May 31, 2006

We were in a small cafe
You could hear the guitars play

Serhiy Kolyada

Three by Carl Rakosi:

Poet Carl Rakosi, the last living Objectivist, died in 2004 at the age of 100. The historical-minded may know of Objectivism as a loose-knit 1930s literary project (not to be confused with Ayn Rand’s cult of the same name) whose core members were George Oppen, Rakosi, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Reznikoff. Roughly speaking, they were, and saw themselves, as second-generation Modernists. Rakosi’s work both pre- and post-dates Objectivism, due both to his temperament and longevity. Retracing his path one encounters many twists and turns, notably a quasi-biblical element – The Missing Years; he famously stopped writing for 30 years, returning to poetry after he received a letter from an admirer, English academic Andrew Crozier. Based in San Francisco since around 1970, Rakosi wrote, published and read in public up to the last year of his life. -- Klipschutz


Every other man
runs a business.
Every fourth man
is professional.

A table
not with four legs
but with statistical legs.

This is that strangest
of all worlds, numbers,
which no one can enter
as a whole man
nor leave behind

for it is the principle
of the mind at work,
its style, its strict
its alignment
its very faculty

that timeless order
which is bilk to poets,
wholly without heart or humor,
immaterial as fairy,
yet the very frame of industry

the grub of scholars
the final sawdust
of the absolute.


I don’t know what’s got into that rooster.
First, he appointed himself the morning herald,
now he’s out there on the roof proclaiming
to one and all that every hen within sight
belong to him. . .his, his, his. . .
and that he intends to go down to the hen house
and lay them all, none will be spared,
and if anybody wants to take exception to this,
let him come forward and he will personally
take them all on, one by one or in the aggregate;
otherwise, let the sleepers hold their peace.


The girls
wear rings

on the water
silver beaten

with a punch
the carved end

striking out
two flowers.

This day
the young

men, sternum
in the water,

swim below
the cutter races.

Women used to
pass into the

public buildings
with a blue jug

on their heads
and stand

like statues
with the noses

knocked off,

the signing
of the peace.

May 30, 2006

It has a nice ring when you laugh

Andreas Schulze, Ich Kaufe Nichts (I Buy Nothing), 2004

* What people are missing [or not bothering to report] in the Enron story: the George Bush connection. excerpt:

"The Bush administration has a long and intimate relationship with Enron, whose much-discredited chairman, Kenneth L. Lay, was a primary financial backer of George W. Bush’s rise to the presidency.

"It was Enron that provided the model for the administration’s trickle-down attempt to revive an economy that’s been in steep decline during Bush’s tenure. That model gives the fat-cat corporate hotshots everything they want in return for bankrolling political campaigns. Not to worry about the rest of us because, hey, what’s good for Enron is good for America. That it hasn’t been is now painfully clear.

"What did Enron get in return for its contributions? It got its way on deregulation, for one thing. Remember when the administration refused to assist California and other states during the energy crisis, and consumers paid the steep price?

"So greedy was Enron that it locked its own workers into a pension plan based on inflated company stock values and suspect hidden partnerships, while the top leadership led by Lay made out like bandits.

"Bush should be called as a witness in the congressional hearings scheduled to unravel this mess. One thing that should come up in the hearings is then-Gov. Bush’s October 1997 telephone call on behalf of Lay to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to help Enron crack into the tightly regulated Pennsylvania electricity market.

"'I called George W. to kind of tell him what was going on,' Lay told the New York Times about the 1997 phone call, 'and I said that it would be very helpful to Enron, which is obviously a large company in the state of Texas, if he could just call the governor [of Pennsylvania] and tell him [Enron] is a serious company, this is a professional company, a good company.'"
"That Lay was instrumental in Bush’s rise to the presidency is indisputable. Since 1993, Lay and top Enron executives donated nearly $2 million to Bush. Lay also personally donated $326,000 in soft money to the Republican Party in the three years prior to Bush’s presidential bid, and he was one of the Republican “pioneers” who raised $100,000 in smaller contributions for Bush. Lay’s wife donated $100,000 for inauguration festivities.

"As governor, Bush did what Enron wanted, cutting taxes and deregulating utilities. The deregulation ideology, which George W. long had adopted as gospel, allowed dubious bookkeeping and other acts of chicanery that shocked Wall Street and drove a $60-billion company, seventh on the Fortune 500 list, into bankruptcy.

"This emerging scandal makes Whitewater seem puny in comparison; clearly there ought to be at least as aggressive a congressional inquiry into the connection between the Bush administration and the Enron debacle. Facts must be revealed, beginning with the content of Lay’s private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney to create the administration’s energy policy."
"We have a right to know whether the Enron alums in the administration were tipped off in time to bail out with profit the way Lay and the other Enron top execs did, while their workers and stockholders--and eventually U.S. taxpayers--are being left holding the suddenly empty bag."

* Some George Harrison links: video for Blow Away, sticking it to the man in an excerpt from A Hard Day's Night, and video for Crackerbox Palace. enjoy.

* "To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." - Truman Capote

May 24, 2006

We'll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth

Happy Birthday Bob

Slaughterhouse 5000
-- by Eric Gerard Amblig

Tonight I watched a documentary on the Pancake.

A page weighed down by U.S. mint and human hair exhumed the body odor of a shape shifter

and through devastating superstitions
we unearthed how people really feel about L.A.

More than a month or two in outer space
is to risk a potential loss of some muscle tissue.
When I read that yesterday, I thought about
no more cross country journeys in the Aerostar,
no obelisk shaped pencil sharpeners from
the White House gift shop.

To simply waste away with a poor set of consciousness.

To never return home from gathering kindle
for the fire.

To die on a Wednesday.

No thanks, I'll snack on elderly crackers
and listen to the gilded paddle of the Rolodex
certain where I sit is harming no one.

My mangled dissertation on the divorce rate spilled
a chalky substance. Being obsessed with the smell of
my own fingers from keypads with mediocre perfumes
I'm prepared to unfold to you all my coital ambitions.
Sudden variables that rendered articulate balance.
It hadn't been the significance but the position.

Upsettingly virtual reality lost an edge a year ago,
a two-dimensional life with three-dimensional consequences.

Clues to which way the world is traveling I find
on Mennonite soap operas. Eagerly awaiting
the repetition of the past.
Though on a holiday I found a decoder ring nestled
deep inside the turkey, allowing me to
uncover the riches you hid in a Cherokee casino
providing the elements misplaced from a former life

I was told I once had

but by then, the tryptophan had set in
and the cat has its tail in my soup.

Charle Kiot
-- by Charles Potts

I sent my cock and balls across the lake
But they aborted
Meanwhile I got fucked
But failed to conceive

I never was a tough guy
But a beefed up chicken
Coming on like one
For the exhilarating effect

Now my balls come back to me across the water
What was really in the 40 mailboxes
I lived at for the last 10 years
Just like any runamuck American

History never sleeps with me
So I set out around the world
Wearing the rags of yesteryear
Tired of your act

Picture me in better clothes
Stirring the water in your heart
Handshake smile and a wave
Coming and going
Traveling light.

What I Learned From My Mother
-- by Julia Kasdorf

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

-- Reminder: the foreign press will be playing DCs Black Cat on Thursday June 8, 2006, in support of The Caribbean. $7, hope to see you there.

-- back Tuesday.

May 23, 2006

he came home from the war
with a party in his head

Group-Think and the Informed Skeptic, by Dana Ellyn

* Molly Ivans. excerpt:

"'Ted Koppel suggests in The New York Times that we outsource war: 'Blackwater and other leading security companies are seriously proposing to officials at very high levels of the government that their private forces could relieve a number of the burdens now being shouldered (or not) by American troops. ... The Pentagon ... is nonetheless struggling to come to terms with what it now calls ‘the long war.’ There is every expectation that the fight against global terrorism and the most extreme forms of Islamic fundamentalism will last for many years. This is a war that will not necessarily require aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, fighter jets or heavily armored tanks. It will certainly not enable the United States to exploit its advantages in nuclear weapons. It is a war, indeed, that favors the highly mobile and adaptive fighting skills of the former Special Forces soldiers and other ex-commandos ....'

"'Will'? Hell! Did and does. This is a war that is being fought with the wrong tools—and, in Iraq, at the wrong time, in the wrong place and against the wrong enemy.

"It never did call for tanks, jets or carriers—just a combination of good detectives and good intelligence. In other words, smart, clever people with language skills. All of which we have fully available to us because of ... immigration. Lebanese, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Pakistanis and Indonesians have all become Americans, and in so many cases we got the bravest of the brave—those who fought Saddam, the ayatollah and Assad, Lebanese who saw their country torn apart by religious factions. These are Americans who know the culture and language of the Middle East and other Islamic countries, and who care deeply about how it all comes out.

"By all means, reform immigration with this deep obeisance to the Republican right-wing nut faction and their open contempt for “foreigners.” But do not pretend for one minute that it is not a craven political bow to racism (yes, racism—I am actually calling them racists, although they pretend it hurts their feelings. Try reading their websites and see for yourself), and to nativism, to xenophobia and to Know-Nothingism. Just don’t forget what you are throwing away in the process."

* David Byrne on the lost art of album design and packaging. excerpt:

"We also tend to link things that aren’t really connected. It’s a neural tendency that probably has some very useful and practical applications, but these assumptions also lead us to make connections that are imaginary and unjustified. We connect the typefaces and designs of some fairly arbitrarily designed LP covers to the music inside that we know and love, as if the images actually embody some part of the music. Well, OK, if you want to be picky about it you probably can tell something about James Brown [Jungle Groove] by his choice of footwear as seen on that LP sleeve. But you learn nothing about the Kinks [Face to Face] from their sleeve. Our sense of the author and the music being represented and embodied graphically is imaginary. We see the music and its package as all of a piece. This of course is what good packaging does. Salty snacks and washing detergents are sold mostly based on their brightly colored packaging. Most people don’t make this assumption about books — we don’t assume that the cover of a book is a visual representation of the writing, as imagined by the author, but with music we sometimes do make this leap. Hence the love of LP sleeves… and even CD booklets.
"We presume these connections — author to package — with cultural products in ways we don’t with other stuff. No one stares enraptured at a Downy bottle while doing the laundry or at a Progresso can while opening a can of soup — there is no 'author' behind these packages. We are alienated from the creator in most industrial age mass-produced products. Imagine a pre industrial economy — it might be reasonable to presume that the craftsman who made it, whatever it is, can be sensed in the product. Maybe this is what we sense to some tiny extent in recorded music. A longed for human connection. Sensing this connection, this link, un-alienates us. The (sometimes) imaginary connection between the author and the packaging of his or her product is not in fact a direct link. It is a marketing button that the sales people have learned to press, over and over.
"Music didn’t always come in packages that presumed to represent the contents. Originally what you as a music consumer could buy was sheet music — which sometimes had the picture of the singer on the cover. Later, recordings — cylinders and 78s — usually came in generic sleeves. Only in the 50s with the advent of the Long Player did packaging that included large breasted women and snazzy typography become commonplace. The era of graphically packaged music may have had about a 50-year run.
"The role of graphic designers will change. Rather than being called upon to create one or two iconic images that are emblematic of an artist and a new product their job will be to imagine sets of links, connections and relationships…. and to make those visually enticing, fun and rewarding. I can’t imagine what exactly that might be, but it will be whole lot more than LP sleeves."

* Watch the films of William Burroughs.

May 22, 2006

I live sweat but I dream light years

Jean Dubuffet, Mêle Moments, 1976

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"10. Robert Ray

"And finally, it's time to cast our minds back for a moment to the Great Clinton Cock Hunt of the 1990s. Ah, those were the days - when the most egregious thing a president could do was get a little extra-curricular nookie in the White House. While Bill Clinton never lied the country into an illegal war, outed CIA agents for political gain, or wiretapped millions of American citizens without a warrant, his penis was of course responsible for evil-doing on a grand scale and had to be stopped by any means necessary.

"I know what you're thinking: if Republicans put the same amount of time and effort into catching Osama bin Laden that they spent investigating the presidential member, perhaps we might have caught the guy by now. Priorities, people, priorities! That penis was a weapon of mass destruction far more deadly than anything Saddam Hussein possessed. Er, didn't possess. And anyway, we all know that Republicans care so deeply about the 'rule of law' that if they had not tied up the government for years with investigations and impeachment proceedings over a private affair between two consenting adults while the 9/11 attacks were being planned, it would have been plain un-American.

"But back to the issue at hand: Robert Ray. He was the prosecutor who took over from Ken Starr after Starr finally masturbated himself unconscious in October 1999, and the investigation eventually fizzled out in 2002 after ten long years of crotch-sniffing.

"And two weeks ago Ray 'turned himself in to police ... on charges of stalking a former girlfriend,' according to the Washington Post. It seems that 'Ray's former girlfriend, a 40-year-old Manhattan woman, filed a complaint that he persisted in sending e-mail and knocking on her door months after she broke off their relationship.' Police charged him with a misdemeanor and he's due in court on June 12."

* the art of sport. excerpt:

"The art critic Dave Hickey builds his essay 'The Heresy of Zone Defense' (published in his 1997 collection 'Air Guitar') around another such moment of transcendent athletic beauty: Julius Erving driving baseline in the 1980 NBA Finals, veering though the air around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, under the backboard, and then, somehow, reaching back under the glass for a reverse layup. After the game, Magic Johnson joked that the Lakers weren't sure at the time whether to inbound the ball or ask Erving to do it again.

"'Everyone who cares about basketball knows this play,' Hickey writes, and it's true: Even for sports fans like myself who were merely toddlers in 1980, the words 'Dr. J' and 'reverse layup' are sufficient to summon the precise mental image.

"Hickey attributes the universal joy inspired by Erving's play to the fact that it 'was at once new and fair': within the rules of the game invented in 1891 by James Naismith, and yet impossible for Naismith (or anyone else, for that matter) to have anticipated until Dr. J actually pulled it off. The relationship between fair play and aesthetic appreciation may also explain why replays of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's record-setting 1998 home run chase felt breathtaking just a few years ago but now seem to have lost their capacity to inspire strong feelings.

"Hickey also writes of the aesthetic rewards reaped by attentive spectators who know 'what to watch for' (in basketball, according to Hickey, 'basically, everything'). As in art or music, such knowledge isn't strictly necessary but it deepens the aesthetic experience. I enjoy modern art, although I have only a layman's understanding of it. My sense of the beauty of Ray Allen's perfect jump-shooting form, on the other hand, is enhanced by the innumerable bricks I've hoisted over two decades of pickup hoops."
"David Foster Wallace devotes his essay 'How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart' to the conundrum. Onetime tennis phenom Austin disheartens Wallace because he can't reconcile her on-court brilliance, not only physical but mental, with her staggeringly insipid tennis memoir. It's certainly not a lack of intelligence, as Wallace points out: 'Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook, or at a basketball coach's diagram of a 3-2 zone trap.'

"Wallace ultimately concludes that looking to athletes for insights into the nature of athletic beauty discounts the possibility that athletes are capable of such feats precisely because they can 'invoke for themselves a cliché as trite as 'One ball at a time' or 'Gotta concentrate here,' and mean it and then do it.' Any of us in the stands or watching at home, under such circumstances and scrutiny, would buckle and fail precisely because we think too much (that, and the fact that most of us have mediocre hand-eye coordination and aren't in particularly good shape)."

* "Making things difficult for the reader is less an attack on the reader than it is on the age and its facile knowledge-market. The writer is driven by his conviction that some truths aren't arrived at so easily, that life is still full of mystery, that it might be better for you, Dear Reader, if you went back to the Living section of your newspaper because this is the dying section and you don't really want to be here." -- Don DeLillo, 1979

May 19, 2006

the pleasure seems to balance out the pain


One of the best I've read this year:

If you see something, say something
-- by Michael Brownstein

We need your help as an extra set of eyes and ears.
Unattended bags? Suspicious behavior?
Take notice of people in bulky or inappropriate clothing.
Report anyone tampering with video cameras or entering unauthorized areas.
If you see something, say something.

I see something.
I see a criminally insane person roaming the halls of the White House.
He believes he’s the president of the United States.
And I see a rotund bastard with a heart problem hovering in the background, pulling the strings.
His crooked smile lights the way to perdition.

In the early morning chill I see the streets of New York filled with people on their way to work.
We think we’re home free because John Ashcroft retired.
No more red alerts, no more terrorists disguised as tourists worming their way into town.
No more dirty bombs left in suitcases in Grand Central.
Little do we know. Little dare we surmise.

Like the rotund bastard with the heart problem said the other day, "You know, it’s not an accident that we haven’t been hit in four years."
What’s that supposed to mean? That sooner or later he’ll feel threatened enough to push the hot button again?
And when he does will he be in his secret, climate-controlled tunnel half-way between D.C. and Wyoming?
Far from the narrow, dark canyons of Manhattan?

If you see something, say something.
I see something.
I see the forgotten anthrax killers whose bioweapons source was not al-Qaeda but our own American arsenals.
I see no global war declared on Fort Detrick or the Dugway Proving Grounds, no troops deployed, no actions taken.
Our attention always focused somewhere out there (Iraq, North Korea, Iran), never in here.

If you see something, say something.
I see a billion dollars a week spent on this war rather than the two billion a year needed to lock down leaking Russian nuclear facilities.
I see the US military buying anthrax in violation of treaties limiting the spread of bioweapons.
I see nanotech embraced for mirage medical cures while its use for surveillance and control is ignored.
I see all of us innoculated into a state of permanent low-level

If you see something, say something.
I see something.
I see our Supreme Leader in the Oval Office fondling "the football," the top-secret suitcase with instructions to blow up the planet.
Sixteen years after the Berlin wall fell I see thousands of hydrogen bombs still on hair-trigger alert in Russia and the USA.
I see forty of those bombs aimed at New York City.

If you see something, say something.
I see our protective coating of ironic distance shielding us from the truth.
Over the phone I hear 'Have a nice day,' and 'Please speak to the system.'
And in the stores, behind the Christmas carols, I hear the whine of black helicopters making the world safe for democracy.
'Freedom!' I bark, and a miniature poodle on a leash barks back at me.

I see something.
I see the US holding the world for ransom.
Again and again the same words keep surfacing: 'the national interest, the national interest, the national interest.'
Reptilian brains having a toxic reaction to testosterone.
Plunging us all into the icy waters of selfish calculation.

If you see something, say something.
I see this trashed-out culture of ours approaching the wall.
Plant and animal species disappearing at warp speed.
Soil turned to dust, aquifers drained dry.
And I see it’s too painful to go there.

It’s too painful to go there, I’m headed outside for a smoke.
It’s too painful to go there, I’m busy learning Italian.
It’s too painful to go there, my therapist told me to stay positive.
She said that whatever I experience is up to me, that I create my own world.
My guru said the same thing.

But it’s funny, no matter what they say I keep seeing this weirdness out of the corner of my eye.
I see undercover agents on every transport platform, watching over my fellow Americans strapped into bucket seats.
I see my fellow Americans weighed down by schedules and cellphones and computers and wristwatches.
I see their children swallowing pharmaceuticals to get through the day.
While in nearby fields the birds and animals look on with infinite patience, waiting outside of clock time for us to burn out and disappear.

(The yellow-throated warbler singing, 'Is that the best you can do? Best you can do?' 'Is that the best you can do?')

I see something.
I see arbitrary national borders separating us from our humanity.
I hear the siren song of nationalism driving us onto the rocks.
9/11 and the war in Iraq no more than red herrings distracting us from this fact.
Cause Iraqis are people just like us. How can their deaths be worth less than ours?

I see it’s time for us to take a look in the mirror.
Notice the frightened children in there, wondering how they got into this mess.
Realize there’s no one in the whole wide world to blame.
Decide to risk everything and open our hearts.
That’s the one thing against which the rotund bastard has no defense.

If you see something, say something.
I see that even though my therapist charges a hundred and seventy-five an hour and my guru has a lifetime free pass, maybe they’re right.
I’m responsible for what’s happening to me.
My beliefs create my experience.
Otherwise why am I swallowed up in rituals of mutual self-destruction while outside a sweet wind blows through the trees?

Cause I see two wolves fighting in my heart, one vengeful and the other compassionate.
Which one will I feed today?
Will I behave as if the god in all of life matters?
Or will I come after you, blaming and accusing?
Which one will I feed today?

May 18, 2006

You're coming out of your shell
You've got a beautiful view

great jokers, Anne Berning

* clusterfuck nation on progressivism. excerpt:

"Progressivism also may have been fatally tied to the accompanying reality of robust industrial economic growth, which itself was tied to abundant new energy resources, mainly oil. The belief that more of everything would become available raised the moral issue of allocating it fairly. Since we now face declining energy resources, and perhaps long-range economic contraction, we would appear to also now face the awful task of allocating less of everything -- which may be as impossible in practice as it sounds."
"The entire thrust of American life the past forty years has been toward the privatization of public goods. That is why suburbia will turn out to be such a fiasco -- because the public realm, and everything in it, was impoverished, turned into a universal automobile slum, while the private realm of the house and the car was exalted. The private goods of suburbia will now have to be liquidated and we will be left with little more than parking lots and freeways too expensive to use.

"A true Progressivism of the years ahead has to begin by concerning itself with a redefinition of what our public goods really are -- and in practical, not abstract terms. That's why I harp on the project of restoring the railroad system. Not only will it benefit all classes of Americans in terms of sheer getting around, but it would put tens of thousands of people to work at something with real value. It would also begin the process of healing public space ravaged by cars for almost a hundred years."
"The obvious problem, of course, is that the American public doesn't want to make other arrangements. It wants desperately to hold onto the old arrangements. The nation is stuck with its enormous investments in car-dependency, and what has remained of our economy lately is devoted to creating even more of it -- in the face of signals that we won't be able to run it no matter how much people like it.

"Progress isn't what it used to be, and it isn't what it seems. If Americans get what they deserve they may give up on both progress and justice."

* From an excellent 1993 interview of david foster wallace. excerpt:

"But when you talk about Nabokov and Coover, you're talking about real geniuses, the writers who weathered real shock and invented this stuff in contemporary fiction. But after the pioneers always come the crank turners, the little gray people who take the machines others have built and just turn the crank, and little pellets of metafiction come out the other end. The crank-turners capitalize for a while on sheer fashion, and they get their plaudits and grants and buy their IRAs and retire to the Hamptons well out of range of the eventual blast radius.

"There are some interesting parallels between postmodern crank-turners and what's happened since post-structural theory took off here in the U.S., why there's such a big backlash against post-structuralism going on now. It's the crank-turners fault. I think the crank-turners replaced the critic as the real angel of death as far as literary movements are concerned, now. You get some bona fide artists who come along and really divide by zero and weather some serious shit-storms of shock and ridicule in order to promulgate some really important ideas. Once they triumph, though, and their ideas become legitimate and accepted, the crank-turners and wannabes come running to the machine, and out pour the gray pellets and now the whole thing's become a hollow form, just another institution of fashion.

"Take a look at some of the critical-theory Ph.D. dissertations being written now. They're like de Man and Foucault in the mouth of a dull child. Academia and commercial culture have somehow become these gigantic mechanisms of commodification that drain the weight and color out of even the most radical new advances. It's a surreal inversion of the death-by-neglect that used to kill off prescient art. Now prescient art suffers death-by acceptance. We love things to death, now. Then we retire to the Hamptons."

* Nick Hastad, in The Independant, rightly calls the opening line to Silver Jews' Random Rules "definitive," but then mis-states the line as "In 1984, I was hospitalised for gross imperfection," when we all know Berman actually wrote/sings "In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection." way to go, nick.

* Reminder for dc readers: the foreign press will be playing the black cat on Thursday June 8, opening for the dc experimental-pop band the caribbean.

* Long, Long list of 80s videos that are available on You Tube.

May 17, 2006

I wish they didn't put mirrors behind the bar

Still Life On A Matchbox Lid
-- by Charles Wright

The heart is colder then the eye is.
The watchers, the holy ones,
know this, no shortcut to the sky,
A single dog hair can split the wind.

If you want great tranquility,
it's hard work and a long walk.

Don't brood on the past.
The world is without appendages,
no message, no name.

I Am in Need of Music
-- by Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep

What We Want
-- by Linda Pastan

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names--
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don't remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

May 16, 2006

got on the bus half-drunk again the driver glared at me

ada and vincent in the car, alex katz (1972)

* Brian Eno's 1999 Wired article The Revenge of the Intuitive, [via] concludes:

"Since so much of our experience is mediated in some way or another, we have deep sensitivities to the signatures of different media. Artists play with these sensitivities, digesting the new and shifting the old. In the end, the characteristic forms of a tool's or medium's distortion, of its weakness and limitations, become sources of emotional meaning and intimacy.

"Although designers continue to dream of 'transparency' - technologies that just do their job without making their presence felt - both creators and audiences actually like technologies with 'personality.' A personality is something with which you can have a relationship. Which is why people return to pencils, violins, and the same three guitar chords."

* Molly Ivans: Could Lunacy Explain Bush's Policies? excerpt:

"Militarizing the border is a totally terrible idea. Do we have a State Department? Are they sentient? How much do you want to infuriate Mexico when it’s sitting on quite a bit of oil? Bush knows what the most likely outcome of this move will be. He was governor during the political firestorm that ensued when a Marine taking part in anti-drug patrols on the border shot and killed Esequiel Hernandez, an innocent goat herder from Redford, Texas. That’s the definition of crazy—repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

"I suppose politics could explain it, too. It’s quite possible that lunacy and politics are closely related. It’s still damned hard cheese for the Guard, though. The Guard is heavily deployed in Iraq, currently 20% of those serving, down from 40% last year. Some soldiers are sent back for multiple tours. Lt. Gen. James Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, said the Reserve is rapidly degenerating into “a broken force” and is “in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements.” Happy hurricane season to you, too. The Guard is also short on equipment and falling short on recruiting goals."
"The Washington Post editorialized, 'Budgetary dishonesty, distributional unfairness, fiscal irresponsibility—by now the words are so familiar, it can be hard to appreciate how damaging this fiscal course will be.'

"Both President Bush and Veep Cheney are still going around claiming if you cut taxes, your tax revenues increase. No, they don’t. Now we’re just in whackoville. It’s not true. Their own economists tell them it’s not true, but they go about claiming it is with the same desperate tenacity with which they clung to false tales of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How pathetic.

"Speaking of lunacy, the saddest report from Iraq is that American soldiers showing signs of psychological distress and depression are being kept on active duty, increasing the risk of suicide. The Hartford Courant reports that even soldiers who have already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome are kept on duty. This has led to an increase in the suicide rate—22 soldiers in 2005. And as I have reported before, the military is unprepared to deal with the flood of head cases coming back from Iraq. How many ways can we mistreat our own soldiers, while the right makes an elaborate show of devotion to 'the troops.'"
"As for the Iraq fantasy and those who pushed it on a reluctant country through lies, disinformation and bending intelligence—isn’t there a law against that?"

* From the June 2006 edition of Harper's:

-- Percentage change in U.S. discretionary spending during the first five years of George W. Bush's presidency: +35

-- Percentage change during Lyndon Johnson's and Bill Clinton's first five years, respectively: +25, -8

-- Percentage change since 1990 in the number of Americans who describe themselves as 'nonreligious': +106

-- Chances that an American says he or she uses the word 'fuck': 2 in 3

-- Amount a Pennsylvania t-ball coach paid a player last year to hit an autistic teammate with a ball: $25

May 15, 2006

the evening sun will be so sweet

manu parekh, untitled

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"8. Dick Cheney

"Last week Dick Cheney emerged as a key player in two different Bush Administration Scandals.

The New York Times reported that immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the Vice President 'argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants.' To those of you who try to argue that this is a completely sensible and legal position to take, I would draw your attention to the phrases 'purely domestic' and 'without warrants.' Last time I checked, the US Constitution -- including that whole annoying "Bill of Rights" part -- was still the law of the land.

"And Newsweek reported that some rather interesting vice-presidential chicken-scratchings are now a matter of public record in Patrick Fitzgerald's CIA Leak Case. On a copy of Joe Wilson's July 2003 New York Times Op-Ed, the revenge-crazed Vice-Leaker wrote:'"Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?' According to Newsweek, the handwritten notes 'appear to make Cheney an even more central witness than had been previously thought in the criminal probe.'

"Now there's a shocker! Who knew that Dick Cheney was actually the guy calling the shots in the Bush Administration? "

-- related: Steve Almond quits his postition as an adjunct professor of English at Boston College, after Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to speak at graduation. excerpt:

"But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq. My concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.

"She has lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy.

"The public record of her deceits is extensive. During the ramp-up to the Iraq war, she made 29 false or misleading public statements concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, according to a congressional investigation by the House Committee on Government Reform.

"To cite one example: In an effort to build the case for war, then-National Security Adviser Rice repeatedly asserted that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and specifically seeking uranium in Africa.

"In July of 2003, after these claims were disproved, Rice said: ''Now if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence . . . those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president, or to me.'

"Rice's own deputy, Stephen Hadley, later admitted that the CIA had sent her a memo eight months earlier warning against the use of this claim.

"In the three years since the war began, Rice has continued to misrepresent or simply ignore the truth about our deadly adventure in Iraq.

"Like the president whom she serves so faithfully, she refuses to recognize her errors or the tragic consequences of those errors to the young soldiers and civilians dying in Iraq. She is a diplomat whose central allegiance is not to the democratic cause of this nation, but absolute power.

"This is the woman to whom you will be bestowing an honorary degree, along with the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2006."

* The accounting behind Ikea. excerpt:

"Few tasks are more exasperating than trying to assemble flat-pack furniture from IKEA. But even that is simple compared with piecing together the accounts of the world's largest home-furnishing retailer. Much has been written about IKEA's remarkably effective retail formula. The Economist has investigated the group's no less astonishing finances.

"What emerges is an outfit that ingeniously exploits the quirks of different jurisdictions to create a charity, dedicated to a somewhat banal cause, that is not only the world's richest foundation, but is at the moment also one of its least generous. The overall set-up of IKEA minimises tax and disclosure, handsomely rewards the founding Kamprad family and makes IKEA immune to a takeover. And if that seems too good to be true, it is: these arrangements are extremely hard to undo. The benefits from all this ingenuity come at the price of a huge constraint on the successors to Ingvar Kamprad, the store's founder, to do with IKEA as they see fit.

"Although IKEA is one of Sweden's best-known exports, it has not in a strict legal sense been Swedish since the early 1980s. The store has made its name by supplying Scandinavian designs at Asian prices. Unusually among retailers, it has managed its international expansion without stumbling. Indeed, its brand—which stands for clean, green and attractive design and value for money—is as potent today as it has been at any time in more than 50 years in business.

"The parent for all IKEA companies—the operator of 207 of the 235 worldwide IKEA stores—is Ingka Holding, a private Dutch-registered company. Ingka Holding, in turn, belongs entirely to Stichting Ingka Foundation. This is a Dutch-registered, tax-exempt, non-profit-making legal entity, which was given the shares of Mr Kamprad in 1982. Stichtingen, or foundations, are the most common form of not-for-profit organisation in the Netherlands; tens of thousands of them are registered."

* "We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it means danger, revolution, anarchy." -- Henry Miller

May 12, 2006

I just want to be your tugboat captain

blooming, with birds, by dronepop

The Poem That Changed America's Diapers
--by klipschutz

It was fitty years ago tonite
Sargent Shriver taught us wrong from right

No wonder de Tokeville came from France
to knock out a book of quotations

A frontier lot we were, a load in our collective pants
City Slickers got released & then the sequel

The rest is not quite history but you’re getting warm
Coast to coast we’re clean as hounds’ teeth in the rear

& spend more on toilet training cats
Than certain U.N. members do on condoms

Thanks to Our Way Of Life & Miramax & Jerry Wexler
But mostly thanks to "Bowel"

Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk at Dinner
-- by Elizabeth Alexander

When people smoked, and it hung over the table like magic or like wisps of the talk and the music between them,

chicken bones, the best Chateaux, Coca-Cola in glass, Monk’s eyes cut left, Ornette laughing at something off-camera,

safari suit and Savile Row bespoke, haberdashery circa ’72 and the black globe is damn near free.

Deep sounds in the cusp and shift, in the sour and the off-notes you bang and you blow, in the butter, the biscuits, the bird carcass,

jelly, just what you wanted and all you can eat.

-- by William Carlos Williams

The city has tits in rows.
The country is in the main--male,
It butts me with blunt stub-horns,
Forces me to oppose it
Or be trampled.

The city is full of milk
And lies still for the most part.
These crack skulls
And spill brains
Against her stomach.

Fifteen False Propositions Against God - Section XIII
-- by Jack Spicer

Hush now baby don't say a word
Mama's going to buy you a mocking bird
The third
Joyful mystery.
The joy that descends on you when all the trees are cut down
and all the fountains polluted and you are still alive waiting
for an absent savior. The third
Joyful mystery.
If the mocking bird don't sing
Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring
The diamond ring is God, the mocking bird the Holy Ghost.
The third
Joyful mystery.
The joy that descends on you when all the trees are cut down
and all the fountains polluted and you are still alive waiting
for an absent savior.

May 11, 2006

the music swells somehow stronger from adversity

times square, 1909, photographer unknown

* Williams Rivers Pitt takes down Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. The smackdown concludes:

"This isn't Vietnam, Mr. Cohen. This is a whole new ballgame, and the stakes are higher by orders of magnitude. It took almost ten years of Vietnam for people to reach the boiling point you are so apparently horrified by (and worthy of note, that rage may have elected Nixon, but also served to stop the killing in Southeast Asia). Should those of us who are angry today wait until 2013 to raise hell?

"At a minimum, I suggest you head down to your local hardware store and buy a few sheets of 40-grit sandpaper. Apply it liberally - pardon the pun - to any and all parts of your body that may be exposed to the scary anger of the anti-war Left. Toughen up that hide of yours, and greet the coming days with a leathery mien impervious to a few angry emails.

"Afterwards, you could perhaps figure out why the anger of those who see this war as a crime and this administration as a disaster is so terribly threatening to you. Anger is a gift, after all, one that inspires change. If you don't think we need a change, real change, I can only shake my head.

"P.S. Another reason for the anger you have absorbed can be laid, frankly, at your own feet. There are enough of us around who can still remember your words from November of 2000: 'Given the present bitterness, given the angry irresponsible charges being hurled by both camps, the nation will be in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse. That man is not Al Gore. That man is George W. Bush.'

"Locate a mirror, Mr. Cohen. Stare deep within it. Know full well that today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, will recast all your yesterdays as having passed like a comforting dream. Your ability to remain within the safe bubble of the beltway clubhouse, drifting this way and that in some meandering, rudderless fog, has ended. Al Gore invented the internet, or so we are told, and some bright-eyed editor decided to staple your email address to the bottom of your works. Welcome to the age of electronic accountability."

* The 48 hour film project, which challenges participants to put together a 5 minute film over the course of a weekend, is screening the 100 entries from the Washington, D.C.-area, this week (screenings at 7pm and 9:30pm) at the American Film Institute.

* "The image of desolation has been an obsession for me since my first poems. To be precise, the desert was in me: from it was born . . . the motion and the feeling of infinity, of the primordial, of the decline into nothingness." -- Giuseppe Ungaretti

May 10, 2006

we can rock all day in rocking chairs of gold

ruth orkin, three white stoops, view from my window on West 88th St NYC 1952

-- by Harvey Shapiro

Drunk and weeping. It’s another night
at the live-in opera, and I figure
it’s going to turn out badly for me.
The dead next door accept their salutations,
their salted notes, the drawn-out wailing.
It’s we the living who must run for cover,
meaning me. Mortality’s the ABC of it,
and after that comes lechery and lying.
And, oh, how to piece together a life
from this scandal and confusion, as if
the gods were inhabiting us, or cohabiting
with us, just for the music’s sake.

-- by Claudia Emerson

The camera is trained on the door, no one
in the frame, only the dog sleeping. And then
finally, I see this was to surprise you,
filming your arrival, the dog's delight. Only now,
six years distant, can this seem scripted, meant:
the long, blank minutes she waited, absent
but there — behind the lens — as though she directs
me to notice the motion of her chest
in the rise and fall of the frame, and hear

to understand the one cough, nothing, the clearing
of her throat. Then, at last, you come home
to look into the camera she holds,
and past her into me — invisible, unimagined
other who joins her in seeing through our
transience the lasting of desire.

Nothing Ventured
-- by Kay Ryan

Nothing exists as a block
and cannot be parceled up.
So if nothing's ventured
it's not just talk;
it's the big wager.
Don't you wonder
how people think
the banks of space
and time don't matter?
How they'll drain
the big tanks down to
slime and salamanders
and want thanks?

May 9, 2006

we are real

david berman, technology, in the new edition of Soft Targets journal.

* The first issue of Soft Targets journal looks outstanding, featuring color and B&W artists from inside and outside the galleries, including Walid Raad, John Tremblay (Paula Cooper Gallery), Whitney Bedford(D’amelio Terras), Jason Fox (Feature, Inc.) Harun Farocki, and musician/artists D.C. Berman and Mick Barr. Interspersed with these artists and others are critical pieces by Jason Smith, Joan Retallack, and Wayne Koestenbaum; short fiction from Benjamin Weissman, Rachel Kushner, and multidisciplinary artists Stanya Kahn and Harriet “Harry” Dodge; and poetry from Dennis Cooper, Linh Dinh, Catherine Wagner, Carla Harryman, Matthew Rohrer, Martha Ronk, Mohammed Bennis, Dennis Phillips, Ben Lerner, and Lara Glenum, among others. Also included are several new translations, found images, contributions from the Office of Force Transformation and the Apocalypse de Saint-Sever, a License to Live mail-in insert, Treaty with France, and a mini-CD by NY sound artist teleseen affixed to the inside back cover.

Check the website for ordering information.

* the rude pundit:

"The resignation of CIA Director Porter 'Motherfucker' Goss is enmeshed in the mystery of a power struggle with John 'the Aforementioned Motherfucker' Negroponte, wrapped in Duke Cunningham's bribery scandal - now featuring Goss's third in command, 'Dusty' Foggo, covered in a sticky secret sauce that might just be spook and legislator spooge, involving a nine-fingered CIA agent with the easy-to-remember nickname of 'Nine Fingers,' hookers, and poker (or maybe, more appropriately, 'poke-him' parties). Considering how sleazy, cynical, and contemptuous of the nation the whole thing seems, the Rude Pundit wouldn't be surprised to learn that Nine Fingers lost his tenth digit in the particularly tight anus of a Shanghai prostitute. As far as potential scandals go, the whole thing is sweet-smelling enough to make you salivate like sniffin' Granny's boysenberry pies on a window sill.

"So now Bush gets to nominate a new Director of Central Intelligence, and he chooses Gen. Michael Hayden, one more motherfucker for the round table of motherfuckers. The quick rogue's gallery portrait features Hayden, as head of the NSA (a job that makes one a motherfucker by definition), carrying out and defending warrantless spying on Americans, missing little things like 9/11, and, in a precious moment, chastising a reporter for saying that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says that 'probable cause' must be involved in securing a warrant for search, which it does, which Hayden denied it did, which, you know, explains a fuck of a lot. (By the way, what is it with Republicans only paying attention to parts of the Amendments, like the whole 'well-regulated militia' thing in the Second Amendment? No wonder they're such bad fucks that they require hookers to get them off - good fucking requires nuance and attention to the full act, not dull head banging.)"
"This morning, National Security Adviser Stephen 'Yep, He's a Motherfucker' Hadley was on CNN calling Hayden 'an independent thinker. He has been not -- has not been shy about expressing his views.' Yet Hadley contradicted himself not a moment later when he said, '[Hayden] will view himself rightly as working very closely with Ambassador Negroponte to carry out the President's agenda.' A few minutes before, on Fox 'News,' Hadley was even more blatant: 'He's committed to the President's agenda.' Shouldn't the Director of Central Intelligence be committed to getting the right intelligence, no matter what the agenda? For if one is committed to an agenda, then one will make the 'facts' suit the agenda, and who knows what could happen if the CIA did that. We might go to war based on a false premise that intelligence was manipulated to prove...oh, shit, right."

--- related: Molly Ivans on
the best little whorehouse in Washington. excerpt:

"I don’t care what anyone smoked 20 years ago, I approve of those who boogie till they puke, and I don’t care who anyone in politics is screwing in private, as long as they’re not screwing the public.

"On other hand, if you expect me to pass up a scandal involving poker, hookers and the Watergate building with crooked defense contractors and the No. 3 guy at the CIA, named Dusty Foggo (Dusty Foggo?! Be still my heart), you expect too much. Any journalist who claims Hookergate is not a legitimate scandal is dead—has been for some time and needs to be unplugged. In addition to sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, Hookergate is rife with public-interest questions, misfeasance, malfeasance and non-feasance, and many splendid moral points for the children. Recommended for Sunday school use, grades seven and above.

"But for starters, let us consider the unenviable record of Porter Goss at the CIA. From the beginning of his tenure, Goss has been criticized for politicizing the agency. He brought a bunch of political hacks with him for staff, one of whom turns out to be the poker player called 'Nine Fingers.' And in the end, he was probably fired for not having politicized the agency sufficiently.

"What is the point of politicizing an intelligence agency? So the CIA officials would get a report from some agent in Iraq saying, 'Looks bad.' The first thing they’d ask was, 'Is this agent a Republican or a Democrat?'
"Next, we need to contemplate sincere, old-fashioned, non-ideological greed, theft and bribery. In the beginning, there was only Duke Cunningham, the high-living, fun-loving super-patriot congressman from San Diego. His yacht was called The Duke-Stir, and he had nice taste in 19th century French commodes. While we all are happy to see our elected representatives enjoying themselves in Washington, that’s real people’s money. Actually, the yacht and commode were paid for by defense contractor Brent Wilkes (keep an eye on that player). It was people’s money that paid for the defense contracts Wilkes allegedly bribed public officials into landing for his clients.

"The former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin—that would be the DHS equivalent of a police department’s internal affairs chief—tried to blow the whistle on shady contracts at DHS and instead was thrown overboard himself. Folks, we’ll never get government straightened out again if we don’t keep the IGs strong and independent.

"If the Bush administration continues to fall apart at this clip, I think we’ll be grateful for incompetence as an excuse."

* Hunter S. Thompson on George W. Bush:

-- "He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer. I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humor. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away." -on meeting George W Bush at Thompson's Super Bowl party in Houston in 1974

-- "Bush is a natural-born loser with a filthy-rich daddy who pimped his son out to rich oil-mongers. He hates music, football and sex, in no particular order, and he is no fun at all."

May 8, 2006

I'm not ready to face a thing today

money creates taste, jenny holzer

* Wolcott. excerpt:

"A note about the Stephen Colbert monologue at the Correspondents' Dinner that Elisabeth Bumiller seems to have slept through face-down in her entree. No question the stint played better on TV than it did in the room with C-SPAN cutting to gowned lovelies in the audience with glaceed expressions and tuxedo'd men making with the nervous eyes, but to say he 'bombed' or 'stunk up the place' (Jonah Goldberg's usual elegance) is wishful thinking on behalf of the wishful thinkers on the right, who have nothing but wishful thinking to prop them up during the day.

"I know what bombing looks like. It looks like Don Imus when he did a standup monologue before President and Hillary Clinton, and went over so badly that sweat broke out in rivulets down his face and in parts unseen. What triggered the perspiration cascade was a sexual innuendo about how Clinton rooted for his favorite football team by yelling, 'Go baby!' at the TV, which Imus remarked was probably not the first time he had voiced such a giddyup--an allusion to Clinton's poontang exploits, if you'll pardon the expression. Imus gave such a crass performance and caused such embarrassment to himself and everybody in the room that there were calls for apologies and he was in danger of being as contaminated as Whoopie Goldberg and Ted Danson briefly were after their unfortunate blackface episode.

"See, that was Colbert's mistake. He didn't slip in any smutty lines. Had he done so, his standup would have been impossible to ignore as the Fox News hotheads would have gone into full outrage mode to defend the honor of Laura Bush and her virgin ears. Instead, Colbert was cool, methodical, and mercilessly ironic, not getting rattled when the audience quieted with discomfort (and resorting to self-deprecating 'savers,' as most comedians do), but closing in on the kill, as unsparing of the press as he was of the president. I mean no disrespect to Jon Stewart to say that in the same circumstances, he would have resorted to shtick; Colbert didn't. Apart from flubbing the water-half-empty joke about Bush's poll ratings, he was in full command of his tone, comic inflection, and line of attack. The we-are-not-amused smile Laura Bush gave him when he left the podium was a priceless tribute to the displeasure he incurred. To me, Colbert looked very relaxed after the Bushes left the room and he greeted audience members, signed autographs. And why wouldn't he be? He achieved exactly what he wanted to achieve, delivered the message he intended to deliver. Mission accomplished."

* Video of Billie Holliday singing Fine and Mellow, from 1957.

* Interivew of George Saunders. [via] excerpt:

BT: You pick up on a sort of campy but unsettling beauty in the way we all agree to talk in conversation, in meetings, on TV. How do you go about making that literary?

George Saunders: I never had a sense of what literary language should be like, and when I tried to do it, it always came out like Thomas Wolfe on quaaludes — where you describe the same thing three times. 'The black table... The flat ebony plane...' So then I started to think that maybe the natural, inadvertent poetics was right. I suppose for me it came out of my unconventional background as a writer. Everywhere I went, expression was imperfect, but expression was also poetic. In Chicago, where I grew up, people didn't often sit down and express their feelings directly. There were always these beautiful indirect expressions. And in the corporate world there was this weird indirection, as well. Even when I overhear somebody on their cell phone up here on campus. If you forget the phone, and just think of it as a poem, it's unbelievable: 'Mom, I told this fucking guy I was too hungover! What are you talking about, Mom? I was too wasted, I couldn't call you.' The idea is that you have to listen, and then you purify it a little bit."
BT: Last year, you published the novella The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. Have you ever been tempted to try a novel?

GS: Well, I interviewed Jhumpa Lahiri here last night as part of the Syracuse lectures series. She said something really interesting: that when she went from the story to the novel she could just feel that the DNA of it was different. And I don't know that I've really felt that — with Phil or with the other novellas. My initial tendency is always to rush to the door, finish the story, and get the hell out. But with the novellas I realized that, while I still did want to rush to the door, I had these six bags that I had to move one at a time. So it really wasn't fundamentally different in the execution. It's funny, in each case, I would try to go for 50 more pages, but no way. There's some sort of fundamental switch that has to be thrown before it can go for three of four hundred pages. You can't just keep the exposition going at the price of the rising action. So in that story, I had all this nice side stuff, but it just slowed everything down so it had to come out.

* "Each time you find yourself at a turning point, the best thing is to lie down and let hours pass. Resolutions made standing up are worthless: they are dictated either by pride or by fear. Prone, we still know these two scourges, but in a more attenuated, more intemporal form." - E M Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

May 5, 2006

I was in a three-piece band
And there were no strings

Julie Mehretu, Renegade Delirium, 2002

The Movie Version
-- by Elaine Equi

I am reading Emily Dickinson
when suddenly her poem begins speaking
in the voice of Mia Farrow - a young Mia
as she was in Rosemary’s Baby

recites: "Heart! We will forget him!
You and I - tonight!" with resolution
in her strange faux English accent
as if she were speaking about Frank Sinatra.

And later I hear Haley Mills and Grace Kelly
try on the same line but with less conviction
so ultimately, it is Mia Farrow who stars
in my movie version, with her long hair

dyed blue-black and later crew-cut.
Mia Farrow who stands at the top of a stair
clutching a knife. "You may forget the warmth
he gave - I will forget the light!"

Mia Farrow in Victorian nightgown. Mia Farrow
in a poorboy and skirt, walks by herself,
visiting each word slowly as if it were a grave
on which she places the next word.

"When you have done pray tell me
That I may straight begin!"
Mia Farrow hails a cab. "Haste! lest while
you’re lagging I remember him!"

The Banal
-- by Elaine Equi

Even with its shitload of artifacts, the everyday is radiant, while the banal is opaque and often obscure. I prefer the latter, with its murky agate, mushroom, ochre background music - its corridor of lurk. One hardly knows where one stands with/in the banal. Walls come together with hardly a seam. Wherever we are, we feel we have always been. Poe, for all his special effects, is rather banal in his approach to the supernatural, i.e. overly familiar. Against the inarticulate velvet of this mood, one grasps at the everyday for relief. Thus any object can bring us back with the fast-acting power of aspirin. Any object shines.

Fantasy Block
-- by Ron Padgett

I would like to have a sexual fantasy
about the young girl I see in the gym,
the one who undulates up and down
on an aerobic machine revealing
the smooth skin of her lower back
as it swells out toward her hips,
her hair pulled up in back
with a tortoiseshell clasp
and a misty blush spreading
from her high cheekbones back
to her ears in each of which
a small silver ring is glittering,
but I can’t think of anything.

-- by Edmund Berrigan

Another milkman stitched
His portico in shower silk
A daily slog of chemical activity
Mourn o falsetto would you be xtian
Where down by the wheel we all like to kneel
Joint cut plastic kiss on the potable edge
This is where hallucinations struggle to lose
A hill patched with flowers and bees
Diffident strides a-pondering
Crying to the mothridden archetypes of Seth
For subjects with whom to objectify with death
To decipher the ornament I retrieve my mount
When alcohol was a nation with a drawer full of stallions

May 4, 2006

Well I rode out to the ocean
And the water looked like tarnished gold

The Silver Jews performing at the 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA, March 10, 2006. Photo: Brian Farinas.

-- from artforum (by Friedrich Kunath):

"After fourteen years making music, the Silver Jews, led by poet-singer David Berman, went on tour for the first time, starting on March 10 at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA. I had never previously been in an audience that was as nervous as the band performing, but our worries were unwarranted—what transpired was the most heartfelt concert I have ever seen. When David's wife, Cassie, in a song about addiction, mused, 'If it gets really, really bad / if it ever gets really, really bad,' and he responded, 'Let's not kid ourselves / it gets really, really bad,' we realized that their call-and-responses would be the first we could all relate to.

* In DC? Mark Your Calendars for Thursday June 8, 2006. That evening the foreign press are playing the black cat, supporting the acclaimed dc band the caribbean. doors @ 9pm.

* From the May 2006 Harper's:

-- Number of times that Mary, Jesus' mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19, 34

-- Percentage change last year in the number of CDs sold at Starbucks: + 307

-- Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1

-- Estimated number of Ugandan prisoners who escaped in February while guards celebrated the president's reelection: 400

* Apparently May is National Masturbation Month. from the essay at the link, we learn, among other things, that:

"the word 'testify' tells us a little something about masturbation and truth, coming, as it does, from the same Latin root as the words 'testament,' 'testimony,' and 'testicles.' See, way back in Old Testament times, when our forefathers swore an oath, they didn't put their hands on the Bible, because these were Bible times, and the Bible hadn't been written yet. When our forefathers testified, they put their hands on their testicles. That's right, they swore by their family jewels! Telling the truth (for a man) was assured by the public act of squeezing, stroking or gently cupping one's sac. "


"Mark Twain, in between penning literary masterpieces, spoke of masturbation with satiric yet compassionate, truthtelling eloquence: 'to the lonely it is company; to the forsaken it is a friend; to the aged and impotent it is a benefactor; they that are penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion.'

* From Jules et Jim: a clip of Jeanne Moreau singing.

* The Hungry Cabbie picks up an old friend of Bob Dylan. excerpt:

"I picked up a fifty-something blond woman in Chelsea, and we drove in silence across the 59th Street Bridge toward LaGuardia Airport. I had been listening to a Dylan mix tape when she got in, and once Tombstone Blues was over, I popped in a Springsteen tape.'Who is this?' she asked. 'This is The Boss . . . and before that we were listening to Dylan,' I told her, happy to break the silence. 'Oh, I know that was Dylan, I used to live with him,' she said with a smirk. That is the type of comment I don’t just let go. She was a little reluctant to talk about it, but I threatened to pull the cab over if she didn’t give up the story.

"It turns out she lived with Bob Dylan in The Village during the Gaslight coffee house era of early 60’s. She admitted, without a hint of shame in her voice (good for her), that she’d been a Playboy bunny at the now long-defunct Playboy Club. Dylan took a liking to her, and they had about a six month fling.

"Other old New Yorkers have told me, and she confirmed, that housing was much more fluid back then. People moved in an out of apartments all the time. Living together was not nearly as big a deal then as it is today. I wanted to know if he sang to her, and she responded very abruptly 'no.'

"She also went on a few dates with Woody Allen around the same time. She must have been one hell of a bunny. The real kick in the ass was, not only did Dylan not sing to her, Woody Allen never told her jokes. What was the point?"

May 3, 2006

I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade

When Dylan Left Hibbing, Minnesota, August 1959
-- by John Hodgen

Not even Dylan then, more like David the Blue-Eyed Shepherd Boy Giant Killer instead, the way he must have looked in those Golden Book Illustrated Bible Stories we never read, the ones with the pictures of the prophets, each with a gold record stuck to his head, or like the Classic Comics Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov rocking and rolling on his bed, heading on down the highway out of St. Petersburg, the landlord's axe still in the shed, throwing stones at all the stop signs a-bleeding in his head.

Wasn't he a singing terrorist then, slaying us in the aisles, knocking us dead, like some wild-eyed kid from Fallujah now, his machine gun guitar slipped over his head, his ass in a sling, his mind full of dynamite, his righteous streets turning red, his only song his heaven's door, toward which he runs, arms outspread. Oh, Zimmerman, we never heard a single word you ever said, from Ararats to ziggurats, from alpha down to zed, our heads cut off, our tongues cut out, no words left to be said, all the things we've ever loved, dead, dead, dead, dead.

-- by Frank Stanford

while my mother is washing the black socks
Of her religion,
I climb out of the washtub,
Stinking clean like the moon and the suds
In my ass,
The twenty she earned last week in my teeth,
My shoes and my pistol wrapped in my pants,
Slip off the back porch
And head down the road, buck naked and brave,
But lonely, because it's fifteen hours
By bus to the capital
And nobody will know
How it feels to nail down a heart
Black as tarpaper.
Mother, when you beat out my quilt tomorrow,
Remember the down in the sunlight,
Because I did not sleep there.
Remember, come evening, the last hatch of mayflies,
Because I won't.
They are evil, mother, and I am
Going to take it all out, in one motion,
The way you taught me to clean a fish,
Until all that is left is the memory of their voice,
And I will work that dark loose
From the backbone with my thumb.
Mother, the sad dance on fire.

Miles Davis On Art
-- by Lawrence Raab

"The only way to make art," Miles Davis
said, "is to forget what is unimportant."
That sounds right, although the opposite
also feels like the truth. Forget
what looks important, hope it shows up.

later to surprise you. I understand
he meant you've got to clear
your mind, get rid of everything
that doesn't matter. But how can you tell?
Maybe the barking of a dog at night.

is exactly what you need
to think about. "Just play within
the range of the idea,"
Charlie Parker said. The poem
that knows too quickly what's important

will disappoint us. And sometimes
when you talk about art
you mean it, sometimes you're just
fooling around. but once he had the melody
in place, he could never leave it behind

and go where he wanted, trusting
the beautiful would come to him, as it may
to a man who's worked hard enough
to be ready for it. And he was,
more often than not. That was what he knew.

May 2, 2006

A cold and fruity drink awaits us both

George Grosz, self portrait with model, 1928

potheads and sudafed, by john tierney. excerpt:

"Police officers in the 1960’s were fond of bumper stickers reading: 'The next time you get mugged, call a hippie.' Doctors today could use a variation: 'The next time you’re in pain, call a narc.'

"Washington’s latest prescription for patients in pain is the statement issued last week by the Food and Drug Administration on the supposed evils of medical marijuana. The F.D.A. is being lambasted, rightly, by scientists for ignoring some evidence that marijuana can help severely ill patients. But it’s the kind of statement given by a hostage trying to please his captors, who in this case are a coalition of Republican narcs on Capitol Hill, in the White House and at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"They’ve been engaged in a long-running war to get the F.D.A. to abandon some of its quaint principles, like the notion that it’s not fair to deny a useful drug to patients just because a few criminals might abuse it. The agency has also dared to suggest that there should be a division of labor when it comes to drugs: scientists and doctors should figure out which ones work for patients, and narcotics agents should catch people who break drug laws."
"This month, pharmacists across the country are being forced to lock up another menace to society: cold medicine. Allergy and cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical that can illegally be used to make meth, must now be locked behind the counter under a provision in the new Patriot Act.

"Don’t ask what meth has to do with the war on terror. Not even the most ardent drug warriors have been able to establish an Osama-Sudafed link."
"The Sudafed law gives you a preview of what’s in store if Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, succeeds in giving the D.E.A. a role in deciding which new drugs get approved. So far, despite a temporary success last year, he hasn’t been able to impose this policy, but the F.D.A.’s biggest fear is that Congress will let the drug police veto new medications. In that case, who would ever develop a better painkiller? The benefits to patients would never outweigh the potential inconvenience to the police.

"Officially, the D.E.A. says it wants patients to get the best medicine. But look at what it’s done to scientists trying to study medical marijuana. They’ve gotten approval for their experiments from the F.D.A., but they can’t get the high-quality marijuana they need because the D.E.A. won’t allow it to be grown. The F.D.A. actually wants to know if the drug works, but the D.E.A. is following the just-say-know-nothing strategy: as long as researchers can’t study marijuana, they can’t come up with evidence that it’s effective."

* Coffee crisis on horizon. excerpt:

"Coffee futures may spike next year because of a looming shortage of green coffee beans caused by growing consumer demand coupled with an off year in Brazil's biennial crop cycle. Still, coffee traders have not yet priced in the risk of a deficit, reducing the probability that roasters will soon raise their list prices, which are used as a measure for setting prices for coffee shipped to supermarkets and store chains.

"The International Coffee Organization expects world production in the 2006/07 season to reach 120 million 60-kg bags, up from about 107 million bags the previous season, thanks in large part to top coffee grower Brazil. That's the good news. The trouble is that carryover stocks are low, consumption is rising and the coffee harvest in Brazil, which annually produces between 30-40 percent of world output, is based on a biennial cycle.

"Brazilian coffee officials put the 2006/07 (July/June) crop at 40.62 million 60-kg bags, up 23 percent from the previous season due to an uptrend in arabica's biennial crop cycle. But the country's 2007/08 harvest could drop to about 37 million bags, according to a Reuters poll earlier this month.Global coffee consumption in 2006 is forecast between 118 and 123 million bags. And future supply may not be enough to cover growing demand fueled largely by emerging coffee markets in Asia and eastern Europe, as well as in producing countries."

* "You can travel fifty thousand miles in America without once tasting a piece of good bread." -- Henry Miller

* Talking Heads demos. [via]

May 1, 2006

Let's impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

* Neil Young interview. Stream the new album, Living with War, here. The Chicago Tribune on Living with War. excerpt:

"The mix places the singer's guitar and voice on the same plain as Chad Cromwell's drums and Rick Rosas' bass. On about half the songs, Young has to fight to be heard above the instruments, and his voice quivers with conviction. The production befits a garage-rock band lacking both rehearsal time and a recording budget; the trio roars to life as if responding to a starter's pistol, latches on to a sliver of a melody, and then rides it without letup. Several of the songs were written and recorded in a single day, and they sound like it; the unvarnished immediacy is jarring -- and thrilling.

"There is little of the epic ebb and flow that Young conjures from Crazy Horse, the band with whom he records most of his electric rock albums. Even Young's craggy guitar solos aren't much in evidence. In their stead is a furious forward momentum, punctuated by a choir that lends an almost celebratory air to the outraged 'Let's Impeach the President.' Even those who disagree with Young's views ('Let's impeach the president for lying/And leading our country into war/Abusing all the power that we gave him/And shipping all our money out the door') may not be able to deny a performance that rolls like a tidal wave: Call it a punk-gospel anthem.

"Sprinkled among the scorched-earth commentaries ('Restless Consumer,' 'Shock and Awe,' 'Looking for a Leader') are more personal stories that have nothing to do with misguided foreign policy or propagandizing media. Instead, they focus on the war's personal toll ('Families,' 'Roger and Out'). Young sets aside the finger-pointing at album's end, with his choir singing 'America the Beautiful.' It's the sound of human voices trying to drown out the bombs.

* Boston Globe: Bush claims the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office. excerpt:

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
Without court involvement, only Congress can check a president who goes too far. But Bush's fellow Republicans control both chambers, and they have shown limited interest in launching the kind of oversight that could damage their party.

"'The president is daring Congress to act against his positions, and they're not taking action because they don't want to appear to be too critical of the president, given that their own fortunes are tied to his because they are all Republicans,' said Jack Beermann, a Boston University law professor. 'Oversight gets much reduced in a situation where the president and Congress are controlled by the same party.'

Said Golove, the New York University law professor: 'Bush has essentially said that 'We're the executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch 'to exercise some self-restraint.' But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

"'This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy,' Fein said. 'There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power.'"

* Forbes lists 'nuppie' beers. definition of 'nuppie' here.