December 22, 2006

it's chrismas time in the mountains

Bryan Gysin, Play it Cool, 1963

Christmas Morning Without Presents: The Depression, Granite City, Illinois
-- by Ellery Akers

It is 1929. The moon falls on the floor,
the pantry is empty, beans hardening like rocks in the
No, you did not expect this.
The same cracked wall with its stains,
odor of your mother's cleaning fluid,
curtains with their clean hems,
blowing in and out.
You touch the bones and lumps of the chair,
the broken wireless with its dial, you pick up a spoon,
and it's cold. A clock ticks. The chipped plates
fill up with the moon.
You look back at the window,
tubes and vats of the factories
quiet for once.
The garbage truck rolls up the alley,
the bristles of the streetcleaner's brush rasp on the
Your hand closes on the doorknob, quietly.
You begin to carry the stone of your childhood:
The moon. The empty room. It will be yours.

Keeping Things Whole
-- by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

* A Junky's Christmas, by Mr. William Burroughs.

* In DC? The Foreign Press have two January shows:

-- Saturday January 13, 2007 Dust Congress Presents An Evening of Music and Film featuring:

The Foreign Press and Let's French (and TBD)@ DCAC (adams morgan, wdc). FREE. doors at 9pm.

-- Sunday January 7, 2007 @ the red and the black. with Sweater Weather and Mikal Evans. $7. doors at 9pm. we go on last.

Happy Holidays. Posting light, if at all, till next year.

December 21, 2006

The bridges burst and twist around

Richard Tuttle, Step by Step, 2002

* The Economist on measuring happiness. excerpt:

"The hedonimeter was never invented, and for a century or so economists fell silent about both weights on man's scales. They studied outward behaviour, not inward feelings; choices made, not pleasures taken. But in recent years, economists have become newly confident that they can measure utility as Bentham conceived it: as a quantum of pleasure or pain.

"How do they do it? Mostly they just ask people. Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2002, reckons people are not as mysterious as less nosy economists supposed. 'The view that hedonic states cannot be measured because they are private events is widely held but incorrect,' he and his colleagues argue. Generally, people can say how they feel at a given moment, on a scale of zero to ten.

"And if this smacks of hearsay not science, the new 'hedonimetrists' can appeal to other kinds of evidence, better calculated to impress. They can look into people's eyes; or better still, their brains. People who confess to feeling happy also grin more than others. And they mean it: they smile with their eyes (a contraction of the orbicularis oculi facial muscles), not just their mouths. People's self-reports also tally roughly with what electrodes planted on their scalp reveal about the frequency and voltage of electrical waves in their left forebrain, which sparks up when they are feeling good."
"For many people, work is—as traditional economics assumes—just a way to pay the rent. But Carlyle is not the only one to see it as much more than that. In a string of experiments, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, of Claremont Graduate University, has handed out pagers to thousands of people who agreed to log their mood whenever prompted to do so. People were, unsurprisingly, at their happiest when eating, carousing or pottering around the garden. But some fortunate people also found deep satisfaction from losing themselves in their work: 'forgetting themselves in a function', as W.H. Auden put it."

* New Smog/Bill Callahan song, Sycamore.

* Judge orders that Organist Gets 40% Credit for Procol Harum’s 'Whiter Shade of Pale'. excerpt:

"Yesterday, London’s high court awarded Matthew Fisher, the band’s former organist, 40% of the song’s future earnings, reported Reuters. The judge seemed to enjoy Fisher’s haunting keyboards: 'I find that the organ solo is a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and, quite obviously, the product of skill and labor on the part of the person who created it.' The judge dismissed Fisher’s claim to past royalties because he had 'sat back' for nearly 40 years before asserting his claim.

"Until now, credit had gone to the band’s lead singer Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid. On the Procol Harum Web site, which has pictures of the litigants, Brooker says he’s 'shocked and dismayed' by the claim. ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ was written by Keith Reid and me before Matthew even joined the band,” he says. They said yesterday that they will appeal the ruling."

* "It is all well and good for children and acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus— but it is still a profoundly morbid day for us working professionals. It is unsettling to know that one out of every twenty people you meet on Xmas will be dead this time next year....Some people can accept this, and some can't. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in $300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season." -- Hunter S. Thompson

December 20, 2006

We're gonna find the meaning of feeling good
and we're gonna stay there as long as we think we should

Alfred Leslie, Untitled, 1960, Mixed media and collage on board

I Live in the Twentieth Century
-- by Richard Brautigan

I live in the Twentieth Century
and you lie here beside me. You
were unhappy when you fell asleep.
There was nothing I could do about
it. I felt hopeless. Your face
is so beautiful that I cannot stop
to describe it, and there's nothing
I can do to make you happy while
you sleep.

-- by John Brehm

It is to the small satisfactions
we must return, for surely
the great ones fail us.
The unexpected face, the way
evening's slow descent, when
everything is poised for her
arrival, astonishes the day.
And then the steady, familiar
things, houses and trees, suddenly
precise, alive and themselves.
These will do for us now,
now that we have given up on
matters of brooding consequence,
now that such a leisure
of wind, studying the leaves
more closely, lifts them up,
bright in the pure, black air.

From His Bed in the Capital City
-- by David Berman

The highway commissioner dreams of us.
we are driving by christmas tree farms
wearing wedding rings with on / off switches,
composing essays on leg room in our heads.

We know there is a policy like ice sculpture,
policy that invisibly dictates the shape
of the freeway forests and the design
of the tollbooths that passing children
send their minds into.

Photography's remainder is sound and momentum,
which were we looking to pare off the edges
of the past anyway, so snapshots of mom
with a kitchen table hill of cocaine
or the dog frozen in the attitude
of eating raw hamberger
get filed under "misc. americana,"
though only partially contained there,
as beads of sap are always leaking
from the columns of the bar graph.

The voices of the bumperstickers tangle in our heads
like cafeteria noise and we can't help but be aware
that by making this trip, by driving home for christmas,
we are assuming some classic role.
It is the role he has cast us in: "holiday travelers."

He dreams us safely into our driveways
and leaves us at the flickering doors.

Coming To This
-- by Mark Strand

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

December 19, 2006

some people seem so obsessed with the morning

Frank Stella, Fez(2), 1964

* From January 2007 edition Harper's Magazine:

-- Estimated number of gallons of extra gasoline burned each year because Americans are overweight: 938,000,000

-- Percentage of their total cost that five audited Iraqi reconstruction projects spent of overhead costs: 35

-- Average number of months after workers and equipment were ordered to Iraq that substantial work on the projects began: 6

-- Minimum number of South Africans who do their banking entirely by mobile phone: 500,000

-- Amount a Rhode Island man received in a settlement last year over his faulty penile implant: $400,000

-- Number of years he has had an erection: 10

* America's biggest cash crop? Marijuana.excerpt:

"Marijuana is the most valuable cash crop in the United States, worth more to its growers than corn and wheat combined, according to a new report by a leading American drug reform lobbyist that cites the US government's own figures.

"Decades of government efforts to crack down on both the cultivation and consumption of pot have had a counter-productive effect, since even the most conservative government estimates suggest domestic marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past 25 years. It is the leading cash crop in 12 states, and one of the top five crops in 39 states."
"Since the presidency of George Bush Snr in the late 1980s, official policy has been one of zero tolerance of all illegal narcotics. Recently, the federal government has been unforgiving of the medical marijuana movement, and federal agents have raided numerous marijuana farms that were fully licensed under state law.

"It has not cut down use of the drug. Mr Gettman and other activists argue that it might be time to legalise the entire industry and subject it to proper regulatory control and taxation.

"'The fact that marijuana is America's number-one cash crop after more than three decades of governmental eradication efforts is the clearest illustration that our present marijuana laws are a complete failure,' said Rob Kampia, executive director of Washington's Marijuana Policy Project."

* "Poetry’s oldest duty is preservation. The life we live eludes us as we live it, and when we are old we cannot credit what we have lost — measured by the fragments that we keep." -- Donald Hall

December 18, 2006

Watching landscape roll out like credits on a screen

Ilya Bolotowsky, Scarlet Diamond, 1981

* Joe Conason: For a Real Change in Iraq, Negotiate. excerpt:

"Before the publication of the Iraq Study Group report, predictions abounded that the committee, chaired by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton, would offer little new and nothing radical. Bipartisan mush in soft covers seemed the most likely product of any Washington group whose first imperative was unanimity."
"Its recommendations on security and military forces, for example, begin with a clear admonition: 'There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq.' Which is obvious enough, except to a few politicians and commentators urging an impossible escalation of tens of thousands of troops. Then the same section goes on to urge the Iraqi government—as the report repeatedly does throughout its 100 pages—to 'accelerate the urgently needed national reconciliation program to which it has already committed.'

"In other words, any changes in military policy are ancillary to negotiations among the warring factions (and their foreign sponsors). Actually, the report is quite explicit in demanding that the authorities in Baghdad and Washington sit down with their armed opponents to talk about every relevant issue—including the date for the withdrawal of American troops.

"Outlining the steps that the Bush administration can take to assist in reconciliation, the report recommends open negotiations on the presence of American forces. Although the committee members oppose setting any timetables or deadlines for withdrawal, they acknowledge that the insurgents must be convinced that a 'successful national reconciliation dialogue will advance that departure date.' Recommendation 34 deserves to be quoted in full: 'The question of the future US force presence must be on the table for discussion as the national reconciliation dialogue takes place. Its inclusion will increase the likelihood of participation by insurgents and militia leaders, and thereby increase the possibilities for success.'"
"Equally critical to the advancement of negotiations—with both the internal enemies of the Iraqi government and neighboring states—is a plain statement by President Bush that the United States has no plans for permanent military bases in Iraq and no desire to control its oil resources. The ambitions once cherished by neoconservatives must be explicitly abandoned.

"Whether this plan can accomplish broad pacification and the eventual disarming of the militias and insurgents, as envisioned by the Iraq Study Group, is subject to doubt. The appalling and senseless attacks on innocent civilians that occur every day do not encourage hope. But the time has come to insist on realistic measures that will permit most of our troops to come home within the coming year. Unless the president understands that he must pursue negotiation and amnesty rather than an illusory victory, his promised 'change of course' will only be more of the same, and worse."

* Old Bookslut interview of author David Markson. excerpt:

Bookslut: How does it make you feel, not being as widely acclaimed as many of us believe you should be? Is it frustrating?

Markson: Listen, you write the way you do because you have to, and because it's who you are. But nice things happen too, reputation or no. Just recently, for example, a letter from someone here in town, whom I don't know at all, wanting nothing, simply telling me that if I need anything -- if I want to say 'lift this' or 'move that' -- I should give him a call. Or someone else, saying that he's recently read Wittgenstein for a second time, and that he did it aloud, sitting alone in his apartment and speaking the entire book to himself, simply to capture the rhythms and taking two days to do so. Or then again, on a much more concrete level, at least two books about my work are being written that I'm aware of, and several essays or chapters in critical studies, and so forth. What more can someone in my position ask for? In some small way you're finally paying back the debt you owe to those books that moved you and got you started in the first place -- books like Lowry's, in my case, Willie Gaddis' The Recognitions, Joyce, any number of others. Or am I making all this sound precious, here? [Laughing]

BS: Speaking of influences, of other books -- I want to make a point to mention the size of your personal library, hanging on all the walls surrounding us, floor to ceiling.

Markson: Actually, there were more. I've sold off quite a few in the last ten years or so, just for breathing space. And in all honesty, I've been very tempted lately to dump the whole lot of them.

BS: Wow. Why would you do that?

Markson: -For starters, I'm seventy-seven -- toward what eventuality am I holding onto them? How many of them am I going to reread? Over there to your right, the fiction -- Hardy, George Eliot, Dickens, even Faulkner, whom I once worshipped -- am I ever going to open 99% of them again?

BS: First editions?

Markson: Oh, sure, some. My Catch-22, probably. I knew Joe Heller before he wrote it, so I bought it as soon as it came out. Portnoy's Complaint also, since I'd read excerpts beforehand. Four or five Faulkners. And others, I'm sure. But they're all in the same beat-up condition as the rest.

BS: Are any of them inscribed?

Markson: Some are, yes. But I've generally been so broke that the most valuable of those I've sold long since. Like my Under The Volcano, say, or Dylan Thomas. Or an On the Road. Which, incidentally, Jack was so drunk when I asked him to sign it that he jammed the pen right through the flyleaf.

BS: Kerouac, Lowry, Gaddis, man. Quite a roster of past masters. Where did I read that you no longer pay attention to more recent fiction?

Markson: It's true. Any fiction, really. I hate to admit it, and I don't really understand it, but it's some years now -- it just seems to have gone dead for me. Not just recent stuff, but even novels that I've deeply cared about -- I try to reread and there's none of the reaction I used to get, none of the aesthetic excitement or whatever one wants to call it, all a blank. With one exception of course -- I can always reread Ulysses. In fact I went through it twice, consecutively, just a few years ago. But hell, that's not like reading a novel, it's more like reading the King James Bible. Or Shakespeare. You're at it for the language. But even The Recognitions, which I think is categorically the best American novel of the twentieth century, just doesn't do anything similar for me. It did, the first four times I read it -- and four is not an exaggeration, by the way, in spite of its length -- but the last time out it just went flat. It's not the books, I'm sure, it's me -- I'm just not bringing the same receptiveness to them that I used to.

BS: To change the topic -- or maybe not to -- I've been sitting here staring at that ancient typewriter near where you're sitting. Do you not have a computer anywhere?

Markson: People have begun to laugh at me, finally, for holding out. In fact, an amusing story about it. A young woman called me the other day, from France, a college student wanting me to solve a disagreement about Wittgenstein's Mistress she's been having with her professor. And then she said something about e-mailing me, and I told her I had no computer. So then she asked, "But what do you write on, a typing machine?" 'Typing machine,' I loved it. And it wasn't any question about faulty English, because she spoke flawlessly. So what I realized was that she was young enough so that the word 'typewriter' had never once been part of her active vocabulary. Like 'gaslight' or something, for somebody my age.

* "Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business." -- Henry David Thoreau

December 15, 2006

As the pages turn, my eyes are glued

dana ellyn, get mother a drink, 2006

Three poems by James Wright, from The Branch Will Not Break:

A Prayer to Escape from the Marketplace

I renounce the blindness of the magazines
I want to lie down under a tree
This is the only duty that is not death.
This is the everlasting happiness
Of small winds.
A pheasant flutters, and I turn
Only to see him vanishing at the damp edge
Of the road.

The Undermining of the Defense Economy

Stairway, face, window,
Mottled animals
Running over the public buildings.
Maple and elm.
In the autumn
Of early evening,
A pumpkin
Lies on its side,
Turning yellow as the face
Of a discharged general.
It's no use complaining, the economy
Is going to hell with all these radical
Girls the color of butterflies
That can't be sold.
Only after nightfall,
Little boys lie awake,
Wondering, wondering,
Delicate little boxes of dust.

Fear is What Quickens Me

Many animals that our fathers killed in America
Had quick eyes.
They stared about wildly,
When the moon went dark.
The new moon falls into the freight yards
Of cities in the south,
But the loss of the moon to the dark hands of Chicago
Does not matter to the deer
In this northern field.

What is that tall woman doing
There, in the trees?
I can hear rabbits and mourning doves whispering together
In the dark grass, there
Under the trees.

I look about wildly.

December 14, 2006

the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming

Hunter S. Thompson, Tijuana Street, circa 1960s

The M+B Gallery in Los Angeles is showing photographs by HST through January 20, 2007.

* Iraq is Beyond Repair. excerpt:

"During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

"For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

"Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, 'a careful review of the reports ... brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.'

"The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: 'If you do I am in real trouble.'"
"Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

"The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

"There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome."

* Interivew of Arthur Nersesian, whose books include The Fuck Up, Manhattan Loverboy, Unlubricated, and Dogpark. excerpt:

Interviewer: You were profiled in the latest issue of FHM. It was all about how writing a novel is not worth the time, and how you should want to do something more useful. Did you feel exploited by this journalist?

Nersesian: I spoke to the interviewer for a while, and he used what he wanted, and threw away the rest. I feel exploited by you too. But it's controlled exploitation. You have to understand that in FHM Magazine you are going to get that whole wacky tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. I respect that. They should be making fun of people who got a degree in Literature in college.
Interviewer: Who are some of the writers who inspire you? There was the Kafka feeling with "The Sweet Smell of Success."

Nersesian: I loved that movie. There was no deliberate mimicking of any writer on this book, but I heard many comparisons. I didn't think that I was following any writer consciously. My greatest influence until the day I die will be and always has been [New York] city. I write against the city. I try to absorb all the shit around me and then squeeze it into fiction.

Interviewer: How different is Manhattan Loverboy from the early novel, The Fuck-Up? The thing about you writing I like is its unpredictable nature. You're always pulling the rug under the characters and the plot.

Nersesian: It's different in style and tone. The Fuck-Up is somber and I tried to be fairly social realistic. The new book is slightly surreal and off the wall. As far as the plot goes, if you can see the end coming up and can predict it, there's no point in reading it. If can anticipate where you are going, then it's pointless. To that end, I don't over-plot or over-outline my novels. I have a general idea where I'm going, and I try to stop until I get there in the writing, and check out my options. I always try to find something unexpected and yet consistent with the ideas and the story, and whatever I'm dramatizing. But I really want to surprise myself. If I can't do that then no one will be surprised. What's the point?
Interviewer: I noticed that you don't make much reference to music and bands in your novels? Is that a deliberate choice or do you not follow music very closely?

Nersesian: That's a sore point for me. I always lived in lower Manhattan, and I lived on 16th Street and 3rd Avenue since 1973. The point is that this is a very musical area for Indie bands, CBGB's, The Academy of Music, and so on. I never really got into that. I saw rock and roll as a homogenized factor for American teens, and absorbed them from what would be an intellectual and literary culture. Initially I had some hostility towards that. Most teens perceived rock and roll as a form of rebellion, and I guess still do, but nowadays seeing a punk is like seeing a hippie back in the 1970s: it's such a cliche. It's not a rebellious act anymore. It's just so sad to see a punk rocker who has a leather jacket and spiked hair today. You might as well join the Republican party. It was a cliche twenty years ago. Music is a small part in my work. I usually celebrate the lamest love songs in a mocking way. It's what I hear in the background at cafes where I write. Most people just ignore it.

Interviewer: Do you write full-time now or do you work another job to support yourself?

Nersesian: I just got fired from my crappy job of ten years. I was teaching in the South Bronx, which was a noble chore, bringing light to the darkness. I too have Irish ancestry on one side as does Frank McCourt. I write pretty steadily. That's all there's left for people like me. I'm not invited to any parties. I've been excised from the community very slowly. I used to collect string and stack stones, and now my pastime is writing novels.

* Sparklehorse mainman Mark Linkous stars in a short film that may or may not have been made for the North Carolina bureau of tourism. must see youtube tv.

December 13, 2006

Homegrown's All Right with Me

walter martinpaloma munoz, traveler 80 at night

Jim Watt, Americun

Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan;
village explainer of the Apocalyptic New Right:

I’m treated differently
I believe in fishing
No taxpayers dollars were
ever used
There’s no interest in selling
any National Park
I used to attend parties there
I believe in government,
you bet
If the President asks me to
We’re not going to let you
mine in the National Parks
The greatest protection
to whales, mammals and birds
is off shore drilling
We don’t have all the answers
we need on acid rain
The liberals oughtta learn
to laugh
The poor love me
The unemployed love me
Deaf mutes, quadriplegics,
Mothers and Dads
of day-old triplets
born without cerebral cortexes,
Beach bums, sea urchins,
Dancing bears and cashiers
at the Capitol cafeteria—
Sometimes it’s embarrassing
It’s more like worship
And for what? Clear thinking.
The proof is in the pudding
but so is the spoon
See what I mean?
My few critics are excellent
If you’re interested in mining,
the answer is definitely not
We’re not done
As I was saying
Afro Americans adore me
Billiard bald women
(the pivotal voting bloc
in the last election)
won’t leave me be—
Every day another one
sneaks into my office
and begs me to give her a son
We have no authority to sell Mexico
We’re seeking legislation
The rich college students
like to protest against me
Blessed are the meek
(who, by the way,
are among my most
vocal supporters)
for they shall inherit
the national sport of
the finest game in
the history of Creation
I feel that we’ve made
significant progress
We’re not done
We like to get reactions
The little woman
is quite a gal
but the Man Upstairs outdid Himself
when he made the pick up truck
When I see one I can’t be responsible—

Sometimes I speak in tongues
Sometimes I shoot out all the tires
and tell my driver to peel out
He belongs to the Sierra Club
and knits
He sends all his money
to his family in Michigan
so he doesn’t have any
to save the baby seals
or the bobby seals or whoever
he must get junk mail from
since if you’re on one
of those mailing lists
you’re on them all
He lives in groundless fear
that he’ll lose this job
"Will that be all, sir?"
he said, just barely trembling,
after we’d driven out to
survey a portion of
the national forest
we’ll soon be able to develop
the natural resources of
so we all can share
a wide open wilderness
of prosperity.
And in the shade of a big tree
with thick bark on the edge of
the forest (the kind with needles
instead of leaves)
I had him dig a little grave
(with a spade requisitioned
in triplicate)
for the book he’s been
ruining his eyes on
(he must have it memorized by now
anyway) the past two months—
The Selected Works of Henry David Thoreau
(Never ever trust a man, Dad told us,
with two first names: He’s using ’em both,
only to different folks out of opposite sides
of his mouth)
"Fine work, young fellow," I told him.
"It's such a nice day I think I’ll have
a refreshing soft drink before we rush off."
As he walked to the car, I noticed
how gray his hair was getting.
For a few brief seconds I closed my eyes,
basking in the glorious sunlight of liberty,
random phrases popping into my head from
the many letters of support I had received
"Make sure and get one for yourself," I hollered.
He reached into the trunk.
I hadn’t realized how hot it was.
Almost like a race, we practically inhaled
our 16 ouncers of Coke.
"Sir, that really hits the spot," he said.
"You’ll be an Americun yet, lad," I told him.
I guess I'm not as young as I used to be,
the boy must’ve beat me by 15 feet
in the bottle-throw.
Of course he thinks he's ‘hip
to me’ (in the slang
of his sad crowd) but sometimes
you have to take time out
from major national policy decisions
and take an interest in the People,
in a confused young man swayed by
tricky distortions wrapped in pretty
ribbons of half truth.
The love of the millions I am sometimes
guilty of taking for granted.
But the way I feel when I see the look—
of puppydog Devotion, hard won Respect—
in his true blue hundred percent
card carrying all Americun eyes,
it makes me feel like teaching a lesson
to the whole godforsaken Red Army
with my bare hands, Praise the Lord.

December 11, 2006

her light eyes were dancing

Robert Bechtle, '63 Bel Air, 1973, Oil on canvas

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

8. Jack Kingston

"The 109th Congress worked for a mere 103 days in 2006. According to the Washington Post, that's "seven days fewer than the infamous 'Do-Nothing Congress' of 1948."

"But all that is about to change. When Democrats take control of Congress in January, House members will be expected to - gasp - actually do some work.

Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.

"This news is not sitting well with some members of Congress - mostly Republicans - who are used to working a mere three days a week and taking lots and lots of vacations. Take Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) for example. 'Keeping us up here eats away at families,' he whined. 'Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families - that's what this says.'

"Making Congress work five days a week says that the Democrats don't care about families? Tell that to Americans who have to work two jobs and still can't feed their kids because for ten years Republicans couldn't find time in their pathetic schedule to raise the minimum wage."

* Folks older than Sonic Youth, sing Schizophrenia. More YouTube -- Why Do You Think You are Nuts.

* "The process of creating is related to the process of dreaming although when you are writing you're doing it and when you're dreaming, it's doing you." -- Robert Stone

December 8, 2006

once in the morning and once at night

Pearl C. Hsiung, Tidal Wretch, 2005.

Private Eye
-- by Charles Simic

To find clues where there are none,
That's my job now, I said to the
Dictionary on my desk. The world beyond
My window has grown illegible,
And so has the clock on the wall.
I may strike a match to orient myself

In the meantime, there's the heart
Stopping hush as the building
Empties, the elevators stop running,
The grains of dust stay put.
Hours of quiescent sleuthing
Before the Madonna with the mop

Shuffles down the long corridor
Trying doorknobs, turning mine.
That's just little old me sweating
In the customer's chair, I'll say.
Keep your nose out of it.
I'm not closing up till he breaks.

Miracle Ice Cream
-- by Adrienne Rich

Miracle's truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.

Take what's still given: in a room's rich shadow
a woman's breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news,
fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions,
the rest of your heart.

-- by Marianne Moore

My father used to say,
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat --
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth --
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."
Nor was he insincere in saying, "Make my house your inn."
Inns are not residences.

Major League Salaries
-- by Melinda Thomsen

Now, I find a 10 million dollar
salary reasonable for players
that stand sixty feet from Clemens
or Martinez. Their pitches spin

forward in white and red seamed
swirls like peppermint candies
that change into jawbreakers
and could shatter a face

like what happened to your
poor cheekbone. The one
that pleats like a fan as you
smile or presses against mine

when the world descends
in leaden sheets was crushed
by a high school pitcher in Ohio
who had no clue of its value.

December 7, 2006

What do you think I'd see
If I could walk away from me

Tami Demaree, Old Faithful, 2006, watercolor on vintage print

* A War Washington Can't Win. excerpt:

"As the US closes in on the opening day of its new Congress, the possibility of voters getting a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq grows dimmer and dimmer. George Bush continues to insist that US forces will remain in country until their job is done. What that job is exactly seems to most to be a secret known only to certain members of the White House, but the key to it all is the desire for the US to reshape the world in order to , as this an excerpt from the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) statement of principles reminds us, 'preserve and extend an international order friendly to US security, (and) prosperity.' Lest we forget, this is the primary force behind the policies of George Bush. Of course, when these men and women talk about security and prosperity, they aren't necessarily thinking of yours and mine. They are, however, certainly thinking about theirs, especially when it comes to the prosperity part of the equation. One need only look at the profits certain friends of Washington's power elites have made from the ongoing war in Iraq to get a mere hint of the prosperity these folks are talking about. (Ans that doesn't even begin to count the billions they want to make from controlling Iraq's oil.) Then, just to see what they have in mind for those of us that don't matter to them, take a look at the situation of the poor in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

"In the past couple of weeks, the news has reported the deaths of several Iraqi women and children from US airborne bombs and missiles. This is no accident. As the use of US air support to support Iraqi government forces on the ground increases (and US ground forces pull back), there are bound to be more and more such casualties. Like Israel and previous Pentagon leaders, the current US command refuses to accept blame for these deaths, choosing instead to blame them on the actions of the resistance forces. Although these are usually called mistakes by the command, the harsh act is that they are not. As Howard Zinn wrote in his classic argument Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, 'since the killing of civilians is cannot be called an accident.'"
"Now, I can hear people asking what's wrong with US forces staying nearby to help put in a government friendly to Washington in Iraq and Afghanistan? After all, don't we believe in democracy? Well, let me give you a couple reasons why this isn't okay. For one, the majority of Iraqis don't want us to. That in itself is more than enough reason. For another, any government that must be backed up by a foreign military force is not going to last for the simple reason that it is not a truly national government. The US tried to do exactly this in southern Vietnam and failed miserably. Sure, George Bush and others like him think the reason the US didn't succeed in Vietnam was because the US quit. That is wrong. They didn't quit. They lost. Their project to reshape southeast Asia was never popular with the people that lived there and it failed. Even after millions of deaths and inestimable destruction. There have already been several hundred thousand deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, with unknown numbers yet to come if US and NATO forces continue their murderous attempt to install governments subservient to Washington's interests--which is what politicians, generals and media mouths really mean when they speak so eloquently about freedom and democracy.

"Another reason--and perhaps the most important reason of all--is that these wars are wrong. Plain and simple. Wrong. The pretense of liberation is over. The pretense that US Galahads were going to come in and save Iraqi and Afghani women from the more medieval practices of certain Islamic fundamentalists is over. Now, those women and their children are being killed indiscriminately by US bombs and missiles. Some are even being raped by US soldiers. There is no moral right in arresting people without cause and then torturing them. Nor is there any moral right in denying a population electrical power and security while the occupiers live in air conditioned comfort with colonialist trappings. In short, there is nothing moral about the US wars on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. And there never will be."

* Human chess, in San Francisco.

* Check out the old whores of san pedro, from Sheffield, England.

* "The first draft of anything is shit." -- Ernest Hemingway

December 6, 2006

Gee our old LaSalle ran great

Cerith Wyn Evans, Don't Be Late, 2006

-- by Robert Creeley

America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.

Let the sun shine again
on the four corners of the world

you thought of first but do not
own, or keep like a convenience.

People are your own word, you
invented that locus and term.

Here, you said and say, is
where we are. Give back

what we are, these people you made,
us, and nowhere but you to be.

Coming To This
-- by Mark Strand

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

Hitchhikers Redux
-- by Dennis Mahagin

I was about to call it a night when my I Mac
channeled Kerouac on brass knuckle Blackberry,
updating his web log from an outpost on Antares:

"It’s awfully like the desert, where nothing’s
as near as it ever appears, or listen--think in
terms perhaps of that particular Time I shot
craps with Pascal when I was but a greenhorn
fresh out of stratosphere-- and I watched him
press and press his hard way bets while I built
up my bank, until Double Fours did blow me
right out of that game like pale pink particle
dust from a sunflower super nova!"

On chat
platform I scrambled to
answer Jack with my cheesy
3-D Pulsar Avatar of Milky
Way Bar--typing on tiny
wing-shaped keypad just
as fast as my fingers
could fly:

"Well other than that, how have you
been getting along, Master Kerouac?"

"Oh man, with gravity in a hermetic
vacuum it’s nothing but zoom-zoom…
zoom – zoom - ZOOM!"

"Are you an angel now, Jack?"

"Heavens no!... but yesterday I
did in fact catch a glimpse of Neal’s
holy snow chin whiskers in the Katherine
Wheel sparks of a Haley’s Sleigh Ride.
And man, what a GAS!"

"So it’s true, we’re not all alone in a vast
coal-black and frigidly-indifferent universe?"

"No, man. Just very, very Self
Centered. That's all... Remember the
most important caveat, which is that
even the most gaping and galloping
of Big Sur fault lines cannot stand up
against a well-wrought rope skip rhyme…
And all addictions, fratricide and bad
tattoos are spawned by boredom."

"Wow, you know I think
this post is gonna draw a whole
lot of Web hits, Jack!"

"That's cool, kid—now, dig, I
gotta fly, but I’ll most likely be

"Until Zen."

"You’re catchin’ on, kid, you
really are comin’along just fine."

"So where to now, Kerouac?"

"Andromeda, dad. Andromeda."

December 5, 2006

Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums

Stéphane Couturier, Den Haag, De Bijenkorf #1, Netherlands, 2003

* Washington Post: Sins of The Father. excerpt:

"It is not the fault of Jenna or Barbara Bush that their father, the president, has gotten us into a war that he doesn't know how to get us out of. And, although you can blame parents for almost anything, George W. and Laura Bush are no longer responsible for the behavior of their twin daughters, who are in their mid-20s. Presidents, like the rest of us, don't get to choose their relatives. Remember Billy Carter?

"Anyway, Jenna and Barbara are far from George W. Bush's biggest familial problem. The law of averages has given him at least one ne'er-do-well brother -- Neil. The biggest familial thorn in the president's side is probably his father, always ready (or so it seems) to send out a Brent Scowcroft or a James Baker with some patronizing and excruciatingly public advice for the young pup.
"Nevertheless, there is a war on. It's a war that has killed 3,000 Americans, most of them around Jenna and Barbara's age or younger. It has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of all ages. And even more Americans and Iraqis have been injured, lost limbs, suffered terrible pain. President Bush can be quite eloquent in talking about the sacrifices of American soldiers and -- he always adds -- their families. In the Reagan style that has become almost mandatory, he uses anecdotes. He talks of Marine 2nd Lt. Frederick Pokorney Jr. 'His wife, Carolyn, received a folded flag. His two-year-old daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye.'

"Bush says truly, about the American dead, 'They did not yearn to be heroes. They yearned to see mom and dad again and to hold their sweethearts and to watch their sons and daughters grow. They wanted the daily miracle of freedom in America, yet they gave all that up and gave life itself for the sake of others.'

"Living your life according to your own values is a challenge for everyone, and it must be a special challenge if you happen to be the president. No one thinks that the president should have to give up a child to prove that his family is as serious about freedom as these other families he praises. But it would be reassuring to see a little struggle here -- some sign that the Bush family truly believes that American soldiers are dying for our freedom, and that it's worth it."

"Who knows? Maybe they have had huge arguments about this. Maybe George and Laura wanted the girls to join the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps, or do something that would at least take them off the party circuit for a couple of years. And perhaps the girls said no. But I doubt this scenario, don't you?
"But no amount of eloquence can overcome the bald contrast between that rhetoric and how his own family lives. His daughters are over 21, and he can't control them, but that doesn't let them off the hook. They are now independent moral actors, and their situation requires that they either publicly oppose their father's war or do something to support it. Is it unfair to expect Jenna and Barbara to shape their lives around their father's folly? Of course it's unfair. If this is war, then unfairness comes with the territory."

* Another reason to stay away from soda. excerpt:

"Serious questions remain over how America's food safety watchdog handled the presence of benzene residues in soft drinks, a senior ex-official has said, after tests showed some drinks still contained the chemical 15 years after the industry agreed to cut it.

"The source told it was 'embarrassing' the Food and Drug Administration had failed to eradicate benzene residues from all drinks.
"I rather doubt it is embarrassing to the FDA. This administration has no shame and failure to regulate is not an embarrassment, it is a badge of honor they where proudly to all their fundraisers.

"Now they are in danger of getting on the wrong side of the food industry, too, as the food industry entreats the FDA to give them guidance. The FDA can't even do its corruption competently.

"Meanwhile, both the FDA and the food industry are telling the public not to worry. You have to drink a lot of benzene-laced soda to have even a tiny risk of cancer. Which is true. For any particular individual. The problem is that with tends of billions of bottles consumed around the world, the risk doesn't have to be large. A one in a million risk is nothing for an individual but it is 1000 cancers for a billion individuals."

* Edmunton Sun: Legalize It. excerpt:

"Tougher penalties may not deter criminals, but at least stiffer sentences will keep some of the worst criminals off the streets for a few years. Otherwise, why jail anyone for anything? Is punishment so hopelessly old-fashioned?

"Governments are too chicken to take such a radical step, but if we wanted to engineer an immediate, dramatic drop in crime, we'd legalize drugs, demolishing the profit motive.

"For the most part, it's not poor people gunning each other down in Alberta's red-hot economy - it's greedy, rich punks fighting over drug turf.

"In a paper on our failed drug war a few years ago, the Fraser Institute wondered why we spend so much money on drug prohibition in an effort to save a small hardcore group of drug users from themselves.

"We should be asking ourselves the same thing. It is drugs - not prohibition - that boost crime, the institute noted.

If we were smart, we'd divert the money we're spending on drug prohibition into treatment programs for addicts.

'It's not clear why marijuana or even cocaine should be illegal and alcohol legal,' says Peter Rosenthal, adjunct professor of law at the University of Toronto.

"He, too, believes it's time to consider legalizing drugs. Uncle Sam would have a fit."

* "Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive." -- Raymond Chandler

December 4, 2006

it's not gonna be a hit
so why even bother with it

Erwin Olaf, The Hairdresser, 2004

* Top Ten Conservative Idiots excerpt:

10. Rush Limbaugh

"And finally, speaking of rolls of flab our old friend Rush Limbaugh was back on fine form last week. As you probably know, the Republican party didn't do too well with female voters in the 2006 elections, so last week Rush did his best to woo them back. Here's what he had to say:

My cat -- here's how you can get fooled. My cat comes to me when she wants to be fed. I have learned this. I accept it for what it is. Many people in my position would think my cat's coming to me because she loves me. Well, she likes me, and she is attached, but she comes to me when she wants to be fed. And after I feed her -- guess what -- she's off to wherever she wants to be in the house, until the next time she gets hungry.

She's smart enough to know she can't feed herself. She's actually a very smart cat. She gets loved. She gets adoration. She gets petted. She gets fed. And she doesn't have to do anything for it, which is why I say this cat's taught me more about women, than anything my whole life.

Did I mention that Rush has been divorced three times?"

* From an interview of David Berman. excerpt:

Interviewer: I've heard rumors that you're not writing poetry, right now. Do you still intend to finish your book, Richard Simmons 1950-?

David Berman: It's true , I've walked away from poetry in the last couple years. Perhaps it has something to do with the noise of the world going up. Poetry, right now, is too quiet in it's functions, too subtle, too finely laid out for me to concentrate on in haphazard times.

Interviewer: In Actual Air, I noticed you frequently referred to windows. I think it's intentional. Am I onto something?

DB: Hmmm, I never realized that. l like windows, but they don't figure prominently in my life story. They say when people remember bits of childhood they often remember moments in complete solitude. I think I stared out the window quite a bit. I regarded sandbox society with trepidation.

KL: Would you consider yourself to be somewhat of an introvert? If so, do you feel that this part of your personality has contributed to your work?

DB: Well I clearly started out as one. I felt marked as fundementally uncool.

Somewhere around at age 16
Somewhat due to information gained from music
Somewhat due to the way partying flushed out the corks.
I hoisted my willpower
and created successful stretches
of normal relations with others and so on it went.

As for affecting my work, I suppose pressure naturally builds up in silent types. Sometimes it might come out in the form of worthwhile art.

Interviewer: I have heard that Judaism has become very important to you. Religion has been featured in your work before. For instance, Democratic Vistas (unless I'm wrong) seems to allude to an incompetent deity. How has your religious journey affected your work, over the years?

DB: I don't know. There is probably more than a dollop of yearning for all this to be significant. In other words, I couldn't continue to invest time in this activity if I didn't feel like I was flushing out a quarry. Writing a good poem is like unleashing doves and losing the doves in the same moment.

Interviewer: Actual Air was published in 1999. To what extent do you still identify with what you were writing then?

DB: Some of it isn't charming to me anymore. To a certain degree my poems depend on charm, which is not necessarily a durable quality.

* "The farther a man follows the rainbow, the harder it is for him to get back to the life which he left starving like an old dog. Sometimes when a man gets older he has a revelation and wants awfully bad to get back to the place where he left his life, but he can't get back to that place-- not often. It's always better to stay alongside of your life." --Jane Bowles 'Plain Pleasures'

December 1, 2006

Sitting on a subway train and
Watching all the people lose their senses

Saul Leiter, snow, 1960

The World And I
-- by Laura Riding

This is not exactly what I mean
Any more than the sun is the sun.
But how to mean more closely
If the sun shines but approximately?
What a world of awkwardness!
What hostile implements of sense!
Perhaps this is as close a meaning
As perhaps becomes such knowing.
Else I think the world and I
Must live together as strangers and die-
A sour love, each doubtful whether
Was ever a thing to love the other.
No, better for both to be nearly sure
Each of each-exactly where
Exactly I and exactly the world
Fail to meet by a moment, and a word.

-- by Sharon Olds

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly form the left my
moon rising slowly form the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

-- by Allen Ginsberg

Kissass is the Part of Peace
America will have to Kissass Mother Earth
Whites have to Kissass Blacks, for Peace & Pleasure,
Only Pathway to Peace, Kissass.

-- by Delmore Schwartz

I looked toward the movie, the common dream,
The he and she in close-ups, nearer than life,
And I accepted such things as they seem,

The easy poise, the absence of the knife,
The near summer happily ever after,
The understood question, the immediate strife,

Not dangerous, nor mortal, but the fadeout
Enormously kissing amid warm laughter,
As if such things were not always played out

By an ignorant arm, which crosses the dark
And lights up a thin sheet with a shadow's mark.