July 31, 2008

You may be sweet and nice
But that won't keep you warm at night

Saul Leiter, Lanesville (variant), 1958

* Hiring political at White House. excerpt:

"On May 17, 2005, the White House’s political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of 'priority candidates' who had 'loyally served the president.'

"'We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible,' the White House emphasized in a follow-up message, according to a little-noticed passage of a Justice Department report released Monday about politicization in the department’s hiring of civil-service prosecutors and immigration officials.

"The report, the subject of a Senate oversight hearing Wednesday, provided a window into how the administration sought to install politically like-minded officials in positions of government responsibility, and how the efforts at times crossed customary or legal limits.

"Andrew Rudalevige, an associate professor of political science at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania who studies presidential power, said that while presidents of both parties over the last half-century had sought ways to impose greater political control over the federal bureaucracy, the Bush administration had gone further than any predecessor.

"'The Bush administration is unprecedented in how systematic the politicization is and how it extends both across the wider organization chart and deep down within the bureaucracy,' Professor Rudalevige said. 'They’ve been very consistent from Day 1 in learning the lessons of previous administrations and pushing those tactics to the limit.'"
"'We pledge 7 slots within 40 days and 40 nights. Let the games begin!' Jan Williams, then the White House’s liaison to the Justice Department, said in an e-mail message two days later.

"Within a week, messages between Ms. Williams and the White House showed, she began trying to match the White House-vetted names of people who had been 'helpful to the president' — like campaign volunteers — with openings for immigration judges, positions that are supposed to be filled using politically neutral, merit-based criteria.

"Ms. Williams told the Justice Department inspector general that she had not realized that immigration judges were career jobs subject to Civil Service rules. Mr. Fratto said there was no evidence that White House officials realized that at the time, either."
"Paul C. Light, a professor of government at New York University, said the administration had fostered an atmosphere that encouraged blurring the line between politics and policy, as when Mr. Bush gave Karl Rove, his top political adviser, a policy-making role in the White House. That atmosphere, Professor Light said, increased the chances of scandal by over-eager political appointees who ended up embarrassing the president.
"But nowhere have the charges of politicization been as intense as at the Justice Department, where the investigations into personnel practices began with the firing of nine United States attorneys in 2006.

"The overlapping investigations have already led to the resignation of several top department officials, including Ms. Goodling and former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. And Democrats show no sign of easing up.

"At Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the Justice Department reports had made clear that 'the problems of injecting politics' into decisions that are supposed to be nonpartisan 'are rooted deeper than just the actions of a handful of individuals.'

"On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted on party lines, 20 to 14, to recommend that Mr. Rove be cited for contempt for ignoring a subpoena and not appearing at a hearing to discuss the accusations of political interference by the White House into hiring practices at the Justice Department."

* Scenes from Iowa, July 2008.

* youtube: Bonnie Prince Billy Agnes Queen of Sorrow

* "Art is not a thing; it is a way." -- Elbert Hubbard

July 30, 2008

no ID no alcohol
that's what the old sign said

Rosamond Purcell, Untitled, 2000

- by Angela Vogel

There was this bum living at the bottom of a lake
who kept talking my ear off about things.
I pretended not to hear but he recognized the lie.
On and on, he had the answers to everything.
He didn’t like me much, he said. His
was a combination of excess and reserve, a life
which wound him at the bottom of a wave.
He had an endless supply of characters who could
shoulder the blame for his misshapen life, yet
somehow my name sequentially made the list.
I tried adjusting my tympanic membrane
like a backwoods radio to filter the noise.
Men wait lives to get revenge on guys like this,
I’d think, glad for once he’d not hear back.
Most times he lead me nowhere by the ring.
Then a buildup of gladiolus, heartache
and the prize.

Read Your Fate
-- by Charles Simic

A world's disappearing.
Little street,
You were too narrow,
Too much in the shade already.

You had only one dog,
One lone child.
You hid your biggest mirror,
Your undressed lovers.

Someone carted them off
In an open truck.
They were still naked, travelling
On their sofa

Over a darkening plain,
Some unknown Kansas or Nebraska
With a storm brewing.
The woman opening a red umbrella

In the truck. The boy
And the dog running after them,
As if after a rooster
With its head chopped off.

-- by Susan Hahn

Where the Tigris and Euphrates meet
is the Tree cemented in concrete.
The fruit all picked and eaten,
the bald branches broken.
Where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet
the holy road, once filled with date palms
and wild geraniums wandering every bush,
is smothered with bombed-out bridges
and scorched tanks and peddlers
with their fractured stands
that hold the spoiled apple and orange.
Where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet
the dried mother womb sleeps,
buried under slabs of tongues and rubble talk—
the wetland drained, the marsh a small weep,
the garden above starved for its life.
Where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet
all that's left is the knowledge warned of.

July 29, 2008

looks like a sky
for shooting horses under

Patrick Craig, Foil, 2005

* More evidence of McCain's advisors ties to the Bush Administration's Iraq policy.

"Over the weekend, The New York Times noted that some of John McCain's foreign policy advisers from the 'realist' camp are uneasy with the amount of influence enjoyed by neoconservatives like Randy Scheunemann, who's been serving as McCain's chief foreign policy aide and spokesman.

"But it isn't only his internal rivals who have reason to worry about Scheunemann. Not only does he have McCain's ear, he also has a track record of being consistently wrong on the major foreign policy question of the day -- Iraq. Of all the hawkish Washington foreign-policy types pushing both before and after 9/11 for war with Iraq -- a war that an overwhelming majority of Americans now considers a mistake -- Scheunemann, though not a marquee name, was among the most energetic and influential. And in the invasion's aftermath, he consistently opposed steps that might have helped stabilize the country.

"And yet, the political press has largely given McCain a pass on the fact that his top foreign policy adviser was at the center of perhaps the biggest strategic folly in our history.

"Here, to refresh reporters' memories, is the rundown on Scheunemann's Iraq record:

" -- As a top aide to then-Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, Scheunemann helped draft -- and acted as a driving force behind -- the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (ILA), which essentially made "regime change" the official Iraq policy of the US. The Act was cited as a key basis of support in the fateful 2002 Congressional resolution authorizing military force, and directly paved the way for President Bush's invasion.

" --Scheunemann was a board member of Bill Kristol's Project for a New American Century, which played a major role in agitating for the war. Scheunemann signed Kristol's influential letter to President Bush, sent nine days after 9/11, which asserted that failing to respond to the Al Qaeda attack by going after Saddam would "constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." Scheunemann also served as a "consultant" to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon while it was planning the war. And in late 2002, Scheunemann, with administration approval, founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an advocacy group with the explicit goal of whipping up pro-war sentiment across the country.

" --Scheunemann was a crucial Washington backer of Ahmad Chalabi, the now-disgraced Iraqi exile who helped feed the CIA false intelligence on Saddam's WMD program and has since been accused of giving US state secrets to Iran. In the years leading up to the invasion, the two were so tight that the spokesman for Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress shared a Washington address with both CLI and Scheunemann's private lobbying firm and Scheunemann was mentioned in press reports as a candidate for the job of formal envoy to the Iraqi opposition. During this period, Scheunemann, who acted as a crucial link between Chalabi and John McCain, was a go-to guy for reporters seeking pro-Chalabi quotes. He told The New York Times that Chalabi possessed "tremendous attributes that would be of immeasurable benefit to an Iraq in transition to democracy" and separately called him "an Iraqi patriot."

" --Like other war supporters, Scheunemann threw caution to the wind in declaring, wrongly, that Saddam had WMD. "There is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," he assured Americans a month before the invasion.

" --Scheunemann also played a key role in lining up support for the invasion from the "Vilnius Ten," a group of former Soviet bloc countries seeking to gain entry to NATO, some of whom Scheunemann has worked as a paid lobbyist on behalf of. With his partner Bruce Jackson, a Lockheed Martin executive, Scheunemann reportedly gave assurances to the Ten that backing the invasion would help their chances for NATO membership. Ultimately, seven of the ten countries gained entry to NATO, and two of those, Romania and Latvia, employed Scheunemann as a paid lobbyist to promote their applications.

" --In the invasion's aftermath, Scheunemann's judgment proved no more effective. He argued vociferously against giving the UN a significant role in stabilizing Iraq. And he also opposed leaving any members of Saddam's Baath party in government positions, declaring: "It is very difficult for me to conceive of democratic institutions being established in Iraq with the Baathist power structure mostly intact." Both of these positions, of course, proved to be disastrous policy blunders, which badly damaged our ability to stabilize Iraq in the crucial early months.

"It's kind of astonishing that McCain continues to be taken seriously on Iraq when his closest adviser has a track record on the issue as atrocious as Scheunemann's. At the very least, when reporters hang up from their frequent conference calls, arranged by the McCain campaign, in which Scheunemann attacks Barack Obama's judgment on Iraq, they might want to keep Scheunemann's own history on the subject in mind."

* Short profiles of 65 of Mick Jagger's girlfriends.

* The Caribbean is currently driving back to DC from Nebraska and playing shows at selected venues, check their "progressive pop music made for the thinking fan" in the following towns:

--Jul 29 2008 8:00P
Big V’s St. Paul, Minnesota

- Jul 30 2008 8:00P
Daytrotter Session Rock Island, Illinois

- Jul 30 2008 8:00P
Empty Bottle Chicago, Illinois

- Jul 31 2008 8:00P
Mac’s Bar Lansing, Michigan

- Aug 1 2008 8:00P
Bela Dubby Cleveland, Ohio

- Aug 2 2008 8:00P
Howler’s Coyote Cafe Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

- Aug 3 2008 8:00P
The Manhattan Room Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

* "Nothing so fortifies a friendship as a belief on the part of one friend that he is superior to the other." -- Honore de Balzac

July 25, 2008

There is no deadline
There is no schedule
There is no plan we can fall back on
The road this far can't be retraced
There is no punch line anybody can tack on
There are loose ends by the score
What did I come down here for?

Diane Arbus, King and Queen, 1970

Their numbers were picked out of a hat. They had just been chosen King and Queen of a Senior Citizens dance in NYC. Yetta Granaf was 72 and Charles Fahrer was 79. They had not met before.

Three Poems by Eric Ambling from his new chapbook Split Level Igloo:

Ambush Rainbow

There in the tinseled driftwood chandelier
where the hired band played motown
as we were deep into our hug dancing
and the rented room
filled with the dapper moxie
of a push-button umbrella,
for a moment I thought of
the mist in a topless carwash,
South American plasma,
films of jump ropers in strobe light
or when I was alone in Riddle, Oregon
and heard the angelic ahhs swaddle
around a completed Rubik's cube,
these curious things I bet pagans believe
is the color of blood
in the miscellaneous they worship
and that it inspired the unbridled facial hair
of the 1860's
Possibly rainbows are used for the teleportation
of prayer amongst the genuflecting sports fans
as you can hear these prayers in the hollow
choruses of Jimmy Buffet beach carols
as I was once a bashful sinner
taking charge of his own
awesome purgatory
my pants tucked into my socks
amid mountain laurel and pebbles
when I thought to witness the birth
of one of these hippie archways
but it happened to be a punctured hot air balloon
being propelled over a mindful Gettysburg

Today's Smells

Singed foliage from a time machine in the Ozarks.
The rain tarp over an experimental anniversary gift.
The ventriloquist's hand, in the dressing room, after
An intense set.
A porcelain bowl of discarded hearing aids.
Haunted guano by an Irish bat on historic rubble.
An open cold-cream jar on the midday windowsill at the K-spa
Reminded me of ox red quartz in the showy plaza of a blood cell.
A Gene Clark cassette sandwiched in the Mazda seats.
The X-ray of a complicated handshake.
Wrestling trading cards drizzled with King Cobra.
A piñata of a corncob pipe filled with baby corncob pipes.
Much later, stink lines from a bog within meters of a crayon
Factory, its consistency like that of a child's brain.

Infinity Why Not

Fairly agog as if party snakes were sprung from the mixed nuts can
We arrive here as a jumbled game of telephone
A stew consisting of blended newspaper, liquefied shapes
And menacing hair
To enter true life, now, with good hearts in our brains
A rotisserie of breasts holding the musk of physical education,
Tropical relief beams or chains of sunlight
Bowing on the crotches of some of the plenty
As if drinking wine from this silly straw helps you better understand
The digestive system of a small, unknown animal
And if pet plus penny loafers equals stoned on liberty
Admiring the cartoon squiggles on tombstones
In the tenant privacy borders
Like the short coastlines in the laundromat
We are both calm and tumultuous
Just a twang of salt on this cloud for ultimate raindrops, awesome echoes,
As driving in thick evening parades of snowfall
Creates a feeling of time travel
And if racetracks were invented by a jilted lover thinking
Again and again about returning home
Over a cobble stone bridge
Its reflection in the branch water like a pig's snout
And for you, me and the third sex
Who desire to be showered in party favors
This mauve beaker is 30% reaction
A forged sorcery from the prismatic light
That blesses and defeats
The high-minded shorthand of conscious law
Blueprints for a split level igloo
An iceburg sliding through the door asking for a towel

-- Split Level Igloo promo video:

-- back Tuesday.

July 24, 2008

been done so many times before
I hardly know what it means

Robert Sparrow Jones, Mercury

* Mr. Jones and I: A Q&A between Cara Ober and Robert Sparrow Jones, as seen in Gutter Magazine.

Cara: Before you were a painter, you were a photographer. Do you still consider yourself a photographer? How did photography lead you to painting and how does it continue to affect what you create? How is 'thinking in photography' different than 'thinking in paint'?

RSJ: I wanted to be a film director. Growing up in a small rural area in Pennsylvania my introduction to art came through the movies. I connected with the common man finding himself in an extraordinary circumstance and by the work of Truffaut, Goddard, Hitchcock and Woody Allen, I began making short films with a super-eight-movie camera. (You can see a later movie "Silverman" on UTube still!) Narrative is essential to my painting, I am the son of an English teacher and my interest in books fueled my passion for storytelling. The rich velvety black and white mise-en-scène in film led me quickly to photography and prompted the purchase of my first 35mm camera. I had stumbled across "The Americans," by Robert Frank in our small library. It was a remarkable and haunting book of images I kept coming back to. Then I discovered Diane Arbus and Mary Ellen Mark. Vignettes of mysterious life are prevalent theme in my own painting. I tried to come close to something of a mixture between Frank and Arbus as I studied photography. Printmaking came naturally to me while I was into photography. The physicality of printmaking along with my propensity for expressive mark making took me to lithography. I was well out of school when I began painting but the results were immediate. The moment I made my first painting everything changed for me. I felt the summation of everything I loved about process and content come together in a new and transfixing way. This has never left me. Painting enigmatically embodied everything; storytelling, film and photography. I don't consider myself a photographer now, though eight years ago I may have when I had a small exhibit in the Northwest.

Cara: What is the deal with all your paintings of pretty ladies out in the landscape? Are these paintings fantasies or realities? Why are they usually outside? Who are these women?

RSJ: My narrative vision is a combination of many sources including, landscape, upbringing, faith, family and friends. As a boy I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and I was always outside. There is a definitive connection for me through nature. I daresay I find it spiritual. It's a feeling. A feeling comes to me and then a story. The paintings are built from there. I was lucky enough to grow up around strong, intelligent woman. My two sisters, who are around my same age, have very individual personalities and strong opinions. I also have a sensitive younger brother who is an artist. My best friend from my childhood had three older sisters who were somewhat wild and ambitions and used to baby-sit us all the time. My best friend from middle school to this day has seven younger sisters. To me the people who are in my pictures are strong willed, curious and embody that intellect by way of what I always think of as a distorted beauty. Beauty is an easy way into the painting. The "Prettiness" veils the dark mysteries that lay underneath. These paintings are not fantasy at all and inversely are convolutions of memory. I have become obsessed with memory and memory loss. Most these images are culled from childhood in one way or the other. And truthfully there are quite a few of my paintings with boys in them. It makes me think that they perhaps come across as less provocative but I am interested is the way that beauty of the image causes such a reaction.

Cara: You've had your work described in a number of publications and reviews, including your last show at Gallery Imperato being named 'Best Solo Show of 2007' by the Baltimore Citypaper. However, it seems like the reviewer always gets something wrong, either in their description of the work or in their analysis. If you could imagine the perfect explanation/description of your work -- what would it say?

RSJ: I like to think of my paintings as movies. And I also know how ridiculous that sounds. Painting has a different dimension that film. This just how I see them. Using heightened color weights the image into something other than reality. I am playing with memory and movement. I like to think this color engages just the right amount of tension, psychology and emotional indifference. Apparent everyday scenes are experienced through the expression of paint are invested with meaning beyond the ordinary. Each work implies a chance for magic and wonder in an otherwise mundane scene. A typical painting presents an iconic subject underlined with subtle open-ended questions. An appreciation of the painting can be based on the straightforward narrative image or evoke a more complex interpretation and response. And maybe that something about it will be subtlety urgent and retain its burn in the memory. They don't always do that but when I am making them I believe it is so.

Cara: Before you were known as Robert Sparrow Jones, you were simply known as Rob Jones. It's a pretty common sounding name, much improved and more memorable with the sparrow added. Where did this name come from? What is the significance of the sparrow?

RSJ: The native part of me is lost or forgotten with my childhood. As a young boy I was always sleeping out under the stars, exploring the woods and building treehouses. I read a lot of folklore. I was attracted to the way birds are used as symbols. While I was in Seattle I made a documentary on the resurgence of the Canoe Nations. Spending time with the many tribes as we traveled with them up the coast was awe-inspiring. I wanted a middle name that was related to my upbringing and my interests. Sparrow is a master of flight and camouflage. As an air totem, the sparrow speaks of higher thoughts and ideals. She beckons us to keep our burdens as light as we can in order to avoid a heavy heart. Birds continually come into my paintings. After leaving the Northwest, Sparrow embodied a rite of passage; not to be forgotten—two lives now.

Cara: For all of the years you have lived in Baltimore, until this one, you were a long-haired hippie, often sporting a zen-master bun on top of your head. How is life different now without the bun? Do you prefer short or long hair? Please discuss the pros and cons.

RSJ: It's funny you should say that. There was a reason behind my long hair, a story that is tangled and may involve murder. I never saw myself as the hippie type. I must admit though I am awfully green and have a working vegetable garden on my fire escape and compost and recycle everything. In short it was another spiritual thing. I have an uncle who is a priest and another who is a devout brother at the Vatican in Rome. I was always interested in religion, grew up Catholic but read about Buddhism and Native American spirituality. Right out of undergrad I spent some time in a monastery on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. I don't know how long I grew my hair, probably at least eight years, maybe even ten. I just felt I didn't need that bun anymore. And the moment I cut it all off, I felt a sense of lightness. I became more myself.

Cara: You attended the Hoffberger School of Painting at MICA to earn your MFA degree here in Baltimore. Do you have a favorite Grace Hartigan or MICA Grad School story?

RSJ: Grace and I got along straightaway. I was so interested her life. Grace can certainly tell a story or two and she has an impeccable eye for painting. Sometimes she would wheel into my studio and we would just talk about anything but painting. I helped her pack her library on Eastern Avenue. I remember the day Henry Cartier Bresson died I drove down to Fells' Point and rang her buzzer. Grace, as usual, tossed a sky-blue argyle sock from a third floor window. The sock fell to the pavement and I took the key from the sock. There was a puddle in front of the door and I had to jump to get inside. Grace's studio was becoming empty. I was packing her library into cardboard boxes. I labeled several boxes Ab-Ex and then five more Poetry. The day before we were talking about Frank O'Hara, she talked about him with such love. That morning she directed me to her bedroom to get something off her night table. There was stack of correspondence and she let me open a letter from Frank O'Hara. Then I saw a package marked "Utopia Parkway" and I gasped. She was delighted to bring out a small box and a story. In the box was a pennant made by Joseph Cornell, a heart with nails stuck into it. The next day she wore it to our Critiques. Grace and I got along well, although I think she was frustrated with me because I never answer the phone. I wish I could remember the gypsy song she sang to me once while watching a painting of mine.

-- you can find additional paintings by Robert Sparrow Jones here

* This must read essay by Wendall Berry titled Food For Thought begins:

"Many times, after I have finished a lecture on the decline of American farming and rural life, someone in the audience has asked, 'What can city people do?' 'Eat responsibly,' I have usually answered. I have tried to explain what I mean by that, but afterwards I have invariably felt there was more to be said. I would like to attempt a better explanation." [via a lucid spoonful]

Click above for the whole thing.

* "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." -- J. R. R. Tolkien

July 23, 2008

That summer feeling
When there's things to do not because you gotta
When you run for love not because you oughta

J.M.W. Turner, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight, 1835

-- by Frances Richey

2 pairs desert camo boots
sleeping bag
assault pack: NODs, ammo, night-vision goggles
wind-stopper gloves

These don’t belong to me.

Camelbak backpack for water
Kevlar helmet
MICH helmet
grenade pouches
magazine pouches

I have no place here. This is not my life.

9-millimeter holster
equipment vest
same old ruck

He can’t bear my worry. Like the rucksack he carries
on his back, it seems
to suck the life out of him.

socks ... green/black
PTs — shorts, shirts for workout
SPEAR silk underwear for cold weather
SPEAR body armor ... ergonomically correct
barracks bag for laundry
rain poncho and linerblack wool cap

I was always asking if he was warm enough.
Put a sweater on, I’d say. Your jacket ...

duffel bag
entrenching tool
elbow pads
Nuclear, Biological, Chemical suit

I can’t protect him.

flu shot

No one could explain his nosebleeds. They always seemed to
come when I was packing
for business trips: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit ...

CDs: Springsteen, Sarah McLachlan, U2 ...
DVDs: "In the Name of the Father," "Boondock Saints," "Elf" ...
chewing tobacco

Tissues fell from him like crumpled doves.

pin light
"Case for Christ"
"Onward Muslim Soldier"
"Salem’s Lot"
"Catcher in the Rye"
laminated four-leaf clover

He tilted his head back, pinched his nose
between thumb and index finger:
"Don’t worry, I know what to do."

Officer Record Brief
Hazardous Duty Orders
Zero Your Weapon

He’s given me his dog-eared copy of Komunyakaa’s
"Neon Vernacular," underlined:
"We can transplant broken hearts/
but can we put goodness back into them?"

Life Insurance: to be split between Mom and Dad
Emergency Records ... who gets called
battalion wants to know what to read
at your funeral, what songs to play

He looks up from the paperwork,
hard into my eyes:
"You said you wanted to know."

-- by Patrick Phillips

Touched by your goodness, I am like
that grand piano we found one night on Willoughby
that someone had smashed and somehow
heaved through an open window.

And you might think by this I mean I'm broken
or abandoned, or unloved. Truth is, I don't
know exactly what I am, any more
than the wreckage in the alley knows
it's a piano, filling with trash and yellow leaves.

Maybe I'm all that's left of what I was.
But touching me, I know, you are the good
breeze blowing across its rusted strings.

What would you call that feeling when the wood,
even with its cracked harp, starts to sing?

Brad Pitt
-- by Aaron Smith

With cotton candy armpits and sugary
Crevices, sweat glazing your donut skin.
Have you ever been fat, Brad?
Have you ever wanted a Snickers
More than love and lain on your bed
While the phone rang and rolled one
On your tongue, afraid to eat it, afraid
It would make your jeans too tight? Have you
Barfed, Brad, because you ate it,
Ate all the take-out, licked
Brown sauce off the box while you sobbed?
Brad Pitt down in the pits chaining menthol
Ciggys in your thick-wallet life,
It’s not so bad Brad, sad Brad, is it?

July 22, 2008

After this there will be no one

Chantal Joffe, Orange Lily, 2008

* Bob Herbert in the New York Times. excerpt:

"You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney but without the vice president’s sense of humor."
"[Meyer] quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: 'No one stood to his right.' Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: 'He doesn’t believe in the Constitution.'

"Very few voters are aware of Mr. Addington’s existence, much less what he stands for. But he was the legal linchpin of the administration’s Marquis de Sade approach to battling terrorism. In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror — regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say — was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it.

"This is the mind-set that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the C.I.A.’s secret prisons, known as 'black sites.'

"Ms. Mayer wrote: 'The legal doctrine that Addington espoused — that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it — rested on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shared.'

"When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded."
"Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as 'the worst of the worst.' A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. Ms. Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.
"The U.S. shamed itself on George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s watch, and David Addington and others like him were willing to manipulate the law like Silly Putty to give them the legal cover they desired. Ms. Mayer noted that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, believed that 'the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.'

"After reflecting on major breakdowns of law that occurred in prior administrations, including the Watergate disaster, Mr. Schlesinger told Ms. Mayer: 'No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.'

"Americans still have not come to grips with this disastrous stain on the nation’s soul. It’s important that the whole truth eventually come out, and as many of the wrongs as possible be rectified."

* The Mutton Chop Hall of Fame.

* "Works of art are not illustrations of ideas." -- Mel Bochner, 1970

July 18, 2008

If i could be anything in the world that flew
I would be a bat and come swooping after you

Maggie Taylor, Fading Away

Three poems by Noah Falck

-- from his new chapbook Measuring Tape for the Midwest

Confessions Inside a Pickup Line

If you have ever used the word sinister
in a conversation about Saturday morning cartoons,

changed facial expressions more than once
during an answering machine exchange,

turned into a werewolf at the sight of a Starbuscks cafe,
driven through an entire state with your left turn signal on,

aimlessly pioneered across uncharted dance floors,

or tried to rewrite the bible with the characters of Happy Days

then we should exchange phone numbers.

Brief Scene Without Cell Phones Ringing

I swivel my head
revealing unrehearsed
blank stares

beneath a sky the color
of swallowed olives
dipped in cigar ash

and like a sneeze
the long awaited silence
comes and goes.

What Comes From Loneliness

Today is a new version of yesterday
shaped like the color gray, which starts another sky.

Flags fetter the wind from the horizon
where fog rests among an assembly of scrawny hills

and "the rain is not done yet," I say to myself.

This is obvious, but I repeat it anyway
because the moosehead hanging over the mantle

looks so real the instant I flick the lights on
and I thought he might like to hear my forecast.

-- back Tuesday

July 17, 2008

If I stay lost and die on a cross
at least I wasn't born in a manger

Nigel Cooke, Painter’s Theme Park, 2007

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"There's a particular moment known to all Baby Boomers when Wile E. Coyote, in a rapture of over-reaching, has run past the edge of the mesa and, still licking his chops and rubbing his front paws in anticipation of fricasseed roadrunner, discovers that he is suspended in thin air by nothing more than momentum. Grin becomes chagrin. He turns a nauseating shade of green, and drops, whistling, back to earth thousands of feet below, with a distant, dismal, barely audible thud at the end of his journey. We are Wile E. Coyote Nation.

"Is there anyone in the known universe who thinks that the US financial system is not fifty feet beyond the edge of the mesa of credibility?

"Nothing will avail now. Not even if Sirhan Sirhan were paroled at noon today and transported directly to the West Wing with a .44 magnum in each hand (and a taxi driven by the Devil waiting outside to take him to the US Treasury and the offices of the Federal Reserve).

"It's hard to imagine what kind of melodramas were unspooling on the Hamptons lawns this weekend, while everybody else in America was watching Nascar, or plying the aisles of BJs Discount Warehouse for next week's supply of mesquite-and-guacamole flavored Doritos, or having flames and chains tattooed on their necks, or lost in a haze of valium and methedrine."

"With the death of the IndyMac Bank last week, and the GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac laying side-by-side in the EMT van on IV drips, headed for the Federal Reserve's ever more crowded intensive care unit, there was a sense of the American Dream having passed through the event horizon that denotes the opening of a black hole.

"What would happen if the US Government acted to bail out these feckless enterprises (and what if they don't)? Either way, it's not a pretty picture. If Mr. Bernanke does start shoveling loans into the GSE black hole, he'll further undermine the soundness of his own outfit and do nothing, really, to repair Fannie and Freddie's structural problem of having securitized too many loans that will never be paid back. If instead Fannie and Freddie are flat-out taken over entirely by the US government (and remember the Federal Reserve is not the government), then the national debt will roughly double overnight -- which will pound the US dollar down a rat-hole."
"If Fannie and Freddie are left to die out on the desert floor, say goodbye to the housing market, the major investment banks, countless regional banks, the retirement accounts of virtually everyone in America, the viability of all fifty states' governments, and the day-to-day operating ability of all their municipalities -- and very likely the current incarnation of the world banking system.

"This process is really out of control now. The bottom line is the comprehensive bankruptcy of the United States. The Republican Party under George Bush will be known as the party that wrecked America (release 2.0). Painful as it is, Americans had better get a new "Dream" and fast. It better be a dream based on the way the universe actually works, which is to say an operating procedure run on earnest effort and truthfulness rather than merely trying to get something for nothing and wishing on stars. We might begin symbolically by evacuating Las Vegas and calling in an air strike on the loathsome place -- to register our new reality-based attitude adjustment."
"Of course, none of that is likely to happen. Instead, and under the worst imaginable economic conditions, we'll probably embark on a campaign to prop up the un-prop-up-able and sustain the unsustainable -- that is, defend every status quo habit and behavior that we're used to, whether it can be salvaged or not. Of course, this would be a fatal squandering of our dwindling resources, but it it tends, historically, to be the last act of the melodrama in any faltering empire.

"The result, pretty soon into that process, will be social breakdown and political upheaval. Every tattoo freak out there who has been prepping for his own starring role in some kind of comic book armageddon will finally get his chance to shine. Lots of people will get hurt and starve. Property will change hands in a disorderly way. And at the end of this process an American corn-pone Hitler may be waiting to set everything and everyone straight.

"The markets open in about an hour. Good luck everybody."

* The Caribbean perform with Carol Bui and Death by Sexy (ex-dismemberment plan) Friday July 18, at DC's Velvet Lounge ($8, 9pm)

* "Experience is the outcome of work; immediate experience is the phantasmagoria of the idler." -- Walter Benjamin

July 16, 2008

I've had enough of living
I've had enough of dying
I've had enough of smiling
I've had enough of crying

Esther Bubley, City Cafe, Tomball, Texas, May 1945

Only Rare Things Create
-- by Jack Micheline

When love creates
When tenderness creates
It is the greatest of all sounds
When man and woman creates a baby is born
When fear creates anger is born
When loneliness creates despair is born
When business creates hype is born
When newspapers create politicians are born
When art galleries create money is born
Cemeteries don’t create
Museums don’t create
Hospitals don’t create
Prisons don’t create
Power don’t create
Only love creates
and it is the rarest thing of all

Breakfast in My Twenties
-- by Jason Tandon

I'd brew coffee from a can of TV blend,
pull my radio from the wall as far
as it could go, and tune in blues or strings
with luck, that luminous refrain and echo.
Crawl onto my roof, light a smoke and sit
for five or ten to watch a violet cannon or
a carpet gray unroll, while Baba prepared
for the lunch rush in his deli below.
Grilled tahini chicken, falafel and kebob,
I'd bury my nose in my clothes—
O smoke that poured from the vent!
My lungs breathed blood, raw, fresh, my teeth gleamed white.
I could've run five miles each day,
but there was too much to do and see at night.

On Gravity and Breasts
-- by Amy Templeton Buckley

Sometimes the world spins too fast for me,
then I look up and remember
that we’re really not moving at all (not really).
And my oldest friend is having a baby
(which is more proof of the above).
A boy. She knew it all along,
and they’re easier to travel with, she informs me—
rough and tumble, you know
(she’s afraid she’d warp a girl).
She had a dream last night that her breasts
were spurting water everywhere
and no one could figure out how to shut them off.
She says she’s afraid of her body now—
afraid of her breasts becoming appliances.

July 15, 2008

I can't help being restless
When everything's so tasteless

Ma Quisha, Milk Road, 2007

* From Harper's August 2008:

-- Percentage change by 2012 in the after-tax income of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. earners, under Barack Obama's tax plan: -5

-- Percentage change under John McCain's plan: +12

-- Chance that a U.S. home is currently vacant: 1 in 35

-- Rank of this among the highest recorded vacancy rates in U.S. history: 1

-- Minimum number of extraordinary renditions that the United States has made since 2006: 200

-- Average word count of top-ten songs during the 1960s: 176

-- Average in 2007: 436

-- Weeks apart that a pair of twins in India were born this year: 6

* Sleeping Around Craigslist: Two middle-aged women discover that casual sex can be anything but casual.

* Daniel Johnston plays Living Life live in a Philly radio station.

* "Art is science made clear." -- Jean Cocteau

July 14, 2008

First life takes time then time takes life

Jeremy Blake, video still from Winchester, 2002

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

3. John McCain

"A few weeks ago I noted that Peggy Noonan had given the McCain campaign some sage advice: 'Let McCain be McCain. Get him in the papers being who he is, get people looking at his real nature. ... The most interesting thing about Mr. McCain has always been the delight he takes in a certain unblinkered candor. There is also the antic part of his nature, his natural wit, his tropism toward comedy.'

"Wise words. And last week McCain had the perfect opportunity to be himself. Watch as he wows reporters with his "natural wit" and "tropism toward comedy..."
REPORTER: We've learned that exports to Iran increased by tenfold during the Bush Administration, the biggest export was cigarettes. Given that the, yeah... supposedly that the...

McINSANE: (interrupting) Maybe that's the way of killing them. (chuckles) I meant that as a joke.
"Hilarious! So there you have it. John McCain is asked why exports to Iran have increased under the Bush administration, and the very first thought that pops into his head is, "Let's kill Iranians."

"I wonder if Ms. Noonan still wants people to take a close look at McCain's 'real nature.'"

* Good Monday read: Well, That's Certainly A Grilled Rib-Eye With Porcini Mushrooms, Spinach Salad With Chick Peas And Feta, And A Dove Dark Chocolate Piece For Thought.

* Who's Next album cover in Lego.

* "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." -- Richard Feynman

July 11, 2008

the glory goes to those who do not seek it

Michael Helsem, My Compassion and my Contempt Have It Out, 1985

As Planned
-- by Frank O'Hara

After the first glass of vodka
you can accept just about anything
of life even your own mysteriousness
you think it is nice that a box
of matches is purple and brown and is called
La Petite and comes from Sweden
for they are words that you know and that
is all you know words not their feelings
or what they mean and you write because
you know them not because you understand them
because you don't you are stupid and lazy
and will never be great but you do
what you know because what else is there?

-- by Mary Campbell

Coffee: the tightening at the heart,
The wreath of ice, like thorns
Arranged there to give pleasure,
The interpenetration of the nerves
And mind, until thought
Bites at your breast -- keen lover
Or gourmand to a sentient peach.

A little later in life, not much,
Cold beer ungirdles that tight
Garland, turns the nerves to rivers,
Gives them sense of their own
Latent, riotous joyfulness, as if
They were in bed in fact, always in beds,
And by them willows loosing their long hair.

And oh, the cigarette: beyond
These sexual illusions, the pure bliss
Of smoke loved for its own sake
The moment at which the body of man,
Alone among the animals,
Finds itself satified by nothing,
Or by a desire crafted to fulfill
A source of satisfaction.

Note to the House Sitter
-- by Debora Palmer

I forgot to tell you
the fire extinguisher is propped
by the piano. In case of fire,
grab the Cairo lamp and the dog.
If you rub her throat, she'll lean
against you and moan. Night clunks
in the kitchen are the cats
or the icemaker. Whispering
in the back office is voicemail, yelling
is from the neighbors two houses
north. The chandelier blinks;
changing bulbs doesn't change
anything. And the guy next door
who chirps at his snapdragons
and flaps at passing pedestrians,
he’s harmless. Really.

July 10, 2008

in the end a boy raises himself

Claude Lazar, L'échapée belle, 2006

* Estelle Chardac asks Dean Wareham 10 questions for Magic magazine:

E: Which music makes you want to believe in God?

D: When Marlene Dietrich sings "Der Trommelman" - but still I don’t want to believe in God.

E: Your latest crush?

D: Britta Phillips. But she has a crush on Barack Obama.

E: Which criticism do you accept?

D: That my hair (and sometimes my demeanor) suggest that I have just gotten out of bed. One guy said I sing like Kermit the Frog, which I do not agree with.

E: What would you never give up, even under torture?

D: Weekends spent with my son.

E: Who would you offer your best song to?

D: Richard Hawley — he has that tremendous voice that makes any song better. Having said that, perhaps it would be better if Mariah Carey did the song, as she is back on top of the charts, and as writer you get paid 7.5 cents for every copy sold.

E: When was the last time you lost your temper?

D: This morning (for a second) - someone cut me off as I was driving across Tenth Street in Manhattan, and I yelled at him.

E: Any addiction to declare?

D: Ice cream, cigarettes. Other things I only do once in a while, so I must not be addicted to those.

E: Which compliment gets you big-headed?

D: I have been told that I don’t take compliments well, so I would say that no compliment gets me big headed. Big-headedness must come from within.

E: What was the worst thing you ever did to achieve your goals?

D: Play an acoustic set at the corporate offices of HITS magazine, a trade magazine for the radio industry, sometimes referred to as SHIT magazine.

E: Who would you kill for his talent?

D: Nina Simone.

* U.S. Government patents medical marijuana.

* "Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status." -- Laurence J. Peter

July 4, 2008

I stayed at home on the Fourth of July
And I pulled the shades so I didn't have to see the sky

Inez Storer, The Luxury Liner to Seattle, 2007

Earliest Memory
-- Sarah Hannah

Still cribbed, in the gable
With the tall hemlock

At the window, in the lull
Of late afternoon:

Three crackles; the story
Record ended. I somehow

Climbed over the bars
And crawled down the hall

Along the narrow balcony
Over the stairs: the twisted

Iron railings on my left,
On my right, the cool white

Stucco wall. To the next room:
My mother asleep on the bedspread

Of dark maroon and brown.
Sunlight hung in the curtains.

I watched her lying there.
I already knew not to wake her.

-- by Walt Whitman

There are who teach only the sweet lessons of peace and safety;
But I teach lessons of war and death to those I love,
That they readily meet invasions, when they come.

* From the Holy Soul Jelly Roll liner notes Ginsberg explains how he came up with 'Ah,' "...[I] got in the middle of the group who were going off to blockade a highway and started chanting 'Ah' after asking them to chant with me. Everybody sat down, then we discussed strategy calmly rather than as a hysterical mob. 'Om' closes out at the end but 'Ah' leaves the mouth open, breath goes out [see Ginsberg’s Mind Breaths poem for more]. On the 4th of July you see the fireworks and say 'Ah,' or you recognize something and say 'Ah!' When Trungpa said "Why don’t you try ‘Ah’?" he joined an American sound with Himalayan wisdom, and I’ve used it ever since. "Ah" for recognition, appreciation, the intelligence of speech joining body and mind and for a measure of the breath."

-- back July 10

July 3, 2008

its Saturday, the evening's come
the football crowds have all gone home

Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968

* White House caught lying, again:

"House oversight committee Chairman Henry Waxman says the Bush Administration knew about the September 2007 deal that Texas-based Hunt Oil struck with Kurdish officials in Iraq. That contradicts what President Bush said at the time.

"That deal was controversial because it came at a time of precarious negotiations in Baghdad about a possible revenue-sharing agreement between the warring factions in Iraq. The Kurds decision to forge a deal independent of the Baghdad government angered the Sunni and Shia Arabs in Iraq.

"In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Waxman asked for further information about the U.S. involvement in Iraqi oil deals, the Hunt Oil deal as well as more recent deals. He quoted the president speaking shortly after the deal was announced almost a year ago.
Administration officials criticized the Hunt Oil contract because it jeopardized the efforts of the Iraqi parliament to come to an agreement on the national oil legislation. When President Bush was asked about the Hunt Oil contract, he stated:

"I knew nothing about the deal. I need to know exactly how it happened. To the extent that it does undermine the ability for the government to come up with an oil revenue sharing plan that unifies the country, obviously if it undermines it I'm concerned"
Waxman said his committee has conducted an investigation of the Hunt Oil deal.
The documents that the Committee has received tell a different story about the role of Administration officials. Ray Hunt, the head of Hunt Oil, personally informed advisors to President Bush of meetings he and other Hunt Oil officials planned with representatives of the Kurdish government. Other Hunt Oil officials kept State Department officials informed about the company' s intentions.
* What do ya know: I'm about 150 pages into Evan Dara's The Easy Chain and just yesterday read through the blurbs at the front for Dara's first book The Lost Scrapbook. It was surprising to see the publisher grabbed a sentence of praise first written here and made it a blurb. We here at DC HQ are very pleased with the association, but a tad sad we didn't any notice or get comp'ed a copy.

* Where the Hell is Matt, a pretty neat video.

* "In summer, the song sings itself." -- William Carlos Williams

July 2, 2008

My temperature's rising, my fingers are tingling
I'm starting to shake
I look in the mirror and everything's funny
I think you're a fake

Kurt Schwitters, Opened by Customs, 1937-8

The Portrait
-- by Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

The World And I
-- 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.

Even if You Can't
-- C.P. Cavafy

Even if you can't shape your life the way you want,
at least you can try as much as you can
not to degrade it
by too much contact with the world,
by too much activity and talk

Do not degrade it by dragging it along
taking it around and exposing it so often
to the daily silliness
of social relations and parties,
until it comes to seem a boring hanger-on

July 1, 2008

Big plans stay while the little ones fade

Michael Smith /Alan Herman, Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter/Snack Bar, 1983

* Clusterfuck Nation: Not Your Grandma's Depression. excerpt:

"This isn't so funny anymore. Intimations of a July banking collapse rumbled though the Internet this weekend while mainstream news orgs like The New York Times and CNN pulled their puds over swift boats and Amy Winehouse's performance technique. Something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones...? to quote the master.

"What's happening is that American society is sliding into a greater depression than the one Grandma lived through. On the technical side, there has been unending controversy as to whether we're gripped by inflation or deflation. It's certainly deceptive. Food and gasoline prices are rising faster than the rivers of Iowa. But the prices of assets, like houses, stocks, jet-skis, GMC Yukons and pre-owned Hummel figurines are cratering as America turns into Yard Sale Nation.

"We're a very different country than we were in 1932. In that earlier crisis of capital, few people had any money but our society still possessed fantastic resources. We had plenty of everything that our land could provide: a treasure trove of mineral ores and the equipment to refine it all, a wealth of oil and gas still in the ground, and all the rigs needed to get at it, manpower galore (and of a highly disciplined, regimented kind), with fine-tuned factories waiting for orders. We had a railroad system that was the envy of the world and millions of family farms (even despite the dust bowl) owned by people who retained age-old skills not yet degraded by agribusiness. We had fully-functional cities with operating waterfronts and ten thousand small towns with local economies, local newspapers, and local culture."
"Complicating matters is a global oil predicament that is really not hard to understand, but which the organs of news and opinion have obdurately failed to explicate for an anxious public. Call it Peak Oil. There are only a few elements of it you need to know. 1.) that demand has now permanently outstripped supply; 2.) that new discoveries are too meager to offset consumption; 3.) That under under the circumstances, the systems we rely on for daily life are crumbling. I've called this situation The Long Emergency.

"Our chances of mitigating this, and of continuing our current way-of-life is about zero. I've tried to promote the idea that rather than waste remaining resources in the futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (i.e. come up with "solutions" to keep suburbia running), that we should begin immediately making other arrangements for daily life -- mainly by downscaling and re-scaling everything from farming to commerce to the way we inhabit the landscape -- but my suggestions have proven unpopular even among the 'environmental' elites, who are too busy being entranced by new-and-groovy ways to keep all the cars running.

"So where we are at now is the equivalent of standing in the slop by the ocean shore under a gathering hundred-foot-high wave that is about to come crashing down on our heads. Since I sure don't know everything, I can't say how this will all play out in the months ahead, especially with the presidential election coming at the exact moment that voters will be turning on their furnaces for the cold and dark winter beyond. I would venture to say that so far our society as a whole has done a piss-poor job of comprehending the situation. But there is still the possibility, with four months of politicking left, that the nature of our predicament can be articulated in a way that few can fail to understand, the way Mr, Lincoln articulated the terms of the Civil War on the eve of its fateful outbreak."

* Literary Tattoos.

* "A lot of times I wish there were rock critics like there are book critics or art critics. Because I feel like I do a lot of work in the writing and there's no one on the other side that's willing - or maybe they're not looking because it's not there in other people's music - but they're not willing to do the work back." -- David Berman