February 27, 2009

old intuition
on your dock I'm fishing

Mark Ryden, The Debutante, 1998

Bus Stop
-- by Donald Justice

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly . . .
And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning.

School Letting Out
(Fourth or Fifth Grade)
-- by Donald Justice

The afternoons of going home from school
Past the young fruit trees and the winter flowers.
The schoolyard cries fading behind you then,
And small boys running to catch up, as though
It were an honor somehow to be near --
All is forgiven now, even the dogs,
Who, straining at their tethers, used to bark,
Not from anger but some secret joy.

Map Of Love
-- by Donald Justice

Your face more than others' faces
Maps the half-remembered places
I have come to I while I slept—
Continents a dream had kept
Secret from all waking folk
Till to your face I awoke,
And remembered then the shore,
And the dark interior.

February 25, 2009

where will you spend eternity

Henry Wessel, Oklahoma, 1975

Ode to Sean Hannity
-- by John Cleese

Aping urbanity
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Faking humanity
Journalistic calamity
Intellectual inanity
Fox Noise insanity
You’re a profanity

Above Pate Valley
-- by Gary Snyder

We finished clearing the last
Section of trail by noon,
High on the ridge-side
Two thousand feet above the creek
Reached the pass, went on
Beyond the white pine groves,
Granite shoulders, to a small
Green meadow watered by the snow,
Edged with Aspen—sun
Straight high and blazing
But the air was cool.
Ate a cold fried trout in the
Trembling shadows. I spied
A glitter, and found a flake
Black volcanic glass—obsidian—
By a flower. Hands and knees
Pushing the Bear grass, thousands
Of arrowhead leavings over a
Hundred yards. Not one good
Head, just razor flakes
On a hill snowed all but summer,
A land of fat summer deer,
They came to camp. On their
Own trails. I followed my own
Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill,
Pick, singlejack, and sack
Of dynamite.
Ten thousand years.

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm
-- by Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

February 22, 2009

dreaming 'bout Eleanor Bron, in my room with the curtains drawn

Jenny Holzer, from Inflammatory Essays

* Review of Paul Beatty's new novel, Slumberland. excerpt:

"The protagonist of the novel, DJ Darky, is a Los Angeles DJ who comes to Berlin to be a jukebox sommelier. He is in search of a virtuoso saxophonist, Charles Stone -- nicknamed the Shuwa -- who is in many ways his doppelgänger. DJ Darky has created a sonic masterpiece, layering nearly every sound he can find into a flawless testament, a musical ars poetica. Now, despite offers from the gangsta rap community, he wants the Shuwa to play some avant-garde mystical voodoo music over the beat. DJ Darky arrives in Germany, having already declared the end of blackness, to find himself once more the subject of racism amid constant reminders of his obsolete ethnicity. His real quest, we soon learn, is for meaning and a place in the increasingly chaotic post-Cold War world.

"'Slumberland' is laugh-out-loud funny in many places, and its wit and satire can be burning, regardless of where they are pointed: blackness or whiteness. The book places Beatty somewhere among Ishmael Reed, Dany Laferrière and William S. Burroughs, and it is rife with sex (particularly interracial sex as weapon, as guilt and celebration, but never as love), music (it is, in fact, a love poem to music as identity, as savior, as self, as the perfect language) and religion, whatever mask it wears.

"Darky leaves Los Angeles not only to find the perfect beat but also the perfect seduction. He wants to be seen not through white America's eyes but through his own eyes, outside the weight of all the racial narratives that he has to filter in the U.S. Berlin, however, turns out to be just as fraught.
"For all that, there are incredible moments of tenderness. When Beatty describes Darky's incredible ear and his "phonographic memory" -- an ability to recall every sound he has ever heard and when -- he evokes a psychic and spiritual insight that speaks to the character's heart. Music, and Darky's relationship to it, becomes the place where Beatty argues for the soul of this one torn black man, making of him a kind of symphonic W.E.B. Du Bois."

* Ian Svenonius has a new project, Chain and the Gang, you can stream the new album here. [via].

* Eric Amling is reading at Space Space (Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY) February 28, 2009 @ 8pm. With Matthew Rohrer and Jon Woodward. For more information: click

* "I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch." -- Gilda Radner

--- back Wednesday

February 20, 2009

freelance patrol sounds the all-clear

walter martinpaloma munoz, traveler 80 at night

The Wait
-- by Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by A. Poulin

It is life in slow motion,
it's the heart in reverse,
it's a hope-and-a-half:
too much and too little at once.

It's a train that suddenly
stops with no station around,
and we can hear the cricket,
and, leaning out the carriage

door, we vainly contemplate
a wind we feel that stirs
the blooming meadows, the meadows
made imaginary by this stop.

-- by Stacy Kidd

Were it that the river lay like the children’s skin—
satiable, slight but withstanding.

Some nights, when the women would dress in deerskin,
drunk on the river’s water, my daughter with her dulcet

songs for the long dead. Their Purring and Purging.
Her Winter of the Newly Converted.

Winter, when the women wore their hair in high braids.
When the river shook its thin-hooked fingers,

and the water rose to eat its only edges,
then the women who feared endless dust, knew days

like night and dust, and night came with its own kind
of absolution. Absence. Alchemy. Ice returning to water.

Tough Cookies
-- by Ted Berrigan

You took a wrong turn in
1938. Don't worry about it.

The sun shines brightest when
the others are sleeping.

There is a Briss in your
immediate future.

Take heart. Shakespeare was
probably an asshole too.

Your life is rare and precious
& it has no mud. Stay with it.

You have strange friends, but
they are going to be strangers.

Everything is Maya, but
you will never know it.

Your gaiety is not cowardice,
but it may be hepatitis.

February 19, 2009

Ah, but remember that the city is a funny place
Something like a circus or a sewer

Krista Wortendyke, Remedia, 2007

* New York Times:

"Roland Burris’s appointment to the United States Senate is proving to be the grim parting prank that won’t end by Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former governor of Illinois.

"Mr. Burris eagerly grasped at the job, even when nearly all around him were saying that Mr. Blagojevich didn’t have a shred of standing to do the choosing. Mr. Burris also testified at the governor’s impeachment hearing that his appointment in no way involved the notorious pay-for-play bidding that saw the governor arrested for allegedly trying to auction the seat about to be vacated by then President-elect Barack Obama.

"Now Mr. Burris has begun strategically amending that denial, remembering that, well, yes, he did try to raise campaign money for Mr. Blagojevich when the governor’s brother and other associates called after Mr. Burris made known his interest. With still more explaining promised, Senator Burris is now emphasizing that he failed to come across with any funds — as if that’s a virtue. The point is, he tried.

"As a former Illinois attorney general, how could Mr. Burris’s ethical alarms not have gone off when the Blagojevich bagmen began calling? By his latest account, Mr. Burris did finally suggest things might not look right when the governor’s brother called a third time. But he should have immediately alerted federal investigators already tracking corruption in the Statehouse.

"Originally, Senate Democratic leaders rejected the Burris appointment as tainted ipso facto by the Blagojevich scandal. They should have stood by their opposition. In relenting, they pinned Mr. Burris’s acceptability to the state impeachment hearing, which it now appears the nominee finessed. Still more inquiries are threatened. But Senator Burris should consider resigning for the good of his state, if that’s still an applicable standard in the toxic mess spawned by Mr. Blagojevich."

* I saw my first MLB game at Shea in 1974, and now it's gone.

* "Take everything you like seriously, except yourselves." -- Rudyard Kipling

February 18, 2009

I want to live on the upper east side
and never go down to the street

Darrow Montgomery, Liquor Store

Three poems by Sarah Hannah:

Storm Vigil

Minutes before rain I stood by the wide road
Above the lawns and violet pavement
The clouds hung like a false ceiling,
The air too sulfurous for traffic.
It was turbid in the briar;
The grass blades slivered,
The black spruce was bristling.
I peered into the lear, into the quick
Sprigs and bent figure-eights, for a sign.
Then, in the needles of the narrow pine,
There came a twitch. The tree's seismograph.
I waited until it couldn't get darker.

Marble Hill

You've missed the train—
The birds care nothing about it.
In the brush, in the eaves of rock
Yellow moths wink like paper.
You've missed the train,
A perfect miss; it snaked by slowly
As you stumbled down the steps from the subway overpass.
Starlings rattle in the brush.
A dayliner passes, puffing clouds in silence.
Maybe you should have married
That rock guitarist from Jersey.
There was a pleasant stillness then—
A home, yellow flutterings—
Which you cannot help considering, bound,
For another hour, to this stubborn plain
While the afternoon sun makes water of the air
And concrete, and in this heat
Edges blur between outcroppings:
Sooted cliffs, car mufflers, non-refundables.
You're getting older;
You're less able to contain your questions.

Is there any marble in this hill at all?

Sister Morphine

Bustles in her dark body
In the army hospital;

In the Stones' saddest ballad;
On our highest kitchen shelf.

I keep her for you--
Cerulean, sublingual mixture

Clad in brown glass.
Flying nun, she soars.

From syringe to vaulted chamber
Beneath your squirming tongue--

Angel of Mercy, Sister of Care
Until all you can ask for is more.

Slow song in A minor, she releases
The tone-deaf choir in your chest, eases

The rattle and stricture,
And what's left of your lungs takes the air.

Sister, she slackens,
Though a drop of her spilled on the skin

Will pull it tight as a snail
Shot back in its shell,

In the sea's wake sound asleep,
Spiralling off somewhere.

February 17, 2009

we hide inside a tree
and wear a beard of bees

“'Hungry Bird' the sixth full-length recording by indie rockers Clem Snide will finally see the light of day on February 24th courtesy of 429 Records. Completed in the spring of 2006 it was produced by Clem Snide founder Eef Barzelay and recorded and mixed by Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Silver Jews). Throughout 2006, a series of painful and bitter breakups both within the band and with their longtime manager and booking agent occurred and the future of Clem Snide seemed uncertain at best. With the release of 'Hungry Bird,' Barzelay is hoping to put an end to any and all rumors he may have started regarding the death of Clem Snide. In fact, come the spring of 2009, Eef and Clem Snide will valiantly attempt to bring these songs and other fan favorites to clubs and theatres all over Europe and the United States."

* From Harper's March 2009:

-- Percentage of Americans who think their lives server "an important purpose": 94

-- Number of months since record keeping began in 1947 that U.S. consumer prices declined as steeply as in November 20078: 0

-- Last year in which total world trade shrank, before it did so in 2008: 1982

-- Total number of guns that five of the six candidates for RNC chairman bragged about owning during their January debate: 22

-- Number of times Caroline Kennedy said "you know" during a 45-minute interview with the New York TImes: 138

-- Number of different occupations Barbie has held during her 50 year run: 108

-- Days after going on sale that tickets to July's National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention sold out: 2

-- Number of exotic marine animals that a new Dubai hotel keeps in its 3 million gallons of decorative tanks: 65,000

-- Pounds of "restaurant quality" seafood the animals are fed each day: 485

* Japan's finance minister shows up to G7 talks drunk, resigns. video.

* This Is Why You're Fat.

* "Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before." -- Mae West

February 13, 2009

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

Lisa Yuskavage, Pond, 2007

On a Footnote in Plato's Symposium
-- by Sarah Hannah

I suppose we're mad for loving footnotes--
The promise stowed in a tiny number
Proudly flagging the quotation
"to lay up glory immortal forever"--
And In the drive past text to precipice,
We plummeted past pulp and typeface,
Seeking a source, a proprietor at bottom,
But instead found only "A line of poetry
Of unknown origin," and in chagrin
Convinced ourselves we knew--
At least that it was human, and didn't someone
Of that fellow race say something once
About dust, vis a vis issuance and return--
But when, exactly, where? And that chap gone
Unnamed as well, laid up forever
In his own annotation; we sought him
At that shore, below the legible horizon;
We dug through cool leave of like color,
And of nothing found we knew a bit more.

-- by Kimberly L. Becker

I call you out into the yard
to look at the eclipse.

We have always stood
between ourselves and happiness.

Uncle Jim
-- by Peter Meinke

What the children remember about Uncle Jim
is that on the train to Reno to get divorced
so he could marry again
he met another woman and woke up in California.
It took him seven years to untangle that dream
but a man who could sing like Uncle Jim
was bound to get in scrapes now and then:
he expected it and we expected it.

Mother said, It's because he was the middle child,
and Father said, Yeah, where there's trouble
Jim's in the middle.

When he lost his voice he lost all of it
to the surgeon's knife and refused the voice box
they wanted to insert. In fact he refused
almost everything. Look, they said,
it's up to you. How many years
do you want to live? and Uncle Jim
held up one finger.
The middle one.

February 12, 2009

dark today in memory of remy johnson and martin steglitz

February 11, 2009

Send in the clouds. Bring down the rain.
Shut all the blinds, turn out the lights:
I feel insane when you get in my bed

Seth Adelsberger

Adelsberger's work will be on display at Civilian Art Projects (406 7th Street, wdc) from February 13 through March 14, 2009.

The Consequences of Wife-Swapping With a Giant
-- by Denise Duhamel

There was a giant who was particularly fond of humans.
He camped near them, his lice -- white bears and white wolves.
He drank whole lakes when he grew thirsty
and generated winds throughout Siberia. He once fell in love
with an Inuk woman, and since he was already married,
convinced the woman's husband to swap his wife
for the giant's. The husband was tempted by the thought
of enormous green female genitals
and agreed without asking his wife's opinion. The giant
picked up the woman in his palm and blew back her hair
with a sigh. The man swam in the folds of the female giant's vulva
and she barely knew he was there. He disappeared
in her vagina and was never seen again.
Although he tried to be kind, the giant
split the woman in half. He returned to his giant wife,
the one he was made for. As they kissed,
ice floes cracked. The whole ground shook.

Yellow Tulips
-- by Eileen Myles

I was walking along the sidewalk
in all the daily pain
& miserable faces & awful air.
Up above in a flower box
were yellow tulips, too real
to be real, so big
and sexual looking in
that funny way flowers
always are. I guess
they were like heads
poking in from another
world. How do you
like Wednesday, you
beautiful things?

On the Back Porch
-- by Dorianne Laux

The cat calls for her dinner.
On the porch I bend and pour
brown soy stars into her bowl,
stroke her dark fur.
It's not quite night.
Pinpricks of light in the eastern sky.
Above my neighbor's roof, a transparent
moon, a pink rag of cloud.
Inside my house are those who love me.
My daughter dusts biscuit dough.
And there's a man who will lift my hair
in his hands, brush it
until it throws sparks.
Everything is just as I've left it.
Dinner simmers on the stove.
Glass bowls wait to be filled
with gold broth. Sprigs of parsley
on the cutting board.
I want to smell this rich soup, the air
around me going dark, as stars press
their simple shapes into the sky.
I want to stay on the back porch
while the world tilts
toward sleep, until what I love
misses me, and calls me in.

February 10, 2009

getting my kicks
watching arty French flicks
with my shades on

Blossom Dearie photographed by Chuck Stewart, late 50s?

* RIP Blossom Dearie. excerpt:

"Blossom Dearie, the jazz pixie with a little-girl voice and pageboy haircut who was a fixture in New York and London nightclubs for decades, died Saturday at her apartment in Greenwich Village. She was 82.
"A singer, pianist and songwriter with an independent spirit who zealously guarded her privacy, Ms. Dearie pursued a singular career that blurred the line between jazz and cabaret. An interpretive minimalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians, she was a genre unto herself.

"Rarely raising her sly, kittenish voice, Ms. Dearie confided song lyrics in a playful style below whose surface layers of insinuation lurked. Her cheery style influenced many younger jazz and cabaret singers, most notably Stacey Kent and the singer and pianist Daryl Sherman.

"But just under her fey camouflage lay a needling wit. If you listened closely, you could hear the scathing contempt she brought to one of her signature songs, 'I'm Hip,' the Dave Frishberg-Bob Dorough demolition of a name-dropping bohemian poseur. Ms. Dearie was for years closely associated with Frishberg and Dorough. It was Frishberg who wrote another of her perennials, 'Peel Me a Grape.'

"Ms. Dearie didn't suffer fools gladly and was unafraid to voice her disdain for music she didn't like; the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber were a particular pet peeve."

A few songs by Blossom Dearie:

-- Give Him the Ooh-La La

-- Rhode Island is Famous For You

-- I'm Hip

and a youtube 'video' of Dusty Springfield, her 1969 song about the British singer.

* Expectation "is a large ephemeral sand painting portraying the likeness of Barack Obama, located in the Catalan city of Barcelona. It was created before the 2008 US presidential election using a large-scale vector graphic, a GPS topography system and approximately 650 tons of sand."

* "A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world." -- Edmond de Goncourt

February 9, 2009

Monday morning come a-crawling in
from another weekend choked
with cigarettes and sin

Martín Ramírez, Untitled (Horse and Rider with Large Horn), 1962

* Pitchfork interviews Stephen Malkmus. excerpt:

Pitchfork: Was there an intention for Brighten the Corners to be a tighter record? It definitely seems like the lyrics were more deliberately composed, especially in comparison to Wowee Zowee.

SM: The lyrics just came out more fully formed, I don't really know why. Wowee Zowee was more off the cuff and more odds-n-sods, everything included, warts and all. There's sloppy takes and stuff that we still liked, songs like "AT&T", I'm playing drums on it and I don't even know how to play drums. It was better than the tight version, so we put it on there. It was more like "We're just going to do this at Mitch Easter's studio and it's gonna be all this sound, and it's all gonna be mixed in the same place." I don't remember it being necessarily tighter, but when we were mixing it and stuff, there were certain directives, like not as much compression. On Wowee Zowee, the engineer did more experimental mixing-- messing around while we were mixing with compressors and echoes. Brighten the Corners is more straight ahead, like, let the tape run. There were some things added to it, but it was pretty kinda dry, and not so much reverb and not so much compression as the other record.
Pitchfork: Do you feel like you're more mature now? One of the things I've picked up on in your last two records is that there's some songs that seem like you're imparting wisdom, or advice. "Malediction", "It Kills", "We Can't Help You"-- like an indie rock life coach.

SM: Yeah, right. I suppose! The earlier stuff is more like "this is happening to me," but now there are more songs that are accusatory or something, or more declaratory. I don't know where that voice comes from, like, "I've been down the road, we've been there and done that." That's sort of like a tougher style, or a less vulnerable style. Not to mention the Royal Trux again, but they're always like that. "You're Gonna Lose": It's sort of a rock voice. "We're tough, get used to it" or "Get with it man!" It's not like a "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"-kinda one where the guy is hurt or vulnerable. The feeling-sorry-for-myself style of song-- I'm not as into that. "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is kinda like "I'm feeling sorry for myself," but in the end, it's still a song about a guy trying to get laid.

Pitchfork: So aside from maybe "Fillmore Jive" on Crooked Rain, Brighten the Corners is sort of the first place where you're stretching out in the songs, and playing longer solos. You've become more associated with that now, but what initially took you to that place, with a song like "Type Slowly"?

SM: We were touring with Silkworm, and they were having some jam breakdowns, and I remember being like "Yeah, there's a place for that." It was already in the song structures as far back as Crooked Rain, and before that it was more of a post-punk guitar style, I think influenced more by the Swell Maps or maybe Chrome, but there wasn't any noodling going on. I think my melodic ideas were getting more concerned with guitar and less sing-songy ooh-oohs. It just kinda took over. Pavement, from the very beginning, was led by the guitar, the melodies were in the guitar lines, and guitars that were tuned differently. It was in G and D, different tunings that brought out melodies on the high strings, and I was imitating them or not playing them on the guitar, just singing them, so it's always been a guitar band.

My interest in music changed, and I was getting into that Fairport Convention electric folk music, and I can't remember exactly what else. Just kinda harder 1970s things, the Groundhogs and groups that were like acid rock bands. It's a typical thing where like punk bands went metal, you know, indie rock bands went...rock, straight rock or something. It happened so many times. We were gonna change, and we weren't going to go techno.

* Photographs from the final Silver Jews show.

* Why are we listening to these people again?.

* Boycott Kelloggs.

* "Let's have some new cliches." -- Samuel Goldwyn

February 6, 2009

When you know how I feel I feel better

Harry Smith, Film Number 10: Mirror Animations, ca. 1957, still from a color film in 16 mm

The Last Toast
-- by Nicanor Parra

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren't even two
Because it's a known fact
The present doesn't exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed...,
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal.

Letter Home
-- by Ellen Steinbaum

I love you forever
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package—soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her. Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me,
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket. He will sit
alone and listen to Aïda

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives. Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

-- by Bo Knudson

Throat of the robin, fried on an iron skillet, dusted in fennel-
But where was King?
Milling the marble, footsteps echo, in a place between death and yesterday.
Knit-browed and faltering to resolve his tumescent valor with the
shrill population, smitten with rebates and cheating the bottom line

He knows they can knuckle and claw their way up the once-geologic incline
What can he do? cut and appear
cots and illustrious blankets with minimal frequency
Now clear the victims away

As the day recedes, he hedges his bets, offers sentiment.
Gorging on an addiction to the self
(of which there are further ramifications)
events and thoughts appear to him as pixels of a horizon:

I want to be on the dollar bill

February 3, 2009

back luck comes in from Tampa

Tema Stauffer, Tampa, 2007

* List of Bush scandals. excerpt:

1. Patient neglect at Walter Reed Army Hospital

Walter Reed outpatient treatment, poor living conditions, undelivered mail, lack of caseworkers to oversee and facilitate patient care for amputees, brain injured, and psychologically disabled veterans; Walter Reed is not the only military hospital about which questions have been raised; also out there the underfunding of the VA.

The problems at Walter Reed came to the public’s attention through a series of articles by Dana Priest beginning February 18, 2007. Following them, Gen. George Weightman who ran Walter Reed for 6 months resigned March 1, followed by the forced resignation of Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey the next day. Weightman’s boss Army Surgeon General Gen. Kevin "I don’t do barracks inspections at Walter Reed" Kiley who lived across from the notorious Building 18 and who had run the hospital from 2002-2004 lasted one day as the new head of Walter Reed before he was removed. He resigned from the Army on March 12.

One source of the difficulties at Walter Reed was the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) decision on August 25, 2005 to close Walter Reed. Planned renovations were canceled. Another was the privatizing of support services at the hospital. The workforce dropped from 350 experienced professionals to 50 who were not and the contract was given to IAP. IAP began work at Walter Reed in 2003. In 2004, IAP lobbied successfully against an Army recommendation not to privatize the workforce. The OMB reversed the Army finding and the services contract was given to IAP in January 2006 although its implementation was delayed a year. IAP is run by two former KBR executives and had a well connected board of directors as well as being owned by a powerful holding company the Cerberus hedge fund.

However, the generally low priority given to ongoing patient care for wounded soldiers was probably the single greatest reason for the woes at Walter Reed. It bears remembering that there were problems noted as early as 2004 and certainly by 2005 and that Walter Reed is located in the nation’s capital minutes from the White House, the Congress, and the offices of major media outlets. Washington didn’t know about Walter Reed because it didn’t want to know.

The mindset which gives a higher priority to PR than care of the nation’s wounded continues. An August 2008 USAToday story reported that barracks in Fort Sill, Oklahoma meant to relieve conditions experienced by veterans at Walter Reed had mold problems in their ventilation system. The situation had been known for months, but soldiers were ordered not to talk to the press about it. Chuck Roeder, the social services coordinator, who blew the whistle on conditions at the base was rewarded for his diligence by being forced out of his job.

* The complete, illustrated Granddaddy discography.

* "Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people." --Doris Egan

February 2, 2009

looking back is what we do

Melissa Gordon, Dear Donna, 2007

* From a 2004 profile of Robert Frank, whose photographs are currently on display at the National Gallery of Art. excerpt:

"Now 80, the visual poet who defined America like no one before or since, has become as mythic as his iconic images. As I approach his studio-come-apartment on Bleeker Street in New York, two young men are standing on the pavement outside, one posing against his door as the other snaps him. Steve Pyke, the photographer who has cancelled a day's appointments in the slim hope that Frank will agree to have his picture taken, recalls that he too photographed this same door many years ago. The door, for the most part, remains firmly closed to visitors.

"Robert Frank has agreed to a rare interview to coincide with a major retrospective of his work that opens at Tate Modern next week. He is palpably uncomfortable, though. 'I find this kind of thing so hard,' he says, collapsing into a wicker chair in the first-floor kitchen, which, like the rooms that disappear off it, is old-school bohemian, with old junk shop paintings, prints and postcards sharing wall space with small strange metal sculptures made by his second wife, the artist, June Leaf. She is nowhere to be seen today, but he proudly shows us a catalogue for a current retrospective of her work in Basle. They are kindred spirits, artists from another era when the work was everything, when the art took precedence over the individuals who created it. 'I envy her freedom', he says, 'to sit down in front of a blank page with no machine to get in the way. That is freedom. Photography is not freedom'."
"Robert Frank has been fleeing fame, and all attempts to pin him down, since The Americans thrust him into a brief notoriety in the mid-Fifties when many critics saw his images as anti-American. A decade later as the world caught up with his vision, he had already left photography behind for film, determined never to repeat himself creatively. He shot Ginsberg goofing off to a soundtrack of Kerouac in full verbal flow in Pull My Daisy (1959), caught the Rolling Stones at their most glamorously wasted in the little-seen Cocksucker Blues (1972), which the band did their best to suppress so accurate was its evocation of the drudgery and decadence of their nomadic lifestyle.

"'They sent lawyers, they sent planes, they sent the sheriff,' he laughs. 'It was out of proportion, like everything they did. Keith was having difficulties with the authorities at that time with the drugs and so on, and Mick thought he didn't look as good on film as Keith. It was comical really. I fled to Nova Scotia. I just wanted to be left alone.'

"Since then, the less Robert Frank has worked, the more his legend has grown, and the more he has retreated from it. 'The kind of photography I did is gone,' he says. 'It's old. There's no point in it anymore for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it.' He says this without bitterness or regret, but with a sad matter-of-factness as ingrained as the lines on his face. 'There are too many pictures now. It's overwhelming. A flood of images that passes by, and says, "why should we remember anything?'There is too much to remember now, too much to take in.'"
"Robert Frank had captured an everyday America, shrouded in an epic sense of loneliness, a sadness that Diane Arbus called 'a hollowness'. Some of that sadness was quintessentially American, to do with the vastness of the continent and the struggle to survive that many of its ordinary citizens engaged in, and some of it was to do with Robert Frank, his outsider's gaze. 'I think I always had a cold eye', he says, 'I always saw things realistically. But, it's also easier to show the darkness than the joy of life. Life is not beautiful all the time. Life can be good, then you lie down, and stare up at the ceiling, and the sadness falls on you. Things move on, time passes, people go away, and sometimes they don't come back.'"

* Celebrate the Steelers win with this song --Off-White Noise, by one of Pittsburgh's best new bands Mariage Blanc.

* Michael Phelps quits..... smoking pot.

* "Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag." -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn