Saturday, November 6, 2010

How Would You Like It If Someone Trimmed Your Beak

When people ask me if I eat turkey, I reply that I don't eat BIRDS. That's disgusting. Nor would I eat something that is so genetically modified that it can't hardly walk.

Did you know Turkeys can purr? Think about that before the holidays, will you?

Turkeys recognize voices and faces. I kind of want a pet turkey. There are wild turkeys that live around a house I visit in Massachusetts. Here is a rather awful picture of one that sat for hours outside our door. Does anyone know how to get rid of that lamp? I took the photo with my computer because I didn't want to scare the turkey away. I wish you could've seen it outstretch its wings. Wide as both my outstretched arms!

This video is not my favorite, but it's made by the compassionate folk at Farm Sanctuary. When I was a high school teacher, I always brought in a devastating article about turkeys the day before Thanksgiving. I usually pulled those articles from the PETA website, so you know they were really gross and sad. After reading the article round robin and before we started the discussion, I would break into the disgust by saying: so, you should always just eat beef. That always got 'em laughing. But we all knew what I really meant.

Friday, October 15, 2010

You'll Think of Kermit When You Hear Him Say Help

My friend Noah told me about this early Jim Henson video and I thought you would enjoy it. Notice the cars when Jim Henson crosses the street. American cars used to be cool.

So, why does he paint an elephant?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where May I Cash This?

I've always thought our bills should be updated...

Raffled Hair

Watch out, y'all! There's an anagram maker! What do you get when you type in your name? When I graduated from Columbia, Lucie Brock-Broido and Richard Howard used to make anagrams from all the students' names. I don't have an L in my name, but who cares?

Speaking of raffled, I've always been a little smitten by words that end -led. As though those words are led to something or by something. Baffled, led by confusion or baff. Tousled. Crumpled.

Friday, October 1, 2010

List: Poetry Books With the Author on the Front or Spine

  • Collected Poems by James Merrill
  • Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan
  • T.S. Elliot Collected Poems
  • H.D. Collected Poems
  • W.H. Auden Selected Poems
  • The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley
  • Collected Poems of Ted Hughes
  • Selected Verse by Frederico Garcia Lorca
  • Selected Poems and Three Plays by William Butler Yeats
  • The Poems of Marianne Moore
  • Robert Frost Collected Poems
  • Robert Lowell Selected Poems
  • Jorge Luis Borges Selected Poems
  • Opus Posthumous by Wallace Stevens
In General, with a poet on the front or spine:
  • Poet Be Like God by Ellingham and Killian
  • The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt
  • A Helen Adam Reader by Kristin Prevallet
  • Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews with Allen Ginsberg
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fantasy Feature No. 2

Your old man has left for Los Angeles. You cried when he left. Now you get to dominate the Netflix que. You will stay awake until 4 a.m. watching these movies. (It really does say "Your Que," by the way). W. The Double Life of Veronique. Metropolis. Au Revoir Les Enfants. Blow Up. The Runaways. Scenes From a Marriage. Some of these films are on instaNetflix, but you will receive them in the mail just for you because you don't want to watch them blurry. You will have no one to curl up with because the old man took the cat. You will not bathe for three days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What You Wanted To Be Doing

The next time you are in Cullman, Alabama, you should definitely go to the Ave Maria Grotto. It is a miniature Jerusalem, along with other historic buildings. It definitely is on the Christian side of the Holy Land argument, but worth the visit. The Leaning Tower of Pisa and Noah's Ark were undergoing construction when the old man and I were there, so let me know if you get to see them when you go.

There is yummy Southern food nearby at All Steak. The old man and I ate from the veggie plate, which had one of my favorite Southern delicacies: fried okra. With your meal comes an amazing orange roll. I almost missed my flight back to New York because of the orange rolls.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finished in Marshall, California

Worked in Brooklyn, Kentucky, Ohio, and California.

Moss diamond scarf pattern from Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Only Get Me When I'm Down

I was never afraid of the dark until my mom's step-mother told me the story of Bluebeard and my sister made me sleep by all windows after that. I like it when darkness comes early. One time I went hiking in the middle of the night in Iceland, talked of sagas and realized if I didn't have lights I would believe in trolls too. Those rocks. One Christmas in Massachusetts we were snowed in, but it was so bright at night because of the full moon's reflection on the snow. Lit up from your feet. How weird it was to follow light under my eyes and not over my head. Sometimes the old man's dad turns off his headlights when we drive past a pretty New Englandy farm at night. Did you know that so many soldiers broke their ankles during WWII when they parachuted on moonless nights? Jumping into darkness. In order to save 1.2 million dollars in this year's budget, Colorado Springs, Colorado is shutting off one third of its city lights. Is having light safety or is safety safety? Also Colorado Springs majorly cut back its police force. What is darkness to a local economy? How many films can you name during which the love interests ask for help turning off the lights. Places that don't have many lights have many trees or lots of snow or huge waves. My kitty is only a bad kitty during the day or when I'm eating. I believe in trolls and Bluebeard. Suddenly everything is like a big cave and how did most things come to be. You were killing me with light anyway.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Does This Make You Blush

Do you know who Jan Schakowsky is? You fuckin' should. She's a representative from Illinois who, on Tuesday, introduced a new bill to Congress that will require stricter regulations for beauty products. As you may know, Congress has not passed any legislation regarding the chemicals used in beauty products since the Cosmetics Safety Act of the 1930's. Many beauty products use small amounts of known carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.

Democracy Now! hosted a debate between Stacy Malkan, founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and John Bailey, industry scientist and spokesperson. I recommend listening to what they say about the issue. Bailey made an interesting point that the industry is actually backing the new legislation. I wonder to what extent. I wish he could've further explained how the industry justifies their attitude that, well, it's only a pinch of chemicals. There's only a small amount of lead in lipstick. Mr. Bailey, do you roll around in a little bit of poison ivy? Would you mind it if there was a little bit of poop in your drinking water? Think about this: if a pregnant woman isn't supposed to dye her hair (because the chemicals in the dye may harm the baby), why should anyone else use that same product?

My dear reader(s), is your definition of beauty yours and yours alone? How many products do you use per day and are those products actually doing what you want them to do? (I'll be the first to admit that my bathroom has at least four bottles of lotion in it, but my skin always seems to be dry). Do you really need to put acid in your hair, only to wash it away with an oil byproduct? I can't decide what's more upsetting, the fact that there are reproductive disruptors in beauty products or that these items are so needed that we accept small amounts of poison. Sure, these chemicals don't out and out cause cancer, but they are linked to it.

I leave you with two websites where you can go to to find out about the chemicals in your beauty products. The first, Cosmetics Info, is hosted by the Personal Care Products Council, the one that John Bailey sits on. The second, the Cosmetics Safety Database, is brought to us by the Environmental Working Group.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This Is Not A Love Letter From Louisiana

Dear Mr. Flag Lapel Pin Wearer,

You got me! I wasn't ready for someone to ask me about that dang ol' mosque-near-nine-eleven-freedom-towers issue. I thought only crazies listen to Wing Nuts! I'm so sorry about all the confusion. When you asked me what I thought about the mosque "they're" building two blocks from the world trade center sight, I was like there are mosques all over New York City. In fact, there's one two blocks from my apartment. And two blocks from that. If we really want to get into the buildings belonging to religious institutions, which I think should have to pay property taxes BIG TIME, you can see about one hundred of them from the roof of my friend's studio. Mosques, cathedrals, etc. They're everywhere. So what if one is going downtown? How nice it must be, if you were religious, to walk to a place where a sacred ceremony is happening. You know, it's all clean sounding. By the way, do you think yoga is religious? I'm kind of starting to feel religious about it. On my recent airplane trip, I listened to a yoga podcast and imagined myself doing all the poses. Also, I kind of feel religious about the old man. Like I think about Him all the time and I would let Him do anything to me, I mean, I would do anything for Him.

So, when you said that you thought that "they" shouldn't allow the mosque to be built, sucked in your lips, then said, someone is going to blow it up. I wanted to rip the lapel pin right off your gray lapel, sir! That's what you think America is? Incapable of making gestures? Of reaching out? Reactionary? I know we've been to a kind of war in Afghanistan for NINE YEARS and we're about to pay 34 billion more dollars for it, so that really isn't the best example of the great things America can do, BUT we do have freedom of religion, isn't that right? That someone can worship in a mosque or on my couch, in my case. I'm not sure, but I assume that we should invoke a religious-like tolerance of religion in order to have the freedom of walking to a synagogue or church. Embracing freedom. You get your religion and I get mine. Am I wrong?

I have to tell you that the way you said what you said rendered me speechless. You didn't say: I hope "they" don't blow up that mosque in your city near you where you feel afraid and see smoke and imagine people crying. You didn't say: I haven't been prepared to understand what it means to have a mosque down near the new freedom towers. You didn't say: It's a bold move and I hope no one gets hurt. Sir, you said it the way you said it because you want the mosque to be blown up. I can't hate you because you're the one who hates. As a Republican Fascist, that's your job. Wear your pin and spew your hate.

What I can do is pity you. Your buckets are full, aren't they? Poor you. It is so easy to hate. I mean, so simple. Just blow 'em up. So easy. Understanding? Embracing? These are complicated ideas meant to be handled by adults. You are a little boy who has come across blue eggs in a bird's nest and has decided to take down the nest and set your dog on fire. See and destroy--that's what you do. You react; you don't progress. You are a part of something crazier and greater and together y'all have succeeded in increasing the military industrial complex.

I'm so sorry you're so scared. I'm only down here for a family reunion then I'm back to Brooklyn where just about anything is two blocks from two blocks. Before I fly away, I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry you feel the way you do. You'll be stuck like that forever until, well, you want something more complicated.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

List: Your Fad Is So Obvious

  • Stockings. They are meant to be worn on the legs during WINTER. They keep your legs warm. Unless you're in some kind of marching band, you can go bare.
  • Boots with shorts. The look is cheeky during Spring and Fall, but one hundred and two degree weather? You're screaming.
  • Sweaters. Quarter sleeve, half sleeves. It's August. So you wear one in the office. Outside, it's hot.
  • Other random winter objects. Scarves. Turtlenecks. They are doing things you don't need right now.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Is Much

Yesterday I read the very provocative Nancy Hirschmann "Mothers Who Care Too Much" article and its responses and the response to the responses in the Boston Review. Hirschmann's article is so powerful that I wish I could sign up for her class. I've had so many interesting conversations about the article, but I must admit that I kind of find the title a bit problematic. "Mothers Who Care Too Much" suggests that it's going to be an article about overbearing mothers, not about Care Feminist (do I cap this?) theory. Women are pigeonholed into the role of caretaker, furthermore into the dual role of earner plus main caretaker, or better yet sole caretaker. So why are these must-read articles framed with a title that more or less capitalizes on a mainstream, negative stereotype of women? My reaction here reminds me of the Atlantic Monthly's inflammatory title, from earlier this summer, that frames a very in depth and much-needed look at womanhood. I mean, The End of Men? Really? So, as discussions about women are ignited in a culture that rejects powerful women and shames women in need, am I supposed to glance at these titles and think, the end of men? Oh no! What about my future son! He's not going to be a pig! He'll be a pig over my dead body! Oh no! I'm a future mother who cares too much! I can't ever win. I can't ever get out from under the something that is the something.

I have a question about studies done about housework. This summer, more than one article from more than one source said that women typically do more housework than men. How are these findings obtained? I asked the old man if he thought I did more housework than he does and he said it was pretty even. Then he said it wouldn't be if he didn't include running errands. He is the errand runner of our house. So I might cook more often, but he's the one running to various farmer's markets and whatnot all the time. Do you count running errands as housework? My point is that these things aren't easy to ascertain and I feel really skeptical when I hear people cite this particular information. Who are the contributors to the housework studies and what are the questions? Are couples interviewed together? Are they always heterosexual? And are they usually married? Are they from the suburbs or in a city? Do they always have children? Tell me, how do you define housework and who does more of it in your house?

As an aside, I'd also like to know what findings show about men's attitude toward cleanliness as they age. In college a friend of mine left a half eaten box of pizza on his couch for months and whenever I went over to his house I used the rotten pizza as an ashtray so I wouldn't smell it. Because social norms allow young men to live like slobs, isn't it a given that their future partners would do more housework? Is the problem that women do more housework or that women play with dolls and then grow up to play real house? I wonder if these studies are merely quantitative collections of symptoms rather than findings that motivate change for both men and women.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

You When You Were Younger

Let me tell you about this wonderful reading I attended last night. Not your average poetry reading, this reading featured six or so who read from their early, teenagery work. Hosted by the beautiful Niina, who apparently used to be goth, the reading was such a touching experience that it almost makes me cry thinking about it. I told G. about a poem Nicole read about being overweight and feeling as though no one would ever love her, that she wouldn't be able to give her mother grandchildren. Another reader wrote about two cousins who had to move in with her family when their parents died. She was annoyed that the cousins hogged the tv and took over her bathroom, stuff like that, but then her younger self is grateful she had parents of her own. Incredible, right?

It's interesting through all the haze of the-world-is-bullshit, Holden Caulfield type writing, the seriousness that was addressed--coming out, body issues, feeling neglected and misunderstood. (Amy pointed out a thematic connection many of the writers shared regarding someone hogging the "good television," but it seems like being pushed off the shows they wanted to watch actually got them writing and creating). The old man read from some of his cute juvenalia, a poem called "I Must Be An Adolescent," in which he wonders if man "should have ever had a SURPLUS of GOODS." The reading made me know and understand those writers in a whole new way. I felt as though I had traveled back in time with them and I was just like them but so so different. The old man wished he had gone to high school with everyone who read (and it turns out he actually did!) but I'm glad I didn't. I'm glad they just took me into their pasts, into their beginnings, into how they were first starting to make sense of it all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Voices You Hear Were The Ones You Made

When you read over italicized words, do you read it differently? I do. I kick italic-voice right in. I did it a ton while reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. She's the best italic-voice giver. She writes about having to call an ambulance. Just come, she said. Just come. I love that. It's interesting that just by slanting the letters, you can change how the words sound in your mind.

Speakin' of voices you hear when you read, do you hear someone's voice that isn't your own? I hear my senior English teacher's voice. Mrs. Boniol was the first teacher who read something like she cared about it. My other English teacher wore pants slips. I could see them sticking out from under her pants.

Steve Roberts, a poet I workshop with, hates italics in poems. I sort of agree or agree enough to try it. I like it when you can't tell who's talking, if there is even someone talking. I like guessing at emphasis. I took all the italics out of my manuscript today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Syllabus: This Is How It All Went Down: Documentaries


Let's Get Lost, directed by Bruce Weber
The Untold Story of Louis Emmet Till, directed by Keith Beauchamp
The Business of Being Born, directed by Abby Epstein
Grey Gardens, directed by Albert & David Maysles & Ellen Hovde
Be Here to Love Me, directed by Margaret Brown
The Up Series: 21, 28, and Michael Apted's director's commentary for 35
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. MacNamara, directed by Errol Morris
4 Little Girls and When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, directed by Spike Lee
To Be and to Have, directed by Nicolas Philibert
Our Daily Bread, directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Harlan County USA, directed by Barbara Kopple
Grizzly Man, directed by Werner Herzog
New York: A Documentary Film, directed by Ric Burns
Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story, directed by Michael Moore 
Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids, directed by Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman
The Civil War, first disc, directed by Ken Burns
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, directed by Alex Gibney
American Blackout, directed by Ian Inaba
Monumental: David Browers' Fight for Wild America, directed by Kelly Duane
In the Realms of the Unreal, directed by Jessica Yu

Field Trip:

IMAX! The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, directed by George Butler

Course Objectives:

Is a documentary truth or is truth truth. What is a documentary supposed to do. What about the living. Who's lens is this anyway. Documentary v. biopic: discuss. Say what you want to about politics, but you can't deny the footage in American Blackout. Do you feel lied to by the media yet. How come most documentaries about women are about porn stars. Sorry this list is so America-centric. How to present a controversial subject or person. Perpetuating myths: telling someone's life from all sides. What does it mean to tell the story from all sides. Getting in there deep: why Let's Get Lost sets the standard. How to get people talking. Can you publish everything they say. If given the chance, what would you make a documentary about. What do you do when you uncover something mid-film, change course. What did every documentary begin with, as. You can do all the extra credit you want. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeah, I'll Be Right Here to Love You

About a week ago, the old man and I watched a documentary on one of my favorite folk singers, Townes Van Zandt. Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt really disappoints. I kinder wish I hadn't seen it because I found Van Zandt rather annoying and immature. It's such a strange thing when a beautiful songwriter is anything but that. A tag line for the film reads: what would you sacrifice to follow your dream? I didn't see him sacrifice anything: all his various women raised his various children while he was out a-singin' and a-ramblin'. It seemed as though his only dream was to have someone waiting at home for him while he was on the road. The film mentions only once Van Zandt's heroin addiction. Toward the end of the film and of his life, various figures talked about how his alcoholism affected his performances, but none of them went into great detail, saying that he got a little talky on stage toward the end.

As the movie went on, I got to thinkin' about Emmylou Harris. When she first started out, she was only one of a handful of women folk singers. I thought it was interesting how she's been in so many bands and sang back-up for men like Townes Van Zandt. I wondered what that was like, if she's more like them, more like their wives, or something else entirely. So, what is she really allowed to say about them? And what does it say about her? Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt have a whole lot of addiction in common. (As an aside, Harris actually credits Linda Ronstadt for being the driving force that led to Harris' first recording contract). The old man and I talked about Harris at great length after watching the film and talked about other artists and writers who were burning down their lives while their children were being raised by someone else. One of the only women, we could think of, who left her children while in pursuit of her own interests is Muriel Spark.

Townes Van Zandt was one of those characters who makes you think about whether you're stricken with life or stricken with death--so afraid to live that you destroy yourself until you die. Looking down the smoky path he burned, I wonder of what it was Townes Van Zandt was so afraid.

Friday, May 14, 2010

That Is So Cape Cod!

That is so Cape Cod! Annoyed teenagers listening to their ipods! That fence! Those salty houses! Shorts worn with sweaters! Hey Paul, Hey Charlie. Shorts worn with a tank top under a t-shirt under a long sleeve shirt under a button down under a blazer! That is so J. Crew! Sand flies. Suddenly everything is open! Lobster mac 'n cheese! I can ride my bike to work! Who's living above me! Why won't anyone talk to me! I can't feel my feet or face! It's turned out to be sunny day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flow Out of My Chart

Now that I've been hidden away in Provincetown, I can tell you what I've been meaning to tell you. I've been making poster-sized flow charts on poser board leftover from my teaching days. When you make a flow chart, you can think about three things at once, like being able to eat, read, and write at the same time. (Did you try to do that when you were younger?)

A friend of mine asked me to write an essay for his journal and I was super nervous because I'd never done that before. I wanted to write about gurlesque poetry, but instead chose the topic, On Being Gross. When my friend asked me how the essay was coming along, this is what I sent. He inevitably asked me to write on someone else, which is good because I think the flow chart basically became the essay.

I've done two more since then, one on the folk singer Laura Marling (for Poets off Poetry) and one on my family. I love drawing the lines to connect the boxes, getting my pen stuck in a tight spot. In the first and last charts, all the major thinking, all the deductions are on the outer rim of the chart, but I mixed it up with the Laura Marling chart and the arrived-to thinking forms a sort of labyrinth on the chart. It's fun trying to find the end of the line.

The "getting to" thinking is sort of the main point, seeing how far I can come away or how much thinking I can do about a subject until I can't think on it anymore. For example, in the gross chart I was making notes about the differences between men being gross versus women, thinking about artistic situations besides poetry that highlight this, finally contrasting Samurai films with Buffy. During the chart about my family, I began to think about anxiety and whether or not anxiety is something that is a result of having goals.

I have some wall space in my apartment that I'd love to cover with butcher paper and just go to town. The space is by the bath tub, so holy shit if I do that, I'd be reading, writing, thinking, and taking a bath at the same time...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fantasy Feature No. 66

You finished. Something in you went away. You put the last segment of Bolano's 2666 back in its box and together, all three spines created the big red title, 2666. Bolano is the smartest person in the world and you held his writing in your hands. You didn't say anything. The old man was wearing headphones and watching something on his computer. You walked across the room and blew your nose. You're supposed to read books to be done with them and move onto the next one, right? You feel as though someone were sticking an arm through the triangle your arm makes while resting on your hip. A handful of almonds. Suddenly the old man stood up. "Did you finish?" Yeah, it's done.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Don't Know WHAT to Call This

I don't know why, but I can't stop thinking about a stupid football player. While driving to New Hampshire last week for a reading, I caught the tail end of an NPR discussion about Ben Roethlisberger, who was recently suspended from the Pittsburgh Steelers after being accused of raping a woman in a nightclub bathroom. Although Roethlisber wasn't charged with a crime, he was suspended for six games. The suspension will cost him almost 3 million of his 102 million dollar contract. The nature of the NPR discussion was about whether or not this was an appropriate punishment. I don't pay much attention to sporting events and the whole deal, but I was surprised by how few women called in. Most of the men who called in thought he should be suspended only when charged with a crime. One man noted that the Steelers, for whatever reason, has more women fans in the NFL than any other team and that Roethlisberger's conduct wasn't fair to them. (Thank you, sir!) By the way, the woman in question is underage. By the way, this rape allegation is Roethlisberger's second in a nine-month period.

While listening, I couldn't help but think about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. I'm not sure why exactly. I wondered what she is up to, what her life is like. A man accused of sexually harassing his co-worker becomes a supreme court justice. (Working for Monsanto wasn't bad enough! And of all the porn out there, Long Dong Silver? Please.) It's frightening how crimes against women are still seen as petty, pettier if the men involved are high profile public figures. It's interesting the football player apologized to his team, his family, his fans, but not to the woman accusing him of rape or her family.

How long do you think girls get to be daughters? Sons are always sons somehow. Boys will be boys. But girls never get to be girls, do they? My guess is that girls are daughters until they're 8. What's yours?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Was Trying So Hard to Be Cool My Butt Got Wet

Whew. That was a close call. Earlier last month, the old man wanted to go to Iceland to see the volcano erupt. He had seen the volcano years before with his family; there is a very beautiful photograph of it hanging by my desk. I'm looking at it right now. Reports about the eruption were pretty mild. His sister lives in London and we thought about meeting her over by the volcano. (In Europe, it's actually affordable to fly. Why is that? Do airplane companies consider their customers to be real people? I don't understand). I hate to be a stick in the mud or a bump on a pickle, but I said no to seeing the eruption. You may have read that the eruption is far greater than what was expected and clouds have halted some travel in Europe. The old man is quite the adventure seeker, which is why I live in sin with him, but I am very glad I said no to this request.

I hate being the old lady who says no. Reminds me too much of my family. One of the last adventures the old man took me on was night kayaking in the ocean, to see bio-luminating lichen or algae. It can only be seen ten days each year and requires a full moon. I was trying so hard to be cool about the whole thing, but in the darkness I couldn't control the kayak, which was an open sea kayak. (Open sea kayaks aren't the cute, snugly kind that you sit inside. They are like plastic cocoons and easy to maneuver). I felt totally exposed and unhappy. Water splashed me from all sides and I rammed an empty, parked, scary boat. Then I thought, this is a scene from Jaws, and started to cry. Actually, I think I may have been wailing. I was crying to hard that I really couldn't see where I was going. I hated that I was such a baby about the whole thing. We went to dinner afterwards and I ate soup. I wanted to eat the soup with my hands.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stick This Up Your Life and Leave It There

Before New Year's I started reading Roberto Bolano's 2666. It is by far one of my favorite books. As you may know, it is a novel compiled by five books. I think he wanted them to be published separately, but he died before it was released.

I have just started the fifth book and have half a mind to start the whole thing over, from book one. I've read varying posts about it, like this one on Exoskeleton. I've been reading the book for so long that I'd forgotten about the artist who cut off his hand. I would like to never be done with this book. (I felt the same way about Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, which never should've ended). What am I going to do with myself when it ends, huh? What will I think about then?

As a weird, weird, painful aside, let me tell you about something from 2666. I can't remember when or where this happens in the book, but I know two characters discuss the Medusa story. One of them talks about how Medusa was different than the other Gorgon sisters because she was mortal. Her mortality creates Pegasus (right?) and stops a sea monster from eating a beautiful virgin. Medusa is set apart from her sisters because she will die. Since the 13th anniversary of my sister's death recently passed, I can't help but wonder why Medusa's sisters thought less of the one they would lose. Anyway, 2666 is definitely one of those books you'll finish reading, but you'll never be done with it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Were Doing What You Thought You Were Doing

Are you looking for summer shoes? Why don't you buy some Toms? Every pair you buy, they give a pair of shoes to someone who needs them. Toms also sponsored a day without shoes day, but I'm too tender.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Devil Don't Change

A gym I like to go to has an interesting health and fitness blog and one of the gym's owners blogged about a group called Corporate Accountability International. They are going after McDonald's mascot, Ronald McDonald. McDonald's use of the clown gets children hooked on unhealthy food for the rest of their lives. I was pretty irked when I first heard about the campaign against the clown. When is censorship ever the answer? Most advertising is inappropriate for everyone; if it's not exploiting women's bodies, it's exploiting something else. (I'm still so surprised every time I see a commercial for cleaning products sold by women for women).

What does Ronald's retirement accomplish exactly? Will the clown's absence change the fact that McDonld's uses airplanes and helicopters to scout out schools they can put new restaurants by? Will schools stop selling fast food because the clown is gone? Will everyone become aware of unsafe slaughterhouse practices used to fulfill McDonald's meat orders? Will more people become aware of the disparagement in wages between the average McDonald's employee and the CEO?

I'm really getting tired of the witch hunts that never seem to address complication. Do you really think you're protecting your kids by going after some evil that will easily be replaced by another evil? If your kids aren't eating at McDonald's, are they really at home reading books and eating carrots? Do these parents think their kids won't eat at McDonald's because the clown is gone? I know children who eat at McDonald's because that's what their parents had time to feed them and in some cases, that's what their parents could afford to feed them. Is it Ronald's fault that school kids can't identify what a tomato or broccoli looks like, but can identify a chicken nugget?

I've had conversations like this before where people respond with, "My kids. I've got to protect my kids." I agree. We all want to protect something greater than ourselves: each other. I don't want unhealthy products to be foisted onto children, but why not talk to them about horrible business practices and how companies are trying to market to them? Kids are actually smarter than you think. And the thing about kids is that they're so much more willing to change their habits when they learn about stuff. Why not create a list of companies with good business practices? Fun for the whole family!

For the record, I think Corporate Accountability International is a great thing and admire that they're going after McDonald's. I just wish our conversations about this stuff was, well, a conversation.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why You Should Love Assholes

I'd like to direct your attention to the discussion Amy King began last weekend. She was surprised by the overwhelming heteronormativeness she sees taking place in the new gurlesque poetry anthology. Being that the Riot Grrl movement was invoked by the editors, and given other ramifications that the editors say make gurlesque poems and visual art, Amy asks the question: are there not l/g/b/t poets whose work falls into the gurlesque category? (You can read Lara Glenum's comments here). I think it's a really valid question to ask, especially regarding gurlesque, since female sexuality (gothic, grotesque, burlesque/performative, feminine, and mechanized) is at the forefront of gurlesque dealings. I love gurlesque poetry, I love finding poems that I think falls into the gurlesque specifications, and I love artwork that I think is gurlesque. (Lara Glenum's books are pretty powerful and have changed my approach to poetry and language). Lara Glenum wrote an interesting piece about how Lady Gaga is gurlesque. The sunglasses made from lit cigarettes! How could she see except with machine eyes! Loving this new genre/school/aesthetic of poetry and thinking, I couldn't help but feel sad that Amy didn't find the Lady Gaganess, the performative blurred lines from a highly sexualized woman embracing queerness, in all respects. A few months ago, I put together a list of gurlesque poetry, using only books I had at home, and I now wonder if it was a hetero heavy list and how the list would've changed. Amy raises a valid point, a complicated one, an interesting one.

For a long time I've felt we should all write more about assholes. It takes the gender out of the whole thing. There isn't fairer genitalia than the asshole. We all have one. Some of them are pinker than others. Some of them are hairier than others. Some of them have hairs in the crumbs. Some of them look like slits. I mean, crumbs in the hair. You can put things in it or next to it. Asshole skin is soft and dotty. Gosh, I'm not sure if there's anything I talk about more than poop and poop comes out of all of our assholes. Some of our assholes have fissures. And they all do that cute puckering up thing when we tell it to. Or not! Sometimes it puckers on its own! I knew a kid who lit his farts on fire. I have two friends who love talking about polyps and butt doctors. There are even butt doctors who specialize in the asshole!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How Will You Know Who Anyone Is

At least once a week I think about Keith Newton's poem, "I Lived Among Girls." This poem somehow encompasses everything you've ever read and everything you've ever felt. It's cyclical in the way Keith Newton is with his poems--controlled yet with quite expansive growth, reaching, a honing in, layering, then a letting go. "I Lived Among Girls" addresses searching, understanding. First there's an acknowledgment that what we're all looking for is kind of the same, something we want better or back, something we've never had before, something someone else has, something from someone else. Beauty. All the people who come and go in our lives get blurred and we don't mean for it to happen, but it does. When they are not blurred, we recognize how different we are, how strange we are. "Let us see how far away we are." The force of experience weighs on our memories.

You probably already saw this on Jules' blog a long time ago, but the poem was made into a film. The poem collaborates both with the Portastatic song, "I Wanna Know Girls" as well as images from the film. Newton refracts "I wanna know girls" to "I lived among girls" and does this quite a bit with other lines, such as "I wanna draw your outine" to "I knew them by their outlines." There's a muli-presentation of getting, wanting, understanding, being confused that is extraordinarily powerful. This was the first poem film I ever saw and I can't believe how easily the poem incorporates both film and song, without taking away from either genre. I love the opening sequence, that the poem doesn't start until the airplane is out of view. The poem is cyclical the way the song is cyclical, the way the images return to the wintery landscape of the tarmac.

"We travel to you and will be sent away.
We travel away and will be called back.
Among men, I was disciplined in my approach.
Among girls, I withheld the ruin I had seen."

Have a look/listen/read:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Sign Said Come to a Poetry Reading!

This past Sunday I travelled to Washington, D.C. for a reading and it happened to be the day Congress signed a bill regarding health care (the first major bill to address a social program in over fifty years). Walking next to the tea party protesters was rather scary. They shouted about killing, about socialism, and their signs threatened that Texas will one day rise again. The old man is Jewish and I have never feared for his life the way I feared when I walked by tea party protesters. The Republican/Tea Party protesters' message confuses me. One person's sign said: Get Your Government Hands Off My Medicare. Huh? I hate to tell ya, but it's a government program, as is garbage collection, police services, and the fire department. Hmm. Should we cut those programs too? Another protester's sign said: I Love My Country But All I See Is Red. I thought it was kind of clever because all I could see were crazy Republicans too. Their color is red. The old man explained to me that she probably was exhibiting her fear that a health care program would turn our country socialist.

While all this was happening, the largest immigration rally in U.S. history took place Sunday. I felt pretty overwhelmed. The old man and I cheered on the street as the protesters made their way to National Mall. Seeing all those people choked me up so much that I could hardly speak. Rallies in D.C. are so different than other places. People get really fired up. All the health care rallies I went to were pretty tame compared to what I saw on Sunday. When people aren't yelling racial epithets or threatening to kill anyone, seeing people gathered is a very beautiful thing.

I'm sad I found this sign in the garbage:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Don't Move that Dead Deer

I can't stop thinking about a deer that died next to a bedroom window in a place I sometimes stay in California. The house is out in cow country, pretty remote. The old man's parents suggested that he move the deer away from the house, but I didn't want to touch it at all. The old man thought maybe we could "lasso" the deer and spent most of a rainy afternoon reading about it online, but. I can't think of any North American large mammals that eat dead things, so I didn't worry about the dead deer attracting anything dangerous to the house. I was hoping the vultures would've taken care of it, but they didn't seem to notice. I wonder if vultures didn't want to approach the house?

It looked like it curled up, went to sleep, and died. I feel so badly. Every morning, I walked over to the window before brushing my teeth or anything. I had to make sure it was still there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Louisiana Update

Today I'd been thinking about Louisiana and how I once read that Louisiana had the highest rates of domestic violence. As I was searching for evidence of this statistic, I came across this interesting website that compares findings from all 50 states.

Here's what you need to know about Louisiana before moving there:
  • it ranks 49th for best place to live
  • has the highest rates of poverty
  • ranks 45th on education. California is oddly number 46. If you live in California, be very afraid. My chemistry teacher was a 19 year-old fill-in.
  • is number 1 in gun violence
  • uses just as much oil as densely populated states
  • ranks 49th in health care
  • ranks 50 regarding economic growth
What I want to know is how does anyone run for election there? Do you just not have to worry about answering for yourself because everyone is so uneducated? How does this happen? Some third world countries have better health care than this. I'm embarrassed.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Syllabus: Cute as Hell

A study of a compendium of the following:

  • Smurfs
  • Bjork, "It's Oh So Quiet"
  • Film: Babe: Pig in the City
  • The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde
  • toadstool mushrooms
  • miniature: small pies & muffins, pencils, miniatures taken out of their dollhouse context
  • animals: puppies, sleeping babies, baby pandas, koalas, otters, bunnies
  • Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey
  • Bows & bow ties
  • tv show: The Littles
  • Fashion: round collars, rolled pants, color!, ruffled bloomers, Mary Jane's, baby doll dresses, suspenders
  • Hair: pig tails, the bob
  • Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • pixies & hobbits
  • eco-houses, houses built into the ground
  • butt cracks & short stubby hands
  • little bowls
  • plastic buttons
  • baby faced men: Matthew Broderick, Elijah Wood
  • cute women: women with short hair, manic pixie dream girl
  • Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender
  • candy
Course Objectives:

Is cuteness asexual happiness. Elisa Gabbert's post on cuteness here. Is calling something cute condescending. Does cuteness come from darkness. Cute: beauty plus pity. Are people who like cuteness to be trusted. Forced cuteness: dressing kittens in doll's clothing, kittens in mugs. Big people folding small people's laundry. Sesame Street: debate. How come being short is cute. Weigh in: the old man thinks Mia Farrow was cute in Rosemary's Baby. How come southerners are always calling things cute. Texture: wood v. plastic, suits v. dresses, linen v. silk. Animals that reach out to you. Do we all them cute because they can't talk. Any sleeping being, sleeping beings sleeping next to animals. Dogs who show guilt. Debate: leprechauns aren't cute b/c they are all-knowing. Is Tin Tin cute. Aw, reactions to cuteness: document. Anti-cute: children singing Christmas carols. Cultural cuteness: Asian girls, black babies. Cute irony: (Film) The Incredible Shrinking Woman. List: the new childishness. Genitalia v. butts: discuss.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Farewell Sparklehorse

I'm so sad to tell you that Mark Linkous committed suicide yesterday. He was the man behind Sparklehorse. The only thing I know about him was that he was a good musician. He was forty-seven years old.

Here's a fan video made for Sparkhorse's "Piano Fire" featuring PJ Harvey:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jessica Lange Was the Best What's Her Face

One of my gym t-shirts is a light yellow King Kong shirt. I think I found it at a thrift store in Louisiana. Last summer I wore it while jogging in the park near my apartment and I returned tired and feeling like a total pig. Well, a friend told me that she didn't think the t-shirt was racist and the old man doesn't think the shirt is racist because King Kong isn't "waving around the woman." I wore it to the gym today and lo and behold, who was the only white woman wearing a King Kong t-shirt at the gym this morning? I'm cutting the sleeves off and sewing the bottom closed and it will be forever used as a bag for produce.

I admit I have a weakness for the King Kong story. Nature v. city. What climbs your buildings must be shot. Woman who needs something wild. Love without language. Not to mention size. Anyway, I wonder if any version of the film is without racial connotations. How odd that the most recent one was horribly racist. If we had to measure our social progress in King Kong films, well the message is clear.

How could you not love him? His nose is the shape of a heart!

So what could be a non-racist, woman falls-in-love-with-animal, love story? I mean, instead of using the gorilla? What about a horse? Still well hung and could jump and dodge bullets. Maybe the horse could throw the woman on his back and gallop up the Guggenheim rather than the Empire State Building? Can raccoons show love? Tigers? I love tigers. I guess Bringing Up Baby already addressed this sort of.

For the record, I prefer the King Kong with Jessica Lange.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Where Is That Other World You Were Sitting On

Other places have sunshine. I have seen it.

The only interesting thing about this sunset is that I wasn't on land when I took the picture. I was told I would see dolphins. Rum punch is no joke.

I snorkeled in a deep place
that a boat took me to. There were no sharks, but there was an ominous ledge where there could be sharks waiting. Last summer I wasn't afraid of sharks, but now I am afeared.

Just to the right of this woman's shoulder is an underwater wreck. The old man snorkeled out to it and watched diver's bubbles float to the surface. The old man has swimmer's ear and I squeeze drops into his bad ear.

It is true. I burn.

Friday, February 26, 2010

You're Not A Total Idiot

For the past month or so, I've been working on a longish essay about someone's poetry. I've never really done anything like that before, other than what I've done here, but I never quite dipped and dived into writing a long essay. (I'll tell you about the poster-board essays another time). It was quite the process, trying to first describe what someone was doing in their poetry, then trying to say why it was good.

Anyway, I ended up turning in a rather long piece, which had to be trimmed. Something that was cut was this sort of line that I was a bit proud of. When you do what you do, do you try to get away with things? All my poems have something that I try to get away with, something I sneak in there, something that only half-way fits but still adds a little hip, a little flavor. In the essay I just wrote, I was discussing something the poet was doing and I described it as: the limitless blank of what poetic language can do.

I rather like the thought, the limitless blank. I can't exactly think of what I would fill in the blank without making an annoying list. What would you fill in the blank?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

List: Songs With Women's Names

Song for Whoever--The Beautiful South
Celia Inside--The Cardigans
Eleanor Rigby--The Beatles
Jackie's Strength--Tori Amos
Lucille--Gram Parsons
Sweet Jane--Cowboy Junkies
Jane Says--Jane's Addiction
Sweet Caroline--Neil Diamond
Julia--Taken by Trees
Delia's Gone--Johnny Cash
Sandy L--Kathryn Williams
Katie Cruel--Bert Jansch
Judy Is a Punk--The Ramones
Judy Staring at the Sun--Catherine Wheel
Polly--Keren Ann
O Yoko--John Lennon
Stephanie Says--The Velvet Underground
Prescilla--Bat for Lashes
Amelia--Joni Mitchell
Sister Margaret--The Acorn
Jezebel--10,000 Maniacs
I Married Sonja--The Wrens
Look at Miss Ohio--Gillian Welch
For Emma--Bon Iver
Seems So Long Ago, Nancy--Leonard Cohen
Jolene--Dolly Parton
Jolene--The Weepies
Hannah's Song--Jim & Jennie & The Pinetops
Good Night Irene--Leadbelly
Diana Ross--The Concretes
Sally--Johnny Flynn
Charlotte Mittnacht--DeVotchKa
O Evangaline--Emmylou Harris
Julie--Jens Lekman
For Elisabeth, Wherever You Are--Tobias Froberg
Sukie in the Graveyard--Belle & Sebastian
Pretty Polly--The Byrds
Bessie Smith--Emily Jane White
Sara--Bob Dylan
Violet--Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge, Feb. 20, 12-1 p.m.

There's a healthcare rally this Saturday and I can't go because I'm going out of town. Will you go for me? Please? It would mean so much to me if you went. If you've never been to one, don't worry; you're not going to shut down the government or be listened to in a European sense, but you will be doing the right thing. I'm always impressed by doctors who come out and speak. A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, during any type of weather, always comforts. That bridge somehow absorbs sorrows. The walk is scheduled to end at the New York Stock Exchange where you can get depressed all over again. Please go? You won't "change the world" or "make a difference," but you will make me want to hug you.

You can go here to find out more about the rally and find out about rallies closer to you if you're not in NYC.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rockin' Out the Opera House

Last weekend the old man and I went to see Ra Ra Riot, the cutest band ever, play at the BAM Gilman Opera House. For a while now, BAM has opened its Opera House to musicians and I've missed performances by Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens there, but I couldn't miss the adorable kids in Ra Ra Riot. (From Syracuse, New York!) Their sound would not be complete without their string section, a cello and violin, both interestingly played by women. They are a high energy rock group with a nice mix of fun '80's, fun now.

The Opera House, I must say, was the weirdest place I've ever seen a show. It was very strange to see young people dancing in the aisles. Several people in the rows ahead of me tried to get up to dance, but made it difficult for the rest of us to see what was going on, so they had to return to their seats. I even had trouble seeing when the two men in front of me started talking for a bit. When I sat up straighter to be able to see over them, the people behind me asked me to scoot back down. It's interesting how a venue can be limitless or limiting. What a difference it is that you are supposed to go to an opera and not react at all, just sit there and take in the performance. The old man likes opera and opera has done nothing but teach me the art of ninja sleeping. When I go to shows at, say, Mercury Lounge, the space has a stage with a sort of open pit for everyone to stand in. How fascinating it is that the performances there are supposed to be an interaction; the audience should be dancing and having contact with each other and the music. At the Opera House, the young crowd seemed to have a hard time finding their seats let alone staying in them.

Thinkin' on poetry readings: it's funny which ones tend to be interactive. I gave a reading in New Jersey last weekend at a very local bookstore in Hoboken and the crowd, a small group who have been attending the series for years, talked and asked questions during the reading. By the time I left, I felt as though I was saying good-bye to old friends rather than people I'd just met.

Events vs. Space: I wonder what a poetry reading would be like in the Opera House.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I'm Sticking Up For Everything

Last night the old man and I watched The Cove, a suspenseful and thrilling documentary centered around a group of activists' fight to end dolphin capturing and killing in Taijii, Japan. The group's bravery and their devotion to these animals is quite extraordinary. They risk their lives to install hidden cameras (one underwater) and microphones into a cove used as a killing floor, if you will, for slaughtering dolphins. I am afraid to swim in water past my neck and the only time I was in the ocean at night, while night kayaking to see bioluminescent lichen, I almost had a heart attack. So I am deeply impressed by the freedivers who braved the night waters.

Throughout the film several points were made about how intelligent dolphins are, but the one that was most profound was the fact that dolphins understand sign language... but they don't even have hands. I never really thought about that one before, what an impractical yet sophisticated ability it is for a dolphin to be able to communicate with people in this way. It's devastating to watch something get speared to death, to see the cove turn red with blood (ew, which one of the fishermen has to dive in to make sure they got all the dolphins), to watch dolphins flapping ferociously in the water, screaming until they die.

The fact of the matter is that nothing or no one should be rounded up and killed. After the movie was over, I felt a little conflicted. What about cows? It's not okay for cows to be rounded up, shipped half across the country, standing in their own feces for weeks, and being forced to eat something their four stomachs have trouble digesting. If we all watched The Cove version of the cattle industry, watched a huge five hundred pound animal crawling to the kill floor on weak, unused legs bent in the opposite direction, would we allow this to continue to happen in our own country? It's weird to go to another country and point out their shames when we have so many of our own. In the early 1700's and until about 1850, whaling was one of the prominent industries in America. Let us not forget that New Bedford, Massachusetts was known as "The City That Lit The World." Do you think we stopped whaling because we felt bad for whales? No! The demand for their oil plummeted after the invention of oil wells.

The question of activism remains: why anything? Why dolphins? Why healthcare? I thought I'd be doing some good by not eating meat, but shit. I knit with wool. I wear leather. My pants and my warm winter coat were made by someone who didn't earn a livable wage. My list of sins goes on. I want to try; I go to health care rallies and stuff like that, but feel like while I'm standing up for one thing, something else is coming apart. Do you think The Cove is going to change the fishing industry? Some people say there was so much media in Taijii that the dolphin hunting has stopped. I wonder for how long. Paul Watson made an interesting point in the film: you can be active or inactive. But how do you know if you've done any good?