August 29, 2008

Toy city streets crawling through my sights,
sprouting clumps of mushrooms like a world surreal
This dream won't ever seem to end,
and time seems like it'll never begin

Asako Narahashi, Kawaguchiko, 2003

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart
-- by Jack Gilbert

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

The Manger of Incidentals
-- by Jack Gilbert

We are surrounded by the absurd excess of the universe.
By meaningless bulk, vastness without size,
power without consequence. The stubborn iteration
that is present without being felt.
Nothing the spirit can marry. Merely phenomenon
and its physics. An endless, endless of going on.
No habitat where the brain can recognize itself.
No pertinence for the heart. Helpless duplication.
The horror of none of it being alive.
No red squirrels, no flowers, not even weed.
Nothing that knows what season it is.
The stars uninflected by awareness.
Miming without implication. We alone see the iris
in front of the cabin reach its perfection
and quickly perish. The lamb is born into happiness
and is eaten for Easter. We are blessed
with powerful love and it goes away. We can mourn.
We live the strangeness of being momentary,
and still we are exalted by being temporary.
The grand Italy of meanwhile. It is the fact of being brief,
being small and slight that is the source of our beauty.
We are a singularity that makes music out of noise
because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness
and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.

A Small Music on a Spring Morning
-- by Margaret Avison

Why did they put the
blue and white live
balloons out with the trash
this morning just because
the party’s over — when they
thub on the cardboard still
roundly, and lift on their leashes?

Having balloons about on an
overcast morning is
celebration. O in the grey
nothing distracts from the bobbling
lightsomeness of a drift of
all-alone trembling to be touched

August 28, 2008

And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video
The stewardess came back and checked on my drink
In the last strings of sunlight, a Brigitte Bardot
As I had on my headphones
Along with those eyes that you get
When your circumstance is movie-size

Zoe Crosher, LA-like, 2004

* Spencer Ackerman. excerpt:

"When last the Democrats decided to make national security a theme at their convention, biography was everything. John Kerry, the party’s 2004 nominee, was a bona fide war hero, and the campaign made sure everyone knew it. Starting with Kerry’s arrival at the FleetCenter from across Boston’s Charles River, to recall his Vietnam service aboard a Swift Boat; to the parade of retired generals and admirals declaring their support; to Kerry’s famous opening line declaring “reporting for duty,” the Democrats gambled that Kerry’s heroic service would invest him with the national-security bona fides to elect him president.

"Beneath the pageantry, however, was a bluff. Kerry’s actual national-security message didn’t draw sharp distinctions with President George W. Bush’s policies. Kerry had voted for the Iraq invasion and refused to repudiate his decision. Kerry embraced the president’s “'ar on terror' formulation and tactics for addressing the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Kerry’s critique of Bush focused on his competence, suggesting that the Democratic nominee embraced Bush’s policies and wanted only to fine-tune them. The election results — Bush won a more solid victory then in 2000 — speaks to the wisdom of that strategy.

"When the Democrats talk tonight about national security, 2004 will appear like a long-forgotten, sepia-toned era. The campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) represents a quantum leap in terms of both style and substance. Rather than arguing that they can more competently execute Bush administration policies, as they did in 2004, the 2008-vintage Democratic Party, led by Obama, is presenting a more thoroughgoing critique. It begins with a clear timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But it does not stop there.

"Along with this new vigor on foreign policy is a sense of political confidence that the public is ready, in the wake of the failures of the Bush era, to embrace liberal solutions for national security. By contrast, it will be the Republicans in Minnesota who rely on war heroism to distract from their continuity with the Bush era."
"Unlike his rivals for the Democratic nomination — and his predecessor for it — Obama surrounded himself not with the sensible-center of Democratic foreign-policy advisers, but those who found themselves out of favor in Democratic circles for being too liberal. They were considered too opposed to the war in iraq, too opposed to accommodating Bush and too forthright about traditional liberal internationalism. The hawkish Richard Holbrooke, a close confident of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Gore and Kerry, is out, while his old friend and rival, the relatively dovish Anthony Lake, is in."
"Yet what the Obama campaign has already proven is that, unlike in 2004, the choice facing the country is between the left-most and right-most poles of foreign-policy thinking in the two parties. The November election, therefore, can be fairly said to provide a mandate to the next president on what to do about Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iran and a host of other foreign-policy issues. And that mandate will, Obama advisers believe, inspire action.

"'The impact of an election that produces an Obama presidency is huge,' Craig said, since Obama would be the nation’s first African-American president. 'I think it strengthens the capacity of the president [to lead]… McCain has a strategy to remain in Iraq, and if that’s what country wants, they can vote on it.' Naturally, of course, Craig doesn’t think the country will."

* Last night The Cut Ups recorded the final song of our upcoming album, Jusserand, which will be available in late October or early November on Dust Congress Records.

* "I am at war with the obvious." -- William Eggleston

August 27, 2008

the cellar door
is an open throat

Lari Pittman, Untitled #4 (In the Patio), 2005

Them Again
-- by Klipschutz

(with apologies to Van Morrison)

That was kind of crummy, the way they got us hooked on bottled water, with an able assist from their handmaidens in the press – oh and our vanity, misdirection, trusting natures, stupidity. Eight glasses a day, bare minimum, do not drink from the tap, those rusty pipes, spirochetes, spirogyra, cryptosporidia, the iron, zinc.

"Buy - drink - piss - toss, buy - drink - piss - toss, you can handle that, can’t you?" We were begging for it, true, to be lied to, forking small bills over, one nonrefundable plastic proto-phallic symbol at a time.

Someone can write a book about it, peeling like an onion layers of opportunism and greed, pinning tails to donkeys/elephants. By now, though, it is a fait accompli, a footnote to a footnote in the history of money. Weak-ass recycling laws are in effect – hard fought, big deal, patchwork – but the bottles by the million will be with us, decomposing, practically forever, in human years.

And how it has degraded the environment, all in the name of health and fitness, cleanliness and purity, this monument to habit-creating psychosocial engineering and herding sheep through checkout lines, up to the counter, is a kind of crummy footnote to a footnote, unforgivable.

Business Life
--by Donald Illich

My haircut is a brand new business.
Outside the barbershop window
onlookers hope to catch
the black strands of Samson
retiring into business life.
No more collapsing columns
of poetry, attracting women
and lions who come with
scissors and fangs to eat me.
No more boss' bad looks
or rotting sonnets in the slush
piles. My cubicle hates hippies.
We drink plastic from plastic cups.

American Image
-- by Sebastian Matthews

I want to be Walker Evans
or Robert Frank setting up shots

in the street—renegades
in Brooks Brothers suits

with Leicas draped on their chests
snapping shots of the downtrodden,

of churches, bits of billboard, bored
debutantes at posh parties

you'd have to fast-talk your way into;
or aboard an ocean liner, itching

to disembark; down in the boiler room
waiting for the foreman to look away

so you can frame his profile
with an arabesque of pipes

and release valves. I'd want to be out
on assignment taking far fewer rolls

than I'm being paid for, down
south alongside sharecroppers

and the sunburnt poor—trying to steal
moments, not souls, to find the past

inside the present, catch the already
falling out of fashion.

August 26, 2008

leaves turn color all day long

Barry Nemett, Couple, 1971

* Clusterfuck Nation:

"As the political conventions descend like the soggy forces of nature they have become -- the tropical depressions of politics -- the Republican party will be seen, with growing clarity, as the party that wrecked America. So many shoes are about to drop, and so many dominoes lined up to fall 'out there' on the financial landscape that the thump and clatter of crashing institutions will sound like the percussion section of the renowned USC marching band as the nation tramps toward the general election.

"In a classic calm-before-the-storm moment, last week's momentous Jackson Hole monetary conference played out like Sherlock Holmes's 'dog that didn't bark in the night.' The poobahs of global banking turned out in the Grand Tetons to compare Gulfstream jets and show off their concho belts, and that was about it. For all the massive turmoil in the banking system, almost no real news leaked out of the conference, and one was inclined to come to the unsettling conclusion that nothing came out because absolutely nothing happened there -- because absolutely nothing can be done about the gathering calamity of capital.

"At the moment, two of the biggest elephants in the room, so to speak, are going tits-up with X's where their eyes used to be. These would be the "affordable housing" enablers Fannie and Freddie, who managed during the past decade to make housing virtually unaffordable for any normal, responsible person unwilling to game the system -- with the additional consequence that not only the housing market but the general credit-and-lending apparatus of the US has entered a state of morbid failure. These two corporations are now dead, incurring a legacy of obligation that will add five trillion dollars to the national debt at one stroke. Nobody knows what the exact results of this debacle may be -- and the current silence about it is deafening -- but odds are the effect will range somewhere between destroying the currency and bankrupting the United States altogether.
"Meanwhile, reports coming out of Denver that Hillary's Harpies say they would rather vote for John McCain than Barack Obama simply boggle the mind. How fucking crazy are these women? And what have they made of their movement to advance political equality -- a mere campaign of revenge? Is that what their country needs right now?

"Speaking of John McCain, my friends, we can return to the general theme of this essay, which is that his party will come to be regarded as the party that wrecked America, and therefore, despite the poll numbers zinging around the news-o-sphere lately, he really doesn't have snowball's chance in hell of winning this election -- assuming it will go ahead as a contest between himself and Obama. Returning also to the theme of impotence among the leaders in the finance sector -- Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Paulson, et al, as displayed in Jackson Hole -- I'm rather convinced that the carnage on the money scene will be so extreme this fall that the nation will seem to have been transformed from a superpower to a basketcase before November 4th, and that the blame for this state of affairs will be blindingly obvious: the people in charge for the past eight years looted the treasury, destroyed the currency, and left the machinery of capital a smoking wreckage.

"And so, with the fucking nonsense of the Beijing olympics being over, let the real games begin."

* Tom Frank drives around the DC-area to help prove the argument in his new book that The Wrecking Crew. Complete with a Michael Moore moment.

* "Certain rights can never be granted to the government but must be kept in the hands of the people...a right is not something that somebody gives you; it is something that nobody can take away" -- Eleanor Roosevelt

August 25, 2008

don't hide - the snake can see you

Peter Saul, Vietnam, 1966

* Top ten conservative idiots.

* Pitchfork interviews David Berman. excellent interview, very much worth your time. excerpt:

Pitchfork: When you were writing this record and you were switching guitars, was that a big mindset shift for you?

DB: Yeah. I would say after the songs got kind of started up and had a direction or something, I'll use whatever to put me in the mood, whatever that means, whether that means reading. Like when I'm writing a song, I'll read certain books around that subject, especially if I'm stuck.

Like I was really stuck with candy, and I read like four books about candy. There really aren't any great books about candy.

Pitchfork: How many times did you have to rebuild these songs before you recorded them?

DB: Many times. Oh, every single song had a whole different direction. Well, not a different direction. All the songs were being written together, and I got 'em all lined up side by side so they had a purpose, a direction.

One of the cool things about doing songs side by side is that you build them all up, and while they're all there together, if you don't go right into the studio, you can change them to take into account their neighbors. If you were writing and the album was the form, not taking that one step before putting the album together seems ridiculous-- like leaving out a last draft of writing anything.

We had these songs recorded, and we had the basic tracking, but I kept having delays. The last thing I was going to do was the vocals; I didn't want to go work on them again, but it was driving me crazy. At first, it would just be one edit, one line, one song, like, "That one line, it's arbitrary. It doesn't contribute to the song. It doesn't follow what came before." I'd go back in there, and to take that out, it totally destroys the effect of verse on the other side of the song. Just to get rid of this one thing you have a choice now: "God, I might have to roll the whole thing back, make it something I can fuckin' care about."

You have to be able to switch to the listener's point of view when you're preparing a song or writing it, switch back and forth like that John Travolta movie, Face/Off and be like: "What objection might the listener have?" I had gone through every song and done that after saying, "These are all done. I just need to change one thing." And then there would be time and time. By the end, I wanted more time to write, actually.

Things like "San Francisco B.C.", there's this line like, "He came at me with some fist cuisine," and it had previously been, "He came at me with all he had." I took that out because I realized "all he had" was a cliché. I thought really quickly "fist cuisine." It was one of the last things I was changing, but now I look at it and I realize if I had one more day, I probably would have changed it to "he served me up some fist cuisine."

[Thinks] Maybe that second correction wouldn't have been such a good idea because the first verb, serve-- you're not expecting some guy standing there putting out a cigarette butt to start serving. "He came at me" at least gives you a moment to prepare for fist cuisine so you can unwrap that, and say, "OK, fist in your face, in your mouth, whatever, chewing." So you're always on this line like, "He served it up, or he came at me. What am I going to do? Choice A will lead to a completely different [place] than Choice B in every way. A lot of that.

In retrospect, it was kind of fun. It's how I imagined a poet like [Louis] Zukofsky working, having examined each word and putting each word on trial and made it pass. So I kind of felt it was very old-fashioned. Growing up and making art sort of slapdash is sort of an artistic position that also seemed somehow virtuous in 1980 or 1990 with postmodernism. You're thinking, "Well, I really like this not only because it's really interesting and its critique is unbelievably enjoyable, but it takes the privileging of craft away." When art is about craftsmanship, then guys like me don't make it as artists.

I always used to wonder if I revised enough, and I've come to the conclusion that i haven't. So it's real hard right now practicing some of the songs from the past. I see certain lines, certain sections, being not as strong as other areas. It makes me want to change the words, and I think, "But that ruins the experience for someone who's singing along or something.

Pitchfork: What's a song that you really want to change?

DB: Well, one would be in a song, "Slow Education". I got that one idea again, the one about dying, and it's just embarrassing to me. A lot of the things on Bright Flight, that's where I feel most rawly exposed. But going back earlier, there's a lot of stuff I find not so much embarrassing in the sense of too-close-to-the-bone, but more trivial. I feel like I guess some people who listen to those records probably feel. I would prefer that those songs were thought out more. But, at that time, I don't think I even had a model of songwriters who were writing coherent songs, really.

Pitchfork: If you hate these songs, why play them?

DB: I guess it's the same reason I didn't look at that movie Silver Jew. I knew that, if I did, I would have to make changes. I would see myself doing perfectly fine things, but I would have a personal reason for not liking, just because people are hard on themselves. So I have to figure that I'm being hard on myself about things.

For the most part, I am really taking that into consideration because of the small amount of songs that I am considering: It's like one from the first record, two songs from the second, four songs from the third, then two songs, then five songs, then nine songs. To me, it's like the compromise as a set between the worst concert I ever saw, which was going to see Hüsker Dü, who I'd never seen before. They played Warehouse: Songs and Stories, sides one through four straight through. I waited expecting-- even in the encore, which was the 45th song-- that they would come through with something for me. But also to see what I can now see: When I look at R.E.M.'s set list from Ireland last year, you see all these new songs in there, and you see one or two of the good ones you remember in there. I can't even imagine what it'd be like to be there or do that. I don't want to do that to anyone.

* "The future is not in the hands of fate but in ours." -- J.J. Jusserand

August 20, 2008

bandits in the white house limited civilian unrest

Cara Ober, You're So Beautiful It's Starting to Rain

Creation Myth
-- by Mathias Svalina

A little boy cut a circle
out of yellow paper
& this became the sun.

The little boy laid
a sheet of blue paper
on the floor & this
became the oceans.

The little boy cut
a daisy chain of people
out of paper & hung
it on the wall & this
became humanity.

It was nice for a while.
The people were happy
to just exist, they liked
the sun & the oceans,
they liked talking to people,
they liked how the wall felt
against their backs.

Eventually they tired
of hanging on the wall.
They wanted these things:
to swim in the oceans,
to tan on their backs,
to talk to more than two people.

They passed their plan
along the chain of people.
On the count of three
they would all pull their
arms & legs in, ripping
them all from each other.

On three they all pulled.
It was the first ripping sound
the world ever knew,
this world used to cutting.

It worked. The people
fell from the wall. Some
fell in the oceans, waterlogged
& sank to the bottom. Some
drifted near the sun
& burned up. Most fell
on the earth, but realized
that they were paper
& incapable of mobility.

They stayed in the spot
where they'd fallen. Those
lucky enough to have fallen
near each other talked constantly.

All they talked about
was how they missed the wall.

Living the Chemical Life
-- by Chris Anderson

I have to admit that I don’t care about the historical Jesus.
One way or the other.
I’ve always thought there were larger forces at work.
The sun and the wind. The sadness that comes in the afternoon.
Did you know that our bones are only 10 years old?
No matter how old we are, it’s always the same.
Something to do with cells, I guess. With regeneration.
There are miracles like this all over the place,
in everybody’s bloodstream, and that’s alright with me.
Doris Day was once marooned on an island with another man.
Years went by and her husband, James Garner,
was about to marry another woman. Polly Bergen.
But then Doris came back and sang a lullaby to her kids,
then tucked them into bed. And they didn’t even know who she was.
I think that life is just like this.
Sometimes we are the stone and the Spirit is the river.
Sometimes we are the mountain and the Spirit is the rain.

On New Terms
-- by Deborah Garrison

I'd like to begin again. Not touch my
own face, not tremble in the dark before
an intruder who never arrives. Not
apologize. No scurry, not pace. Not
refuse to keep notes of what means the most.
Not skirt my father's ghost. Not abandon
piano, or a book before the end.
Not count, count, count and wait, poised -- the control,
the agony controlled -- for the loss of
the one, having borne, I can't be, won't breathe
without: the foregone conclusion, the pain
not yet met, the preemptive mourning
about which
nothing left of me but smoke.

-- back Monday

August 19, 2008

if i had thought about it
I never would've done it

Ellen Auerbach, Sulphur Bath, 1949

* From Harper's September 2008:

-- Number of deaths in Florida last year caused by illegal drugs: 946

-- Number caused by prescription drugs: 2,002

-- Rank of this year's economic crisis among the "largest financial shocks since the Great Depression," according to the IMF: 1

-- Percentage of Britons and Canadians, respectively, who say the United States is a "force for evil": 35, 34

-- Estimated annual sales-tax revenue that California receives each year from medical-marijuana sales: $100,000,000

* Twofer Tuesday Bob Dylan:

-- I'm in the mood for you

-- on a night like this

* "There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money, either." --
Robert Graves

August 18, 2008

Well you're a wild horse
On a collision course
With the sun

Richard Misrach, Untitled 696-05, 2005

* Don't know much about history. excerpt:

"They obviously don’t teach cold war history at the law schools at Columbia in New York or George Washington in the nation’s capital, otherwise Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, who attended both institutions, would have thought twice about encouragement from the US for his ill-fated attack on South Ossetia a week ago. Saakashvili could have read vivid accounts of broadcasts, via the CIA-controlled Radio Free Europe, encouraging the Hungarians in 1956 to believe that if they rose against the Soviet occupier NATO troops would race to their aid.

"Hungarian-language programs broadcast news of the unfolding political and military drama in Budapest as the radio station advised on tactics of armed resistance. The CIA’s director of operations, Frank Wisner, had promoted Hungarian hopes for intervention, but President Eisenhower never had the slightest intention of doing so. Wisner was devastated and suffered a severe breakdown, ultimately committing suicide.
"I don’t believe for a moment there was a carefully rounded US plot to lure Putin into his foray into South Ossetia, maybe as cover for an impending attack on Iran. That’s nonsense. But there are obviously American players with an identifiable motive for encouraging Saakashvili to believe that his onslaught on South Ossetia would receive support more substantial than some pro forma quacks of protest from George Bush, dragging his eyes from comely volley ball players in Beijing to the anodyne text placed in font of him by his advisors. Republican contender John McCain needs bare-knuckle confrontations with America’s enemies. In such eyeball-to-eyeball crises he can strut before the cameras as the seasoned warrior with 'experience,' unafraid to lead America to the very brink of nuclear Armageddon. Ever since Harry Truman in 1948, it’s been a reliable way of getting elected as President.

"McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor, a rabid hawk called Randy Scheunemann, has until recently worn two hats, acting as McCain’s lead foreign policy man and also as a lobbyist for Georgia. Filings by the McCain campaign and reports to the US Department of Commerce required of all lobbyists acting for foreign governments show that between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the McCain campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 and, across the same period , the government of Georgia paid Scheunemann’s firm,Orion Strategies, $290,000 in lobbying fees. Scheuneman has since quit the lobbying firm, a 2-man operation.

"So Scheunemann indubitably had the ears of both Saakashvili and of McCain. What advice he tendered his patrons is a matter of speculation, but any advisor to McCain would certainly regard a vintage cold-war era confrontation between the United States and Russia as potentially a huge plus for McCain. The Republican candidate certainly seized the opportunity for manly bluster about Russia’s conduct.

"Equally rabid is Zbigniev Brzezinski, a sometime advisor to Obama and a veteran cold warrior from the Carter presidency of the 1970s. Brzezinski has publicly boasted of his role, as President Carter’s foreign policy adviser, in luring the Russians into their ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan in 1979. A year later the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics of 1980, accompanied in this gesture by China. Brzezinski, a Pole, is fanatically anti-Russian and has been thundering on the TV talk shows about the era of darkness that will descend of mankind if Russia is permitted to put Georgia in its place.
"So is the electorate ready to be pushed into McCain’s column on the grounds that he can stand up to the Russians? It could happen. As noted above, no politician here ever lost a race by overplaying determination to face down supposed threats to national security. President Saakashvili is goading McCain to put his money where his mouth is and McCain is well on his way towards re-fighting the Cold War. Let’s see how that plays with the electorate in October.

"Obama is certainly having a bad month, eerily reminiscent of John Kerry’s bad summer four years ago. As McCain seizes headlines with ringing calls to stand by plucky little Georgia, Obama is captured on videotape trying to surf in Hawai’I and being tossed about in the waves. I imagine the Republicans will not be reluctant to run this footage in campaign ads in a few weeks. Meanwhile Obama has meekly surrendered his Convention to the Clintons.

"For the moment, a big slice of the US electorate is glued to the TV, watching the Olympics. Their mind is not on Russia, but on China. They couldn’t care less about Georgia or South Ossetia. As for the Bush administration, it is too late to be playing some complicated piece of poker along Brzezinskian lines. Back in May, so Ha’aretz is now reporting, the US specifically warned Israel not to attack Iran and denied that country weapons and equipment it might use for such an enterprise. Bush doesn’t necessarily want to go out in a blaze of guns."

* Bush administration prepares to
gut endangered species act.

* "Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long." -- Leonard Bernstein

August 15, 2008

Grotesque music, million dollar sad.
Got no tactics, got no time on hand.

Michele Cormier-Attfield, Abstract Squares, 2007

i will learn how to love a person
and then i will teach you and then we will know

-- by Tao Lin

seen from a great enough distance i cannot be seen
i feel this as an extremely distinct sensation
of feeling like shit; the effect of small children
is that they use declarative sentences and then look at your face
with an expression that says, ‘you will never do enough
for the people you love’; i can feel the universe expanding
and it feels like no one is trying hard enough
the effect of this is an extremely shitty sensation
of being the only person alive; i have been alone for a very long time
it will take an extreme person to make me feel less alone
the effect of being alone for a very long time
is that i have been thinking very hard and learning
about mortality, loneliness, people, society, and love; i am afraid
that i am not learning fast enough; i can feel the universe expanding
and it feels like no one has ever tried hard enough; when i cried in your room it was the effect of an extremely distinct sensation that ‘i am the only person alive,’ ‘i have not learned enough,’ and ‘i can feel the universe expanding
and making things be further apart
and it feels like a declarative sentence
whose message is that we must try harder’

-- by David Lawrence

A man was walking past in an overcoat.
The dog was on wheels.
The man was wearing a threadbare
coat that didn't keep the rain
off his theater.
He was playing the good Samaritan,
walking the crippled terrier.
But I could tell from his bloodshot eye
and Coke bottle glasses
that he was a meat beater
and confused his Scottie with his sausage.

The Orange Bears
-- by Kenneth Patchen

The Orange bears with soft friendly eyes
Who played with me when I was ten,
Christ, before I'd left home they'd had
Their paws smashed in the rolls, their backs
Seared by hot slag, their soft trusting
Bellies kicked in, their tongues ripped
Out, and I went down through the woods
To the smelly crick with Whitman
In the Haldeman-Julius edition,
And I just sat there worrying my thumbnail
Into the cover---What did he know about
Orange bears with their coats all stunk up with soft coal
And the National Guard coming over
From Wheeling to stand in front of the millgates
With drawn bayonets jeering at the strikers?

I remember you would put daisies
On the windowsill at night and in
The morning they'd be so covered with soot
You couldn't tell what they were anymore.

A hell of a fat chance my orange bears had!

August 14, 2008

would you stand a little closer to the horses

Lana Z Caplan, Love in the Afternoon, 2007

* McCain counting on Blind Patriotism. excerpt:

Patriotism is often about believing not thinking. It appeals especially to people who would rather be told what to believe than to think for themselves. For far too many Americans, believing is seeing, i.e., they only see what they believe. Reflection, curiosity, introspection, questioning their political and religious authorities, and considering contrary evidence never make it past the walled-up certainty of belief guarding their emotional security. They are easily manipulated by political leaders who hide lawless international and discriminatory domestic policies behind ethnocentric beliefs: like, “America is the greatest nation in the world,” and has a divine mission to spread its God-given “freedom and democracy to the darkest corners of the world.” Rubber stamp these beliefs with “God bless America” and the ethnocentric and imperialistic masquerade is complete. Such is the blind patriotism driving much of the 2008 presidential campaign. A self-deceiving and potentially self-destructive patriotism that threatens the very security of America.

Enter Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. Various polls reveal that a majority of voters believe he is the most qualified to be commander-in-chief. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that McCain had “a striking . . .advantage as commander-in-chief . . . albeit perhaps not surprising given his military background.” According to the poll, “Seventy-two percent of Americans—even most Democrats—say he’d be a good commander-in-chief of the military. By contrast, fewer than half, 48 percent, say Obama would be a good commander-in-chief.” 1
Senator McCain’s military experience no more qualifies him to be “commander-in-chief” than a chronic heart patient’s experience qualifies him to be a cardiac surgeon.

It is not about believing is seeing but about seeing and doing “self-evident” truths. It is not just about “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” but about a country founded and built on the bones of Native Americans and the backs of enslaved Africans. It is not about allegiance to a nation but about a nation’s allegiance to “liberty and justice for all” everywhere. It is not about “God bless America” but about America blessing all of its citizens “from sea to shining sea.” It is not about “America is the greatest nation in the world,” but about the world in which everyone is great. It is about everyone’s right to see for himself and herself.

* At sporting events, please pay attention to the game.

* Pete Townshend and Keith Moon interviewed on Good Morning America, 1978.

* " A hypocrite is a person who--but who isn't?" -- Don Marquis

August 13, 2008

In 1984 I was hospitalized for approaching perfection

Albert Kotin, Tropic, 1959

-- by Dennis Mahagin

In my sweetest dream,
you are tattooing my trussed white ass
as flour-dusted pizza dough on a heart-shaped cutting board,
while your twin sister stands under the birthday pinata pony
lactating Milk Duds, Red Hots and Candy Corn--
the pony, lactating, that is, not your
sister, and then you softly whisper:

"Aren't you forgetting something mister?"--
pushing the bolus button at the base of my testicles
like a toaster lever, ‘till that prodigious penis it

pops right up,
and Sis is able to toss her lime green hula hoop
as a horseshoe bulls eye smack dab on the pulsating
purple head, while clapping out the funky rhythm
for first verse of Mickey the cheerleader song.

I've told you already
about the eye patch and permanent
palm prints on my pasty forehead, that came from playing
Patty Cake and Rock-Paper-Scissors with a paranoid
schizophrenic Three Stooges fan in Washington Park;

I let you know about our previous life together
as Appalachian flower children riding astral planes
made from my magic carpet tongue sparks
flogging your flint rock nipples.

I've given you the password to my heart
in all its anagrammatic permutations; but you seem
to insist this is nothing but a start; so herewith, at
last comes the story of my first puppy--
an Airedale named Chipper

who could jump
five feet into the air
to kiss my cheek, and then spin
and spin, like Brian Boitano,
all the way back down
to the ground.

-- from his downloadable chapbook Bandini's Disco Usufruct

To Whom It May Concern
-- by J.V. Cunningham

After so many decades of ... of what?
I have a permanent sabbatical.
I pass my time on actuarial time.
Listen to music, and going to bed
Leave something at the bottom of the glass,
A little wastefulness to end the day.

white, white collars
-- by denis johnson

we work in this building and we are hideous
in the fluorescent light, you know our clothes
woke up this morning and swallowed us like jewels
and ride up and down the elevators, filled with us,
turning and returning like the spray of light that goes
around dance-halls among the dancing fools.
my office smells like a theory, but here one weeps
to see the goodness of the world laid bare
and rising with the government on its lips,
the alphabet congealing in the air
around our heads. but in my belly's flames
someone is dancing, calling me by many names
that are secret and filled with light and rise
and break, and I see my previous lives.

August 12, 2008

they say there is gold from the hills
hidden in the slums

Kurt Hentschlager and Ulf Langheinrich, Granular Synthesis, FELD 1, 2001

* 2007 interview of Dave Thomas (Rockets from the Tombs, Pere Ubu). excerpt:

Q: Before you started Rocket From The Tombs I understand that you worked, at least for a little while, as a rock journalist. How did you start doing that and how did that affect your decision to go on and make music?

Thomas: Accident and circumstance. In high school I was on a path to pursue a career in micro-biology. I was taking a college-level course. I had an intuitive affinity for it. At the end of my junior year I discovered that if I took an English class over the summer I could graduate from high school early. It was, however, too late to apply for college so that school year I audited classes at the college where my father taught. They had a good student paper. I got involved. I became editor within a few months. The next year I went to college for real. My fellow students seemed to be interested only in drinking and partying. I thought to myself, This is not Real Life. I dropped out after a couple months. I called my folks from the Mississippi. I hitchhiked across America.

On my return I got a job doing layout at a weekly entertainment paper called The Scene. Tuesday was layout night. With a bottle of vodka, a handful of exacto-blades, a light table and a waxer I worked from 6pm to 5am. I did great work. Those lines and columns were immaculate. The copy, however, was not. The bad writing and spelling mistakes bugged me. So I would cut up little pieces of print-outs and reconstruct the copy on the wax table. The publisher eventually decided to save us all alot of time and headache by making me copy editor. I started re-writing everyone’s copy. The publisher eventually decided to save us all alot of time and headache by making me a writer. I wrote music reviews, did band interviews and wrote the usual puff pieces when bands came into town. I had little initial interest in music but I quickly developed a number of ideas about How Things Should Be. A couple years of this followed. I became a minor local “celebrity.” Then one day I had an epiphany. I was interviewing a fellow named Jim Dandy from a band called Black Oak Arkansas at the hip celebrity hotel in town, Swingo’s. It hit me like a wall. I could think of no questions that I wanted, or needed, the answers to. I muddled through, went home and thought about it. I decided that if I was so smart I oughta do this music thing myself. So I did.

Q: The Pere Ubu website Ubu Projex is about as complete and thorough as any that I have ever seen from any band. What prompted the decision to make such an extensive catalogue of information available online? How involved are you with the content and maintenance of the site?

Thomas: It is MORE complete and MORE thorough and MORE interesting than any other band’s website. I produce the content and I am the webmaster. I aim to never have to say a word again. If I can answer everything on the website then I will be home and dry. As well it serves my goal of never having to say another word to my bandmates. I also think that how bands work is interesting. I think it should be documented. I have long wanted to publish our accounts on the site as well but there are some security and confidentiality issues to be dealt with so I’m not sure that will ever happen.

A musical question of sorts: I understand that you no longer use microphones for recording your vocals anymore, instead using speakers to capture your vocals. I understand this concept a little, using the magnetism of the speakers, but I don’t completely get how this works. Could you explain how exactly you do this and what prompted your decision to do this? I am also curious, what do you use for live performances then? Do you use a regular microphone for live shows or
>> do you have something that you bring with you on tour?

Thomas: A microphone and a speaker are technically very similar - close enough to be described as being identical. It doesn’t take much. Some load-balancing and a few simple tricks. I had for a long time complained to my engineer, Paul Hamann, that I didn’t like transience and pointless fidelity above and below the range that I was interested in. I also hated equalization. It is a cruelty perpetrated for the sake of convenience and the limitations of audio reproduction. I don’t bow to limitations. I attack them. All the equalization in the world can’t change the fundamental nature of a sound - it can only “torture” it. You can add or cut 12db of any frequency at any point in the spectrum and achieve nothing but abortion. You kill the soul of the sound. It is an egocentric pursuit at the expense of “righteousness.” Better that you bring the sound into the world as you want it to be. (I am waxing metaphorical here for the sake of brevity.) Paul took all this in over the years and came up with a solution.

Live I use standard-issue microphones. The live performance and the studio performance are only coincidentally related in that the same individuals are involved. Using my “hyper-naturalistic” techniques in concert are utterly impractical. A studio is a controlled environment. A concert stage is a chaotic environment. That’s as it should be. Many musicians try to make the concert stage into a controlled environment. They are amateurs ignorant of their craft.

* New York rock show alerts:

-- The Caribbean will be performing Wednesday evening at Glasslands in Brooklyn with Colorlist, and the Michael Blake Ensemble

-- Dean and Britta will be playing a set concentrating on of Galaxy 500 songs Thursday evening at The Zipper Factory in Manhattan

* "A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the word you first thought of." -- Burt Bacharach

August 11, 2008

Artistic Freedom. Do what you want.
But just make sure that the money ain't gone

Richard Prince, Untitled (Girlfriend), 1993

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

George W. Bush

Did you know that Our Great Leader has spent at least two of the last eight years on vacation? According to the Austin American-Statesman:
President Bush's days in office are numbered. And the days he has already spent there have also been carefully numbered by a veteran reporter, yielding an early, raw-data glance at a presidency sure to be analyzed for decades to come.


Some are curious: Bush has been to 75 countries (Mexico, Russia and Italy lead with six visits each) and 49 states (no Vermont visit so far).

Some are eyebrow-raising: Bush has spent well over a year at his Crawford, Texas ranch, well over a year at Camp David, and has attended 95 sports-related events.
* Web in Front takes a look back at Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.

* Rich people's NYC rooftops, a Flikr set.

* "Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better." -- George Santayana

August 8, 2008

a latenight obsessions
covered in questions

Alexander Rodchenko, Dive, 1935

Bob Ross The PBS Painter Patiently
Walks Us Through The Peace Sign

-- by Dennis Mahagin

(from his new, downloadable chapbook Bandini's Disco Usufruct)

Well now,
this week I think we’ll start out
swashing our numbered canvas
with an itty bitty burnt
umber stick figure—

give him
a smiley sunspot for
pie hole,
red rooster ruff on beatific
brow, just…

and next?—
heck why not go
ahead and blow off
both his clown feet

with a rusty half-moon
Kandahar or perhaps Anbar
Provincial Claymore swathed
in creamy, wavy sand
swale disguise… Okay-zee-
way-zee?... Now, I think
we're ready for the upraised
Popeye-sized evangelistic arms
to come clean

detached thanks to sizzling white-hot shrapnel
spittle tracers from a Jihad dirt clod IED, until

Matchstick Boy, he
starts duck-walking
figure eights as though
dazed in the aftermath
of an awful Plains wheat
thresher mishap...

Oh, I do think he's
starting to take shape

—look there!—

now he’s spurting crimson geysers
from a neck that’s lost its loose-strung
head in a cartoon balloon feud with Connie
Chung over the most arousing, yet

way to phrase a Nightly News
body count.

what say we
go ahead and
give him his
arms back?

That’s the kind of civic
generosity PBS is famous for!

Then if he
hugs himself
real tight, we’ll
protract a
perfect circle

'round the Chop-A-
Block torso, and he’ll be

just right for
lapel pins, Volvo bumper stickers
and retro black light posters to adorn
the bedroom walls of deeply-troubled
adolescent boys.

Self Portrait One Year From Now
-- by Sandra Beasley

Snake farming will turn out easier than I thought,
Florida cheaper, and my tangled lakefront will have
one lone sentry, a flamingo
white, unmotivated, preferring fish
to courtship. And I will wear hats. Straw ones.

I will not recall the Viking bounty,
the cotton incarcerations of the Salvation Army,
the girl, the mewling girl,
and how you shed us all like a tired skin when you left.

There will be two moons:
mine, ever and gladed
and yours, cold and above,
watched from a quiet bed,
kept awake — as you always are —
by bites from small, dedicated mouths.

August 7, 2008

Pick apart the past, you’re not going back

Julia Fullerton-Batten, Beach Houses, 2005

* From a 1979 interview/article of Brian Eno by Lester Bangs:

"This brings up the famous 'I'm not a musician' quote from early in his career, which confounds fans and critics alike to this day. It seems like a conceit turned inside out, inasmuch as I've got almost a dozen albums of his music sitting here. 'Again,' he almost sighs, 'it was a case of taking a position deliberately in opposition to another one. I don't say it much anymore, but I said it when I said it because there was such an implicit and tacit belief that virtuosity was the sine qua non of music and there was no other way of approaching it. And that seemed to be so transparently false in terms of rock music in particular. I thought that it was well worth saying, 'Whatever I'm doing, it's not that,' and I thought the best way to say that was to say, Look, I'm a nonmusician. If you like what I do, it stands in defiance to that.'

"'When I say 'musician,' I wouldn't apply it to myself as a synthesizer player, or 'player' of tape recorders, because I usually mean someone with a digital skill that they then apply to an instrument. I don't really have that, so strictly speaking I'm a non-musician. None of my skills are manual, they're not to do with manipulation in that sense, they're more to do with ingenuity, I suppose.'

"And yet one wonders still how disingenuous all this might be. So I asked him point blank: 'Have you ever had any formal music or theory training at all?'


"'Have you ever felt the pressure that you should get some?'

"'No, I haven't, really. I can't think of a time that I ever thought that, though I must have at one time. The only thing I wanted to find out, which I did find out, was what 'modal' meant; that was I thought, a very interesting concept.'"
"It appears that the great and true love of his creative life is the tape recorder, and all of the things it can do. When he joined Roxy Music, he didn't even, strictly speaking, audition: they asked him to come and make some demos of the band, and while he was there he started fooling around with a synthesizer that was in the room; when they heard what he was getting out of it, they asked him to join. 'I'd never touched one before, but Andy (McKay, sax player) knew that I had been doing things with electronics for a long time, five or six years, particularly using tape. Since I was about fifteen, really. I had wanted a tape recorder since I was tiny. I thought it was just like a magic thing, and I always used to ask my parents if I could have one but I never got one, until just before I went to art school I got access to one and started playing with it, and then when I went to art school they had them there. I thought it was magic to be able to catch something identically on tape and then be able to play around with it, run it backwards; I thought that was great for years,' he laughs.

"'I can remember the first piece I did at art school; the sound source was this big metal lampshade, like they have in institutions, and it was like a very deep bell, and I did a piece where I just used that sound but at different speeds so it sounded like a lot of different bells. They were very close in pitch and they just beat together. It's not unlike many of the things I do now,' I suppose.

"'I'm very good with technology, I always have been, and with machines in general. They seem to me not threatening like other people find them, but a source of great fun and amusement, Iike grown up toys really. You can either take the attitude that it has a function and you can learn how to do it, or you can take an attitude that it's just a black box that you can manipulate any way you want. And that's always been the attitude I've taken, which is why I had a lot of trouble with engineers, because their whole background is learning it from a functional point of view, and then learning how to perform that function. So I made a rule very early on, which I've kept to, which was that I would never write down any setting that I got on the synthesizer, no matter how fabulous a sound I got. And the reason for that is that I know myself well enough to know that if I had a stock of fabulous sounds I would just always use them. I wouldn't bother to find new ones. So it was a way of trying to keep the instrument fresh. Also I let it decay, it keeps breaking down and changes all the time. There are a lot of things I've done before that I couldn't even do again if I wanted to.'

"In fact, though, if there has been one criticism of Eno's music over the past few years, it's Lydia Lunch's: that all his music does is "flow and weave," over and over again. That his quiescent, anti-emotional or emotionally ambiguous mode seems to dominate; that what we have in all these 'ambient' recordings and scores for unmade films and endless overdubs might just be still waters that don't necessarily run deep, a placidity so resolute as to be almost oppressive, fascist. Everybody who felt that way should be excited to hear that in the album he's working on now he's returned to what he calls the 'idiot energy' of his first album and the dancehall classic 'Baby's on Fire.'"

* 20 dunking mishaps.

* "A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor." -- Ring Lardner (1885 - 1933), 'How to Write Short Stories'

August 5, 2008

I'm willing to bend
but I don't want to break

Katherine Lubar, Stella's Lamp, 2008

* Oil money for McCain. excerpt:

"Senator John McCain received a burst of donations in June from oil company employees after he came out in favor of offshore drilling, according to a report released last week by Campaign Money Watch, a watchdog organization.

"But the largest collective response from a single company, the report noted, came from the Hess Corporation. Together, Hess employees or their relatives poured out more than $300,000 to Mr. McCain’s joint fund-raising committee with the Republican National Committee in June, according to campaign finance records.

"On Monday, after the web site, Talking Points Memo, listed the names of the Hess contributors, scrutiny fell on a couple, Alice Rocchio, who is identified in campaign finance records as an office manager at Hess, and her husband, Pasquale, who is listed as a foreman at Amtrak.

"They each gave a whopping $28,500 to Mr. McCain and the Republican National Committee [...]

"Mr. McCain’s joint fund-raising committee took in more than $1.2 million in contributions in Texas alone from oil and gas-related donors in June, according to Campaign Money Watch. More than 70 percent of that money came after June 15, the day before Mr. McCain came out in favor of offshore drilling."

According to Digby:

"Further digging from the WaPo has found that a driver for Hess maxed out to McCain as well. It's an unlikely profile for a $2,300 donor.

"It's entirely possible these contributions are legitimate and that Hess staffers just love McCain ever since he flipped on drilling. That's the charitable explanation. The bad one is illegal straw contributions from oil companies, and McCain's track record on campaign finance in this election (he's actually breaking the law as we speak) is not good.

"It's well-established that the McCain campaign is crawling with lobbyists and deeply corrupted by their influence, with the new set of positions matching the concerns of the new corporate contributors. This set of oil company donations is the most vibrant example, and so it makes the most sense to continue on the offense and keep pointing them out."

* Tenant leaves townhouse, 70,000 beer cans behind (pictures at link). excerpt:

"When property manager Ryan Froerer got a call from a realtor to check on a townhouse, he knew something was up. 'It was the sickest thing I've ever seen. Just unimaginable that someone could live in that.' He couldn't even open the front door. It was blocked from inside. As he finally entered the house, he found about 70,000 empty beer cans."
"To all outward appearances, the person who lived in the townhouse was the perfect tenant. He always paid on time and he never complained. He kept a low profile in the neighborhood. The cans were finally recycled for 800 dollars, an estimated 70,000 cans: 24 beers a day for 8 years."

* Twofer Tuesday: John Cale

-- Gideon's Bible

-- Amsterdam

* "Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh." -- W. H. Auden

August 4, 2008

they tell me whisky works better than beer

E. L. Kirchner, Street, Berlin, 1913

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

John McCain

"It was revealed last week that John McCain has been keeping a little secret about his campaign's response to Barack Obama's overseas trip. According to Business Week:
What the McCain campaign doesn't want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was... wait for it... using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that's political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents - a lie.
"Elsewhere on the McCain campaign trail last week: we all know how fond the senator is of insisting that he will never raise taxes, never, not ever. But last week, McCain appeared on "This Week" and said, 'I don't want tax increases. But that doesn't mean that anything is off the table.'

"Whoops! Conservatives were not happy. It's okay though because just days later McCain said, 'I want to look you in the eye. I will not raise your taxes nor support a tax increase. I will not do it.' So that clears that up. He's definitely not going to increase anyone's taxes, unless he does."

* RIP Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

* Corn Chips and Pie is counting down the 100 greatest things of all time and is currently at 98:

"#98: The sun

"It provides hope each morning and encourages amateur photographers each evening. It sustains life on our planet, and is the reason that all of us (except some shitty little bacteria hanging out near thermal vents) are here today. Not bad, right? The only thing keeping the sun from ranking higher on this list: it hasn't really shown me very much recently. No innovation. It's kind of a celestial Stereolab, cranking out the same thing over and over, content in stasis. Some critics might say 'stagnation.' Enjoyable, yes, but only 98th best."

* "Defining and analyzing humor is a pastime of humorless people." -- Robert Benchley

August 1, 2008

Your first burning breath
Was a symphony
And a ship full of horses
Was going down at sea

Unknown, Frank Stanford's grave in Subiaco, Arkansas

Three poems by Frank Stanford, who was born sixty years ago today:

Brothers on Sunday Night

We'd been dreaming
Or at least I had
About peanuts that grow in the river
And oozed sap
When you bit them

A woman bootlegger shook her dustmop
That was the moon

In the fields
Something barren like a journey
And echoes of salt
Sprinkled deep on the table

Where they said the young mother
Walked into the water

With her dress full of rocks
I laid down
And ate a peck of bruised peaches

A fisherman went to sleep on his mule
Riding to the store
For a roll of wax paper
Then we heard
Shouting that tore out the light.


a woman came to take my picture
she told me the time of day in a letter
I wanted to be dressed
fit to kill
and ready when she took it
I wanted to be lying on the edge of a pond
smoking a long pipe
and an unsaddled horse would be grazing
beside me I wanted a gaze no one could forget
without a word of warning
I heard the whirring come to an end
bumble bees sucking a rose
this woman should have told me
these pictures wouldn't be still
I'd of ridden the white horse

Only One Set in the Singer's Eyes

He got drunk looking at a woman from his past
And this is what he wrote down on a paper sack
In the tavern one night while I watched him:
Your body is a plantation
I worked on for seven years, all of them solid,
Deep in summer it's uncleared timber, backwater
Ditch and slough, the years of the bad-assed
Sax, the years of bad cotton, nights and crops
I went shares on, evenings with gars,
Lord God Almighty didn't it rain,
So long, say love, say night honey, pull
A stump, court with your crowbar,
The bedrooms like trembling bridges,
Like women holding mirrors in the spring,
And here I am, the snow all around me,
A match in my mouth, like the high water,
Crazy, sad, and dangerous, a log
Chain on your floor, what love
There was, bee on the rose, buried in the year
Book in the attic, common and pretended sleep,
No one loses their shadow because no one
Is a boat on a river without wind,
And there are screws on the window sill
Never will be sunken to hold a pane,
You can listen to the rain, you can lie
Yourself back into bodies you never
Touched, cruelty, cruelty, cruelty,
That's what I told her.