And the rednecks all get out their lighters

Even though I was never a fan, I get why Black Sabbath will get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And even though I think they were overrated, I'll give it to the Sex Pistols as well. Blondie was one of my favorite bands from that time period--I love Debbie Harry for Rapture if nothing else--but I had very iffy taste, as I was only about 11 or so. Miles Davis deserves to get in just because he got so damn weird.

But Skynyrd? The band that defended Nixon? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about Elvis and Nixon, but he was so luded up he couldn't see straight, and besides, Elvis had more chops in his toenail clippings than Skynyrd did. Is the Hall just running out of bands or something?

This is why we have to win School Board elections

Because otherwise we're fighting idiotic craplike this:

As Broward County schools shop for a new science textbook this year, one of the options is a biology book that could plunge the district into a roiling national debate over the origin of man.

The high school text, Biology: The Dynamics of Life, says on Page 388: "Many of the world's major religions teach that life was created on Earth by a supreme being. The followers of these religions believe that life could only have arisen through the direct action of a divine force.

"Some people believe that the complex structures and processes of life could not have formed without some guiding intelligence."

That passage describes what is known as intelligent design, a concept that includes creationism -- an issue that has vexed educators for decades.

Below is my Letter to the Editor in reply. I hope it gets published.
As a parent of a Broward county high-school student, I’m very concerned that Broward county may be heading down the anti-science path toward the inclusion of the so-called theory of Intelligent Design in the science curriculum for one very practical reason—it could harm my child’s chances of getting into an elite university.

The California university system already refuses to certify courses on creationism and Intelligent Design—and they are the same thing—as meeting its entry requirements for admission, and other elite schools, including those in the Ivy League, are considering similar action. Kansas University, in response to that state’s recent decision to redefine science so as to fit Intelligent Design into the curriculum, announced that it will be teaching a course in ID, under the course title “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.” Why? Because the science faculty there, as well as at every reputable university in this nation recognizes that Intelligent Design is nothing more than warmed-over creationism. It is not science, and should not be taught in a science classroom.

Should the Broward County School Board decide that they’d like to include ID in with other creation stories—Biblical, Hindu, Jewish, and Native American among others—in an elective humanities course, I’d be more than supportive. But in a world that’s becoming more competitive every day, we can’t afford to handicap our children by teaching less science instead of more. Keep ID out of the science classroom.

The article itself is crap, and it pissed me off. Lots of time was given to ID supporters, and only cursory mention to the downsides of teaching ID (like, the fact that it's not science).

But here's the reason for the title of this post:
In Broward County, science curriculum supervisor J.P. Keener doesn't see anything wrong with acknowledging religious beliefs in class.

"Some teachers are so reluctant to talk about it. I don't know why," Keener said.

"It's OK for them to talk to students and discuss philosophies and say what's the difference between a philosophy and science and religion," Keener said. "That's a great discussion. And it's worthwhile."

This is the science curriculum supervisor talking here. He's half right--there's nothing wrong with acknowledging religious beliefs in class, if it's a religion or a literature or a humanities class. But there's a hell of a lot wrong with acknowledging religious beliefs in a science class, because science and religion deal with two different worlds. Science deals with the observable, religion with matters of faith--and never the twain shall meet. And if Mr. Keener doesn't recognize that, then he needs to find himself another job, one that won't impact the scientific education of our students here in Broward County.

Friday Random Ten

Random play setting, first ten songs, no deleting or adding to try to make yourself look cool--I certainly won't look down on you if you include the dance mix of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in your list. I swear.

1. High Hopes--Pink Floyd
2. Night Life--B. B. King
3. Molly--Deadeye Dick
4. Plenty More--Squirrel Nut Zippers
5. Everything Happens to Me--Wynton Marsalis
6. King of Swing--Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
7. Ponce de Leon--Big Smith
8. Marie Laveau--Dr. John
9. She's Waiting--Eric Clapton
10. Superstition--Stevie Wonder

Thursday Night Poetry, Thanksgiving Hangover Edition

Not really hung over, at least not in the alcoholic sense of the word--more of the binge eating sense. Still, we had a great time with friends and I spent most of the day away from my computer, so it was a very good day.

Today's poet is another old compatriot, this time from Arkansas, Sandy Longhorn. I thought about her yesterday because Amy was going through some books and she found a postcard from Sandy that one of us had used as a bookmark. I googled Sandy to see if there was any word on her--she'd been a finalist for the Walt Whitman prize a couple of years ago--and what do I discover but that she's gone and won a different prize and one based in Florida no less. No word yet on when the book will be out, but you can bet I'll get one when it does.

So here's Sandy, with a poem from the Arkansas Literary Forum:

Self-portrait: April

Dear S —

All week the small bushes pushed
out their new leaves, splashes
of bright yellow-green crowding
the low hills, breaking apart winter’s
cold patina. News of M—’s disease
last Christmas settled on my heart
like snow, the kind that stays.
This thaw is hard-pressed to clear
the ice floes in my veins.

Today, I watch from my window
as buds appear on the willows
lining the creek. I’m enclosing
one new growth, still warm, almost furry.
I lick it like a stamp, paste it to the page
still green, wondering how it will reach you.

Fun fact

The story's pretty boring as stories go--town renames itself for an internet site in order to try to make some money. The fascinating bit comes later in the article.

The towns are following a tradition established in 1950 when Hot Springs, New Mexico changed its name to Truth or Consequences after a radio program that became a TV game show.

I had no idea.

Bad press may beat a Supreme Court decision

Interesting story from the NY Times about New London, CT since the now infamous Kelo decision.

Five months after the United States Supreme Court set off a national debate by ruling that the City of New London could seize their property through eminent domain to make way for new private development, no one has been forced to leave.

No bulldozers have arrived to level the last houses still standing, and none are expected soon.

Even though the holdouts lost their case, and the development that would displace them finally seems free to go forward, construction has not begun, and some elements of the project have been effectively paralyzed since the court ruling prompted a political outcry.

Something that got lost in the shuffle over this decision, which felt wrong but followed existing precedent, is that the Supreme Court's decision essentially said that this sort of thing is supposed to be decided at the local and state level, and that the Court has no business getting involved in those kinds of decisions.

And that seems to be what has heppened here. Public outcry and outrage has slowed the process of seizing the homes. Now, it may not make a difference in the long run, but what the Kelo decision did was awake homeowners to the potential for the use of eminent domain, and they're started making it an issue for people who are running for office. And anything that bolsters local political involvement is a good thing in my book.

Changed my mind

Mainly because I got this email from my old buddy Geoff Brock. See, he won the 5th Annual New Criterion Prize a while back, and now it seems his book is shipping. So I feel it's only right to go ahead, a night late, with Thursday Night Poetry, and present the title poem from his new tome, originally published in, where else, The New Criterion.

Weighing Light

Often the slightest gesture is most telling,
as when he reaches tenderly in passing
to pluck the yellow leaf from the dark fall

of her hair, or even the absence of all gesture:
the way she doesn’t need to turn to know
who, in this gathering of friends, has touched her.

It was as if he dreamed some private garden.
Perhaps he woke from it, mid-reach, to find
his hand too near her hair in this crowded yard,

and maybe even now she’s shuttering in
(she’s even better than you or I at that)
a storm of worry and recrimination—

did anyone notice? how could he do that here!—
by seamlessly continuing to tell you
about her trip to see her favorite Vermeer

this morning in the Delft show at the Met:
“So now they say she isn’t weighing pearls
or gold or anything—it’s just the light

gleaming off empty scales.” So much is hard
to know for sure. If I confronted her,
she’d say it was just a leaf—who could afford

to disagree? Could we? Now she’s explaining
how the girl faces a mirror we can’t see into
and how behind her hands a gloomy painting

of the Last Judgment: “Over her head God
floats in a cloud,” she says, “like a thought balloon.”
But you don’t hear. You’re watching me. I nod.

Friday Random Ten--Winter Wonderland Edition

Today in south Florida, it's a freezing 75 degrees fahrenheit, with occasional rain showers and grey skies. Winter has come to my neck of the woods, and I'm still wearing flipflops.

No Thursday night poetry this week--I'm finishing a long week of conferencing with my students and I forgot amid the paper grading, and I'm not going to backdate a post for something that never gets comments anyway.

So here we go--and while I was tempted, I'm not going to sneak in SRV's "Couldn't Stand the Weather," not even ironically.

1. The Remedy--Jason Mraz
2. Bad Luck Blues--Blind Lemon Jefferson
3. Am I Right or Wrong--Son House
4. What a Good Boy--Barenaked Ladies
5. Memphis Soul Stew--King Curtis
6. No Sleep Till Brooklyn--Beastie Boys
7. The Perfect Fit--The Dresden Dolls
8. Trash--Big Smith
9. Boogie Woogie Country Girl--Big Joe Turner
10. Kill the Poor--The Dead Kennedys

A brief note
On the off chance that any of my students come by this site, let me warn you right now that if you ever call me at home, I won't be as nice as she was.

Thoughts on a bumpersticker

On my way to work today, I was cut off by a woman in a new shiny blue something-or-other. I didn't even flip her off--time in south Florida has convinced me that if I were to react as I have in the past, I would just drive down the street with my finger hanging out the window at all times.

She had this bumpersticker (which I had a chance to read since it was practically in my lap at the time) which said "Jesus was also homeschooled." So I started to wonder what she was trying to put across with that sticker.

Did she mean that she was impregnated while still a virgin and so she was homeschooling her child in order that He would be prepared to assume his duties as Savior?

Was she giving her child a special education in how to wander the land as a homeless preacher, who would be despised in his hometown, dependent on the kindness of strangers for his daily bread?

Was she hoping that her child would grow up to be wise in the ways of scripture, and yet utterly hopeless in terms of math, science, and, you know, anything else that might help him get and hold a job?

Or was she just being defensive?

I hold no brief against home-schooling in theory--as long as the state ensures the children are making adequate progress toward an education, then parents ought to be able to teach them on their own if they choose. It's not what I do, but hey--I teach other people's kids. Different strokes.

I fear, however, that many parents who home-school do so because they're fearful of the pervasive influence of the public school system and the secular world in general, and they hide behind cutesy slogans in order to justify their choices.

Oh, and on the subject of the slogan, if the Bible is to be believed, Jesus would likely have attended a community school to be versed in the Law and in basic literacy. He would not have been home-schooled.

Anybody want to read some EULAs?

Maybe we ought to. This stink over Sony's backdoor installation of malware on the comupters of PC users who purchase their music has gotten this subject a lot of press it wouldn't otherwise get, and it's got me thinking, what exactly is in those End User Licensing Agreements we generally click on and agree to so casually when installing new software?

Here's what's in Sony's, and this is just what's on the music cd's that they've been selling.

First, a baseline. When you buy a regular CD, you own it. You do not "license" it. You own it outright. You're allowed to do anything with it you like, so long as you don't violate one of the exclusive rights reserved to the copyright owner. So you can play the CD at your next dinner party (copyright owners get no rights over private performances), you can loan it to a friend (thanks to the "first sale" doctrine), or make a copy for use on your iPod (thanks to "fair use"). Every use that falls outside the limited exclusive rights of the copyright owner belongs to you, the owner of the CD.

Now compare that baseline with the world according to the Sony-BMG EULA, which applies to any digital copies you make of the music on the CD:

1. If your house gets burgled, you have to delete all your music from your laptop when you get home. That's because the EULA says that your rights to any copies terminate as soon as you no longer possess the original CD.

2. You can't keep your music on any computers at work. The EULA only gives you the right to put copies on a "personal home computer system owned by you."

3. If you move out of the country, you have to delete all your music. The EULA specifically forbids "export" outside the country where you reside.

4. You must install any and all updates, or else lose the music on your computer. The EULA immediately terminates if you fail to install any update. No more holding out on those hobble-ware downgrades masquerading as updates.

5. Sony-BMG can install and use backdoors in the copy protection software or media player to "enforce their rights" against you, at any time, without notice. And Sony-BMG disclaims any liability if this "self help" crashes your computer, exposes you to security risks, or any other harm.

6. The EULA says Sony-BMG will never be liable to you for more than $5.00. That's right, no matter what happens, you can't even get back what you paid for the CD.

7. If you file for bankruptcy, you have to delete all the music on your computer. Seriously.

8. You have no right to transfer the music on your computer, even along with the original CD.

9. Forget about using the music as a soundtrack for your latest family photo slideshow, or mash-ups, or sampling. The EULA forbids changing, altering, or make derivative works from the music on your computer.

I've never paid a lot of attention to which company publishes the few cd's I purchase, but you can bet your ass I'm checking now. And while I'm at it, I may have to look up a few other EULAs and see if they have similar requirements.

Add it to the list

The list of stupid decisions made by our government recently, that is.

HAVANA - A Cuban scientist who helped develop a low-cost synthetic vaccine that prevents meningitis and pneumonia in small children says he was offended the U.S. government denied his request to travel to the United States to receive an award.

Vicente Verez-Bencomo was to accept the award recognizing his team's technological achievement during a Wednesday ceremony at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif. He had also been invited to address a gathering of the Society for Glycobiology in Boston on Friday.

Verez-Bencomo said the State Department denied him a visa because the visit would be "detrimental to the interests of the United States."

The State Department declined to explain exactly how his visit would be detrimental to the interests of the US, but it wouldn't surprise me if it boiled down to "if we let him in and he gets this award, some people might realize that Cuba's not quite the backwards hellhole we've made it out to be for the last 40 years."

I'm no defender of Castro's government, but our policy toward Cuba is ridiculous to say the least, and this is just another example of that.

Friday Random Ten

Here we go.

1. Mean Old Frisco--Derek and the Dominos
2.La Grippe--Squirrel Nut Zippers
3. Just Kiss Me--Harry Connick Jr.
4. How Many More Years--Henry Gray
5. Down By the Seaside--Robert Plant and Tori Amos
6. Fare Thee well--Indigo Girls
7. Suzy Q--Boozoo Chavis
8. Let's Get It On--Jack Black
9. Redemption Song--Bob Marley
10. So Long-Farewell-Goodbye--Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

All over the place today--2 blues pieces, 2 big-bandish pieces, 2 covers, 1 reggae, 1 zydeco, 1 lesbian-folk and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The Music Snobs would no doubt mock me mercilessly, but hey, screw them.

Thursday Night Poetry

Tonight's poem comes from my friend and teacher Davis McCombs, currently at the University of Arkansas. Davis came to Arkansas in the spring semester of my third year at Arkanasas as a visiting writer, and we loved him so much, we got him hired as permanant faculty. He became my thesis director, and helped me immensely on my successful application for the Stegner Fellowship, so to say I owe him is the understatement of a lifetime. He was the winner of the 2000 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, and tonight's poem comes from that volume, titled Ultima Thule.


Blue heart, blue
vein, bluegrass
in wind. Near dawn,
a trickling. Paint
flake and darkened door.
Barn and blackshank.
A field of burley.
A lean-to.
Old lean man.
Green River
by john-boat, a trotline.
The fruit jar
near the fieldstone
wall. Channel cat,
gar. A cane
brake, a cave.
A road through
cedars. Fencerows.
Tents on a gravel bar--
campfire, grave.
Blood cross on door.
Damp curtain, hot
night, blue moon.
The house quiet:
the porchswing and the pie
safe. The hinge.
Plowpoint and spear.
Fossil, watercress,
worm. A cradle.
Blue corn, blue-
grass in wind, ocean
you once were.

A brief note

For the record, I'd just like to note that I, too, am opposed to melting the skin off children. Adults, too.

The Big Three-Seven

Happy Berfday to Me!

Saturday Cat Blogging
Because I'm too cool to do it on Friday? These pics were taken while Wilma was raging. They didn't seem to mind it too much.

Wally (Stevens)

(T. S.) Eliot

Friday Random Ten

Post-Katrilma Edition. Mock me in the comments.

1. They Raided the House--Louis Jordan
2. Radio Radio--Elvis Costello
3. Low Down Moan--Blind Lemon Jefferson
4. I'm Wrong About Everything--John Wesley Harding
5. A Little Less Conversation--The BossHoss
6. Cause=Time--Broken Social Scene
7. Voyager--Daft Punk
8. Just Like Heaven--The Cure
9. Some Might Say--Oasis
10. They Call Me Big Mama--Big Mama Thornton

I need some new cd's, not because I think there's anything wrong with my musical taste, but because I'm jumping past more songs on my iPod than I listen to on any given day, and it's more because I'm just tired of listening to those songs than anything else.

Thursday Night Poetry

Tonight it's Anne Winters, from her new book The Displaced of Capital, which I just received today. I bought it solely on the recommendation of my friend Simone, and haven't had a chance to read much yet, but what I've read, I like. I'm posting the poem titled "Villanelle," in part because I've never been able to write one, even a bad one, and in part because Winters seems to write long, sectioned poems, and I'm not going to type out four pages worth of poetry for a blog post. I'm lazy--shoot me.


Bone-ivory thins out to sparkling gauze,
and the helices spell out their last revisions:
cascades of microscopic cellular flaws.

Dark quadrants in the X-rays of my jaws
mark the retreating toothbed, new excisions,
the ivory thinned out to sparkling gauze.

The synovial sea that bathed my knees withdraws,
leaving bone nubs to clickings and collisions,
cascades of calcium, microscopic flaws.

What's worse, this age of ice-flares and failed thaws
that might clear nights for auroral visions,
instead blows through my sleep like cradle-gauze,

filled with nursery-rockers, pastel night-lights: straws
that wove about those years of small decisions
a screen against the tide of cellular flaws.

Why should the ova and the menses pause
for this bleak text of lapses and elisions:
bone-ivory thinning out to sparkling gauze,
cascades of tiny intracellular flaws.

Wilma Photos
Monkey on a tree in Holiday Park.
What's left of our picnic table.
A corn plant outside Monkey's bedroom.
Wilma in action.


Amy got two great pieces of news over the last couple of days. First, she found out that her poem The Biggest Jazz Funeral in History was accepted for publication by storySouth. No word yet on when precisely it will appear, but you can be sure I'll link it as soon as it appears.

Secondly, Electric Yeti took another story of hers for their first ever print issue (they've been exclusively online thus far)--a piece called The First Christmas.

No exciting news for me, although I sent out one contest entry today, and there are two major book prize deadlines coming up in two weeks, so I'll be buried with that as well.

And because I have little else to do on the blog tonight, a poem of mine own.

Up South

Amy stands on the edge of the sand,
tastes breezes through lips once chapped
by Oklahoma dust, looks away from the neon,
the faux-frontal nudity of Lauderdale.
She is home here, this place of mahi
and yellowfin and shark that flash
through reef and surf, that call her
to rejoin them as though she had once
sprung whole from the sea. Her land,
her peninsula, once separated from
civilization by malarial swamp
that still threatens to reconquer.
She calls my home “up-south.”
New Orleans, clichèd home of swooners,
of goateed gamblers debarking
from riverboats, of Storyville quadroons
named by Shakespeare. Not my city.
Mine is the patois of immigrants, faded
by assimilation, but still attendant
in chere and Hey la-bas and mais yeah,
in Ti-Jean and Nookie and Mawmaw June,
in roux dark and sweet and so brown;
in daily August rain not cooling,
falling just enough to steam the streets
and send me running for a nearby bar,
windows painted: Cold Beer, Colder A/C.
She is pollo and camaron, jerk and salsa
and reggae and old Jewish women
mopping their foreheads. I am bourré
and etouffee, low down papas with
the blues and a city ever on the brink
of washing into the Gulf of Mexico.
She is displaced Irishmen, snugs and whisky,
too many people, and ever on the brink
of being blown into the Gulf of Mexico.
I am where no one is a stranger,
just misplaced family returned home.
She is where no one is a stranger;
everyone is from somewhere else.

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