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Reflections from blur-dom

BY ERIC ANDERSEN | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

Henry Rollins might just be the hardest working entertainer on Earth.

He is the author of several books, host of “The Henry Rollins Show” on the Independent Film Channel, and has acting credits in several movies. The former Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman also hosted the weekly radio show “Harmony in My Head” (and now delivers another live weekly radio show as well).

Rollins travels the world delivering spoken-word tours, in which he talks politics, pop culture, and other current events for hours on end. His latest book, A Preferred Blur: Reflections, Introspections And Travel In All Directions, documents his time spent touring Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan in 2007 in the form of journal entries.

Despite the lapse of time between the writings from 2006 to 2007 and the release of the book earlier this month, Rollins provides a take on the state of the world and life in general that is a captivating — if not bleak and depressing — read.

The book is written in a direct, straight-to-the-point style, and Rollins frequently speaks of his battle with depression and his desire to isolate himself from most forms of intimate human contact.

“Today I can barely move,” he writes on Feb. 25, 2007, while in Los Angeles. “It woke me up early. Last night and this morning, I just wanted to be dead. It’s awful to think these things seeing what other people have to go through every day and I feel ashamed of myself when I’m this way. I need to stay busy to keep depression at bay. It’s one of the reasons I go all the time, it’s the best way I have found to deal with it.”

Rollins has lived a rough life and faced numerous hardships that he explores in A Preferred Blur. One such example is the death of his best friend and roommate Joe Cole, who was shot in the head by a robber after the duo returned from a movie-rental store.

He also vents his frustrations over the hanging execution of Saddam Hussein, U.S. relations with the rest of the world, and the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Rollins was in Pakistan at the time of the Bhutto’s murder and writes about the tension that ensued.

“I walked down Khayaban-E-Suhrawardy, the same street I was walking on yesterday,” Rollins wrote in an entry on Dec. 28, 2007, just a day after Bhutto’s assassination. “I noticed immediately that things were different. The road was almost empty of vehicles. I saw two boys walking towards me, each one had a metal pipe in his hand. I imagined how I was going to die. I was going to see my own brains leaving my head as I was beaten to death Clockwork Orange-style. They looked at me and I looked back at them. They turned their attention from me to a light pole in the middle of the road, climbed up and started demolishing a large banner of some man’s face.”

Even people who strongly disagree with Rollins’ politicism could be swayed by the insightful observations and arguments he makes in A Preferred Blur, a book is strongly recommended to anyone looking for a thoughtful read.

Rollins puts it best himself when he says “knowledge without mileage is bullshit” — a rule which the performer lives by in every aspect of his life.


Excerpts - Henry Rollins:

02-24-07 LA CA: 2236 hrs. I went to the Spirit Awards today. I did the press line and the photo line as well. The press line was interesting. I told a nice man from the BBC that I thought Tony Blair was a douche bag and asked him if he would please put that on the radio when he got back. I stood in the general hang out area for a little while and talked to the IFC people and some others I ran into. I met Sarah Silverman and told her I thought she was great and that I had seen her the other night at Largo. I spoke briefly with John Waters and then went into the theater space. I was at the same table as last year. Sarah was funny again like she was last year. Dennis Hopper came out and reprised the role of Frank Booth for a moment, “Don’t you fuckin’ look at me!” which warmed my heart. He was then joined by Laura Dern and they did a tribute to David Lynch. Loretta Switt and Robert Downey Jr. did a tribute to Robert Altman. At one point, Sharon Stone was up there for way too long. Minnie Driver sang very well as did Rosario Dawson. The whole thing lasted about two hours. After it was over, I was taken to the after party. There were a lot of people waiting outside wanting autographs and pictures. Many people had pictures of me on hand, they must have found out I was going to be there. I signed them, I know they are going on ebay. What these guys don’t know is that no one will buy them for more than a couple bucks. I went inside the after party area for about ten minutes and then left and came back here. I was out the door at 1130 hrs. and back at 1700 hrs. It was all pretty painless, I guess. If the IFC people didn’t ask me to I would never go to something like that. I really like the IFC people and they ask very little of me so I don’t mind. I think those kind of things water you down. I don’t want to get used to things like that, I think if I go to too many events like that, hang around with people too much, it will soften me.

“When I was young, I didn’t need to think that way, but now I do. It’s like caloric intake. When you’re young and hungry you don’t have to count the calories because you’re not going to get enough to satisfy your hunger anyway but when you have resources, you have to watch your diet. It’s easy to become tamed and normalized. Where there is light and laughter there is danger for me. I don’t trust it and don’t want it. I don’t want it because I know anything I want can’t be all that good for me. I don’t mind seeing the few people I have known for many years, like in DC, but even that is difficult for me because I feel so bad when I have to leave, it’s almost easier not to see them and not feel so torn up later. I guess one could say that’s real life and you have to dive in and take all those emotional vicissitudes as part of the package. The part-event environment is like junk food to me, upon leaving, I feel like I have wasted time and overindulged. Do you remember that scene in Das Boot when the captain of the submarine has to leave vessel and go to that party with all the over-fed high ranking officers? Do you remember how feral he looks in comparison to all the soft men? When I first saw that film, that was the scene that stuck out. I never want to be one of those soft men at the part, that’s the bottom line.

04-12-07 NYC NY: It rained like a bastard here today. NYC in the rain is an amazing thing to behold. Umbrellas self-destruct in the wind and are utilized in the downside-up bowl shape until they collapse and are then slammed into trashcans. People wear bags, newspapers against heads, suits are soaked as cars toss gallons of water at people waiting for the light to turn green. No one stops though, everyone charges on their destination undeterred. I saw something great today. A newspaper vendor had stacks of the New York Post, they were soaked and he was giving them away for free for people to cover themselves with. He was yelling, “New York Post free! Stay dry!” Finally a good use for that paper.


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