Noted without (much) comment

These are the stories you run across when you're taking five minutes from the last crush of grading. And I would imagine they're the kind of ledes that journalists only dream of one day being able to write:

LAKELAND -- A man who was attacked by an alligator this morning was naked and smoking crack at the time, Polk County deputies who rescued him said today.

And later in the story:
[Polk County Sheriff] Judd said Apgar told deputies he was smoking crack-cocaine at the adjacent park, but it was unclear why he was naked or why he was attacked by the alligator.

Back to poetry papers.

The best show on television



This show is why Amy and I pay an extra fifteen bucks a month for HBO. I can count on the fingers of one hand the movies we've watched on HBO--this is the seller, right here. Rome is good, Deadwood was watchable, but The Wire is the best shit on tv, bar none.

A late Thanksgiving and Random Ten

Amy's mom got sick Wednesday, so we postponed family Thanksgiving for a day and spent all today cooking and talking and generally not grading papers--tomorrow is going to suck so bad--but that meant we got two Thanksgiving dinners thanks to John and Emily. So that's why I'm late with the random ten today. Here we go--the next ten songs on iTunes party shuffle. Don't laugh.

1. Modern Moonlight--The Dresden Dolls
2. Break Your Heart--Barenaked Ladies
3. Stop Drop and Roll--Squirrel Nut Zippers
4. Cool Breeze--Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker
5. Days of Wine and Roses--Dexter Gordon
6. Ijuswannalayaroundalldayinbedwithyou--The Coup
7. King of Comedy--R.E.M.
8. Hey You--Pink Floyd
9. Rosalita--Bruce Springsteen
10. Don't Look Back--Luscious Jackson

Again with The Coup--that song ends on the line "I said, we're in bed together like George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein," and immediately jumps into the next song, which has a woman's voice singing "Bush and Hussein together in bed, giving H-E-A-D head. Y'all motherfuckers heard what we said. Billions made and millions dead." Funny stuff.

Email from an old friend
David Roderick, author of the fine tome you see to the left, dropped me a group email, and since I don't forward emails as a general rule, I figured I'd do this to give him as much public dispersal as I can. Here's the email:

Friends and family,

This Thursday (on Thanksgiving) I'm slated to appear on the radio program "Here and Now," a syndicated radio program from NPR's Boston affiliate (WBUR). The show begins at noon (eastern time), and I've been told my interview and reading will be an 8 minute slot sometime near the end of the show. If you're out of range or if your NPR station doesn't carry "Here and Now," you can listen to the show via streaming audio (http://www.wbur.org/) or listen to an abbreviated version via podcast next week.

I hope you enjoy some tasty turkey (or tofurkey) this week, with all the fixings!

Warm wishes,
David

David, if I can get the stream at my in-laws while I'm cooking my potato soup for Thanksgiving, I'll be all over it. And if I miss it, hopefully there will be an archive. In the meantime, get yourself a website so's I can link to you. Even a Myspace page. Damn.

Congratulations star lurker Sandy Longhorn, not just on her book's publication, but on the completion of her publicity tour, which ended down here with a reading at the Miami book fair.

Her book Blood Almanac is exquisite in my opinion (and I am the ultimate authority on poetic quality, thank you), and Sandy is among the few poets whose success never inspires a momentary dark thought, for she does not merely have a vivid imaginative life, she does not merely put that life in strong and beautiful language, but she's also a genuinely good human being, which I personally hold a higher talent than the rest.

The literary world, after all, suffers not at all from want of jackasses. ;-)

Applause, Sandy Longhorn! It was great seeing you again. Now reply to this, will ya?

The Home Stretch and the Random Ten

In ten minutes, I'll officially meet my Creative Writing class for the last time this term. They've been some good students, and some have made some real strides. I hope they sign up for the next semester. I've got six now, and will probably need half that again to make sure the class runs. I'm putting together a reading for them in a couple of weeks, an end of the semester celebration of sorts, very low key, friends and faculty. It should be nice.

Here's the random ten--iTunes on party shuffle and list the next ten songs that pop up. Here we go.

1. Coin Operated Boy--Dresden Dolls
2. Poor Poor Pitiful Me--Warren Zevon
3. Brown Skin lady--Black Star
4. Tangerine--Dexter Gordon
5. For Dancers Only--Jimmie Lanceford
6. Friday I'm In Love--The Cure
7. Money for Nothing--Dire Straits
8. So Long Eric--Charles Mingus
9. Cruise Your New Baby Fly Self--Girls Against Boys
10. Treat Me--Boozoo Bajou

So, whatcha listening to?

I have to wonder

Back when I was in grad school, I used to see odd stories and remark "there's a poem in there." Usually, there wasn't. There probably isn't a poem in this story either, but it's a funny one all the same.

AP) WICHITA, Kan. A botched kidnapping ended with one of the assailants shooting himself in the groin, Wichita police said. The man had just stuck the gun back into his waistband when it fired, shooting him in the left testicle.

He cringed, causing the gun to fire again and strike him in the left calf.

I'll bet he did more than cringe.

The one time I seriously tried to write a poem about a news story involved a NY Times article from 1936 about police uprooting a marijuana field that a flock of goats had been living on. According to the story, the gypsies (who claimed no knowledge of the field) who owned the goats had shown no ill effects from drinking the goats' milk. I wrote the poem in the voice of one of the goats.

Okay, seriously is a bit of a stretch.

Ah, kids
This term, I'm teaching one section of Freshperson Composition. As freshpeople go, they're not half bad. Since I force them to relate their personal lives to the essays we read, I've learned some interesting things about them--some have led pretty violent lives, some have had issues with drugs, one is openly gay, one is into fetish parties, a couple are fairly conservative christians who are nonetheless very accepting of those around them (they do the religion proud).

Last week, one of those asshole preachers came to the campus--the kind who are out to start a fight in hopes that they can sue the university. We had one at Arkansas when we were there--he was such a prick that the christian student groups lobbied to have him thrown off campus because he was making them look bad.

Well, thanks to Youtube, you get to watch him--and watch how my students responded to him. Enjoy.

It's been a good week and the Random Ten
My thirty-eighth birthday was a lot less stressful than my thirty-second, though the sleep I lost haunted me the rest of week. But I have today off to catch up on some work in a lower stress environment, and the political worry that has consumed me for the last six months has been replaced with the more mundane worry of getting book manuscripts in under deadline. I'll gladly take the trade.

Here's the random ten for this week--put the iTunes on Party Shuffle and post the next ten songs you have. No skipping songs you think will make you look like a dumbass.

1. In the Night--Katherine Whalen
2. Oro, Incienso Y Mirra--Dizzy Gillespie & Machito
3. Who Got It--Talib Kweli
4. One Up One Down--John Coltrane
5. Do What? Squirrel Nut Zippers
6. You Don't Love Me--Matthew Sweet
7. Uber Legitimate--Mates of State
8. Destroy All Lawyers--Mojo Nixon
9. The Devil's Chasing Me--Reverend Horton Heat
10. When You Dream--Barenaked Ladies

Bonus Track: Overkill--Laszlo Bane It's a cover of the Men at Work original that brings in Colin Haye for the last verse. Reminds me why that band was a hit in the 80s--such an odd voice.

So what's in your list this week? Seems I've got a heavier layer of jazz than normal, but I'll take it.

Ah. Sweet, sweet cake.



Okay so she isn't coming out of a cake, but I'll take it all the same. Speaker Pelosi. Damn, that sounds good.

I didn't get all the icing I wanted. Klein won, as did Mahoney--that was good. Lamont and Davis lost--that was more like licorice. But as I go to bed, a self-described Socialist is the new Senator from Vermont, and of the remaining three undecided Senate races, Democrats have leads in all of them. And it looks like Speaker Pelosi will have a bigger majority than her predecessor had. I can't wait for January 20, 2007.

Update: a diary of mine is currently atop the rec list over at Daily Kos.

Because it's my birthday

I'm gonna post a little politics here instead of poetry.

In the universe of stupid things Rush Limbaugh has ever said, which is a massive set from which to make any sort of selection, this has to be top 5 at least.

RUSH: I have been suspicious of polls for a long time in the sense that I believe news organizations use them to make news that reflects their editorial pages, and the same with the editorial opinion of broadcast network people, and like the Pew poll internals show massive shifts in 30 days of public opinion. One of the things in the Pew poll is that the Democrats have lost all white voters. They've lost women and they've lost --

Huh? Are the Dems poised to win only 12% of the population's votes, a subgroup of which a significant percentage has been systematically disenfranchised thanks to biased law enforcement? I mean, it's bad enough that the media has bought into the idea that people who hate Bush also hate religion, but now white equals Republican? Come on. I'm no republican, and I'm pretty honky by most standards.

Of course, this is Limbaugh we're talking about, and stupid things come out of his mouth as often as he exhales, and he was talking to Tony Snow, who took umbrage at the fact that Kerry questioned his objectivity as White House Press Secretary. Hey Tony--you spin for the White House. It's in the job description. Of course you're not objective--no one expects you to be--so quit acting like it's an insult when someone calls you on it.

So between now and when the results start rolling in I have to finish grading a class's worth of papers and email them back to my students. Amy's taking me to a birthday lunch and that'll pretty much be the extent of the celebration tonight. And tomorrow, I hope to wake to the news of a Speaker Pelosi. Majority Leader Reid would be nice, as would Senator Lamont and Governor Davis, but like I said yesterday I'll take what I can get.

And next on the agenda--finding a way to change the system so we stop thinking of a year when fewer than 10% of the seats in the House change hands as a landslide.

A Birthday Request

I was born two days after Richard Nixon won his first presidential term in 1968. he won his second term on my 4th birthday. I spent my 32nd birthday thinking Gore had won Florida, only to have that stolen away from me over the ensuing weeks. (That's probably part of the reason I felt some sense of payback in voting against Katherine Harris two weeks ago.)

I didn't start celebrating my birthday until about a dozen years ago (and I'll spend this one in the classroom and stressing, no doubt), but it's always so close to election day that I feel some sense of being tied up with the electoral system. Looking ahead in my perpetual calendar, it seems like this will be the last time for a while that I'll fall directly on a major election year (a presidential or midterm year).

So do me a favor, okay? Make this one better than the 2000 elections, if you can. All I'm really asking for is one House of Congress. More is better, of course, but I'm not greedy. Jim Davis as Governor would be sweet icing for the electoral birthday cake, but as long as Speaker Nancy Pelosi is jumping out of it, I'm set.

And yes, I realize that's a somewhat frightening visual. Deal with it. Imagine Denny Hastert eating his way out of a cake to offset it, if you must. That's what Limbaugh is dreaming of in his oxycontin-induced haze.

The New Addams Family?

As an advisor in the English Department, I get to meet all sorts of interesting people, and almost all of them are English majors. But this week I had an early morning appointment with a "civilian" - the type that comes up from time to time... We'll call her Cici.

Cici already had all of her degrees... and the job of her dreams, working in the advertising division of a national home improvement store. So why was she in the office of the English advisor at 9am? Because her boss told her she has to get her writing together, or get lost.

"Even my emails," she told me, "my boss says they're terrible... I don't use the right there/their/they're - I write like I talk, and it's not clear." Apparently at first she took flak from her co-workers, but thought they were just razzing her over "no big deal" - but then the boss came along and had the sit-down with her: people are talking; you can't write; you have to be able to write to work here.

I told Cici about a class I taught in Arkansas, "Advanced Comp" - a business writing class thrust upon any student who did not get at least an A & B in Freshman Comp, or could not test out on a writing test. The first assignment in that class, I told her, was for the students to find people who have the jobs they want, and then interview those people about how much writing is a part of their job.

"Pft," students would say. "No writing where I'm going. Shortest interview ever!"

Then they'd return from their interviews: "Holy crap! I'm going to have to do so much writing I don't know what to do - I'm trapped in hell - I can't do this - I'm scared to death! - help help help!" Constant internal email memos. Typing up impromptu contracts. Composing brochures. Updating websites. Describing products. Corresponding with customers. On and on.

And so at the 11th hour some small fraction of America's soon-to-be-workforce would actually begin to care enough to learn how to write.

The New York Times did a story on this issue a few years ago, and I included the reading of that story as an assignment in ELEMENTS of ENC 3213, the companion book I wrote with Barclay Barrios for FAU's Writing for Management course. I don't know how many instructors at FAU have actually had their students read that article and answer the questions, but it would probably snap a few heads to. American companies are spending billions on remedial writing classes for employees at all levels: the companies are aggravated, the employees are embarrassed, and the bottom line is affected.

I explained to Cici how, in English departments, we spend a lot of time trying to warn students that these are skills that will affect their lives, and we mostly get rolling eyes. Cici nodded her head furiously: "that was me," she said. "I totally blew off my English classes. I didn't realize...!"

And so now, here she is: a walking warning to all! A professional woman re-enrolling with the undergrads to learn her there/their/they're and how to compose a logical sentence. To all of ye who think you can write like you talk and NOT be thought of as a mental 4-year-old, BEHOLD: it is not so.

The good news is, those few English majors whose focus is writing, teaching writing, grammar, etc., can expect opportunities for employment to continue to grow!

Please tell me this gets easier

It's book contest time again, with the deadlines for the Yale and the Whitman in less than two weeks, the Tupelo in less than a month, and I'm certain there are at least a dozen others out there I'm not even remembering. I missed the APR/Honickman already (which my friend David Roderick won last year) because my head's been up my ass about this, both because of work and because of the agony that is manuscript manufacturing. I don't even know enough about the various judges to know if I'm pissing my entry fees away, but send them I shall, because that's how you get a book in this biz.

I heard Mark Scroggins give a reading tonight, from his new stuff (which was fabulous), and when we asked when the new book was coming out, he said "when I can find someone to publish it." That wasn't all that heartening, although it did get me going on my own compilation again.

I'd imagine the publishing side doesn't get any easier, but I'd like to think the agonizing over ordering your poems does. Or maybe it just doesn't matter as much anymore once you've done it a while. Anyone want to help me out with this? Anyone?

Sex Scandals Galore and the Random Ten

Just a couple of weeks ago, the happiest person in politics was George Allen, and the saddest was anyone remotely connected to Mark Foley. Two days ago, the saddest was John Kerry, and the happiest was anyone connected to Mark Foley (or Iraq, or the Republicans in general). Today, the happiest person in politics is John Kerry, and the saddest is anyone connected to Ted Haggard, meth-addicted and self-loathing gay evangelist. Sex always trumps any other scandal, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how, despite the GOP attempts to make this and Foley an anti-gay screed, the media has kept the story one of hypocrisy, not sexuality.

Here's the random ten: iTunes on party shuffle and the next ten songs--and as I proved a couple of weeks ago, no cheating by skipping horrendous songs, no matter what poor justification you use to explain their appearance. Here we go.

1. You're Gonna Miss Me--13th Floor Elevators
2. Sting Me--The Black Crowes
3. Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth--Primitive Radio Gods
4. May I Have a Talk With You--Stevie Ray Vaughan
5. Equal Rights--Peter Tosh
6. It's Over--Squirrel Nut Zippers
7. Galileo--Indigo Girls (Go ahead Amy. Give me some shit for this one. :) )
8. Superman--Lazlo Bane
9. Truckin'--Grateful Dead
10. Meet Me By the Fire--Katherine Whalen (former female lead singer for Squirrel Nut Zippers)

Special Bonus Track: Ass Breath Killers--The Coup. Terrific Song.

So what are you listening to? (Like anyone will answer.)

Slow going
I'm under a pile of grading that, while it wouldn't kill a normal man, makes it inconvenient to try to come up with something pithy to say. I'll see what I can do about that in the next day or so.

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