Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love My City, Part One

Last week the old man, along with Steven and his lady, went to see a play on a boat. The boat is the decommissioned Lilac (a former Lighthouse Tender) and resides tied to a pier in Manhattan. The play was a rather sloppy, uh, thing inspired by Herman Melville's The Confidence Man. What was incredibly fun was that the play took place all over the boat--little scenes here, little scenes there--and attendees were allowed to walk about the boat, as many scenes were happening simultaneously. The audience was split into different groups who had to follow different docents and if you stayed with your docent, then you could follow one story line throughout the ship.

Besides being free of charge, something I liked about the play was that it couldn't really decide if it wanted to be old-timey or current-timey. Some characters were dressed in fashionable shorts and t-shirts while others wore vests and dresses from a different era. This amalgamation seemed to affect the language of the play, inspired by different times, but captivated by the pressures of now.

Oddly enough the docents were almost a little better than the play. (The docents were actors. They use their hands when they speak! They say funny things! They speak loudly without losing their voices!) Our docent was a chirpy ribbon-clad pony-tailed comedian who began fighting (like I'm never sleeping with you again and you're a bad actor fighting) with one of the actors, who in turn ridiculed her after each scene. She had this quirky way of telling jokes as though she were just sort of talking to us (listen, she said, for the secret word and you will win a prize), so no one really knew if we should laugh or not. But then we laughed and she invited us to pick up flyers for her comedy group's performance.

A play on a boat. It's such a great idea. I loved the swaying and rocking and the smell and the tiny staircases that I had to climb backwards. I'm really glad I went, but I was wondering how come I haven't been to any poetry readings on a boat.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I've Got Your Back, Flarf

My friends who don't write poetry and claim to "not get it" like to pull me aside, sit me down and have conversations about how silly it all is and why do I bother with it. The past two conversations like this, most recently, have begun, "you know, the thing about poetry is..." and "poets should be more assessable..." and I squish my nose defensively and if the old man is around, our eyes say O JOY. One thing I'd like to say is that I really never hear people attacking other art-generators as much as I hear poets being attacked (not that other writers/artists aren't questioned about their difficult material). For instance, I didn't understand one of my friend's paintings and asked him what it was all about. He said the image was from a film. I felt bad that I hadn't seen the film and put it into my Netflix que right away. Please note that I didn't say, "You know, Artist Friend, why can't you paint flowers to look like vaginas? Why did you have to make this so hard for me? Why did you have to make me feel as though there was something in the world I hadn't yet experienced?"

Anyway, what I eventually talk about with non-poets, after the definition for what is assessable has been established and pissed on, is that there are many different kinds of poetry out there and there is, I think, a poet that every person can feel comfortable reading. We're kind of like sweaters, really. The last two conversations I had, I mentioned Flarf because I knew those friends were pretty internet savvy and I thought they'd find it interesting, which they did. Luckily, Katie Degentesh's The Anger Scale was nearby and the old man read "I Loved My Father." I like the way Flarf shuts people up while they are thinking. It's funny, watching the change come over someone's face when they find that something they thought was going to be meaningless is actually the opposite, is quite thoughtfully constructed and provocative. If (IF) most new poetry is disconnected, disjointed, and full of stuff because the world is, because we're going to die and we don't want it to be meaningless and we can't help it and we're hopeless, Flarf, at least for me, is a kind of poetry that has its own nook, its own unique gesture of meaning taken from information floating out there.

Sorry about the loud train! I didn't have time to unplug all my external hard drives to record in the bathroom, which is what I usually do. Listen to "I Loved My Father" here:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Swallow This And Love It

  • Poemland by Chelsey Minnis
  • concord grapes
  • pancake squash
  • The Cow by Ariana Reines
  • wheat stamp
  • new orange journal
  • The Malady of Death by Marguerite Duras
  • Hush Sessions by Kristi Maxwell
  • Mad Men, Season 2
  • My Kafka Century by Arielle Greenberg
  • Don't Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine
  • last of the last sweet corn

Friday, September 18, 2009

Autumn With Very Little Assurance

Well, the sky has been repeatedly cloudy and the air has cooled, making me talk of pants. I even wore a shirt with sleeves on it. Autumn is my favorite time of year, when things begin to die and acorn squash becomes available. The old man and I are traveling upstate this weekend for a reading tomorrow (do you live in Ithaca--please say yes), and I plan to bring home some fallen leaves for leaf etchings. Also, I plan to go apple picking--my favorite ever thing to do. The old man and I even have a routine where I climb on his shoulders to pick the apples that little kids can't pick. Their sticky faces look up at us and they usually run away to tell their parents and I also usually get caught by the staff, climbing the trees.

I didn't knit the sweater I'd plan to and it seems that our government is going to fart away health care. I don't watch television (other than what Netflix sends me and what I find on the Internet) but I guess I was drinking some weird water and began to doubt why Obama went after health care in the first place. Then I watched Michael Moore's Sicko the night before last and I was reminded what it all was about. I need to figure out a way to move to France or Norway. How is it that medicine that costs $120 dollars costs less than 2 pesos in Cuba? What we've allowed to happen is criminal. Big companies have bought the U.S. government and there's nothing I can do about it.

It was so rainy all summer that it seems autumn has crept in sort of uninvited. There may be one or two hot-flash days, but the last warm day was Tuesday. Just like that I have to start thinking about pumpkin pie and move my sun dresses to the back of the closet. Out comes the corduroy. Maybe I'll throw a Christmas party this year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Voting by way of Fascism Through Democracy

Oy. I just voted in the NYC primaries for a city council member, a mayoral candidate, comptroller, and public advocate. Here were some of my choices:

Chode # 1

You can't tell here, but her hair is red--rrrow. She is the only woman running for city council in my district.

Chode # 2

This candidate claims he will clean up local politics. He even mailed me a picture of himself taking a broom to the street. Would he mind using said broom in the Atlantic subway stop? While there, I saw a rat so big we made eye contact.

Chode # 3

This candidate mailed me a photo of himself talking to latino children! He had his sleeves rolled up! He wasn't wearing a tie! He's supported by the New York Times!

Sadly, folk around here say your mayoral vote is a wash. Our current billionaire mayor has bullied the current city council into allowing him to run for a third term as an independent. He has outspent everyone else and I wish I could say that doesn't mean anything, that my vote meant something.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Current Vices

Ra Ra Riot. (Inde-pop with string instruments! Causes giggling and dancing around the living room! This caused a late arrival to Dan's house). Late arrivals. Chocolate plus pistachios. Sticky notes. The Fitness Guru. (Exercise isn't a vice per say, but the trainers are former dancers and totally hot, smart. Great place for more than one girl crush. Think about it: when was the last time you jumped on a trampoline to Jane's Addiction?) Mighty Leaf tea. (It's awfully pretty.) CoinSide Accordion Book. (It opens and closes! And you can add to it!) True Blood. I once knew a girl named Vicie in high school. Raspberry vodka gimlets. Fuck You, Penguin. Thinking about owning a house. Heirloom tomatoes. Morbid Anatomy. Downtown Yarns. Afternoon cappuccino. Finally, this spoof:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Ride an Airplane in Four Easy Steps

Step 1. Arrive at the airport fifteen minutes earlier than you'd normally want. You may use this time to have a glass of champagne or Scotch before boarding.

Step 2. Do not fight with TSA people. Flirt with them. Tell them you think they LIKE watching you put on your shoes. Tell them you would have knitted something for them if you'd known what colors they like. Ask them if they like your orange luggage. Say, let's take off our coats together. Also, do not fight with the old man. Tell him his cell phone is in his pocket, you can see it sticking out a little bit above his butt crack.

Step 3. After you're in the air, order one gin and tonic, one Mr. and Mrs. T bloody Mary mix, water in ice, and hot water for tea. You may now nibble on the food you brought: almonds, cheese and crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple or orange, Australian licorice.

Step 4. Always do something. Write in your journal, read a comic book, knit. Never never never watch television. If you do watch television, only watch it with the sound off. You'd be surprised. Always bring ginger gum in case you feel sick. Also, always pack lightly. You don't need underwear every day, right?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Syllabus: Native American Literature


House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Here First: Autobiographical Esssays by Native American Writers edited by Arnold Krupat and Brian Swann
Riding the Earthboy 40 by James Welch
Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
American Indian Literatures edited by LaVonne Brown Ruoff

Black Robe directed by Bruce Beresford
Smoke Signals directed by Chris Eyre
Incident at Oglala directed by Michael Apted
The Exiles directed by Kent Mackenzie


Mariee Sioux, Faces in the Rocks

Field Trips:

Wounded Knee Mass Burial Gravesite, South Dakota
Battle of Little Bighorn Historic Site, Wyoming
Native American Film Festival, Los Angeles

Course Objectives:

Have you heard M. Scott Momaday speak. What do we do with our knowledge. Do you know about L. Frank Baum's comment regarding Native Americans. What is a Reservation, what is life like there. Think about names. Feeling heavy. Story telling, why and how does that become a talent for a people. What about casinos. Sorry this is Lakota specific, suggest otherwise. Do you know about the 1973 military and FBI takeover of the Pine Ridge Reservation. How do we overcome.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Live a Little

Do you know about Living Liberally? It's the umbrella organization that houses Drinking Liberally, Laughing Liberally, Eating Liberally, Screening Liberally, Reading Liberally, Crafting Liberally, and Shooting (??!!) Liberally. All of these are social organizations designed to get progressive minded people together. They have chapters all throughout the U.S., but if you're here in NYC, Drinking Liberally meets on Thursday nights. I've been to a few events, my favorite being an Eating Liberally event with the author of Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger. The discussion of his book was followed by an interesting q & a session, accompanied by homemade twinkies, some of them vegan. Yum. The Eating Liberally blog is pretty good, if you're interested in reading about food politics.

The reason why I'm telling you about this is because every Thursday I receive an email from this organization, reminding me to go to Drinking Liberally, among other events. The emails begin with these kind of poems about what's going on in the crappy world. I wanted to share this week's with you because I thought it was especially poignant and something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I don't know who writes these emails; I assume it's Justin Krebs, but I'm surely grateful this organization is around and I hope you'll attend an event in your area if you are a liberal minded person.

Americans Stopped Listening to Republicans... Why Haven't Democrats?

When the President listens to Republicans
he finds support to escalate in Afghanistan
despite the violence, no clear goal
& election fraud in the "democracy" we built.

When Senate Dems listen to the Party of No,
they consider jettisoning the public option,
making healthcare reform meaningless
& mandating a give-away to insurance companies.

When the media listens to the GOP,
we hear how much GOPpers respected Kennedy,
yet in life they slandered him as a "liberal,"
blocked his work & their activists boo him now.

So...why are we still listening to Republicans?

When their homeland security chief listened,
he manipulated threat levels for political gain.

Now, when AG Holder ignores Republicans,
he appoints an investigator into illegal torture
& puts Justice back into civil rights enforcement.

Moral of the story: ignore Republicans...
as the American people told us in '06 & '08.

Tune out the right & turn on the Left
as you join left-leaners for liberal libations
at your local progressive social club.

Tonight - and every Thursday
7:30pm onward
Rudy's - 9th btw 44th & 45th
[back booths beneath the DL banner]

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Cup Full of Breathiness, A Droopy T-Shirt

Do you have the same Emilys that I have? I recently realized that I've been listening to a definite three, definite in their femininity, definite in their quirkiness, definite in their studious musicianship: Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton, Emily Jane White, and Emily Wells.

Emily Haines's voice is very crisp and childlike, emotionally playful and beguiling. As Metric's short-skirted front person, (you can see evidence of this in the Olivier Assayas film Clean), Knives Don't Have Your Back makes for an interesting solo debut. Emily Haines by herself offers a brazen, folk-punky pretty kind of personal flavor, which explores emotion (where Metric is limited to new wavey rock) and grief for the loss of her father Paul Haines, Montreal poet and jazz musician. Emily Haines' music is playful. "Bros before hos," for example, is kind of irono-funny lyric accompanied by beautiful piano playing. What I wish the album had was more bricks. I'm attracted to the lonely woman lost in the thick of it all quality, but the album tends to lack depth where it has reach. Her heartfelt music becomes a bit boxy and I find the most memorable song to be the first.

You'll encounter a new kind of folk singin' in Emily Jane White. Her tough, soldier-popping and soft hip swaying music has a minimalist folky western yet match-stick struck on the sole of your boot flare. Where Eilen Jewell is perky, Emily Jane White is alluringly sleepy and existential. This music is born of a strong aesthetic, which I'd like for you to see in one of her videos.

What attracts me to Emily Wells, kind of solely, is her fabulous use of strings. Her song, "Mt. Washington," snakes her violin around her moanful lyrics. "We go together like bleeding lips" is a fetching lyric and her violin tiptoes around her words, animating them. Her voice gives over to demure, feminine breathiness and this dragging, droning until her voice turns into air seems to be her overall style, which is a tad redundant. Breathiness is a weird issue in music because women singers use their breathiness as sex appeal or to stylistically cover up a lack of range, as though all women have to have a high voice in order to be able to perform.