11.10.2007

Cool cheap(ish) gifts!

--some neat stuff I've bookmarked over the past few months. Not a wishlist--though I'm pretty in love with that chupacabra--just finds I wanted to share. All $30 or under.



Nifty blackboard globe-- about $20 from Muji (overseas order)



Fabric maps--perfect for someone like me who'd rather stuff a map in her back pocket than even attempt to fold it up. $5.95 apiece from Rand McNally. Might also make funky bandanna, tourniquet, etc.



Guitar pick customized with any image--
$11 at the Guthrie Thomas Company



Rubik's cube with 6 images you choose (advertised for "family photos", but I bet they'd let you use 6 images of different Shakespeare sonnets, or the same word in different fonts, or...)--$30 at gifts.com



"Prove You're Not a Robot" Captcha T-Shirt, $22 at crush3r.com





Loch Ness Monster or Chupacabra Magnet--$6 at PearsonMaron at Etsy.

11.07.2007

Wild Nights! Stories About the Last Days of...

I haven't read a new Joyce Carol Oates in years, but her forthcoming (April 2008) looks interesting: Wild Nights! Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway. From Booklist's starred review: "Protean and intrepid Oates not only pays homage to five American writers by brilliantly emulating their styles, but also…plays fast and loose with biography to imagine their final days or, in the case of Emily Dickinson, resurrection. Oates is by turns mischieviously witty, superbly macabre, and exquisitely sensitive as she parlays bravado literary criticism into shivery stories that undermine iconic figures…Oates envisions [Poe] living on as a lighthouse keeper in the South Pacific…[she] is diabolical in her satirical portrait of…Mark Twain as a pedophile."

Resurrection! Pedophilia! Best of all: she didn't choose Plath.

Some UK libraries to start placing ads in library books...

"Libraries to be 'new channel' for direct marketing" at Guardian Unlimited

10.31.2007

Just add cowbell.

Need a cheap, last-minute Halloween costume? Try this. (via Unshelved)

Emperor of Ice Cream Cakes

Tricia at Emperor of Ice Cream Cakes rocks my world. If I were a publisher, I'd beg for a book of her paintings based on lines from poems. Her other art is brilliant, too. So's her writing. I've been a fan ever since she proposed a party where everyone dresses as a line from Wallace Stevens.

Some examples:


a butcher, his cleaver hacked/into igneous lamb--Stuart Dybek, "The Volcano"



What about horses eaten by wind?--Wallace Stevens, "Parochial Theme"


The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn--Walt Whitman, "A Woman Waits For Me"

10.09.2007

Reverse Graffiti



I love the concept of "reverse graffiti". Simply put: instead of using spraypaint, find a dirty city surface and use a rag and some water. Create art that instantly doubles as social commentary (Why is our city so filthy?), and befuddle the cops who want to arrest you, but aren't sure if selective cleaning is a crime. Above, Brazilian artist Alexandre Orion cleans up a Sao Paulo tunnel (in summer '06). See a video of the piece's creation, complete with befuddled cops, here.

10.01.2007

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever: 1963 and 1991



BoingBoing points to a Flickr set by "kokojiak" that compares scans of the 1963 and 1991 editions of Best Word Book Ever. Feather headdresses are out; yellow ribbons slapped on boys' heads add some instant girls to the scene. Then there are the weird ones: a boat named Gretel in 1963 was rechristened The White Swan in '91...anyway, neat to glance at. I loved that book when I was a kid. And I feel the keen loss of the word "promptly."

9.25.2007

"Sounds for the Space-Set" (RIAA)

I mentioned RIAA's Sounds for the Space-Set, a free, downloadable 22-song album, in my earlier post on mashups--at which time I'd heard only one song from it, "Intergalactic Centerfold."

I've listened to it all now.
20 times or so.
Wowie Kazowie.
This is brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Those mashups I mentioned earlier were songs. The tracks on Sounds for the Space-Set are songs, social commentary, stand-up routines (their musical sense of humor ranks up there with early Ween, TMBG, and the Flaming Lips), and more. If music and pop culture have any sacred cows left, RIAA's grinding them up into half-beef, half-Moog patties. Witness:

*The somber vocal from "Space Oddity" over the bouncy music from "Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"

*Music from Cosmos mashed with the Star Trek theme and Ella Fitzgerald singing "Out of Nowhere"

*The vocal to the original "Why Does the Sun Shine?" ("The sun is a mass of incandescent gas...") mashed with Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star"

*Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" with Portishead's lead singer plaintively bursting in at intervals with "Wandering Star"

*The instrumental to "Walking in Space" from Hair mashed with Eric B. and Rakim's "Follow the Leader" and something identified as "old-time radio" called "Planet Man"

*Additional bits from Serge Gainsbourg, Justin Timberlake, Vangelis, Celine Dion, Fatboy Slim, Kraftwerk, J-Kwon, Sun Ra, and a man obsessively, repeatedly asking, "What if the robots are SPIES?"

Highly, highly recommended. RIAA has a whole page of free albums I've yet to thoroughly listen to. Two non-Space-Set songs I've loved so far are Guantanelievable (#6)--"Guantanamera" with EMF's "Unbelievable"--and "Johnny SKAsh" (same link, #12): Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" with, I kid you not, Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk." Heaven on a stick.

9.23.2007

Interesting, from a 9/17 Virginia Quarterly Review blog post:

The ten most common titles of submissions that we’ve received in the past year:

Remember
Smoke
Revelation
Work
Grace
Waiting
Insomnia
Voyeur
Butterfly
Reunion

9.20.2007

Worldmapper: "The world as you've never seen it before"

Worldmapper is home to a set of visually arresting world maps based on statistics (about health, wealth, energy use, pollution, etc.): in each map, countries shrink or swell up based on their numbers relative to the rest of the world.


Wealth 1990



Wealth 2015



HIV Prevalence

Nice .pdf posters of the maps--including the image, explanatory text, data tables, and more--are available for free download and printing. That "HIV Prevalence" map is a stunner.

9.13.2007

Why I Can't Look After Patches: The Reference Book

Great Personal Letters for Busy People: 501 Ready-to-Use Letters for Every Occasion was in my inbox this morning: a new reference book to add to the collection. I'm afraid I've been reading it like a novel on my breaks ever since.

On first opening it I found:

"Dear Pastor Murphy,
It's been such a pleasure listening to your sermons these past few months. I can't tell you how delighted I am that you chose to settle in our parish. I'm sorry only that we haven't gotten a chance to know each other better. Will you be our guest for dinner on Saturday night? I'll be making my grandmother's fried chicken, and Herb has promised to whip up one of his famous tortes for dessert. You needn't bring a thing except maybe a hat, as we'll be eating on the lawn if the weather's nice..."

[Occasion: "Inviting Clergy to Dinner"]

"Dear Victoria,

I cannot thank you enough for the flawless technical support that you've given me over the last couple of months. The slides that you created for the Glazton presentation were a big hit, and the multimedia extravaganza unfolded on cue with perfect precision..."

[Occasion: "Appreciation of Technical Support"]

After a deeper perusal, I landed on

"Mike,

Sounds like you and Michelle have a great trip lined up. I could use a couple of weeks on the beach myself. With the way things are going at work, though, I won't be taking a vacation anytime soon. In fact, most nights I'll probably be working past eight. That's why I can't look after Patches while you're gone..."

[Occasion: "Declining a Request to Petsit"]

and

"Dear Dave,

I can't help cringing when I think about our argument at the ball game last weekend, about what a self-righteous blowhard I was...

[Occasion: "After an Argument with a Friend"]

...and so on. I haven't had this much fun paging through a book of letters since Joe Wenderoth's Letters To Wendy's. My first reaction was self-righteous horror (or blowhardism?): Can't people put down their Uncrustables long enough to write a nice note to the new clergyman these days? But then: who really wants to put her brain towards writing these kinds of sentences?--and these kinds of sentences are often expected and even successful, appreciated, loved.

I am reluctant to place Great Personal Letters for Busy People: 501 Ready-to-Use Letters for Every Occasion on the print reference shelf, where it will no doubt go unnoticed, gather dust, and ultimately be weeded away for lack of use. It's wonderfully browseable, and I would like to place it in the humor section, or in fiction (Could it be remarketed as a trendily wry novel called The Letter Writer?).

9.05.2007

Before "mashups" were "Stuff To Do To Google Maps": a primer

"For he is Ishi--the last of his tribe"
"Couldn't help noticing your aftershave"
The mind that takes this in its stride
is yours and mine, and it is late

--Anselm Hollo

As a kid, I loved both the Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C. version of "Walk This Way" and the club scene in "Xanadu" where the young guy's bad '80s rock vision ("Lover, I won't take a backseat...") melds with the older guy's '40s vision ("I want to dance with you
til the sun comes creepin' thru-u") (see it on YouTube)--two songs that, along with a bunch of Charles Ives' work, seem like natural precursors to mashups. Mashups (music, not app) may be my favorite form of "user-created content"--definitely what I'd be most itching to make if I had the tech.

If you're not familiar, a mashup is a new song created from two or more songs. Mashups got a lot of press 2-4 years ago (remember Danger Mouse's Jay-Z/Beatles mashup "The Grey Album"--or at least the hype around it?), but big media fascination seems to have died fairly quickly. I haven't heard many--okay, any--people talking about mashups offline for years.

I still love them, love the little disoriented feeling some give me upon first listen, the slightly chaotic position they put my brain in: two songs! at once! Holding two songs equally in your head is like thinking while driving in fast-but-thick traffic. Or, as the Hollo poem above has it, living in the 20th or 21st century. The most dissonant mashups make excellent morning commute music.

Many mashups are not at all dissonant, but seamless--sounding as though entirely original, the parts fit together so well (see "Sexual High" below). (Note: "seamless" loses value [for me] if the mash isn't a little clever--Go Home Productions has a mash of "We Will Rock You" with "Back In Black" that's entirely smooth, but a no-brainer, a puzzle anyone could have figured out). Many mashups are successful mainly as experiments (things you might want to listen to and admire once or twice--like the mashes of Eminem's "Without Me" and Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" or the Benny Hill Theme and 50 Cent's "In Da Club") ; many aren't even successful that way (There's a difference between "interestingly dissonant" and "violently clashing"). The following, a handful of my favorites, are, I think, wildly successful (even revelatory--see "Sexual High" again) as songs in their own right, and I highly recommend them to anyone just encountering this form.

Oh, yeah: I highly recommend encountering this form. If you decide to download only one of these, make it the already-much-mentioned "Sexual High." Only three? Add "Callin' On Sunday" and "Making Plans for Vinyl." The rest, as you see fit. They're especially fun to listen to when you're familiar with both (or all) of the source songs--and when the source songs are from very different genres. I've arranged them by mashup artist.

Mark Vidler/Go Home Productions
Vidler is currently offering a retrospective of his mashups for free download (click link), including those below. If you're at all interested, don't miss it--availability will expire soon.

"Making Plans for Vinyl"--XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel" and Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)"
--I used to love "Making Plans for Nigel." This is better.

"The Weather Episode"--Crowded House's "The Weather With You"/Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre

"Karma in the Life"-- Beatles' "In the Life"/Radiohead's "Karma Police"

"Sexual High"--Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing"/Radiohead's "High and Dry" (not available on site, try here)
--I love Marvin Gaye, but I've always found "Sexual Healing" creepy ("Wake up, wake up" my ass, you old perv). Stripped of its bumbling electronic bassline and accompanied by Radiohead's gentle guitar riff, it finally becomes for me a song about what it really is about--longing, not just sidling up and trying to get some.

"Shannon Stone" --Shannon's "Let the Music Play" and the Rolling Stones

"Rapture Riders"--Blondie's "Rapture" and the Doors' "Riders On The Storm"
--really kicks when Debbie Harry comes in with the "Fab Five Freddy" rap towards the end

Party Ben (all available on site for free download)
"Callin' On Sunday" --a mash of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and Lyric's Born's "Callin' Out"
--Sublime. I was surprised at how nice it was to NOT hear Bono's vocal.

"Galvanize the Empire"--The Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize" and John Williams' Stormtrooper March
--Kitschy as it is, this somehow moves beyond being one of those "mere experiments"...I'm not a big Star Wars fan, but I can imagine the blast this was on the dance floor when it debuted (Party Ben, like many mashup artists, is a DJ). Hear it on YouTube, without having to download anything, here (might have to close your eyes to concentrate [grin]).

Irn Mnky
"J.C.R.E.A.M. [Johnny Cash Rules Everything Around Me]"--Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" and Wu Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M."
--Extra credit for only having to change one word in the title. Hear it instantly here on YouTube (NOTE: there's no visual--someone just posted it so we could listen).

Dangerous Orange
"Hurts Like Teen Spirit" --Johnny Cash's "Hurt," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" and something by New Order.
--There's no improving on the original Cash track, but this is a good example of a masher handling more than two tracks deftly, and I like the way the Blue Oyster Cult vocals seem to rise and swirl through the song, like past ghosts haunting Cash's persona.

Pheugoo
"Like I Love Your Generation"--Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You"/Bob Sinclar's "Love Generation"
--This sounds a little off at first. I think Sinclar's chord progressions are in tune with Timberlake's vocal, but they're not the same as those used in the original "Like I Love You"--a shift my brain has a hard time accepting. A minute into the track, when Sinclar's vocals are added into the mix, all doubts are erased--this is skillful, even beautiful.

"Twilight Back"--Timberlake's "Sexy Back"/2 Unlimited's "Twilight Zone"
--Like an energy drink mixed with an energy drink. Hear it now, without downloading, in this YouTube video.

Norwegian Recycling
"How Six Songs Collide"--Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," Howie Day's "Collide," Five for Fighting's "Superman," Angela Ammons' "Always Getting Over You," something from Boyzone and...?
--A little light for my taste, but lovely and well-done--almost makes hearing Howie Day palatable. Hear it immediately, without downloading, on YouTube here [I'm starting to realize that YouTube is as much a listening station as a video site].

DJ Clivester
"Am I Undone?"--Erasure's "Am I Right?"/Korn's "Coming Undone"/Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice"
--I love Chorus-era Erasure, but "Am I Right?" is undoubtedly the suckiest song they ever recorded. I'm amazed that anyone picked it up, brushed it off, and tried to make something of it. More amazed that he did a good job. Click on the link to hear it without having to download.

Robotic Intergalactic Astro-Artists (RIAA)
"Intergalactic Centerfold" (scroll down to #16 to play, without having to download)--Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic Planetary"/J. Geils Band "Centerfold"
--I haven't heard the rest of "Sounds for the Space-Set" yet, but can't wait: how can you not love a song called "Head Like a Moog"? (NOTE: Beastie Boys mashups are practically their own genre, and no mention would be complete without The Beastles--dj BC's mashups of the Beasties and the Beatles. I've not yet heard them.)


Some mashup sites for finding more:
Mashup Industries
Mashuptown
goodblimey (currently down, back on 9/9/07)

8.31.2007

Tackily following up the KSM-verbatim post with one today by Jonathan Mayhew that speaks to me similarly:

There's an interesting fault-line between poets who see technique and craft as essential and those who get impatient with that. In Creeley's letter to Rothenberg on the deep he expresses a certain impatience with those who write off the engagement of the poet with the language itself. Creeley says it's not the time to do away with the technical innovations of O'Hara, Creeley himself, Williams, Ginsberg--at exactly the time when Bly was proposing to do just that.

A lot of poets who don't believe in engagement with language end up not going as far as they might have. At some point they come up against a set of serious limitations.

I think this fault-line is more significant than the avant/quietude one.


My comment at Jonathan's: Hear, hear. And, for me, a quietude poem/poet that interestingly engages with language can be more welcome than an avant one that does not, never mind my usual bent. I think there has been a widespread assumption that avant poems by default "engage with language"--no, no, no they don't.

8.30.2007

Innovation, novelty, feeling--

Great post from Kasey and I haven't even finished reading it, so apologies there, but I want to quote all that I've read for those who might not get over to {LIME TREE} on a regular basis (after this point it becomes less general--a review of Human Resources by Rachel Zolf). I've completely slipped out of "posts of substance" at Poesy Galore (I think there were a few back in 2005), and I regret that. Things don't get from the brain to the blog, somehow, and it's not like riding a bicycle.

But I have been thinking just this for a while. Thanks to Kasey for articulating and writing it:

We have been dealing for some time now with that awkward moment in contemporary poetic practice where innovation and novelty give way to the basic problem of reflecting the state of human language with a feeling accuracy. "Feeling" is the key term here, for while it is valid to object that anyone can slap together a jumble of computer code, spam text, and instant messaging slang and call it a poem, it is more useful to acknowledge that such materials really are a significant portion of what the poet now has to work with, and that if one is truly interested in contemporary poetry, one must reckon with these materials--or rather, their application--in a way that is neither superficially celebratory nor blindly dismissive.

The problem of separating a facile from an artful engagement with "a selection of language really used by men," as Wordsworth put it, is that radical historical changes in such language occur at a pace that appears both gradual and dramatic to its reflective users (e.g., poets). The sense of newness is perpetually at war with the sense that this is what we've settled into without even noticing it starting. The poet who treats it as a novelty will write verse that is at best novel, at worst cynically fashionable. The poet who works with an actual feeling for the language in its awkward transitional throes is the rarer case. In the context of language as it has been transformed specifically by recent online communication technology, for example, I think of artists like Alan Sondheim not just as pioneers but as feeling pioneers.

It's important not to dilute "feeling" as I mean it here with a simplistic sense of "emotion," or "authenticity." I'm talking about feeling in the sense of the carpenter's feel for wood and awl, or the sewist's for fabric and thread: in other words, "craft," but more than mechanical craft. Craft as it is defined by the craftsperson's aesthetic attunement to the materials. What does it mean to have a sympathetic "feel" for computer code, for hack ad copy, for typo-ridden cable news tickers? Whereas Wordsworth embraced "common speech" out of affection (however paternalistic and "romanticized") for the working classes, our relation to today's common speech is invariably more conflicted, if not downright anxious. Can materials that seem degraded not just to a literary establishment, but often to the poet herself, be used "feelingly" in the way I'm trying to get at here?

Answering this question is, as I see it, one of the primary tasks of contemporary poetics.

-- K. Silem Mohammad

8.29.2007

The opening of an 8/29 article by a college sophomore, Cassie Gentry, on her job at the library:

"A nun, while waving a two-foot crucifix over me, called me an immodest and sinful dresser. A strange man of questionable intentions and even more questionable body odor proposed marriage to me. A ten-year-old berated me for refusing to page his brother over the PA system and ask where his Playstation memory card was. A father insisted I harshly scold his five-year-old son for breaking the binding on a book to 'teach him a lesson.'

And yet, people constantly remark how easy it must be to work at the library. They envision the circulation desk staff sitting at expansive desks, flipping through literary journals or thick leather-bound novels and pausing only to exchange intelligent conversation with academics who have decided to check out something along the lines of War and Peace.

Not so much."

Check out the rest--it's a fun, quick read. Oddest patron request I ever had at a library? A phone call from a man who'd left his glass eye in the men's room and asked if I could retrieve it and hold it at the desk so he could come pick it up (I did).

8.27.2007


Via BoingBoing: a 1945 deck of tarot cards made by Slovenian architect and painter Boris Kobe while he was living as a political prisoner in Allach concentation camp, a sub-camp of Dachau. See the whole deck at the University of Minnesota's Holocaust and Genocide Studies page.

8.20.2007

The Loft Announces Winners of the 2007-08 Loft Mentor Series Competition

"Poetry mentors Rafael Campo and Heid Erdrich chose poets Polly Carden, Chrissy Kolaya, Emily Lloyd and Marie Olofsdotter for the program..."

Note: a winner in the fiction category, Loren Taylor, is also a Hennepin County Librarian. And the 2007 Minnesota Book Award winner for a novel was Maureen Millea Smith, a Hennepin County Librarian.
Recent favorite mp3s rounded up by The Hype Machine (links are time-sensitive):

*1969 -- Montt Mardie
*The Private Life of a Cat -- The Lovekevins
*Blue Motorbike -- Moto Boy
*The Best Prescription Pill Available -- The Situation
one link for all four; scroll to download

*Pluto -- Clare and the Reasons
*Click, Click, Click, Click -- Bishop Allen
one link for these two; scroll to download

*Cowbell -- Tapes n' Tapes
scroll to download

If I didn't love the Hype Machine for the ease of finding great free music I might not have heard otherwise, I'd love it for the ease of discovering great song titles ("The Private Life of a Cat") and band names (The Lovekevins)--it's fun just to look.

Favorite two band names I've come across there:

That Summer, At Home, I Had Become The Invisible Boy
(which is a quote from...name that movie)

and

That's Him! That's The Guy!
(which is a quote from...name that TV show)

8.17.2007

"How Your Depressed Partner Feels"

I was talking to a patron (at work I have to call them "customers," but I think "patrons" sounds more respectful, less cheap) today about depression and anxiety--how hard it is for loved ones who don't "get it," how hard it is to watch one's loved ones not getting it. I wrote an article attempting to explain it to those who'd never been through it a few years back, and dug it up for him on the web. It was published in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, a GLBTQ journal in Rehoboth Beach, DE (I wrote monthly columns then). I've decided to re-post it here, because I think it still works and says stuff that one can't say when one's in the thick of it. Here goes:


How Your Depressed Partner Feels

I do nothing. I sit. I stare at the screen, where a cute sad dot takes Zoloft and starts to smile. For the first time in five years, my drugs have stopped working.

My partner, who I’ve been with for four, has never known the me that seems on her way back. If I become as sick as I was before, I won’t be able to help her through it. I’ll be more log than partner, less companionable than a house fly. I won’t have the will to describe what hurts, and how.

I want to try now, while I can taste it, for her and for anyone who has a depressed partner, to describe how it feels.

Being alive is desperately uncomfortable, like a drive-you-crazy case of poison ivy. For a while you try to find the thing that will make you feel better: another cigarette, a certain food or drink. But nothing does—not these, and not the love and concern of your partner and friends. Those things can actually feel burdensome: you want to be "up" for them, enough to assure them of something, when all the while you feel like you’re in a different, barely livable dimension. You know you’re hurting their feelings because you can’t make long eye contact (it’s painful to look at them while feeling so far away from them) or smile (it feels phony, and being phony with someone you love feels terrible) and seem unwilling to try—but you are trying; you’re trying every minute, struggling your ass off.

I remember lying completely still all day for months, a blanket pulled over my head, looking as if I was "giving in" to my depression. I was working so damn hard under that blanket! And what I was doing was trying not to kill myself. The feeling that I needed to was as urgent as a healthy person’s need to breathe. Staying alive felt not like being Sisyphus, pushing a rock uphill every day for eternity, but like being Prometheus, chained to a rock, his liver eaten out by vultures every day for all time. Most mentally healthy people feel like Sisyphus at one time or another, but few feel like Prometheus. I hope to Zeus I never do again.

However extreme it sounds, not killing myself at that time was an excruciating sacrifice made again every second for my family. To lay down my (mentally healthy, mostly) life for them now would not be as large. When you’re that sick, the desire to "free" yourself of life is no less instinctual than the actions of the fox that gnaws off his leg to get free of a trap. My wrists, then, were as tempting and magnetic to me as the object of an obsessive crush. I bought wristbands to hide them from myself. I kept peeking. I resorted to sitting on my wrists most of the time. I wasn’t afraid I would slit them, nothing that delicate. I was afraid I’d gnaw through them.

Try to understand this if a clinically depressed person you love attempts or successfully commits suicide. Don’t plague yourself—or the person, if s/he lives—with Why?s. The three preceding paragraphs are why.

There are as many myths and preconceptions about clinically depressed people as there are about gays and lesbians. The only things we haven’t been accused of yet are having a "mentally ill agenda" and hanging around restrooms trying to seduce kids into a life of nervous breakdowns.

Knowing that some hold these myths about my depression is as painful to me as knowing that others hold them about my homosexuality. So, in closing, two quick attempts at myth-dispelling.

1. People With Depression Should "Buck Up" and Get Over It. People with mild depressive periods may be able to "buck up" and get through, but asking this of someone with a major depressive disorder is akin to asking a diabetic to "be a man" and forgo insulin. The longer someone seriously ill tries to buck up without seeking help, the worse and more damaging his or her depression may get. I "bucked up" for three years before coming out depressed. When I finally did, it was only because my legs were shaking so badly I couldn’t stand up. I was afraid to leave my bedroom. And I was due on campus to teach two sections of English 101.

2. You Should Be Able to Snap Out of Depression Because It’s "All In Your Mind." Um, is there any worse place it could be? If I had broken ribs, I could do something to "take my mind off" the pain. But a broken mind’s always with you. There’s no way to outrun it, no distraction, no relief.

I think we find that hard to believe or accept because we find it so hard to imagine. I hope that, this article notwithstanding, you and yours will always find it hard to imagine. I was originally thinking of titling this "Depression: Clip N’ Save!" But I hope you never need it. I hope your lover never needs it. And I hope, in a few weeks, with me on a new, effective drug cocktail, mine won’t need it.

8.16.2007

The "They Feed They Lion" Effect

Jonathan Mayhew recently posted about that poem that draws one to a writer's work, only to find out that the rest of her work doesn't...quite...click. I commented that I'd call this the "The Feed They Lion" effect, after Philip Levine's pulse-raising, anaphora-working, phenomenal early poem, the first strophe of which is still one of the most exciting I've ever read:

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.


I mean, Jesus, that's good. And though Levine wrote other decent poems, none of them ever had the thrill for me--or the ear, the command of syllables--as "They Feed They Lion." If I didn't know he'd written it, I wouldn't guess that he had.

Jonathan mentions Strand's "Keeping Things Whole" as another example (I never liked that one, but I know what he means: it's more striking than most later Strand). And he wonders, well, is this because nothing excites us as much as the first poem we love by a poet? Whatever we encounter first, we love most (I think of hearing a cover song repeatedly before hearing the original, and never liking the original as much, even if it's clearly better). I'm not sure. And I think there's a reverse capacity--to be turned off by the first poems one reads by a certain poet, only to later be shocked at intriguing work from the same hand ("Anyone lived in a pretty how town" in no way prepared me for "nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands").

Somehow, with Levine, I think it's more to do with that poem than with the fact that it's the first I read. I'm sure I read it in an anthology and that it was followed up with some competent other Levines--it wasn't like it was years before I'd come to read the so-so stuff, or that it wasn't contemporaneous with Lion.

Where did that one come from? A dream? A high? A more electrifying poet channeled?

(PS--at GMU we were assigned the classic "7 up, 7 down" experiment where you choose a poem and replace each noun, verb, etc., with one you find roughly 7 up or down in the dictionary. I ended up with "They Federalize They Lips" [grin])

8.15.2007

It's the craft vote that can no longer be ignored...


There's a hilarious short article at Slate on "crafting the vote" ("Forget NASCAR dads and security moms—it's the craft vote that can no longer be ignored"), including a swift gallery of crafts for Democrats and Republicans. Love the national security level quilt, above.

Common Misperceptions About the Eden Prairie Library

I love the library I work at and actually [gulp] take pride in it--so it was a real treat (yes, I've said "real treat" and "take pride" in one sentence--did I mention I recently turned 33?) yesterday to see the results of the teen YouTube contest we ran over the summer (we're the first Hennepin County library to run one). Below is the winner, "Common Misperceptions About the Eden Prairie Library." A link to the also excellent runners-up follows.


YouTube contest at Eden Prairie Winners

8.08.2007

"Rep. Bob Allen cites fear of black men, weather in oral sex arrest"

Sorry no posts for so long--lotsa craziness here, including a totalled car last week (no injuries, no fault). From BoingBoing this morning:

Representative Bob Allen, a Republican in the Florida House of Representatives, blamed the weather and his fear of black men for offering $20 to perform oral sex on a man in a public park. The man turned out to be an undercover police officer, who promptly arrested Allen.

365gay has more on what happened:
Titusville Officer Danny Kavanaugh who was on plainclothes duty says he observed Allen entering the washroom twice. Kavanaugh said he was drying his hands in a stall when Allen peered over the stall door.

The officer's report said that after peering over the stall a second time, Allen pushed open the door and joined Kavanaugh inside. Allen muttered "'hi" and then said, "'this is kind of a public place, isn't it,'" the report said.

Kavanaugh wrote that he asked Allen about going somewhere else and Allen suggested going "across the bridge, it's quieter over there."

"Well look, man, I'm trying to make some money; you think you can hook me up with 20 bucks?" Kavanaugh wrote in the report that he had asked Allen.

The Republican lawmaker, the report said, replied, "Sure, I can do that, but this place is too public."

According to Kavanaugh's statement, the officer said, "do you want just (oral sex)?" and Allen replied, "I was thinking you would want one."

It was at that point Allen was arrested.

Towleroad.com reports:

When Allen was loaded into the patrol car, the statement said, he asked if "it would help" that he was a state legislator.

"No," the officer said.

Soon after taking office in 2001, Allen was one of 21 Florida legislators to sign Gov. Jeb Bush's friend-of-the-court brief supporting the state's ban on gays adopting children.

In March, he co-sponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have enhanced penalties for "offenses involving unnatural and lascivious acts" such as indecent exposure.

The Florida Times Union reports: "In his seven years in the Legislature Rep. Bob Allen of Merritt Island has built up a 92 percent approval rating with the Christian Coalition of Florida on issues like abortion, marriage and pornography."

[Note from PG: Kavanaugh is black, and the weather was bad--Allen says he took shelter in the restroom because of the weather, and was afraid to not offer Kavanaugh a blowjob because Kavanaugh is black]

7.29.2007

I thought "Toxic" as recorded by Britney Spears was great. Then I heard the Mark Ronson cover featuring Ol' Dirty Bastard and Tiggers (scroll to download).

7.11.2007

Jeffy is so sick of chicken...


"It is always consoling to think of suicide:
in that way one gets through many a bad night."

The Nietzsche Family Circus generator, which loads a random FC panel with a random Nietzsche quote, makes me happy. A Gertrude Stein Family Circus might make me even happier.

7.05.2007

Shelf Check

...there's been a bit more interest in Shelf Check, the library cartoon I started in April but didn't exactly keep up with (this blog had less library-type, more poet-type readers at the time). I'll be updating it more regularly from now on, and I've added a link to it in my sidebar. Today's cartoon: Jan's Dirty Secret.

7.04.2007

Whatever ambivalence (at best) I have about celebrating the USA, I've got none about the ladies of low brass: watch Bones Apart tackle the Stars & Stripes Forever.

Incidentally: worse travesty I ever saw on stage was also on the 4th, at D.C.'s celebration on the mall: James Galway performed "76 Trombones" on piccolo.

6.27.2007

email from my brother this a.m.:

Greetings--
Below is the flight and hotel info for our upcoming Aruba trip. Bask in its glory and feel the unrequited Carribean bliss. Wallow in your domestic, provincial surroundings as we recline on white sands and clear water for as far as the eye can see. Attempt--and fail--to vicariously experience the unrelenting rest and relaxation that will commence all too soon. Contain your seething jealousy and desire to be as we are and go where we go, refraining from physical violence or other destructive outlets. Instead wear masks of polite and tactful encouragement, feigning altruistic happiness while secretly longing to wring our oiled, tanned, & well-massaged necks.

My emailed response to my brother this a.m.:

Enjoy! And may you be unable to get the Beach Boys' "Kokomo" out of your head the entire time you're in Aruba, Jamaica, ooooooh I wanna take ya, especially during sexual relations, to Bermuda, Bahamas, or should I say, during those times that might have been exquisite for having, Come on pretty mama, sexual Key Largo relations, but will not be, Montego, because you will not Baby why don't we go, be able down to perform with all those Kokomo Beach Boys crooning as if into your very skull and soul.

I can bring home the bacon...



...sketch it up in the panel.

Yikes. A 1938 letter from Disney rejecting Mary Ford's application to their animators' school reads: Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school. (via BoingBoing)

I just love the logic: "Women do not..." [Why?] "...because that work is performed entirely by young men."

One also wonders what the cut-off age for "young men" was. "Yo, Gramps, keep yer hand steady, looks like yer Mickey's crumpin'!"

6.26.2007

Library Hack: lit mags, free

Lifehacker ran a post on "library hacks" a while back. Here's my own hack for the poetry-reading, no-longer-have-access-to-academic-libraries crowd: find out if your public library subscribes to Academic Search Premier, a database containing the full text of tons of academic journals...and lit journals. Yes--you can be mildly disgusted by the current issue of Poetry for free without having to skim it surreptitiously at Barnes & Noble!

In Academic Search Premier, click on "Publications" to search for a journal. If it's there (and offers more than just the bibliographic records, which many mags do), click on the journal's name and presto--the full text of every issue, often going back years. American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Chicago Review, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, etc., are all available in full text. It's also a good way to check out a journal's bent over time if you're looking for places to submit. If only it had the full text of Pleiades, or The Canary, or...

6.23.2007

Ed Dorn

I've been a restless reader lately: the new Chabon comes in on reserve for me, I want the new McEwan instead. I check out 30 library books, end up rereading something from my own shelves. The one book I've been successful at returning to (as opposed to reading a piece of, then dropping) amidst all this is Edward Dorn's Way More West: New and Selected Poems. Anyone who has been in a marching band--or hell, attended a parade--might actually need Dorn's "Sousa" [selections]:

Great brass bell of austerity
and the ghosts of old picnickers
ambling under the box-elder when the sobriety
was the drunkeness. John,

you child, you drumhead, there is no silence
you can't decapitate...

Your soft high flute and brass
remind me of a lost celebration I can't
quite remember,
in which I volunteered as conqueror...

I sing Sousa.
The desire to disentegrate the Earth
is eccentric...


Then, on the next page, this:

Like a Message on Sunday

Sits
the forlorn plumber
by the river
with his daughter
staring at the water
then, at her
his daughter closely.

Once World, he came
to our house to fix the stove
and couldn't
oh, we were arrogant and talked
about him in the next room, doesn't
a man know what he is doing?

Can't it be done right,
World of iron thorns.
Now they sit by the meagre river
by the water...stare
into that plumber
so that I can see a daughter in the water
she thin and silent,
he, wearing a baseball cap
in a celebrating town this summer season
may they live on

on, may their failure be kindly, and come
in small pieces.


That I keep returning to Way More West means I'm on page 23.
I want to keep reading.

6.18.2007

eye licorice allsorts

Images I've bookmarked in the last few weeks--


"Elephant With Exploding Dust" (from Nick Brandt's On This Earth)


"AT-AT the Playground" by Casey Weldon (more Weldon paintings) (via Neatorama)



photos of shattering statues by Martin Klimas (via kottke)







Mark Jenkins: Street Installations (scroll for giraffe and similar installations)



Jialiang Gao's photograph of a terraced planting area in Yunnan province, China (via Neatorama)



(also pretty madly in love with Grace Weston's photographs [flash slideshow]--via Neatorama)

6.14.2007

One Sentence

Sentences kick paragraphs' asses.

I remember reading Stein's How To Write--"a sentence is not emotional a paragraph is"--and disagreeing more than I usually do with her, not least because one of the most evocative sentences I've ever read was hers, when describing the interior of a house in "The Good Anna": And everywhere were little things that break.

Another favorite, from Vonnegut: Like so many Americans, she was trying to cobble together a life from things she had found in gift shops.

Yesterday, I stumbled on One Sentence, a blog that features "true stories, told in one sentence" (each from a different author). While some read like PostSecrets without the art ("He threw the condom out the car door when we were finished over a year ago, but I still feel guilty that I didn't stop him from littering"--can't you just see the postcard?), others are interesting as sentences-in-themselves:

The man's face was so badly decomposed that the cop asked me, "Well, does this look like something he would have done with his hair?"

I sat by a peat fire in Ireland and picked fat ticks off an orange cat with heated tweezers for three hours while reading Joyce. (ok, stopped believing at "Joyce"--but still fun)

It's the emptiest feeling in the world when you know your friends are out having fun, and you are at your dining room table, weeping and scrapbooking. (the "scrapbooking" seals it for me)

I was closing a cereal box one night when I became very aware of my height.

So I told her "When you go to college try to send me a letter."

I realized it was Sunday when I drove up to Chick-fil-a and it was closed.

Worth adding to your feeds, I think.

6.13.2007

challenge




Nina Katchadourian exhibits a great way to stack your books. Given the time, it'd be fun to do this before having guests of the kind that go straight to your bookshelves over (I'm one such guest). Can't wait to get home and see what my shelves yield. And yours?
Best library outreach I've seen in a while: smack in the middle of the Midtown Farmer's Market last week in Minneapolis, East Lake Library (located about 10 blocks from the market--a Minneapolis, not Hennepin County, library) was holding a storytime and will weekly. Clearly posted was info about other storytimes and summer offerings available at the branch. Bravissimo!

6.07.2007

how would you kiss you?

Via Kottke, a Photoshopped series of people kissing themselves. What's fascinating are not the images so much as seeing how people chose to approach themselves: some erotically, some tenderly, some shyly, some matter-of-factly. There's a whiff of "consciousness raising exercise" here, and I think how much easier (and more natural-feeling) it would be to pose slapping myself or shaking myself by the shoulders. There are 27 photos in the series--take a look.

5.08.2007


What a great coffee-table (and identity studies) book idea: Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators, by Robbie Cooper (via BoingBoing).

More images from the book:
Gallery One
Gallery Two

5.04.2007

Brilliant! A small grocery store in Emo, Ontario is beating the prices of a nearby Wal-Mart by buying bulk items at Sam's Club [owned by Wal-Mart, and on the US border, like Emo], then selling them for lower-than-Wal-Mart (but higher than Sam's Club) prices. Signs on their shelves advertise that their prices are lower than Wal-Mart's.

"It's been good business," says Cloverleaf Grocery co-owner Dan Loney, "Our sales are way up since Wal-Mart came."

5.02.2007

"5 books of poetry that haven't really been hugely in the spotlight but that you highly recommend" cont.

4. Lara Glenum's The Hounds of No (Action Books, 2005)

The news that there's an excellent-looking new issue of ACTION YES out that includes Glenum's AWP panel paper "Notes on Women & the Grotesque" (haven't gotten to read it yet) reminded me that I wanted to add The Hounds of No to my list.

I first encountered Glenum's work in POM2 and I absolutely flipped for it. I ended up writing a poem for POM2 that incorporated phrases from her piece. Expressions like "one of our finest poets" or "among the best of her generation" make me puke, but...Hounds is an important book. And brilliant and meaty and bloody and only ten dollars--!

Here's a poem from the book, previously published in DIAGRAM:

"Medea and the Snow-Angels"

4.27.2007

epigraphs

I opened up Gail Godwin's 2006 novel Queen of the Underworld--a "scantily-clad autobiographical novel set in 1950s Miami," according to Publisher's Weekly--to find this epigraph:

Caminante, no hay camino.
Se hace camino al andar.

--Antonio Machado

which I recognized as the epigraph to another book, Carolyn Forche's 1976 Gathering the Tribes. A list of books or poems that share the same epigraph might be fascinating. Anyone know off-hand of any others?

4.21.2007

"5 books of poetry"--#3

Catherine Wagner's Macular Hole (Fence Books, 2004). Here are one and a half poems for a sample--first, the half (the second half of the poem's formatting is beyond my capabilities):

I walked in the house
--Catherine Wagner

I walked in the house
on the flat aspect of the wood
I took rectangular instruction of the wood

when I walked I turned at the wall
and on the flat I moved steadily

unimpeded, not tumbling, climbing, or short of breath.
I walked in ease on the flat.

Something electric charged into our account
and zinged out of it, pre-instructed

and paid for the house. I felt
house on my heel then instep and toe.
I had a bad foot and I paid
to get it fixed so I could walk here.
I paid for the house and I paid for the
foot that touches it. I paid to be
directed rectangularly and down a hall.
I curved my body to direct
my waste through a hole. I am helped
and paying for it.

[next poem]

Kill so we feel safe and comfortable
--Catherine Wagner

This is called Mississippi mash, this kind of kick--leg up,
foot smashed against both sides opponent's head,
or spinneret, foot comes round your body
turning backward fast, and hooks 'em.
Squeezed tight between my legs
so we feel safe and comfortable.
Who's my fucker? Who will be my special fucker?
"5 books of poetry" cont.--

2. Kaia Sand's Interval (Edge, 2004). Edge is Rod Smith's press, and I like it. They also published Heather Fuller's perhaps this is a rescue fantasy (if I had it, I'd probably put it on this list, too--"Sudden Clutter" from that book is one of my favorite poems)

Madrigal for Jules
--Kaia Sand

Who are the egrets we eyed
as we feel searchingly
as we reveal

or who is the egret we mark
as we overturn pages
as we learn

how bookcliff's wonder to be fierce
now we lip salute without loss
gesture struck as we are

as red bougainvillea is kisses
of you [operatic bellows]
and redwood stout redwood sorrow

---

What is the bookcliff you climbed
as you forage for food
as you store

or what is the bookcliff you left
as you corral the simple
as you touch

how anthelion's seabright to be heard
now you pledge without restraint
aromatic lovely as you are

as a hand becomes a pocket
of you [harvest touch]
and sunflower strong sunflower equinox

--

When is the seabright we grace
as we daylight briskly
as we tithe

or when is the seabright we bash
as we river our worries
as we eclipse

how Utah's three gossips to be seen
now we candle without petals
barren stunned as we are

as the palimpsest is constructed
of you [farpost caress]
and ashen glovebox ashen beaches

--

Where are the three gossips they became
as they sigh for you
as they sacrifice

or where are the three gossips they burn
as they shed dominion
as they erode

how cave's mountain to be found
now it's luminous without sunlight
hidden faces as they are

as a candle wills a match
of you [voice of sun]
and trillium tongue trillium open

--

Why is the mountain we see
as we abacus click
as we arrive

or why is the mountain beyond
as we believe each other
as we disbelieve

how marsh's egrets depart
now we promenade without a stumble
certain as we are

as mesas are an arm's length
of you [aspen quivering]
and sidereal year sidereal awe
There's a "5 books of poetry that haven't really been hugely in the spotlight but that you highly recommend" thing going around. I'll post my 5 over the next day or so, with a representative poem from each. Here's one for tonight:

1. Kathleen Ossip's The Search Engine (APR, 2002)
Here's one asskicking poem--go on, send it to Ma on Mother's Day:

My 20th Century
--Kathleen Ossip

We are having tea and
dobosh torte, my mother
and I, dressed in hobble
skirts and buttoned boots,
in Peacock Alley of the
old Waldorf (She thrives on
luxury.) Hey, Ma, I say,
this Sigmund Freud says neuroses
arise from repressed sexual
fantasies! She clatters her cup
in a kind of trance.

We're having tea and Ritz
crackers, my mother and I,
dressed in chemises, shingled and
bobbed, in the sitting room
of my first apartment. (She's
a little jealous.) Hey,
Ma, I say, Susan Anthony
won! We're getting the vote!
She moves like a brown
bird on a brown branch.

We're having tea--the sugar
is rationed--my mother and
I, wearing trousers and snoods,
in a soldier's canteen. (I'm
her supervisor.) Hey, Ma, I
say, have you seen that
movie about Scarlett O'Hara, the
heroine who proves, once and
for all, that a woman
can be hard as nails
yet loved by millions? She
hefts a widget, not too friendly.

We're having drinks in the
Sputnik Lounge, in daydresses and
ballerina slippers. (She's dating a
pilot.) Hey, Ma, I say,
y'know Rock Hudson, that
actor you like? Well, I just
read in Tittle-Tattle... She
hits a high note like
a wigged castrato.

We're taking spoonfuls of blue-
green algae in the solarium
of the nursing home (I'm
getting tired; her joints are
sprightly.) We're dressed in
leopardskin aerobicwear. Hey,
Ma, I say, there's this
guy who says all religions
derive from a shared mythology.
What do you think? She
swivels and rides
away on her trike.

I'm eating bread and water
alone, naked as the day
I was born. Hey, Ma,
I say, though she's not
around, you won't believe this.
Physicists say that in
addition to a yes and a
no, the universe contains a maybe.
Off in the distance, under the stars,
she moves like a platypus,
neither here nor there.

4.12.2007

We do, doodily do, doodily do, doodily do
what we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must,
muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.


RIP Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (died last night, at age 84)

4.11.2007

Reference Question of the Week (to date)

Man: I've been doing some genealogical research, and I found out there was a DIVORCE [shudders] in my family! It was the husband who registered the complaint, but I can't tell what it was for...can you find me a list of the grounds for divorce in 1810 in [state name]?

Me: [looking them up] Uh, adultery...

Man: Oh [looking worried]...I can't imagine she would have done that. No, I don't think so. [Remember, this is not someone he's ever met]

Me: Drunkenness for a period of one year...

Man: No. No, I can't imagine.

Me: Impotence...

Man: But we're talking about a woman.

Me: Says here that, in legal terms, "impotence" can apply to a man or a woman.

Man: Huh.

Me: ...and "felony cruelty."

Man: [looking relieved] I bet that's it! She was CRUEL! [leaves happy]

4.08.2007

3.16.2007

Good lord, someone censored the entire Vigeland Sculpture Park (one of the places I most want to visit someday) overnight--children's nipples included (more coverage here).

2.20.2007

Textorizer

Well, this is effing cool: upload a pic into Textorizer, and it replaces the strongest lines with lines of text you provide. To try it out, I fed it this picture, from when I was maid of honor in my sister's wedding:



and entered "maid of honor" as the text to repeat.

Result? This.

What fun: turn that snapshot of the relatives at Thanksgiving into the lyrics of "Head Like a Hole"--or graphics of different types of cells into poems/entries from Hejinian's The Cell--or--or--

(one problem: I can't figure out how to save the image, so I could post it here rather than linking--anyone?)

2.16.2007

*cool idea: Tokyo's Eldercondos--keep mentally fit while aging by living in a kind of plastic hell. (I'd probably actually love living in one of these.)

*favorite recent Onion stories: "Touring Raffi Refuses To Play 'Shake My Sillies Out'," "Nation's Gays Demand Right To Library Cards"

*excitedly reading: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and Smokes by Susan Wheeler

*and listening: Arctic Monkeys

*and can't wait to read: China Mieville's new novel--his first written for YAs!

*What's the most extreme sacrifice you made for love this Valentine's Day? I watched The Lake House.

2.06.2007

The Secondary Sins, from Jessica Hagy, via BoingBoing

(I'm especially fond of the insight that quickies are sloth-based)

1.22.2007

Visual Poetry at YouTube

To check out: the Nick Carbo-founded Visual Poetry group at YouTube. Created on 01/01/07, there are 86 videos so far. Contributors include Carbo, Shin Yu Pai, miporadio/Didi Menendez, Nico Vassilakis, and others. A mix of visual poetry videos--pieces written for the medium--and "videos" for poems: the audio is a poet reading her work, the visual is associated images. The first college project I was proud of was a video I created for Margaret Atwood's "Speeches for Dr. Frankenstein"--I was a freshman, and paid my geeky high-school ex $30 to record and edit me with his at-the-time hi-tech film equipment. I'd kill for that VHS tape now, which the professor kept and has probably since taped over or chucked. The video sampled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Bambi Meets Godzilla," but was mostly original content overlayed with cheap video effects--for Atwood's line "The specimens/ranged on the shelves/applaud," I had 24 grinning Spaghettios cans in the frame, cycling through poppy color changes like Warhol's Maos. Sigh.

Here's a creepy little video of Plath reading "Lady Lazarus" by mishima1970.