Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You Don't Have to Put A. for Angel Anymore

I keep a mildly daily journal where I write down thunked thoughts around collages of movie tickets, London tube passes, restaurant cards, and museum guide pictures from places I go. Lately I've been writing my journal entries in weird boxy flow charts, a neater form of clustering I guess. 

My friend Matt was diagramming and I wonder if he still does. I wonder if years from now I'll think I accomplished something by diagramming. So far I can't believe how diagramming has been smarting up my brain. Everything feels less fuzzy and more lemonadey. I can also journal now without it feeling like I'm squeezing one out. Think about it: I don't have to feel guilty for including all kinds of crazy ideas in one paragraph because a flow chart depicts how various ideas make sense next to one another. They're like really strange poems, except not, except more like therapy which I can't afford because I don't have health insurance.

Here's an embroidery that's a diagram of the ear. I found this oddly comforting when I discovered tinnitus in my left ear.


Diagrams are defined by having one main idea and showing how one idea can generate other ideas, but I've always loved the smell of pencil shavings and pencil shavings make me think of having to empty the little round bucket next to my Italian teacher with all the sexy chest hair. See what I mean--a diagram could have three or four central ideas and the ideas don't have to be weighted. I'm talking journaling gone to art. Books I'd like to diagram: Middlemarch, From the Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, The General in His Labyrinth, The Lost Steps, and maybe Dracula because of all the letters. Albums to diagram include Johnny Flynn, Fleet Foxes, Emmylou Harris, Nina Simone, and if I spoke Portuguese, I would diagram Caetano Veloso. My cousin wants me to join a craft bandwagon, forcing me to make five things for five random people. I think I found my five. I'm sure a diagram could be knitted, right? 

If you'd like to try out some diagrams, here's a website of graphic organizers that I used when I taught high school. These diagrams are pretty corporate looking, but you get the idea. You can make a diagram look like a universe. It's funny--the different ways we break down ideas and how some of us have thought patterns and some of us have thought patterns that make no sense. My mother keeps tables and charts that she updates while watching weekly eliminations on certain reality shows. I'd like to someday hang them up--a clear reminder of what she was or wasn't thinking at the time. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Syllabus: The Gurlesque

Reading List:

"On the Gurlesque" by Arielle Greenburg (creator of the term)
Maximum Gaga by Lara Glenum
Baby by Carla Harryman
So We Have Been Given Time  Or by Sawako Nakayasu
Recyclopedia: Timmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge by Harryette Mullen
With Deer by Aase Berg, translated by Johannes Goransson
unfathoms by kirsten kaschock
Famous Last Words by Catherine Pierce
Frail-Craft by Jessica Fisher
In No One's Land by Paige Ackerson-Keily
Mommy Must Be A Fountain of Feathers by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi


I Spit on Your Grave (Mier Zarchi)
Heathers (Michael Lehman)
Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson)
Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (probably the Dracula, puppet, and witch hunt episodes)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (Todd Solondz)
Gremlins (Joe Dante)
Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette)
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chan-Wook Park)


Mariee Sioux
Neko Case
Tori Amos (sorry)
Stevie Nicks
Inara George
PJ Harvey
Stina Nordenstam
Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down

Eva Hesse
Louise Bourgeois

Course Objectives:
Ain't it cute how there's something cute about women. Is there a Gurlesque school of poetry. It is kind of funny. This doesn't subjugate women does it. Can't women be gross without it being a big deal. What is feminine. What is gothic. Wait, but isn't this gross stuff supposed to be happening to women. Varietals of sperm and sperm pockets. Does it have to feature a woman (as in film; what about American Psycho) or be written/created by a woman in order to be Gurlesque. Women are good multi-taskers because they have to worry about being beautiful on top of everything else. Cute domestic. Animal bodies, animal skins. Be cool with sex.      

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Got Yer Folk Section Right Here

I recently finished the docu-drama, Bound for Glory, about Woody Guthrie's life before he came to New York. After I finished watching the movie, I scrolled through my ipod to see what other singers I listen to who would be as equally inciting, political, or the voice of hard working people. Sure, everyone thinks of Bob Dylan, but that time has passed; I kind of think times didn't change at all and they just kept goin'. Everything is so subverted. So there are The Roots, Rage Against the Machine, Arrested Development, Billy Bragg...

I don't know. Maybe we don't need a singer like Guthrie anymore. Hell, iTunes no longer has a folk section; it's now a singer/songwriter section. Just took the people right out of there. When I was a teacher I was supported by a union and all I can say about unions, especially the United Federation of Teachers, is that they are another bureaucracy, another way to keep people down legally, standardized sameness. (The sad part is my job would've been worse, almost makes me barf to image, if I hadn't been "backed" by the union.) Hey UFT, how could you let our government get so test crazy? Really--millions of dollars spent on tests but I couldn't have a computer in my classroom? Sometimes I didn't have enough desks. Maybe we don't need a folk section anymore. Maybe we don't need no Woody Guthrie. Maybe there isn't room anymore for wanderin'. Maybe our existential crisis is just too great.

Well, wait a second. Here's one: Johnny Flynn. He's not as inciting as Guthrie, but he's definitely a noticer. The first song on his album, A Larum, addresses homelessness. Johnny Flynn is empathetic, that's for sure, and warm in a way we all could use warmth. Here's a sample of lyrics from his song, "Shore to Shore":

We listened to passengers stamping old songs
And we lose, what's to lose, when you haven't done wrong
Drums too slow for a funeral beat
No strumming of strings, no stamping of feet...

Hopelessness as hopeful? You may not know by way of the above lyric sampling, but the song I think really takes on how divided the world is (queens and knaves), by those who have and who have not (awfully considerate of you to think of me), and those who want there to be some kind of crossover (she shouldn't be dead/ she was too busy talking). Flynn's sideways realism is there and in "Cold Bread" he says, "I'm a Bowling Green, A delivery boy...In the middle of the morning/ Share your drinking nights with me." No, it doesn't have the NO COMPROMISE attitude that Guthrie had, but maybe it's an updated version. I think Johnny Flynn's songs are really important and his were the first I turned to after watching Woody Guthrie jump trains.

I would like to leave you with these beautiful lyrics, posted on the Guthrie's website:

A folk song is what's wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who's hungry and where their mouth is or
who's out of work and where their job is or
who's broke and where the money is or
who's carrying a gun and where the peace is 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What O What Should I Say About This?

Dr. Manhattan... 
The MTA: it was OKAY but it could be better... 
Brooklyn has balls, baby... 
I was thinking about the old man while figuring out which train to take... 
how come we're late again... 
the old man says if I open the window we'll get bugs...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dumplings and Trumpets: Ana Božičević

I've been admiring Ana Božičević's new chapbook God, Sebastian, Amy, but wasn't sure which poem I should write about until Alice Notley made a comment during her reading last night about a person's arms and how you know you're really with someone because you've accepted their arms. Božičević's "A Summer's Breeze," also printed in Forklift, Ohio, features the arm of a lover. Let's first think about arms, especially women's arms, how the elbow's crook is in general cahoots with breasts, how a hand on a hip makes a weird triangle, how the shoulder is a cliff for triceps. It is the arm that Božičević delves "inside," the arm that is a restaurant, a place for loneliness, a place for finding, a place for memories and getting full.

Listen to Ana Božičević's "A Summer's Breeze." 

I have to stop myself from thinking this poem is circular because of the kind of traveling, the kinds of giving and taking that are happening within the poem. Don't forget that Ana Božičević is to poetry what Jean-Luc Godard is to film. Godard once wrote, "You see someone in the street; out of ten passers-by there is one you look at more closely for one reason or another...A subject will emerge which will be the person himself, his idea of the world, and the world created by this idea of it, the overall idea which this conjures" (Godard on Godard 218). So after dining on a fish, younger and alone and in a varied rhythm, there is still another world climbed to on a tablecloth, the "picturebook" world that we all keep with us as we age, the one of doggie heaven, where loss is "simple," even though we know it's not. "Where is my dog?" and the tablecloths have aged and "my dog" has been replaced by "our dog." Božičević reminds us that the picturebook is for suckers, as is the story of a the fish (reminds me of something Jesusy here), and choirboys are just singin' their poor damn hearts out. 

Similar to Godard's style of films about film making, Božičević likewise grabs the collar of her readers and lets them know that there isn't anything she won't do. Godard said that in film, "...everything is always possible, nothing is ever prohibited..." (233). Božičević takes this license in order to ask what really does it mean to believe in someone, to accept someone, to have faith in someone. Božičević declares "...I was you, in Pisa. Now, since you're so smart..." "You" is the reader, is you, is the self addressing the self, is all y'all. She asks us, "do I tell this woman," but we don't answer yet because she/you/me/her has already decided. Several lines later, "I" becomes a choirboy, "That is, I'm you." This flip suggests something of faith, further adventures with "our," accepting the arm, the new dog. It wasn't easy because of the logic, because there is no act of faith that can't be questioned, investigated, and like a summer's breeze or perhaps oscillating fan, it will go gently by and you'll find yourself playing with the new dog once the air has settled. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ernst Junger Is For Real

I'm reading Ernst Junger's The Glass Bees and am having the typical dystopian experience of reading something from the past set in the future, our present, in which I say: this is so true for today! For example, think on this: "A work of art wastes away and becomes lusterless in surroundings where it has a price but not a value" (50). 

The old man and I see art as much as we can and we are becoming more and more disgruntled by the way we are treated by museum staff. For instance, while we were in Kansas City's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art I was told, not asked, to go put my water canister on the front desk. It didn't matter that I had already been in the museum for over an hour and it didn't matter that I was having a swell time with my arm around the old man, listening to him tell me why I should like the painting featuring cupcakes. Why would anyone want to interrupt that in order to tell me to put my water bottle somewhere? I wasn't even drinking water and the bottle was empty anyway. I wasn't even listening to the old man so much as trying to get him to stand closer to me because I wanted to pet his beard, looking really red in the Kansas sunshine, which is kind of nice if you want to know. The beard is highly respected in our house, but suddenly we weren't in a sort of house, a sort of moment because we were in a MUSEUM! and MUSEUM! staffers follow rules and scold people just cuz.

Another time we were at the Neue Gallerie and a museum staffer yelled, "NO PHONES" after the old man took a quick call from his mother. I was upset that the guard, for lack of a better term, couldn't simply have asked him to put the phone away. She furthermore stood behind us and her walkie-talkie filled the room with screeches and murmurs at full volume as though that wasn't distracting.  

I wonder if these rude museum staffers are more than just a product of no training (i.e. how to talk to people) but a product of the museum regarding its art as an investment rather than a well-curated display of stimulating material. Museums are no longer places where we can go see one human trying to make sense or nonsense for other humans; museums are the new banks. How many millions did van Gogh's sunflowers go for? Sixty-seven? So now I can't carry an empty canister of water, laugh, send someone a text about how stupid they were not to come see art with me, make out in front of cupcakes, or carry my coat or my journal which was in my handbag that I was forced to check. It's almost best for everything to be worth nothing if it means we don't have to treat each other poorly and treat art as though no one were meant to see it.  


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Don't Think We're In Dorothy Anymore

I am not going to a convention in Kansas.
There are pink guns for girls in Kansas.
My aunt cooked quiche in Kansas.
I purchased a one dollar pull of beer in Kansas.
You can drink beer with Anne Boyer in Kansas.
When the Long Branch Bar closes, you should go to The Branch next door in Kansas.
The Branch plays what seemed to be death metal in Kansas.
Jared White read poetry in Topeka, Kansas.
My aunt has a twenty year-old cat in Kansas.
The sky is very big in Kansas.
My great-grandmother lived to be almost 103 in Kansas.
The floor is shiny at the airport in Kansas.
Harry S. Truman never went to college.
The Harry S. Truman presidential library is located in Kansas City, MO.
I watched episodes of Mad Men in Kansas.
Who knew there is a channel called AMC.
Chlorine stung my eyes in Kansas.
The rental car agent asked if I wanted to live in Kansas.
KCK = Kansas City Kansas in Kansas.
I saw a giant badminton birdie in Kansas.
My uncle asked if I'm a cat fancier in Kansas.
There are fields that will become sunflower fields in Kansas.
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary is bigger than I imagined in Kansas.
My mother used to live in Kansas.
My aunt has taken over my uncle's study in Kansas.
Many people I talked to said they could not live in New York City in Kansas.
My cousin had surgery on her wrist in Kansas.
I am stuck at the airport in Kansas. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Raccoons Need Carpet Too

I wonder if I'll see anything like this while I'm in Kansas this week. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Every April 11th is April 11th

For some strange reason, Time Magazine was being mailed to our house a few years ago. We're more of a Harper's sort of family, especially after their recent publication of the entirety of Timothy Donnelly's, "The Cloud Corporation," especially after Elisa Gabbert so eloquently called the magazine to our attention. 

So Time made okay wrapping paper until one arrived, fully and completely dedicated to the subject of siblings. I read every article (thinking: fact checking?, hmm, really?, oy). One article was about how your siblings pretty much teach you everything you know about relationships. If you thought you married your mother, you're wrong; you totally married your brother or sister. Siblings teach us conflict resolution, etc. People who grew up with siblings of the opposite sex... listen, I can't really go into it anymore because it was too ridiculous to remember let alone relate. The only reason why I read every article is because I was desperately looking for something to be said about siblings who have lost siblings. What happens to us? Do our personalities change because we have to suddenly change rank from youngest to onliest? 

Today is rainy and today is today. I am here and she is not. I wonder what she would've said about my brisket. I didn't have any myself, but I rubbed oil all over it and stuffed garlic into it. The old man seared it for me and basted it and gave little snippets to my cat. My sister would've rolled her eyes and snorted something about since when does a vegetarian cook meat. How true. Since when. 

Well, time to go walk around Brooklyn looking for something I'll never find.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We Are All So Visible

If you want to study the faces of the men who brought down our economy, go here. We know who they are, we point to them, we watch slideshows about them... as they walk away from what they've done.

I'm reminded of the documentary Murder on a Sunday Morning, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, about a young high school student who was arrested and charged with murdering a white woman. Brenton Butler, the young boy, is picked up because he fit a vague description of wearing a dark colored shirt and having dark skin. When I taught high school, many of my students complained about being stopped by cops because they fit the "young black man" description. A vague description is all it takes to throw a young kid in jail. What about a detailed description of men who recklessly played with money in an unregulated market? What would it take to make them pay? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Syllabus: Food and Food Politics

Reading List:
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
You Can Farm by Joel Salatin
Food Politics by Marion Nestle
"A Mother's Tale" by James Agee
Appetite for Profit by Michele Simon
Paradox of Plenty by Harvey Levenstein
The Real Food Revival by Sherri Brooks Vinton and Ann Clark Espuelas

Our Daily Bread
Chow Hound: School Lunch and Menus
The Future of Food

Field Trip:

Course Objectives:
Tolstoy: vegetarian: think on it. Outline the engagement (division) between consumers, agriculture, food industry standards, the government. Do you know what a farm looks like. Venn Diagram: Monsanto Employees, Both, FDA. Research various food movements: slow food, raw food, vegan diets, organic, biodynamic. How come the World Health Organization disagrees with USDA diet recommendations. Do you have to be an anarchist in order to solve world hunger. Is there a connection between genetically modified food and the rise of food allergies. Is a five hundred pound animal that can't hold itself up really something you want to eat. Taste test: can you live without sugar. What is being done right--Crop to Cup, etc.      

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dumplings and Trumpets: Mathias Svalina

Mathias Svalina has dada.

His poetry moves from the sublime to the ridiculous and onto the disturbingly heartbeaking and heartfelt. The painter Francis Picabia was opposed to seriousness because it limited what he could do with art, what he wanted art to do. So paintings of machines that aren't machines seem to make no sense yet we find what makes the most sense: that we can't avoid death and the violent nature of everything. In this vein, Mathias Svalina's poetry teaches you how to read poetry, how to make sense, as much as anyone can, in the dada way.

Listen to his poem "Creation Myth" from his chapbook, Creation Myths

In "Creation Myth" one act of violence leads to another worse act of violence that then implicates all of us. All of us have spilled blood because we've thought about it, thought about it especially while dealing with bureaucracy. We can't help but swim in it because it's unavoidable, medicinal, gross, and exciting. The myth, then, is that violence is supposed to be an exchange in which one has power over the other, but it is violence that inevitably has power over us, like our oceans and bureaucracies.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

No One Makes Out Like the Bossman Does

I complained to the old man when CRAFT Magazine folded. They're continuing on with the dude version, Make, but I don't own a saw and I'm not that interested in soldering circuits. I wonder why CRAFT couldn't stick it out. I thought that was the whole point of running a magazine--it's competitive and tough, but you do what you can to keep it afloat. Right? The Paris Review saw some pretty rough times, but it's still around. I'm sad that CRAFT has gone the way of profit margin obsession; they were building a community of DIY people.    

Anyway, the old man and I were also talking this morning about the future of The Boston Globe, which is looking pretty bleak. This led to a discussion about the auto industry and how thirty years ago the auto workers union accepted a deal for a pay cut in exchange for a worthwhile retirement package. That means for thirty years people have been working with skills and expertise that are worth more than what they get paid. Now it looks like the auto industry will only be able to pay these workers something like ten percent of the retirement they were promised when they took a pay cut. Health care costs aside, I wonder why it is that the auto industry is broke, even after it moved factories overseas and crapped on its workers, even after not doing the simple: making a better car. "They feed they lion..."

Profit. Maybe it wouldn't matter to us so much if we had universal health care. Maybe business leaders would make better decisions and maybe these leaders would be more creative, outside of fumbling with numbers in order to have higher profit margins. Regardless, I can't help but think about the auto workers and all the people who work for The Boston Globe, particularly those who are our watchdogs, who stand in the snow and rain during press conferences and who sit through boring sessions of congress that our elected officials don't attend half the time. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

People Who Brave Thunderstorms for Poetry Readings Have Balls

Fantasy Feature No. 2

You were the only schmo in your row who had to place your 3-D glasses over your real spectacles. If you didn't wear glasses, you would be a nerd only by proxy. You wouldn't fog over when coming in from the cold. You would ride mechanical bulls and play basketball. Someone would punch you without thinking twice. If you had perfect vision, you would see things like street signs, hibiscus. You could wear headbands. No one would look at you funny, the way they look at you funny when you take off your glasses, as if they were seeing your face for the first time, as if they were learning what it was all about. They say, "Why don't you wear contacts?" as if it were that simple, as if sticking plastic discs onto your eyeballs were somewhat easy and enjoyable. You remember the time you tried to wear contacts? You were also quitting smoking that week and the practice contacts were somehow ripped to shreds and found stuck to the bottom of your favorite kidney-shaped ashtray. They tear easy don't they. When you were in Paris, you went to a fancy spectacle shop and was really having fun with the rather artful glasses until you realized how depressing it was and after you asked for a lunch recommendation, you high-tailed it to a fancy underwear shop.