When the Legends Die…

Dean Morrison McKenzie (on right)

Friend, Poet, Spirit of the Great Heart

(d. Feb. 4, 2013)

The Gifts of Vision and Consciousness


Above picture, fall 1990 at Southgate, Woodward’s Books. Spiritus reading to the Saturday afternoon throngs at an autograph session. We stopped hundreds at one point in the impromptu reading. An amazing moment of being and becoming.

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The Gifts of Self

(Terry Fox’s runners)

The baby and young child start life as gifts, unbeknownst to themselves. They are what they are, naturally, as much as a beautiful, undisturbed landscape or animal in the wild. Consciousness is relatively undeveloped through the early years. And when children are bad or are hard on themselves, it is the early consciousness without perspective that again cannot see that the individual is and has been– a gift per se, as is, in all his or her relative innocence and ignorance.

There may eventually come a point in the teen years and early adult years when the individual becomes more aware of receiving the special gifts of others. It may be the case of an aunt bequeathing a favorite painting, a grandfather bequeathing a car to a young married couple, or simply the awareness of a family member or friend giving up their time and acting for the individual in some important, meaningful way.

Our first significant relationships often have an element of the gifts of self–individuals doing or offering their best for others, sometimes willing to sacrifice much for the other, fortunate person. Weddings often have a strong sense of this mutual gifting–a free, voluntary sharing of the best of one’s self.

This theme, likewise, runs through certain occupations and work such as counselling, teaching, and nursing. The best people in those areas open themselves up and offer their best to others who want or need it. And we may also find that it is our friends, from high school on, who offer the most memorable gifts of self, without asking anything in return, these special people without agendas who are apolitical in what they offer others.

Life goes on and at some point, we may wake up and review our pasts and find, recognize, and appreciate the many special gifts of self we may either have taken for granted or not fully understood and appreciated. This may turn out to be a very long list with many faces from past and present. We may also stop to consider, in turn, how and when we ourselves were gifts of self to others.

I think in later life you can often see a belated recognition of the gifts of self in occasions such as funerals where there is, typically, albeit belatedly unfortunately, celebrations of lives. Although it is good for survivors, family and friends to hear of the special gifts of self, too often the testimonies of appreciation are too late–things that were not said to the face of the person when he or she was alive.

No, the best time to offer, accept, and appreciate the special gifts of people is when folks are more fully conscious and alive. For there are many a desert flower and Eleanor Rigby who have lived and died without that deserved attention, experience, recognition, and love. Simply put–the power, magic, and importance of giving and receiving the very special Gifts of Self.

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“It is the essence

of genius to make use of the simplest ideas.”
–Charles Peguy

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Democracy in Massive Decline World-wide

71 countries had net declines with Trump’s America leading the way in the West. This is the 12 year of the current downward trend.

“Democracy’s basic tenets–including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law–are under siege around the world.”
–Michael J. Abramowitz

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Yet Another Top Film List

(continued to top film critics’ lists into the 1990s)

Recent movies have tended to be loud, formulaic, preadvertised (trailers usually give away all of a film’s essentials), very commercial, flawed, dumb, crass, pointless, and geared toward What Faulkner called “the glands” and the lowest common denominator. That said, in the past several years, I’ve enjoyed Redford’s  All is Lost, Branagh’s Macbeth (a filmed live performance), and movies from the past five years like The Social Network, Barney’s Version, and The King’s Speech.

I taught film in my classes–works like Citizen Kane, Dr. Strangelove (which should have been included on the following list), and North by Northwest. Later, I did a three-year stint at Alberta Film Classification, happily leaving in 2005 because 90% min. of films I saw were crap, flawed, and often very weak and limitedly commercial.

I used to be quite into film and amassed a collection I am very happy with of favorites and classics. After long absence, I came back to my list of movies yesterday and went through it, picking out films I consider to be great or classics. It is fairly obvious which directors have impressed the most–Welles, Huston, Allen, Coppolla, Kubrick, Lumet, Lean, and Hitchcock. Likewise, strong acting performances from the likes of Cary Grant, Welles, Bogart, Newman, Kelly, Hopkins, to name several. (For the record, favorite actresses have included Hepburn, Kerr, Binoche, Bergman, and Thompson.)

As I peruse the list before printing it, it is obvious that I enjoy good scripts and writing, great character acting, certain moods and atmospheres, irony and wit, romance, real comedy (not that crap that comedy has become today), mystery and intrigue, good lines, dialogue, and conversation, great scenes/moments of being, and a wide range of beauty and truth as conveyed by film.

(ps/I will add that The Last Picture Show should have been included in the original draft.)

All About Eve–an incredibly witty ’50s comedy with numerous great performances, best of all by George Sanders & Bette Davis. Ironic, cynical views of relationships and theatre.

-a Hitchcock–Psycho, unquestionably. But Rear Window, Frenzy, Vertigo, and North by Northwest are all worth the viewing time, too.

-a Woody Allen–Love and Death (a riotous take on 19th century Russia), Midnight in Paris or Annie Hall

The Best Years of Our Lives— 3 post-WWII relationships; “Love conquers all”

-a Godard–either Breathless (which takes apart the romance conventions) or Pierrot le Fou which breaks nearly every movie convention

Playtime–Jacques Tati’s comic masterpiece; one of the great French films; a childlike sense of humor

Casablanca–corny and omnipresent, but great performances and lines; a romance classic

Citizen Kane–light years ahead of its time in so many departments; easily Welles` best

Don`t Look Now–Nicholas Roeg`s dark classic– a thriller with spooky atmosphere galore; incredible cinematography

Godfather II–still the best of the 3–Pacino`s best performance and amazing cross-cutting between a family`s past and present

A Hard Day`s Night–all the fun that the Beatles once were and represented; the 1st significant young person`s ‘musical’ on film–should have won an AA for its music

Henry V (Branagh)–came from out of nowhere; still powerful, maybe the most powerful Shakespeare on film; a resonant atmospheric film

In the Heat of the Night–for the performances of Steiger and Poitier–their relationship; film captures how it was in the mid-60s down south; a breakthru film on race and race relations, made by Canada’s top filmmaker Norman Jewison

Lawrence of Arabia–best seen in a widescreen theatre–epic atmosphere bigtime; and 3 nutcases at play–Lean (the director), O`Toole (the lead) and Lawrence (the protagonist); stunning music and atmosphere

The Maltese Falcon–very witty, sarcastic, cynical John Huston flick–Bogart`s best as Sam Spade; top film noir ever–numerous plot twists and mystery

My Dinner with Andre–proof that 2 guys talking could be more interesting than 80% of the films that have been made. About ideas, consciousness, choices.

-an Altman–Nashville or Short Cuts–both with large casts and multiple intersecting plots. Ironic and funny social commentary. Strong use of music and improv scenes

-a Redford family film–Ordinary People (best film about dysfunctional family and a modern teen) or A River Runs Through It (a brother study–Brad Pitt`s best as Redford ringer appearance-wise)

Remains of the Day–another 2 character/actor piece: Hopkins and Thompson`s best (a close Hopkins` 2nd best–Shadowlands)

Singin`in the Rain–best musical comedy

2001: A Space Odyssey–huge when it came out–mostly for the cinematography and mood; man vs. machine`s top movie moment–see on widescreen; amazing end sequence

The Third Man–Welles` best, charismatic role–he makes evil attractive and very likable. Great cinematography & score. The sewer & ferris wheel scenes are bigtime classics.

The Verdict–great performances–Newman, Rampling & others; great Boston atmosphere; directed by the great Sidney Lumet; study of alcoholic lawyer in the trial of his life against all odds (a close Lumet second–Dog Day Afternoon)

Wings of Desire–very different; the black & white cinematography is a knockout; Falk steals the show unexpectedly in a movie convention breakdown; captures the pain, suffering and angst of humanity as well as the glorious possibilities of love

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From Classic Poem to Visual Art

Mixed-media painted wooden plaque by local artist-teacher-friend Don Pimm, which graces our front hallway. He also did a painted representation of E.E. Cummings’ “In Just springtime” which hangs in my daughter’s house, a gift from me.

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

–William Carlos Williams

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Found Object Conceptual Art

“For us, there is only the trying”; found object conceptual art by Richard Davies

(quote from T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”, Four Quartets)

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Inner Child Day: Lift-Off, Transcendence, Ascension

A favorite preferred image–a spoken word record album cover which hangs on my bedroom wall. (Dylan Thomas often wrote of the inner child and childhood, especially its freedoms.)

Note: Quite Early One Morning LP cover by Caedmon, on my bedroom wall

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As I was saying to a grocery store clerk today,

“Starting in my childhood, I believed that anything is possible and open to choice. And I still do. (You haven’t seen everything yet.) Beyond that, a good attitude is crucial in dealing with whatever change, obstacle, problems, misery, and sufferings.”

She concurred, having just gone through a death which appears to have happily freed her and made her much happier. She has become a greatly changed person.

Anything is possible example. For instance, I never believed I would own a very rare signed Virginia Woolf (in purple ink no less), but knowing it was possible despite the significant expense, I chose to.

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Look Up, Rusty

Often the forgotten part of our lives is, simply, the sky–the ever-changing backdrop to our days on terra firma. Places and contexts may remain relatively the same or slow-changing, but the skyscapes and cloudscapes come and go with some regularity. Which is why, incidentally, it is a little bleak to go weeks on end as we have recently in Edmo winter without a good extended opportunity to see even sun or sky. Same effect in Vancouver’s version of rainy winter.

But–and I always come back to the brilliant summer skies in the evening or magic hour when the light has certain je-ne-sais-quoi effects–when the skies and the very heavens open up after a rain, one can see worlds within worlds played out in heavenly vistas. Or strange magical blues, oranges, or pinks along the horizons of these unreal, ephemeral, privileged moments.

At other times, it may simply be the wonder of just looking up at the beauty of puffy passing clouds on sky-blue in August or September. And one again is a shepherd boy in Thomas Gray’s time, lollygagging and wondering at the majesty of Nature–its large, deep, usually solitary pleasures. It is from such moments as the latter, that I feel again as I did at 17, when starting out, feeling the potential of life and the urge to move, and to write something equally memorable.

But those heavenly summer vistas, with their splendiferous roads upward into other worlds, other larger imaginative possibilities–which once spurred Turner to paint his numerous wild sky and cloud abstracts. No question the passion of one’s life could be simply creatively expressing or recording what is above one’s head most of the time. A beauty one will never find on a smartphone screen, or in a conventional company of revellers.

When I was 18, those same skies bespoke to me and said, Romantically, “This is It. This is true Beauty. This is Vision. This is the only God you will ever need to satisfy something so deeply and essentially you in your unique path through Life.” And that became a personal standard or ideal, so to speak, by which I measured all else, and the myriad possibilities of Nature, Beauty and Poesy.

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