Friday Random Ten

MSNBC currently has what feels like ten thousand "end of the year" stories on its front page, and few of them are interesting in the least. We're currently trying to decide how we're going to ring in the New Year--we'll go for a combination of festive and cheesy, without a doubt, much like my random tens tend to be.

1. Peggy's Blue Skylight--Charles Mingus
2. If I Had a Million Dollars--Barenaked Ladies
3. Feeling Like I Do--Superdrag
4. Good Day--The Dresden Dolls
5. Promises--Eric Clapton
6. Never There--Cake
7. It Hurts Me Too--Henry Gray
8. May I Have a Talk With You--Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
9. Black Snake Moan--Blind Lemon Jefferson
10. Worried Rambler--Spider John Koerner

Thursday Night Poetry

When I started this feature, I originally resolved to blog about new poets, my contemporaries, people who hopefully we'll be reading and teaching in twenty years. But tonight I'm feeling nostalgic--it's probably the whisky--and so I'm going to feature an old friend who was also the reason I chose the graduate program I did. Miller Williams.

When I started writing poetry again, after my divorce and in my second semester of college (I started late, remember?), I was writing profusely, but I had no sense of whether or not it was any good. (Today, I'm less prolific, but still have plenty of doubt.) My first creative writing teacher, Jack Bedell, was wonderful, and when it came time to go to grad school, he recommended Arkansas, and in particular, Miller. By that point, I'd read some of his work and respected it highly. More than that, it infected my work tremendously. I've gone beyond that and found my own voice now, but every so often, I'll see a Miller line creep in, and most of the time, I keep it.

So here's one of my favorite Miller poems. I'm not generally a fan of meta-poetry, but I like this one.

Let Me Tell You

how to do it from the beginning.
First notice everything:
the stain on the wallpaper
of the vacant house,
the mothball smell of a
Greyhound toilet.
Miss nothing. Memorize it.
You cannot twist the fact you do not know.

Remember
The blond girl you saw in the bar.
Put a scar on her breast.
Say she left home to get away from her father.
Invent whatever will support your line.
Leave out the rest.

Use metaphors: The mayor is a pig
is a metaphor
which is not to suggest
it is not a fact.
Which is irrelevant.
Nothing is less important
than a fact.

Be suspicious of any word you learned
and were proud of learning.
It will go bad.
It will fall off the page.

When your father lies
in the last light
and your mother cries for him,
listen to the sound of her crying.
When your father dies
take notes
somewhere inside.

If there is a heaven
he will forgive you
if the line you found was a good one.

It does not have to be worth the dying.

The Ten Worst Americans

I'm stealing a note from Farley at LGM and making my own list here. I've ripped off a couple from his list, but most of these are my own.

Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson These two are joined at the hip--they've done more to damage civil rights, equal rights, and gay rights than anyone else I can think of, and all under the guise of being men of faith. They're the reason I hope there's a hell.

Rupert Murdoch He's done more damage to modern journalism than even Paddy Chayefsky could have imagined in his worst nightmares.

Richard Nixon He was the first modern president to argue for imperial power. If George W. Bush pisses you off, Nixon's why.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Another one I'm ripping off from Mr. Farley, for precisely the same reason--he fought to destroy the union, and then fought the only good things to come out of that war.

Joe McCarthy Utterly shameless in his persecution of people who either disagreed with him politically, or who stood up for their First Amendment rights.

Andrew Jackson The genocide of native peoples at his hands is an atrocity this nation still hasn't come to terms with.

Rush Limbaugh This was a tossup between him and O'Reilly--Limbaugh's been around longer and made people like O'Reilly possible, so he gets the nod. If there's been a single person more responsible for the divisiveness of contemporary US politics, I don't know who it is. He's a liar and a hypocrite and he's been rewarded beyond the dreams of avarice for it.

Robert E. Lee More for what southerners have made out of him than for his own actions, which were bad enough in my book. The lionization of him as the epitome of southern manhood, however, has helped keed the south from coming to grips with its past for the last one hundred-fifty years.

Lou Pearlman He's the fucker who gave us the Backstreet Boys, among others.

Andrew Volstead Authored the Volstead Act, also known as Prohibition. Anyone who hates getting lit so bad that he wants to keep everyone from doing it is an asshole in every sense of the word.


Who did I miss?

I am so glad I don't watch tv anymore

The AFA wants you to boycott some new show becuse they say it mocks Christianity.

NBC is touting the network's mid-season replacement series "The Book of Daniel" with language that implies it is a serious drama about Christian people and Christian faith. The main character is Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her mid-day martinis.

Webster regularly sees and talks with a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus. The Webster family is rounded out by a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter.

At the office, his lesbian secretary is sleeping with his sister-in-law.

The AFA wants people to email the president of NBC and complain, apparently because of the drug use and homosexuality--as though there's not a hell of a lot of both going on in practically every church in the country. And the comments at tv.com seem to indicate that the AFA's message is getting out.

Problem is, I don't want to watch the show, but not because I think it mocks Christianity--I think it mocks the arts of writing and filmmaking by putting out every possible clichè and then calling it "edgy, challenging and courageous." What's edgy here? That the main character is a preacher instead of a businessman? That just makes the kids more clichèd--who hasn't heard the story of the pastor's kids being hellraisers? Should a preacher be considered less insane if he's talking to Jesus and Jesus is appearing and actually talking back? I guess the gay Republican son is meant to try to get swing viewers or something, while the lesbian secretary adds balance or something--damned if I know.

The only reason I'm the slightest bit torn about whether this show succeeds or fails is that if the show tanks (as I can't help but think it will), the AFA will claim credit for killing it, as opposed to it tanking because it's founded on such a hazy premise. But I'm still not watching it.

A fabulous editorial

from a newspaper that has a reputation as being well, a bit conservative.

I'll give you the highlights, and I'll try to pick parts that Atrios didn't.

But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far...."

This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need. When American-born Saudi Yasser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan, the administration also detained him as an enemy combatant rather than entrust him to the criminal justice system.

But when the Supreme Court said he was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his behalf, the administration decided that was way too much trouble. It freed him and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, where he may plot jihad to his heart's content. Try to follow this logic: Hamdi was too dangerous to put on trial but not too dangerous to release....

I don't know anything about this Chapman guy, but I like what he wrote here. He made my day. And if this is from a conservative paper, I have to wonder just how much support Bush has left in this country.

Happy Holidays and an early Presidential endorsement

My father-in-law told me an interesting story this morning that bugged me and showed me just how much influence assholes like Bill O'Reilly have on this country.

He's a mail carrier, and has a good relationship with the people on his route, a large number of whom are Jewish retirees. He mentioned today that he's benn loud and vocal about saying "Happy Holidays" everywhere he goes as opposed to "Merry Christmas" because he's seen the people on his route, some of whom he's known for years, cowed and stumbling over themselves to make sure not to offend him. Bob is one of the most easy-going guys you could ever meet, and he was hurt by this, so he's gone on the counterattack against the O'Reillys of the season.

Now for the second half of this post. I've decided that, barring an entry by Howard Dean into the presidential race, my early favorite is Senator Russ Feingold.

I've always liked Feingold's stands on civil liberties, as well as on the Iraq War, and the fact that he donates the difference between what he first made as a Senator and what he makes now back to the Treasury, but after reading this, I'm sold completely:

Political watchers such as University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato point out that while Feingold's recent stands on civil liberties and the Iraq war may please liberal activists, they may well hurt his chances later on with moderate Democrats and conservatives.

The senator had a blunt answer.

"I don't care," he said. "Whatever political considerations I have are absolutely irrelevant to the decisions I make having to do with people's civil liberties and something as weighty as Americans risking their lives overseas. The day that I start think politically about those things is the day I should leave politics."


Feingold for President 2008.

Friday Random Ten

The present pile is now higher than our tree, but our tree is only two feet tall, so that's no biggie. You know the drill--iTunes in party shuffle mode, the first ten songs, no cheating to save yourself embarassment. It won't work anyway--we all know you have ABBA's Greatest on repeat anyway.

1. Chinch Bug Blues--Blind Lemon Jefferson
2. Get Out the Map--Indigo Girls
3. Long Distance Runaround--Yes
4. Me and My 424--John Vanderslice
5. Police Dog Blues--Blind Snake
6. Blue Rondo a la Turk--Dave Brubeck
7. Gangsta Gangsta--NWA
8. Out On the Tiles--Blind Melon
9. Mama's Got a Girlfriend--Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
10. Build Me a Box--Bourbon Tabernacle Choir

I never really listen to that last band--I just loved the name and had to have it when I saw it.

There's a first time for everything

Michael tagged me with this little meme. What the hell.

Seven Things To Do Before I Die
1. Leave the country (just for a visit)
2. Publish a book of poetry that is reviewed in the New York Times Review of Books
3. Vote in a general election for a politician instead of against one
4. Be offered a tenure-track position in a creative-writing program
5. See George W. Bush perp-walked into a courtroom, whether before or after he finishes his term.
6. Get another advanced degree
7. Have some photos blown up and shown in an exhibition

Seven Things I Cannot Do
1. A pull-up
2. Write readable fiction
3. Read anything by Don DeLillo
4. Go back into a Kingdom Hall
5. Watch cable news without flipping off the television and/or screaming
6. Listen to death-metal
7. Sleep the night before a trip

Seven Things That Attract Me to...Blogging
1. The notion that someone, somewhere is actually reading what I write
2. It keeps me from vandalizing cars that still have Bush/Cheney stickers on them.
3. Like Michael, I wrote an editorial column in college, and this allows me to keep that feeling while dropping the occasional f-bomb.
4. The danger
5. The non-secret nature of my secret identity
6. David Hasselhoff
7. The possibility that it could cost me #4 in the first section

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. Fuck that noise
2. Yes, you can turn it in on Tuesday instead.
3. Yes, I'll have another.
4. God, you suck
5. It might be worth it to get cable, just to watch the Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica.
6. How much longer until payday?
7. I love the academic schedule.

Seven Books I Love
1. Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright
2. Same Places, Same Things by Tim Gautreaux
3. Six Stories by Douglas Adams (The Complete Hitchiker's Guide series)
4. America by Jon Stewart
5. Collected Poems by E. E. Cummings
6. A Reader's Manifesto by B. R. Myers (not done with it yet, but damn is it good)
7. History of Art by H. W. Janson

Seven Movies I Watch Over and Over Again
1. All of Kevin Smith except Jersey Girl and Chasing Amy
2. Galaxy Quest
3. Blazing Saddles
4. High Fidelity
5. The Princess Bride
6. The Fog of War
7. Casablanca

Seven People I Want to Join In
1. Walrus (either in the comments or maybe he could start a film blog of his own? Hmmm?)
2. Amy has hers up already.
3. Alison
4. Divine Mandate
5. Stephen
6,7. I'm out of people to ask.

Thursday Night Poetry

This week is another friend from Stanford, Shane Book. Based on first impressions and the work of his that I've seen, Shane will be the poet people in the poetry world will be talking about in thirty, seventy, a hundred years, and I'm not exaggerating. He takes chances in his work--it's not the safe, stolid, workshop poetry that dominates the landscape currently. Last time I talked to him, he'd ridden out Hurricane Rita in Havana, playing dominoes and drinking twelve-year-old rum with old Cubans. He doesn't have a book out yet, but I feel pretty good about his prospects.

The One

The enormous head and huge
bulbed knees, elongated
hands and feet, don’t fit
with the filed down chest, limbs
of kindling, yet this is one
whole boy, suspended
in a cloth harness hooked
to what looks like a clock
stuck at three fifteen.
Closer, you can see it is
not a clock but a scale,
the kind you find in any North
American grocery,
but of course this is not
North America, this is
the Sahel famine, this
is Mali in 1985, where a boy
waiting for his rations
to be adjusted
must be weighed. At once
his face relays one and many
things: he could be crying out,
he could be grinning,
he could be frightened
or tired, he could believe
he is suspended in unending
dream. What starvation started
gravity refines as the boy
reclines, the hunger having
collapsed his neck, his face
staring up at the ceiling
of sticks which like most ceilings
anywhere in this world is blank.

You can read more of his poems (and listen to him read them as well) at The Fishouse.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

That's the name of a documentary made by an Irish film crew some time ago that received limited release here in the US and has never gotten US distribution. Not that I'm paranoid or anything, but I suspect there are some important people in this country who don't want it out there, mainly because it deals with the attempted coup of Hugo Chavez in 2002, and it exposes the one-sided US coverage of the event, although it does so more as an afterthought than anything else.

I remember when we came across the website for the film some time ago--we were living in San Francisco, and I wanted to see the film, but we missed it. Later, a cousin found it online and downloaded it, and we watched it in crappy quality on his desktop, but we were quite taken with it.

A few weeks ago, Amy discovered No Confidence, a blogger who felt that the film needed wider distribution than it was getting, and decided to make no frills copies available at cost. You can email him at and he'll tell you what to do. We got ours today and are currently watching it for the second time. Ten bucks.

I can't match that offer, as I don't have a dvd burner, but if you have an inbox that can handle a 700 meg file and the large amount of time it'll take to download it, I'll try emailing it to you. Sorry--my internet capability is limited, and I don't know how to host it, or if my host would beat my ass if I tried. If you need a gmail account, which might handle it, I've got plenty to give out. Leave me a request in the comments with an email address in this format: name AT isp DOT com so bots don't pick up the address and we'll work it out.

Brokeback Mountain

I can see why the right-wingers don't want to bring any extra attention to this movie. It's really, really well put together, and it's extraordinarily powerful in its message about the pain these two men go through because they feel they have to hide their true selves.

If it had been a poorly made film, then the right-wing might have stood a chance taking it on, but this is a piece of art, and anyone who watches it with even a partially opened mind will be affected by it.

It's already doing quite well at the box office, making the top ten last week despite only being in 69 theaters, and no doubt that will expand this week. We were lucky--it was playing in our neighborhood theater, which should be no surprise as they're also showing Rent, Capote, and The Dying Gaul. It's a little independent theater and we live close to Wilton Manors, so there's a bit of a gay influence on their film choices, I think--Brokeback Mountain is this place's Revenge of the Sith. We saw it at ten o'clock last night and it was pretty much packed.

But though the audience was overwhelmingly gay, this film shouldn't be shoehorned into some genre-dictated category--it will appeal to people all across the spectrum of sexuality.

No pics

But a great time had by all. I actually recognized a couple of pieces from the first time I went--the ceremonial flail and ankh, a headrest, the diadem--and that was really cool. This exhibit didn't bring over the death mask, which was a little disappointing for me, but no one else seemed to mind, so I guess I was just being nitpicky.

If you get the chance, go see the exhibit--it's worth the money.

T-minus
eight hours and thirty eight minutes, and the t of course stands for Tutankhamen.

I know I've been making a big deal of this, and the sad thing is that it's liable to be a bit of a letdown since I'm building it up so much. Maybe not--Monkey is practically beside herself, and Amy's dad is coming to see it with us, so it'll be two sets of father-daughter combos tomorrow morning. I believe I'm the only one to have seen the exhibit before, when I was ten in New Orleans, the oldest of four children my mother took.

It's amazing that we went at all. My two younger cousins, probably six and four at the time, had come to live with us in Louisiana, while their parents put together a move. My parents and four kids, none older than ten, in a 14X64 foot, three bedroom trailer. I was lucky at the time, because as the only boy, I got a room to myself. That it was the smallest room in the trailer was inconsequential--until my aunt and uncle showed up, it was my room, and mine alone.

My mom took a day off of work to get my cousins their vaccinations, and since we'd handled it so well, she took us to New Orleans for the Tut exhibit. It must have been late summer or early fall, and we stood in line for probably two hours or more. I remember my mom remarking later that we were so well behaved that a lady in the line bought us Cokes to share. When we got into the exhibit, I carried my youngest cousin, Sarah, the one I share a birthday with, so she could see the exhibits up close, and the other museum goers melted away so we could get in and see it.

We lived in rural Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain in a place called Big Branch at the time. It's the home of a five star restaurant called La Provence and not much else to this day. There were reasonably deep woods surrounding our place, and I remember walking through them for weeks after seeing the exhibit, looking for clues to ancient burial places, wondering if there were forgotten kings in the pine trees and the clay.

There aren't any woods here, unless you count the Everglades, which swallows up civilization as soon as it dares tread foot into its domain, but maybe Monkey will have a similar feeling. She's older now than I was then, but she's far more interested in all things Egypt as well. If I can sneak a picture or two with my camera phone, I'll post them tomorrow.

Friday Random Ten

eMusic edition. Some of my recently downloaded eMusic songs have made their way into the random play list of iTunes--well, one at least--and it's on the list today. Remember, random play, and no dodging songs that make you look dumb.

1. Die Dead Die--Big Smith
2. Moanin' featuring Wayne Martin--Boozoo Bajou
3. Jumpin' Jack--big Bad Voodoo Daddy
4. Heroin--Lou Reed
5. Guitar Boogie--Stevie Ray Vaughan
6. I May Be Wrong (but I Think You're Wonderful)--Hoagy Carmichael
7. Shake 'Em On Down--R. L. Burnside
8. Closer to Fine--Indigo Girls
9. Pancho and Lefty--Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
10. Funky Malaguena--Blind Snooks Eaglin

I'd really like to see some in the comments, as I use these sorts of posts to find new music to listen to, and since I have a legit service to use now...

A gift suggestion
If you want to give a gift this season, and you want to make a donation to some pretty good folks at the same time, go over to Peace Positive and spend seven bucks on a positive statement.

Normally, this group donates 20% of the proceeds to the causes I linked to above, but for the rest of the month, they're donating everything they make. I've been looking for a bumper sticker or other political statement to make the Hyundai truly my own. I think I just found it.

Thursday Night Poetry

So I was casting about for a poet for tonight, because we're about to go to dinner with some friends and didn't have anyone particular in mind, when I found this jewel of a poem by House Democrat John Dingell. He read this from the floor of the House today, and I'm posting it here tonight for your enjoyment.

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House
No bills were passed 'bout which Fox News could grouse;

Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;

Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,
While visions of school and home danced in their heads;

In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,
Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;
Americans feared we were on a fast track to...well...

Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;
A fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly

We can pretend that Christmas is under attack
Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;

Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger!

This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,
From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes...even Costco;

What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,
When this is the season to unite us with joy

At Christmas time we're taught to unite,
We don't need a made-up reason to fight

So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing blogs;
You should just sit back, relax...have a few egg nogs!

'Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch
With all our real problems, do we honestly need another Grinch?

So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,
A merry Christmas to all,

and to Bill O'Reilly...Happy Holidays.

Have a good one, y'all.

Just crown me now

Because nobody's getting between me and that trophy:

Mr Heterosexual Contest 2006
A Celebration of God's Creation


A real competition that will bring fun and laughter as we celebrate
God's design. Come be a part of the fun either as a contestant or an
audience member.

Mr Heterosexual Massachusetts
Feb 4th Sturbridge Host
Tickets for events are 10.00 ea.. limited seating at the door or
order in advance at:

413-668-8147

Events


Strength - how many oprah magazines can you tear?

Talent - your choice

Intellectual - answering random questions such as your favorite
heterosexual role model

Competition - name that food
...........more events to be announced.

Entry fee for competition 20.00.
Must be at least 18 to enter competition

I'm going to do them one better, though. Instead of Oprah magazines, I will destroy copies of Honcho, and my answer for every food category will be "spotted dick." And I'll still win, because I'm just that manly.

Five days

until King Tut. I'm a little excited.

In other news, I've started writing regularly again, thank Jeebus. The last few months have been brutal, but in the last couple of days, I've managed to do a bit of real work. It feels good.

Speaking of music

Right now, Amy and I are listening to a new cd by a group/dj/hell if I know named Boozoo Bajou, courtesy of eMusic.com. I went legit, finally, and no I'm not getting paid to write this.

Here's why emusic is great.

It's cheap--ten bucks a month gets you twenty forty downloads from a library of about 600,000 songs. It's mostly indy stuff, but hey, that's where the good music is today anyway, and they've got a solid catalog of old stuff. They've also got a lot of early stuff from bands that have become popular. Want the first album from My Chemical Romance (as Monkey did)? They've got it. Green Day's first two albums? They've got it. More mainstream they don't have, but I'm not so interested in that anyway.

It's fast. I downloaded three albums in about twenty minutes (you get fifty free songs in the first two weeks before the subscription kicks in) and only had to restart one song, which leads me to the next, and I think best part.

You own the songs. No restrictions on what you do with the songs. You want to burn them to a cd? No problem. You want to load them on your iPod? Do it. No proprietary bullshit to deal with. No copy protection issues. No Sony installing back doors into your OS so they can make sure you're not doing something with the songs that they don't like. You own it--do what you want with it.

So you can expect to see some new stuff on Friday Random Ten now, and I'll have some new cd's to listen to in the car. Any suggestions for new bands to check out?

Friday Random Ten, vacation edition

You know the drill--random play, first ten songs, no getting rid of dorky stuff. Here we go.

1. Carnival Time--Professor Longhair
2. She Lets Me In--Big Smith
3. Just Like a Dog--Big Mama Thornton
4. Who Loves the Sun--Velvet Underground
5. What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?--Elvis Costello
6. Bad Rapping of the Marquis de Sade--Lord Buckley
7. You Got to Move--Mississippi Fred McDowell
8. Coast of Malabar--The Chieftains with Ry Cooder
9. Brother John--Blues Traveler
10.Why Can't I Forget About You?--The Subdudes

Any list that starts and ends in New Orleans can't be all bad.

Hail the Monkey!

for she is the only person from her high school to be named to the Broward All-County Band. And she thought she'd bombed the audition.

I don't know much about this band, but she says it's primarily made up of juniors and seniors, so to be named as a sophomore is a big deal, at least from my point of view.

So congratulations to Monkey--we're all quite proud of her around here.

Thursday Night Poetry
Done for a month edition.

This is the reason I decided to teach--because once I put in my last set of grades in the morning, I'm done for a month, except for the reading I'll do to prep for the next term. God I love the academic life.

So tonight's poem is from a dear friend of mine who is currently in the PhD program at the University of Utah. No book yet, but when she gets one, look out, because she's going to set the world aflame. I've never read any other poet like her, a woman who balances formality and experimentalism on a knife's edge. The following poem was published in storySouth (where Amy will soon be published). Enjoy.

THE MOON OF LONG NIGHTS



At first, whatever drought carries the fiddlebacks
inside from the salt. The old women are speaking about jasmine.

An imagined June. Are telling you what they know
about the night. That the woman

who once held the sky’s hands against her dress whispered
drowning when the sun washed red across the river—

they say she fled from backwoods to bathe in a bowl of fire.
But in truth, she walked slowly with a shawl around her shoulders,

arms folded, her husband watching from a window in the house.

You could look at it as a teaching moment?
Someone in Miami Beach has come up with an interesting way of decorating for Christmas.

Local parents are, predictably, not too pleased with the display.

"It's not healthy. I mean, if somebody has something against Santa Claus or something, maybe express it in some other way," resident Lori Vega said.

Parents are afraid the decoration will cause a nightmare before Christmas for their children.

"I'm not sure what his reasoning is, but a lot of little kids are upset by it," one parent said....

"He might be the Grinch. He might be friendly with the Grinch," resident Joanie Stein said. Stein, who has lived on the block for years, said the dangling Santa sickens him. "It's a beautiful neighborhood and I think it's just weird. I've never seen anything like this here."

I'm sort of ambivalent about it--it's tacky, but then again, so are a lot of Christmas displays, and besides, if your kids ask if that's really Santa, you can always tell them that a) Santa isn't real, b)save yourself some time and aggravation (and money) in Christmas shopping, or c) play CSI:The North Pole.

Squeezers: a Review

Heat courses through this chapbook from the very first poem, "Going to Hell."

...All of us
are headed for the crawfish pot,
hot as a seatbelt in summertime."

Having burned many a childhood love handle on the silvery backseat buckles of our '75 Dodge dart, I relate to that metaphor, as I do to most of the poems in Alison Pelegrin's latest chapbook, the aforementioned Squeezers.

As I mentioned six weeks ago when I posted another of her poems, I feel like I've been chasing Alison for a long time, but where I moved away from "calling on / Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for little things / like blue doubloons and Zulu coconuts," she moved back and is now an English teacher at our alma mater. And when you read her poems, you can't help but understand why.

Her voice is strong and sure, tone-perfect and redolent with the sounds I grew up with, and emotionally powerful. From "Letter of a Thousand Days"
Lake Pontchartrain, Tchefuncte, Bogue Falaya--
I should be more like Li Po--half-drunk, squandering
the night's best verses to the Yangtze just because.
Dad--why can't I say that when I think of you
I also think of Time-Life Books--Mysteries of the Unknown,
their commercials with a knack for interrupting
mid-brawl our weekend ritual, the Old West
Movie Marathon. I know how you remember how
the TV screen blinked back and then revealed
a teapot squealing while twins two states apart
each felt the burn. No such mind's eye sparked for you.
I was at a Christmas Party, and as I time it, you were
Crossing the Great Waters while I listened to Charmaine Neville
do Jingle Bells, Satchmo-style.

She balances her narrative with incredibly poignant metaphor, and I don't care if most people will mispronounce Tchefuncte (cha-funk-ta) or Bogue Falaya (bow-ga fuh-lie--uh)--those are the sounds of my home and childhood as well, and I think they're universal in the sense that even if you're not from here, there's something about that level of detail that resonates with your own personal experience. You can make it fit your own life if you choose.

One of the advantages of having a teaching job is that you can introduce your students to new writers. I'm teaching two Interpretations of Poetry classes next term, and we'll be reading this book, among others. I'm sure Alison won't mind the few book sales that come out of it.

Friday random ten

I seem to be a day behind this week, so I'm just going to roll with it rather than fight it. Here we go.

1. Fight For Your Right--The Beastie Boys
2. Drunken Hearted Man--Robert Johnson
3. She's So Innocent--Marcia Ball
4. Worried Rambler--Spider John Koerner
5. Snake Drive--R. L. Burnside
6. Alone--Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals
7. I Don't Care What You Do--T-Bone Walker
8. Pasties and a G-String (at the Two O'Clock Club)--Tom Waits
9. Boogie Woogie Country Girl--Big Joe Turner
10. Satellite of Love--Lou Reed

Well, the overwhelming influence of the blues on my mp3 collection certainly came through today. Guess my iPod knows that it's finals week too.

Thursday Night Poetry
Amy did a section on war poetry with her students this term, and she discovered Dunya Mikhail and used one of her poems. Her book came yesterday and so far I have to say that I'm quite impressed. Mikhail writes in Arabic, so I want to give proper credit to Elizabeth Winslow, her translator, for getting across the terrific spirit of Mikhail's poetry--I don't think we give translators enough credit for their share of the creative process in their work. The following is the title poem to her collection The War Works Hard, winner of a 2004 Pen Translation Fund Award.

The War Works Hard


How magnificent the war is!
How eager
and efficient!
Early in the morning
it wakes up the sirens
and dispatches ambulances
to various places
swings corpses through the air
rolls stretchers to the wounded
summons rain
from the eyes of mothers
digs into the earth
dislodging many things
from under the ruins..
Some are lifeless and glistening
others are pale and still throbbing..
It produces the most questions
in the minds of children
entertains the gods
by shooting fireworks and missiles
into the sky
sows mines in the fields
and reaps punctures and blisters
urges families to emigrate
stands beside the clergymen
as they curse the devil
(poor devil, he remains
with one hand in the searing fire)..
The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrants
to deliver long speeches
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets
it contributes to the industry
of artificial limbs
provides food for flies
adds pages to the history books
achieves equality
between killer and killed
teaches lovers to write letters
accustoms young women to waiting
fills the newspapers
with articles and pictures
builds new houses
for the orphans
invigorates the coffin makers
gives grave diggers
a pat on the back
and paints a smile on the leader's face.
It works with unparalleled diligence!
Yet no one gives it
a word of praise.

You can find her book here.

My Letter to the Editor

The letter I wrote on the inclusion of ID in a Broward County High School Biology text was published in the Sun-Sentinel. Click to see it.

They published Amy's too.

O'Reilly, Heal Thyself

Bill O'Reilly gets in a lather every year about this time because, well, he needs ratings help I guess or because he's an idiot or because he's not getting enough love at home. He has a very predictable hissy-fit about how Christmas is under attack from "the secular left," especially as regards the inclusion of religious icons.

Now as anyone who was paying attention last Friday knows, there isn't much Christ left in Christmas--it's all commercialism these days, and frankly, the desire to expand the number of people who will spend large amounts of money during this period is a far greater force behind the turn from "Christmas trees" to "Holiday trees" than Michael Newdow could ever hope to accomplish.

It's simple really--there's a growing non-Christian minority in this country that doesn't celebrate Christmas, and while that drives Bill O'Reilly batshit crazy, to retailers that means there's a large, untapped market of people who have no reason to buy useless shit during November and December, and that can't be allowed to continue.

But the very best part of this whole story is that while O'Reilly rants and raves about taking Christ out of Christmas, it seems that his bosses at Fox are doing just that. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present the O'Reilly Factor Christmas Holiday Ornament.

I guess O'Reilly and Fox didn't like being humiliated by Olbermann--he gave O'Reilly the medal sweep in the "Worst Person in the World" contest last night--so they've since changed the ornaments to "Christmas Ornaments."

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