Monday, November 30, 2009

home stretch

One more set of papers to get thru, one more day of classes. The familiar litany of the end of the semester, a rhythm I've been living for the better part of 3 decades now, counting my own college days. Looking forward to a quiet holiday stretch. We're going to New York for a few days as soon as grades are turned in, but will be at home doing familial things for most of Hanukah & Christmas itself. Trying to avoid consumerism; J.'s asked me for a want list several times now, but I can't for the life of me think of much I want – nothing, really, I need.

I read a stretch of newish books of poetry criticism over the past couple of weeks, found myself getting excited about my profession once again, as I do whenever I find the time to delve into what bright people are doing in it. I have problems will all of them, to one degree or another – Jennifer Ashton's From Modernism to Postmodernism, Charles Altieri's The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Jahan Ramazani's A Transnational Poetics – but they have a passion that proves infectious. Even more passionate, & more infectious, the last few books of poetry – Caroline Bergvall's Fig, Joan Retallack's Memnoir, K. Lorraine Graham's Terminal Humming (the full-length version). Wish I had the time & energy to add them properly to the "100 poem-books" list. I suspect, as the month grinds along, I'll get around to compiling a "most satisfying reads of 2009" list.

Certainly the most satisfying musical discovery lately has been hatchet-faced Lu Edmonds, player of the oddly minimalist-looking saz with the Mekons (cf. the video in the last post), whom a little detective work has shown to be Uncle Patrel Mustapha bin Mustapha, master cümbüs player of the late lamented 3 Mustaphas 3. Also, golly, a founding member of the Damned & the guitar player for the upcoming Public Image Ltd reunion tour. Yes, that's what I want for Christmas – an electric saz:

Yes, that's also known a "baglama" for you Turkic purists. But, heartened by Jahan Ramazani's paean to all things transnational, I like to think of myself as hybrid to the core, confidently switching cultural codes without bothering much about the details. And if I'm never able to master the Turkish scales, I can console myself with the fact that the most popular tuning of the saz/baglama, it turns out, is something called "buzuk" – identical to the top three strings of the Irish bouzouki. I've already got a leg up.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thankful for...

this, one of the greatest bands ever, still at the height of their powers: the Mekons earlier this year at the Bull & Gate, Kentish Town, playing one of the best songs of the century (well, so far), "Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem":

Doesn't get any better than this, even allowing for Jon's dreadful 'stache & Sally's occasional off-keyness. New love interest: Lu Edmonds's saz.

Monday, November 23, 2009

utopian Miami Beach

[Edward Wadsworth, Street Singers, woodcut, ca. 1914]

While I was busy introducing Barrett Watten, listening to his talk, & doing all the things one does when one has a visiting speaker Thursday night, J. was down in Miami Beach at the opening reception for this exhibit of British modernist prints at the Wolfsonian, Florida International U.'s museum of design. (Typical South Florida – nothing happens culture-wise for months, then the two events I'm most interested in fall right on the same day.)

I'm absolutely mad about the the Futurist-Vorticist British art of the teens & twenties, Edward Wadsworth, CRW Nevinson, David Bomberg, Wyndham Lewis, etc. So even tho J. had been there not two days before, we drug the whole family down yesterday afternoon. The Wolfsonian's show – which has been at the MFA in Boston & the Metropolitan in New York, & I believe is slated to move on to Austin – is wonderful, absolute angle-porn for a modernism-fancier like me. (Lots of great images here.) If you're in South Florida over the next three months, this is a must-see.

As we strolled around Miami Beach afterwards (and for those of you unfamiliar with the area, Miami Beach has a beach, but really isn't a beach – it's the heavily built-up barrier island between the city of Miami proper & the Atlantic Ocean, a Manhattanish sliver of land covered with hotels, restaurants, nightspots, apartment buildings, cottages, bungalows, etc.) I was delighted as always by the famous "Miami Beach art deco," the host of prewar buildings that are the purest examples down here of high modernist architecture. It was entirely appropriate, it struck me, that the Vorticists had found a temporary home in Miami Beach.

And I was reminded again of one of the most compelling affects inspired in a contemporary viewer by modernist design & architecture: nostalgia for the future. If the buildings in the Art Deco District look like houses from the Jetsons, that's because, like the Jetsons, they're a particular imagining of what the future would look like, with their bold curves, pastel colors, & rectilinear lines. When I see a new building going up at Our Fair University or a new strip mall having its few pitiful, false bits of ornamentation glued on, I see an architecture of the now (literally – the shelf life of buildings down here, before they're completely overhauled or demolished, seems to be something like a decade). Walking down Miami Beach's bright & bold streets, you can't help but get a whiff of those prewar architects' imaginings of a sleek, snazzy future – a kind of glitter of utopia, rendered by time – as time renders us all – merely historical.
[Addendum, from the comments box, a passage from Michael Heller's memoir Living Root (SUNY, 2000):]

And yet, as a fairly new and speedily erected vacation place, Miami Beach also seemed constructed to repel time, to assert with Ozymandian arrogance the power of Works over the eons. For the constant peculiar islandedness of the area, which embossed its resort culture with the raised lips of the pleasantly fantastic and the commercially viable improbable, had detached it as well from history and even reality. That sense of time passing, as marker and reshaper of human existence, had been totally abandoned.

In effect, time, the causal element of all contrasts was missing, which led to a kind of free play of the signifiers; it gave to the shops on the streets and the hotels and swimming pools a quality of both distance and familiarity highly original to the tourist. One suspects there were other places like it in the world, certain amusement parks such as The Tivoli in Copenhagen, or the cluttered haut bourgeois sitting rooms of Hapsburg Vienna. Yet nowhere had histories and cultures been so thoroughly ransacked, to be reconfigured on purely different (commercial) lines as in the Miami Beach hotel lobby. There, an imaginary axe had been taken to the historical-cultural continuum. Time and geography had been chopped up into 18th century Chinese lacquered screens, Italian provincial settees resting on the patterned curlicies of Persian carpets where they were positioned in the shadows of plaster Venus De Milos. Strauss waltz music played on the Musak, webbing the entire lobby in the straining strands of violins. There was nothing second rate about these fakes cleverly deployed across vast expanses of thick, dark carpet among which the Jews of the Bronx and Brooklyn and Philadelphia oohed and aahed. They had come here to be provincial in a different way, both to stand in mild awe at their surroundings and to snub, with crude manners, this plaster cornucopia of the past.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Earlier this evening, Jonathan Mayhew posted a funny & rather wise open letter, beginning "Dear students: I am not smarter than you." Well worth a read.
Barrett Watten read & talked last night, mostly from The Grand Piano but with a longish illustrative poem thrown into the mix as well. A nice event. In the Q&A moments afterwards, one of my undergrads asked the most basic of questions, but one that ended up dovetailing rather nicely with what Watten was circling around in his talk, the relationship of personal formation, as detailed & explored in autobiography, and literary interpellation: Who were the first poets you read?

Allen Ginsberg, Barrett replied, and went on to situate that "hailing" to poetry within the context of his own early (?) teens, living abroad in a military setting (Taiwan, a navy family). One can only imagine the exotic, colorful picture of a distant America Ginsberg presented to a young person an ocean away from the country his immediate, probably quite sealed-off, community so enthusiastically (indeed, dutifully) identified with.

(I sympathize, sharing with BW not merely a birthday, but a parallel experience of being born on a military base abroad & spending much of my youth in the strange bottle-universe of foreign US defense installations. For us, shopping was the PX or the commissary; to venture out into the Kassell or Frankfurt streets was to go "on the economy.")

And I thought, who hailed me, all those years ago? I have a photo somewhere of myself at maybe 2 or 3, wearing a pair of chubby khakis & one of those cable-knit tennis sweaters I always identify with the original miniseries version of Brideshead Revisited (Anthony Andrews, Jeremy Irons), standing with my hands in my pockets, a sly smile on my perfectly circular face, in front of one of my father's bookcases – in which one can read the spines of the Portable Milton and the Portable Blake. It was Blake who hailed me, that very Alfred Kazin-edited volume, which I seized & read over & over – at least the lyrics: the prophetic books were beyond me then, in my middle teens – & carried off to college my first year, & still have on my shelf today.

What I learned first from Blake, & later found repeated in the odd sequence of John Crowe Ransom, Pound, & then the whole rhizomatic rush of poets I discovered in my college years – Michael Palmer, Ronald Johnson, Leslie Scalapino, Jonathan Williams, Emily Dickinson, Robert Duncan, and LZ – was the home truth that for me, poetry was always as it were at an angle. The poems that stuck with me – all of Blake's, perhaps one of Ransom's, many, many of Pound's – never had the neat conceptual & metrical balance of the doggerel we read in high school classes: there was always an excess or a deficit, an overabundance of meaning or affect, or a corresponding hole, a mystery that no summation could encompass.

I cracked my head in college on Donne's crystalline metaphysical crossword puzzles, trundled thru the library for the sources of Duncan's Passages, and spent hundred of hours cross-referencing, annotating, or just reading aloud The Cantos. But I never expected to master any of those poems, to be able conceptually to wrap them up in brown paper & tie them off neatly with a bit of string: there was always, in any poetry that held my interest, some corner or vast stretch of unknowing that could never be mastered. Like the house in Danielewski's novel, the poem is always larger on the inside than on the outside.
And that's why, perhaps, when I deal with my own students' negotiations with poetry, I sympathize with the undergraduates who lament that they can't "sum up" what the poem's "about," but counsel them that what's important is what the poem does; & when my workshop students lament that their productions aren't as "coherent" as they'd like, I try to cough and grin and change the subject to the lines & passages that will always, precisely, fail to "cohere."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

application time

Guess what? I'm not on any faculty search committees this year! To all of those of you who are, I can only say HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! No, seriously, you have my deep sympathy as you wade thru the stacks of really quite impressive applications from intelligent, creative, imaginative, and seriously, traumatically anxious young people whose futures depend on their fortunes in this Ponzi scheme called The Academy. Yes, you – you, faculty recruitment committee – are playing God this time of year. No fun, is it?
It's also grad school application time, and Mark Wallace has an excellent post up on his blog about what's at stake in applying to MFA programs. Everybody who's considering graduate study in "creative" "writing" needs to read this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

course texts / anthologies

It's that time of year again – well, it's actually rather past that time of year, but I'm finally getting around to ordering books for this spring's classes, among them a grad seminar on postwar American poetry. Man, this one was tough. In the end, even tho I'm normally pretty allergic to using anthologies rather than actual books of poetry, I've decided to teach primarily out of 4 anthologies: Donald Allen's New American Poetry; Paul Hoover's Postmodern American Poetry; Eliot Weinberger's American Poetry Since 1950; and the recent Cole Swensen-David St. John American Hybrid – along with, of course, the usual range of xeroxes, PDFs, & internet resources.

Here's the logic: I want to teach the course with an emphasis, not on a half-dozen or dozen or 20 "major" figures, but on group-formations, "schools," filiations of influence. Allen here is I suppose the inspiration, with his initial (& still to an extent valuable) groupings of San Francisco Renaissance, Black Mountain, Beats, New York Poets; one can cobble together interesting tours of various more recent groups out of Hoover & Weinberger (Language Writing, Analytic Lyric, 2nd generation NY School, etc.); Weinberger is good on the isolatoes, & provides some useful stuff by earlier (2nd & 3rd) generation modernists – precisely the folks who slip thru the Allen chronological cracks – late WCW & Pound, the Objectivists; & there are plain just a lot of interesting poets in Swensen-St. John (if a fair number of duds, as well).

We'll see how this all works out. I suppose in some circumstances I would anticipate objections from some quarters for not really doing anything at all with "official verse culture" post-1945: "where's Robert Lowell, where's Anne Sexton?" On the one hand, I rather snidely feel that including those folks, even as "mainstream" baseline against which to talk about poets I find really interesting, would be rather like including John Williams's Star Wars soundtrack in a course on contemporary "classical" music, just to show what most people were listening to. On the other hand, as lovely & bright & lively as my students are, they seem to have almost no sense whatsoever of literary history, of the immediate past (or even the more distant past) of their own art (I speak here of the MFAs, but the MA students are just as innocent). That of course isn't their fault, tho one might fault them for a lack of consuming curiosity. But it makes for an opportunity, I think: to present some of the really vibrant aspects of postwar American poetry with almost no reference to the "grey flannel" formalism of the 1950s, the histrionics of the confessionals, the quotidian sludge of the 1980s workshop industry.

Every anthology presents its own narrative of literary history, of course: heroic embattled outsider experimentalists in Allen & in Silliman's American Tree, heroic isolatoes in Weinberger, unruly wilderness of unsponsored creativity in Hoover. I'm interested, tho ultimately still unconvinced, by the salvific closure of Swensen & St. John's. After decades in the wilderness, all of the experimentalisms of the '60s, '70s, & '80s have finally found a place at the table, in the form of the new "hybrids" springing up all over the country (mostly, it seems, in MFA programs). A cynic sees this as the belated institutional "consecration" (Bourdieu) of the avant-garde, but in a significantly denatured form: more tonic in that drink please, much less gin. The parataxis is groovy, but could we please slip the central subjectivity back in?

Swensen's intro takes the mainstream v. opposition model – one version of Ron S's "school of quietude" v. "post-avant" distinction – as a given, but claims that while it was accurate in its day, it just isn't valid anymore. Hmmm. True to a certain extent, I suppose – but Swensen, taking Allen as her baseline here, elides the very real fact that Allen never presented "two camps" (the New AmPoets v. the Mainstream): he presented 4 loosely defined groups, plus a grab-bag of uncategorizables from which one could construct at least 2 or three more. The story was never quite as simple as "us against them." What's missing from American Hybrid is any sense that group formations, personal associations, shared journal affiliations or publishing houses matter anymore. If you're interested in such esoteric matters, you have to divine what you can from the rather skimpy author's bios.

I suppose, once again, I'm hankering for a better map of where we are, a richer sense of relationship among the denizens of the now. Literary history, in a word: someone write the history of Flarf, of the Flood Edition writers, of the Brown University avant-garde.
Struck by Kit Robinson's computer industry metaphor in Grand Piano 8: the "tech" guys "wrote the building blocks, a tool set called PeopleTools, and were responsible for the software architecture"; the "apps" guys used this architecture to write the specific software programs that enabled companies to do stuff (payroll, accounting). The first-generation Language writers, then, were techies, opening up & tinkering with fundamental working of language: for them, "the infrastructure space was the interesting place." But then – ominously? –
They did not anticipate all the uses to which their work would be put by later writers for whom Language writing would serve as a technical platform for writing that also embraced narrative, character, identity politics, satire, drama.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

quick one

A hasty post – we've been away for a long weekend, our annual pilgrimage up north to feel cold air & see what's left of the foliage. It wasn't bad, actually: in Maryland & Pennsylvania the maples are still quite spectacular, & there were a few quite lovely ginkgos along the streets in Lancaster. Yes, this was the familial venture into Amish/Mennonite territory. After a day spent with a distant cousin who own a horse farm in Pikesville, MD, we drove up Lancaster-way to spend three days boarding with a charming Mennonite family on their farm (the girls got to milk cows, feed goats & donkeys, pick feed corn, etc.) & venturing out into the odd tangle of pre-modern farm life & hyper-consumerist touristica that is "Amish Country."

Yes, I was skeptical about this vacation from the get-go. But I ended up having a fairly grand time all told. There's something oddly soothing about rolling farmland in all directions, something spiritually calming about having to drive super-gently in order to avoid the black and grey horse-drawn buggies and the young people in 19th-century dress on their scooters. (That's right – the Amish have scooters; no bicycles or skateboards – yet – but scooters.)

While everybody else collapsed into bed every night after a day of buggy-rides, quilt-admiring, & eating heavy Germanic food, I would sit up a while reading The Grand Piano 8 (for my money, the best installment yet – more later on that), Watten's Progress/Under Erasure,* and a nifty history of the Mennonite movement: I haven't lost my taste for Reformation history. And wonderfully enough, the weather back here in St. Peter's Waiting Room was actually tolerable upon our return.

And I got myself a v. cool, broad-brimmed black Amish hat (well, Amish-ish – made in China). Now when the hell does one get to wear such a thing in Florida?

*Yes, I'm gearing up for Watten's visit to Our Fair University this coming Thursday. A formal announcement, for interested locals:

BARRETT WATTEN will be on campus at 5.00 pm, Thursday November 19th at the Schmidt Center Gallery (PA 51), to read from and discuss his poetry and The Grand Piano, the ongoing "collective autobiography" of the Bay Area Language Poets (including Rae Armantrout, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and six others).
Watten has been a major figure in American writing for some two decades now. He is the author of over ten volumes of poetry, including most recently:
Progress/Under Erasure (Green Integer, 2004)
Bad History (Atelos, 1998; 2nd printing 2002)
Frame (1971-1990) (Sun & Moon, 1998)
Watten was coeditor with Lyn Hejinian of the ground-breaking Poetics Journal, and has published a large number of essays; his most recent critical collections are The Constructivist Moment: From Materialist Text to Cultural Poetics (Wesleyan UP, 2003), winner of the 2004 René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, and a collection coedited with Cary Noland, Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement (Palgrave, 2009).

Over the past few years, he and nine other of the original Bay Area Language Writers have been publishing a serial autobiography, The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco 1975-1980, to be complete in ten volumes early next year.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


About 10 this morning someone in West Springfield, Mass, made the 150,000th visit to Culture Industry.* That's nice: I've been at this since March 2005, and never really expected to get more than 40 or 50 visitors a day, so knowing that for the past couple of years someone's dropped by here just about every quarter hour is actually pretty profoundly gratifying.

At times – frankly, pretty often this fall, under a sift of assignments & an unexpectedly gnarly teaching burden – I've pretty seriously considered pulling the plug on the blog. After all, I don't seem to have the resources of time & imagination more consistent bloggers have (I think here of the indefatigable Ron S. & the scintillating John L.), nor do I have a particular political/cultural agenda that's burning a hole in my hard drive, demanding to be disseminated to the world. (Or yes, I do have a particular political/cultural agenda, I just don't find a blog the best place for its dissemination.) But I think I'm going to keep Culture Industry up & running for at least the near term; somebody out there's reading it – and if you're that somebody, I'm grateful.

*S/he was googling "petergizzi" (read: Peter Gizzi).

Friday, November 06, 2009

Gary Snyder; Geraldine Monk; Ray DiPalma

Three quick entries in the "100 poem-books" thing, somewhat in the way of coming up for air in the midst of heavy-duty reading, writing, & teaching.

Axe Handles, Gary Snyder (North Point, 1983)

It's been years since I've read a Snyder book. I'd forgotten what a tonic his straightforward delivery and terse, quasi-Asian lyricism can be. I can live without the joyful ecocelebration – the last poem ends "one ecosystem / in diversity / under the sun / With joyful interpenetration for all" – not that I don't sympathize with the Thoreauvian impulse behind so much of the verse, it's just that – well, maybe it all feels a bit too '60s-ish optimistic. I find it hard to write about nature, or even to look at nature, without being overwhelmed with a stomach-bottoming sense of foreboding & even guilt at what we've made of poor old Mater Gaia, now circling the drain. But Snyder's at his best when he's chronicling the intense pleasures he gets out of the grain of everyday living, the daily grind of dropping the kids off for their ride to school, trying to keep the raccoons out of the refrigerator at night, drinking and eating.


Selected Poems, Geraldine Monk (Salt, 2003)

I already knew Interregnum, the centerpiece volume of this big selection of Monk's work, a snazzy recounting of the trial & execution of the East Lancastershire Peddle Witches in 1612. Good stuff – Monk's 17th-century witches tend to blur into 20th-century bikers, anarchists, crusties, & other British anti-establishment types, & her language is always muscular & surprising. The 4 post-Interregnum collections in Selected Poems show Monk moving in interesting directions. The early work is a bit too druggy & Wiccan-ish for my taste at times; the later is more satisfyingly weird, breaking up and morphing words on the phonemic level, circling around verbal motifs and repeated cadences. Oddly enough, I find it far more emotionally immediate than the earlier things.


Raik, Ray DiPalma (Roof, 1989)

This is procedural poetry on some level, or at least it takes the notion of form to whole new levels of rigor. Each poem, that is, is composed of evenly-spaced lines: 16 characters, or 32 characters, or whatever. Typeset, obviously, in a crunky Courier-like font in order to preserve ye olde typewritere look, but you get used to that in a page or two. I'd love to know how DiPalma did it: on the computer, with a Courier font? on a real live typewriter? by hand, on graph paper? I'd also love to figure out the numerology behind the various poems, which come in all sorts of even stanzas and line-lengths. It's something of a spit in the face to the whole notion of the page as field of composition, the typewriter as "scoring" the voice (Cummings, LZ, Olson, Duncan), but in a good way: for what's amazing here is the richness & energy of DiPalma's lines, the way he manages to shovel in all sorts of linguistic registers and subject-matter. The poems here range from spare Creeley- or LZ-esque lyrics to dense philosophical meditations to Steinian round-songs. And all in these teeny, über-constrained little boxes. The sort of book that sends me to the keyboard & notebooks to write, & that's praise.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

my Facebook problem

Okay – end of kitten blogging for now. I've put one major project to bed for the nonce, & am deeply involved in another, so there's not a huge prospect of my getting back to this "blogging" business very seriously for a while. Indeed, maybe it's just me, but the whole blogosphere seems to have dulled down a bit since everybody & his dog jumped onto Facebook, & started the direct-feed dissemination of what's on their mind, 18 times a day.

I've been on Facebook for I guess a year & a half now. On the whole – apart from the radical time-drain it can become – it's been a good thing. It keeps me in closer touch with some good friends who live far away, it keeps me "plugged in" to the network of poets & academics I'm interested in, & it's put me back in contact with friends – some of them very good friends indeed – with whom I'd fallen out of touch. (Needless to say, I can live without the constant quizzes & games the Facebook world offers; tho for your information, the "Literary Character I Most Resemble" is Jane Eyre.)

Of course it's always grand to reconnect with friends from college, or from graduate school – I'm even Facebook "friends" with a chap who was once in an American lit section I TA'd for in grad school, & who is now himself a professor up in Pennsylvania – a colleague, in fact, of an old friend from my cohort in grad school.

High school acquaintances are another matter, I'm afraid. For the most part we move in different worlds more than two decades later, our lives so different that becoming "friends" would amount to little more than a voyeuristic sniffing around into "what's become of X." And what do you do with a friend request from someone who announces her religious views on her profile page as "FULL gospel-santified [sic], Holy Ghost, want God's most," and her political views as "God's choice (pro life republican)"? (In my case, you don't reply...)

And I'm delighted to know that the species continues to propagate itself (as if we had any doubt of it), but Lordie it makes me feel old when I see people from high school becoming grandparents right & left. Each to his or her own, I suppose: while one colleague comments that "it's just the way they do things in hill country," I reflect that it's not that I didn't have the capacity to become a parent at 20 or 21 – I just would've been an incredibly lousy one. I hope that other members of the class of 198- have made a better job of it than I would have at that age. And same goes for their kids, now launching out onto the uncharted (or overcharted?) waters of parenthood.

I think I prefer the nomenclature other, more career-related social networking sites use: people you're hooked up with are "connections," rather than "friends." Sure, I'm "friends" on Facebook with some of my actual real-world best friends; and that's great. And I'm happy to connect up with anyone who shows any evidence of having glanced at anything I've written, or who's connected in any way with the various creative/scholarly fields I dabble in. Are we "friends" in any real sense? Not really, but it's no different from your connection to that person whose hand you warmly shake every 2 or 3 years at a conference.

And I'm thankful – I suppose – I think, tho I'm not sure – to Facebook for putting me in touch with various subcultures that I'd only heard about, or perhaps dreamed of. For instance: the subculture of semi-serious marginally "literary" hackdom. There's one "friend" out there – I've never met him, never heard of him until he "friended" me – along with about 1200 other people – who posts daily updates of how many words he written on his latest novel, how many short stories & poems he's read (he's aiming for 365 stories per year, 10 poems a day), & how many short stories & poems he's in turn churned out himself.

I've got no problem with über-productivity – if you're writing in one of the genres where that's a plus (science fiction, say, or romance fiction). And I'm all for a steady work ethic; gosh, I'm trying to cultivate one myself. I suspect I read at least 10 poems a day; of course, there's some days I spend entranced in front of 20 lines of Prynne, and others I read 40 pages (& still come nowhere near finishing) something of Silliman's. Perhaps Friend A is throwing away 90% of what he writes: but the stuff I've googled up on the web suggests that he's sending every bit of it straight out to the little mags.

Friend B, on the other hand, is someone I knew back in high school, & always thought of something approaching a soul-mate. You know, geekish isolato, rather intelligent, lots of trouble fitting in with the rather rough & confrontational crowd in semi-rural Tennessee. Lo & behold, he reappears! As a truck driver, twice-divorced father of 4, & barking right-wing lunatic. In the sense of someone who takes what Glenn Beck has to say seriously. Who thinks Sarah Palin's great, & got a bum deal in the "mainstream media." Who's convinced that Obama's a real live socialist, gearing up to lead us into the perdition of a soviet-style workers' paradise.

I think it's educational to have a real live brush up against the noisy minority who get their news from the Fox network; it's given me insight into how those folks think, & where they're coming from. Hint: it isn't pretty. Despite what you may think, it's not deep-seated racism; rather, it's a kind of atavistic fear in the face of the immediate consequences of globalism, coupled with a classic conservative revulsion at shifting social mores.

Luckily, there's football and baseball to distract these folks. (Friend B's irascible political comments have almost disappeared as the seasons have begun; he'd much rather post updates about the progress of a game from in front of the tv than rail against the "death panels.") Terry Eagleton has said on a number of occasions that he'd like to abolish televised sports, as he finds it the number 1 obstacle in the way of a proletarian revolution. Me, I'm thankful for them, though I'm not likely to watch 'em: pro football & the World Series may be the only thing standing between us and outright civil war.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


My friend Bradley, who used to run this blog that covered creative nonfiction & culture & the academy & boring shit like that, has gone all kittens all the time. Who am I to resist the Zeitgeist? Here's our new adoptee, dubbed Elizabeth Junebug:

She's hiding under the bed, still her fave hangout; for scale, note the green craft pipecleaner. Or better yet, check out this one, the Junebug trying to muscle her way off the ample spread of yr. humble blogger:

And here she is at her favorite sport, boxing with our older cat, Panda:

After that momentary lapse into excruciating cuteness, we'll be shortly returning to the regularly scheduled academic angst, semi-formulated political kvetches, & disjunctive poetry.