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It was in vain I endeavored to assimilate my spirit to that species of exertion necessary to be made for my livelihood.



As This Thing Is (The Thing Itself)

Mixed media on wood, painted circa 2005

“Be Still and Know” mixed media on wood, painted circa 2005

This Thing, It would not speak to me.

It has no words, nor, as I see,

no iconography that will suffice

to depict clearly Its device.

It takes no rise from words or deeds,

but, being, oddly, It concedes

an insouciant assurance

of Its perpetual occurrence.

This thing, it seems…It Is…volition.

And that’s the whole of Its condition.

 

With ceaseless verbal diarrhea

I’ve been to war with that idea.

Demanding that This Thing respect

the shock troops of my intellect,

I took that huge unquantifiable

to blows with my sure and reliable

self-conceit…without requite.

This Thing just was…It would not fight.

I, rhetoric weary, acquiesced.

In my submission, It expressed

That farts in breezes mean as much

if I with language hope to touch

divinity, or would advance,

with my corporeal arrogance,

to some more conscious point of view.

And yet…This Thing, should it imbue

all my relentless diatribing,

and like endeavors towards describing

what It is…with Its own essence,

then It’s expressed in my incessance.

And so It is…And so I Am,

accidentally if at all prophetic,

But grateful, and, as This Thing is,

divinely unapologetic.

 

© 2005 Keith Hamilton Cobb
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Savoy Brown and Nehru

dogcomp

Fujichrome Provia 400… I think… Digital composite Iris print on water color paper. (Of course, you’re only seeing the digital file, but that’s what it ended up being…)

 

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American Moor: An Overview

AmMoor-TestamonialsWeb4

This project, the play, “American Moor,” began as most creative endeavors in my life do: as resistance.  I had always resisted the idea of doing a solo show.  It seemed to be the sort of thing that came up in discussion every time an actor was talking about the things that weren’t going on in his/her career.  Someone would inevitably say, “Why don’t you write a solo show?”  And I always thought that having nothing better to do was never a good reason to do anything.  Many of the solo shows that I had seen were one of two things, either extremely self-indulgent, or dependent upon the type of strong character work that was not my skill set (think Anna Deavere Smith).  I didn’t think that I had a strong shot at creating one of either variety and being happy with myself.  And what was more, I just didn’t want to do one.  Acting had always been an ensemble endeavor.  One did it in conjunction with others, in a scene, whether on film or on a stage.  And for me, acting stories still abound about creative interactions with others, some joyous, others not so much, that paint the portrait of my professional life.  Standing up there alone seemed to scream “Look at me!  Please!!  Just look at me!”  I don’t think I ever entered into the industry to have people look at me, although that is sometimes how it turned out.  If this thing we do is, as Shakespeare says, about “holding the mirror up to nature,” and if nature is more a series of interactions than a look at any one being unto themselves, then I feel as though I’ve always been there as a piece of some larger ensemble, and not really a value alone without the other elements conspiring with me to present a living moment.  This is heady shit, I know.  I’ll just move on.


 

It started simply.  I was auditioning for the role of Oberon in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a casting that makes perfect sense if you know anything about the play or me.  The young director on the other side of the table had no shortage of things to say about his concept, and what he wanted to see in the role of Oberon, the faerie king, and his interaction with Titania, the faerie queen.  But he had cut nearly everything out of the audition material that would have allowed me to show him any of what he had said he wanted to see. Oh, and what was more, the reader enacting the role of Titania was a 60 plus year old man!  The director didn’t know me.  He didn’t know my work.  I stood in the middle of that studio floor a complete unknown tasked with showing a complete stranger that I was who he wanted, what he wanted, and all with about three minutes or less to do it in…  There’s more to that story, but why wallow in the absurdity?

1st reading of "American Moor," Manhattan Apartment of the director, March, 2013

1st reading of “American Moor,” Manhattan Apartment of the Director, March, 2013

Audience / 1st Reading, New York, March 2013

Audience / 1st Reading, New York, March 2013

Moor Reading March 2013 C

 

The upshot is that in the wake of that audition I began to think about how we are all always auditioning for the role of ourselves, or for the role that someone expects of us.  So much of American culture is predicated on the idea of selling one’s self.  And what if the role that one expects you to play is neither remotely who you are, nor who someone’s erroneous notions seek to make you?  What if you can’t be seen because the person looking is far too busy trying to picture you as who they would most like you to be for their purpose?

So, when I began to write, it was this interaction that I was writing about.  In that respect, I guess I didn’t really write a solo show at all, but a two person play with the second, unseen person representing everyone else; the omnipresent voice of the culture (replete with all its cultural expectations) that we have all made some tacit agreement to answer to whether we are aware that we made it or not.  “American Moor” has evolved from there.  My colleague, New York director/producer/filmmaker Brent Buell, urged me to begin this project, and it was in creative collaboration with him, and under his direction that it had its first reading in March of 2013.  Since then, it seems to have taken on relevances impacting a much more diverse audience than I had originally imagined it might.  I suppose this speaks to the commonality of this human dilemma, if that’s not blowing my own horn too much…

AmMoor-Testamonials2Web4

My note in the program for the second public performance said the following, and I think it is still at the root of the play:

“I had always thought that no one saw me.  But, as I have regularly been admonished over these older years, “Everything is not all about you.”  This is a difficult realization for an actor to make.  But I think it is equally difficult for humans as well.  I hope that this will not be the extent of my maturing awareness.  But it’s a place to start.”

Funny, I think, that a guy who was resisting saying “Look at me!” would write a piece about needing to be seen…

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Beth and Roman

MorningShoesweb

           “Roman lay sprawled on his face about the bed, half dreaming, less than half awake, reached for her, his fingers finding, feeling the contour of an uncovered hip, his touch her stirring, turning from him, a long, irregular breath, exhaling, pressing her back against him, and he wishing he could be outside of himself on mornings like these; outside of himself, invisible, and watching the two of them together, waking, and behaving like two do when their only acquaintance has been made by the trial and error of an unplanned, first time tryst; when the light of the morning reveals that they are beautiful.”

Excerpted from the short story, “Beth and Roman” from the collection, “The Odd Purgatory of My Personal Perception”
©Keith Hamilton Cobb
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Arrogance, Ignorance, and a little innocence, and Reports of a Fella’s Homosexuality can end up being GREATLY Exaggerated

KeithActorLobbyOrlando

Lobby, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando, Florida, 2012

When I was an acting student at NYU’s Tisch School back in the mid 80’s they did not teach a class for this…  There was nothing that taught us how to deal with the public, odd and so often irresponsible child that it is, in the unlikely event of popular “success,” whatever that really means.  My perception of most of my classmates was that they had stars in their eyes; visions of media stardom, wealth, and prestige.  I suspect that they assumed that they would deal with the vicissitudes of fame as they arose.  For most, they never did.  Me, I had always considered myself first and foremost a stage actor.  My media aspirations were always, for me, a means to that end.

But how, in the world of television and film, to remain just an actor?…  How to be not Cruise nor Costner nor Clooney, but yet to have shown up visibly in places and in ways that generate interest, that make a splash, that foster a healthy, or unhealthy curiosity, but then to return to being just an actor again, not nearly as present on the popular radar, leaving those who rose to celebrate my presence in wonderment over where I disappeared to, and why?

One must be flattered by the attention of others, even if those bestowing it are unwholesome in what’s prompting their focus.  For an actor, for just an actor, attention from others suggests that you are doing something right.  We must remember that the term, “celebrity,” originally pertained to an individual who was being celebrated; one who was honored with the attention of the public because they were worthy of it.  But it is simply sensation that we honor today; the sensation of being arrested blind drunk with a half a pound of cocaine in the trunk, or for being taped having sex in a hotel room.  The culture that has arisen of people who have found a living in making of their own lives a sideshow, putting all of their business, whether real or made-up on public view for a dividend, is worlds removed from that of being just an actor.  And these “celebrities” are not wholly to blame.  We, the audience, are a culture as well.  We are a culture of watchers, looking for escape from frightening lives of our own, with puerile interests and morbid curiosities.  “Why?” is a question that we hardly have the time to ask of ourselves anymore for fear we might miss the start of the next episode of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”  We can barely step away long enough to look all around, and at ourselves, and observe how very ugly, and empty, it has made us.

Who is this petty, pathetic, and ignorant beast that gathers around the TV to watch the “reality” of the latest train wreck?  It is all of us together, unhappy and afraid, who just acquiesce, setting our standards so low, accepting these sordid trivialities as entertainment.  Individually we know better.  Individually, we love better.  Individually, the better angels of our nature say to us, “There is a better way for you to be.”  Individually, sometimes, we listen.  Read More →

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Ayana Nebula

Ayana Nebula

mixed media on wood

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On the Train

I heard the old man on the train talking about his new hip replacement
In explanation of why
He got up so carefully, slowly,
Graciously exchanging seats with the waiting family of five.
I asked,
“How long have you had it?” and
The man began to speak to me about it as if no one had asked in a long time,
Or ever.
He said, wide-eyed, almost hopefully,
“You know about hips?” and
I told the man, smiling, almost apologetic,
“Well… not that kind…”  I was just asking.
The man told me –
He seemed eager to continue the conversation –
He thought I might be a doctor the way I inquired,
Which got me thinking,
While the old man spoke,
What would now be different if I had, in fact, been
A physician sitting on the train reading my book
Who had gone to school for nine years to become one, and
Then had practiced for several more, and married, and
Made babies
(Like the couple with the two children and grandma in the next seats over,
All looking quite content on their way to the baseball game) and
Now I was indeed inquiring,
Asking about the man’s new hip
Because I knew all about them, and
I genuinely cared about others, and
My heart was huge, and
Open?

© 2014 Keith Hamilton Cobb
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The Relativity of Ethics

My father was quite fond of reading and quoting a Nietzschean  supremacist poet who called himself King Darius, or “The King”.  He wrote, “Glorious son, go up from the nightside and look down on us. / Where the lights shine brightest, there! There are we. / Where darkness alone resides, yet there are peoples whose one resource is wishing. / Go up because you can. / It will remind you of who you are. / And of who you shall not ever be again.”   King Darius’ writings reflected upon Nietzschean world scenarios that existed ten to twelve generations prior to his words ever reaching my father’s eyes.  Subjugation of inferiors, or “primitives” as is perhaps the more accurate term, was commonplace, and necessary to ensure economic development.  His works enjoyed a resurgence of popularity during my childhood among Nietzschean slavers and those who refused to either denounce or condone their practices.  My father was one of the latter. Read More →

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On Sex and Violence

“Making love”… While no Nietzschean ever tends to use that Human euphemism, my grandfather, Temujin II, would say that no man is to be trusted who doesn’t subsist on a steady diet of sex and violence as well.  Of course, from a Nietzschean perspective, no man is to be trusted regardless, but why waste a perfectly valid turn of phrase for the sake of a technicality?  My grandfather, whom I admired, was a bit of a Dragonian lunatic, if I may use it as a term of endearment; a less extreme incarnation of his old namesake, Temujin I.  Which is to say that a greater than average portion of his adult life was spent fighting and procreating; for Nietzscheans, the most inevitable if not the most pragmatic of life’s endeavors.  And so, to him, to most of us, it has never made sense to create language around them meant, it seems, only to somehow civilize their primal nature.  The Human will ceaselessly put forth the proposition that sex and violence are not inextricably linked, and, in fact, they may not be for him because he kills and copulates for many various and sundry odd reasons that the Nietzschean, generally speaking, does not.  Read More →

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For Moments at Seventeen

(Because the Commonwealth is human-centric, and everything is measured in Earth years.  Silly, yes?)

If now is a time that is forever “after this last” and “before that next thing,” then the now, or series of nows, that comprised the six months after I had, by what means I don’t really know, delivered myself from indenture to a ring of flash and weapons traders, and before anyone had ever offered me a fee to take a life, were peaceful.  The verbal contract with the traders, a colorful but pernicious cast of characters who called themselves The Consortium, dictated that I remain in their employ for another full year.  If I had not been bored, restless, at odds with their methods, undercompensated, and underappreciated …well…I am still.  Suffice it, however, to say that if I had not been seventeen, which is to say had I been the mature and prophetic sage that I am today, I probably would have stayed.  A funny thing, the propriety of thieves who will cite you your obligation to the letter of your contract with the gravest decorum while robbing everyone blind and fatting themselves on the fruits of your labor.  Funny too are a young man’s impulses.  Perhaps afraid that, once finding me gone, they would be even angrier with me to realize as well that I had run with some sizable portion of their contraband and thus be compelled to a more fervent pursuit, I instead took flight with nothing.  I was to learn that, despite having left them with all that was “theirs” except for my humble self, my having broken my scoundrel’s oath and bolted at all gave them umbrage enough to pursue me to exhaustion, on sheer principle I suppose.  It was a decision on my part that I can’t even label as juvenile, for it was one that no other Nietzschean male over the age of nine, to my knowledge, would ever have made. Read More →

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An Unremarkable Day

I can wander the decks of the Andromeda Ascendant for days without end and never travel the same stretch of corridor twice.  In her depths, further than any short sojourn from command, are endless dark and dormant chambers where no one has stood for over three hundred years.  Onboard this ship, as I imagine it goes in the military, a man’s quarters are anything but inviolate.  Anyone can find me in mine, and all too often do.  Privacy is provided only by journeying too deep into Andromeda’s guts for anyone to care to come and retrieve me if I fail to answer the com.  Of course, there really is no hiding from the ship herself.  And she tends to concern herself a bit beyond reason with the Nietzschean’s whereabouts, I think.  But then, I imagine I would keep an eye on me if I were she.  I am a wanderer by nature it seems.  And to explore these empty decks long enough would probably offer up an intimate knowledge of things best left unbeknownst to one of questionable intent. Read More →

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The Beautiful Captain Hunt

The physicist, Albert Einstein uncountable eons ago said this:  “A human being is part of the whole called by us ‘the universe,’ a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Merely by virtue of having, through no force of mine own will, been born in the age that I was, I could quite readily teach that brilliant old sage many a thing that would stand his primitive quantum theory on its ear and fry the synapses in his pre-historic brain.  But yet I could not improve upon this one simple set of thoughts. Read More →

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Things My Father Said To Me

Think and all the ancestors think with you.  Fight and you fight alone.

 

None do more ill than those perpetually endeavoring to do “good”.

 

No dead thing has a value.  Think before killing, then kill without further thought.  Indecision is deadly.  Guilt and remorse are as valueless as dead things.

 

Honor Drago in all that you do and let be.  Exaltation is for humans and idiots.

 

EAT…and grow strong.

 

Let no one ever force you to repeat yourself, but say nothing more or less the first time than what you are prepared to defend.

 

Power is never passed from the hands of the powerful into the hands of the powerless freely.  “Power sharing” is an oxymoron.  Any way to win is the best way.  There is no good way to lose.

 

You are the center of the wheel.  All things revolve about you.  You are the only god; your strength the greatest strength; your arm the fellest arm.

 

You are forever on your own.

 

Keep company with women as much as possible.  All that you are and ever will be begins and ends there.

 

Vengefulness will waste your life for you.  The greatest harm you can do to your enemies is to make too many babies for them to ever vanquish.

 

Nietzscheans!  What a grand, glorious, and unmanageable mess of a people we are!!

 

Yeah right!  And Drago wore a dress!!

 

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Things My Mother Said To Me

If you cannot always say precisely what you mean, it will forever seem to others as though you do not ever mean what you say.

 

Listen to those who say very little very carefully.

 

Watching and listening will get you far more than speaking.  This is simply because most others are busy doing just the opposite.

 

Let no one ever force you to repeat yourself, but say nothing more or less the first time than what you are prepared to defend.

 

Trust me and eat.

 

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