October 28, 2009

all I want in life is a little love
to take the pain away

Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1943

Progress Report
-- by Leonard Nathan

The trees won't talk; but we've got instruments
To get the truth. Old omens of the air
Mean birds are hungry, here as everywhere,
And speak, if forced to, in present tense.
This took eternity and some expense
To verify. Gods, never really there,
Reduce to heros dying for a share
In prospects disconnected and immense.

Symbols, like homespun drugs, were handy things,
But facts are good as guns. And then there's you --
No priestess circled by sacramental wings
From Cythea, but a girl well suited to the act;
And what's to be done with nature? Nothing new.
We'll dream in symbols, wake up in cold fact.

-- by Louis Jenkins

It turns out that the drain pipe from the sink is attached to
nothing and water just runs right onto the ground in the
crawl space underneath the house and then trickles out
into the stream that passes through the backyard. It turns
out that the house is not really attached to the ground but
sits atop a few loose concrete blocks all held in place by
gravity, which, as I understand it, means "seriousness." Well,
this is serious enough. If you look into it further you will
discover that the water is not attached to anything either
and that perhaps the rocks and the trees are not all that
firmly in place. The world is a stage. But don't try to move
anything. You might hurt yourself, besides that's a job for
the stagehands and union rules are strict. You are merely a
player about to deliver a soliloquy on the septic system to a
couple dozen popple trees and a patch of pale blue sky.

-- by Grace Paley

Life is as risky
as it is branchy

treetop and twigtip
are only the beginning

then comes the westwind to lean
and the northwind to turn

then the sunshine implores
and up all of us go

we are like any
greengrowing machinery

riding the daylight route
to darkness

October 27, 2009

i like to stay home
and play guitar
and play it back

Arthur Trees, Masked Children 110th Street, New York, 1969

* From Harper's November 2009:

-- Last year in which the unemployment rate in what is now Silicon Valley was as high as today: 1949

-- Percentage of fish sampled from 291 U.S. streams for a recent study that were found to be contaminated with mercury: 100

-- Percentage change during the past year in U.S. sales of Wild Turkey specialty bourbons: 88

-- Number of Indian headdresses that could be made from the feathers of all U.S. turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving: 43,212,000

-- Estimate length of human nose removed by U.S. plastic surgeons each year, in feet: 5,469

-- Factor by which this exceeds the length of George Washington's nose on Mount Rushmore: 260

* Ha!

* "I don't care much about music. What I like is sounds." -- Dizzy Gillespie


October 23, 2009

In the waking hours of some not too distant morning
you come walking barefoot to this cowl pulled mind
selling yesterday's dreams wrapped in tomorrow's paper
whistling for a dog named kindness that you'll never find

Rob Sparrow Jones, Hardly Any Tiger Live in a Tree, 2009

Clean, clean, clean
-- by Linh Dinh

Belonging to the lower class, you’re expected
To cater to the upper class’ lower bodily functions,
Not to engage their minds but to wipe their asses,
Kiss their cunts on demand, suck cocks for tips,
Unless, of course, you’re an artist, in which case,
You’re an aristocrat of the servant class, to quote
That grand maestro among slaves, Jasper Johns.

I used to clean apartments and houses.
Showing up for a new job, I was greeted
By the mistress, “I have the most respect
For new immigrants. You work so hard!”
Down low, you’ll get a disproportionate
Low down on all things funky and nasty,
Nothing unusual, really, just shit and stuff.

I cleaned toilets and fridges, folded panties,
Got on all fours, dipped into the suspicious.
A young woman confided, “I moved to Philly
Because California women were so beautiful.”
She was usually home when I came. The spine
Of her soft porn book turned to the wall. They all
Had some smut in the house. This was before
The Internet made these sad and surreptitious
Purchases unnecessary. I found a teen-aged
Madonna in a closet, so I knelt and sighed.

A fat one lived alone, but once she said, “Sorry,
The house is so messy today. I had company
Last night,” and her face brightened angelically.


October 22, 2009

do not fret
the bus will get you there yet

Jenny Holzer, In a Dream

* Charles Bukowski, on writing on the computer (he started writing on a computer at ae 70):

"There is something about seeing your words on a screen before you that makes you send the word with a better bite, sighted in closer to the target. I know a computer can't make a writer but I think it makes a writer better. Simplicity in writing and simplicity in getting it down, hot and real. When this computer is in the shop and I go back to the electric, it's like trying to break rock with a hammer. Of course, the essence of writing is there but you have to wait on it, it doesn't leap from the gut as quickly, you begin to trail your thoughts -- your thoughts are ahead of your fingers which are trying to catch up. It causes a block of sorts indeed."

* Bravo.

* "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes". -- Doctor Who


October 21, 2009

Sun shines
People forget
The spray flies, speedboat glides
People forget
Girls smile... people forget
The snow packs, the skier tracks
People forget
They forget they're hiding

Keith Sonnier, Motordom, 2005, Neon, Argon & Fluorescent Light

Lost Sonnet
-- by John Ashbery

They grow up too fast
these days. Unassumingness
becomes unwieldy, the woods
a place to walk from briskly.
You say your cunning comportment
is artless? Well then so am I
for containing you, champ.
Your tracks are alive with new interest.

The trail always sees what’s up ahead,
which is resistance. No tooth
or star contradicts what is made
and hard to screw up. Wash the guest’s
feet, the aviator. Jack was his name
and we were like brothers, though we never knew each other.

Me & My Devo Hair
-- by Jennifer L. Knox

laid on the chaise together and yearned hard
for a new car (among other stuff) while listening
to Herb Alpert as our club-footed seizure shuffled
up the patio stones. I’d killed many men (among
other stuff) but the twisted thing outside the sliding door
would not die—despite all the times I'd napalmed its
luminous lair which ruined loads of mohair sweaters
(among other stuff) and gave me headaches—such doozies—
they hosed the chalk outline of my skull off the sidewalk.
Then suddenly: large relief to not be Aztec (or was I?)
broke like Burmese rain. I wasn’t that bad. We toasted,
“Here’s to being waterproof.”

-- by Eileen Myles

I can’t remember the 2nd
time I hurt you—

it was dark & someplace
in that darkness
was the thing I did.

You weren’t the target, I
know that, though
you might’ve been the bow
& the tension
I really think is love.
Nothing ever sends me away.
I’ve got your pain
in my pocket &
it glows in the dark

and in the light
it’s the softest kind
of singing woman’s voice.
That’s who you are. To me, I mean.
Let me hold your shoulders
back so you look
arrogant & beautiful
welcoming me into the warm
sad party. Let this
be the unfortunate hat
I hang outside the door
if only you will
allow me to come in.

October 20, 2009

I am not your map

Alfred Gescheidt, Untitled, 1964

Three for Tuesday:

-- Isolation, by John Lennon

-- Way Way Down, by Bill Fox

-- I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (live), by Warren Zevon

* "One doesn't have a sense of humor. It has you." -- Larry Gelbart

October 19, 2009

somedays I feel my shadow is casting me

Hank Willis Thomas, I am a Man, 2009

Bonus Monday Poem:

Please Don't Queer My Redenbacher Moment
-- by Denis Mahagin

Somehow, the dad who sired
our media hoax, all robust
and doe-eyed,
reminded one

of a young John Irving in the absolute
prime of a shit storm ;

and the Sheriff? Hell, a portly
Lithgow was he, and wouldn't let it
go, he said, histrionically "oh, well
folks, you know we do get these wing
nuts from time to
time, to time ..."

Ah, but
the Balloon

Pure sublime
tinsel fodder and centrifugal
force, a cobra-headed gyro
scope, mad Beatnik hover-
craft spinning,

spanning the rocky
steppes, when I

first caught whiff, on my T Mobile with
Google, simply could not help thinking
of John Denver on a bender, remote

joystick clutched in fish white
fingers, pie-eyed and

wired tight as banjo
strings in the stratos, "GO, BALLOON
BOY, GO! GO! GO! ... " we bellowed
and high fived, half a billion
strong surfers who live only
for the cantilevered,
tethers windblown,
for the CNN Kafka-

esque and just
plain wrong. It's said,
mister Garp
likes a little wife
swap on

the side, sold tall ones over
water cooler to the Doomsday
Mayans, and really,

where's the harm, where's the harm
in a little Jiffy Pop? Some hide and
seek, trailer
of the week?

I've been feeling so
peaked, at the eye
of a claw foot

Lithgow up and busts
a Liar, hatpin in the micro-
wave, but me, I'm bound
to belch deep

green bong water,
weakly crying

"lift off ..."

We only
wanted it

to go higher.

* He's right, no doubt.

* “If Frank O’Hara and D. Boon share a lesson for me, it’s that you don’t need a reason to make art other than to delight your friends.” -- Dobby Gibson


October 16, 2009

they say tomorrow will never arrive
though I've seen it end a million times

Brendan Murphy, one true feeling

The Natives Are Restless
-- by Sandra Beasley

Of course you invited them in: faces painted
like trick-or-treaters, carrying pointy spears.
The youngest clutched his goat, the tallest
her stack of bowls, and you had rooms to spare.
They fill the house with song and drums;
they show you the dance for morning, the dance
for evening, the dance for mowing the lawn.
They yank the dust covers off your heart.
Now you have sheets to iron, skirts to mend.
You wish your husband was here to see this:
You are useful. You are adored. They want
marrow for breakfast, pancakes for supper.
They like to watch you work the griddle.
You try to teach the youngest to play checkers,
but he wants to play Tied to the Stake, Capture
the Blonde. Some nights they get a little loud
in their chanting, and you worry where the cats
disappeared to. But then they show some
unexpected kindness: a vertebrae necklace,
a cool compress, a broth of leeks and onion.
They need your gentle hand, your quick stitch.
They need for you to live, at least until they need
to kill you. Some nights the house rises up
on chicken legs and turns in circles around you.
You are their egg — their center, the warmth
and flutter. They will wait as long as they can.

40th Street
-- by Eileen Myles

I'd like
to say

that when
I change

the pot
doesn't know
it for
a few

it's awaiting
the tempo
of French
espresso &
El Pico
is back

it's inexplicable
the glass pot

is dulled

so wake
me up
with your

in a few
days you'll
be shaped
like this
& a new

Be patient
pot. Advance
the parade.

-- by Robert Lowell

History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had--
it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
unlike writing, life never finishes.
Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends--
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose--
O there's a terrifying innocence in my face
drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.

October 15, 2009

The seagull on the seeping sand
Can die but never understand
The oil that festers on our shore
Will cast a stain for evermore

Julee Holcombe, Suburbios de Ciudad de Mexico, 2008

* From David E. Brown's book, Inventing Modern America:

"Atari, Pong, and Apple:

"The more than $6 billion Americans now spend on video games every year started with the first quarter dropped into Computer Space in 1971. That game - a small computer hooked up to a black-and-white TV, housed in a futuristic-looking plastic case - was the creation of Nolan Bushnell, a young engineer from Utah. Bushnell went on to found Atari, whose products, from Pong to Football to the Atari 2600, brought video games into every arcade and millions of homes. And while Computer Space was based on the already-classic computer spaceship battle game called Spacewar, it was Bushnell's genius to see the potential games had beyond the computer lab. ...

"He was a tournament chess player, and a fan of the Chinese board game Go. (Atari is a Japanese word announced when a Go player has almost captured an opponent.) He also learned about business when he was young. After his father died, Bushnell took over the family's concrete business. He was just 15.

"Bushnell discovered computer games in the early 1960s while studying electrical engineering at the University of Utah. The school's computer had a copy of Spacewar, the seminal game created at MIT by Steve Russell. ... Bushnell was hooked, and he would sneak into the computer lab late at night to play. ... But Spacewar ran on huge, expensive computers.

"By 1971, Bushnell had moved to Silicon Valley and had begun to work on [a commercial version of the] game. The biggest technical challenge was the display. The computers that ran Spacewar used what were essentially adapted radar screens, each of which cost about $30,000 - so Bushnell made circuits that would display graphics on an ordinary black-and-white television set. ...

"Bushnell began designing other games and he hired a staff of engineers. In 1972, Bally, a company that made pinball and slot machines, contracted him to make a video driving game. He gave the task to one of his new hires, Al Alcorn. But Alcorn didn't yet the tricks of making a video game, so Bushnell gave him a smaller task: to make a game with a ball bouncing back and forth on the screen. 'I defined this very simple game for Alcorn as a learning project,' he explains. 'I thought it was going to be a throwaway. It took him less than a week to get it partially running. And the thing was just incredibly fun.'

"Bushnell took a copy of Alcorn's game, named Pong after one of its noises, to Bally's headquarters in Chicago, hoping that they would buy it instead of the driving game. At the same time, Alcorn built a case for their other copy of Pong, complete with a 13-inch TV set and a slot for quarters. There was one sentence of instructions on the cabinet: 'Avoid Missing Ball for High Score.' Alcorn set Pong up at a bar in Sunnyvale, California.

"In Chicago, Bally's turned Pong down. Back in California, the reaction was different. People lined up to feed quarters into Pong, and played it nonstop. The next day, the machine suddenly stopped working; Alcorn went to see what was wrong and discovered that the machine was too full of quarters - they'd spilled out of their container and shorted the game out. Pong, released by Atari rather than Bally's, became a hit and ushered in the first golden age of video games. Rich from Pong's success, the company designed dozens of successful games ... like Atari Football, the driving games Night Driver and Sprint, and, in 1978, the best-selling Asteroids.

"Bushnell also helped usher in a new era in Silicon Valley. Although the area had long been a center for the electronics industry, most of the companies there were large and corporate. Atari was different. Bushnell always wore jeans, and he encouraged his engineers and technicians to do the same. His management style was not very rigid or hierarchical; as long as someone got his or her job done, almost anything went. These principles were proved in 1976, when Bushnell hired a young technician named Steve Jobs. The long-haired Jobs would often work barefoot, talked of going to India, and was abrasive to some of the other engineers. Bushnell gave Jobs the task of designing a game he had thought of, a new variation on Pong called Breakout. Jobs worked the night shift, and with lots of technical help from his friend Steve Wozniak, built Breakout on a very short schedule. The two would continue their collaboration that year by building and marketing the Apple computer."

* "For whatever we do, even whatever we do not do prevents us from doing its opposite. Acts demolish their alternatives, that is the paradox." -- James Salter

October 14, 2009

Time will tell if these dreams are nearly fact

Yigal Ozeri, Untitled, 2009, oil on paper

Last Poem
-- by Ted Berrigan

Before I began life this time
I took a crash course in Counter-Intelligence
Once here I signed in, see name below, and added
Some words remembered from an earlier time,
"The intention of the organism is to survive."
My earliest, & happiest, memories pre-date WWII,
They involve a glass slipper & a helpless blue rose
In a slender blue single-rose vase: Mine
Was a story without a plot. The days of my years
Folded into one another, an easy fit, in which
I made money & spent it, learned to dance & forgot, gave
Blood, regained my poise, & verbalized myself a place
In Society. 101 St. Mark's Place, apt. 12A, NYC 10009
New York. Friends appeared & disappeared, or wigged out,
Or stayed; inspiring strangers sadly died; everyone
I ever knew aged tremendously, except me. I remained
Somewhere between 2 and 9 years old. But frequent
Reification of my own experiences delivered to me
Several new vocabularies, I loved that almost most of all.
I once had the honor of meeting Beckett & I dug him.
The pills kept me going, until now. Love, & work,
Were my great happinesses, that other people die the source
Of my great, terrible, & inarticulate one grief. In my time
I grew tall & huge of frame, obviously possessed
Of a disconnected head, I had a perfect heart. The end
Came quickly & completely without pain, one quiet night as I
Was sitting, writing, next to you in bed, words chosen randomly
From a tired brain, it, like them, suitable, & fitting.
Let none regret my end who called me friend.

Today's News
-- by Ted Berrigan

My body heavy with poverty (starch)
It uses up my sexual energy
constantly &
I feel constantly crowded
On the other hand, One Day in the Afternoon of The World
Pervaded my life with a
heavy grace
I'll never smile again
Bad Teeth
But I'm dancing with tears in my eyes
(I can't help myself!) Tom
when he loves Alice's sonnets,
takes four, I'd love
to be more attentive to her, more
The situation having become intolerable
the only alternatives are:
Murder & Suicide.
They are too dumb! So, one
becomes a goof. Raindrops
start falling on my roof. I say
Hooray! Then I say, I'm going out

At the drugstore I say, Gimmie some pills!
Charge 'em! They say
Sure. I say See you later.
Read the paper. Talk to Alice. She laughs to hear
Hokusai had 947 changes of address
In his life. Ha-ha. Plus everything
else in the world
going on here.

October 13, 2009

Love is like a bottle of gin
But a bottle of gin is not like love

Keizo Kitajima, Studio 54, 1981

* Tent City USA, by George Saunders:

"A field study, in these Hard Times, of the Homeless (as observed in the H Street Encampment, Fresno, California). Being an examination of who they are, how they think, and what they do. "

"Description of Study Area

"It is difficult to convey the sobering effect of entering the Study Area for the first time.

"On occasions during the Study, when use of a notebook seemed problematic, the PR [Principal Researcher] would switch on a portable tape recorder. On the tape from day one, as the PR enters the Study Area, there may be heard: a long silence, an audible exhalation, a whispered profanity.

"The PR had previous experience in the ghettos, slums, and shantytowns of various Third World cities, including Jakarta, Nuevo Laredo, Peshawar, Bangkok, and Kathmandu. It was observed, however, that the PR was feeling more fear here in Fresno than he had felt in any of those foreign locales. Wild shouts could be heard; the air smelled of wood fire and dust; dogs roamed the Study Area; mysterious figures stared out from asymmetrical doorways; in the distance, under a highway overpass, a cramped, smoky, Stygian neighborhood seemed to exude menace.

"At first glance, the Study Area presented as a junkyard, but one in which people were living. Tents of various vintage were observed. In addition, the following materials had been used to construct dwellings within the Study Area: Plyboard. Blue plastic tarp material. Tree limbs. Lengths of string, wire, and rope. Large wooden cable spools. Shopping carts. Construction pallets. A piece of inverted signage reading: lt. governor bustamante, working for families. Rocks, bags of dirt, and an office chair had been used to secure a tin roof. The yard of one house boasted a number of well-tended houseplants, including several cacti. This house also had a white metal screen door neatly mounted into its frame and an American flag flying above it on a tilted pole. At a nearby house, dozens of branches from an artificial Christmas tree had been inserted at regular intervals into the siding, decoratively.

"In short the Study Area did not conform to the PR’s expectations. Based on a pre-Study survey of existing media information, the PR had expected the tent city to be populated by middle-class individuals recently made homeless by the economic downturn, beaten but not destroyed, a kindly Steinbeckian gathering of stoic types, possibly playing guitars, who would welcome the PR, gratified that someone had come to document their plight."

* "Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything." -- Kurt Vonnegut

October 9, 2009

Standing on the sea-weed water
Semen stains the mountain tops
With cocoa leaves along the border
Sweetness sings from every corner

Daniel Johnston, It is what it is, 2008

Three poems by Nicanor Parra (translated by Miller Williams):

I Don't Believe In the Peaceful Way

I don't believe in the violent way
I'd like to believe
in something -- but I don't
to believe means to believe in God
all I can do is
shrug my shoulders
forgive me for being blunt
I don't even believe in the Milky Way


I was running along happy as you please
My hat in my right hand
Chasing a phosphorescent butterfly
Who drove me crazy with joy

And suddenly zap! I tripped
I don't know what happened to the garden
The whole thing went to pieces
My nose and my mouth are bleeding.

Honestly I don't know what's going on
Either give me some help
Or a bullet in the head.


Let's not fool ourselves
The automobile is a wheelchair
A lion is made of lambs
Poets have no biographies
Death is a collective habit
Children are born to be happy
Reality has a tendency to fade away
Fucking is a diabolical act
God is a good friend of the poor

October 8, 2009

a million miles
could swallow up time

Sara MacKillop, 10 in 12, 2002

* Tube Bar prank calls:

"In the mid-1970s, two young men, John Elmo and Jim Davidson (later known collectively as The Bum Bar Bastards, or BBB), began calling a bar named the Tube Bar which was located in Jersey City, New Jersey in Journal Square. The Tube Bar was owned by Louis "Red" Deutsch, and most of the time, Deutsch was the person who answered the calls. During each call, the callers would ask Deutsch to call out fictitious names, which, when said aloud, sounded like something else entirely (for example, "Al Coholic" = alcoholic, or "Cole Kutz" = cold cuts). Most of the time, Deutsch would call out the names, unaware that he was being subjected to a prank. Sometimes, however, Deutsch would catch on to the prank, and when he did, he responded with extreme hostility, shouting at the caller with profanity, obscene sexual references, usually involving the caller's mother, and threats of physical harm.

"In an act of apparent desperation, Red also claimed that he would reward the caller with $100 if they would "come on down" to the bar and show his face, or meet Red at a place of their choosing. Red eventually raised the reward to $500, in hopes of enticing the young men, however it is widely believed that the callers never collected their reward because of fears of having their "prick cut off", or their "belly cut open".

"Although Elmo and Davidson initially said that they had picked the Tube Bar at random out of a phone book, they later admitted that they had passed by the bar several times while still in high school, and had developed a fascination with Red ever since they saw him yelling at his patrons. They recorded the calls that they made on tape. Unbeknownst to Elmo and Davidson, the tapes they had made were beginning to circulate among their friends, and their friends' friends, becoming an underground sensation.

"By the 1980s, the equipment managers of several Major League Baseball teams had shared copies of the tapes, which had become known unofficially as the Red Tapes or Tube Bar Tapes. The tapes' popularity spread throughout the league, branching out to other professional sports leagues, and then to sports reporters and into the media. By 1981, one of the Bastards' gags was incorporated into the movie Porky's. Animator Matt Groening had obtained a copy and incorporated the phone hijinx into a running gag on The Simpsons with barkeeper Moe Szyslak, who is based on Deutsch. Several New York City alternative rock record labels released various edits of the tapes on vinyl, before the Bum Bar Bastards came forward in the 1990s to copyright the tapes. The Bastards later released their own "official" version on CD which is now available for purchase on iTunes."

* Pete Townshend performs (sans guitar but he dances) Face the Face, from 1983.

* Life Magazine details 30 Dumb Inventions.

* "Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits." -- Dan Barker

October 7, 2009

from stage to stage we flew
a drink in every hand

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square -- Temprano, 1957

Real Life
-- by Kim Addonizio

Here we walk without wallets,
no keys to anything. The gates
swing open, we move among the
cows, hot hills, at night through wet
foxtails; the kitchen light hums
winged things circle it. Yesterday
you slit a snakeskin and found
the diamond pattern interrupted,
in the center, by a heart:
covered it in salt, tacked
it to a board for drying out.
This evening it's soft, the scale
you peel for me a tiny
translucency in my hand.

Oh Yes
-- by Charles Bukowski

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
too late.

Stadium Traffic
-- by Daniel Donaghy

You're on your way home
when a thousand cars
pour onto Broad Street:
the ball game's over.
No one's going anywhere soon.
It's mid-July: eighty and humid.
You smell like all the crappies in the Delaware,
wear the ache of dock crates in your back.
Your buddy lost two fingers tonight
to a jigsaw: boss said go home early,
stay late tomorrow night.
These people don't appreciate
what they have: time to go to ball games.
You get out among blaring horns
and hustlers hawking T-shirts,
walk the yellow lines like a tight rope,
arms out for balance,
all the way to the corner and back.
Broad Street still as a parking lot,
wound tight as a fist.
You pop the trunk, fish a beer
from your cooler, and pound it.
Back in your car, the radio's
recapping the game:
your team pulled one out
they would have blown last year.
You've blown the last year working
nights while your lady works days.
Night work means bad lighting,
and you've had enough close calls.
You've had enough overtime.
You've had enough.
Something has to give.
Somewhere in the distance a dog
is barking, a husband is coming home.

October 6, 2009

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and bone?

Liu Bolin, Extreme Camouflage

-- for additional information and photos by Liu Bolin click here

* Bad words in the dictionary. excerpt:

"The 1960s actually marked the end of a long drought in the inclusion of sexual terms in dictionaries. The word fuck is first found in a dictionary in 1598, when it was one of five synonyms given to translate the Italian word fottere (the others were jape, sard, swive, and occupy). It is included in several other dictionaries throughout the 17th and 18th centuries (though not in that of Samuel Johnson, who made a conscious decision to keep out such material); Nathan Bailey's major Dictionarium Britannicum of 1730 included the odd note that it was 'a term used of a goat,' perhaps in an effort to make it seem less offensive. The last general dictionary to include the word was the 1775 New and Complete Dictionary of the English Language by Baptist preacher John Ash; the word is still found in the 1795 edition.

"But after that, thanks to the public prudishness that characterized the Victorian era and lasted well beyond it, it was to be 170 years before fuck was again put into a general dictionary: In 1965, the British Penguin English Dictionary included the term, and its entire treatment read, '(vulg) (of males) have sexual intercourse (with).'

"One major problem dictionary editors face in defining sexual terms is deciding how explicit to be. Defining coitus as 'an act of sexual intercourse' but leaving sexual intercourse undefined, for example (on the grounds that a reader could figure it out from the definitions of sexual and intercourse), would be a problem, not only because it makes the reader do too much page-flipping but also because the definitions probably still won't be sufficiently clear."
"These days, most dictionaries have broadened their treatment of sexual intercourse. They acknowledge that while the term usually refers to the penetration of the penis into the vagina, it can also be used to describe other genital contact, using expressions like 'genital contact,' 'penetration,' and the like to allow for the possibility of acts such as anal sex. But even these definitions are restricted, which is appropriate; oral sex, or masturbation, wouldn't normally be considered 'sexual intercourse.' The problem arises when these same dictionaries then define the word fuck (and other sexual terms) in relation to 'sexual intercourse,' because the word fuck is itself much broader than even these broadened definitions.

"Thus, you can't fuck someone in the ass with a dildo, according to the current edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Webster's New World Dictionary. The whore in Portnoy's Complaint 'who fucks the curtain with her bare twat' can't do that, according to American Heritage, Webster's New World, Random House, or Encarta. Lesbians can't fuck each other at all, according to Webster's New World and Encarta (though if they use a strap-on, Encarta becomes OK with it). Fucking a woman's breasts is only possible according to Merriam-Webster. Finger-fucking and fist-fucking are impossible according to Webster's New World, Random House, and American Heritage; Merriam allows it, but only if it's vaginal and not anal. Only the OED, whose entry for the word I edited, defines fuck to encompass sexual acts beyond 'sexual intercourse.'"

* "Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired." -- Jules Renard

October 2, 2009

I am an animal
I am unstoppable

E.L.T. Mesens, The Night Prowler, 1955

-- by C.D. Wright

Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.

Too Many Lifetimes Like This One, Right?
-- by Richard Brautigan

Too many lifetimes like this one, right?
Hungover, surrounded by general goofiness,
lonely, can't get it up, I feel like a pile of bleached cat shit.

-- by George Oppen

As I remember it, the harbor

Faced the orient;
The unused ferry slip
Stood in the harbor water

Like an outpost of the village

Growing old, the harbor waves
Lapped against the pilings.

October 1, 2009

There’s safety on the shore
It might be something evil
Made of skin and sin and bone
Or it might be gentle
Not unfriendly
Just unknown

Dawolu Jabari Anderson, The Big Change, 2009

* Fantastic -- How to Play Guitar, by David Fair:

"I taught myself to play guitar. It's incredibly easy when you understand the science of it. The skinny strings play the high sounds, and the fat strings play the low sounds. If you put your finger on the string farther out by the tuning end it makes a lower sound. If you want to play fast, move your hand fast and if you want to play slower move your hand slower. That's all there is to it. You can learn the names of notes and how to make chords that other people use, but that's pretty limiting. Even if you took a few years and learned all the chords you'd still have a limited number of options. If you ignore the chords your options are infinite and you can master guitar playing in one day.

"Traditionally, guitars have a fat string on the top and they get skinnier and skinnier as they go down. But the thing to remember is it's your guitar and you can put whatever you want on it. I like to put six different sized strings on it because that gives the most variety, but my brother used to put all of the same thickness on so he wouldn't have so much to worry about. What ever string he hit had to be the right one because they were all the same.

"Tuning the guitar is kind of a ridiculous notion. If you have to wind the tuning pegs to just a certain place, that implies that every other place would be wrong. But that's absurd. How could it be wrong? It's your guitar and you're the one playing it. It's completely up to you to decide how it should sound. In fact I don't tune by the sound at all. I wind the strings until they're all about the same tightness. I highly recommend electric guitars for a couple of reasons. First of all they don't depend on body resonating for the sound so it doesn't matter if you paint them. As also, if you put all the knobs on your amplifier on 10 you can get a much higher reaction to effort ratio with an electric guitar than you can with an acoustic. Just a tiny tap on the strings can rattle your windows, and when you slam the strings, with your amp on 10, you can strip the paint off the walls.

"The first guitar I bought was a Silvertone. Later I bought a Fender Telecaster, but it really doesn't matter what kind you buy as long as the tuning pegs are on the end of the neck where they belong. A few years back someone came out with a guitar that tunes at the other end. I've never tried one. I guess they sound alright but they look ridiculous and I imagine you'd feel pretty foolish holding one. That would affect your playing. The idea isn't to feel foolish. The idea is to put a pick in one hand and a guitar in the other and with a tiny movement rule the world."

* Will Oldham sings Puff the Magic Dragon.

* Story Stereo #2: Join Alexander Chee (www.alexanderchee.net) as he reads from his forthcoming second novel, The Queen of the Night. He is joined by Srikanth Reddy, author of Facts for Visitors. Special musical guest Bluebrain. At The Writers Center 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, Maryland, Friday October 2, 2009. 7:30 pm.

* "You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it." --Malcolm X