Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz calculates that the war in Iraq is costing Americans $25 billion each month and is tied to the nation’s current economic crisis.

This is the war that was described as a "mission accomplished" by George W. Bush, who has also said that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

As the White House prepares to host the Dalai Lama, I started to wonder what the result of that meeting might be. No one right now can think of the Dalai Lama, without thinking of the Chinese government. I think it’s horrible that China is hosting the Olympic games. Like any other scenario involving politics, the
Dalai Lama’s visit
is primarily symbolic. But because the Chinese government is ridiculously sensitive whenever their track record of criminal infringement on human rights is brought into the light, they take the Dalai Lama’s visit to the United States as an insult. Governments that lock up citizens without hesitation for assembling, speaking out against human rights violations, and that generally advocate a complete disregard for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness typically don’t act so shocked when they are criticized for doing so. These types of governments usually level similar criticisms against their critics as a defensive measure, but Chinese officials opt to feign surprise and make statements of bewilderment when anyone points up the fact that they are evil.

How many would truly enjoy watching the Olympics if they knew that construction of the Olympics site was the result of forced relocations?

China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and I state clearly that a criticism of communist China’s government is not a criticism against the Chinese people. This is the nation that in a bygone era invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.

It’s important to ask “which China?” when discussing contemporary China too, because it’s a land of so many different peoples. But according to a Web site run by the Chinese government everything is fine. They will deal with the “Tibet problem” by simply locking up anyone who questions. There are now reports that the Chinese government has threatened the lives of lawyers who wish to represent Tibetans accused of acts of vandalism. This is the country that manufactures a sizeable portion of nearly every product that Americans buy. Most will be blind to these facts when confronted by the spectacle of the Olympics. China would have us believe that they are similar to other nations who favor government by the people and who respect the rule of law, but China is very different. The Olympics in Beijing in August is China’s opportunity to show the world that what they’re doing is ok. The Chinese method of governing people is far from ok. In what can only be described as an item for the “huh?’ department, the tagline for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is “One world, one dream.” I have to wonder what, or whose, dream is being promoted because torture and imprisonment is more correctly referred to as the stuff of nightmare.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Here's another source for lists. I can't vouch for all of them, because I only had a chance to skim, but they seem worth a glance.

Also Simon DeDeo reviews the latest Myopic Books reading.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm still thinking of lists, so I'll add my list of the day.


Top 10 Worst Book Titles, Descending Order

10. Globalization: The Golden Years
9. A Brief History of the Panty
8. The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Killing Lots of, Well, Birds
7. People Really, Really Like Me: A Concise Macroeconomics of Arrogance (Fully Illustrated and Newly Expanded Know-it-All Edition)
6. Earn Extra Income with that Back Hoe Now, or Later
5. Jackanapes Abroad: Tips Every U.S. Embassy Staffer Should Know
4. Dick Cheney’s Really Just a Big Sweetie
3. Kiss Your Ass Goodbye: A History of Mining in America
2. Win at Chess (by Creating a Diversion While Losing at Chess)
1. Uzbekistan: Feel the Magic

Monday, April 07, 2008

What We've Had so Far

"Gathering Threat"

"Axis of Evil"

"Slam Dunk"

"Shock and Awe"

"Mission Accomplished"

"Last Throes"

"Adapt to Win"

"Stay the Course"

"New Way Forward"

"The Surge"

"The Pause"

I thought I'd post this as a found poem, but it's also a list. These are the catch-phrases that the Bush administration has used to describe the situation in Iraq, in the order of their appearance. "The Pause" is the most recent strategy being promoted.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

“Motivated by a force that is vocalized but not wholly comprehensible, the lyric insists on being heard in spite of the fact that it cannot make itself fit conventional codes of meaning. To whatever extent it employs everyday discourse—and even the more esoteric discourses of politics or religion—its aim is to point outside any accountable meaning, to provoke the reception of an excess of meaning. ‘Lyric’ does not suggest an inattention to the material aspects of language or to the possibility of double voicing by which works of art can critique their own formulations.” From Elizabeth Willis's essay "The Arena in the Garden: Some Thoughts on the Late Lyric” in Telling it Slant: Avant-Garde Poetics of the 1990s. Ed. Mark Wallace and Steven Marks. University of Alabama Press, 2002.

I've always liked this quote. Some of the more interesting contemporary lyric poetry "cannot make itself fit conventional codes of meaning" but also plays off the readers expectations of what these codes might mean. Diaristic, or personal narrative poetry, that isn't critical of first person, or self-referential in some occasional ironic way, has always been problematic for me, or else just boring.

Louise Glück comes to mind as a poet that falls into this "hugely boring" category. Helen Vendler notes that Glück’s poems invite the reader’s participation by asking us to “fill out the story, substitute ourselves for the fictive personages, invent a scenario from which the speaker can solve the allegory. . .” But it's this kind of pseudo-psychological agreement with the audience that convinces me that those who gravitate to this kind of poetry should really be reading a novel. "Inventing a scenario" is not similar to the "willing suspension of disbelief" required of reading poetry that presents a challenge to the imagination. It's just a sign of banal writing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The List Poem

In the list poem the poet, or writer, in a very Duchampian way drags the reader into making certain associations based on the context provided by the list.

Marcel Duchamp, by placing a hat rack on a string and hanging it from the ceiling took an object and rechristened it as something else entirely, an activity at which he excelled. It’s easy to see when looking up that the wooden hat rack, suspended, has taken on a life of its own. Duchamp was the source of so many artistic currents it’s difficult to keep track, but that would make a good list. His 1936 “Coeurs Volants,” for example prefigured Op Art by decades.

List poems hang from a contextual ceiling of sorts and, taken together as a group, these disparate items sometimes have an unpretentiousness to them that’s really unique because they exist minus all the aesthetic baggage of the typical poem. The only rules are that there are no “rules” to writing a good list. I guess the structure should exist as a numbered, vertical series versus a list separated by punctuation written as a paragraph only because that could be misconstrued as a catalog. Rhyme can sometimes hold a list together, or not, and it sometimes helps for the list to either ascend or descend into a culmination of some topic or else to devolve into near chaos, so that it’s understood why the ultimate item belongs there and nowhere else on the list. The pressure to provide some gradation as the list progresses can lead to either laughs or a rejection of the list, because it’s nearly impossible to read an effective list without judging the list against a mental tally of what the reader supposes is the “real” or more authentic order, based on his or her own experiences and preferences. Examples include James Tate's "The List of Famous Hats" and Ted Berrigan's "Ten Things I do Every Day." Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno” was written between 1758 and 1763, largely while Smart bided his time in a madhouse. “Jubilate Agno” is only a list in the sense that nearly all the lines begin with “For” or “Let.” And where else could we find one of the best lines of poetry in existence?

Tho' toad I am the object of man's hate.
Yet better am I than a reprobate, who has the worst of prospects.

Other examples include James Tate's "The List of Famous Hats" and Ted Berrigan's "Ten Things I Do Every Day." Listverse.com is a good source of lists, but not necessarily list poems, serious or otherwise. Send me a list poem as a comment and I’ll put it up.

Here’s one from Listverse.com

Top Ten Books that Changed America
10. Leaves of Grass
9. The Clansman
8. The Grapes of Wrath
7. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
6. Silent Spring
5. Native Son
4. A Vindication of the Rights of Women
3. The Jungle
2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
1. Common Sense

This top top ten all-time rock performances is complete with You Tube clips, which is a nice touch, although The Ramones playing “Commando” on any given night at CBGBs in the late 70s should be included, or Bob Dylan playing “Maggie’s Farm” at Newport. My top ten rock/jazz/reggae moments?

10. Lou Reed, Chicago, IL (Navy Pier)
9. Brainiac, Dayton, OH (Canal Street Tavern)
8. Samla Mammas Manna, Chicago, IL (Schubas)
7. Kiss, Dayton, OH (Hara Arena)
6. Beenie Man, Negril, Jamaica (Bourbon Beach)
5. Elvis Costello, Chicago, IL (Grant Park)
4. Pharoah Sanders, Chicago, IL (Jazz Showcase)
3. English Beat, Chicago, IL (Abbey Pub)
2. Sonic Youth, Cincinnati, OH (Bogart’s)
1. Arthur Lee/Love, Chicago, IL (Park West)

Tuesday Morning Top Ten (after Todd Colby)

10. Bill Clinton is "lost in a political funhouse"?
9. tapas
8. warm Chicago weather
7. more coffee
6. getting lost in Jewel
5. the Final Four
4. f#*%@cking gas prices
3. rereading David Meltzer
2. Facebook
1. birds