Monday, April 24, 2006

One must imagine Sisyphus happy. - Camus
It's been a little bit crazy at work here in Columbus. Things should ease off soon and I can catch up on sleep and return to reading something for pleasure and catching up on blogs etc... I do not mean to sound as if I am complaining as too much work is far better than none and in light of other people's recent losses I consider myself fortunate. Anyway, I still have a few more days to post some poems for National Poetry month and I wanted to share a couple I ran across. If I can find them again.
Not been reading much at all , but I did buy the new Drive By Truckers album, A Blessing and a Curse, this weekend and have been cranking it up on way to and from work. Buy it now. They are playing next month in Chicago and I am planning on going. That and the slim chance that I will get to see the Red Sox in Cleveland later this week work permitting keep me going.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Everyone's got to pay the mortgage…" - Yuppie Nuremberg Defense offered by tobacco spokesperson Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking

We watched this film this weekend and I thought it was a good but slight adaptation of the very funny Christopher Buckley novel. There was almost nothing done wrong with this movie. From the details of cool artsy throwback opening credits, to the soundtrack redolent with smoke, to the superb supporting cast and note perfect lead played by Aaron Eckhart. The lapses in script seemed to come from the addition of the role of the Damien looking son, the diminishing of the Maria Bello character and a couple of subplots removed. (Nothing was probably lost to the trimming of the Katie Holmes sex scenes, alas). Although the changes don't significantly detract from plot the movie seemed brief and ended on an odd note.
This could have been due to problems the theater had with the sound and film which ended up removing most of the step-dad's role entirely from our screening. Overall I would say wait for the dvd as you won't miss much by not seeing it on big screen.
I would hope that this will send people to the books of Chris Buckley. From the conspiracy theory spoof of a George Will type talking head in Little Green Men, to a First Lady on trial for assassination of her husband in No Way to Treat a First Lady, to the most recent dark humor take on Middle East Florence of Arabia (which also features return of Nick Naylor) all of them bring the authors inside the beltway knowledge, humor and gift of satire into entertaining novels.
The director, Simon Reitman (son of the filmmaker Ivan), maintained a blog while directing that was fun to peruse. He was clearly excited about working on this movie. It will be interesting to see what he does next.

The Days After

I t is amazing that only a few blocks from my fortunately untouched apartment there was so much devastation.

Many people were out documenting damage it felt a bit ghoulish so I stopped after a few cell phone shots.

The sign reads, "$14,000 or best offer". Save for color and current location it looks like my 1990 Corolla.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter

Jesus Shaves
by David Sedaris

"And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?"

It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, out latest personal pronoun.

"Might one sing on Bastille Day?" she asked. "Might one dance in the streets? Somebody give me an answer."

Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays accompanied by a scattered arrangement of photographs depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object of the lesson was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the pronoun they. I didn't know about the rest of the class but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.

Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I'd calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back and relax, confident that the same few students would do most of the talking. Today's discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class hoping to improve her spelling. She'd covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked, and she'd race to give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. A transfer student, by the end of the first day she'd raised her hand so many times that her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back and shouted out the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.

We'd finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher had moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbooks by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.

"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"

It was, for me, another of those holidays I'd just as soon avoid. As a rule, my family had always ignored the Easter celebration by our non-Orthodox friends and neighbors. While the others feasted on their cholocate figurines, my brother, sisters, and I had endured epic fasts, folding our bony fingers in prayer and begging for an end to the monotony that was the Holy Trinity Church. As Greeks, we had our own Easter, which was usually observed anywhere from two to four weeks after what was known in our circle as "the American version." The reason has to do with the moon or the Orthodox calendar -- something mysterious like that -- though our mother always suspected it was scheduled at a later date so that the Greeks could buy their marshmellow chicks and plastic grass at drastically reduced sale prices. "The cheap sons of bitches," she'd say. "If they had their way, we'd be celebrating Christmas in the middle of goddamn February."

Because our mother was raised a Protestant, our Easters were a hybrid of the Greek and the American traditions. We recieved baskets of candy until we grew older and the Easter Bunny branched out. Those who smoked would awaken to find a carton of cigarettes and an assortment of disposable lighters, while the others would receive an equivalent, each according to his or her vice. In the evening we had the traditional Greek meal followed by a game in which we would toast one another with blood-colored eggs. The symbolism escapes me, but the holder of the table's one uncracked egg was supposedly rewarded with a year of good luck. I won only once. It was the year my mother died, my apartment got broken into, and I was taken to th emergency room suffering from what the attending physician diagnosed as "house-wife's knee."

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the teacher's latest question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"

It would seem that despite having grown up in a Muslim country, she would have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."

The teacher called on the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus...oh shit." She faltered and her fellow country-man came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus and then he be die one day on two...morsels of...lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared of himself the long hair and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."

"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."

Part of the problem had to do with vocabulary. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such a complicated refexive phrases as "to give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One too may eat of the chocolate."

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.

I knew the word, so I raised my hand, saying, "The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wriggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"

"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on bed. Which a hand he have a basket and foods."

The teacher sighed and shook her head. As far as she was concerned, I had just explained everything wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by a a big bell that flies in from Rome."

I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"

"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth -- and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character. He's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what do to with here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog -- and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.

Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate; equally confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder.

I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilties the benefit of the doubt? I told myself that despite her past behavior, my teacher was a kind and loving person who had only my best interests at heart. I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The Virgin Birth, the Ressurrection, and countless miracles -- my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

A bell, though -- that's fucked up.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday?

Iowa City firefighters inspect St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Iowa City, Iowa, after the part of the roof was ripped off as a tornado struck the city Thursday, April 13, 2006. Several tornadoes that ripped through eastern Iowa left some neighborhoods in disarray as heavy winds and hail destroyed cars, crushed homes and cut off power to thousands of Iowans. No major injuries have been reported.
(AP Photo/Matthew Holst, Iowa City Press-Citizen)

I will never complain about airport delays again if it means I won't be flying through weather that could cause such destruction. This is the reason we were on the runway for a couple of hours in Chicago last night. It is fortunate that there were not more people seriously injured or killed here in Iowa City. Photo from above ran on front page of local paper and the Washington Post also picked up the wire story.

More photos here...;s=1;dm=ss;p=weather;w=400

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Substitutiary Locomotion

Greetings from the Isle of Naboombu! Well, Columbus actually. The above film was on tv when I returned from dinner after work and it is about all my brain can handle. Bedknobs & Broomsticks was one of my favorite Disney films I remember from youth. It was neglected and often overlooked. The 30th anniversary dvd restored a lot of footage and a few songs although some of the orginal cuts have been lost for good. I enjoyed it although it does not age quite as well as I remeber but the cartoon scenes still hold up. Now if only someone give Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow the same restorative treatment I could die a happy man. Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee. And now I must go retrieve my laundry and then collapse.

A Clear Midnight

THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best.

Night, sleep, and the stars.

by Walt Whitman

Saturday, April 08, 2006

This is not a love song

Is it a coincidence that blog rhymes with bog? I wandered into the author's website looking for a discography of the bands discussed that was mentioned in Powell's review and from there to his blog and blogs he linked to and the next thing I knew I had lost an hour. Anyway this book which I just started is excellent. Loads of behind the scenes gossip and info. It is perfect compliment up who liked or read Legs McNeil's oral history of punk Please Kill Me a good read for anyone who came of age listening to music before and during the rise of MTV. At times though when he is talking about the music I feel like the narrator in Whitman's astronomy poem who wanders from the lecture outside to look at the stars but in my case I want to dig through my tapes and crank up some PIL. Although now that I think of it I didn't mind my astronomy class at UConn. The professor was a trip, we saw some cool things in a big telescope, the class was large so the curve was ridiculous, it counted as a Math class, and I learned about Tycho Brahe. Like that he had a metal nose due to a duel injury in his youth. What he did for astronomy? Not so sure anymore. Hmmmm... Tycho Brahe's Nose for the name of an 80's post-punk band? I like it.


Someone mentioned that U.K version of book might be worth tracking down as some things more pointedly British may have been excised in the American printing.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Velvet Welk

Someone on a mailing list posted this link...That's all I have today. Lame I know.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bishop Redux

Helen Vendler in New Republic has problems with the new Elizabeth Bishop collection at Powell's Review-A-Day website. She makes a perusuasive case and I admit to being a bit disappointed although I will still buy the book.

The Art of Losing
A review by Helen Vendler

"This book should not have been issued with its present subtitle of "Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments." It should have been called "Repudiated Poems." For Elizabeth Bishop had years to publish the poems included here, had she wanted to publish them. They remained unpublished (not "uncollected") because, for the most part, they did not meet her fastidious standards (althougha few, such as the completed love poem "It is marvellous to wake up together," may have been withheld out of prudence). Students eagerly wanting to buy "the new book by Elizabeth Bishop" should be told to go back and buy the old one, where the poet represents herself as she wished to be known. The eighty-odd poems that this famous perfectionist allowed to be printed over the years are"Elizabeth Bishop" as a poet. This book is not. "

Continues here:

Times article about Vendler review here:

Life Doesn't Frighten Me

The Fun Gallery

A buzz in the air
already, Basquiat
beaming. RAY GUN

set to stun
—maximum—a hold
up in this hole

in the wall,
a billion
paintings pinned

to dry wall
like butterflies,
stomachs. He’s made it

all from scratch
& paint.
The work’s too low

his dealer warned—
everything should be higher
to keep up

your prices,
speed. All night
the crowds line

outside like Disneyland
& love it. Taken
over Manhattan

he’s King
Kong or Mighty Joe
Young, social

from trains
to scale the Empire

State. Keeping most
of the show
for hisself, hitches

a limo to Bklyn
by dawn—the armored
car hour—up

early—or late—
as if to his own

“Papa I’ve made it”

hugs & hands
him a blooming

Kevin Young

Knopf has a daily poem email this month to celebrate National Poetry Month and to sell a few books. The website also has a podcast of authors reading their poems. A little while back I watched Basquiat again and after seeing an interview with Jean-Michel Basquiat I thought that Jeffrey Wright really nailed the title role. When my nephew John was little I gave him Maya Angelou's book Life Doesn't Frighten Me with selected artwork by Basquiat and if I recall I think it was too scary for him at that age or at least it was not one of his favorite books.

I just heard that Mike Doughty will playing at The Mill on May 5th. Naturally since I have never seen him live I will be out of town that Friday. But if Paris is worth a Mass then I think my first visit to Seattle is worth missing a show at The Mill.

Monday, April 03, 2006

One Artist

Taking advantage of the recent publication of her new book and the cover story review in NY Times I chose to continue the celebration of National Poetry Month with Elizabeth Bishop whose poems I cherish. This poem (click to enlarge) and especially the truth of the closing line touched me more than I can remember being moved by any poem previously. I had a recently acquired a degree in History and Political Science and during college had attended very few classes that involved poetry beyond freshman year. The ones that did tended to tread over the familiar ground of the classics or the over-anthologized and we rarely made it to the moderns unless an instructor forced us to read the poetry of the so called 'disenfranchised'. Political poems or poems with an obvious agenda sucked the joy out the whole process for me and so I tended to avoid contemporary poets until after graduation. Bishop's Geography III is one of the collections that expanded my scope to include poets who I came to realize also may have had an agenda but that never let it overshadow or diminish the art.

I also love reading the letters of the literary and Bishop's Collected Letters, One Art , is one the most entertaining volumes of correspondence I have ever dipped into and would recommend it to all who enjoy reading other people's mail.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why is April the cruellest month?

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins
The Apple that Astonished Paris

Poetry Daily has a special feature to celebrate National Poetry Month....

As does the Academy of American Poets....

Scholastic website for all ages...

Jane Smiley has an article in Guardian UK about her battle with writer's block and what she did to overcome the affliction by reading a hundred novels (is it 'a' or 'one' or both that modifies a hundred?) . It heralds a new column starting next week. Although I did not like the film version of her take on Lear (did not read book so I can't say if they butchered it or she did) . I thought Moo was funny but can't remember if I finished it. Too many books and and an ever dwindling supply of brain cells. Here is the link.,,1737939,00.html

Saving the best for last. Head on over to the Pho King Westling's site to see the newest addition... Congratulations to the parents and big brother and welcome to the world Claire.