Monday, May 06, 2013


Willem de Kooning was born in the Netherlands in 1904, where he began his art education. He was too poor to buy a ticket, so he stowed away on a ship to the United States in 1926 at age of 22.

Once in the U.S. he was one of 39 artists who worked on109 public murals for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, during which time he cultivated an interest in jazz music. Beginning in 1938, possibly under the influence of his friend, Arshile Gorky, his work became more and more abstract.. The same year he met his future wife, Elaine de Kooning, who became a significant painter in her own right. They were married four years later.

During this time he became more and more identified with the New York School of Abstract Expressionism and came to be considered one of its leaders.

In 1946, unable to afford artists pigments, de Kooning turned to black and white household enamels and created a series of black and white abstracts for his first one man show at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York City.

By 1950 he began work on Woman I. Woman II through VI were completed over the next several years. They became his most famous signature pieces. They were quite controversial at the time. Not only were they figurative in a time when his contemporaries were working non figuratively, but also because of their blatant imagery. Aggressive brushwork and primitive coloration evoked images of toothy snarls, pendulous breasts, enlarged eyes and ferocious countenance that somehow revealed and reinforced some of modern man’s most widely held subconscious sexual fears.

In l963 de Kooning moved to East Hampton, Long Island. Paintings of this period reflected his environment, presenting a calmer mood and colors and textures drawn from the surrounding countryside. One of his best known abstracts from this time, “Door to the River”, features wide, even brush strokes and calligraphic tendencies similar to Franz Kline, whose work had been heavily influenced by de Kooning a decade earlier..

In his later years, de Kooning was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. There is much conjecture whether his paintings of this period, which became very stately and greatly simplified, were symptomatic of the disease or reflected an entirely new direction in modern art.

In many ways de Kooning was the greatest Abstract Expressionist. For one thing, he lived longer than any of the other artists, his career uninterrupted by violent death or suicide. By age 92, he had lived long enough to see his paintings achieve astronomical value. Over his career his style had evolved and matured without ever becoming repetitive or burned out, remaining fresh and vibrant, an inspiration to everyone who perceived it.

In 2006, Woman III was sold by David Geffen for $137.5 million dollars, the second most expensive price ever paid for a painting at that time.


Thursday, April 11, 2013


Abstract Expressionism, also known as the New York School or Action Painting, was a vastly influential movement of modern art that began in the late 1940s and peaked in the late fifties/early sixties.. It was the first truly American art movement and was located principally in New York City, although there were pockets of it all over America. Other influential centers were the San Francisco area and the Pacific Northwest.

Chronologically Abstract Expressionism evolved out of the Surrealism of the 1930’s and was followed by the Pop Art of the 1960’s.

One of the most noticeable characteristics of many abstract expressionist paintings was their enormous size, larger than paintings had ever been before.. Many of the leading proponents of the field had been employed by the Public Works Project during the depression painting murals around the New York area, so they came by their expertise honestly. Typically a painting’s dimensions might be determined by the painter’s height and the reach of his outstretched arms. The large size brought about a change of perspective, allowing the viewer to “get inside” the painting, making it truly an assault on the senses.

Most Abstract Expressionists eschewed figuration and banished any trace of picturation or representative imagery from their works, preferring instead to create their compositions from pure form and color. Even titles were considered too suggestive and would distract from the appreciation of the pure composition and were replaced with numbers or letters or combinations of both.

Emotional content was valued, however, and many paintings were explicitly emotional. A technique, automatism, was borrowed from surrealism giving proponents access to subconscious and unconscious elements to further heighten the emotional impact of their paintings. Further, the act of painting, the moment of artistic creation was valued, hence the term action painting. Many techniques were devised to depict or record this moment, including dripping, pouring, or splashing the paints, or other more exotic, more bizarre methods of applying paint to the canvas.

Several styles of painting evolved, including the all over style of painting in which the entire surface of the canvas is used without regard to a physical center, up or down, or left or right, so that a painting could be looked at from any angle and still make sense. The drip paintings were done without standard painters’ utensils, brushes, spatulas, etc., making figuration in the conventional sense impossible. The color field paintings juxtaposed areas of different colors to create. tension, resolution, and dynamic composition.

Many of the greatest painters were presented in exhibition by art collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim at her Art of This Century Gallery in New York City.

Among the most famous artists of the Abstract Expressionist Movement were Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell and Joan Mitchell. Many single paintings by these artists have a value in the tens of millions of dollars, Collectively their paintings would have an estimated combined value in excess of hundreds of billions of dollars in today’s art market.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko was one of the founders and leading exponents of the New York School of painting which became known as Abstract Expressionism.

After studying briefly with Max Ernst, Rothko’s paintings evolved from urban scenes of poverty and man’s inhumanity to man in the 1930’s to phantasmagoric surrealism in the manner of Paul Klee in the 1940’s.

In the 1950’s his mature style of painting emerged. He systematically banished every kind of representational imagery. Gone were the few vestiges of linear elements that that had remained as recently as 1949. By 1950 he arrived at his characteristic formulation of two or three horizontal rectangles of disembodied color stacked one below the other above the canvas field on which they appear to float or hover.

Rothko had no fixed system of naming his paintings. Most are either left untitled or designated by numbers or colors. He probably felt that more interpretive or descriptive titles would restrict their meanings.

The size of his paintings was very large, nine or ten feet high and several feet across. Small paintings were internalized, he said, while large paintings were externalized, larger than life so you actually seemed to be inside the painting. Displayed in dim lighting, the color fields detached and seemed to float in the air before you.

By the 1950’s he was famous and financially secure. However, his success brought him at least as much torment as comfort. As the years passed he became increasingly depressed.

In 1967 he accepted a commission to paint the mural walls of a chapel in Houston, Texas. The Rothko Chapel. He reduced his palette, restricting his colors to red, then finally to black. The Houston paintings create a total environment of all encompassing awe inspiring spirituality.

In 1968 he suffered an aneurism of the aorta. He recovered, however, and began to paint again. But in February, 1970, alone in his studio, Mark Rothko committed suicide at the age of 67.

In 2012, Red, Orange and Yellow, painted in 1962 by Mark Rothko,, sold at auction for for $86,000,000.


Clyfford Still was one of the first generation of Abstract Expressionist
painters in the years immediately following World War II. He was born in
South Dakota and raised in Washington State. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he eschewed the modern art world, preferring not to live in New York City. Instead he worked on the West Coast as an instructor at Washington University and the San Francisco Institute of Art.

During a visit to New York in 1945, artist Mark Rothko introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim. She was so impressed by his work that she offered him a one-man exhibition at her prestigious Art of This Century gallery.

He lived in New York for most of the 1950’s, the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement, but also a time when he became increasingly critical of the art world. In 1961 he severed his ties with commercial galleries and moved to a farmhouse in Maryland where he lived until his death in 1980.

Still was considered one of the foremost color-field painters. Unlike Rothko and Barnett Newman, Still’s arrangements are less regular. Jagged fields of black and yellow contest with flashes of white and slashes of red, struggling against each other, evoking natural forms, outcroppings of rock, ancient caverns, primordial stalactites, a sense of mystery and submerged violence.

During his life Still sold only about 150 paintings.. After his death, according to the artist’s wishes, his entire collection of 2400 paintings was sealed from public or scholarly access. Because so few were sold, they now have become very valuable. In 2005 a painting from 1955 sold for 7.8 million dollars/ In 2006 a painting from 1947 was sold for 21 million dollars, setting a new record for the artist.

Friday, October 19, 2012


October 18 2012. Obama losing in the polls. Nothing to worry about that a double shot of whiskey or a dose of angel dust wouldn’t cure. Nothing to look forward to but four years of rising taxes, lower income, recession, wars, corruption and human rights violations, and devalued quality of life.. Not that our personal happiness is a thing of any importance to anyone but ourselves, but face it at the end of four years there isn’t one of us (besides Mitt Romney) who doesn’t face the probability they will be less happy than they are today. Everyone knows the world doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to that mythical quantity called the majority, which includes everyone else, but not them.

If the future looks bleak and whiskey and angel dust are not to your liking, I have a suggestion. Turn off the news channel. Throw away your newspaper. I know from experience that no news is good news. Immerse yourself instead in things that interest you. Things you love. Watch re-runs. Listen to oldies. Concentrate on daily living. Without the hew and cry of catastrophizing news anchors, it becomes ever the more sweet. Get into the only true reality, the one that daily news casts cannot reach. I guarantee that in four years time, it will not have changed significantly, and you’ll be happier for it.

Friday, August 03, 2012


Jackson Pollock has been considered by many to be the most important painter of the twentieth century. He was raised in the American Southwest and became active in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism during the 1940’s and ‘50’s.

Pollock ended his formal art education in l933 and began painting independently. It was the height of the Depression and making a living was difficult.. In 1936 he was hired by the WPA Federal Arts Project as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. There he met other artists who would become influential in the New York School, including Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Mark Rothko.. This assignment made it possible for him to have a studio and continue painting until the program was discontinued in 1943.

Pollock began his career as a regionalist landscape artist. However, exposure to the teachings of psychoanalyst C. G. Jung, an awareness of the concepts of Analytical Cubism, and the Surrealist’s method of obtaining material from the Unconscious called Automatism soon gave him supercharged imagery to work with. This gave his painting emotional urgency as he continued to work in an increasingly abstract direction.

His paintings usually began with more or less recognizable images. Heads. Parts of the body. Fantastic creatures. References to the mythology of Ancient Crete.. Wolf. Cow. Minotaur.

The images interacted with each other and not always peacefully. Sometimes they would try to mutually destroy one another, roiling up from his Unconscious..

Then in 1942-3 he triumphed over his autonomic imagery and produced his first masterpieces in a mature style.. Male ands Female is six feet tall. Curvilinear and rectilinear columns jut upwards like some savage temple. The night sky illuminated by white and orange astral fires lighting phantasmagoria, inscribed numbers, hieroglyphs.

A companion piece, Guardians of the Secret, was completed a year later with automatic writing and swirling calligraphy.

Inspired by Pablo Picasso and using Picasso’s African Masks as a point of departure, Pollock actually out-Picassos Picasso. At this time he was still using conventional artist’s equipment. Easel, palette, stretched canvas, brushes that actually touched the canvas. He still had not made the breakthroughs that would earn him world fame.

There is a legend Pollock’s first drip painting was done in an orgy of creativity using glass turkey basters, breaking them and throwing the broken glass into the panting, then wading in with his bare feet, cutting his feet and bleeding his blood into the painting as well.

Whether this is true or not, Pollock didn’t dream this up on the spur of the moment. Dripping and pouring had been in use for at least ten years by other artists, although usually for decorative or coloristic purposes..

Jackson Pollock wanted a type of painting that would completely break with the artistic tradition.

He used enamel, aluminum and industrial paints.

Instead of an easel he lay unstretched canvas on the floor so he could walk around it and approach it equally from all four sides.

The paint was applied by pouring or by dripping it with a stick onto the canvas. The canvas was never touched by paintbrush or implement.

The speed of the painting earned him the title of an "Action Painter."

The size of his paintings was phenomenal. The size determined by his height and the reach of his arms.

The result was the complete transmutation and transcendence of his painting style.

For the first time we have pure or utter abstraction, because in essence figuration would be impossible with the drip technique. (Compare the William S. Burroughs Cut up Method in literature and the hour long jazz improvisations of John Coltrane in music.)

Jackson Pollock married Lee Krasner, also a painter, in 1945. She became his business partner and manager. Through her he met Peggy Guggenheim, the eminent collector and art dealer, who helped him rent a farmhouse in the South Hamptons.

For much of his life, Pollock was afflicted with Alcoholism. He sought treatment on numerous occasions only to relapse. During the last two years of his life he fell into a deep depression and painted very seldom.

On August 11, 1956, he was killed in an automobile crash near his home. He was under the influence of alcohol. He was 44 years old..

In 2004, No. 5 by Jackson Pollock, painted in 1948, sold for $140,000,000 to an undisclosed buyer.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Franz Kline was one of the most striking and original painters of the Abstract Expressionist Art movement of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. His black and white abstracts were immediately recognizable and became emblematic of the field as a whole. Along with Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still he became one of the most influential and innovative artists of the field.

Trained as a cartoonist and commercial artist, during his early career Kline eked out a meager living for he and his wife drawing portraits, caricatures, and also painting murals for bars and restaurants.

As a cartoonist Kline worked with small, even tiny, black and white line drawings.

One evening in 1948 his friend arch-abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning invited Kline to his home, suggesting that Kline bring with him one of his line drawings. Kline brought a small black and white drawing of a rocking chair. De Kooning placed the drawing on an overhead projector and magnified a tiny portion of it to room size proportions.

The result was that the drawing became an assemblage of asymmetrical black lines jutting off at abrupt angles on a white field and lost any resemblance to a rocking chair. After thirty years in art Kline had stumbled onto the formula that he would use almost exclusively for the rest of his life.

It is said that Franz Kline became an abstract expressionist overnight.

Although spontaneity is usually considered one of the hallmarks of Abstract Expressionism and many artists would enter into an autonomous trance like state and deliver the painting much like a spiritual medium receiving automatic writing, Kline began methodically reproducing small portions of line drawings and enlarging them to room size.

The result were large wall size black and white abstract paintings in one of the most profoundly original, immediately recognizable and charismatic styles in Abstract Expressionism.

With the connections that his friendship to de Kooning made available to him, Kline quickly gained notoriety and was asked to contribute to several prestigious group exhibitions at major New York galleries.

 He began tooling up for Abstract Expressionism by buying large canvases, purchasing high quality paints, and moving to a studio suitable for large canvases.

Kline’s day would usually start when he woke up at four or five in the afternoon. Then he would get dressed, go out to dinner, and spend the evening drinking and partying with his friends. After the clubs would close he would go back to his studio to work.

Kline usually worked on his paintings between 2am and 5am.

The work was spread out under bright high intensity spotlights, both to enhance the vivid visual image and to facilitate the paint drying.

Kline usually went to sleep around 7 am,

After a lifetime of economic hardship during which on more than one occasion he was forced to move from his studio for non payment of rent, Kline finally saw his financial condition improve, but it was not until the last years of his life that he experienced any kind of prosperity.

Kline died in 1962 of a rheumatic heart. He was 52 years old.

Since his death, the value of his paintings has escalated dramatically. Recently a painting created in 1958 was auctioned for 56 million .

The combined worth of his paintings is estimated at 206 billion dollars.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life in the City

Another day, another measly rotten stinking dollar!

I like to sleep with the television on. That way if I wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep, I don’t have to do too much painful soul searching. I can always watch television.

Not that I have television dreams. I don’t dream that I am living in an I Love Lucy sitcom. After I am asleep my dreams are my own, but I am particular which programs are appropriate for sleeping. Most any broadcast TV as long as it isn’t wrestling, or sporting events, quiz shows, or infomercials. Cartoons are objectionable, too, for obvious reasons.

My friend Albert also sleeps with the TV on, and I have actually seen him wake from a sound sleep to change the channel and then go back to sleep. To me the television provides sound conditioning. It drowns out outside noises that might otherwise wake me up and covers up the sounds coming from within.

People who may be awake when I have gone to sleep want to turn the TV down so it won’t disturb me. They also want to talk in whispers and not make noise. They have already learned to not turn the TV off because I will wake instantly and want the television back on. They like to turn the lights down, too, but they are on shaky ground. I have night blindness. If I wake up with the lights out and the TV off, I will panic. I won’t know where I am, only a sense of foreboding and danger.

Philosophically, sleeping with the TV on reassures me that I am not homeless or in jail, two circumstances where sleeping with the TV on is impossible. Having experienced both, I made a pact with myself despite the power shortages or running out of oil, whenever it is possible I will sleep with the TV on. When we were moving and had no access to radio or television, the silence got so deafening I had to call up my friend Art to come and talk to me because I couldn’t sleep. So it goes for life in the big city.

Sitting around home I have quite a lot of time on my hands so I am always on the lookout for new ways to make extra money. I have always been fascinated by the ads in the classified section that read, “Make extra money at home in your spare time stuffing envelopes.” Boy this is great, I would think to myself. This must be some kind of mail order corporation that sends you stuff to mail. There was no investment necessary, only the obligatory $5 for the information. So finally I sent in.

I got a very nice letter and a small pamphlet in return. The letter cordially thanked me for my interest and the pamphlet gave instructions how to place small ads in the classified section saying, “Make extra money at home in your spare time stuffing envelopes.” When they send you the $5, stuff an envelope with your pamphlet, mail it back to them post haste and renew your classified ad.

I had to admit that really hit the nail on the head!

Friday, September 22, 2006


It is a black mark in world history and a black mark against the United States. Whatever may be said about Saddam, he was a great enough leader to keep three warring factions united into one country and to be strong for many years. No national leader in recent years has been executed, from the Shah to Khoumeini. Because of his accomplishments, controversial as they may, his life should have been spared ( a 70 year old man), albeit spending the rest of his life in prison.

And it is a black day and a black mark against America, arguably one of the greatest countries in the history of the world, that we should allow our government to send in an invading army, smash the local infrastructure, demolish the sitting government, and then, when the heat gets too much, turn and hi tail it saying we didn’t have any right to be there in the first place, after the damage has been done.

How would we feel? If another country invaded us and did comparable damage and then pulled out?

And about the 3,000 U.S. casualties. This is roughly one in 300,000 of the roughly 300,000,000 people in the U.S. That’s roughly one person out of a city the size of Bakersfield or Toledo, 10 people from a city the size of Los Angeles. Most cities have never lost a person to the Iraq war.

How do you think they feel?

All this and all we had to do to avoid all this is set up a couple of radio stations offshore (one in the Mediterranean and one in the Persian Gulf) and start blasting high voltage rock and roll to them 24-7. That would win the culture wars.
by Theresa Haffner

We are a civilized race.

We pride ourselves on our humanity.

Yet we are able to discuss rationally which method of execution is more humane. Electrocution, gas pellets, hanging, firing squad, or lethal injection.

The message we send with capital punishment is that we don’t value human life any more than the criminals we execute.

In the past the major purpose for execution was to insure that the criminal could never commit his crimes again, as in the Old West, when prisons were not as effective and escape was more possible.

Escape from high security prisons is unlikely.

The weakest excuse I have heard is that it costs too much to house the criminals. The cost of maintaining a high profile capital criminal is not any more than your average three striker.

If the motive is to prevent more murders and heinous crimes, wouldn’t imprisonment with psychiatric evaluation and research into motive be more valuable than destroying the criminal?

The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” That seems pretty clear to me. If we want to stop the cycle of murder, then we have to stop murdering the murderers.

The most touted reason for capital punishment is that it serves as a deterrent to further crimes.

Mass murderers usually commit suicide at the end of their spree. Serial killers usually are caught with much media coverage before and after their capture. Then a high profile court case, and even with a death sentence, a considerably long life span—enough to guarantee their national, even world fame. Enough to make it worth it to certain types of individuals, in spite of the inevitability of the end.

As a deterrent, capital punishment may just up the ante—raise the stakes enough to make the game really exciting. For some people, Capital Punishment may actually be an inducement to murder.

The other thing that is lost is the possibility of rehabilitated human beings. Tex Watson. Bobby Beausoleil.

I won’t even touch the idea that some convicted murderers might actually be not guilty. Their innocence unable to be proven until some time in the future.

Something further. These executions are carried out in our name. We the people versus the defendant. If the blood is on our hands, it is our right and our obligation to witness them. They should be nationally televised or at least broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. Seeing a few of these killings might change the minds of a few proponents. As well as a few prospective criminals.

Bottom line. If we murder the criminals, we are no better than the criminals themselves.

The only way to stop the cycle of murder is to stop killing.

Theresa Haffner
September 16, 2006
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I have had a lifelong love affair with abstract expressionist art. But I confess these recent works of mine, as with all my recent work, were not painted. They were shot with a digital camera and drastically modified with an application called PHOTOIMPRESSIONS.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

by Theresa Haffner

So you want to be a poet,
not, I guess, if all you want is to write something sugary for your boyfriend
and say, “Oh, these are my innermost feelings,”
certainly not if you want to make money,
because almost anything you could write that isn’t poetry
would make more money
if you want to be taken seriously
it takes a lifetime of preparation and hard work
just to get something published
in some obscure literary magazine
that nobody ever heard of and nobody reads

So you want to be a poet?
Most people never make the commitment
but once you make the decision
to call yourself a poet
it really gets tough
because you start to take yourself seriously
and you’ve got to put up or shut up

So you want to be a poet?
Because nobody’s ever heard of you
or ever read what you published in a
magazine with circulation ZERO
you want a bigger audience.
So you go to an open poetry reading
attended only by other poets
total non-poets in the audience ZERO.

So you want to be a poet?
Especially if you want to express yourself
or ‘Tell the Truth’
Sometimes the truth isn’t politically correct.
You have to put your ass on the line
and people tell you, “Oh, you shouldn’t write that.”
Your personal feelings make them feel uncomfortable.

So you want to be a poet?
Especially because poets don’t get paid
so unless you are independently wealthy
you have to work a day job.
When you put down “Occupation: Poet”
they say “No you aren’t.
You’re a word processor. Or a copy editor. Or a security guard.
Poetry is your hobby.”
Damned time consuming hobby. I could have collected stamps
or recycled bottles and cans.

So you want to be a poet?
You seek to gain recognition
so you ask a particularly well-known poet
in your vicinity for advice.
She says, “Why don’t you enroll in my workshop?
It only costs $260 for 8 weeks
and I will give you recognition.”

So you want to be a poet?
After four years in a workshop
surrounded by more or less untalented poets
who write endlessly about their childhood
or the intimate details of their love affairs
at last you understand why it makes people uncomfortable
to tell the truth or express your personal feelings.

They also teach you that all that off the wall
experimental stuff, the flashy catch phrases,
the florid vocabulary and inside jokes
just make your poetry sound foolish
and that takes a lot of the fun out of it
but at last you think you’re ready

So you want to be a poet?
you want to find your own voice
and that means reading all the poetry you can get
your hands on
modern stuff, contemporary stuff, classical stuff,
boring stuff in obscure literary magazines
nobody’s ever heard of,
learning all the styles and all the rules
and all the schools
just to know what’s out there and who’s who.
Then you throw it all out
and just write the way you would have written anyway.

So you want to be a poet?
For those of us not teaching college writing classes
on university campuses
and living in ivory towers
it can be downright thankless.

So you want to be a poet?
Your friend tells you not to worry.
“Great poets are never recognized during
their own lifetimes. You’ll be famous
after you’re dead.”

So you want to be a poet?
It takes a lifetime of work and preparation.
Then suddenly you’re 54 years old,
you’re no longer a word processor,
you’re on crutches and living on disability
and all the stuff you’ve written but never published
because there aren’t enough obscure literary magazines
that nobody ever heard of
is in envelopes in a file drawer.
Then you get evicted and guess what?
Hah, hah, your files are destroyed.
So much for immortality. How are you going
to be famous after you’re dead if there’s
nothing for anybody to read?

So you want to be a poet?
In lieu of fame, you settle for being part of
a literary community, a circle of friends who
are creative artists, who read each other’s work
and inspire each other.
So you dress in black and go to the poetry reading attended only by other poets
and you find most of them to be egotistical,
arrogant, desperately covering up their own inferiority, unwilling to associate with “bohemian types” dressed all in black, or else they don’t know a damned thing about poetry.

Anyway, everyone has to leave to go home right after they read because they’ve got to get up early in the morning to go to work
so there isn’t anybody to stay around afterward to chat, to get acquainted, to inspire each other.

After all, this isn’t the 1950’s and we’re not in San Francisco in a North Beach coffee house extemporizing incomprehensible hour long poems to the accompaniment of bongo drums or modern jazz till all hours of the morning while insomniac customers sip coffee and play chess, now are we?

So at last you’re on your deathbed, your last breaths rattling in your chest,
and the nurse says, “Aren’t you a poet? Haven’t I heard of you someplace, somewhere, a long time ago?”
But it’s a case of mistaken identity. She has you confused with somebody else and has never heard of you at all.

So you want to be a poet?
Which brings us back around to where we started.
If you’re going to do it you have to love it.
The hours of writing, most of which nobody will ever see,
the rewriting, the editing,
the number of bad poems for every good one
And if you’re lucky the occasional flash of glory that comes when you know you’ve written something that touches an inner core
that releases something indescribable
and makes it all worth while
It has to be a part of the fabric
of your being,
the way you see life
and your position within it.
the way you think,
how you respond to situations,
solve your problems, resolve your conflicts,
epitomize your happiness,
You have to go for broke and write
as if your life depended on it
not because you want to
but because you have to,
because without it you would not exist

And the poet said, “Without poetry, I am nothing.”

So you want to be a poet?
It’s not easy and it takes a lot of courage
But it’s rewarding when you find somebody who
has not given up, who makes a contribution
to the art, who makes a difference.

Thankfully, there are still enough poets and the people who love them (or at least tolerate them) that there will continue to be poetry for now and for the
foreseeable future, despite the hardships.

© 2005. All Rights Reserved
Theresa Haffner, 501 S. Spring St. #836
Los Angeles, CA, 90013

Saturday, April 22, 2006

“As direct opposites converge on 0° polarity,
then the poles will shift.” –ZERO POLARITY by the author.

by Theresa Haffner

Between boredom and indifference lies the new paradigm.
Between the climax and the anticlimax lies the new paradigm.
Between the beginning and the ending lies the new paradigm.
Between the back and the front lies the new paradigm.
Between the list of the lost and the lost list lies the new paradigm.

If you can’t see this you are probably too far away and need to wear glasses.
If you can’t hear this you are probably making too much noise and need to take the earplugs out of your ears.
If you can’t feel this you have lost touch sensitivity.
You who have ears, listen.
You who have eyes, see.

More and more our days are spent driving down this synonym for an information super highway called the Internet,
where virtuous and virtual are not synonymous.

Between the back brace and the head injury lies the new paradigm.
Between the microcosm and the macrocosm lies the new paradigm.
Between the Vision and the Voice lies the new paradigm.
Between the clutch and the power brake lies the new paradigm.

Who controls the past controls the future. More and more our time was spent in serious exploration of our own past.
Come down in time. The past is always with us because the past becomes our present.
We change the past by diligent excavation, re-remembering, and redefining our understanding of it.

Between the golf on Sunday and the all sports weekend lies the new paradigm.
Between the side dish entrée and the box lunch lies the new paradigm.
Between the couch and the cushion. Between the chest and the drawers. Between the headboard and the bed. Between the lamp and the lampshade lies the new paradigm.

Urban legend? A child locked in his bedroom without human contact since birth was raised entirely on the Internet with technical support by

Between the mainframe and the motherboard lies the new paradigm.
Between the Mountain Crest and the Timberline lies the new paradigm.
Between the land of the free and the home of the brave lies the new paradigm.

Between the watermelon seeds and the cantaloupe rinds,
between the organ donor and the transplant,
between the book and its cover,
between the Sumerian Sunrise and the Artifacts on Mars lies the new paradigm.

For anyone who ever wanted everything,
for anyone who ever wanted nothing,
for anyone who ever wanted to be with somebody,
for anyone who ever wanted to be alone,
in the hours before dawn, between the silences of 3 a.m., lies the new paradigm.

Between the mouse and the click,
between the chasm and the mist,
between the mystery and the rose,
between the hours of parking and no parking,
between nothing and no thing,
between zero polarity and the insertion point
lies the beginning of understanding.

The new paradigm.

Copyright 2004
All Rights Reserved.

Life is like a parking meter. How many times I’ve heard that said and laughed. And even though it’s never much, only what’s left over when I break a dollar bill, imagine how ridiculous I felt after sixty years and a stroke convinced me to buy the insurance. But as I recovered from the stroke and continued to live, I made a moral decision that those few pennies a day could be put to better use elsewhere. I let it lapse after only a few months. I guess I didn’t really need it, although for the time that I had it, it made me feel better. We flatter ourselves to think what we do has importance. That series of half hearted attempts and missed opportunities is not what life is all about. What is important is not what we do, but why we do it. Not who we are but who we think ourselves to be. The internal dialog. The inner reality. The interior landscape. The imaginary city. The curious territory between wakefulness and dreams.

NO STUFFED ANIMALS PLEASE, I was molested by stuffed animals when I was three and I never have trusted those sleazy two faced bastards since. It was probably a case of too much of a good thing. I mean twelve is too many stuffed animals for any child. When my adult friends hear
of my antipathy, there’s always one among them who decides to melt my heart with a little stuffed puppy dog or it’s equivalent. Left untended, soon all my friends would be sending me stuffed animals and I would have to move.

HERE’S WHAT I DO WHEN SOMEONE GIVES ME A STUFFED ANIMAL. I harvest the eyes first. That’s the only part that I keep. I have a big jar of stuffed animal’s eyes and there’s nothing more beautiful to me. Then I take a carpet knife or a good pair of sewing scissors and gut it from end to end along the seam that runs across the stomach, pull out as much of the stuffing as possible, strew it around the house and discard the carcass where the good intentioned sender is sure to find it.

DON’T HATE. I don’t hate serial killers, gang violence, child molesters, rapists. I don’t hate war or crime. I don’t hate Republicans. I don’t hate Ku Klux Klan, Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Hating them is not worth the energy, because hating them will not do anything about them.

I DO HATE stuffed animals, greeting cards, children’s books, fluffy bedroom slippers, and watercolor paintings of lighthouses, sailboats, or clowns. THESE ARE WORTH HATING BECAUSE HATING THEM CAN KEEP YOU FROM OWNING THEM.

YO MAMA! DADA! And yours truly.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The Revitalization of Downtown Los Angeles is beginning to take effect. The results at first tenuous grow more evident each day. Not so much on 5th Street, but Spring Street between 5th and 6th is responding like a plant getting watered after a drought. It’s a subtle feeling in the atmosphere, the very air seems fresher and more vibrant. Gone for the most part are the sidewalk sleepers and box dwellers that used to inhabit the vicinity outside the hotel – relocated a block to the east to the tent city on Main Street. The heroin dealers are fewer now too, and the ones that remain are less rowdy and more discreet. Everywhere new sidewalk cafes are springing up, and in the afternoon sun you can actually glimpse the green leaves of trees. Even the sidewalk cement seems cleaner as if with a little nourishment the city squalor actually cleans itself. Across the street renovated lofts are opening up, and here and there empty buildings in bad repair have been torn down the way a dentist removes bad teeth.

Some things have not changed. The purple shirted bicycle gestapo still swoop on unsuspecting drug users, street vendors still vend their wares. Wheelchairs, amputees, mentally ill, and unshaven homeless in filthy rags talking to themselves still populate the street. But within the brisk sidewalk traffic are a significant number of well dressed business people, attractive young women and men, good looking office workers in stockings and high heels, shoppers commuting from out of town patronizing local businesses that were not in evidence a year before. In that one block you can almost feel confidant of not getting robbed, make us feel like dressing better ourselves instead of dressing down for protective coloration and safety..

And lo, across the street from the hotel, a new little store , a 99¢ and More Store featuring food items and sundries, has opened up. It seems like such a momentous occasion because for so many years here there was nothing!


We used to call them “affordable accommodations”. They were seedy rundown fleabag hotels in the urban areas where rent was cheap and there used to be a million of them. You could rent by the day, week, or month to month and all you needed was cash on the line and any name would do. They didn’t care about your past, your credit references, your job, your bank account, your rental history. If you could pay you could stay and the less they knew about you the better. A lot of times their upkeep was marginal and if you didn’t blow the whistle on them they would do the same for you. They were the kind of place you came to after you descended the economic scale from renting houses to renting apartments to overnight in a motel room while you try to find some place else to live. They became a natural habitat for misfits, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, petty criminals, ex convicts, mentally ill, elderly and disabled that made up the soft underbelly of the LA underworld. People who landed there for one night and ended up staying permanently. It began as everybody’s worst nightmare but for those who didn’t fit the upwardly mobile financial profile, it quickly became a kind of heaven because the other people who lived there formed a community, a kind of extended family, who looked out for one another and grew to love each other. And there was a sense of security there too, far outweighing bank loans and mortgages, because if one thing led to another and you had to move, there was always a list of similar places available which, even if not well kept, at least were ‘affordable’.

This natural habitat in recent years has become endangered and with it the population who lived there. In Hollywood, while I lived in a sense of false security at the College Hotel, unknown to me, one by one the other hotels either closed, were torn down, or due to the Hollywood Revitalization, tripled their rent and instituted 28 day residency policies, so that even if you could pay the exorbitant rent, you couldn’t live there permanently. The Vine Lodge, once $20 a night, became $180 a week, $190 with TV, The El Nido was $185 a week with three weeks residency. The St. Moritz was $180 and it was still a dump. The Gilbert Hotel, where I had once lived for $420 a month, was $50 a night and $200 a week. That’s $800 a month but they would let you stay indefinitely. Because they knew me, eventually they offered me a deal for $600 a month. I almost took it although it left me less than $200 a month living expenses on my fixed income. By the time I lost my room at the College Hotel, there wasn’t one place left in Hollywood that I could go to. I became a displaced person. (Rent control is a mixed blessing, because with the rent kept artificially below market value, rent control tenants become a target for unethical management to use any ploy, legal or otherwise, to get them out.) I suffered the same fate as many in my predicament. I had to sleep in a parking lot and live out doors. After I found the Alexandria Hotel, for six months I had to move out every 28 days (and take all my possessions with me or I would lose them). When they finally accepted me full time I was so grateful I will always love this old hotel.

Also lost with this habitat is a lot of culture, natural American culture where human beings lived and loved and died. Without this habitat for it to flourish, a lot of values, American values of freedom and self determination, will be lost also.

Monday, October 10, 2005


The first time the world was destroyed was by water.

The second time was by fire.

The third time the world was destroyed was by megaton nuclear warheads aimed against the world capitals in "mutually assured destruction."

The fourth time the world was destroyed was by global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, desertification, deforestation and defoliation of the Amazon rain forests and old growth redwood timberland.

The fifth time the world was destroyed was by man's inhumanity to man, cruelty and suffering caused by greed and indifference.

The sixth time the world was destroyed was by contamination of the atmosphere, pollution of the rivers and streams, and eventually, the ocean itself.

The seventh time the world was destroyed was by epidemic infectious disease carried by deadly microorganisms released by a bioterrorist attack.

The eighth time the world was destroyed was by the close approach and near collision of a planetoidal body with a gravitational field strong enough to pull the Earth out of its orbit and send it spiraling into the sun.

The ninth time the world was destroyed was by Plutonium, the radio active waste product of uranium created from the peace time uses of nuclear energy
having a half-life of 24,500 years.

The last time the world was destroyed was by ice.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


These things I have to offer.

Some songs that I have written.

A few poems (both published and unpublished)

A love of abstract painting.

Incense. Candles.

Musical instruments.

A guitar. Tambourine.

Homemade things.

Things made of wood.

Some pages of an unbound book.

Memories I have scraped together

My knowledge of many things

But especially music theory.

My ability to play the piano.

Some books of wisdom.

The Tao. The I Ching or Book of Changes.

A few mystic symbols and occult diagrams.

The Kabalistic Tree of Life. The Hermetic pentagram.

Instrumental music.

Ravi Shankar. John Coltrane.

John Fahey.

Kaddish by Allen Ginsberg. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.

Egyptian artifacts as well as artifacts from our own time.

The loves I loved.

The tears I cried.

The years I have lived my life.

An upstairs window

A good pen.

An unabridged dictionary.

A manual typewriter.

An easy chair.

These things I have gathered from my life.

An offering to the oneness.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


They say if you want to play the blues, first you have to suffer. While this may seem like a cliché or an oversimplification, if you study the lives of all great artists, it is true that many of them led tragic lives. Early deaths, tormented love affairs, unfulfilled desires; secret sorrow, self-destructive behavior and mental illness are among the many things that have plagued the lives of great artists. (But the mark of a great artist is not in the facile technique but in the depth of the feeling expressed.)[1]

If you are an artist and you aspire to greatness, along with the mechanics of your art, you must also gain life experience. This is accomplished by keen observation of the experiences of others and by examining your own feelings and the outcome of your actions.

There is a popular image today of the successful artist being a young upwardly mobile professional person (yuppie?) who lives in a chateau, works in a trendy downtown loft (rented by the square foot), drinks Perrier, drives an expensive sports car, and makes loads of money. In contrast to the bohemian image of the 1960’s he lives a seamless existence, without flaws, free from risk. But this is not a true picture, and artists who live like that may make a lot of money, but they will not be remembered for their art.

True art is achieved by facing the unknown. By confronting your demons and backing them down. It is achieved by overcoming the obstacles or adverse circumstances that keep him from achieving his goals and cause him to suffer.

If there are no external circumstances that cause him to suffer, he must induce suffering in himself by his own behavior. By his excesses, both emotional and physical. By his addictions and self-destructive behavior. By his refusal to adopt social conformity or live according to conventional standards of belief and morality.

Life without suffering would be like eating meat without salt. Like a rainbow without a full spectrum. Without struggle, life’s successes would have no savor.

Also, a sense of loss. Loss of a loved one, loss of home, loss of job or money. Loss or stature. Loss of freedom. The experience of loss teaches you to not take it for granted when the loss is regained. Loss allows you to experience depth of feeling and builds character when it is overcome.

The blues, especially, but all great art is concerned with telling the truth. It is about experiencing deep feelings and being able to reveal them. It is this component of truth in all great art that strikes a chord of understanding in all who perceive it and causes them to identify with it.

How can you tell the truth if you don’t know what it is? If you don’t know the truth, you must seek it. How can you appreciate life if you don’t know the closeness of death?

Also the element of compassion is activated and heightened. Because you can’t really know the suffering of others until you have experienced it yourself. The experience of suffering is a means for the artist to gain insight into the condition of his fellow man and gain a sense of oneness or unity with the human race. It is both a humbling and ennobling experience. It is the element that makes possible compassion. And compassion, along with courage, are the most important components in all great art.

So, armed with these realizations, it should give you new insight into the appreciation of the works of great artists past and present. And should help you face your own suffering with greater dignity and respect. Because not only will it help you to aspire to greatness as an artist, it can help you become a better human being.
[1] For example, among jazz vocalists, Ella Fitzgerald had prodigious technique and great popularity during her career. But it is Billie Holiday, who sang without embellishment and little or no technique who typifies our concept of the greatest jazz singer because of the depth of emotion in her singing.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Nobody knows just how the blues began.

Some say it was in the work songs of Negro chain gangs in southern penitentiaries. Others say it grew out of the bordellos and speakeasies in red light districts of southern cities around the turn of the twentieth century where booze was sold illegally and prostitution flourished. Still others say it was the howl of the wind in the trees of the rural south where black tenant farmers could listen to it in isolation from the noise of the city.

I think the blues began as a feeling.

The kind of longing that you get late at night when you are all alone and the one you love isn’t there with you.

And you know that your dream just won’t come true.

The kind of feeling that you get when all you want to do is forget. But you can’t stop remembering. And you keep thinking about that one thing that keeps coming back over and over again to haunt you.

And you know that you can’t sleep. And there isn’t anything you can do about it except take a deep breath and wait the lonely hours until dawn.

Or maybe you wish that you could be someplace far away, in another city or town, doing other things with other people.

Or when you’re far away and all you can think about is how much you wish that you could be back home.

They say the blues ain’t nothing but a woman cryin’ for her man.

They say the blues ain’t nothing but a good love that’s gone bad.

They say the blues began as a lament or song of mourning, heartbreak, and strife.

Nobody knows for sure just how the blues began. But what we do know is sadness is best overcome by talking about it, and the surest way to perpetuate it is to bottle it up inside.of you. And by submitting these feelings to the various processes of blues music, the flatted thirds and bent tones of the blues scale, the repetitive call and response of the lyric, the throbbing beat of the blues rhythm, they become imbued with the peculiar alchemy and curative powers of the blues that can change sadness to happiness and transform tears into joy.

When I listen to the blues, I hear one person, no better or worse than any other person, and subject to all the frailty and uncertainty, the longing and hopelessness, and awareness of the transitory nature of human existence that affects all people. And in his countenance I can also see myself. For I too am human, and uncertain, and aware of the transitory nature of my own life.

They say the blues has always been here. Before there was blues music, people still had the blues. It is common to all people in all walks of life. Truly, the blues belong to everyone.

The blues is made from heartache and misery. But the blues makes them easier to be borne.

It is more to me than just another twelve bar music form.

It is bittersweet notes being played on a golden horn.-

Saturday, August 06, 2005

GHOSTS (part two)

TOP PHOTO: Ghosts captured by a digital camera in the reflections in an office building window.

MIDDLE PHOTO: Ghosts captured by a digital camera on the surface of aluminum foil.

BOTTOM PHOTO: Ghosts captured by a digital camera shot through a teardrop prism.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


One of the favorite things we like to do at the Alexandria Hotel is hunting for ghosts and trying to capture their images on a digital camera. For some reason the digital camera creates a denser atmosphere, one that makes it easier for the ghosts to impinge their images. We have had good success, particularly when submitting the images to computer processes like PhotoImpressions.

There are always lots of ghosts at the Alexandria Hotel. Among the best places to find them are the two abandoned ballrooms on the 2nd floor at 4:00 AM with a low light camera. Very spooky.

By ghosts I don’t mean we are going to bump into somebody’s dead mother or the ghost of Rudolf Valentino. What we find are more like nature spirits. Entities that are not human and never were human yet can form an image on wrinkled aluminum foil or in a digital camera. Shadow people that inhabit the empty places and dark spaces between where one thing leaves off and another begins. The Watchers or Observers with solitary eyes and cowled heads with pointed hoods. Entities formed of light reflections. Ambiguous figures one changing into another like the phantom figures in an abstract painting by Pollack or De Kooning.

They love the ballrooms, but also love the lights of the city skyline at night, window reflections, all electronic equipment, scenes from nature, foliage, leaves, room interiors with subdued lights and steep shadows, refuse, rubbish, clutter, cellophane, mirrors, particularly one mirror reflected into another, and images distorted through a refractive lens or a teardrop prism. The ones I have photographed are static, still images, as is characteristic of one of the levels of the lower astral plane. However, my friend Art Posey has videoed the images as they form and are called into being. This was never possible before the digital camera.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I live at the Alexandria Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. I am 59, disabled, and live on a fixed income. The Alexandria is right for me because it is “affordable housing”. The surrounding environs are grim and caustic and can be dangerous, particularly to someone from another part of town. But once inside the Alexandria it’s heavy security acts like a firewall to filter out unwanted elements and your reality can be what you create it to be.

On or before June 22, 2005, amid rumors of its impending sale, the L.A. Times published an elaborate 4 page article about the hotel complete with lavish photographs and detailed history. I don’t have a subscription to the Times and seldom read it, preferring to get my news from television. I finally saw the article July 4, when a friend and fellow resident circulated a copy. I felt that the article effectively reflected the ambiance, the walk/talk, of the atmosphere of the building.

One of the people interviewed about the building was Celia (no last name), a seven year resident of the hotel (I’ve lived here three) who publishes a web log, I punched in the web address and was introduced to a new world. Blogging. Through Celia’s blog, I discovered a number of other bloggers from downtown L.A. who have their own blogs and comment on each other’s blogs. I was impressed by the quality of the ideas and information communicated. Also by the ease of posting.

Now I have my own blog, and this is my third posting. I look forward to participating in the exchange of ideas in the on-line community of downtown L.A.

Thursday, July 07, 2005



I know there is a oneness

Sense, feel, intuit that

There is a oneness

About which all things evolve.

Ever at the center

Never at the circumference

These things I have been taught

ingrained, propagandized

Then I experienced for myself

I realized that all things are one thing

and one thing is all things.

It is hard to remember

in the rush of the city

in the maze of technology

in the speed of a microchip

But in the silence

the memories return

and so does the oneness.

Four walls.
That’s all I need.
Four walls. Any less is not enough. Any more leads to problems of a different kind. Three walls can suggest an area but can’t close it off. Two or less barely describe a partition.

It takes four walls to make an enclosure. An enclosure is necessary both to keep the enclosed space in and to keep predation and interference from the unenclosed space out. Four walls make possible containment. Containment suggests limits on both amount and size of things within. What is too large or too many simply will not fit. Containment also keeps things separate from other things. Without containment everything would just flow in with every thing else, and nobody could tell what anything was part of or what belonged to what. Four walls to set off something and make separate certain things that are special, in this case because they belong to me. Four walls, the basic unit of individuation and personal power in the universe.

Four walls are complete but not very big. Obviously it will not take too long to fill it completely (and hopelessly with things that can’t be used and make it impossible to use the things that are there). Discrimination becomes necessary there, too. Discrimination means consistently choosing one thing over another. This builds what we call identity. A strong identity has depth as well as diversity. A thing’s worth is often determined by its purity. The process of purification is one of subtraction, not addition.. You can’t add anything to a substance to make it more pure. But once you understand what a desired substance is, eliminate everything that is not it and what is left should be the substance in purified form.

This room has four walls and contains all of my earthly possessions, the sum total of my worldly estate., the material expression of all my life’s accomplishments. But also here in this humble container is knowledge gained. The answers to life’s questions I had posed, hoping that they would lead to inner peace. Knowledge for which I paid the dearest price, and the history of how it was obtained.

Give me four walls (bathroom in the hall optional) and the adjacent distance in a metropolitan neighborhood I can cover on these walking sticks some people call crutches and I will give you my life. In a time capsule, so that if you take it day by day, it will have a self-replicating quality. Like a spacecraft I carry my life support environment with me.

This is now. This is bottom line. This is after many years of being faced with the necessity of doing more and more and having less and less to do it with. There once was a time (in my youth) when like many people I thought of life in terms of unlimited expansion and limitless growth. For me, although we are often surprised to learn when forced to by the nudges of reality it would be possible to live and to define ourselves with less, but like the rooms with only two or three walls, it would require a shift to a different mode of personal existence. One without the luxuries I now take for granted and am in fear of losing. Luxuries like personal possessions, privacy, and freedom from interference. Just like the availability of walls, the number of four walls being a dimensional shift in consciousness to a hierarchically different paradigm as dramatic as the shift in visual perception from 2D to 3D.
In the mind, a person travels in time, travels in space, builds, creates, loves, makes new, destroys. Inside this room, the walls disappear to reveal a horizon that is ever new.