More Colbert Goodness

available here. Apparently, Crooks and Liars only posted the last half of Colbert's remarks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night. This is some beautiful stuff, and you'll hear only peeps about it in the traditional media. Why? Because he smacked them around pretty good too.

Friday Random Ten
The term is over and I've got some grading to do, but I don't care because the term is over. Here we go.

1. Big Bottom--Spinal Tap
2. Kashmir--Led Zeppelin
3. Oh, Will I--The Amy Garland Band
4. I Die, You Die--Magnetic Fields
5. Parade--Luscious Jackson
6. Theologians--Wilco
7. Acres of Clams--Spider John Koerner
8. Born to Run--Bruce Springsteen
9. Unsquare Dance--Dave Brubeck
10. Pacific Theme--Broken Social Scene

Sorry Michael, no Mraz today.

You can say the real estate boom is "over," but that's like saying the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima was "over" six months after it hit. Lives have been forever altered. Things will never be the same.

I'm not a home-owner, and I don't want to be. I love my rental apartment: my landlady fixes anything that breaks, and I've got no tax, insurance, or maintenance bill. It is great to be a renter in South Florida.

But even I can't help but get upset when I hear that the house beside my apartment (a shabby 1950s affair) just sold for nearly a million dollars. It's not that I wish I could buy it; it's that I wish a resident could buy it. This new owner's just an investor like the last one was. The house has been standing empty for as long as I can remember.

And that house is not alone: all up and down my street the vacant smiles of real estate agents glint from swinging metal signs. A few of them have been defaced with horns and Hitler-style moustaches. Those of us who really live here feel threatened by these absent owners and their grinning minions. They buy, they flip. They buy, they flip. Our neighborhoods are disappearing. And the prices have left Earth orbit!

South Florida doesn't have a "Silicon Valley"; we have tourism. But most who work in hospitality can't afford to live here anymore. If you're wondering why the waitress is so rude, try to imagine how far away she must live to be able to pay rent on her tips, and then figure out what tiny fraction of her gas bill you just paid with the tip you left.

As a native Floridian, I know how important it is to keep the tourists and snow birds happy. Instead, we've raised their rates and made life hell for the wage-earners whose faces they see when they come here. This is not smart business, and this is not a smart way to run a state.

On top of that, it seems unAmerican. I don't like the thought that -- beside waitresses and hotel clerks -- nurses, teachers, and firefighters can't afford to own a home, especially while so many homes stand as empty investments for who-knows-whom.

The public officials whose response is to build housing projects for the middle-class have entirely missed the point of living in the U S of A: freedom. The freedom to choose our careers, and to choose a middle-class career that will make society stronger, even if one can never get rich doing it. The freedom to choose where we live, and not be told "here is the ghetto for people who do not pursue money at the expense of all else."

There must be a place of honor in a society for skilled, educated, moral people who devote their lives to saving ours, or to educating our children. These people are heros -- and while everyone acknowledges that, it's little more than lip-service if we cannot do the one and only right and moral thing and give them raises commensurate with the cost of living.

They have names for countries in which the majority of hard-working people cannot afford to own a home, where property is owned by a few local investors, and rich foreigners. "Third world country" has given way to "developing nation," but what do we call a place that has the hallmarks of a "developing nation," but is not, in fact, developing? A place in which the middle class was once strong and healthy, but is now shrinking and weakening? What do we propose to call ourselves? A regressing country?

There is a reason that real estate has become so emotional a subject, a reason that South Floridians debate housing price trends with fevered brows, whether they own homes or have any connection to the business, or not. It has become emotional because this is not about buying a house or making a payment: this is about the collapse of the middle class. This is about our entry into the brotherhood of less-advanced countries. It's about a dysfunctional market digging its sickly claws into the heart of the American Dream, and squeezing until the life is gone.

Education is Kryptonite to Fundamentalists

I mentioned that at the end of my post on Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, so I'm glad to have recent proof of that statement.

Southern Baptist group seeks exit strategy from public schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Some activists in the Southern Baptist Convention are again calling on the denomination to remove its children from public schools.

The effort announced today comes two years after a similar action was rejected.

The resolution to urge Baptists to develop an "exit strategy" from public schools is co-sponsored by lawyer Bruce Shortt of Houston and the Reverend Roger Moran of Missouri.

The two plan to submit the proposal for a possible vote by the convention at its annual meeting in North Carolina in June.

The resolution says recent court rulings have favored public schools "indoctrinating children with dogmatic Darwinism" and have limited the rights of parents in dictating what schools can teach.

I imagine that the people behind this resolution really believe that the Biblical account of creation is accurate, that the teaching of evolution is a sign of the end times, and that the only way for them to protect their kids is to remove them from the secular evil that is public schools. But in the end, the real problem for these people is that once kids get a taste of science--accurately taught science--the kids are torn, and they doubt, and once they doubt the church and parental authority, it's over. They're gone from the church. It happened to me.

I feel like I've been harping on this a bit lately, perhaps because of the recent letter I wrote to my mother. For the last eleven years, since I left the church, our contact has been sporadic at best, and the majority of it consisted of letters from her trying to convince me to come back combined with new literature from the Witnesses. A few weeks ago, I sent the latest letter, along with the CD and the Memorial invitation she'd included back to her with a letter of my own. I told her that I was never going to be a Witness again, and that any literature she sent me from now on would be sent back to her. I said that I wanted a relationship with her, but she had to respect my religious decisions. I carried that letter around, stamped and sealed, for a week before I put it in the mailbox.

My case was extreme--the Southern Baptists, as far as I know, don't engage in the practice of shunning wayward family members--but the potential for disruptions in the family and the church, well, it's more than potential. My guess is that the people in this group pushing for this resolution see their kids pulling away from church and instead of re-examining their own beliefs (becoming born again, one might say), decide that the only course of action is to "protect" their kids by removing them from the temptations of secular higher learning.

Along those lines, there has also been a recent rise, a boom, one might say, in Bible colleges, which purport to give "christian" students a college degree while not actually teaching them anything outside of their particular dogma. That might be okay for certain professions--you don't need to understand evolution to be a good accountant, for instance--but when it comes to anything involving biology or the medical field, it's horrendous. But it's also a danger for disciplines like history (Michael can deal with this more effectively than I can, I'm sure), when you have groups tied to the idea that the only true history of the US, for instance, is the one that makes us a "christian nation."

That's dangerous, because it confers an air of legitimacy on willful ignorance, and we've got enough general ignorance around to be dangerous, without piling on the willful stuff.

Monkey assures me these do not exist

But she's a teenager, and she was over at a friend's house until 8:00 this evening--swimming she claims, but I have my doubts. After all, if the FDA is worried, so should we all, right?

In the memo released by the FDA, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: "As an example, she [Woodcock] stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B.

My teenage years were so tame by comparison--we only had to worry about the Satanists kidnapping our cats and dogs and sacrificing them to the Dark One. Never any mention about sex cults, because if I'd thought there was a better chance of scoring by serving Satan, I'd have been all up in the midddle of that shit.

I know he was in Cali, but really...

to the Max?

NEW YORK President Bush today said he had tried to avoid war with Iraq "diplomatically to the max."

Speaking to a business group in Irvine, Ca., he admitted mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level, saying "it was the troop level necessary to do the job," and he would commit the same number if given a second chance.

And yet, that's not the worst part of the story. This is:
Bush also explained, in unusually stark terms, how his belief in God influences his foreign policy. "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true," he said. "One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.

We are so fucked.

Friday Random Ten
I think I blew my blogging energy on the last two posts, so this one will be short and tidy.

1. Lazy Flies--Beck
2. The Old Apartment--Barenaked Ladies
3. Basement Song--Paul Brill
4. Hen Laying Rooster---Dr. John
5. Cool Blue Reason--Cake
6. Sunday Shining--Finlay Quaye
7. Sleeping to Dream--Jason Mraz
8. La Paloma Azul--Dave Brubeck
9. Friend of the Devil--Grateful Dead
10. Walkin' the Dog--Rufus Thomas

Bonus Track: Birth of a Rock Song--Thinking Fellers Local 282, brought to you by emusic

So what's on your playlist?

The Key To Her Vagina

This story has been making its way around the blogs the last couple of days, from World O’Crap to Digby to Pandagon, but I figured I’d put my own spin on it, since I’ve got a daughter of the age being discussed here.

Here’s the deal. We all know that the real push against abortion is just the first step toward getting rid of all sexual freedom for women. The leaders of the most extreme anti-abortion groups—predominantly men—have said that birth control is next on the agenda. My guess is they can’t abide the idea that a woman might not want to be the receptor of their blessed gooey gift. It’s a matter of control, and it stems from the misogynists I mentioned in the post below, the men who made sure that Christian men knew their women were supposed to be fucked and not heard.

I pity psycho-christian fathers a bit. They’re faced with a world where their daughters are told 1) that they have brains and damn well ought to be using them, 2) that they don’t necessarily have to listen to what men tell them, and 3) that they are sexual beings who control the when, where, how, and with whom of their sexual lives. This could not be left to stand unchallenged, of course.

Enter, one of the creepier purveyors of the new movement toward father-daughter bonding. Here’s a sample of their philosophy.

First, the “key to her heart.” This beautiful heart has a smaller heart in the front. Behind that heart is a keyhole. When making the covenant with your daughter, you explain that the covenant is between her, you and God. Since God has placed her in your care as a parent, you and only you can hold the “key to her heart.” You then explain to the child that you will hold the key to her precious heart until the day of her wedding. On that day, you will give her away like at all weddings, BUT in doing so you will also “give away” the key to her heart to her now husband. The key and lock are actually functional and your son-in-law will place the key in the heart to open it. Inside will be a small note that had been placed in the heart on the day you made the covenant. That note can say something like, “I do not know your name or what you even look like, but this is my promise to save myself for you this day. Love, Melanie.”

I’ll admit, it wasn’t until recently that I really thought about the symbolism behind the tradition of the father giving away his daughter at a wedding, that it’s an obvious transfer of ownership. But this is even worse, in my mind, because while the wedding symbolism can be muted or transformed into a scene where the partnership of husband and wife is accentuated, the symbolism of the purityvow people is unquestionably that of ownership. The father is telling his daughter, “That pussy is mine until I give it up,” and that it’s a good thing he’s there to protect her until another man comes along because she’s too stupid to survive without a man to tell her when to breathe.

How do you do that to your kid? How do you so completely insult her in that way? Monkey is 15 now, and while she’ll undoubtedly make errors in judgment about who she sleeps with and when (and if her parents’ experiences are any indication, she’ll make plenty), I’d never consider dropping that kind of bomb on her. It’s inhumane. It’s insulting. And the locket is just the beginning. From World O’Crap:
Aspiring Women endorses Joe's Heart to Heart program, and gives you some tips on how to present the locket to your daughter:

One couple took their daughter to a restaurant. When they got to the restaurant they said they had reservations for four. The child of course asked who was joining them. "The extra place setting is for your future husband, our future son-in-law," her parents replied. They proceeded from there, but it really drove home the point that this evening was to be special and that the implications of this covenant had very practical implications beyond what they could see or imagine at that particular moment.

What’s really special is the way these parents just told their daughter that she’s destined for a lifetime of servitude, and are couching it in terms that show they would be extraordinarily disappointed if she doesn’t come through. Amy read me a quote from Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a couple of nights ago. It was something on the order of “men died because they were embarrassed not to,” and that struck me because when I think back about why I stayed a virgin until my wedding day, it was for that very reason. It would have disappointed my parents. It would have cost my dad his position in the congregation, so I submerged my urges, and stayed a Witness for longer than I would have otherwise, because I was embarrassed not to be a Witness.

Those sorts of mind games are dangerous to play on kids, especially in concert with a belief system that doesn’t hold up under any sort of scrutiny. Fundamentalist Christianity is dependent on an insular, “the whole world’s against us, I swear to God” mentality, because if it’s ever challenged with any sort of rigor, it falls apart. And let me tell you from personal experience, when you look back at your parents with the attitude that they’ve led you astray on something that important, on the way you view the universe itself, there’s a lot of resentment that comes gushing up. The ugliest squabbles I’ve ever seen have been those that involve the idea that parents have lied, wittingly or no, to their kids.

In the long run, I think—I hope—that fundamentalism will eat itself and the numbers will fall down to where they’re background noise. The recent fights over Intelligent Design and creationism, as well as the attacks on privacy through abortion and the Terry Schiavo fiasco have shown the general public that fundies aren’t just backwoods nutjobs that can be ignored with impunity. But while the fundies need to remain isolated to maintain their hold on their kids, the fact is that it’s getting harder and harder for them to hide from the outside world, because it’s harder to make a living without a college degree, and college is kryptonite to fundamentalists.

Misquoting Jesus

It's an article of faith among conservative Christians that the Bible, especially the New Testament (or, as we Witnesses called it, the Christian Greek Scriptures) is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. Conservative Christians aren't generally the best educated folk. I'm not saying that they're stupid--I am saying, however, that fundamentalists don't have a history of higher learning. That was the case for the early disciples according to the Gospels, and frankly, it's true today. Fundamentalist christianity has always pulled from the poorest and least educated of society (as do fundamentalist sects of all religions).

When I was a Witness, I believed that about the Bible as well. It was in all our literature--that the Bible had been copied down letter by letter by faithful scribes who were inspired of God to make sure that the copies were accurate. The Dead Sea scrolls, we were told, more ancient than any yet found, were exact replicas of later manuscripts, from which our very own Bible, the New World Translation, had been painstakingly been translated into modern English.

I left the church long before I discovered the many problems inherent in translation, and before I discovered just how untrue the claims about manuscripts really was. It was education that did me in--during my first semester as an undergrad, I stopped going to meetings, started smoking, found out my wife was cheating on me, and said to hell with it all. Fundies talk about being born again--that was my experience with it.

And in the nearly 12 years since that fateful semester, I've discovered dozens of other ways in which the Witnesses were either deliberately or ignorantly lying to me and millions of others worldwide about the natural world, about the history of the church, about the Bible itself, about all of it. Some of that came in the natural course of my education--evolution, once explained, made a whole lot more sense than creation, no matter how the Witnesses spun it (they're a cross between young earthers and vanilla creationists); while studying translation, I discovered (brutally--I was accused by a contest judge of having committed atrocities against the French language) that it's not so simple to say that you've made a definitive and exact and accurate translation from one language to another, especially when you're dealing with language shifts over the centuries.

Which brings me to the title of this post: Misquoting Jesus, by Bart Ehrman. To say it was enlightening is to give it short shrift. It is an amazing book, and perhaps one reason I am so drawn to it is because Ehrman and I have made similar treks through our faith--from believers in the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God to appreciators of it as a cultural snapshot of an unique moment in time and space.

Most of the things he discusses in this book are no surprise to scholars in the field. He says as much. But to the lay person who is curious--wow! It's an extraordinary text. It's also interesting to me that the people who have criticized his book have done so based on his arguments about theology, not about his discussion of textual variation. But the point they never address is this:

If the Bible is inspired of God, and is to be considered the inerrant word of God, then why do textual variations appear in the first place?

You see, if you're a person who is more concerned with the philosophy than the dogma, then textual variations matter very little. But if dogma is everything, then they matter greatly, which is why fundamentalists do everything they can to hide the fact that there are real questions about who wrote which books, and why there are numerous contradictions between the gospel accounts.

Here's an example of how persuasive Ehrman is: The apostle Paul has been rehabbed, to some extent, in my eyes. For years now, I've looked at him as the guy who ruined Jesus' message while trying to save it, in large part by making misogyny a part of the early church. Turns out that Paul wasn't quite the woman-hater he's made out to be. His followers, however, the ones that wrote Hebrews and the Timothy Letters and Titus, well, they were the founders of the he-man-woman-haters club today known as the religious right. Paul wasn't a women's libber, by any stretch, but he wasn't quite a dick either.

If the early church and the questions inherent in translation interest you, get the book. It's an acquired taste, I admit, and it gets slow in a couple of spots, but overall, it's a great read about how education slays fundamentalism.

A Baseball Question

I'm as big a Barry Bonds fan as there is. I saw him hit number 700 in person, at SBC Park. I still have the hat I bought at the game that night, even though it's sweaty and funky. I still have the tickets somewhere, complete with the hologram image proving that I was indeed there.

But why on earth is he still drawing so many intentional walks this year? He's hitting under .200 and only has a couple of doubles. Maybe age has finally caught up to him, steroid use or not. But why not challenge him?

Well of course EVERYONE'S weighing in about big the MiniKiss vs. TinyKiss case:

This is the problem with "intellectual property": four diminuitive men form a Kiss cover band, and the next thing you know, the LAST four diminuitive men who formed a Kiss cover band are all but ready to beat their asses and sue them. Like the idea's that original.

I still remember the first time I saw MiniGuns-n-Roses at the Bayfront Amphitheater (TinySuicidal Tendencies opened for them)... great show, but the mosh pit was an ankle-breaker.

And it couldn't compare to the MiniSpice Girls show I saw back in '97 -- Mini girls in mini skirts! Girl Power! (Or, rather, Girl Power!) But even that show couldn't hold a candle to the all-time greastest pok-e-musical event of all time: MiniGWAR, at the Button South, in '92. Yeah, back then, before the puritans took over, they really knew how to put on a MiniShow with MiniGuts and MiniGore, with just enough implied MiniSodomy to bring it all together. Ahh, those were the days.

Friday Random Ten

Amy's reading Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy and is giving me a quick summary as she goes. The degree to which oil has controlled our recent history is astounding. I can't wait until she's done so I can get my hands on it. Here's the random ten.

1. All the Umbrellas in London--Magnetic Fields
2. Three to Get Ready--Dave Brubeck
3. Maybe Sparrow--Neko Case (this is new and I really like it)
4. Common Pleasure--Jason Mraz
5. Daria--Cake
6. Most of the Time--Bob Dylan
7. Operator--Grateful Dead
8. The Bird--Charlie Parker
9. Brian Wilson--Barenaked Ladies
10. Friar's Point--Susan Tedeschi

Bonus Track: Less Than Zero--Elvis Costello

Thursday Night Poetry

On the off chance that he ever googles his own name and this site comes up, I present the editor of the Georgia Review, a man I had the privilege of meeting in Austin at the AWP only a few hours after I quoted his poem "Walt Whitman In Hell" at length in my presentation, Mr. T. R. Hummer. (And if you are reading this, Mr. Hummer, take your time with those poems I sent you. I'm in no rush.)

Tonight's selection is the title poem from his 2001 book Useless Virtues:

Useless Virtues
At midnight in the backyard hot tub,
pleasantly drunk, three old friends argue
One more time the meaning of The Book of Job.
Floating in brothel-scented foam
Under California constellations, it is easy
to picture the Man of Suffering, the whirlwind,
Dead cattle, the warehouses of the snow--
especially the warehouses, which have vast
Quartzite double doors, where helicopters
of ethereal whiteness enter and vanish, hauling
Neither suffering nor glory, but only another
disgusting winter day for Moscow or Trenton,
Stoic taxis rusting through generations
of storm-sown salt. It is about the moral
Evolution of the idea of God. It is about
the survival of its own obdurate narrative,
Which could rescue even us nonbelievers
from easy sentiment. It is about nothing
Except the incommensurability of everything,
the shitty drama of pain that stretches
From Behemoth down to the structure of the atom.
Nobody agrees. Even God refuses to be God
But breaks down in a windy turbulence.
More wine. And the three of them lean back,
Waching lights sign the absolute sky, where,
as though all human consciousness were forming
One vast, slow thought, the dream of the Cambodian boy
on a red-eye flight to Dallas interweaves
Baseball, temple bells, roadkill, cemeteries, bread,
sexual ambiguity, and a poster of Pol Pot nailed
To the wall of a compound, monsoon-faded, laced
by bullet holes. The image comes through
This clear, this real: a yellow-and-black spider
makes its decisive way across the vacant left eye
Of the dictator, which has been precisely punctured
by a round from a surplus M-16. Meanwhile,
the 737 that cradles this sleeping boy reclined
in its blue-striped seat threads darkness between
Los Angeles and Albuquerque, vapor trail
a strand of invisble web joining the strafed
Face of the moon and an H-bomb test site.
Everyone on the plane is sleeping, even the pilot,
Like God, oblivious at the switch, and all the people
oblivious to his oblivion--otherwise
They would wake up screaming sensibly.
But everything riding the sky tonight is silent.
Leviathan tortures Orion bloodlessly, and the great
Eagle Nebula, screwing stars out of twisted nothing,
Is twenty-three trillion miles of decorum. Still
the cattle are dead, the children are dead,
The body is pierced with cankers, and, on every horizon,
snow masses its chronic obedience.

No boobies unsheathed

And none needed for Amy Letter's reading this evening. She began with a favorite poem of mine, The Biggest Jazz Funeral in History, and then proceeded to wow the audience with a discussion of beer and Anchor Brewing that wandered from the Gropinator's appearance in The Streets of San Francisco to Ishi the last Yahi to the High-Priesthood-like devotionals of brewing. Perhaps the best compliment came from the boyfriend of one of my students who said to Amy "Thanks for keeping it interesting." High praise indeed from a 19 year old who was only there because his girlfriend wanted to get a free third of a letter grade on a future assignment.

It's just as well that they remained sheathed--that much raw power in such a small room can have explosive results.

Brian Spears Reading Review

This evening poet Brian Spears took a capacity crowd through the ups and downs of love and disillusionment, with the intensity-yet-humility that he wears so well.

No question, this critic received the fullest gratification from his, "Buffalo River, 2002," and "Up South," both poems about a charming woman character with whom the speaker seems most enamored. It is no exaggeration to say that these "simple love poems" brought tears to my eyes.

The poems with which Brian is most associated, his Witness poems, were presented as the main course of tonight's feast: the emotional roller-coaster and righteous rant about blew the 19-year-old composition students for a loop. "Sign of the Carpenter," was a personal favorite.

But for this critic's money, there's no beating the charm and half-sheathed lust of a Brian Spears love poem. For this critic, it might just give light to life.

The interpretive dance was adequate accompaniment to the slightly-out-of-tune lute.

Another acceptance

Okay so the poems won't actually appear in print until Winter 2007, but two of mine have been accepted by Louisiana Literature: "Up South" (which won that Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Award) and "Sonnet for my Daughter, Age 14." Time to put together another submission packet, I guess.

Reading tomorrow night

That's right. Tomorrow night, Amy and I will do our first ever joint reading. We'll be on the FAU campus in the Arts and Humanities Building room 205 at 7:30 pm. To the best of my knowledge, there will not be punch and pie to follow, although I may substitute an interpretive dance and perhaps some Ignatius Reilly lute-stylings for my poetry. I've got the goods, but do I have the guts? You have to show up to find out.

(I don't really have the goods.)

What, No Picture?

I have to wonder if someone on Frist's staff is having some fun at his expense.

It was with some trepidation that we opened a most interesting card, which announced on a blue-jeaned cowboy's belt buckle something called the "5th Annual VOLPAC '06 Weekend" in Nashville on April 21-23.

Problem was you had to unbuckle the cowboy's pants and look inside to see what this was all about. Seemed a bit too "Brokeback Mountain."

Imagine our relief to find only that we were "cordially invited" to the event honoring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and "Mrs. Bill Frist, M.D." This is Frist's political action committee to raise money for other senators, making friends and positioning him nicely for his 2008 presidential bid....

The back of the card shows the cowboy from behind with a red flowered handkerchief sticking out of his right pocket. Wait a minute -- wasn't there something about how this used to be some kind of code in the gay community years ago? A way to signal each other in crowded, noisy bars?

So we checked the's Hanky Codes. Sure enough, there it was in the chart explaining what they mean: red hanky in right pocket. Oh, dear.

Guess he can put those presidential ambitions back in the closet. (Yeah, it was an easy joke, but I never claimed to be a comedian.)

Friday Random Ten

Monkey, fresh off her receipt of an oboe from her band teacher a couple of weeks ago, came home with an alto sax yesterday. She'll be taking five band classes next fall, including jazz band. Her teacher expects great things from her, and I continue to be amazed.

Here's the random ten.

1. One Thing--Luscious Jackson
2. Hey You--Pink Floyd
3. Bottle of Blues--Beck
4. Desperado--Johnny Cash
5. Piazza, New York Catcher--Belle and Sebastian
6. The Old Apartment--Barenaked Ladies
7. Take it Slow--Boozoo Bajou
8. Stay--Alison Krauss
9. Baby Don't Do Me Wrong--John Lee Hooker
10. That Teenage Feeling--Neko Case

Bonus Track--Caldonia--Louis Jordan

So what are you listening to this morning?

Thursday Night Poetry

This week it's a poem I taught today, one that made the frat guys in my second class a little uncomfortable (which made it all worthwhile). I can't really complain about them, as they're active in commenting on the poems and sometimes show surprising insight into the work. But still, in the end, they're Sig Eps.

Anyway, tonight's poem is by my old friend Bruce Snider, who should be finishing up his first year as a Jones Lecturer at Stanford soon. This poem is from his book The Year We Studied Women. Enjoy.

A Drag Queen Is Like a Poem

in the same way that a drag
queen is like a woman
except of course that the woman
has real breasts while the drag queen
unbuttons her blouse
to reveal the realistic breast form
for cross dressers
she’s ordered
like alligator shoes
from the Gucci catalog.
But then it’s not so much shoes
that matter when talking
about poetry as it is the hair
and jewelry and the way
lipstick has been applied.
Any teenage girl can tell you
that a good poem needs
to wear a short skirt if she
wants the boys to notice,
and that eye shadow can say
just as much as the subtle shadings
of anything Keats or Eliot
ever wrote. The truth is
it’s all about truth
and beauty, or what passes for it,
and so there will always be someone
to argue it doesn’t matter
what sprouts between
your legs like so much moss
between the paving stones. You can
always just pad or shave
or powder. You can strap
on foam tits and a rubber ass
to remind yourself that the language
of the body can always
be rewritten, that ultimately poem
is to the poet as drag
is to the queen, each word
fitting together like male
and female, like an infant
and his mother, two bodies
two hearts, but one
coming out of the other.

In the New York Times they're debating whether the 120 unpublished poems of Elizabeth Bishop should be published and added to her 90 published poems...

Of course, anyone who reads the New Yorker's poetry knows that they've been slathering on these "new" Bishop poems for years; since one of their writers is editing the book, should we be surprised? And of course they aren't as good as her others: we've all figured that out by now. Their only value is tied to her celebrity: like finding a new picture of Marylin Monroe, even if she looks crappy in it.

And of course, every poet I know is irked to see those poems there, not because they defile the intent or memory of Bishop's artistic purpose, but because they take up the space that could be used by a LIVING poet who now must instead have his/her work published in Parnassus or Hayden's Ferry, which leaves one less spot for US. (Sing to the tune of I, me, mine.)

But all of that aside, the Times published this little gem from Frau Helen Vendler: "Ms. Vendler writes of one such poem, 'Washington as a Surveyor,' that it is 'a rhythmically awkward and semantically inert Petrarchan sonnet.' Making its publication 'reprehensible,' Ms. Vendler says, is the fact that Bishop had crossed out the entire poem in her notebooks. 'Maybe it should have been printed in The New Yorker entirely crossed out,' she writes."

And I just read that and thought: *that* would have been *so* *cool*

Actually, this is the Times discussing a Vendler piece from The New Republic, but I don't usually see The New Republic, so..... Times gets the credit! Woo hoo!

Great parade float

My friend Lynette sends me all kinds of pictures from our old stomping grounds (she's the only person from high school I'm still in touch with), which is nice because I haven't been there for more than a drive-through in years. This picture is from the Tickfaw boat parade, which I never attended despite having lived in or around Tickfaw for four non-Jehovah's Witness years. It's a shame. But the float is nice.

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