Lots of people also think the way we relate to nature is whack.

The way we relate to nature, and the way we relate to the body are one and the same.

Does this matter? It’s an idea. Not a unique idea. But an idea. How we relate to the body is representative of how we relate to the rest of the world.

quote_compassionI remember in Macro class as an undergrad discussing savings rates. We were looking at (even back then) rising deficit, and trade deficit, and how individual savings patterns are mirrored in government spending. My teacher was saying that while hypothetically we don’t want lots of debt, the last thing we want is for people to ever start spending less. While there is an ‘ideal’ savings rate, and a ‘safe’ savings rate, if people ever start saving more they are spending less – which is bad for the economy.

You can have a clear idea. You can know how it works, but then you can also see and decide what you should do. Not exactly sure where I’m going with this…. I wrote in an earlier post that looking at graphs of rising deficits is like looking at graphs of rising green house gasses. It’s really easy to feel like they don’t matter. Cause they don’t right now. Social security, greenhouse gasses, nuclear war…

One of the arguments against Kyoto, and raising cafe (fuel) standards is that ‘we can’t afford it’. Or, ‘they can’t afford it’. At some point, if all these theories are right, we will pay for it. Probably more all at once than we would like. It’s a bit like shoving a whole bunch of tunafish in a pillow. Sooner or later, you’re gonna have a really stinky mess.

It’s amazing to me that they are saying maybe this latest stimulus won’t be enough. Enough for what? Enough for whom? We live in a world that is constantly achieving new balance points. It never stops. Like our bodies, moving with our breath, and our hearts, moving our blood every moment we’re alive, the world moves.

We know we can’t afford to spend the way we are. We know we can’t use energy the way we are. There is very simple economic data that tells us this. The market evolves, and when the internal combustion engine develops, the people who make carriages are screwed. Here, and now, we can choose to let the economy crash, soundly, and with some grace, or we can….

Sooner or later we pay for stupid decisions. “Tomorrow is for tonight’s forgiveness” I wrote in a bad poem a few years ago. Clear ideas are guideposts that can help us know how it all works. But even if we do know how it works, there is still the matter of how it is actually gonna work. I appreciated Warren Buffet’s statement a few months ago that, “when others are scared be bold. when others are bold, be scared.” But I think maybe he was just working for the fed when he wrote it.