December 24, 2008

It's christmas time in the mountains

Bryan Gysin, Play it Cool, 1963

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

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

* William Burroughs' A Junky's Christmas.

-- back January 2009

December 23, 2008

you better you better you bet

Dawoud Bey, Boy Eating a Foxy Pop, (Brooklyn, NY), 1988

Simultaneous exhibitions at the Walters Art Museum and the Contemporary Museum (Baltimore, Maryland) celebrate the works of renowned photographer Dawoud Bey. At the Walters, Portraits Re/Examined: A Dawoud Bey Project will feature contemporary photographs by Bey juxtaposed with historic portraits from the museum’s private collection. Dawoud Bey: Class Pictures, a companion exhibition of more than 40 of Bey’s portraits, will be on view at the Contemporary Museum. Both exhibitions run through Saturday, Feb. 16, 2009.


-- The Walters Art Museum

-- Contemporary Museum

* The winner of the contest for a free copy of All Roads...But This One, published by Luddite Kingdom Press is Allen Smithee of automotive acne productions. For those interested, the winner was picked from a "We Are Family" era Pirates hat by my wife. Thanks to all who entered.

* The Cut Ups in the Washington City Paper.

* "The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal." -- H. L. Mencken

December 22, 2008

good morning my child
stay with me a while
you not got any place to be
won't you sit a spell with me

Daniel Kramer, Dylan Playing Chess

Last Day: To enter the contest to win a copy of All Roads...But This One from Luddite Kingdom Press. Email your entry before midnight for consideration. Winner announced in tomorrow's post.

* Krugman. excerpt:

"Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now 'economic recovery plan' — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010.

"But what comes after that? Right now everyone is talking about, say, two years of economic stimulus — which makes sense as a planning horizon. Too much of the economic commentary I’ve been reading seems to assume, however, that that’s really all we’ll need — that once a burst of deficit spending turns the economy around we can quickly go back to business as usual.

"In fact, however, things can’t just go back to the way they were before the current crisis. And I hope the Obama people understand that.

"The prosperity of a few years ago, such as it was — profits were terrific, wages not so much — depended on a huge bubble in housing, which replaced an earlier huge bubble in stocks. And since the housing bubble isn’t coming back, the spending that sustained the economy in the pre-crisis years isn’t coming back either.

"To be more specific: the severe housing slump we’re experiencing now will end eventually, but the immense Bush-era housing boom won’t be repeated. Consumers will eventually regain some of their confidence, but they won’t spend the way they did in 2005-2007, when many people were using their houses as ATMs, and the savings rate dropped nearly to zero.

"So what will support the economy if cautious consumers and humbled homebuilders aren’t up to the job?

"A few months ago a headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion, on point as always, offered one possible answer: 'Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble to Invest In.' Something new could come along to fuel private demand, perhaps by generating a boom in business investment.
"A more plausible route to sustained recovery would be a drastic reduction in the U.S. trade deficit, which soared at the same time the housing bubble was inflating. By selling more to other countries and spending more of our own income on U.S.-produced goods, we could get to full employment without a boom in either consumption or investment spending.

"But it will probably be a long time before the trade deficit comes down enough to make up for the bursting of the housing bubble. For one thing, export growth, after several good years, has stalled, partly because nervous international investors, rushing into assets they still consider safe, have driven the dollar up against other currencies — making U.S. production much less cost-competitive.

"Furthermore, even if the dollar falls again, where will the capacity for a surge in exports and import-competing production come from? Despite rising trade in services, most world trade is still in goods, especially manufactured goods — and the U.S. manufacturing sector, after years of neglect in favor of real estate and the financial industry, has a lot of catching up to do."
"In short, getting to the point where our economy can thrive without fiscal support may be a difficult, drawn-out process. And as I said, I hope the Obama team understands that.

"Right now, with the economy in free fall and everyone terrified of Great Depression 2.0, opponents of a strong federal response are having a hard time finding support. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, has been reduced to using his Web site to seek 'credentialed American economists' willing to add their names to a list of 'stimulus spending skeptics.'

"But once the economy has perked up a bit, there will be a lot of pressure on the new administration to pull back, to throw away the economy’s crutches. And if the administration gives in to that pressure too soon, the result could be a repeat of the mistake F.D.R. made in 1937 — the year he slashed spending, raised taxes and helped plunge the United States into a serious recession.

'The point is that it may take a lot longer than many people think before the U.S. economy is ready to live without bubbles. And until then, the economy is going to need a lot of government help."

* Via Skimble:

Killing the watchdog. I have yet to see this reported anywhere, but an anonymous commenter named trademonster on an investment forum said this (notice the dates):

01-09-06 06:49 AM
"I've heard that SEC is going to shut down Madoff financial and all of their hedge funds for SEC violations. Can anyone confirm this?"

And this:

01-14-06 02:52 PM
"I actually got some update and found out that it's Spitzer's office doing the investigation not SEC. But I don't know what the scope of the investigation is."

Suddenly Spitzer's dalliances with a hooker don't seem quite as fundmentally important to the financial health of this country.

We need people who understand the system to police it. No matter how sanctimonious or egomaniacal you may find him, Spitzer understands the financial system. If these posts are true, somebody in power was more interested in the the details of Eliot Spitzer's transactions than Bernard L. Madoff's. They were obviously more interested in killing the watchdog than in catching the billionaire burglar.

* "To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser." -- Robertson Davies

December 19, 2008

we drink whiskey like our fathers

Exene Cervenka, Beautiful, 2006

Reminder: Enter now for the contest to win a copy of All Roads...But This One from Luddite Kingdom Press. Email your entry before Dec. 22 at midnight for consideration.

Greta Van Susteren Has A Sexy Perpetual Sneer
-- by Dennis Mahagin

Olberman had
a nasty cold.
When the power came
back on, we pawned
loose gold in lieu of
Cable, we watched,
we watched
the follies unfold.

Behind Barack's

Reform Talk, rational thought

and ironical middle name,

we nearly forgot 
about that war in… Hell, 

it was Yesterday's News!

Until some guy got

all mad, went and

threw the Shoes. 

Not one, but two herky shoes
at Junior! Not one, but two

herky shoes
at Junior! We didn't know the boy
could move like that. We blew fuses
on a billion Tivos, watching, watching,
watching...Somebody, by God

should have
thought of it sooner, before Bernard
Madoff with all the silver, and Cheney
rode shotgun for sunset crying:


O'Reilly doesn't know
he's Live, we watch him gnaw
a whole wad of lemon Chapstick,
Geraldo does the Charleston,
shock, awe, guffaw so


Bill O'Reilly does not
know he is Live,

this contagion must be
immune to triangulation
in a Kandahar cave,
Solstice season, Mullahs

slap High Fives, we watch

without reason

Prayer to Escape from the Marketplace
-- by James Wright

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

The World And I
-- by Laura Riding

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

December 18, 2008

If im a toy then let me do what i do
you wind me up and watch what i do to you

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2004

* Interesting New Yorker article on Richard Yates

* In 1989 I worked at a camp in Maine and lived for two months in a cabin with Obama's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget. Sharp (and understanding) guy as I remember.

* Song of the Day: Cold Hard Times, by Lee Hazlewood

* "We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

December 17, 2008

As the pages turn, my eyes are glued

Dana Ellyn, Get Mother a Drink, 2006

What I Would Do
-- by Marc Petersen

If my wife were to have an affair,
I would walk to my toolbox in the garage,
Take from it my 12" flathead screwdriver
And my hickory-handle hammer,
The one that helped me build three redwood fences,
And I would hammer out the pins
In all the door hinges in the house,
And I would pull off all the doors
And I would stack them in the backyard.
And I would empty all the sheets from the linen closet,
And especially the flannels we have slept between for
nineteen winters;
And I would empty all the towels, too,
The big heavy white towels she bought on Saturdays at
And the red bath towels we got for our wedding,
And which we have never used;
And I would unroll the aluminum foil from its box,
And carry all the pots and pans from the cupboards to the
And lay this one long sheet of aluminum foil over all our
pots and pans;
And I would dump all the silverware from the drawer
Onto the driveway; and I would push my motorcycle over
And let all its gas leak out,
And I would leave my Jeep running at the curb
Until its tank was empty or its motor blew up,
And I would turn the TV up full-blast and open all the
And I would turn the stereo up full-blast,
With Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on it,
Schiller's "Ode to Joy," really blasting;
And I would strip our bed;
And I would lie on our stripped bed;
And I would see our maple budding out the window.
I would see our maple budding out our window,
The hummingbird feeder hanging from its lowest bough.
And my cat would jump up to see what was the matter
with me.
And I would tell her. Of course, I would tell her.
From her, I hold nothing back.

-- by C.X. Hunter

I stole anything useless
made my lair in the basement
diddled the junk
on the floor in the closet
listened to show tunes
on a wooden radio
licked the dust from the windows
hid from the crow
hid from the bluebird
imagined bugs in the plumbing
dreaded the ring
of a big black telephone
feared I might be related
to a family of monsters
went without sleep for
fourteen years

The Professional
-- by Joe Maynard

"That's the good thing;
about my profession,"
she said
putting her hand on my arm
while her other hand
palm up
with lipstick clad filter
sandwiched between her index
and bird finger
like a smoldering
"All you have to know
is how to use the phone."

* Entries are still being accepted for the contest to win a copy of All Roads...But This One from Luddite Kingdom Press. Email your entry today!

December 16, 2008

Shelter me from the powder and the finger
Cover me with the thought that pulled the trigger

Marlene Dumas, Jule-die Vrou, 1985

* The battle for Bulgakov's nationality.

"Few would disagree that Mikhail Bulgakov is a great writer. But is the man who wrote Flight and A Cabal of Hypocrites a great Russian writer, or a great Ukrainian writer? Or, can any country that exists today really lay full claim to him?

"I didn't give these questions much thought until visiting Kiev recently. There, Vitaly Malakhov, an acclaimed Ukrainian director who started the Bulgakov international art festival seven years ago, debated the question of Bulgakov's nationality with me.

"The identity crisis arises it seems because although Bulgakov was born in what is now Ukraine's capital, a city he immortalized in his first novel The White Guard, the playwright and novelist was ethnically Russian, wrote in Russian and moved to Moscow when he was 21. So, while in a recent poll of Russians, the author of The Master and the Margharita was named the country's second greatest writer, in similar poll in Ukraine, he was claimed as Ukraine's third best playwright. The mixed opinions on nationality aren't any less muddy elsewhere in the world of letters. Take, for example, Bernard Shaw – described as an Irish dramatist despite living in England most of his life – or Polish-born Tom Stoppard, who is nearly always referred to as a British playwright.

"The issue is, understandably, more politically fraught in Ukraine. As Malakhov said, "the problem is, that before 1990, we were all thought of as Russian". I was reminded of this recently when Anton Chekhov's dacha in Yalta, Ukraine hit the news. The playwright's Crimean house, where he wrote both Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, is falling apart, but the governments of Ukraine and Russia have been in a stand-off over who should pay to fix it up.

"It's a cultural cold war with little sign of tensions easing; Nikolai Gogol is another playwright often pulled into the fray. Although Gogol wrote in Russian, ethnically he was Ukrainian and his comic stories drew extensively on his Ukrainian background. The war over Gogol's nationality though, is fought everywhere from scholarly journals to Wikipedia. Alas, there are no government inspectors coming to town to rule on the subject.

"In an ideal world, the multi-faceted identities of famous literary figures would be used to promote intercultural understanding, rather than fuel rival nationalisms. Kiev's Bulgakov festival attempted just that, by bringing together theatre-makers and artists from around the world – including Russia and Georgia.

"As Igor Volkov, an actor who participated in the festival, told me: 'Bulgakov's work unites people from different parts of the world and people with different political views.' So does Gogol's and Chekhov's. As LP Hartley wrote, 'the past is a foreign country' and that's the borderless country to which all great writers eventually get citizenship – regardless of where they were born or in which language they originally wrote."

* Hilarious Bonnie "Prince" Billy interview on a Kansas City morning show.

* "Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon." -- Susan Ertz

December 15, 2008

I believe in dinosaurs
not god

Alex Roulette, Dan & Grace, Oil on Panel, 2006

* From Harper's, Retrospective of the Bush era, January 2009:

-- Minimum number of Bush appointees who have regulated industries they used to represent as lobbyists: 98

-- Rank of Mom, Dad, and Rudolph Giuliani among thos whom 2002 college graduates said they most wished to emulate: 1, 2, 3

-- Percentage change since 2000 in U.S. emigration to Canada: +22

-- Percentage change since 2002 in the number of U.S. teens using illegal drugs: -9

-- Percentage change in the number of adults in their fifties doing so: +121

-- Number of White House officials in 2006 and 2007 authorized to discuss pending criminal cases with the DOJ: 711

-- Number of Clinton officials ever authorized to do so: 4

-- Minimum amount that religious groups received in congressional earmarks from 2003 to 2006: $209,000,000

-- Amount such groups received during the previous fourteen years: $107,000,000

-- Percentage change in U.S. discretionary spending during Bush's presidency: +31

-- Percentage change during Reagan's and Clinton's, respectively: +16, +0.3

* Cara Ober curates Quasi-Painting, works by young mid-Atlantic artists (including Alex Roulette), at DC's Randall Scott Gallery through January 10, 2009.

* "By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher." -- Socrates

December 12, 2008

and they're coming to the chorus now

Dust Congress and Luddite Kingdom Press



The Prize: A free postpaid (continental U.S.) copy of ALL ROADS. . .But This One, LKP’s first release – a $37.00 value. The handcrafted book, in a limited edition of 150 (plus 26 deluxe copies, each with a unique collage, signed by the authors – sorry, sold out!) is “116 pages printed on French Paper from Michigan!. . .Is it one book, four sections? four books, one cover? even we can’t decide!” (Follow link for more details.)

Rules: Email answers to the questions below to by the deadline of midnight, December 22, 2008. Entries with all correct answers will be put in an actual hat and a winner drawn and announced on December 23.

-- dust congress note: if you love books, this should be in your collection


1. In Chronicles, Bob Dylan recounts his meeting with which of the following poets?

a) Archibald MacLeish
b) Walter Savage Landor
c) Ogden Nash

2. The song “Chelsea Hotel” describes Leonard Cohen’s secret affair with which of the following vocal stylists?

a) "Mama" Cass Elliot
b) Janis Joplin
c) Barbra Streisand

3. Based on number of poems appearing on this site, which of the following is a Dust Congress fave?

a) Walter Savage Landor
b) Jewel
c) Frank Stanford

A POEM FROM EACH OF THE POETS IN ALL ROADS – (due to space constraints, these are shorties…)

Poem For Malcom Lowry
-- by Jon Cone

Señor, another mescal.
My thirst is cruel,
This coffin endless.

The Quality of Mercy
-- by Claudia Grinnell

hours late,

bring the usual
gifts: rocks,

cleverly hiding
the anemic sun

and thistles.
A candle

twitches, smoke
rises. Don't tell me

the same wounded
are still asking

for the same
glass of water.

Goo Question
-- by klipschutz

Dim mist. Cable car. Dim sum.
A little goo in everyone.

Will I be angry in an hour?

Chinatown Forever!
-- by Albert Sgambati

Open the window in Chinatown—
the weather is hysterical.
Traffic jams all over the radio.
Oh fish! Water towers!
Like I’ve been on hold forever.
Is the car alarm inside my head?

December 11, 2008

when there's trouble I dont like running

Darren Hostetter, Detail 1 of Forest, 2008

* From a 1974 interview of William Burroughs. excerpt:

PM: Have you been influenced by Celine?

WB: Yes, very much so.

PM: Did you ever meet him?

WB: Yes, I did. Allen and I went out to meet him in Meudon shortly before his death. Well, it was not shortly before, but two or three years before.

PM: Would you agree to say that he was one of the very rare French novelists who wrote in association blocks?

WB: Only in part. I think that he is in a very old tradition, and I myself am in a very old tradition, namely, that of the picaresque novel. People complain that my novels have no plot. Well, a picaresque novel has no plot. It is simply a series of incidents. And that tradition dates back to the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, and to one of the very early novels, The Unfortunate Traveler by Thomas Nashe. And I think Celine belongs to this same tradition. But remember that what we call the "novel" is a highly artificial form, which came in the nineteenth century. It's quite as arbitrary as the sonnet. And that form had a beginning, a middle, and an end; it has a plot, and it has this chapter structure where you have one chapter, and then you try to leave the person in a state of suspense, and on to the next chapter, and people are wondering what happened to this person, and so forth. That nineteenth-century construction has become stylized as the novel, and anyone who writes anything different from that is accused of being unintelligible. That form has imposed itself to the present time.
PM: What films have you liked recently?

WB: I like them when I go, when I see them, but it's rather hard to get myself out to see a film. I haven't seen many films lately. I saw A Clockwork Orange; I thought it was competent and fun, well done, though I don't think I could bear to see it again.

PM: Do you write every day?

WB: I used to. I haven't been doing anything lately because I gave a course in New York, and that took up all my time; then I was moving into a new flat there, so that during the last five months, I haven't really been doing much writing.

PM: When you write, how long is it each day?

WB: Well, I used to write... it depends ... up to three, four hours, sometimes more, depending on how it's going.

PM: What is the proportion of cut-up in your recent books, The Wild Boys and Exterminator!?

WB: Small. Small. Not more than five percent, if that.
PM: You hate politicians, right?

WB: No, I don't hate politicians at all, I'm not interested in politicians. I find the type of mind, the completely extraverted, image-oriented, power-oriented thinking of the politicians dull. In other words, I'm bored by politicians; I don't hate them. It's just not a type of person that interests me.

PM: What are your methods of writing at present?

WB: Methods? I don't know. I just sit down and write! I write in short sections; in other words, I write a section, maybe of narrative, and then I reach into that, but if it doesn't continue, I'll write something else, and then try to piece them together. The Wild Boys was written over a period of time; some of it was written in Marrakech, some of it was written in Tangiers, and a good deal was written in London. I always write on the typewriter, never in longhand.

* The Bat and The Bird has The Stairs' The Unnatural Bridge available for download.

* Reminder, tonight in DC: The Cut Ups and The Caribbean perform at Crooked Beat Records (18th Street, Adams-Morgan). FREE 7:15pm

* "In my music, I'm trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it's difficult is because I'm changing all the time." -- Charles Mingus

December 10, 2008

No more absolutes, no more absolutes

Gary Hume, Poor Thing, 1994

The Long River
-- by Donald Hall

The musk-ox smells
in his long head
my boat coming. When
I feel him there,
intent, heavy,

the oars make wings
in the white night,
and deep woods are close
on either side
where trees darken.

I rode past towns
in their black sleep
to come here. I rowed
by northern grass
and cold mountains.

The musk-ox moves
when the boat stops,
in hard thickets. Now
the wood is dark
with old pleasures.

Allergy Girl II
-- by Sandra Beasley

Each food was a shape eyed by the antibody,
looking for an immunoglobulin hole to match.
A good fit would make for a bad reaction.

My bloodstream was a Fisher-Price workbench,
full of exact and waiting geometries.
I was a lot of good fits waiting to happen.

Peanuts tumbled by, harmless. But a cashew—
that fit into the open crescent, there, its immune
goblin hole. My antibodies had their plastic red

histamine hammers ready—smack smack
—skin of my forearms, chin, chest
rippling out with each little blow—

They were just doing their job.

The Whorehouse at the Top of Mount Rainier
-- by Richard Brautigan

climbed to the top
of Mount Rainier,
thinking all the time
that he was going
to a whorehouse
where there would be
Eskimo women.
When Baudelaire
reached the top
of Mount Rainier
and realized where
he was
and the mistake
that he had made,
Baudelaire shit
his pants.

December 9, 2008

the little man who gets the train
Got a mortgage hanging over his head
But he's too scared to complain

Zoe Charlton, wish you were here, 2000

* How blog commentors at political sites are changing the national dialogue. excerpt:

"The pyramid of Internet political functions consists of message (communications), money (fundraising) and mobilization. Atop that pyramid sits communications. Message drives money and triggers mobilization. Devoid of a compelling message to spur their use, the most advanced web tools will lie fallow. The impetus to use technology is always external to the technology; the impulse to connect and contribute begins with the inspiration to do so and the inspiration derives from the message.

"Notwithstanding that hierarchy, the wave of Internet acclamation in the aftermath of the 2008 election has been focused primarily on mobilization and money, on networking tools and techniques, their effect on governance, and on the medium's capacity to generate eye-popping revenue. Less noted is the impact of the ever-growing online commentariat whose pointed opinions shape our worldview and whose influence on the 2008 election was nothing short of decretive.

"Virtually every online venue that played a role in the '08 race provided a platform for public dialogue. Blogs, boards, news sites, YouTube, Twitter, and social networks large and small were inundated with millions of individual comments, the aggregate effect of which was to determine how voters viewed the candidates and the race. The democratization of opinion-making that began with the rise of the blogosphere reached a new level of maturity, the global discourse a new level of complexity.

"It's hard to know how many members of the online commentariat participated in other political activities this cycle, how many formed or joined networks, canvassed, phone-banked, organized and donated using the web. It stands to reason that many did. But while the latter activities are justly heralded as evidence of a political/technological coming of age, the true revolution goes largely unmentioned, namely, that the sheer magnitude of publicly expressed opinions is changing the way we see the world - and as such, changing the world itself.

"For the first time, we are thinking aloud unfettered and unfiltered by mass media gatekeepers. Events, information, words and deeds that a decade ago were discussed and contextualized statically in print or through the controlled funnel of television and radio, are now subjected to instantaneous interpretation and free-association by millions of citizens unencumbered by the media's constraints, aided by the optional - and liberating - cloak of anonymity.

"This is transformative, not just because it is a web-driven enhancement of traditional political and social mechanisms (as we've seen with organizing and fundraising) but because it is a radically different way that the world processes information and understands itself. If there's one thing that makes the 2008 election an inflection point, it is this: that the context, perception, and course of events is fundamentally changed by the collective behavior of the Internet's innumerable opinion-makers. Every piece of news and information is instantly processed by the combined brain power of millions, events are interpreted in new and unpredictable ways, observations transformed into beliefs, thoughts into reality. Ideas and opinions flow from the ground up, insights and inferences, speculation and extrapolation are put forth, then looped and re-looped on a previously unimaginable scale, conventional wisdom created in hours and minutes. This wasn't the case during the last presidential election -- the venues and the voices populating them hadn't reached critical mass. They have now."
"How does this affect the triangle of media, political establishment, and online community? For the press and punditry, an important reversal: their agenda-setting role is eroded and they are now compelled to partner with the online commentariat for validation and legitimation. For the political establishment, the standard methodology - where strategists and pollsters conjure and test messages to be disseminated by media teams and press shops through traditional channels - is inadequate. Politicians and public officials must now contend with higher levels of risk and uncertainty that confound traditional communications strategies. They must posses the awareness and agility to navigate a churning ocean of opinion where every word, every press release, every policy paper, every speech, every document, every surrogate remark is recorded, magnified and repurposed by the online community. Image making and message crafting, enduring political arts once the back-room purview of a select few, are now in the public domain.

"What is unclear is how the online activist community benefits. Bloggers - the heart and soul of the online commentariat - continue to be troubled by the chasm between their oversized real world impact and their disproportionately limited insider clout. Part of the challenge is figuring out how to leverage unpredictability, no easy task. And part of it is to distinguish between the community's active and passive power, John Locke's useful distinction between the power to receive change and the power to make it. I suspect the gap will close as the online community further expands and its emergent self-knowledge deepens. I certainly hope it does, since the community's overall thrust is progressive.

"So, from my perspective, while it's intriguing to see how the new administration utilizes social networks and email lists to foster transparency and interactivity, it's even more fascinating to see how the online commentariat ultimately processes and influences future events and defines - and changes - them."

* John Masters on the Brighten The Corners Nicene Creedence edition.

* Thursday in DC: The Cut Ups and The Caribbean perform for free @ Crooked Beat Records (18th Street, Adams-Morgan) 7pm.

* " I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't." -- Jules Renard

December 8, 2008

The song is over
It's all behind me

Vincent van Gogh, Lane of Poplars at Sunset, 1884

* How Obama Might Govern. excerpt:

"Franklin D. Roosevelt loved to have his aides argue in front of him, the better to see all sides before picking one himself.

"Richard Nixon tried the same approach, didn't like it, and stopped it. Bill Clinton, too, wanted to hear a lot of voices, but sometimes 'drowned' in the cacophony, in the words of one analyst.

"Now Barack Obama is poised to try it himself. He's named a strong-willed team to top Cabinet and White House staff positions, some of whom disagree with him on key issues. Obama said he wants to avoid "groupthink" and signaled that he wants to hear a range of opinions before deciding on the best course."
"In the month since he was elected, Obama has rolled out a team that includes such political and policy heavyweights as Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to be secretary of state, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be chairman of the National Economic Council, current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to retain his post, former Marine Corps Gen. James Jones to be his National Security Adviser, and veteran Sen. Joe Biden to be his vice president.

"All are richly experienced in the ways of Washington power, all are forceful advocates for their own positions, and most have disagreed with Obama.

"Clinton, for example, criticized Obama's commitment to meet without precondition any foreign leader, including unsavory dictators. Gates disagreed with Obama's campaign call for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months. Both disputes involve central policy decisions for the new administration.

"That's just fine with Obama. He wants them to disagree — with each other, and with him."
"'The biggest mistakes in modern history have come through a very narrow, highly controlled decision process, where they (presidents) see only what the chief of staff and a small group of aides wants them to see,' said Paul Light, a professor of political science at New York University and an expert on presidential transitions.

"'That happened with Bush in Iraq, probably with Clinton and health-care reform, maybe with George H.W. Bush going into Somalia. . . . It varies. George W. Bush really did not seek a great deal of dissent. Bill Clinton liked dissent but sometimes drowned in it.'

"While Obama has no executive experience beyond managing his successful campaign, the model of watching ideas debated and argued in front of him isn't new. It resembles the way he had students argue points when he taught constitutional law.
"Key to success will include the role the incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, plays in making sure that various views get to the president, ensuring that they aren't clouded by turf battles, then making sure the president's final choices are carried out.

"The chief of staff is critical to this style of governing, analysts said.

"One who controls the flow of dissenting opinions in order to marshal power for himself — think of John Sununu in the first Bush White House or Donald Regan in the second Reagan term — can shut out important voices the president should hear.

"Yet a chief cannot let the president keep debating something over and over and over too much — think of Thomas 'Mack' McLarty, who was unable to manage Bill Clinton and his late-night strategy sessions early in his first term.

"'The White House doesn't give a president as much time as he will need to collect every scintilla of information, weigh it and decide,' Light said. "He's going to need some help winnowing the opinion."

If Obama's advisers bring a range of different views on top issues, they don't necessarily bring a wide range of ideology. They're generally seen as pragmatic and centrist.

"They range from center-left to further left. He hasn't brought in robust free-market acolytes or strong defense hawks. To the extent they are hawks, they're very moderate," Franc said.

"'But no alarm bells have gone off in conservative circles indicating he's picking a bunch of left-wing lunatics. These people are respected on both sides of the aisle. It looks like he's heading toward a centrist position on both foreign policy and the economic front.'"

* A man's roller coaster ride with coffee.

* Parodies of the Sgt. Pepper album cover.

* "I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life." -- George Burns

December 5, 2008

and although the sex was free
it killed all of my dreams

William Eggleston, untitled, 1960s

Telephone Conversation
-- by Wole Soyinka

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. "Madam," I warned,
"I hate a wasted journey--I am African."
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
"HOW DARK?" . . . I had not misheard . . . "ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?" Button B, Button A.* Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis--
"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
"You mean--like plain or milk chocolate?"
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. "West African sepia"--and as afterthought,
"Down in my passport." Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. "WHAT'S THAT?" conceding
"DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
"THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused--
Foolishly, madam--by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black--One moment, madam!"--sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears--"Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?"

What I didn't say when the gasworks shook their iron tails
in my direction

-- by Rebecca Loudon

There is a foot-shaped stain on the end of my mattress like Sibelius snapping a white tablecloth across the Baltic Sea inviting me to tea. Night Dog thumps his body against my door. I’ve cut my hair to fiery nubs my angel hair my blonde angel cluttersuit. I eat a bowl of marrow beans and pound my feet but too many hours in the swamp prying goathead burrs from my heel awakened more than triage more than language my caliche nerve. I don’t know how to do it. I stand on my hind legs and bark. I want more. I want more. I want more.

That Girl
-- by Richard Brautigan

A girl
with French teeth
and dandelions
in her hair
a black sportscar
beside me
on the street
and says,
Get in.
Where are
we going?
I ask.
To my place,
she answers.
We drive
through the tunnel
and go
all the way out
to 1,000,000th

Her apartment
is nice.
There are
original Klees
and Picassos
on the walls.
She has
a thousand books
and a Hi-Fi set.
I would
make love
to you,
she says,
but I have
in my vagina.
We drink
from little cups
and she reads
to me
in French.
She is
very beautiful
but the dandelions
are starting
to wilt
in her hair.

December 4, 2008

that's when I reach for my revolver

Carlos Tarrats, Untitled 1

* From a 2001 interview of Ian MacKaye. excerpt:

Question: When Fear played on "Saturday Night Live," Ian, did you go down to "Saturday Night Live" and check it out in New York with Rollins and the gang?

Ian MacKaye: Rollins was not there. I'll tell you the story if you'd like to hear the story about that. At eight in the morning, some point in October, I got a call. I was driving a newspaper truck for The Washington Post at the time, so eight in the morning was brutal. It was Lorne Michaels' office, Lorne Michaels being the producer of "Saturday Night Live," and I get this woman, "Lorne Michaels' office, please hold." I was completely delirious. Lorne Michaels gets on the phone - "Hi, Ian, it's Lorne Michaels of 'Saturday Night Live,' I'm calling you because I got your number from John Belushi. He says that you might be able to get some dancers up here 'cause we want to have Fear on the show." I was completely baffled by this. "Pardon me?" "Hold on a second." John Belushi gets on the phone and he says, "This is John Belushi. I'm a big fan of Fear's. I made a deal with 'Saturday Night Live' that I would make a cameo appearance on the show if they'd let Fear play. I got your number from Penelope Spheeris, who did 'Decline of Western Civilization' and she said that you guys, Washington DC punk rock kids, know how to dance. I want to get you guys to come up to the show." It was worked out that we could all arrive at the Rockefeller Center where "Saturday Night Live" was being filmed. The password to get in was "Ian MacKaye." We went up the day before. The Misfits played with The Necros at the Ukrainian hall, I think, so all of the Detroit people were there, like Tesco Vee and Cory Rusk from the Necros and all the Touch and Go people and a bunch of DC people - 15 to 20 of us came up from DC. Henry was gone. He was living in LA at this point. So we went to the show. During the dress rehearsal, a camera got knocked over. We were dancing and they were very angry with us and said that they were going to not let us do it then Belushi really put his foot down and insisted on it. So, during the actual set itself, they let us come out again. If you watch the show - have you seen it?
Question: Ian, your dad was in the Kennedy motorcade. I find this fascinating. Please explain if you could.

Ian MacKaye: Where did you hear that?

Question: In Punk Planet, collected interviews.

Ian MacKaye: Oh, yes. My father was in the White House Press Corps, 1960-1. He was working for the Minneapolis Star at the time, I guess. He was just in the press corps. He was just in the motorcade. He was just in a bus with a bunch of the other journalists following the limousine as they came into Dallas. They were two blocks back. They had no idea what had happened. The bus they were riding in suddenly accelerated and just whipped through Dealey Plaza - where the shooting occurred. And they saw everybody running. They knew that something bad had happened but no one had any idea. They didn't know what had happened until they hit the Parkland Hospital. They just pulled up in front of the hospital and that's when it became apparent that something very bad had happened at that point.

* The Cut Ups will be performing with The Caribbean next Thursday, December 11, at Crooked Beat Records (2318 18th St NW, wdc). FREE, 7pm.

* "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." -- Albert Einstein

December 3, 2008

We are constantly on trial
It's a way to be free

Charlie Jeffery

Richard Brautigan wrote these poems June 2, 1976 in Tokyo:

Cobalt Necessity

It's just one of those things.
When you need cobalt
nothing else will

Real Estate

I have emotions
that are like newspapers that
read themselves.

I go for days at a time
trapped in the want ads.

I feel as if I am an ad
for the sale of a haunted house:

18 rooms
I'm yours
ghosts and all.

The Alps

One word

leads to an
of other words

if you are

for a woman.

December 2, 2008

I've had vision on the skillet
to fish which is your art

Bruce Nauman, Lip Sync, still from a black-and-white video, 1969

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"A lot of readers are twanging on me for refraining to castigate President-elect Obama for deeds yet undone. They're discouraged by the advisors and cabinet sectetaries he's picked, ostensibly because the crew coming in are Washington 'insiders,' meaning they can't possibly see or do things differently.

"My own starting point for this is the belief that in the years just ahead any sociopolitical entity organized at the giant scale will flounder -- this includes everything from the federal government to global corporations to factory farms to centralized high schools to national retail chains. So even expecting Mr. Obama's government to act effectively may be asking too much in a situation that will require mostly local action.

"The meta-situation will be the overall decline of energy resources and the necessary downscaling of our activities. We are obviously in a transitional period between the old profligate energy economy and the new economy of relative scarcity. We have no idea how disorderly this transition will be, but there is certainly potential for tremendous instability in daily life.

"For a while, perhaps, the federal government may retain some ability to affect the way things go, or give the appearance of doing so. This raises the issue of what Mr. Obama and his team really know about our energy predicament. The president-elect has made some noises -- recently on the 60 Minutes show -- that he understands something about the current price dislocations in the oil markets resulting from the larger financial turmoil. He alluded to the public's erroneous notion that current low-ish oil prices mean the oil problem is over. But does the incoming president know some of the following details?

"For instance, does Mr. O know that global oil production appears to have peaked at around 85 million barrels a day, with poor prospects of ever getting beyond that? This single naked fact has broad ramifications, above all whether we can continue to think in terms of industrial "growth" as the benchmark for economic health. There are many interpretations of the current financial fiasco. Some of them are based on long-term technical wave theories. A more down-to-earth view suggests the shock of peak oil -- though it doesn't exclude wave theories.

"Does Mr. O know that world oil discovery has fallen to insignificant levels after peaking long ago in the 1960s. Does he know we are finding no more super-giant oil fields on the scale of Arabia's Ghawar or Mexico's Cantarell, which have supplied most of the world's oil for the past forty years and are now running down? Does he know that you can't produce oil that hasn't been discovered? Does Mr. O know that virtually all the oil-producing nations have entered production decline. Surely someone has whispered in his ear about the IEA's projection that global oil production would fall 9.1 percent in the coming year.

"Does Mr. O know that oil exports have been trending to decline at a steeper rate than oil depletion? That is, the exporting nations are losing their ability to send oil to the importers (like us) at a rate mathematically greater than the run-down in their production.They are using more of their own oil even while their production is going down. For example, Mexico is depleting overall at more than 9 percent a year (with the Cantarell field alone running down at more than 15 percent annually). Does he know Mexico's net exports are crashing? Mexico has been our number three leading source of imports. In a very few years they will not be able to send us any oil. A deluded American public has no idea that this is happening. Will Mr. O explain it to them?

"Does Mr. O know that the 'old major' oil companies (Exxon-Mobil, Texaco, Shell, et al) produce less than 10 percent of the world's oil now -- the other 90 percent coming from the foreign nationals -- and that blaming them for the situation is a waste of time. The foreign national companies are changing the landscape of the oil markets. They're making special contracts with "favored customers" rather than just putting their oil up for auction on the futures markets. One thing you can infer from this is that we're entering a period of national oil hoarding based on coming scarcity. The futures markets were based on relative abundance, and they will not operate very well in a climate of scarcity. Consider that the USA will probably not be among the 'favored customers' for several oil producing nations. Figure that in with the coming loss of imports from Mexico (and Venezuela and Nigeria).
"Chances are, if Mr. O knows any of these things he might be crucified in the polls and the media by acknowledging them. The only "change" that America really wants to hear about is evicting George Bush from the White House. They're sick of him and all the disturbance he has caused in their financial affairs. But beyond that, the American public is deathly afraid of the kind of changes we actually face -- such as, the end of consumer culture, the gross loss of value in suburban real estate (which forms the bulk of the middle class's private wealth), the prospect of food and fuel scarcities, the need to re-localize our lives, the need to physically shape up to stop the costly and unnecessary drain on our medical resources, to grow more of our own food, to work harder at things that actually matter, and to save whatever we can for a difficult future.

"If Mr. O introduces any of these themes into the national discourse, the public and the media and the bloggers will all dump on him for failing to prop up the wild party that American life became in recent decades."

* Check out The Hound Blog.

* Acting, on the football pitch.

* "I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues." -- Duke Ellington